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Speaker: A conversation from belief

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  • Ross Bell,

    Thanks for the post Frank.

    A quick question: why is your board all blokes?

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 169 posts Report Reply

  • Rae Sott,

    I'm an atheist, I also think that a guy existed in the Middle East, in the past, who is now referred to as Jesus Christ. I think it was probably more likely that he was part of a movement, ahead of its time, in that it did take what would be now thought of, as a liberal leftie view of life, the likes of him/them have appeared throughout history from time to time. But a divine being, a son of some god, pull the other one, that is a pure construct of man.
    Religion and indoctrination go hand in hand and you sound well and truly indoctrinated, but the world would come to little harm by following the philosophy of this guy/movement.
    I strongly suspect his name wasn't Jesus Christ, either

    Hamilton • Since Apr 2015 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie, in reply to Ross Bell,

    A quick question: why is your board all blokes?

    Good question, Ross. My long term ideal is a more diverse board, or at least some functionality that enables a wide range of voices to feed into what NewsLeads does and how it is shaped. Informally that is happening but the board is made up of the initial people who fed into the idea and helped kick it off. It's simply the pragmatic reality of this 'start-up.' I expect it to change over time.

    I strongly suspect his name wasn’t Jesus Christ

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Rae. I strongly suspect his name was Yeshua bar Yosef. Jesus is the English spelling of the Greek transliteration of that name. 'Christ' means saviour or messiah. It's not a surname, though it sounds like it when we talk about him :)

    In response to another of your points, sadly the world has come to much harm by people who claim to follow him. Much argument could be had (and that argument is happening in the last post from Russell on the Media Take episode on religion) over whether harm done by such 'followers' truly stems from him, but it is what it is. I wish I could change that, but the best I can do is offer a better way.

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    “There for the grace of God go I”

    I have no need for religion. Thats not something I take for granted. I am fortunate. My cyclothymia has never led to psychotic episodes, I am financially secure and my family and friends exept me the way I am.

    My life’s experiences have showed me people who need religios support, and I’m not begrudging that. Much the same as I have no current need of prescription drugs or alcohol, It would be bigoted of me to to judge those who do.

    Now by reading back thru what I just wrote…

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4316 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie, in reply to Ross Bell,

    A quick question: why is your board all blokes?

    Ross, I forgot to also add that at this point it wasn't for lack of trying. There a couple of great ladies who came very close to being on this initial board, but in the end they didn't quite see it as fitting them and who they are.

    Steven, thanks for your openness and honesty. I really appreciate you sharing that.

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A while ago, I agreed to come on as a guest on Newstalk ZB’s Real Life with John Cowan, which is produced by the Christian Broadcasters Association, where Francis is on the board (er, no he isn't -- see below).

    It was a good experience. It’s nice to be able to talk to a believer about not believing without a gasket being blown. John also understood my point about Youth for Christ and similar evangelism projects aimed at young people.

    I know people who still feel bad about what they regarded as a manipulative nature of YFC rallies where they felt under pressure to step forward and commit themselves to Jesus. Even as a teenager, I was unnerved at what was said and done at the one rally I attended. That I was able to raise those ethical questions and get a good hearing was impressive.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Russell, I’m really glad you had that experience with John. John is a good guy and the broader work of CBA is excellent. Sadly I don’t sit on their board, but I work as one of their announcers at Christmas and Easter when they do stuff for Newstalk ZB.

    The board I sit on is Rhema Media. I’ve been connected to Rhema Media for years. I hosted a Sunday night talkback show on Life FM for about 8 years, did the night show for 2 years and the drive show for 2 years before moving to TEAR Fund. I’ve maintained a presence with Rhema Media and was voted on to their board recently.

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    For Russel:
    My 4 step Guide for journos interviewing religionists
    http://kmccready.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/journalists-interviewing-religionists/

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Francis, I can agree that there are quite a few good principles in teachings attributed to Christ. But as an agnostic bordering on atheism, that's where it ends for me. There are good principles in many other religions too, and in plenty of people who don't make a religious connection to their views, but merely argue or state their moral creeds. As a person in a society where freedom to choose the sources of one's views is upheld, picking and choosing the best bits seems the most sensible way to find a path of goodness, and picking one-and-only-one ultimate source seems irrational, or at least sub optimal.

    Of course, being good people is not the only professed purpose of Christian (and other) faith. There is also the aspect of the religious feeling, the divine inspiration, communing with God/Jesus, praying, finding solace, filling one's heart with communal cheer etc. I venture that this part is really the main reason that people who are devout do it. The business of good action flowing naturally from channeling this access is something most can see as pretty tenuous, just from observing their own thoughts and actions some time after the last spiritual recharge, and the bad actions of some people who claim to be getting the connection all the time.

    But even without that connection, I'm sure that the spiritual aspect feels good to some people, and that's not a parade I'd generally want to rain on, not for anyone, no matter what religion/creed/practice. It is one of the less appealing aspects of Christianity to me that it doesn't really support this kind of openness at all. It claims to be the one and only path, its God the one and only. This is supposedly straight from Christ's own mouth, although one can never really be sure, since the details of his life are really quite sketchy. But even if we're not sure whether Christ actually thought that, we can be pretty sure that nearly every major Christian sect does, that this exclusivity is core doctrine. This is the main aspect of it that I have a real problem with.

    I don't see how Christianity could really be reformed to fix this, because it seems to be the most vital and central fact of the devout believer's life. In stating that they are a Christian at all, they are stating Jesus is the son of God and that what he said is the most important stuff ever. And this is almost always followed up with plenty of evidence that they do indeed feel this way, with elephantine memory feats on the Bible, Jesus being inserted into every major thought, or at least credited with it after the fact, and often outright disparagement of any alternatives, if they can't be credibly shown to be sourced to Jesus or God in some way. That's in enlightened times where just torturing it out of people or killing them is harder to get away with.

    That side of the cult is terribly unappealing. I can see that it's probably necessary for a cult to be strong, but that being so, I'm glad that it's no longer anywhere near as strong as it once was.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie,

    Ben, thanks for taking the time. I'm not interested in trying to debate for or against religion or my own specific worldview, but I do want to pick up on this:

    There are good principles in many other religions too, and in plenty of people who don't make a religious connection to their views, but merely argue or state their moral creeds.

    I agree. One of the worst things us Christians have done (and you touch on it numerous times in your solid comment) is create an us vs them approach. I've found a lot of value in the religious expressions of others when I've spent time at various religious festivals and in the holy places of others. I'm also not someone who thinks that anyone who doesn't line up with my own worldview has no basis for an ethical or moral approach to life.

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Rae Sott,

    Religion and indoctrination go hand in hand and you sound well and truly indoctrinated

    With all due respect, Rae -- this is exactly why I don't talk about my experience of faith around here much, or in any great depth. To have a part of my life that is intimate, complex and often intensely painful (and don't bother lecturing me on how horrible organized religion so often is to LGBT people. I've lived it.) airily dismissed as "indoctrination" makes me question whether getting into it is worth the headache. Civility and basic empathy is a two way street, and frankly it's one too many theists and atheists need to stop treating like a demolition derby.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Yes. Telling people what they are doesn't generally help any discussion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Francis Ritchie,

    I’m also not someone who thinks that anyone who doesn’t line up with my own worldview has no basis for an ethical or moral approach to life.

    Do you think this kind of attitude is in the majority amongst your fellow Christians? I mean at this time, rather than in the past.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    “There but for the grace of God go I”

    I just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with I said up thread.

    I also like this other one: ” when you point the finger, there is three pointing back, and a thumb doing its own thing.

    It’s the metaphor:)

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4316 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie, in reply to BenWilson,

    Do you think this kind of attitude is in the majority amongst your fellow Christians? I mean at this time, rather than in the past.

    Good question. It's hard to know as the Christian community is so big and diverse. Doubtless there will definitely be some who think it but I don't think it would be true of the majority of average Christians who attend church etc.

    At a philosophical level there is the argument that some make (it was present in the debate that was sparked by Stephen Fry's answer to what he would say to God) around whether or not one can make claims to a solid sense of morality without God or some sort of objective determinant of right and wrong outside of ourselves. But that's not a debate had by the average person in the 'pews' and I touched on it in my blog post about the Fry discussion.

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    .

    I believe in the historical Jesus, that he was both divine and human,

    Thats not the historical jesus, thats the mythic fella created when the Nicene creed was written.

    Doing difference well starts with some simple concepts

    Acceptance is probably more important than humility and whatever else you said.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie, in reply to andin,

    Acceptance is probably more important than humility and whatever else you said.

    Good call. It's probably just splitting hairs but I would say that the ability to accept the 'other' where there are differences requires humility. Everything else I mentioned in that sentence, such as empathy etc, is about going beyond acceptance (if we view acceptance as a passive thing) and into a more active form of connection and embrace.

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Francis Ritchie,

    It’s hard to know as the Christian community is so big and diverse.

    I was pondering this. Francis’s column reminds me of my mother’s Christianity; open, tolerant and accepting of difference. She was raised, however, by a woman who was massively intolerant of other Christians – who didn’t, in face, consider Catholics or Anglicans to even be Christians. So I do wonder if there’s any meaningful statement that can be made about “Christians” as a whole. In my time working with Americans, I’ve met the most close-minded nasty fundamentalists you can imagine, and also Unitarian Universalists. It’s a broad, y’know, bunch of churches.

    whether or not one can make claims to a solid sense of morality without God or some sort of objective determinant of right and wrong outside of ourselves

    I find the belief that you can’t absolutely terrifying, as if, were there not a church to tell you right from wrong, you’d just be running around stabbing people in the face whenever the mood took you.

    The measure I use for ethical judgement is “is this harmful”? Mostly, does this do genuine harm to other people? So for example, homophobia is unethical, because it harms others. Marriage equality is ethical, because it does no actual harm to anyone. Sometimes it’s a balance of harms, a utilitarian calculus. There are edge cases. Sometimes it’s really hard. But it’s doable, and I’ve only myself to blame when I fuck it up.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Attachment

    I find the belief that you can’t absolutely terrifying, as if, were there not a church to tell you right from wrong, you’d just be running around stabbing people in the face whenever the mood took you.

    To be fair, Francis did rhetorically say "some make" not "I make", so I'm going to give him the benefit of doubt that he isn't making an argument that both demonises those who are not Christian in the lights of the speaker, and is so veritably untrue if you spend a few minutes making a graph of murder rates vs irreligion rates around the world.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Sometimes it’s a balance of harms, a utilitarian calculus.

    Not also a balance of goods vs harms? Like "he's going to miss out on something small, but she's going to get something big, so that's OK, in balance"? I tend to think we've almost forgotten half of what utilitarianism is about, so successful has the JS Mill version of it been. Especially when it comes to things like drugs. A minor harm might be worth it just because you actually like it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    It’s hard to know as the Christian community is so big and diverse.

    I new a chap that became a born again Christian, after being excommunicated by the exclusive brethren. He had an epiphany in the orchard, which led him to question his inherited doctrine. He also said he couldn't handle the heavy drinking. I quite liked the guy.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4316 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie,

    I find the belief that you can’t absolutely terrifying, as if, were there not a church to tell you right from wrong, you’d just be running around stabbing people in the face whenever the mood took you.

    I think the argument is often misunderstood.

    It’s not saying that people who don’t believe in God can’t be moral and make moral decisions, or that it’s only a belief in God that can guide the ethics and morality of those who claim such a belief, it’s that they believe that grounding ethics and morality in an external determinant that is universally true makes it make sense and provides an overarching truth by which all else can be tested.

    So they would point to universal truths of good and bad and ideas of what is harmful or not (such as your reasoning) and say that you have that reasoning precisely because God has endowed you with it. So with that reasoning it’s not that they would feel free to start stabbing people if the Church wasn’t there, rather they believe that the reason most people feel constrained in doing so is because all people are endowed with a morality that is seated in a universal truth set by God (and implanted in various ways, such as culture).

    It’s not an argument that I can spend much time with beyond this as it’s not something I have delved into much (and I can see a million different ways to contradict it, each of which would require answers I’m not overly qualified to give), but hopefully that helps make it a little more understandable :) Of course, that said, there will also be some horrid variations of that in the mix as well, just as there are people who think Christians will all start stabbing others if they don’t have a church telling them what to do ;)

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Francis Ritchie,

    they believe that the reason most people feel constrained in doing so is because all people are endowed with a morality that is seated in a universal truth set by God (and implanted in various ways, such as culture).

    The comeback is that the universal truth could exist without God's involvement too. Just as 1+1=2 is true whether God agrees or not (but of course God agrees!). God doesn't make 1+1=2. It's true by definition of the parts. God might know what is moral, but it's still quite possible for him not to have made it moral just by saying so. God can't make the immoral moral. God wouldn't! You don't even have to disbelieve in God to detach God from being the source of morality. God could still have perfect judgment about what is moral.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    Not also a balance of goods vs harms? Like “he’s going to miss out on something small, but she’s going to get something big, so that’s OK, in balance”?

    That was what I intended to imply with "Utilitarian calculus, the whole of that balancing act.

    rather they believe that the reason most people feel constrained in doing so is because all people are endowed with a morality that is seated in a universal truth set by God

    This would make a lot more sense, but wouldn't explain, for instance, Pew Research's survey results when asking Americans whether atheists can be trusted or whether they would accept an atheist president. I think it's a minority view in NZ, but seems to be the majority view in the US, that atheists are fundamentally untrustworthy.

    But yes, this is rather a sideline, and I was clear it wasn't an argument Francis supported.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Francis Ritchie, in reply to David Hood,

    That's a fascinating graph, David. Are you able to break that down into countries?

    Since Apr 2015 • 23 posts Report Reply

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