Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Missionary Position

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  • Emma Hart,

    Thanks for dropping in, Darel, good to hear it went well.

    To sort of reply to Andrew and andin's comments, this is usually an argument I find myself somewhere in the middle of. I'm not a militant atheist. I used to be very much a 'who gives a fuck-theist', and then I had children. I have one hard and fast rule for proselytisers of any religious stripe, and they don't appear to be able to understand it: stay the hell away from my kids.

    My mother is my benchmark for a 'good' Christian. She's one of those people who works her arse off to help other people, and she did this when she was worse off than most other people. She's still doing Citizen's Advice and driving for Meals on Wheels at 80. I don't like seeing her belittled for her beliefs, because she doesn't push them on anyone else. She doesn't preach, she's accepted the atheism of all four of her children without a flicker, she doesn't weep for the souls of her unbaptised grandchildren, and she has more gay friends than I do. She's just a good person, and she's not hurting anyone.

    But the moment you do start hurting people, that's when you become fair game. I do understand that people who proselytise genuinely believe that they're helping people, that they're rescuing souls that are otherwise doomed. But when you, as was the case at Seaview School, make a conscious decision to target the children of atheists without their parents permission, when you tell children that people of particular sexual orientations or beliefs are doomed to burn in hell for all eternity? You can piss the fuck off, your motivations become irrelevant.

    See, it is possible to save people without inflicting your world view. In the course of helping out friends I've used the City Mission in Christchurch a few times, and there was no judgement and no preaching, just help. Do I have a problem with religious people doing work like that with their religion as their motivation? Hell no. But if the help is dependent on conversion, or even listening to a sermon, then hell yeah. The more vulnerable people are - sick, hungry, young and pregnant - the more repulsive I find it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I've always been of the opinion that by the time you're an adult, you have developed a personal belief system that allows you to function and in most cases function happily.

    Any event that disrupts that belief system is usually pretty damn traumatic. For most folks it's a genuinely painful experience.

    So why do we allow people to wander around trying to disrupt other people's belief systems when we know that it will cause them grief and heartache and genuine pain.

    For me, attempting to change someone's religion (or lack thereof) is one of the nastiest things you could do. You are assaulting them. Pure and simple.

    Unless you have training and knowledge to deal with the damage you are trying to do (ie you are a trained therapist) you are much better off talking about politics.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    It just happens that I have spent a fair chunk of my working life trying to engineer apples without cores.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Emma are you a weak or a strong atheist? What lead you to that view, rather than agnosticism?

    Heh, semantics? I mean, if you tell people you're an agnostic, they tend to assume that you haven't made your mind up and you're open to persuasion. I'm not open to persuasion. Proof denies faith, after all, so if you proved to me that a god existed, that wouldn't really be a religion, right?

    I went to church every Sunday until I was about eight. Even at that age, I was aware that the other people there were getting something out of it that I wasn't. I went to church, but I never believed. At ten I had an argument with our RE instructor in (state) primary school and realised that I knew more about evolution than he did. And that was it, I was done with Christianity.

    Also at about eight or so I had an extremely traumatic experience, which I believed had been sent to me by God to punish me for being naughty. It's not far from there to 'well, fuck him then'.

    As far as the Abrahamic Gods go, you could prove they existed to me, and I still wouldn't want to worship them.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    the Abrahamic Gods go, you could prove they existed to me, and I still wouldn't want to worship them.

    Nicely put!

    Along similar lines, I've always found claims that such God(s) - if they do indeed exist - both demand and appreciate worship from petty humans rather, err, preposterous.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    When my son was about 8 he was invited to a Saturday afternoon party. About 30 minutes later he arrived home. Why?
    He said, "We were shown a room full of party food. Then we were ushered into an adjoining room and the man said that you can join the party only if you give yourself to Jesus. One by one the other kids went in to party until only J was left. He refused to "surrender" and eventually walked out and came home." I don't know where J's position came from, but I felt proud of him and furious with the nasty people who had run the "party".

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    you can join the party only if you give yourself to Jesus

    They were buying souls for a mess of pottage?

    (Though I've thought that actually more people would sell their inheritance for a message of pot)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I don't know where J's position came from, but I felt proud of him and furious with the nasty people who had run the "party".

    A hearty 'amen' would be kind of inappropriate, right?

    I think Jesus is a lot like the Twilight franchise. Their biggest fans are their worst advertising.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Oh, and if you need another reason to go 'gnnngh', try this:

    However Father Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, Archbishop for the Recife region where the abortion was performed, has excommunicated those involved in the procedure, including the girl's mother and the hospital staff who performed it.

    "God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value," Cardoso said.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • ali bramwell,

    If you suspect that you have been targeted by the soul saving brigade, you may well be absolutely right. Im a survivor of fundamentalist ubringing and have observed church working groups compiling lists (names and addresses) of at risk souls in their neighbourhood to be prayed for energetically and brought into the flock.
    They had a roster for visiting said persons.

    Other delightful childhood memories involve being sure that my entire family was going to be taken up in 'the Rapture' leaving me behind (because God would know I wasnt a proper Christian...an interesting paradox of beleif/unbeleif that I have fortunately since grown out of) alone to face persecution and possible beheading while the beast walked the earth and the valleys ran with blood. everytime my father was late home from work I would think oh shit its happened!

    science education, yes, well. There were 12 year old girls in my school who beleived that one became pregnant by slipping a gold band on a particular finger.

    Emma your 'stay the hell away from my kids' philosophy is one I can identify with and applaud. religious education can easily be regarded as a form of child abuse. especially in exclusive schooling situations.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2007 • 33 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    "God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value," Cardoso said.

    I wish god would submit his laws to select committee hearings. I have some issues with a couple of them.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Organized religion? A plague on all their houses.

    My idea is that any religious/spiritual feeling should come from within and not be imposed or encouraged from without.

    I may get some sort of spiritual uplift from natural sources (seeing a fern frond uncurl, being licked by a puppy, etc) but I can't quite bridge the 'faith gap'. I need evidence, not faith.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    Leviticus. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. Can't these fundies see I wear glasses and just leave me alone?

    West • Since Feb 2009 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Along similar lines, I've always found claims that such God(s) - if they do indeed exist - both demand and appreciate worship from petty humans rather, err, preposterous.

    Giovanni and I are probably both doing mental George Carlin impressions at this point.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    I tired of having to explain my Atheism in terms of strong/weak, positive/negative, strange/charm or whatever. I just do not believe supernatural things; they do not make sense. It irritates me when religious people (or non-religious people, for that matter) insist I have some sort of belief system, when all I have is an absence of belief.

    Rant over.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I wish god would submit his laws to select committee hearings. I have some issues with a couple of them.

    I wish the government would do the same.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    What does annoy me is the people who insist that everyone has a spritual side. "Oh," they say, "you do have an inner spirituality, even if you don't believe in God." No. No, I don't. I have the spiritual impulses of a brick.

    This is probaly going to annoy you then, Jack. While I don't believe in a "soul" in a Christian way (y'know, the thing that lives forever, either in heaven or in torment) I do believe that everyone does have a spiritual side. Do you laugh at a good joke (or even a bad one!). Does music uplift you in any way? Can you read a book and get transported by it? Or by a film?
    Human being are animals. We follow basic biology and that is to survive ourselves and ensure that our species survives. For me anything that it outside of that biological imperative is the soul, or spirituality.
    You don't have to go to a church to get this. However, some people would say that we have built our own church right here on Public Address - like-minded (for the most part) individuals discussing issues that affect us.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    It irritates me when religious people (or non-religious people, for that matter) insist I have some sort of belief system, when all I have is an absence of belief

    I have some sort belief system - it is (currently) unexamined, incomplete, probably inconsistent, and subject to change without notice.
    What irritates me is that people expect it to be otherwise

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Robin Sheat,

    For me anything that it outside of that biological imperative is the soul, or spirituality.

    I would expect that most of those things you list are the result of biological imperatives if you look hard enough.

    Also, I think you're redefining the soul which means that it (potentially) different to what the OP was claiming. That's sorta cheating.

    Dunedin • Since Oct 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    It irritates me when religious people (or non-religious people, for that matter) insist I have some sort of belief system, when all I have is an absence of belief.

    A friend of mine put it like this: atheism is not a religious belief any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    However, some people would say that we have built our own church right here on Public Address - like-minded (for the most part) individuals discussing issues that affect us.

    'Church' is so not a word I would use in that context.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Human being are animals. We follow basic biology and that is to survive ourselves and ensure that our species survives. For me anything that it outside of that biological imperative is the soul, or spirituality.

    There's nothing more human (or animal, for that matter) than caring for others. I really can't for the life of me understand why so many people consider feelings as somehow occurring outside of biology.

    Giovanni and I are probably both doing mental George Carlin impressions at this point.

    Hell yeah.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    @ Robin
    I was interested in someone claiming to have the spirituality of a brick. I just didn't belive that that could be the case. A lot of religious debate comes down to semantics anway, so I thought I woudl throw mine in there. :)

    @ Emma
    We're going to get into more semantics probably, but what word would you use in that context?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    @giovanni

    adorable

    that seems very...forgiving of you.

    (i saw the former lecturer speaking as tertiary education spokesperson before the '87 election.
    what happened in the ensuing three years was a lesson in "you actually believed those pricks?" betrayal.
    so drinking with or voting for someone so liberal with the truth would be an exercise in severe cognitive dissonance)

    Zeppo? if only...

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 645 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    that seems very...forgiving of you.

    I could barely have found New Zealand on a map at the time, it has to be said.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    We're going to get into more semantics probably, but what word would you use in that context?

    I have no problem with semantics where everyone's aware that we're dealing in semantics.

    I'd use the word 'community', because that's what it is. Churches are also communities, but that does not make Public Address a church.

    I know the word 'church' had a wider meaning than the strictly religious, as when people say things like 'feminism is a very broad church'. But 'church' also has connotations which 'community' does not, and which members of the PA community might find offensive or simply discomforting. So why use it?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

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