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Date Posted:20/04/2010 6:26 AMCopy HTML

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Re:Online Book - Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary

Date Posted:22/04/2010 2:28 AMCopy HTML

I know we're discouraged from cutting and pasting chunks of text on here, but I really liked what Ken Daniels said in Chapter 1 of the book above...
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Why should I be concerned with what other people believe, as long as they aren't causing any harm, or as long as their beliefs lead to admirable acts of charity? I have heard this objection from a number of Christians, an objection I find surprising in light of the Apostle Paul's view:

  • And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Corinthians 15:14-18).

Paul goes on to assert that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, but if his assertion is mistaken, then according to these verses, my intention to bring that to light should be seen as a noble endeavor. I don't quite concur with Paul that Christians are to be pitied more than all men if their faith is baseless. After all, knowing the truth is not a precondition for happiness; there are happy and unhappy members of every religion. But Paul does make a valid point: devoting our life to an illusion is not the best use of the only life we have.

One of my primary reasons for writing this book is self-serving: I do not relish knowing that others consider me to be on the road to eternal damnation if I don't repent, and I want to do what I can to change their perception of those of us who do not share their faith. Yet is this self-serving endeavor reckless? If I believed it would worsen the lives of all those who read this book, then yes, it would be reckless. But I am convinced that life can actually improve for those who come to understand that our earthly existence is not simply a stage, a cosmic morality play, a precursor to an eternity to come. This life is the real (and only) deal.

I am not out for blood. I love and respect many believers, some of whom are no doubt better people because of their faith (whatever their religion may be). If you are convinced your faith is the only thing keeping you from a life of profligacy, murder, rape, and pillaging, then please read no further; the world already has enough of that to go around. Studies have shown that Christians are on average more generous than non-Christians; for example, religious people are 57 percent more likely than secularists to help a homeless person at least once a month (Brooks 2006, 39). I confess I have reservations about some of the nihilistic, libertine, and disrespectful tendencies I have observed in some freethinking circles. I often find myself more comfortable socially around evangelicals than around many nonbelievers, due no doubt in part to the habits instilled in me through my conservative upbringing.

So am I double-minded, concerned only about truth for its own sake, while acknowledging that Christianity provides a noble way of life, even if untrue? The answer cannot be a simple "Yes" or "No," because there is a great variety of Christianities on the market, and the answer depends on which brand is in view. I have no interest in undermining any form of religion grounded on passages like these:

  • He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

    Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12).

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

However, many within fundamentalist and conservative evangelical circles are not content to limit their faith to such expressions. Their views concerning the authority of the Bible, Christian tradition, science, and hell can lead to forms of divisiveness, exclusivity, and insularity that threaten societal cohesion and progress.

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Re:Online Book - Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary

Date Posted:22/04/2010 5:29 AMCopy HTML


I've also started blogging about this book here.
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Re:Online Book - Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary

Date Posted:28/04/2010 2:29 AMCopy HTML

This really is a very good book. He attempts to write for both a believing and non-believing audience and does so quite successfully.  He also tries very hard to be non-offensive and gracious to those of his former faith.

I really do recommend this book to those who are asking the hard questions or who really want to know what, how and why many ex-Christians believe as they now do.



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