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Tag: Truth

Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

pinocchio lying

I grew up in a religious culture where lying (bearing false witness) was always considered sin. It was never, ever right to tell a lie, even if the ends justified the means. This was more of an ideal than anything else. Pastors and congregants alike lied. I quickly learned that despite all their talk about moral/ethical absolutes, my pastors and other church leaders would lie if the situation demanded it. Despite frequent condemnations of situational morality/ethics, the Christians I looked up to would, on occasion, lie. One example that vividly comes to mind happened when I was fifteen and attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. As many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches of the 1970s did, Trinity Baptist had a large bus ministry. Each week the church’s buses brought hundreds of people to church. Many of these buses were rambling wrecks, yet parents rarely gave a second thought to letting their children ride the buses. Most parents, I suspect, saw the three or so hours their children were at church as a respite from caring for them.

Church buses had to be annually inspected by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Each bus had to pass a mechanical and safety inspection. One item of importance was the tires. Trinity Baptist was a fast-growing church that always seemed to be short of money. Properly outfitting each bus with safe tires would require a lot of money, so the church decided, instead, to lie about the tires. In the spring of 1972, it was once again time to have the buses inspected. Several of them needed to have their tires replaced. Instead of replacing the tires, the church outfitted one bus with new tires and took it to the Patrol Post for inspection. After passing inspection, the bus was driven to a garage owned by a church member so the new tires could be removed and put on the next bus needing inspection. This was done for every bus that had tires that would not pass inspection. What church leaders were doing, of course, was a lie. This particular lie was justified by arguing that running the buses and winning souls for Jesus were more important than following Caesar’s law. Over the next thirty-five years, I would see similar lies told time and again, with the justification always being that God’s work must go on and souls needed saving. But, what about not bearing false witness? I learned that for all their preaching on situational morality/ethics, Evangelical pastors and church leaders were willing to tell a fib it advanced their cause. In their minds, the end indeed justified the means.

Years ago, I pastored one man who believed it was ALWAYS wrong to lie. One time, a woman asked him if he liked her new hat. Wanting to always tell the truth, the man told her that he didn’t like the hat and thought it was ugly. Needless to say, he hurt his friend’s feelings. When asked by his wife whether an outfit looked nice on her or made her look fat, he would never consider what his wife was actually asking. Fundamentalist to the core, all that mattered to him was telling the truth. However, all his wife wanted to know is whether he accepted and loved her, as-is. Instead of understanding this, he dished out what he called “brutal honesty.” Needless to say, this man routinely offended his family and friends.

One time, after a blow-up over his truth-telling, I asked him, “Suppose you lived in Germany in World War II and harbored Jews in your home. One day, the Nazis come to your door and ask if you are harboring any Jews. Knowing that answering YES would lead to their deaths, what would you say? Would you lie to protect them?” Astoundingly, he told me that he would either tell the truth (yes) or say nothing at all. In his mind, always telling the truth was paramount even if it meant the death of others. I knew, then, that I had no hope of getting him to see that there might be circumstances where telling a lie was acceptable; that sometimes a lie serves the greater good.

Bruce, did you ever lie as a pastor? Of course, I did. Let me give you one example. The churches I pastored dedicated babies — the Baptist version of baptizing infants. Couples would stand before the congregation and promise before the church and God that they would raise their newborn up in the fear and admonition of God. Most of these parents lied, but then so did I. I would hold their babies in my arms and present them to the church, saying, isn’t he or she beautiful? when I believed then, and still do, that most newborns are ugly. Our firstborn came forth with wrinkly, scaly skin and a cone-shaped head — thanks to the doctor’s use of forceps. “Beautiful,” he was not!  I lied to the parents about their babies because I knew no parent wanted to hear the “truth.” The parents lied about their commitment to church and God because that’s what everyone in attendance wanted to hear — especially grandparents.

While I generally believe that telling the truth is a good idea, I don’t think this is an absolute. There are times when telling a lie is preferable to telling the truth. Let me share an example of when I should have lied and didn’t. The church I co-pastored in Texas held an annual preaching conference. I preached at this conference the year before the church hired me as their co-pastor. When discussing who we were going to have preach at the upcoming conference, I suggested a preacher friend of mine from Ohio. I thought it would be a great opportunity for him. He gladly accepted our invitation. One night after he preached, my friend asked me to critique his preaching. I thought, oh don’t ask me to do this. My friend had several annoying habits, one of which was failing to make eye contact with those to whom he was preaching. He insisted on me telling him what I thought of his preaching, so with great hesitation, I did. After I was done, I could tell that I had deeply wounded my friend, so much so that he talked very little to me the rest of the conference. Sadly, our friendship did not survive my honesty. Yes, he asked for it, but I really should have pondered whether he would benefit from me telling the truth. I should have, instead, recommended several books on preaching or encouraged him to use the gifts God had given him. Instead, I psychologically wounded him by being “brutally honest.”  Fifteen or so years ago, I tried to reestablish a connection with him. I sent him and email, asking him how he was doing.  He replied with a one word, FINE.

As a photographer, I am often asked for photography advice. I have learned that people don’t really want my opinion about their latest, greatest photographs. Instead of telling them how bad their photos are, I choose, instead, to encourage them to practice and learn the various functions of their cameras. (Most people never take their cameras off AUTO.) I told one person recently that I don’t critique the work of others. There’s no such thing as a perfect photograph, and taking photographs is all about capturing moments in time. As a professional, how my photos look matters to me, but I know that most people will never invest time and money into becoming a skilled photographer. Often, they don’t have the same passion about photography as I do. They wrongly thought that buying an expensive camera would automatically make their photos look good. It’s the photographer’s skill, not his equipment, that makes the difference. I try to encourage others, even if it means, at times, I stretch the truth a bit. I suspect all of us look for affirmation and encouragement instead of “brutal honesty.” If by withholding the unvarnished truth, someone is encouraged to keep taking photographs, then I have done a good deed. I certainly will do what I can to help them improve their skills, but I never want to drive them away from the craft.

Are you an “absolute” truth-teller? Do you believe it is ALWAYS wrong to lie, or do you believe there are circumstances when lying serves the greater good or causes the least harm? If you are a pastor/former clergy person, did you ever lie? Don’t lie!  Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheism is Befuddling and Absurd

atheism is a temporary condition

Atheism is impossible because it falls into absurdity inasmuch as it lacks an ontic base for its epistemic rights; it is self-befuddling. Non-theistic worldviews lead to conclusions that are incongruous with their knowledge claims. A vital question: What will supply the a priori truth conditions that make reality intelligible? The logical actuality is, without the Christian worldview, formally, nothing can make sense. The true and living God is the truth condition for the intelligibility of reality and the understanding of all human experience; He must be presupposed for one to have adequate explanatory power required for the obligatory universal operational features of human experience.

— Mike “Word Salad” Robinson, God Exists: Proof and Evidence, Truth Requires God: Atheism is not Possible, October 18, 2018

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: More Proof That Liberals Are Satan Incarnate

selwyn duke

Truth means nothing to leftists. The ends justify the means and they will literally say or do anything to achieve their aims. They’ll use violence—Antifa, BLM, rioting and attacking Trump supporters—and intimidation (doxxing public officials and confronting them in various public places) while calling conservatives fascists and blaming them for the unrest. They’ll rail against “racism” one moment and then excoriate a race (whites) the next. They’ll preach equality while practicing inequality and discrimination, as with quotas and affirmative action. They’ll claim to care about women victims (Kavanaugh/Ford affair) and then smear women victims (Rep. Keith Ellison case). They’ll say “Do it for the children,” using kids as human props, while abetting the brutal killing of children in the womb. They’ll preach tolerance but then insist this means “safe spaces” excluding conservatives and whites and that opposing views must be squelched. They’ll say it’s un-American to question election outcomes—as H. Clinton did prior to Nov. 8, 2016—but upon losing scream how an election was “stolen,” as leftists did after Nov. 8, 2016. Theirs is the ideology of Anything Goes.

In fact, leftists will swear that Truth (properly understood as objective) itself doesn’t even exist, that everything is shades of gray—but then turn about and sing blatant black-white tunes portraying their political opponents as evil. This is similar to Satan, who knows that God’s rules exist but doesn’t believe they should be considered “Truth.” Leftists will superciliously scoff at traditionalists’ moral positions and insist everything is relative. But they really want to play God and have everything be relative to themselves—like the Devil.

One difference between leftists and Satan is that the latter knows God exists. That’s where the differences end. Leftists hate everything great and good: God, family, country and even the idea of countries (attacks on sovereignty). They hate religion, especially Christianity; the Church; marriage; sexual propriety; and anything else reflecting God’s plan. Thus, they not only hated the Boy Scouts before they became the Gender Fluid Scouts, but hate the idea that “boys” and “girls” even exist in any pure sense; they reject the message that “male and female He made them.” They hate virtues (good moral habits) and do violence—directly or indirectly—to every single one, be it faith, charity, chastity, honesty, diligence, temperance, kindness, humility, fortitude, justice or something else.

— Selwyn Duke, Canada Free Press, To Deal with Leftists, Imagine You’re Confronting Satan, October 10, 2018

Is Religion Another Away of Understanding Truth? by Sean Carroll

god-creating-earth

Contrary to what many Evangelical apologists think, scientists do not have (or think they have) answers for every possible question about the universe, life, and human existence. While science does answer many questions that humans deem important, there are yet many unanswered questions that scientists diligently seek to answer. Because science does not have ALL the answers, Evangelicals often say that religion is another empirical and equally valid way of determining and understanding truth. Of course, when science conflicts with religious truth what happens? Most Evangelicals reject that scientific truth, and put their faith in what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about the matter. This is why there are millions of American who believe the universe is 6,021 years old, Adam and Eve were real people, and the earth was destroyed by a flood 4,000 or so years ago. This is also why snake oil salesmen like Ken Ham can build million dollar monuments to ignorance such as the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.

As Physicist Sean Carroll makes clear in the following two-minute video, scientists do not have all the answers, nor have they ever claimed that they do. But, regardless of the lack of answers, science still remains the best way for us to understand our world.

Video Link

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Christian ‘Truth’ Will Set Us Free

truth set you free

This is the one hundred and sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video of rapping puppets telling children that Christian ‘truth’ will set them free.

Video Link

Quote of the Day: The Outsider Test For Faith

you might be wrong

The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is based on the following progression of four steps, precursors of which stem back in time to many thinkers, including Anthony Flew, Robert Ingersoll, David Hume, and even Socrates:

  1. People who are located in distinct geographical areas around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and justify a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their particular upbringing and shared cultural heritage, and most of these faiths are mutually exclusive. This is the Religious Diversity Thesis (RDVT).
  2. The best explanation for (1) is that adopting and justifying one’s religion is not a matter of independent rational judgment. Rather, to an overwhelming degree, one’s religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns. This is the Religious Dependency Thesis (RDPT). From (1) and (2) it follows that:
  3. It is highly likely that any given religious faith is false and quite possible that they all could be false. At best there can be only one religious faith that is true. At worst, they all could be false. The sociological facts, along with our brain biology, anthropological (cultural) data, and psychological studies, lead us to this highly likely conclusion.
  4. The only way to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject. They expresses the Outsider Test for Faith.

The OTF is based on the same kind of data that cultural relativists use when arguing that, because moral practices and beliefs do in fact vary from culture to culture as well as at different times in history, morality is not the result of independent rational judgment but rather is causally dependent on cultural conditions. All we have to do is insert the phrase “religious faith” in place of the world word morality, with one caveat. I’m not arguing that all religious faiths are false because of religious diversity or that they are completely dependent on one’s cultural upbringing. I’m merely arguing that believers should be skeptical of their own culturally inherited faith because it is overwhelmingly the case that one’s faith is dependent on one’s cultural upbringing.

….

The Outsider Test for Faith One More Time for Clarity

  • We are all raised believers. As children, we believed whatever our parents told us, all of us.
  • We were raised in our respective families and cultures to believe what our parents told us about religion.
  • Psychological studies have shown that people have a very strong tendency to believe what they prefer to believe. Cognitive bias studies show this.
  • Psychological studies have shown that most of us, most of the time, look for that which confirms what we believe rather than that which disconfirms it, even though the latter is the best way to get at the truth. This is known as confirmation bias.
  • Neurological studies have shown that people have a sense of certainty about the beliefs they have that is unrelated to the strength of the actual evidence, as Robert Burton argues in, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not.
  • Skepticism is not usually an inherited characteristic. We must acquire the capacity to doubt what we were raised to believe. Skepticism is the adult attitude.
  • When there billions of people who are certain of an inherited faith they all learned in the same manner, who live in separate geographical locations around the globe, who all prefer to believe what they were raised to believe, and who seek to confirm that which they were raised to believe, it should cause them to doubt what they were raised to believe.
  • All believers who are certain of their faith will fallaciously argue that this data allies to atheists, too. If that were the case, then which faith should atheists adopt — all of them? You see, this argument does nothing to solve the problem of religious diversity, since believers still have not come up with a method that can solve their own differences. Atheists are doubters. We are skeptics. Knowing this data causes us to require hard, cold evidence for that which we can accept.
  • Skepticism is a filter that adults use to help sift the wheat of truth from the chaff of falsehood. We cannot doubt that filter! There is no other alternative.
  • The Outsider Test For Faith is the best and only way to get at truth if you want to know the truth. Examine your own faith with the same skepticism you use when examining the other religious faiths you eject. We cannot merely say to people that they should be skeptical without offering a standard of skepticism. . Why? Because if we ask believers who are certain of their faith to test it with doubt then, to a person, they will say they have, and that their faith is sure. But ask them to test their faith with the same level of skepticism they use when examining the other religious faiths they reject, and that will get their attention.

A Few Questions

If anyone disagrees, I have five sets of questions to be answered:

  • Do you or do you not assume other religions shoulder the burden of proof? When you examine Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Scientology, Mormonism, Shintoism, Jainism, Haitian Voodoo, the John Frum Cargo Cult, Satanism, or the many African or Chinese tribal religions, do you think approaching them with faith is the way to test these religions, or would you agree with the OTF that a much fairer method is  by assuming they all have the burden of proof, including your own?
  • Do you or do you not think that a consistent standard invoking fairness is the best way to objectively come to know the correct religious faith, if one is?If not, why the double standard?
  • Do you or do you not think that if Christianity is true, it should be supported by the sciences to the exclusion of other, false religious faiths?
  • Do you or do you not admit that if you reject the OTF, then your God did not make Christianity such that it would lead reasonable people who were born as outsiders to come to believe it, and, as such, they will be condemned to hell by virtue of where they were born? If not, and if outsiders can reasonably come to believe, then why is it that you think the OTF is faulty or unfair?
  • Do you or do you not have a better method for us to reasonably settle which religious faith is true, if one is? If so, what is it?

Let the Debates Begin

If religious believers accept the OTF and claim their  faith passes the test, then at that point we have an agreed-upon standard for debating the merits of faith. If the test does nothing else, that is a good thing.

Let the debates begin.

How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist by John W. Loftus, How to Know Which Religion to Defend, pages 106-108 and 114-117

Purchase the books mentioned in this quote:

How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist by John W. Loftus

On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton

Other books by John W. Loftus

 The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True

Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World’s Largest Religion

Christianity is not Great: How Faith Fails

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails

The End of Christianity

 

 

Bruce, What if You Are Wrong — Again?

afraid of hell

For many people, being RIGHT is crucial. Evangelicals place a premium on being RIGHT. After all, THE Bible says, Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  Evangelicals, hanging their entire existence on a definite article, spend inordinate amounts of time making sure that their eternal destiny is settled. Life is viewed as little more than preparation for the life to come. No matter what happens, Evangelicals know that God will grant them a divine payoff the moment they die. Heaven is their goal, and reaching God’s Trump Hotel requires Evangelicals to believe the right doctrines.  Right beliefs lead to heaven, wrong beliefs lead to hell.

No Bruce, Evangelicals say, we believe that salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life are gained through the merit and atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. It is through JESUS, not right beliefs that sinners are saved.  While Evangelicals love to preach up salvation by grace, underneath all their talk about the freeness of salvation lies a rigid set of beliefs.

Evangelicals love to quote John 3:16:

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

However, what Evangelicals really mean when they quote this verse is this:

 For God so loved the world, that he gave sinners the right beliefs, that whosoever believeth the right doctrines should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Ask former Evangelicals if being right was of any importance to them and the churches they attended. Ask them if significant time was spent making sure church members believed the right doctrines. If their experiences were anything like mine, they will say that there were certain doctrines which were considered essential to Christianity— inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, bodily resurrection of Christ, salvation through Jesus alone, heaven, hell, physical return of Jesus to earth, to name a few. Believe, and thou shalt be saved. Don’t believe, and thou shalt be considered heterodox, heretical, or unsaved.

Recently, an Evangelical sent me an email that contained one sentence: Bruce, what if you are wrong — again?  The author assumes that atheism is my destination, that I have intellectually arrived and no further inquiry is required. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When I walked out of the doors of church seven years ago, I left behind being right on the church’s altar. From that day forward, my life has been one of seeking and exploration. My goal is not to be right as much as it is to drink deeply at the well of human existence.

Now, this does not mean that I don’t value truth. I do, but my search for it is no longer has as its goal some sort of metaphysical payoff. As an Evangelical, I diligently read and studied the Bible. The Apostle Paul spoke of KNOWING whom I have believed, and that is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to intimately know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords — Jesus Christ. I spent thousands of hours immersed in the Bible and prayer. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, the Bible said, and I wanted to be a spiritual seeker and door knocker. These days, I still do a fair bit of reading and study — as my health allows — but I no longer feel pressed to make sure I am right. I want to be right, but I know that — unlike the Bible — the pool of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is so great that I will likely leave most of it untouched by the time I die.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church. While I am sure there are things that I do not know about this or that branch of Christianity, when it comes to Evangelicalism I have exhausted the subject matter. It has been years since Evangelicals have used original arguments in their attempts to woo me back into the fold. Most public Evangelicals-turned-atheists will say the same. Instead, Evangelicals trot out well-worn, easily refuted arguments, thinking that they have won the day. Sorry Evangelicals, until you come up with something new, I am content to ignore you and move on to new and exciting ideas.

While I have shut the book on Evangelicalism and Christianity, this doesn’t mean that I have all the answers. While I am certain that the Gods created by humans are no Gods at all, there could come a day when I am presented with new data concerning the existence of a God or Gods. Who knows, right? I doubt it, but I it certainly is “possible” that our alien overlords could make themselves known some day and I will have to admit that I was wrong — again. Until then, I plan to keep walking on the path of reason, science, and skepticism. And if I find out I am wrong? I will likely write a blog post detailing the data that turned my beliefs on their head.

How about you, Evangelicals? Are you willing to openly engage the vast bookstore of literature that challenges the truthfulness and veracity of Christianity? Are you willing to follow the path wherever it leads? Are you willing to call into question those beliefs you hold dear? Are you willing, if the path leads to such a conclusion, to abandon Christianity? Are you really a seeker of truth, or are you just looking for data that reinforces your beliefs? Are you willing to lose your salvation for the sake of intellectual honesty? Or does the comfort that comes from certainty trump intellectual pursuit?

If you answer NO to these questions, I understand. That said, don’t tell me that you are a seeker of truth. A truth-seeker is one who is willing to follow the path wherever it leads. You are not willing to do this. Until you are willing consider the possibility of being wrong, you will remain safely lodged in the Evangelical castle of certainty. Millions will join you in its safe confines, but I hope, some day, that you will venture outside of the castle’s secure walls, and enter the wild, woolly, and wonderful world of reason.

[signoff]

Bruce Gerencser