Ten years ago I posted a Christmas reflection that I just now reread and think encapsulates some of my deepest feelings about the season still.   This is what I said and say:


So, we have managed to make our way to another Christmas.  I hope all of you – whether fundamentalist, liberal Christian, seeker, Jew, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, or none of the above – are having a very nice, relaxing, rejuvenating, and fulfilling holiday.

In the opening chapter of my book God’s Problem, I talked about going to church on Christmas Eve in 2006 with my wife Sarah and brother-in-law Simon, in Saffron-Walden, a market town in England where Simon lives, not far from Cambridge.  It was a somber but moving Christmas Eve service, and yet one that had the opposite of the intended effect on me.  It made me realize just how estranged I was from the Christian faith, from the notion that with Christ God entered into the world and took its sufferings upon himself.  I just didn’t see it, and it made me terrifically sad, resentful, and even angry.  There is so much pain and misery all around us, and yet the heavens – in my judgment – seem to be silent.

This event is not what led me to write God’s Problem.  I had been planning to write it already for some time.  But the service encapsulated my feelings that eventually came to expression in that book.  I realized the other night that I have not stepped into a church since then, that Christmas Eve midnight service, six years ago.

But I went again this year – same market town, same company, same church, same service.   And it had a very different effect on me this time.  I think I’m less angry now.  Less mystified by the lack of a divine response to the horrible pain and suffering going on in the world – crazy gunman in Newtown MA; hurricane Sandy; wars in the Middle East; horrible tragedy of Syria; disaster in Congo; not to mention the daily ravages of starvation, epidemics, droughts, floods, and on and on and on, world without end.  But why *should* there be a divine response?  There appears to be no divine responder.   Not much to get angry about any more.

At the same time, I seem to be less antagonistic to the faith that I once held and cherished so dearly.   I realized three nights ago at the service that even though I still don’t believe it, simply DO NOT believe it, there are things about the Christian faith that I value very highly.  And I wish very much that I could still be a Christian, even if that means simply holding on to the Christian myth (I would never think that it’s some kind of historical, empirical, or even metaphysical reality) as the myth that I want to embrace.  And the reason is this.

On the way to the church, walking through the dark streets of Saffron Walden, we passed a pub open late.  The young people were lined up en masse to get in.  Christmas Eve is a night to get completely blitzed, loaded, drunk out of your gourd for many people (not just 19-year-olds) in England.  By comparison, the church in town, for this major service, had a good size crowd, but it was nowhere near full.   And I started thinking about the values represented by these two groups of people, and about which set of values I personally feel aligned with.

Let me be clear: I am not against a good bit of drinking and lots of good cheer.  Just the contrary.  Last month I had an occasion to exceed myself  on a merry occasion – it hadn’t happened in years – and even though I think I’m now too old for that sort of thing (as my body insisted for the following two days), and I doubt if it’ll ever happen again (*that* excessively, I mean), in principle I’m not against it as a (very) rare moment in life.  But what if my life consisted in doing that all the time?  And what are the values and the guiding life-principles of people who do so?  Or of those who do not do so, but live completely secular lives?  What exactly do people value outside communities of faith?  Some of us outside these communities, of course, value fairly traditional social values.  At least I do.  Good family relations; good friends; little pleasures in life; doing good for others.

But that’s not what society as a whole values and I might as well face it.  Most people in our society value THEMSELVES.   Egotism and self-centeredness rule the day.   Most people don’t give a DAMN about the pressing problems of our world.   Most are far more interested in how much money they can make, and spend, and how many great things they can buy.  They might give a buck to a panhandler on the street corner and feel good about themselves, or twenty bucks at Christmas to a charity; but basically they, most of us, want to earn all they can to use it for themselves.  (I’m NOT complaining about people who give 20 dollars and that’s all they can afford to give; I sit in wonder and admiration at *them*).   When I look at my own community of Durham NC, I see a fairly typical community where a very few people give a LOT for the sake of others (probably the majority, of these, however, are people of faith), but where there is an ungodly amount of money that is hoarded or spent on personal pleasure without a care in the world that less than a mile away people are sleeping on the streets in the cold without having anything to eat all day.

And what about the church?  Well, the church is a mess too, mainly because there are people in it and people, as a rule, are a mess.   But what I told Sarah after the service was that I wished I could believe, because the values that are espoused by the church are the ones I hold.  Not by the mega-churches.  Not by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Not by the Vatican.  Good god, no.  But by the humble, local, church, which teaches people (whether they do it or not) that they ought to love their neighbors as themselves, that they ought to do unto others as they would have them to themselves, that they should clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, visit the lonely, and so on.  That they should give of themselves for the sake of others, and not simply live for the fleeting pleasures of this life.

Of course, I myself think this life is all there is.  I don’t think there is a reward for good behavior or generosity.  I don’t believe in a supreme being who created the world and will redeem it and who has given us the chance to spend eternity in heaven.  I think when we die, that is the end of the story.  But the values espoused in the form of Christianity that I am most comfortable with – good, liberal, humble, caring Christianity – are really the values that I myself treasure and that, frankly, I do not see expressed very often in the secular society in which I spend my life.

Why aren’t there non-religious social institutions on every street corner (with or without steeples) that embrace these values?  Why do religious people give so much more of their possessions (they do!) and of themselves than secular people (I know, I know: most of it goes to pay for the preacher, the denomination, missionary work, etc…) (and many church goers give hoping to curry favor with God; but many others are, quite frankly, simply generous and self-giving).  Why do religious people so much more frequently commit themselves to the good of others than secular people do (again, I know, I know, there are real jerks among the believers (if you worked in churches for years as I did, you could easily cite some rather astounding instances), and most Christians, at the end of the day, are not better people than the rest of us, and there really are amazing people among the secularists – think Doctors Without Borders for starters).   But why are so many people so obsessed with the fleeting pleasures of the flesh and the superficial enjoyments that the media crams down our throats?  Why aren’t there humanist and secularist societies that band together in fellowship with commitments to develop thoughtful and reflective lives, to love others and do good to those in need, and to live for the greater things in live,  societies as highly visible as the church (at least as the church used to be)?  It is one of my perennial puzzles and concerns.

I think the question(s) came so deeply and disturbingly this Christmas Eve because when I was a Christian, acknowledging that the myth of the incarnation was a myth, I accepted the myth as saying something very profound.  In that myth, the ultimate reality (call it God) did not come into the world in a blaze of power worthy of a Roman emperor or with an astonishing abundance of wealth worthy of, well, a Roman emperor.  He came as an impoverished child to an unwed mother in the midst of a world of pain and suffering; and this child grew in poverty and urged his followers to give of themselves for the sake of others, insisting that it was the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the hungry, the sick, the demon-possessed, the sinners, the outcasts who were the concern of that ultimate reality.  That made a lot of sense to me.  It still does.

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2022-12-16T11:24:54-05:00December 25th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|

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  1. SteveC December 25, 2022 at 6:44 am

    Bart, I find this post very moving. Your Christmas messages always are. The foundation of your blog as a whole is, I believe, based firmly in Christian ethics. The scourge of my church life has been fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, and I have encountered much unpleasantness at times. The Anglican Church which I now attend espouses much of what you highlight as good about the Church, with many of the congregation giving up their Christmas Day to feed the homeless and needy. Long may that kind of Christianity continue. A very happy Christmas to you and yours.

  2. Judith December 25, 2022 at 9:27 am

    I’ve said it before…this should be our annual Christmas Day post as Vermont Royster’s “In Hoc Anno Domini” in The WSJ since 1949 is.

  3. Sosuenyo1956 December 25, 2022 at 9:40 am

    Great question! Why aren’t there more humanist societies? I could envision someone arguing that doing so, that is, taking God out of the equation, is the earmark of the anti-Christ.

    • BDEhrman December 26, 2022 at 8:28 am

      Esp. if the first is located on 666 Main Street.

    • Jac December 26, 2022 at 6:45 pm

      Many non-religious are giving and generous too, just not on street corners! Surprisingly they are the ones who often obey the words about not giving to be “seen of men”. Christian giving, too, I in my experience is often ultimately connected to getting converts.
      Are the “Christian values” we so often hold up really a dream of what Christianity should or could be but has never been? Even Christians can’t agree on what these “Christian values” are. To one person “family values” embodies valuing and nurturing relationships and each individual equally. To another it involves women being “silent” or valued only in the home. To another it involves excluding others who are not like them. To some faithfulness to marriage is important above all else but to others it is right to walk away from a damaged relationship. Christian values in the past extreme meant burning heritics. To some today they are explicitly tied up with politics, while to others they are separate from politics. Maybe instead of Christian values we should just talk about being good decent people, even though I guess people could never agree about what even that really means.

      • AngeloB December 29, 2022 at 9:03 pm

        Mainstream Christians who are not evangelical don’t actively seek converts.

        • Jac December 31, 2022 at 4:34 pm

          I am not sure there are many “mainstream” churches that are not evangelical in any way. They are probably pretty small and getting smaller! Most Christian churches seek to grow.

  4. TomTerrific December 25, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Very well put, Dr. E.

  5. jscheller December 25, 2022 at 10:51 am

    A very good post! I sympathize with you. I think it is the reason I am still a Christian. Church can churn out religious people (is that a good thing?), but church can also produce better people (better than themselves without an external focus – and that is a good thing).

  6. giselebendor December 25, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    Prompted and intrigued by your uplifting article,I did a bit of research.

    seems a good analysis with some sensible numbers and facts.

    I feel that being religious doesn’t necessarily correspond with church or temple attendance or affiliation.I often meet very generous,wealthy people who didn’t have religious education.And I see ostentatiously ” Orthodox” individuals who contribute to increased misery in the world.Often we also hear about indicted criminals who were very charitable pillars of their communities.

    I wonder if the biblical principle of tithing ( 10% of one’s income, according to Jacob’s transactional promise to God)is alive at all.But I find many secular, non-religious charitable organisations that do a lot of good (like your own blog!).

    The question if ” we the humans ” could single handedly eradicate world poverty is one that is posed not just by religious or secular charitable institutions but by scientific organisations seeking to create methods to produce such a reality.

    But the misery caused by natural disasters,incurable illnesses, tragic accidents, horrible public figures ( think Hitler, Putin, etc)remains quite intractable.

    The question then is if an assumed exclusively benevolent God fits reality. Personal disbelief is less suffered when such “life force” is felt in its full,all encompassing nature.

    • DoubtingTom December 27, 2022 at 12:12 pm

      I don’t see why tithing is a measure of one’s worth as a Christian.

      Tithing is part of the Jewish law, and as especially Paul instructed, there’s no virtue in continuing to follow Jewish law.

      Besides, tithing only applied to Jews living in the promised land. Only the produce of the land was subject to tithing (including the Pharisee’s mint leaves). Every seventh year there was no tithing, when the fields were left fallow. Wages were not subject to tithing.

      Churches should cease brow beating their congregations into tithing. I still recall my mom becoming angry and hurt with that preaching, we were so poor, it was all she could do as a single mom to provide for her three children. She and many others needed respite in church, not judgement, a guilt trip, and a false assurance that “God will provide”.

      I’m all for charity given without duress, inspired by a generous heart.

      • BDEhrman December 31, 2022 at 11:52 am

        Paul certainly thinks lots of the Jewish laws were to be followed! But he also never says anytihng about tithing, even inthe places where he talks about Xns giving money to those in need (e.g., 1 Cor. 8 and 9); This may be because the tithes were the income of the priests, and Paul saw no more need for the preasts. I completely agree on the brow-beating….

        • AngeloB January 1, 2023 at 7:25 am

          Why do some churches encourage tithing 10 percent of one’s income?

          • BDEhrman January 2, 2023 at 12:18 pm

            It’s on the assumption that this is God’s ideal as expressed in the OT. It’s also his ideal not to eat ham sandwiches, but that one they let go. 🙂

  7. JacobSapp01 December 25, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    As a former evangelical of 25+ years who left the faith in 2016, I fully empathize with you. At times, I am still saddened that I no longer believe the stories I once cherished so dearly. As I get older, however, I tend to reflect on the different ways in which something can be *true*. The claims of Jesus and his early followers (and modern followers) may have no basis in empiricism or history, but “love your neighbor as yourself” sure seems to be a good idea when applied in place of conflict. In that sense, I will always identify with the ideals of my upbringing. I think the message can still provide some comfort, peace and hope for some people. I always smile at that line in O Holy Night: “the weary world rejoices”!

    Merry Christmas Bart, and my most sincere thanks for all you do and warmest wishes for a healthy, happy new year!

  8. longdistancerunner December 25, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    I think there is something everyone, if there lucky can find that is spiritual.
    It’s just supernaturally based.
    Mine was in an activity.
    The primal event of running.
    Running down the street, down the alley, along the paths and hills.
    Using the body and feeling alive, for no return.
    When I die, I’m sure I will disappear but my spirit will still be on those streets, down those alleys and paths…
    I know each crack in the road and manhole cover.
    They are friends of mine.
    I hope everyone finds that one thing that they’ll leave a part of themselves behind when it’s all over.

  9. normanchoo December 25, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    I wish you’ve said that charities can be seen in other faiths too (may I boldly guessing you agree). Reason being many have a supremacy/discriminatory view.

  10. drkdowd December 25, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    Virtually all religions and many schools of philosophy profess that we are here under sufferance, doing penance for some perceived indiscretions that we, or our ancestors, have perpetrated. We vainly hope for salvation, through good thoughts, words, deeds, and/or through the grace of a divine entity, to return to the realm where we truly belong.

    The ‘Many Worlds Interpretation’ of Quantum Theory would provide the most elegant answer to the question of Theodicy of all that I have come across in Religion and Philosophy.

    Leibnitz proposed that our existing world is the best world that ‘God’ could have created. However, with the ‘MWI’, Everett’s ‘relative state formulation’ at macroscopic level would contend that much as there is no special place in this universe, there is also no privileged event. All possible events occur- natural or willed- and their prevalence amongst multiple worlds varies according to their respective probabilities.

    The ‘I’ that I am aware of is only observing a singular existence among multiple that occupy the same 3 dimensions of space but are ‘lateral’ to ours in ‘event-time’. Debates about Theodicy and any God’s Omnibenevolence are somewhat redundant if every possible event can occur in its’ own reality.

  11. AngeloB December 25, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    This post reminds me of my journey to an extent!

  12. Hank_Z December 25, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    Bart, what group(s), if any, practiced “shunning” in the early Christian church?

    • BDEhrman December 26, 2022 at 8:34 am

      We don’t know of gruoops. The eariest reference to something like that is in 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul urges teh Corinthians to kick a miscreant out of their community. There he diesn’t say in and was shunned though; it was more like an excommunication.

      • Hank_Z December 27, 2022 at 1:07 pm

        Do any church fathers describe requiring that church members ignore excommunicated family members as if the latter did not exist?

        • BDEhrman December 31, 2022 at 11:53 am

          Good question. I don’t know. My sense is that they knew it meant exclusion from the community, not being completely ignored while in the community.

  13. fishician December 25, 2022 at 9:06 pm

    Last night I went with my wife to her church’s Christmas Eve service. I have similar feelings to what you describe: i value the story of a person born into humble circumstances who went on to teach caring for others and became a major influence in Western culture, as imperfect as we are in implementing his teachings. But I won’t go back on a regular Sunday as i don’t care to hear the condemnation of gays, abortions, all under the influence of a demigod named Satan, and really most everyone who doesn’t belong to their group with their proper doctrines. If Christianity had become the religion taught by Jesus rather than the religion about a deified Jesus I might be able to participate, but as it stands I must remain apart and use Jesus’s teachings as best I can.

    • TheologyMaven December 26, 2022 at 11:16 am

      I never hear that at my church, just saying. Mostly it’s about how to lead a better life yourself. If there’s any judgments, it’s about people who vote R. Christianity is a very broad and diverse thing, as was then (at its inception), is now, and forever (likely) shall be. Amen!

  14. JamesMarks December 26, 2022 at 12:47 am

    “Why do religious people so much more frequently commit themselves to the good of others than secular people do?”

    A data point (as of Sunday, December 25, 2022) that I thought was worth mentioning:

    The top two teams in Kiva (https://www.kiva.org/) are
    1) Christians
    2) Athiests, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious

    Kiva Christians
    23,023 members have funded $70,922,855 in loans
    Worldwide Category: Friends Team since: Aug, 2008
    We loan because: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

    (A+) Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious
    36,472 members have funded $61,765,526 in loans
    Worldwide Category: Common Interest Team since: Aug, 2008
    We loan because: It takes people to help people.

    Maybe we’re not as aware of the good works done by the non-religious among us because they’re not as vocal and organized about the works that they do.

  15. jayakron December 26, 2022 at 1:31 pm

    ” less than a mile away people are sleeping on the streets in the cold without having anything to eat all day.”

    If this is true, shouldn’t we see news reports of mass starvation in U.S. cities? Or even any reports of a single person starving to death? For many decades laws have been in place that ensure anyone who needs food and shelter will get it. Being that I’m a recovered alcoholic of over 30 years sobriety, I know the score of what’s fueling the homeless crisis — not a lack of compassion, but substance abuse, and the free will of those who choose to live out of doors rather than in a government provided shelter.

    • BDEhrman December 27, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Are you questioning whether people are going without food in the United States? And that shelters don’t have enough room for them?f I live in a small city and this happens each and every day here. Why isn’t it front page news? Most people don’t want to hear it and news media likes to communicate what people want to hear. I don’t blame them, but still…. I will say that children in this country who don’t have food are not choosing to be hungry.

    • fragmentp52 December 27, 2022 at 8:11 pm

      I would suggest you take a look at a Youtube Channel called Invisible People. The resilience and good nature on display is a testament to these people, and a searing indictment on the rest of us. The fact that they try and make the best of a bad situation does not mean living on the streets is their first choice, or even a preference.


  16. jayakron December 26, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    A Professor friend of mine made a similar argument. After decades as a followers of a Northern India guru who ran a large religious compound which provided food and medical help to thousands every day, and yet never charged a fee for anything, he decided the whole thing should be shut down because it was based on a false principles (i.e, that God exists).

    When I pointed out to him that his employer, a large California community college, took in many millions of dollars every year and paid him a handsome salary, and yet statistics showed the most students ended up dropping out before receiving a degree, and moreover, that this community college charged fees and was far from being anything like a charitable institution, he got somewhat irate.

  17. wje December 26, 2022 at 7:52 pm

    Good evening, Bart. Since it is Christmas time, now is the time for some more questions about holiday theology. When did December the 25th become an official date and what churches used it first?

    • BDEhrman December 31, 2022 at 11:36 am

      I believe it happened under the emperor Constantine in 336 CE. (But I don’t have any reference books with me here to check for sure!) He died the next year, so it was at the end of his reign. Presumably it was mainly picked up in the Western churches in the empire. Many in the eastern tradition continue to celebrate it on January 7.

      • Duke12 January 13, 2023 at 2:09 pm

        Late reply: I believe it was emperor Theodosius who instituted December 25. Also: January 7 Gregorian calendar is December 25 Julian calendar. Many Eastern Orthodox Churches (as you noted, including all those in Russia and most of those in Ukraine) still follow the Julian Calendar. Because of the slight difference between Julian and Gregorian leap year calculations, Julian December 25, 2100 will fall on Gregorian January 8, 2101 (and Julian December 25, 2200 will fall on Gregorian January 9, 2201, etc. until 2400/2401 when both calendars will have a leap year that century year and thus another 200 years will pass until the next shift rather than the more usual100 years — 1900/1901-2100/2101 was also a 200 stint with no change).

        TL;DR: both Western and Eastern Churches celebrate December 25, but on different calendar schemes.

  18. dabizi December 26, 2022 at 9:21 pm

    Your post has immense meaning for me. I agree the idea of God appearing in the world as an outcast advocating for the downtrodden is powerful. When i rejected my family’s cult, i embraced atheism, science and medicine hard. Now i am a dissatisfied atheist, and i think science has inadequately tried to explain our existence (de novo genes in particular, but especially the perfect interaction of multiple separate genes to regulate complex processes). I see “Secular Humanism” as an insincere badge nuveau-yuppies wear, as they outsource charity to an impersonal bureaucracy to free them for their own pleasures.
    We accept fictions for the sake of community all-the-time, when we celebrate former holydays like Xmas and All Hallows Eve, and we honor ancient gods when we refer to months and weekdays. I enjoy an Anglican church and the work it does for others, even if i choose not to believe all 39 articles. If there is truth in the creation account, i would not be surprised if we are so far outside the garden that we sweat to understand everything on our own, and why textual analysis of ancient writings may be so critical for discovering what is actually true.

  19. mkoufakis December 27, 2022 at 7:57 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was moving.

    Your right most people are selfish. Jesus knew this and tried to change it. Whether he as God, resurrected,
    did miracles, born of a virgin is simply a matter of faith.

    Nearly everyone can agree that he was simple man with a very powerful selfless message.

    Merry Christmas!

    • sLiu January 4, 2023 at 3:48 pm

      I joked with a Shanghai then new preacher: What did Mary say to Joseph when she was losing her virginity.

      you are a disappointment! paraphrase

  20. Kevin Pendergrass December 27, 2022 at 8:41 am

    I was a fundamentalist for years. I preached so much hate that I can’t even imagine the damage that is still being done because of my negative influence. Three of my friends who are counselors have told me the majority of clients they see are former Christians.

    This (and other reasons) are why I left fundamentalism and became a progressive Christian. But it didn’t take me long to become disenchanted with progressive Christianity due to the pervasive arbitrary nature of handling the Bible. I found myself either explaining away the literalness of the Bible, softening the difficult passages of scripture, or arguing how the Bible is outdated and can only be selectively applied (how convenient!).

    Truth is: the same loving “give to the poor” Jesus was also the same cruel and harsh “few will go to heaven” Jesus.

    I came to believe that Christianity (even the most progressive) doesn’t necessarily make people better. But good people do try and make Christianity better. I finally became an atheist.

    While I understand your sentiment, I believe it’s an oversimplified dichotomy. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the drunks were at the bar not “instead of Christianity” but “because” of it.

  21. TheologyMaven December 27, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    Bart, your para

    “But that’s not what society as a whole values and I might as well face it. Most people in our society value THEMSELVES. Egotism and self-centeredness rule the day. “

    Reminds me greatly of the HB prophets. It could be depressing “x thousand years with no improvement” or not so much “each generation must light its own candle and do its best.”
    You as an individual soul can do your best, but at the end of the day there are more powerful forces in the world than you.
    Do individual Christians do good? Yes.
    Do individual Hindus/Jews/Muslims do good? yes
    Do people with no beliefs do good? Yes
    Are some Christians annoying, judgy and hypocritical? Yes
    Ditto for other religions.
    Ditto for those with no beliefs.
    Should people who claim belonging to a religion be better than other people? I don’t know.
    Does it help me be a good person to hang with others who consciously try to? Supported by a system of stories about good people, and prayer/meditation? Yes.

  22. TimOBrien December 28, 2022 at 10:46 am

    You ask: “Why are so many people so obsessed with the fleeting pleasures of the flesh and the superficial enjoyments that the media crams down our throats?”

    I suspect it’s because the overwhelming majority of those who believe “this life is all there is” simply draw the obvious lesson. Most (present company excluded) who “think when we die, that is the end of the story” will, like the Rich Fool of Lk 12:16-21, “value THEMSELVES” and devote their delimited existence to “how much money they can make, and spend, and how many great things they can buy.”

    Fatalism all but inevitably disposes to here-and-now pragmatism. Our inclination to self-interest — temporal and/or spiritual — is innate. If the consequences of both base behavior and noble aspiration are equally annihilated by the conquerer worm, how many will find value in sacrificing their *only* present to no ultimate advantage?

    You are the exception who proves the rule.

    IMHO the rarity of a fatalist holding to loftier ideals illustrates how thoroughly our western thinking has been stewed in a Judeo-Christian crockpot. The pervasiveness of an “eat drink and merry” accommodation to a “tomorrow we die” fate suggests that the major beverage imbibed has been church doctrine kool-aid.

  23. teharbert34 December 28, 2022 at 10:57 am

    Thank you for being you. I believe the root of the problem is educational. I will attempt an explanation….
    Religion works hard to withhold knowledge in our school systems. This strengthens the argument that we get our morality from religion. My wife and I had three children that all went K-12 in the same school system. Our two boys have given us six grandchildren, three of which are in that same school system. Science and math have been all but eliminated for the sake of the arts. If children are taught critical thinking, math, science, logic, reason and kindness instead of living the culture of the arts, ignorance and delusion, I believe the world would change for the better. The children that I see coming out of this school system are self-centered, delusional and don’t miss Wednesday church. Fortunately, our three children are Atheists. They are very caring and high functioning.
    Missionary work centers around religious delusions. What if it centered around science and kindness? Teach them how to fish instead of telling them that an invisible, fatherless man in the sky will provide the fish if you believe.
    We shouldn’t need religion to teach kindness.

  24. jayakron December 28, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    If people are literally going without food, it would follow we’d literally see starvation, or at the very least, emaciated homeless. I know of no evidence for either. Perhaps workers and consumers are hedonists, but I don’t see how they’re expected to help the person who prefers doing meth and living out of doors. The experiment of the last 30 yrs in several U.S. cities shows that $ isn’t the answer. Testimony of the ages shows that religion often is, as $ will not change dysfunctional hearts and minds.

    • BDEhrman December 31, 2022 at 12:42 pm

      I don’t know what the statistics in America for actual starvation are. But the statistics for food insecurity — a rather neutral term meant to take the edge off it, which I don’t like — is quite extensive. Talk to anyone who works for your local Food Bank. There are very hungry peo-ple out there, including lots and lots of innocent children. I’m not arguing for a political solution, though, but for personal intervention that we can all engage in. (I do, of course, have strong political views; but the need to help seems to me to cross political boundaries).

  25. JWolfo December 29, 2022 at 9:08 pm

    I know you’ve been on Bart Campolo’s podcast. I like his thoughts on this, that secular organizations have not had time to develop into the large organizations like churches have. Church membership allows you to go all over the world and find people with your same affiliation. Secular orgs may never evolve into that, they may remain specialized, like the ones you mentioned. This might be for the best, allowing for better metrics of whether they are doing what they say they intend to do.

    The question still might be, can we develop orgs that encourage general wellbeing and harmony, without the dogma? Churches recruit their do-gooder volunteers from the community of faith, might this happen in reverse? Could secular volunteers congregate to discuss why they feel compelled to give of themselves, or to commiserate about the inevitable hopelessness, or tell parables of corrupt leadership and how to deal with it. My suspicion is, mainline churches are already moving in this direction, where the belief part is less important. On any given Sunday, it’s not hard to find a sermon on getting out of the church building and getting involved in the community.

    • BDEhrman December 31, 2022 at 1:07 pm

      I suppose the Unitarians have done that! (I’ll be on Bart Campolo’s podcast again soon; we taped it already)

  26. 1SonOfZeus February 13, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Dr. Ehrman, I hope 2023 is a blessed year for you. Thank you for all that you do. It is much appreciated from those who believe like me. Your are truly an amazing man.

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