What’s The Harm?

You hear this question all the time from Christians who read atheists’ blogs. Why do you write against religion or against the beliefs of people of faith? Why not just let it go and mind your own business? Why do you care who believes what? What’s the harm?

The harm, my friends, comes in many different forms. It can come in the form of prejudice, where you treat people differently just because a book said that God said it was okay. It can come in the form of one’s apathy to reality. Why should I care about the environment? God’s just going to create a new world anyway? Why should I help someone in person, when I can just pray for them instead? Some even go so far as to ask “Why should I vaccinate my child? That shows a lack of trust in God to heal.”

Some cases are mild, as in personal bigotry where people think things about a group of people, but don’t outwardly show it. They may talk about the sinfulness of certain people in their churches or small groups, but don’t let it affect others in a noticeable way. Some cases are more intense, such as the Westboro Baptist Church that pickets funerals of Veterans and shouts hateful things at Pride Parade attendees. They are more bark than bite and are more of a nuisance than an actual threat. Then there’s this story:

“Tennessee preacher-cop calls for execution of LGBTQ people.”

This story really bothered me and should bother every person who reads it, regardless of your religious beliefs. This person, a person of power and influence in the community has declared that gay people are deserving of death. Here are some things he said about the LGBTQ community in a video clip from a sermon he shared at his church:

“They are worthy of death.”

“God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to the LGBT freaks and arrest them and have a trial for them, and if they are convicted, then they are to be put to death.”

“We have a bunch of them we’re going to get convicted because they have all their pride junk on, and they’re professing what they are, that they’re a filthy animal.”

About his views on gay rights, he says his views are not unique and that a lot of people think just like him:

“The world looks at it like, there’s Pastor Fritts, there’s that lone wolf,” he said. “There’s Pastor Fritts, that one guy. That one Baptist pastor that’s just a lunatic. That’s just crazy. Guess what? There’s a lot of people that believe exactly like I believe.”

And you know what? He’s right. A lot of people out there do believe just like him and that’s scary. There are others out there that believe someone is not a person, but rather an animal, because of who they are attracted to. Because of who someone loves, they are deserving of death. And why? Because the Bible says so. The church where Grayson Fritts preaches has a website that says this:

“We believe that sodomy (homosexuality) is a sin that is against nature. A person will only burn in their lust toward the same gender if they have been given over to a reprobate or rejected mind. God said homosexuality should be punished with the death penalty, as set forth in Leviticus 20:13. No homosexual will be allowed to attend or join All Scripture Baptist Church.”

So what’s the harm in belief? Nothing, if it is just belief. But very rarely is it ever just belief. People who are committed to their faith change their behavior to be more in line with what their god would want according to their holy books. I tried to change in that way as well. As a believer who wanted to be closer to God, I stopped eating forbidden foods. I stopped listening to music with inappropriate lyrics. I avoided alcohol and holidays. One thing I could never bring myself to do, was to treat another human being with disrespect. Regardless of what the Bible said, I just couldn’t do it. I really believed in God, but I couldn’t do it. I guess I had doubts all along or else I would have also been calling for the death penalty of homosexuals, adulterers and whole list of other people.

The harm is that people are taking literally words that are potentially deadly to others. People are taking literally words that liken people to animals. People are taking literally words that are put together so preposterously, that they are obvious works of ancient men with limited knowledge and understanding, yet they are attributed to a god. The harm is that people who should be allowed to live carefree, happy lives are being treated like animals or second-class citizens and denied basic human rights. The harm is that we are taking into our own hands what a god should be doing, if in fact a god actually existed who believed those things. If God really hated gay people, why does he allow them to live, love and create beautiful things on this earth? If he despises them so much, why does he remain silent? I’ll tell you why. Because if he’s there, he doesn’t care. He remains silent because of his nonexistence or his disinterest. Either way, that doesn’t give us the right to be judge, jury and executioner of others based solely on who they love in this life.

Belief, strong religious belief especially, leads to action and often inaction. It could lead to the persecution of innocent people just looking to be happy in life or it could lead to people looking the other way when people are causing others harm. I am amazed and disgusted that in this day and age we are still following the ancient words of hatred and oppression in order to determine our morality. Shame on us.

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28 thoughts on “What’s The Harm?

  1. You’re absolutely right, Ben. “What’s the harm” is a ridiculous question to ask. Words have power, especially when uttered by people in positions of authority, like that jackass deputy/preacher. Or Mark Chambers, the mayor of a small town in Alabama who said, when refering to LGBTQ people, that “The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.” on Facebook. He’s since deleted the post and tried denying he said it, but the internet never forgets.

    When people in authority utter words like that, it reinforces prejudice and bigotry everywhere, it gives the bigots and homophobes encouragement. And some will almost certainly use that encouragement to act.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s simply and utterly disgusting. And if enough people bought into that way of thinking, LGBTQ people would indeed be rounded up and executed. And why? Because a book from a “loving” god said to do it and who are we to argue?

      There are a lot of people out there like this guy and that’s scary.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Alas, there are indeed a lot of them out there. Once upon a time people like this didn’t have a convenient way to spread their garbage. It was difficult or even impossible to spread their message outside of a limited area, so only the people in their own church or organization were exposed to this crap. But now they have potentially a world wide audience thanks to Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. I wish there was an easy solution to this, but I sure don’t know what it is.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I dunno Grouchy. I think the way it all started was probably the most effective. Missionaries spreading stories with no options for people to fact-check. It’s even effective today, playing on the imaginations and hopes of unasking peoples. “I come from afar to share with you the good news. The son of god was born, was crucified and raised from the dead and promised utopia and eternal life. He sent me to spread his message of hope over death and I even have a copy of his words.” Here, have a Book of Mormon,,, hah! Better yet, remember these sayings, write them down and shortly the lord will come to judge your belief.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. You would think that when one’s words are tantamount to a threat, as in this case, there would be some accountability. This goes way beyond free speech. Calling for murder because of your own personal hatred of another human being is despicable.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. What harm is there and why the opposition? Because they are crazy and need to be cured.
    For nonbelievers, it seems to be a never-ending effort; trying to educate the “faithful” of the world. They don’t listen, they can’t hear. They don’t want to learn that they have been fooled or lied to.
    But, it is not their fault. As usual, it all can be blamed on their parents, and their parents’ parents, and their… through the generations…way back to the first batch of humanoids who created the supernatural. It is the delusion that has never dissolved, but instead evolved into the modern madness of the last two thousand years. It has been going on for so long, and few seem to doubt its existence!
    Why haven’t we cured ourselves of this delusion?
    The supernatural does not exist except in the minds of humans. When this delusion is recognized, as the delusion it is, we will understand our good luck of having a life to live. GROG

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s why I share what I share. I’m trying to educate and create some awareness for people who may not have stopped to think about what they believe in and why.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. As the old adage states, “The Devil is exceedingly religious.” Seriously, guys, how can someone think to sincerely follow the commands of Jesus and write this stuff at the same time? There are openly partnered gay and lesbian people who are priests and ministers of the church.

    On the other hand, there are secular people who are homophobic.

    I think the problem is much deeper than religion.

    Like

    1. The thing is, the person in the video clip (and who the news article is about), Grayson Fritts, is one of the few Christians out there that is actually trying to put into practice what the Bible says. Jesus may have been said to have befriended sinners, but he also submitted to his father. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Jesus said multiple times that the father is greater than him and that he obeyed his father’s will. So what was his father’s will when it came to homosexuality? Well, in Leviticus 18:22, God says it is an abomination and in 20:13 he says this: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Was God wrong when he commanded that gay people be put to death?

      You see, many people like to try to make the Bible more palatable by saying Jesus got rid of all those nasty Old Testament laws and beliefs. But the reality is the Bible says no such thing. The OT God is the same God as in the NT. Same beliefs. Same laws. Same disgusting views towards homosexuals who are just trying to be happy in life. Yes, many gay men and lesbian women are leaders in the church, but in God’s eyes, what they are doing is detestable. He still feels they should be put to death. God never changes, right? So if he felt gay people were deserving of death in the OT, he still feels that way today. He certainly wouldn’t say that they should die one day and then say he approves of them leading his church on another.

      I agree that the problem of bigotry and hatred is much deeper than religion, but the person I wrote about was using the very religion that promotes killing gay people to advocate for the killing of gay people. He was just trying to be a good Christian, according to the Bible. I think that he personally has a lot of hatred towards gay people and that’s why he is so vocal about the government enforcing the Leviticus laws. If he didn’t agree with the killing of gay people, like most people don’t, he wouldn’t be following his religion the way God commanded now would he? He would be doing what most Christians do and pick and choose what parts he wants to follow and what parts he doesn’t. Then he’d have to make excuses as to why some laws apply still and others Jesus took care of.

      Christianity has become very open and inclusive in recent years. LGBTQ people are being welcomed with open arms as both members and leaders in the church. Do you know why? Because people are seeing that homosexual people are just like them; people. People with feelings. People with rights. People who deserve better. The real reason why Christians, for the most part, reject calling for them to be killed or discriminated against is because they themselves know it is immoral and because they don’t truly believe the laws in the Bible are from God. If they believed in Divine Command Theory (whatever God says is inherently moral because he is God) then they would kill gay people without remorse because God commanded it. But they don’t. People seem to understand morality a bit better than the God of the Bible. They don’t seem to have “the fear of God” in them or they would do as they were told…or else.

      Jesus (if he is the son of God as the Bible suggests) either agreed with his father about what gay people were and their appropriate punishment (death penalty) or he didn’t. If he didn’t, then he essentially called God wrong and felt that his father made a mistake. Jesus cannot agree to, and submit to, the will of the father and at the same time disagree with him and not command that LGBTQ people be killed. It’s obedience or disobedience. It’s a loyal son or a hypocrite. If we take the Bible at its word (not the word of other Christians, apologists including pastors, priests or popes or anyone else) then OT laws still apply and Jesus’s views would not differ from that of his father.

      Anyone who isn’t in agreement with Mr. Grayson Fritts about the death penalty for being gay isn’t following the teachings of the Bible. And if you aren’t following the teachings of the “word of God”, why not? Is it because you do not trust them? Is it because they are in fact immoral and you understand that? Is it because you know them to be written by man, for man and with all of the prejudices of man? The Bible is an all or nothing collection of writings. If you accept some parts, but not others, it’s probably best for some introspection to find out why. Jesus, who submitted to the will of the father at every opportunity, would not disobey God. So why do Christians? The answer is, Christians are just people. And most people are decent. That is why they disobey God. When they see something is wrong, they disobey in order to do the right thing…even commands from the scriptures.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ben, I hear where you’re coming from. There is just such a huge divide in our view of the Bible, I think. For you, and for most people of fundamentalist background, not following the Bible in a literal sense feels tantamount to not really believing or trusting God. Or, it feels like “cherry picking.”

    I think there are times when the teaching of Jesus does very much supersede the law. For instance, He acknowledged that the law called for an “eye for an eye,” “a tooth for a tooth,” but Jesus taught against retaliatory violence. He spoke out against the divorce laws of the time which permitted people to abandon their wives for almost any cause. Was He being disobedient to God?

    But, I think the issue is also in how people take ahold of and interpret the Scripture, in the first place. For instance, I don’t even think the Bible is addressing the issue of sexual orientation as we understand this today at all. Certainly, it is not addressing the matter of gay people involved in loving, life long monogamous relationships.

    Here is a link to illustrate what I mean. https://ecinc.org/

    Go to “clobber passages,’ to hear a different perspective.

    I personally feel that people who have an extreme and irrational hatred of anyone probably have personality disorders or mental health problems that have not been addressed. They certainly need our compassion, but also need to be restrained when they are calling out for murder.

    I honestly think that my Christian faith has helped me to be a more compassionate and less judgemental person, not the other way around. 🙂

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    1. If the Bible can be interpreted in so many different ways, why would anyone think a god inspired it? Why would a god allow such confusion and wildly varying interpretations?

      If a god exists and wants us to know it, why use such a method to accomplish that? It’s not just believers and non-believers. Even amongst believers, there is a huge divide resulting from different people interpreting different things from the same source. It’s ridiculous on its face. Anyone can say it means this and someone can disagree and say no it means that. Both are right in their own minds. There is endless debate and fighting as a result. That seems rather careless if an all-knowing god ordained it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My thought is that God primarily reveals His nature and purpose through Christ. Although, I think Scripture is important because it does contain and reflect God’s Word. It’s given for our learning. I would not see all parts of the Bible as being equally inspired or certainly valid for us today.

        I would not endlessly fight with other Christian believers about this, feeling that we should find our unity in Christ, around the gospel, not in the Scripture.

        I feel that God allows human freedom, and that’s part of His purpose in making us more like Christ, sharing in His life and participating in God’s kingdom together. We are more than mindless robots or like puppets with God pulling the strings. This can get messy at times, but, IMO, it’s worth it.

        Suppose we will have to agree to disagree. But, appreciate the conversation.

        Like

      2. My question would be, how would you know (outside of the Bible) anything about Jesus? His divinity. His messiahship. His miracles. These are all contained in the Bible. Outside of that, they are nowhere to be found. The best you can do without the Bible is say that maybe a man named Jesus possibly existed. That’s it. That’s all recorded history gives us. So how is faith in Jesus possible without the biblical accounts? It isn’t. The stories would not exist without it. So to accept them is to accept that at least the parts of the Bible pertaining to Jesus are accurate. Is the rest accurate? Is it not? How do you choose which is and isn’t reliable?

        That’s the problem I have with Christianity. It needs the Bible to have something to believe in. (This is why people who haven’t read it or heard about it don’t believe in or follow Jesus) I hear people all the time say they would follow Jesus without the Bible. That’s fine if you choose to do that. But you are doing so completely, 100% based on hearsay. So why do you believe? Anyone could say anything about anyone and you could choose to believe that as well solely on faith, but that’s a rather foolish way to base your beliefs.

        We certainly disagree here. That’s okay. We’re all different. I just see a lot of issues with the mindset of believers…even though I used to be one. Believing in something based on no evidence and bad reasoning is something I can’t subscribe to anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Part of the issue could be a difference in our backgrounds. Although I’ve had plenty of experience in the more conservative/evangelical churches, I am more high church/confessional. So, I would place a greater emphasis in the apostolic witness to the resurrection which precedes the Scripture, and also comes down through the writings of the early church fathers.

    Of course, one can make the argument that this witness is still contained in the Bible. But, if you look at the Scripture as a compilation of material, not just a monolithic kind of book…Do you see what I mean? There are creeds confessing Jesus as God and witness to the resurrection which are very early, and predate the book, itself.

    As an aside, something very drastic would have needed to happen to cause these very Jewish apostles who normally would have found such a claim “blasphemous” to begin to take this position.

    Ben, I have wrestled with many of these issues myself. But, of course, I’ve come to different conclusions. Apart from the witness of the creation and the testimony of the resurrection, what other means could God use to reveal Himself that might convince everyone? I can’t think of any.

    Suppose He sent some other miraculous sign, a great cosmic event, a voice from Heaven, a physical manifestation, would many be any more convinced that it was truly Him rather than, I don’t know, mass hallucinations, aliens, a govt. conspiracy? Would we even trust our own senses?

    The other possibility is that God could force people to faith no matter what. He could control our thinking, but then is it truly love to take away a creature’s free will? We would be like robots.

    My conviction is that “He who began a good work in you will complete it.” I think everyone who wants Him and is looking for truth will be honored and brought to God either in this life or in the next. For many of us, it’s a process over time.

    People would not be writing and discussing these issues at such great lengths if it was not in some way important and on our hearts.

    The enemy of faith is not honest questions or even doubt. It is apathy.

    Like

    1. @ Becky

      The enemy of faith is not honest questions or even doubt. It is apathy.

      In light of this comment to Ben , can you please answer the question I asked above, regarding how do you judge whether the sayings/teachings attributed to Jesus were actually spoken by him?

      Regards
      Ark

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

    2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

    But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

    9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

    11 “No one, sir,” she said.

    “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    John 8 1-11

    I never understood how do these Christians (or atheists) who say Christians need to enforce old testament laws in a literal sense get around that. Moreover the double standards in the treatment of sexual conduct are obvious.

    Luckily these people are rare. As are most of the views you complain about as coming from Christians.

    Like

    1. There are glaring issues with your comment. First, you are quoting the Bible. Why should I trust the Bible? Because it’s the word of God? How do you know that? Are the stories historically accurate or just hearsay? If your one source is this collection of writings known as the Bible, that’s not proof of anything. What makes the Bible more important than any other written work?

      Second, your chosen verse (John 8:1-11) has been shown by numerous biblical scholars to be a later addition to the Bible. It does not appear in the earliest known manuscripts. It is a very well known story that is used to teach about judgement and morality, but it was put there at a later date by an unknown scribe. This is why knowing the history of the Bible and not just reading the Bible is so important. If you just believe it all to be true, you will be believing in things not original to the story.

      So again, why should I believe in the Bible? Keep in mind, I did believe in it for decades. I finally realized that I was believing for bad reasons, none of which required any evidence. Quoting from a book is easy. Proving it to be divine or historically significant is another. What makes the words in the Bible important? Why should I implement the teachings of the Bible into my life? I’m looking for actual demonstrable evidence, mind you. Personal convictions won’t cut it. I had plenty of those when I was a believer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “There are glaring issues with your comment. First, you are quoting the Bible. Why should I trust the Bible? Because it’s the word of God? How do you know that? Are the stories historically accurate or just hearsay? If your one source is this collection of writings known as the Bible, that’s not proof of anything. What makes the Bible more important than any other written work?”

        Most Christians do indeed try to follow the bible including the passage I quoted. So for them it is a given. It is a premise we can work from.

        I would not argue that non-christians should follow a rule just because it says it in the bible.

        “Second, your chosen verse (John 8:1-11) has been shown by numerous biblical scholars to be a later addition to the Bible. It does not appear in the earliest known manuscripts. It is a very well known story that is used to teach about judgement and morality, but it was put there at a later date by an unknown scribe. This is why knowing the history of the Bible and not just reading the Bible is so important. If you just believe it all to be true, you will be believing in things not original to the story.”

        Yes I am aware of the historical issues. I read and listened to quite bit by Bart Ehrman and with all the different books he published on the historical Jesus I think he mentions the issue in every single one of them. Same with the ending of Mark.

        People can argue about the historical basis for it but that doesn’t matter to my point. My point is that it is accepted by just about all Christians. So it is still a valid premise to work from with Christians.

        “So again, why should I believe in the Bible? Keep in mind, I did believe in it for decades. I finally realized that I was believing for bad reasons, none of which required any evidence. Quoting from a book is easy. Proving it to be divine or historically significant is another. What makes the words in the Bible important? Why should I implement the teachings of the Bible into my life? I’m looking for actual demonstrable evidence, mind you. Personal convictions won’t cut it. I had plenty of those when I was a believer.”

        These are huge questions and I am not going to pretend to have short answers. And I certainly don’t have any demonstrable evidence that you haven’t heard other places.

        I can give you a brief description of why I “believe in the bible.”

        But even that is vague and can mean many things. Many Christians would say I don’t “believe in the bible.” It might be better to say “I believe in Jesus.” But even that is convoluted. Ehrman “believes in Jesus” too. Everyone has their answer as to what it means to believe in Jesus, or believe in the bible. I can tell you why I claim to believe in Jesus and what that phrase means for me. But I am not here to suggest it is some knock down argument that all rational people will find convincing. What is a good reason to believe from some people will not motivate others. But I would certainly argue my reasons are rational even if they are not convincing to everyone.

        Like

      2. The existence of God should be convincing to everyone though. If God exists and people are truly searching for him (like I did for most of my life) then he should be obvious but he isn’t. If your beliefs make you content then that’s fine, but a God who wants people to worship and revere him should be detectable in some way outside a prayer or words in a book. And let’s be honest, he’s not.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “The existence of God should be convincing to everyone though. If God exists and people are truly searching for him (like I did for most of my life) then he should be obvious but he isn’t.”

        I disagree. I think our freedom would be impinged if God were always standing over us.

        “If your beliefs make you content then that’s fine, but a God who wants people to worship and revere him should be detectable in some way outside a prayer or words in a book. And let’s be honest, he’s not.”

        People have been detecting something more than material things for as long as there have been people.

        Do you think there is a morally right way to live your life? Can you give me demonstrable evidence? Do you think people have detected there is a morally right way to live their life?

        As a culture we tend to over value science to the point that we only think knowing what science can teach is important. But it seems obvious that is not the case. What should we do with our lives seems almost self evidently the most important question. Yet science can not answer it. Science can help us live longer but it can’t tell us what we should do with the extra time.

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      4. I’m sorry, what? You think our freedom would be impinged if a god we worship was provable? If everyone knew he existed, we would lose freedom? So the people who don’t believe are what? Created to be doomed to hell? Created just to enrage God for not believing? That’s a bit ridiculous. You can say that we have freewill that allows us to reject or accept God, but without evidence of God why is that even a debate? He remains hidden from all of us to test to see if we believe based on nothing? Is that it?
        Morality can be observed in cultures around the world. What morality is, is what is most beneficial to a group of people. It does not need to be handed down by a god. Countries who are predominantly atheist (or irreligious) have far lower crime rates than countries that are more “religious”.
        https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-1101-zuckerman-violence-secularism-20151101-story.html
        That’s one source. There are plenty of others if you care to look for them. There is no need to “detect” morality. Morality doesn’t come from an ancient book. It comes from the people who are alive right now and varies depending on the culture, but human rights, liberties and well-being are universal in groups of people no matter where they live.
        Science is not a teacher. Science is more of a reporter, explaining what we can observe. It explores the details and shares the mechanics of the world we live in. I don’t know why believers think that science is some type of religion followed by atheists. It answers the questions to the natural world. That’s it. It doesn’t pretend to understand philosophy or religion. But the supernatural is something that cannot be tested. It cannot be proven to exist or to not exist. It is a system f faith. You believe in it or you don’t. Saying it is true and God exists is a bold claim and requires evidence. If not, then anything is equally believable based on that logic. Bigfoot exists, as does the Loch Ness Monsters and ghosts. I could say I believe in all of them and say that I have good reasons for believing in them, but that doesn’t prove their existence. It may be real to me, but not to everyone. And that’s fine. You can believe in anything you want to, including God. But without any evidence, those beliefs should remain personal and not be used to impose rules or condemnation of those who are unconvinced.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Lander wrote: People have been detecting something more than material things for as long as there have been people.

        That’s true. Mysterious and strange things that we’re unable to explain continue to happen all the time. But why must they be attributed to an invisible supernatural entity?

        Liked by 1 person

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