How to Learn About Christianity

Torin

Active member
Some people here are apparently under the misconception that the best way to learn about Christianity is to post on CARM.

Here's a better approach:

0. Don't post on CARM.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.

Congratulations, now you know stuff about Christianity!

I'm only being a little sarcastic, here. I honestly do think this is a MUCH more efficient and reliable way of learning about Christianity than arguing with random laymen you happen to come across on internet discussion boards.

If you're already doing this, and CARM is only a supplement, then kudos.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
Some people here are apparently under the misconception that the best way to learn about Christianity is to post on CARM.

Here's a better approach:

0. Don't post on CARM.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.

Congratulations, now you know stuff about Christianity!

I'm only being a little sarcastic, here. I honestly do think this is a MUCH more efficient and reliable way of learning about Christianity than arguing with random laymen you happen to come across on internet discussion boards.

If you're already doing this, and CARM is only a supplement, then kudos.
Well, sure - but this is something you've concluded after having spent a lot of time here.

I believe you were formerly a Christian (or at least a theist), so the reasons you came to this site are probably different from the reasons an atheist will. Still, it's not immediately obvious that the best way to learn about what certain people believe is to do something other than talk to them.

Like you, I'm only being a little sarcastic; I know what you mean here, and because I've spent a lot of time not getting high quality information at this site, I agree. I guess I'm "complaining", in that your advice wouldn't necessarily apply to something like analytical chemistry, or baseball (or even objectivism); it'd be perfectly acceptable if not more-productive to talk to the people who have direct experience with the subject. You'd need supplemental material to fill in the gaps, but you could still talk to a baseball fan without needing to read a book about the sport.

Not with religion, though....
 

Torin

Active member
Well, sure - but this is something you've concluded after having spent a lot of time here.
Yeah, but I read a lot on my own too. I don't read about Christianity, but that is because it's not an area of interest for me. I read a lot of Christian literature when I was an apologist, and I am currently working slowly through an overview of the history of natural theology. So I do not think your (polite) ad hominem argument holds.

I believe you were formerly a Christian (or at least a theist), so the reasons you came to this site are probably different from the reasons an atheist will. Still, it's not immediately obvious that the best way to learn about what certain people believe is to do something other than talk to them.
It isn't "immediately obvious," but it is true.

Like you, I'm only being a little sarcastic; I know what you mean here, and because I've spent a lot of time not getting high quality information at this site, I agree. I guess I'm "complaining", in that your advice wouldn't necessarily apply to something like analytical chemistry, or baseball; it'd be perfectly acceptable if not more-productive to talk to the people who have direct experience with the subject. You'd need supplemental material to fill in the gaps, but you could still talk to a baseball fan without needing to read a book about the sport.

Not with religion, though....
I would absolutely say the same thing about chemistry or baseball.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
I would absolutely say the same thing about chemistry or baseball.
It would be more difficult to understand both of those things if all you did is read books about them. However, this is your thread, so I'm not going to go any further than saying this.
 

Torin

Active member
@Whateverman, I see you added "or even Objectivism" to your post parenthetically since I responded. I would like to address that by saying that book learning is far and away the BEST way of learning about Objectivism. Just a quick aside.
 

Lighthearted Atheist

Well-known member
Some people here are apparently under the misconception that the best way to learn about Christianity is to post on CARM.

Here's a better approach:

0. Don't post on CARM.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.

Congratulations, now you know stuff about Christianity!

I'm only being a little sarcastic, here. I honestly do think this is a MUCH more efficient and reliable way of learning about Christianity than arguing with random laymen you happen to come across on internet discussion boards.

If you're already doing this, and CARM is only a supplement, then kudos.
Great point. here was my journey:

  1. Read: Read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations (KJV)
  2. Church: Attend Christian church services
  3. Ask Friends: Ask my Christian friends to explain the faith and why they believe
  4. Apologetics: Watch apologist debates and lectures (Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zaccherias)
  5. Read Again: Read the Bible a second time and discuss each book with my Evangelical pastor friend (NIV this time)
  6. CARM: Post on CARM to ask Christians why they believe what they do
I suggest doing this for Islam and Hinduism as well. Once yo understand those you better understand bout 80%+ of the world's population from their point of view - and that's a good thing.
 

Torin

Active member
Great point. here was my journey:

  1. Read: Read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations (KJV)
  2. Church: Attend Christian church services
  3. Ask Friends: Ask my Christian friends to explain the faith and why they believe
  4. Apologetics: Watch apologist debates and lectures (Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zaccherias)
  5. Read Again: Read the Bible a second time and discuss each book with my Evangelical pastor friend (NIV this time)
  6. CARM: Post on CARM to ask Christians why they believe what they do
I suggest doing this for Islam and Hinduism as well. Once yo understand those you better understand bout 80%+ of the world's population from their point of view - and that's a good thing.
Cool, sounds like you're pretty well informed / prepared then.
 

Torin

Active member
I like learning how others think - it is the best path to empathy I know :)
Incidentally: Have you read anything about Ayn Rand or her philosophy of Objectivism?

Full Objectivists are a small minority, but Rand's novels and nonfiction are a significant influence on the American right. If your goal is to understand how people you disagree with think, it would be worth your time to read a bit about Objectivism.

$0.02
 

Authentic Nouveau

Well-known member
Incidentally: Have you read anything about Ayn Rand or her philosophy of Objectivism?

Full Objectivists are a small minority, but Rand's novels and nonfiction are a significant influence on the American right. If your goal is to understand how people you disagree with think, it would be worth your time to read a bit about Objectivism.

$0.02
Ayn Rand has no influence on conservatives. In fact by saying that you also deem yourself to be uneducated in economics.
Some of her points,(very few) by coincidence may line up with some conservative ideas. Ayn Rand didn't understand capitalism.

She was a tramp like Margaret Sanger. Extreme liberal tramp. Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum didn't like Communists.
 

Torin

Active member
Ayn Rand has no influence on conservatives. In fact by saying that you also deem yourself to be uneducated in economics.
Some of her points,(very few) by coincidence may line up with some conservative ideas. Ayn Rand didn't understand capitalism.
Sorry I am not as educated as you, Dr. Economist Surgeon CEO.
 

5wize

Well-known member
Some people here are apparently under the misconception that the best way to learn about Christianity is to post on CARM.

Here's a better approach:

0. Don't post on CARM.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.

Congratulations, now you know stuff about Christianity!

I'm only being a little sarcastic, here. I honestly do think this is a MUCH more efficient and reliable way of learning about Christianity than arguing with random laymen you happen to come across on internet discussion boards.

If you're already doing this, and CARM is only a supplement, then kudos.
Absolutely agree. My favorites so far are Christianity - The First 3000 Years by MacCulloch and Who Wrote the Bible by Friedman. But once you know about Christianity's evolutions, arguments, conclusions, twists, conundrums and contradictions it is very cool to see them in action and practice right here on these pages. Consider it the lab work, the research, and the clinicals that go along with the text book.

It's interesting to watch Christians on these very pages declare how the scriptures predict the responses and stances of non-believers as if those scriptures were some prescient source of human spiritual nature, all while I'm witnessing the historic issues and failed resolutions of the Christian dogma play out now, right here on Carm, still, 2000 years and counting. Petrine vs. Pauline, Works vs. Grace, Baptist vs. Anabaptist, Apocalyptic vs. Gnostic, Birth, resurrection, eternal, or Baptism Christology, modalist vs. oneness trinity.... the Five Solas, Reformation theology.....

It all still plays out, right here, today. Nothing has been resolved, even under a supposed God's watchful eyes and directing hand on His faithful. It seems God's angels of understanding, inspiration and revelation have passed over us all as if we all have lamb's blood on our thresholds, Christian and non Christian alike.
 
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sbell

Active member
Some people here are apparently under the misconception that the best way to learn about Christianity is to post on CARM.

Here's a better approach:

0. Don't post on CARM.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.

Congratulations, now you know stuff about Christianity!

I'm only being a little sarcastic, here. I honestly do think this is a MUCH more efficient and reliable way of learning about Christianity than arguing with random laymen you happen to come across on internet discussion boards.

If you're already doing this, and CARM is only a supplement, then kudos.
I come from a Calvinist, apologetics background, and even though I don't believe in the Bible anymore, I think the Bible Project is a wonderful podcast to learn about the Bible, to anyone who is interested in it. I heard Matt Slick on The Bible Says What podcast, and thought people who listen to him would be able to engage in thoughtful exchanges and be different then most of the Christians I tried discussing these complex ideas with. Church wasn't exactly a safe place for questions for me. Sadly, I have found them to not be quite as thoughtful or honest as I had hoped. I'm mostly here because I like discussing ideas and having ideas challenged and honing my own ideas about things, not to learn about Christianity.
 

sbell

Active member
Absolutely agree. My favorites so far are Christianity - The First 3000 Years by MacCulloch and Who Wrote the Bible by Friedman. But once you know about Christianity's evolutions, arguments, conclusions, twists, conundrums and contradictions it is very cool to see them in action and practice right here on these pages. Consider it the lab work, the research, and the clinicals that go along with the text book.

It's interesting to watch Christians on these very pages declare how the scriptures predict the responses and stances of non-believers as if those scriptures were some prescient source of human spiritual nature, all while I'm witnessing the historic issues and failed resolutions of the Christian dogma play out now, right here on Carm, still, 2000 years and counting. Petrine vs. Pauline, Works vs. Grace, Baptist vs. Anabaptist, Apocalyptic vs. Gnostic, Birth, resurrection, eternal, or Baptism Christology, modalist vs. oneness trinity.... the Five Solas, Reformation theology.....

It all still plays out, right here, today. Nothing has been resolved, even under a supposed God's watchful eyes and directing hand on His faithful. It seems God's angels of understanding, inspiration and revelation have passed over us all as if we all have lamb's blood on our thresholds, Christian and non Christian alike.
That's actually been on of my strongest reasons for not believing Christianity to be divine. The Spirit of Truth is suppose to dwell inside of each believer, but with 45,000 different denominations, it hardly seems like any of them can agree on what truth is. If the Spirit was active, I would expect a little bit more agreement.
 

Algor

Active member
Some people here are apparently under the misconception that the best way to learn about Christianity is to post on CARM.

Here's a better approach:

0. Don't post on CARM.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.

Congratulations, now you know stuff about Christianity!

I'm only being a little sarcastic, here. I honestly do think this is a MUCH more efficient and reliable way of learning about Christianity than arguing with random laymen you happen to come across on internet discussion boards.

If you're already doing this, and CARM is only a supplement, then kudos.
I agree with all of this. After giving this some thought, I would add this:
a. Go to primary and important secondary resources as much as you can. If you are interested in a sect or denomination, and it has a catechism or creed, read it, and read up on it's history. The specifics of history are often surprising and can be very important.
b. Read and study the Catholic Catechism and the history of the Roman Catholic church in particular. The catechism is widely available, and there is an abundance of discussion on it's history, and after all, Catholicism is arguably the single most prevalent religion in the modern world. By its mere prevalence and history, its study informs the study of many many other forms of Christianity (and atheism).
c. It is very instructive and useful to assume that the believer is as good and decent a person as you can imagine, and perhaps even better, and then ask: how might they understand and believe this doctrine? Even if the doctrine is repellent: genuine empathy is as important, or more important, to understanding religion as anything else. Personally, I find this aspect of studying religion difficult,but very rewarding. Parenthetically, this is the area where places like CARM are useful. Good people (not to mention bad and indifferent ones) are simply far more various than human reason can imagine, and talking to religionists, even of extreme stripes, helps to remind one of that.
d. Always ask the Darwinian question: what are the possible reasons that this group of ideas, practices and values has survived, and others have not? So read about religious failures as well as successes.

my $0.02
 

5wize

Well-known member
I agree with all of this. After giving this some thought, I would add this:
a. Go to primary and important secondary resources as much as you can. If you are interested in a sect or denomination, and it has a catechism or creed, read it, and read up on it's history. The specifics of history are often surprising and can be very important.
b. Read and study the Catholic Catechism and the history of the Roman Catholic church in particular. The catechism is widely available, and there is an abundance of discussion on it's history, and after all, Catholicism is arguably the single most prevalent religion in the modern world. By its mere prevalence and history, its study informs the study of many many other forms of Christianity (and atheism).
c. It is very instructive and useful to assume that the believer is as good and decent a person as you can imagine, and perhaps even better, and then ask: how might they understand and believe this doctrine? Even if the doctrine is repellent: genuine empathy is as important, or more important, to understanding religion as anything else. Personally, I find this aspect of studying religion difficult,but very rewarding. Parenthetically, this is the area where places like CARM are useful. Good people (not to mention bad and indifferent ones) are simply far more various than human reason can imagine, and talking to religionists, even of extreme stripes, helps to remind one of that.
d. Always ask the Darwinian question: what are the possible reasons that this group of ideas, practices and values has survived, and others have not? So read about religious failures as well as successes.

my $0.02
Good stuff on the whole.... but on point d, it simply fills a human need. But then again, so does alcohol. It would also seem that with either belief or alcohol, that it really doesn't matter what is used in order to fill that need. Gin, vodka, Christianity, Islam, truth is not the issue. The fulfillment of need seems to be the only salient and pressing truth.
 

Algor

Active member
Good stuff on the whole.... but on point d, it simply fills a human need. But then again, so does alcohol. It would also seem that with either belief or alcohol, that it really doesn't matter what is used in order to fill that need. Gin, vodka, Christianity, Islam, truth is not the issue. The fulfillment of need seems to be the only salient and pressing truth.
Hm. The question is what human needs do religion X fill in society A and what do religion Y fill , and how?.

Ex: At the most obvious level: why are there no more Shakers, but there are Jesuits and Jains?
At the less obvious: Why are the Yazidis such an obscure, localised religion? Why aren't they, like Jews, a durable, widespread minority? and so forth.Not that these questions have or do not have answers. I'm not interested in discussing them here. Simply that there are interesting questions, and its fun to try and answer them.
 
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5wize

Well-known member
Hm. The question is what human needs do religion X fill in society A and what do religion Y fill , and how?.

Ex: At the most obvious level: why are there no more Shakers, but there are Jesuits and Jains?
At the less obvious: Why are the Yazidis such an obscure, localised religion? Why aren't they, like Jews, a durable, widespread minority? and so forth.Not that these questions have or do not have answers. I'm not interested in discussing them here. Simply that there are interesting questions, and its fun to try and answer them.
Yes, interesting studies, but it begs the question I am asking. Is the ultimate truth simply the need to intellectually or emotionally fill some desire to believe or is the ultimate truth the belief that is used to fill the desire?

The single similarity across it all is the objective and widespread need to believe something against the tens of thousands of subjective variants formed to satisfy that need to believe. That lends itself to the former (the mere desire to believe something) being the only objective truth we possess and any messages from God to fulfill that desire seem to be subjective content.

This naturally leads us to the observation that it is the nature of God that is subjective and it is the nature of man that is objective.
 
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