FreeThought Fort Wayne

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Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

Is IPFW student org Reality 101 misleading?

Posted by Andy Welfle on November 3, 2008

I recently took a Continuing Studies class at IPFW, Fort Wayne’s local university. I graduated in 2006, but it seems like so much has changed since then. As I was walking to my class, I found an over-Photoshopped flyer from a group called “Reality 101”, advertising a gathering to watch a televised debate of Richard Dawkins debating John Lennox (check that out here). The flyer features a large-print “THE GOD DELUSION” in front of a strange typographical design, with the word “Truth” repeated multiple times. Here’s a scan of the flyer.

Flyer advertising the Reality 101 event, found at IPFW's Neff Hall.

Flyer advertising the Reality 101 event, found at IPFW

The flyer mentions that an open discussion will follow. They give a web address, and, intrigued, I visited it. All the while, I was thinking, “Wow, there wasn’t any atheist or skeptics group at IPFW when I went there…”

So I followed the web address, reality101.ning.com. What was the first thing I found? The also-over-Photoshopped page says “Reality 101 is a campus ministry of Calvary Chapel of Fort Wayne, IN. Our goal is to discover logical answers to life’s deepest questions.*”

I feel like Reality 101 might be misleading to interested parties. I can only imagine attending this event, and then in the “open discussion” after, gatting ambushed with Calvary Temple Rapture nuts.

Any readers attend this event or other Reality 101 events? I’m interested to see how it went. Let me know in the comments below.

*If they really are looking for “logical answers to life’s deepest questions,” I fear they would soon realize that faith, by definition, would stand in their way.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Conversation with a Friendly Christian

Posted by Skeptigator on June 30, 2008

About 9 months ago, I was introduced to the website FriendlyChristian.com (I believe through FriendlyAtheist.com). Even though I am a fairly committed atheist I still like to keep up on what “the Fundies” are doing. I have a list of these sites in my Google Reader however it became obvious very quickly that the author of FriendlyChristian.com was not your typical Christian. I realized that I would go to my “Fundies” category and the first blog posts I would read would be the latest on FriendlyChristian.com, Bill you’ll be happy to note that your blog has moved to my “Regulars” category.

But don’t take my word for it, check out some of the more memorable posts, IMO:

Bill Cecchini is the man behind the curtain however he has opened his blog to multiple authors including at least one who does not share his faith (or any for that matter). I had an opportunity to interview him recently, enjoy.

Skeptigator: Perhaps the biggest question I have is, “Why are you doing this website? After all, aren’t all Christians supposed to be friendly already?”

Bill: Aren’t all Christians supposed to be friendly? Well, yeah, I’d say so. The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I’m pretty sure “friendly” is covered in there somewhere. Somewhere along the way, Christianity has evolved from a faith known for these fruits of the spirit into a religion known for book burning, judging, hating, and picketing. I won’t be known for that, nor will I stand for it. I try to live a simple, yet efficient life. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus tells a religious teacher what life is all about: loving God and loving each other. Christians have done a very good job of turning our faith into a bit of a joke. We judge unbelievers for their sin, then turn around and do the exact same thing. We have public burnings of The Da Vinci Code, as if that’s gonna communicate God’s love to anyone. We use the name GodHatesFags.com for our church’s website name. And we wonder why people look at us like we’re nuts.

A few weeks ago, one commenter wrote that she’d never come back to FriendlyChristian.com if the site ever became evangelistic. It was then that I realized that the site IS evangelistic, just not in an obvious or invasive manner. I love that I am able to allow so many unbelievers to see into my mind and life. I’ve always said that my curse/blessing is that I am very open, honest, and real. I admit my struggles, doubts, insecurities, and questions about the Christian faith. Unfortunately, many Christians paint an “I’ve got it all figured out” or “all is good cuz I’m saved” picture, when the truth is, we DON’T have it all figured out, and sometimes life ISN’T good. I think that my authenticity and transparency are what keep the readers interested and coming. Also, I think my posts give ex-Christians something that they can easily relate to.

I say all that to say this: FriendlyChristian.com is my attempt to bring Christianity back to its roots of love, service, truth, and relationships, without sacrificing the power and authority of the gospels, in an environment where everyone is welcome and conversation is encouraged.

On September 12th, 2006, my pastor said, “The world is changed by passionate people.” On FriendlyChristian.com, countless people have told me that I’m not doing anything unique or special. “It’s all been done before, Bill, and this might be a bit too big for you,” they say. Maybe so, but I’m gonna continue giving it all I have. I’m passionate, and just maybe I can change the world.

Skeptigator: What have been some of the biggest challenges personally for you in running a site like this? You have a mix of Christians and non-Christians. That must lead to interesting discussions?

Bill: Oh, the challenges are plentiful. When I started FC, right off the bat I encountered perhaps the most popular atheist stereotype: they are freakin’ smart! As a 28-year-old who is just now trying to finish up his undergraduate degree, I often struggle with feeling not smart enough to host a site frequented by educationally superior people who very openly disagree with much of what I have to say. I’m not good at debating and I’ve never been a very confrontational person.

Another challenge I have is trying to stay encouraged. It’s tough to put so much prayer, time, effort, and emotion into a blog and watch it get torn to shreds by people who think I’m “nuts,” as one reader put it. I often want to give up as I feel like I’m just one guy trying to take on the world, believers and non-believers alike.

One of my most frustrating challenges is dealing with Christians. I can’t stand when people tell me that I’m wrong for reading the wrong bible translation. It boils my blood when Christians criticize mega churches. I want to scream when Christians argue over things that, in the end JUST DON’T MATTER a whole lot. We’re supposed to be on the same team with a common message: Jesus saves. Instead we’re beating each other up and then wondering why people turn from God. *smacks head*

Lastly, one of the biggest challenges for me is that I just don’t feel like a good enough representative of the Christian faith to be hosting this site. My life is anything but holy and perfect. I am extremely flawed and only human. It wouldn’t be hard for a person to point out the sin in my life. I know this is the wrong way to think, and I often pray against it. But hey, you asked so I’m just gonna give it to you straight.

Skeptigator: Personally, I think “Atheism” has a P.R. problem within the Christian community (perhaps the U.S. in general)? Do you agree? And, if so, what can atheists and freethinkers do to improve on that image, at least open doors to a greater understanding within the Christian community?

Bill: I agree that the word “atheist” has very negative connotations. The word “Christian” also has many negative connotations. My advice to anyone is that you can be the difference. Fight the stereotype. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on.

Skeptigator: In conversations with Christians perhaps one of the least convincing arguments they will use is, “well, you just don’t have Faith”. As if I’m going to suddenly slap myself on the forehead and exclaim, “Eureka! That’s what I’ve been missing. Can I get that at Wal-Mart?” What is the least effective thing an atheist can say to attempt to convince you of the “error of your ways”?

Bill: Anything. I appreciate and welcome any productive dialog discussing the “errors” of either of our ways, but in the end, it’s the choice of each individual, right? I’m extremely open and honest about my faith. I acknowledge and admit to every struggle or question that I have about Christianity. I provide better arguments to convince myself of the “errors of my ways” than any theological or scientific argument from any atheist ever could. Many people see this as a weakness. I see it as a strength. I also think it makes Christianity much more attractive. People are sick of the “holier than thou/my ‘you know what’ don’t stink/check out my fancy suit/boycott Starbucks cuz they don’t support the troops” Christian. I say we drop the act and tackle the faith like a man. Or a woman 🙂

Skeptigator: You’ve alluded to this earlier but if you were forced to boil the message of Christ down to, oh, 200 words or less what would it be? Go!

Bill: I can do it in six: “Love God and love each other.” This is the theme behind FriendlyChristian.com and my purpose in life. Simple, eh?

Skeptigator: McCain, Obama or Barr?

Bill: “Hey look, it’s Elvis!” Nah, I haven’t decided yet, to be honest with you. I’ll cast my vote based on who I feel will lead our country the best, not on the fact that I’m a Christian and am expected to vote Republican. I’m not overly excited or hopeful about any of the candidates. Can I still vote Ron Paul?

As always, funny, honest and more intelligent than he gives himself credit for. If you get a chance, check out FriendlyChristian.com and participate in the conversation, it’s one worth having.

Posted in Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Choice vs. Nature (and something about homo-dolphins)

Posted by Skeptigator on June 23, 2008

I’ve had this post half-start/half-finished for some time but a recent post over on, FriendlyChristian.com, prompted me to finish this thought all the way through. My problem lies specifically in an argument used, implicitly or explicitly, by many pro-gay activists and bloggers. That argument is the following:

Homosexuality should be accepted because no one chooses to be gay. We shouldn’t victimize gays for the same reason we shouldn’t victimize someone because of the color of their skin.

On it’s face this seems like a perfectly correct statement, one I’ve used many times. Unfortunately, I’ve come the realization that this argument is fundamentally flawed. Yes, it’s an easy shortcut when arguing with someone who states that homosexuality is a choice and then you say, “Nuh uhh, they can’t help that they were born that way” and then they say “Yea huh, it’s a choice” and then you say, “Yer stupid”. Ok maybe my debating skills have something to be desired.

I’ve seen a subtle shift, particularly within Christian circles, in the arguments against homosexuality away from whether or not it’s a choice or not and many are beginning to concede that homosexual desires may actually be natural. The argument I see more and more often is that, “Regardless if homosexuality is natural or not. It is not a sin to be gay, but practicing homosexuality is a sin.” (The reasons we shouldn’t practice homosexuality are to my knowledge only religious. I think the only time that I’ve seen any secular arguments against homosexuality comes from the “It ain’t natural” argument. )

There are 2 points regarding the Natural vs. Unnatural/Choice argument that I’d like to make. The first is that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that within (at least) mammalians species homosexuality is practiced and almost always warrants some kind of off-hand-by-the-way, dolphins might be gay.  I think this body of evidence has helped to shift the objection against homosexuality away from the more secular “It ain’t natural” arguments. Unfortunately this very shift has highlighted the very weakness of the argument from a natural cause and thus to my second point.

If we root the argument for the “rightness” of homosexuality in natural origins of the behavior (whether that’s neurological, evolutionarily-selected-for, whatever argument you want to pick) then we also open up much deeper issues that erode the entire foundation for rational thought. Is pedophilia good because it comes naturally to some. What about sociopaths and psychopaths? They are born with the “wrong” wiring but it is natural. We can circumvent these arguments and say that psychopathic and pedophiliac behaviors are not right because they deviate from social/cultural norms. But unless you have information I don’t have homosexual behavior is not a societal norm and is only at best practiced by 10% of the population. You can see the big mess this whole “natural” thing gets into. I won’t even mention all of the good and unnatural things we as humans do, like build shelters, reengineer our environment, practice medicine and care for the elderly and weak. We simply cannot point at homo-dolphins, wash our hands and expect fundamentalist Christians to revise their theology.

Let’s come at it from a different perspective by using a thought experiment. Let’s say that by some scientific method we can prove with near absolute certainty that homosexual behavior is a choice. Not just a subconscious choice influenced by whatever environmental factor but an actual conscious choice. Never mind that this makes most homosexuals liars or at best self-deluded. We realize that homosexual behavior in bonobos, dolphins and other mammals is shown to be mankind trying to imprint a sexual explanation for non-sexual behaviors, for example, what looks like homosexual behavior in dolphins are really attempts by male dolphins attempting to assert dominance over the other members of the pod. You get the idea. Would that change your opinion of the rightness or wrongness of homosexual behavior?

You’ll have to answer that question for yourself but answer is No. I don’t care if homosexuality is found to be a choice. I don’t personally believe that it is a choice but it really doesn’t matter. Consenting adults who are able to make this choice of their own free will have every right to express their love for one another in a loving, unharmful (well, you know, unless you are in to that) way. 

I’ll leave you with an appropriate excerpt from the Humanist Manifesto II published in 1973, they can sum it up more eloquently than I,

In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered “evil.” Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are not exploited as sexual objects and in which intimacy, sensitivity, respect and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity (1973, section 6).

Posted in FreeThought, Philosophy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

John Loftus’ Speech to FreeThought Fort Wayne (Audio)

Posted by Skeptigator on May 19, 2008

[blip.tv ?posts_id=925127&dest=-1]

On May 14th, FreeThought Fort Wayne sponsored an event at the local library entitled Why I Rejected Christianity. Our speaker was John Loftus, who runs the group site, http://debunkingchristianity.net.

John Loftus is a former evangelical pastor and apologist who is now an atheist. He has previously self-published his story and his thoughts on why he left the Christian faith. Later this year, John will be releasing his forthcoming book, Why I became an Atheist, a former preacher rejects Christianity through Prometheus Books.

John’s talk to the group was very well received and most of those in attendance were very well-behaved. His speech was attended by about 45 people, of which only about half were regular attenders of FreeThought Fort Wayne. The larger than normal attendance was due in part to the interview that John Loftus gave to one of our local newspapers, Ex-preacher says goodbye to God.

It was great to see some new faces. The talk was about 2 hours long and included a slideshow, so be aware that there are some parts of the talk may not make as much sense since you can’t see the slideshow. The main portion of his talk was about an hour and a half and included about a half hour of Q&A at the end.

The bulk of John’s lecture was a high-level review of many of John’s points from his forthcoming book. If you wish to see the detailed biblical criticisms that backup his arguments you will need to get the book when it’s released . Here’s what some of our members had to say about John’s talk (I would suggest listening to the talk before reading the posts below, they will have better context);

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Local, Philosophy, Religion, Skepticism, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »