How to Learn About Christianity

Authentic Nouveau

Well-known 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.

She was a tramp like Margaret Sanger. Extreme liberal tramp. Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum didn't like Communists.
We need to remind people Ayn Rand was the poster child for hedonism.
 

The Pixie

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.
I agree that CARM is an awful place to learn about Christianity, but it has several times prompted me to do research and I have ended up learning more.

I would also say I am less interested in Christianity and more interested in the history. A big problem with Christianity is that it is so diverse; there is no single Christian belief, which makes learning about very difficult. If you read a book, you are just reading that guy's opinion of it. The next book could be quite different.
 

Algor

Active member
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.
Hm.

How do you know that a "need to believe" is culturally universal? I'm not sure that it is. Not everything that people do stems from a need: for instance, you could believe in a corn deity simply because your people do, and it makes sense to you, and that's how you grew up.
 

Torin

Active member
Hm.

How do you know that a "need to believe" is culturally universal? I'm not sure that it is. Not everything that people do stems from a need: for instance, you could believe in a corn deity simply because your people do, and it makes sense to you, and that's how you grew up.
I would not say a "need to believe" is culturally universal, because I am not sure what that means.

However, I do think some sort of worldview is necessary for organizing one's thought and behavior. In the absence of a rational worldview, I would expect people to make stuff up to fill in the needed gaps. This is consistent with what we see in even a cursory survey of history, which shows people in every time and place developing worldviews. There must be some sort of need that is being met, there.
 

Algor

Active member
I would not say a "need to believe" is culturally universal, because I am not sure what that means.

However, I do think some sort of worldview is necessary for organizing one's thought and behavior. In the absence of a rational worldview, I would expect people to make stuff up to fill in the needed gaps. This is consistent with what we see in even a cursory survey of history, which shows people in every time and place developing worldviews. There must be some sort of need that is being met, there.

I think in every culture there are people who need to have organized worldviews, but I am not sure that it is universal in individuals. I think what people do want is a minimum of cognitive conflict and anxiety, and there are a bunch of different mental ways of doing that, only one of which is having an organised worldview. But lots of people live with completely contradictory or incomplete worldviews in their heads and don't get stressed by it.
 
Last edited:

Torin

Active member
I think in every culture there are people who need to have organized worldviews, but I am not sure that it is universal in individuals. I think what people do want is a minimum of cognitive conflict and anxiety, and there are a bunch of different mental ways of doing that, only one of which is having an organised worldview. But lots of people live with completely contradictory worldviews in their heads and don't get stressed by it.
The point isn't that everyone is a philosopher, just that everyone has a worldview of some sort that organizes their thought and action. Lots of people have contradictory worldviews. (I'd go further and say most probably do, but no matter.) The point is just that everyone has some higher level abstractions they refer to to organize their beliefs and actions, like: "being nice is good," "socialism is bad," "I should follow the evidence," etc. It would be difficult to function without abstractions like these.
 

Algor

Active member
The point isn't that everyone is a philosopher, just that everyone has a worldview of some sort that organizes their thought and action. Lots of people have contradictory worldviews. (I'd go further and say most probably do, but no matter.) The point is just that everyone has some higher level abstractions they refer to to organize their beliefs and actions, like: "being nice is good," "socialism is bad," "I should follow the evidence," etc. It would be difficult to function without abstractions like these.
OK. I see what you mean, and I think I agree so far. Some degree of abstraction is necessary to any mildly complicated cognitive task, and abstraction is central to religious belief, yes. But while I think one can easily support the assertion that people desire some degree of ritual as a psychological fact, I'm not sure that this is accompanied by a need for encompassing abstraction. That's what I was referring to in my reply.
 

Torin

Active member
OK. I see what you mean, and I think I agree so far. Some degree of abstraction is necessary to any mildly complicated cognitive task, and abstraction is central to religious belief, yes. But while I think one can easily support the assertion that people desire some degree of ritual as a psychological fact, I'm not sure that this is accompanied by a need for encompassing abstraction. That's what I was referring to in my reply.
I think we agree, then. I was not saying anything about rituals one way or the other.
 

SteveB

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.
I'd agree. But I would say read what's on CARM's list of materials.
1. Google something like "Christian doctrine reading list."
I'd say get hooked up with a bible study at either a church where the bible is taught, or a home study, where you can engage, ask questions, etc....
2. Click on a few links and see what books are listed.
Yep
3. Buy or borrow a book that seems helpful and reputable.
Perhaps contacting the bookseller, and asking their opinions on the ones which actually are helpful, and reputable, for your level of awareness.
I can present you with numerous titles, only a handful of which are actually helpful to a novice, or newbie.

4. Read it - preferably slowly, while taking notes or jotting in the margins.
I'd agree. Lots and lots of notes.
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.
Granted, the easiest way is to focus on the new testament writings, and then once you get through them, buy other books which explain what you read.
 

5wize

Well-known member
Hm.

How do you know that a "need to believe" is culturally universal? I'm not sure that it is. Not everything that people do stems from a need: for instance, you could believe in a corn deity simply because your people do, and it makes sense to you, and that's how you grew up.
The need in that case would be the psychological necessity of social conformity that originates/generates a need to believe.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
@SteveB, thanks for your comments and advice. It's good to get a Christian's perspective on this.
You're welcome.
We simply want you to come follow Jesus, so you can know for yourself.
We're not asking you to join a philosophy. We're asking you to come engage in the relationship which the bible says is part and parcel in following Jesus.
 

Algor

Active member
The need in that case would be the psychological necessity of social conformity that originates/generates a need to believe.

That's a need for social conformity (which I think is culturally universal) , not a need for belief per se.

Think of a child growing up. Everyone around believes in the gods of the sky, and corn, and rain and the ancestral spirits. The child adopts that belief because there's no reason not to. So the necessity of conforming does not conflict with the available spectrum of behavior. IOW: belief in a traditional society doesn't come from a perceived necessity for belief qua belief. The child doesn't say " "I need to conform, I see belief is necessary to conform, hence I should believe." The child says "What do my people do? I'll do that because that's good." There's no need to believe per se: belief is just part of the larger cultural package that is accepted, because that's how kids are.

Religions have complicated roots: there is the widespread human need for ritual, the tendency towards animism and imitative and propitiary magic, the use of mythology and explanatory stories (which have feedback effects on ritual and propitiation) , the necessity of forming in groups and out groups in social conflict, the desire to explain history and natural phenomena, establish stable social relationships and structures, achieve psychological stability in a hopelessly complicated social world, and so on and so forth. Being reductive is hazardous.

As an example of one of the more difficult aspects of religion to reduce: one of the prime functions of religion in modern societies is individual redemption. Many people encounter personal experiences that leave them internally feeling broken, powerless, trapped and wounded, and such people lose social and personal functionality. Religion, whether doctrinally based (Christianity, Islam) or culturally based (Judaism, Sikhism) offer patterns of behavior and thought that allow people to escape from these psychological states and feel whole and clean, so that they can function normally. Religions are often really really effective at this, and socially are extraordinarily important. Figuring out why they work, and how, is fascinating, but there aren't, to my eye, that many sweeping answers.
 

5wize

Well-known member
That's a need for social conformity (which I think is culturally universal) , not a need for belief per se.

Think of a child growing up. Everyone around believes in the gods of the sky, and corn, and rain and the ancestral spirits. The child adopts that belief because there's no reason not to. So the necessity of conforming does not conflict with the available spectrum of behavior. IOW: belief in a traditional society doesn't come from a perceived necessity for belief qua belief. The child doesn't say " "I need to conform, I see belief is necessary to conform, hence I should believe." The child says "What do my people do? I'll do that because that's good." There's no need to believe per se: belief is just part of the larger cultural package that is accepted, because that's how kids are.

Religions have complicated roots: there is the widespread human need for ritual, the tendency towards animism and imitative and propitiary magic, the use of mythology and explanatory stories (which have feedback effects on ritual and propitiation) , the necessity of forming in groups and out groups in social conflict, the desire to explain history and natural phenomena, establish stable social relationships and structures, achieve psychological stability in a hopelessly complicated social world, and so on and so forth. Being reductive is hazardous.

As an example of one of the more difficult aspects of religion to reduce: one of the prime functions of religion in modern societies is individual redemption. Many people encounter personal experiences that leave them internally feeling broken, powerless, trapped and wounded, and such people lose social and personal functionality. Religion, whether doctrinally based (Christianity, Islam) or culturally based (Judaism, Sikhism) offer patterns of behavior and thought that allow people to escape from these psychological states and feel whole and clean, so that they can function normally. Religions are often really really effective at this, and socially are extraordinarily important. Figuring out why they work, and how, is fascinating, but there aren't, to my eye, that many sweeping answers.
Yes... good stuff there. Especially agree with the paragraph "Religions have complicated roots: ". But in my case the paragraph "Think of a child growing up. " did not comport to my experience. When it came to Christianity, I did not see "what my people did" as good. I don't disagree with your general statement about conformity just being good to the child, but it was strange for me. I felt a trust for Christianity on par with the trust of a stranger in a van. I was a fan of Aesop's Fables and the stories of Uncle Remus from a very early age, and couldn't imagine why I should take the stories in the Bible as some different class of narrative. When people told me these stories were true, even at a very young age I could see that they were nuts.

I don't think being reductive is hazardous at all.... you did it well.
 
Last edited:

Algernon

Active member
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.
According to the gospel preached by Jesus, only those who keep His commandments, that is those who do not commit sin, receive the Spirit of Truth. The vast majority of Christians have never received the Spirit of Truth - nor been "born from above", live in the kingdom, have eternal life, etc. for that matter. The reason that there are "45,000 different denominations" is because Christianity has Paul's gospel as its foundation rather than the gospel preached by Jesus.

John 14
15“If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14
23...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

John 8
34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin."
31 ...If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
 

Algor

Active member
According to the gospel preached by Jesus, only those who keep His commandments, that is those who do not commit sin, receive the Spirit of Truth. The vast majority of Christians have never received the Spirit of Truth - nor been "born from above", live in the kingdom, have eternal life, etc. for that matter. The reason that there are "45,000 different denominations" is because Christianity has Paul's gospel as its foundation rather than the gospel preached by Jesus.
Weird. So the Holy Spirit really didn't manage to get the message across very well, I guess. Kind of odd for an omnipotent being, don't you think? To so badly communicate to the vast majority of Christians....
 

Algernon

Active member
Weird. So the Holy Spirit really didn't manage to get the message across very well, I guess. Kind of odd for an omnipotent being, don't you think? To so badly communicate to the vast majority of Christians....
Perhaps the most prevalent theme in the gospel preached by Jesus is the importance of HIS words. Jesus went on and on about it. Emphasized the point time and again. Issued warning after warning.

Following are but a few examples:

John 18
37...For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

John 12
44Now Jesus cried out and said, “The one who believes in Me, does not believe only in Me, but also in Him who sent Me. 45And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46I have come as Light into the world, so that no one who believes in Me will remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My teachings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48The one who rejects Me and does not accept My teachings has one who judges him: the word which I spoke. That will judge him on the last day.

Luke 6
46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.

Luke 13
23And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, 24Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ 28“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.

They don't listen to the truth to which Jesus testified. They do not hear Jesus' voice. They do not believe Jesus' gospel. They do not believe Jesus. They are not of the truth. They listen to the gospel taught by Paul and followers of Paul rather than the gospel preached by Jesus.

At whose feet does the blame properly lie? It's not as if they hadn't been warned. It was communicated quite clearly.
 

5wize

Well-known member
Perhaps the most prevalent theme in the gospel preached by Jesus is the importance of HIS words. Jesus went on and on about it. Emphasized the point time and again. Issued warning after warning.

Following are but a few examples:

John 18
37...For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

John 12
44Now Jesus cried out and said, “The one who believes in Me, does not believe only in Me, but also in Him who sent Me. 45And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46I have come as Light into the world, so that no one who believes in Me will remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My teachings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48The one who rejects Me and does not accept My teachings has one who judges him: the word which I spoke. That will judge him on the last day.

Luke 6
46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.

Luke 13
23And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, 24Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ 28“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.

They don't listen to the truth to which Jesus testified. They do not hear Jesus' voice. They do not believe Jesus' gospel. They do not believe Jesus. They are not of the truth. They listen to the gospel taught by Paul and followers of Paul rather than the gospel preached by Jesus.

At whose feet does the blame properly lie? It's not as if they hadn't been warned. It was communicated quite clearly.
I agree that the teachings of Paul are not the teachings of Jesus because Jesus, and his immediate followers were apocalyptic Jews convinced he was the Jewish messiah come to usher in the end times before the generation that stood before him would see death. Paul seemed to come in and prescribe some other possible narrative to Jesus in order to provide relief and continued meaning to a shocked and disparaged following trying to make sense of it all as time passed and nothing that Jesus said would come to pass ever did.

It seems both Paul and Jesus were wrong doesn't it?
 

Algor

Active member
Perhaps the most prevalent theme in the gospel preached by Jesus is the importance of HIS words. Jesus went on and on about it. Emphasized the point time and again. Issued warning after warning.
(illustrative quites clipped out for sake of brevity)

At whose feet does the blame properly lie? It's not as if they hadn't been warned. It was communicated quite clearly.
I'm not saying you are wrong about your Christianity. It just does seem.....odd that someone would go to all the trouble of setting up all the prophecies and generations, work history and culture around for centuries upon centuries, get yourself miraculously re-incarnated, spend your short life intensely teaching, get yourself betrayed, tortured and killed, all to redeem humanity, but then fore-ordain things so that the very large majority of people would get everything totally wrong anyways.

I mean, it doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?
 
Top