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What do you say to your faith-based neighbors?

Dear Friends,

As you know, I tell my neighbors that I am "not a person of faith". On that basis, I try to talk to them about the position of reason that grounds my actions in day to day life. What do you tell your neighbors who are on the faith-based side, and if there was one thing you would want them to understand about the way you see the world, what would that be?

Here is an excerpt from a recent blog entry I wrote about this:

... I am still walking with [my neighbor] Missionary Mike, and he is still working on converting me, but he will let off of it for weeks at a time when he has not made expected progress or I have told him something he has had a difficult time processing (during these times we usually switch to politics). When we do discuss religion or general theology, I try to write it down as soon as I get home, and that goes to a private thread on a discussion group some of my friends read. ...

... I started doing just that [pressing Missionary Mike harder] last week when he quoted something out of the Bible at me and I asked him if he knew that YHWH had a prior job as a god in the Canaanite pantheon? That gave me a chance to tell him about how the religion of the Canaanites had evolved into that of the Hebrews, which was definitely not something he was keen about hearing. These days I have taken to sending him email references for the things I tell him after the walk.

This week I stopped him when he used the phrase "time of Christ" to get him to clarify if he was talking about the time that Jesus lived or the time when the "Christ" concept was developed in the decade or so after the death of Jesus, and was he talking only about within the group who considered Jesus to be the Christ at that time? That brought on the typical discussion of the meaning of "messiah" in this context.

There have been many, many of these kinds of exchanges over the years, and I should be able to organize the book into subject areas about the history of the formation of the Hebrew religion and how that gave us the Hebrew Bible, then the geo-political stage of the first century and what is known about the life of Jesus, then the formation of various Jesus cults and how what we now consider Christianity came out of that with the canonized scriptures. The last part, is how all this runs spang into the modern scientific post-Darwin post-DNA looking into neuroscience world.

So, how do people in this modern world talk to people who believe that faith is a virtue? I think that depends on what it is that one wants to achieve. Some just enjoy the self-satisfactory superiority of telling religious people that faith equals idiocy. For me, that is like ridiculing someone's computer because it has been loaded with faulty software. I would rather fix the software and then see what it can do. Of course, some ridicule is for the purpose of keeping the religious folks from doing harm such as teaching Creationism in schools or letting children die through faith healing or even killing family members over honor spats.

I would like to achieve more thought among the religious. I don't need them to drop their faith and come to reason in a grand moment of epiphany, but do want the small voice of reason to start talking to them in the back of their minds so that it becomes harder and harder for them to ignore the cognitive dissonance over time. So, one can't start that by being a jerk in their eyes. As I have written before, I start by telling them that I am "not a person of faith" and take it from there into why that is no threat to people of all faiths.




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