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What we try to live by here…

September 25, 2009

Someone the other day asked me what principles guided me in founding the Thomas Society, both at Ohio State and on the web. After a lot of thought, I really boil it down to the following principles. I thought I would share them with all of you.

Honesty- As I ranted a few posts ago, I hate it when Christians are dishonest or try to use dishonest means during “evangelism”. It doesn’t work with people, intellectual or not. A few years ago, I was in a conversation with an atheist and I basically fudged an answer to one of his questions. He called me on it and I had to admit I didn’t know what I was talking about. This was a huge lesson for me. Being dishonest while you are trying to talk about Jesus is a bad, bad idea. So, what I train my students to do and keep reminding myself is to be honest if we don’t know the answer to something. We are to admit when we just don’t know something.  In these sort of convesations, it becomes incredibly hard. Why? Because of the next principle we are committed to:

Powerlessness- St. Paul tells us in Phillipians 2 that Jesus made himself weak for us by taking a human body. It’s a verse that has become our theme at the Thomas Society, and we seek to embrace our weakness. You see, in these sort of conversations, a lot of the time it becomes about winning the debate. We plow each other over with arguments, facts, data, etc and so on. In doing so, I have seen Christians (including myself) try to win respectability through power plays and trying to dictate the terms of the argument. At the Thomas Society, we try to just let people dictate the flow of the conversation and questions, not our prepackaged agenda. In doing so, that puts us at a disadvantage in the convesation because it could go anywhere. It forces us to give up power and make us the last principle we live by:

Humility- Let’s face it, it’s hard to be humble. It’s hard to stop being ego centric, in fact, most of us, Christian, atheist or otherwise don’t do it very well. And, its doubly true if claim to be smart.  The thing that I have seen among intellectual Christians that disgusts me (and I include myself in that) is that we seem to try to hard. We have this sort of, “look at me! Look at me!” mentality. As in, Look how creative we are, look how smart we are, blah, blah, blah”.

I think it flows from a latent arrogance and self satisfaction of thinking we know more than other people. I think Christians often treat Jesus as the ultimate secret, as in, “I know a secret you dont, nyah, nyah, nyah”. And it just makes you want to hit them in the mouth and ask questions later.

At The Thomas Society, we really try to seek out ways to show humility, to avoid Jonah’s error of self righteous satisfaction. We don’t do it very well, but we try.

So, this is what we hold to. Feel free to hold us to it.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Matheus permalink
    September 26, 2009 12:14 am

    Oh, I always wondered what the 2026 stands for. Is it the year of the apocalypse in your sect? =)

    By the way, when talking to atheists never forget that when you say you do X because it says so in the bible, it looks no weirder than saying its because you read it in Lord of the Rings or you watched it on Star Trek. It’s better to argue using reason/evidence to demonstrate why X is better than Y.

  2. September 26, 2009 12:24 am

    “Humility.” Yes, this is something I would really like to see more of. Being in the atheist/skeptic camp I emphasize that this absolutely includes this camp as well as the theists. I think a lack of humility contributes to those debates that devolve into nothing more than slapfights. It causes us to be unable to listen, really listen, to those with whom we disagree.

  3. ferret wrangler permalink
    September 26, 2009 2:24 am

    Nicely done. These are prime basic principles for all to strive for, no matter the (non)religious label.

    Too bad the ones who seem to most vocally insist that they are living these ‘christian’ principles – and fail miserably – are the ones who aren’t.

    Basically, hypocritical fucktards (like guess who…) that blame those that call ’em out.

    Life’s a beach – c’mon in, the water’s fine 🙂

  4. thomas2026 permalink*
    September 26, 2009 8:49 am

    Matheus,

    No, no, the day of the apocalypse is March 6, 2025. Get it right. 🙂

    In seriousness, 2026 refers to John 20:26, the story of Thomas and Jesus.

  5. Ray S. permalink
    September 26, 2009 9:14 am

    I can easily go along with your two ‘H’s, but have a quibble with ‘Powerlessness’. I think it is more appropriate to wield one’s power with the two ‘H’s in mind. Civilization would never have progressed had everyone taken such tactics as you promote.

    I’m interested to learn how you chose these three attributes out of all the ones espoused by the Jesus of the Christian bible. There are many others who claim to study the bible as Christians and do not reach such conclusions. Even Paul can be construed as condoning deception in pursuit of winning souls.

  6. AdamK permalink
    September 26, 2009 2:23 pm

    I can proudly state that I have always practiced perfect, flawless humility. I have no doubt that I am the most humble person in the world. I am surprised that people don’t come to my door with expensive gifts so that they can sit at my feet to witness my glorious humility.

  7. AdamK permalink
    September 26, 2009 2:36 pm

    My humility, in fact, is so great that I am utterly incapable of boasting.

  8. erp permalink
    September 27, 2009 12:29 am

    Looking at Phi. 2 I think “being one in spirit and purpose” should be more important than powerlessness. Purpose being to find out what is, how best to live. Spirit being the spirit of companionship, of joint effort. Humbleness and honesty (including being honest about how humble one is willing to go) are necessary adjuncts.

    As an atheist and cultural Christian I see no reason not to draw upon the Bible to illustrate points on how to live (I also see no reason not to draw upon Greek and Latin myths). I just don’t let the Bible bind me (e.g., the pro-slavery, pro-patriarchal, anti-homosexual verses don’t need to be reinterpreted by me, though I enjoy watching the Christians do it).

    Well enough babbling. Break bread and serve fish at your next meeting.

  9. September 27, 2009 7:29 pm

    Powerlessness is not Powerless.
    You are absolutely right that the “power play” argument is never going to win over anyone that doesn’t want to be won over. Worse, it can push people into a defensive frame of mind where they will not even consider alternatives.
    Your approach, though it requires patience and time, is likely to be more effective in the long run.

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