Bearing His Cross

I see this guy from time to time, not everyday but often.  Today again, there he was, all day long with his cross waving at people. All day long.  Does he have a right to spend his time however he wants?  Of course.  Does he have a right to express himself?  Undoubtedly.  Does he have a right to do it here on public property?  I am less certain about that.  But none of these things are what went through my head today.  

Maybe greeting people is a good thing.  I considered that and then I considered the impact of greeting people this way. Is he really just greeting people?  My question is this.  What is it about this guy’s belief system and the many others who do similar things, that make him think that this is a better way to spend a lot of time than actually doing something; something that might honor his implied faith and provide real benefit to someone?    I’d really like to know.

Have any similar people near you?  Post a photo here in the comments!
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65 thoughts on “Bearing His Cross

  1. Well, according to his faith, (as you already know, Joe) [a faith that I, as a Jew, do NOT share] he is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all men of every nation. Perhaps he sees this as doing his part? Can’t speak for him, but it beats the shit out of all these other so-called Christians making asses of themselves and the Jesus they claim to believe in. I’d rather this man stand on a corner and intrude in my periferal vision, than here some asshole yelling that G-d wants us to kill homosexuals, etc. JUST my thoughts.

      • On the flip side, what harm is he doing by standing on a street corner with a cross? Unless he has physically or verbally threatened someone, has he broken any laws? Probably not, other than causing certain people discomfort or annoyance. People claiming to be free-thinkers should not be put off or condescend anothers beliefs, no matter how ludicrous they may seem.

      • You have not read the post or comments, apparently. I said many times he has every right to do as he wants. People claiming to be christians should not be threatened by, or condescending to freethinkers who ask reasonable questions about ridiculous behaviors.

    • Taylor asked if he had a right to do this on public property.

      NO! Separation of Church and State.

      He should be warned, If he continues, put him in jail. These Christians have to learn some manners and KEEP THEIR BELIEFS TO THEMSELVES!

      • The public space does not just belong to the government. Separation of Church and State does not mean separation of religion and public. The only relevant issue is whether there might be some kind of zoning ordinance regulating any kind of speech in that particular area and whether there needs to be a specific permit. The content of the speech (as long as it does not incite criminal activity) cannot be censored by the government. He can dress up in a chicken suit and try to encourage going to a fast food restaurant if he wants to as longs as the proper ordinances are obeyed.

        It is indeed disturbing that people think that religious speech cannot occur in a public area. It is also interesting that people are so thin-skinned and sensitive that they want to live in a country where any belief system that they don’t like must be silent around them and visually absent.

      • “The public space does not just belong to the government.” – If this is true, then whom does it belong to? If you say it belongs to individuals, that it is somehow “private” then it cannot be public. Otherwise, the government is the very definition of what “public” means! I think you are not representing all groups who believe in limits on speech in public places. It is not the desire for religion to be silent or visually absent, but the desire for the government to stay true to what the Constitution mandates, to establish no religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. In order to do that the public square must be open to all messages or no messages, not just one message. It is also not just zoning ordinances that would prohibit free speech either.

      • The public space belongs to the public. The government is a regulator not an owner of all space not owned by private entities. If I walk down the side of a highway with a t-shirt on that says whatever I want it to say, the government has no constitutional basis for restricting whatever I want to say. Mere presence in public space is not government endorsement, if it is I want my government paycheck for them endorsing my government speech.

        The country is based on the assumption of individual liberty and the government has certain regulations for certain government functions but those governmental functions are limited and whatever is not spelled out is thus free for the public to do according to what is legal or ordinance allowed.

        Someone can stand right beside him and give an opposite message. The government does not restrict that and protects that freedom.

      • I agree with most of what you wrote. I’m kind of lost on this though – “The public space belongs to the public.” Is the public not the government? Is the government not “We the people?”

        I also agree with your last point, that someone can stand right beside him and give an opposite message in principle. Perhaps I will post excerpts from news articles where governments actually DO forbid opposing messages. The most obvious example of that is the supposed “war on christmas” where nativity scenes are given preferential treatment to the exclusion of all other messages on government property. So while it should be the way you said, it is clearly not in practice, and there are many, many other examples ranging from prayer in schools, use of government space by religious organizations, sponsored events on military bases. If you are interested in any of these I’d be glad to post references. The government should not restrict opposing messages, but sadly often does, and that’s one reason I am very grateful for the work the Freedom From Religion Foundation does on behalf of people and students like Jessica Ahlquist.

      • Show me, please, in the Consitution where the phrase ‘Separation of church and state’ is mentioned. That is neither mentioned by name nor inferred in that document. It was in a personal letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association written in 1802. His idea was not to relegate religion from government, but to keep government from dictating HOW God was to be worshipped, not WHETHER He was to be worshipped. it is not freedom FROM religion, it is freedom OF religion.

      • Ah, so you advocate a theocracy. Fortunately the Supreme Court and the Establishment Clause (First Amendment in the Constitution) disagree, even though the language may not specifically say “separation of church and state.” But let’s grant your point for a moment. There are over 5,000 gods actively worshipped in the world today. So what you are suggesting is that we pick one of those as long as we pick one? And if so, must you, in the free practice of your religion then not also be free FROM all the others? Or if not, are we to pick one of the Christian versions of God to worship only? Where is the list of acceptable gods we may worship. Is Judaism ok? Hinduism? Islam? Buddhism (even though it is an atheist religion and thus worships no god at all)? Clearly if you want to be free to worship the god of your choosing, you must also be free FROM having to worship all others, just as I insist on being free FROM having to worship yours.

    • One less Christian I have to deal with knocking on my door. I say we test him and see how long he can stay there. We can bring him a loaf of bread to eat when he gets hungry. He can simply ask the lord to multiply the bread into more loaves if he gets hungry again!

  2. Yeah, I guess I normally am critical of things like this but I am taking great pains to let people do their thing. I guess it comes down to the motivation of our hearts. What propels him? What is his fuel? But then, we could ask that about ourselves? When I write something on Facebook, what is my motivation? In a way, FB has become many of our “public corners” where we “wave” (or poke) to get other people’s attention. Are we (an honestly I’m speaking of myself more than anyone) just a digital version of the street evangelist. Trying to get those who pass by to pause a moment and listen to what we have to say?

  3. I can honestly say I have felt the compulsion to do something like this (ie holding a sign, carrying a cross, covering my car in scripture) but then lose the interest and never have followed through. Growing up evangelical, I have often felt at times the urge or “compulsion” to do what would “bring glory” to God and somewhat announce my faith. These urges are often misdirected though. Like you say, ” is a better way to spend a lot of time than actually doing something?” I have people living in my neighborhood with signs that simply say “Jesus” in their lawns. I often wonder what they really hope to accomplish other than letting us know they believe in Jesus. Shouldn’t actions of faith be purposeful? Did Jesus waste time like this? Would Jesus be uncomfortable with this or feel he was made relevant?

  4. I can’t find it, but there was a comic on Reddit the other day that depicted a homeless man with a sign and the caption read something like, “Why work so hard to protect the unborn? Because helping the born is so much harder.”

    If I think about it from a Matthew 28:18-20 perspective, the cross-weilding guy seemingly wasting everyone’s time on the corner is at least consistent with what he’s supposed to believe. I often roll my eyes at the number of christians who claim to believe that people are going to hell without jesus and yet they live out their lives like they don’t give a damn. Pursuing high-paying jobs, working long hours, consuming massive amounts of entertainment and rarely spreading the gospel in any meaningful way. When I (reluctantly) went into full-time ministry, I didn’t understand how a believer could do anything else if they truly believed there were people who didn’t know jesus and were, therefore, destined to hell.

  5. I think it’s precisely because of there not being enough guys like this that people become disillusioned with Christianity and become agnostics or atheists.

    • Really, Ron? In what way would more of these types of people make a stronger and more compelling case for Christianity? What your comment suggests is a misunderstanding of why people do not believe or abandon their beliefs. I don’t know if you have read it or not yet, but a link I put up just a post or two ago may help…The Art of Anti-Evangelism. Thanks for reading. ~J

  6. Hi Ojo. First, thanks for your blog. Always interesting and thought provoking reading. I guess I’m just speaking for myself. I find the lack of these sort of overt manifestations of Christian faith in the Western world as a symptom of the church’s demise in the West. The fact that you noticed him, and then actually brought his actions to the attention of your blog readers means that he’s had the impact he intended, no? My guess is that we aren’t the only people talking about Christianity as a result of his standing on the corner with a cross. Part of me is uncomfortable with his strategy, but one can’t argue with clear evidence of its effect in generating conversation about God. For me, a more interesting point is that like prophets in the Old Testament, his behaviour is distasteful to society, yet such behaviour is virtually unknown in parts of the world where the Church currently experiences massive and inexplicable growth. I think seeing him as a representation of a healthy church is the problem. To me a man holding a cross on the corner is a manifestation of a Western church that is undergoing its last, dying breath. I believe we live in the generation in which the church will cease to define the Western world. If there were more of his sort, maybe there’d be more people talking about stepping back from the brink.

    • I hope you’re right that the Western church is undergoing it’s last, dying breath. Personally, I don’t have a problem with people standing around with crosses, greeting people. If you’re not hurting anyone, do what makes you happy. But when I see them, I think to myself that standing with a cross does nothing to demonstrate the truth of any claim. And, it’s the truth of Christian claims that I question.

      Sometimes I’m invited by religious friends to go to church. Almost invariably I’m told that the people in the church are really nice, warm and accepting. I think it’s fantastic that people in a church are nice but being nice does nothing to demonstrate the truth of any proposition I’m being asked to believe. If cross carrying guy wants to convince me that his religion is true, he’ll have to find a reliable way to demonstrate it’s true.

      • I think it’s the caricature of Western Christianity (the norm these days) that turns many off. I can think of many places where people are nicer, warmer and more accepting that a church. A reliable way to demonstrate the truth of the Holy Spirit proposition would be for a church were people are nicer, warmer and more accepting than any other context in an inexplicable sort of way.

    • Hello Ron, and thanks for the comment.

      I cannot know what his intention is, but if it was to open up his behavior to analysis and to raise the question that there are any number of better ways to accomplish something good than this, then perhaps he was successful. In no comments except those by believers do I see evidence that there is anything actually good that comes from this. I can’t see that the conversation this is generating is going in the direction he might have preferred. Thanks for reading! ~J

      • A believer might ask why anyone would look for “good” in this man to begin with? Luke 18:19. If one looks for something one cannot find, is it surprising that he cannot find it? I don’t find what this man is doing any less “good” than what one of my favourite 80s band used to think was “good”. We all know what happened to many who listened to that band, though. I think there is something mysterious and inexplicable about this cross carrring man. That’s why he’s out there with a cross, and I’m not.

  7. There is a similar man who I often see on the way to work, waving and smiling at traffic and yelling “God Loves You!” On a bad day, I’ve wondered whether getting a job or, even better, taking action to show that love through service might not be more productive. There is poverty surrounding us (I’m in a developing country) and the cynic in me can see his smile and proclamation as callous inaction. But usually, he makes me smile. His daily ritual is sometimes the only friendly face I see for hours, and frankly, sometimes I need the reminder that life is mostly pretty darn good. It is simplistic, and certainly not optimally productive, but somehow comforting that there is someone out there who thinks that a smile and a wave is valuable thing. And while I question whether his version of service is the best way to help the many things that need improvement in society, at least this person appears to value service. So many people escape our criticism by quietly endulging their own needs and wants and quietly work to make society worse.

    • We never know what people are feeling or what hard times they are going through, and if this man has helped at least one up out of sadness and if only for a second or two, he has served a good purpose. What he is doing is not as easy as it seems to us. It takes energy, work, time, and love for him to do this. It has to be a Divine call for him, and I applaud him for it.

      • This kind of reaffirms to me the idea that religion, and in this case Christianity forbids lots of behavior that otherwise does no harm only because it’s written in a sacred text, and lauds behavior like this that does no good. Whatever you may say the good that results from something like this, I can think of countless ways people like this guy could do some REAL good, with much more benefit to others and actually bring honor to his actions.

      • Ojo said “behavior like this …does no good”.

        That comment seems rather omnisciently condescending and contrary to the principle of “lovism” and “Freethought”. Then again I don’t know what those concepts are anyway and what the rational foundation for them are other than what any one individual wants them to mean or what any one group wants them to mean. I’m interested in knowing the grounding basis for them: personal transcendent experience? rational extrapolation of posited principles?

      • A simple trip to the dictionary will give us the definition for a freethinker – “a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.”

        Lovism is my own cute little thing, although I have seen the word flying around out there. To me it means that love is the highest good we can aspire to. I have gone on record at some length on my definition of love and how that works out in clear action. It’s not just some warm fuzzy woo. I’m not sure how my assessment of this kind of behavior is condescending, and certainly cannot see how it is contrary to either freethought or love. There is always a better way to do what it is anyone says this behavior is good for – other than perhaps draw attention to oneself.

      • You have determined a standard for “good” and “better” but I don’t know what those words mean within your philosophy and system of ethics. Christianity has a body of bases both in Scripture and theological extrapolation. You have your own but I am curious on what basis you have “judged” this man’s actions as less than “good” or less than “better.”

        As I’ve noted below you can cherry-pick out of Christianity whatever principles you want, what is the grounding principle on which you stand by which you may “judge” this man’s actions as not “good” or less than “better.”

        I, as a Christian, can appeal to the system of Christianity as an authoritative basis for critiquing him and myself. You as a Freethinker have what “reason” for evaluation? I would like a “reason” independent from the Christianity or religion you have abandoned. Or, do you find you can’t find one independent from them in which you allow yourself to be a Freethinker and allow the same privilege to others?

      • My reason for evaluation has to do with actual and potential good or harm done to sentient beings. It has real, measurable consequences. Religion does rely on theological extrapolation and scripture, I agree! And I have written elsewhere on this blog and other places that neither have ever given the human race anything of any value at all that could not have been gotten by other means. I could for example try to compile a list of all the things science (freethought, based on reason) has given us, and the list for what pure theology has given us would be a very short list indeed. So yes, you can appeal to that code of ethics if you want, and if you want to know my basis for evaluation, you could start with these two articles, which I have also discussed and posted a number of other places.

        If God’s Not Dead, Is Everything Permitted – by Elizabeth Anderson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

        This one is also good but quite a bit longer and thicker:
        The ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick which rather clearly explains the rationale for my evaluation of good: “Always minimize both actual and potential suffering; always maximize both actual and potential happiness.”

      • Thanks for the reply and the links. I suspect that they will be philosophical dead-ends that will be shown to be incohernt when logically drawn out, but I will give them some due analysis to determine whether that is so. I may not get to them immediately but will in the next few days.

        “Always minimize both actual and potential suffering; always maximize both actual and potential happiness.”

        You mentioned “science”. If science has proven evolution, then the above quoted principle is negated by evolutionary advancement since survival of the fittest has included predation (and thus suffering) of the weak. I evolve by becoming the apex predator and continue my genetic line rather than that of those weaker than me. Now, my Christianity is contrary to that, but “scientific” analysis of existence would support my apex predator desires.

        I suspect the above ethical principle does not come from “science” but is borrowed from religious or emotional sentiments that Freethinkers have dismissed as irrational.

      • I do not mean to oblige you to read anything at all, but you asked the basis of my evaluation and that is my answer. If you think you can show that these are incoherent and illogical, then riches await you should you choose to publish your arguments (in scholarly journals). 🙂

        The argument you offer with evolution has also been answered over and over again in a number of great books. Most species are social and communal and have a high interest in preserving their groups. But this is not the place to descend into arguments against evolution which I personally, along with the larger scientific community consider settled.

    • Ojo, you say “Whatever you may say the good that results from something like this, I can think of countless ways people like this guy could do some REAL good, with much more benefit to others and actually bring honor to his actions.” I don’t disagree that it isn’t optimal, but I have two reactions. First is to say that encouraging people seems to me to be valuable in an of itself. Reminding people of the value of love, even inefficiently, certainly does no harm and is probably a good thing. People do need reminders to think about being loving and selfless. Are there better things to do? Yes. Working to combat violence against LGBT persons is something this region really needs, and I prefer he’d be doing. But let’s not criticise the less good – or at worst the neutral – when there are so many actively harmful things out there to focus our frustrations on. I think, to use your own reasoning, that you aren’t making the best use of your time to be critical of this fellow, and could be achieving higher good by questioning those things that are actually actively harmful.

      Second, allow me to ask why you post this blog with the the words “lovism. music, freethought” up at the top? Is it not your own hand carried sign on a street corner? A statement of your beliefs put out to the public to say something about yourself, explaining where you are coming from. I find it encouraging to see someone who professes lovism and free thought. But I also don’t mind someone professing his beliefs on a street corner. Yes, there is incredible substance in your blog lacking on the surface of our street corner guys. But beneath their public professions, are there not real persons willing to talk and explore? Maybe we wouldn’t agree with them, and I’m fairly certain I would not get as much out of it as I do your blog, but I regard them as brothers nevertheless and would lovingly welcome the conversation.

      • Thanks for your comments.

        I don’t know what to say about the idea that I am “criticizing this fellow.” I have bent over backwards and repeated myself over and over again that my question (which has yet to be answered, by the way) is about the belief system that would find this a better solution than actually doing something. That’s what the article said, and that’s what I’ve said over and over. Sorry, but I do get weary repeating myself, writing articulate answers and then finding they have fallen on deaf ears or not been read at all before commenting. But go back through the article and comments, and you will see this is not about him, it is about this kind of behavior which is common. We’ve all seen it.

        Having said all that, what you call “encouraging people” I have called cheerleading. But ok, let’s call it encouraging people for the sake of argument. Who does this kind of behavior encourage? I would argue only believers of like mind (thus the cheerleading comment). And is that ok? Sure! He can do whatever he wants! But is it harmless? I would argue that it certainly is not. I would posit that the only people getting any love out of this, as you say, are believers. Otherwise he opens his belief system to ridicule, and no, that is not persecution, it is well-earned ridicule. And so no, it is also not harmless, at least to those who want their Christian faith to be meaningful and substantial, but more on that below. I don’t think it’s neutral. My own personal opinion, and this was my opinion even when I was an evangelical, is that this is stupid, intrusive, and opens up that faith and all who follow it to ridicule. But that’s just my opinion.

        On your second point, yes, I am putting up notice that this is what my blog is about – lovism, freethought, music. I think the metaphor you suggest is weak on a number of fronts. First, nobody has to come to my blog. But anyone who needs to travel those streets is going to have to see this guy. So it is thrust on people (thus again showing that it’s not benign). Second, what message is it exactly that you think he is sharing? My comments again are doubling back on themselves, but is he evangelical? Mormon? Catholic? Westboro? JW? Something else? What message is he giving other than a vague and general “here is a cross” message. People will put their own interpretation there, so any specific message at best is weak. Third, the difference between me promoting my blog and him promoting his beliefs is also highlighted in the fact that scripture mandates a separate standard for him as an (apparent) believer than it does for me or my blog. It is clear on how his followers are to represent him, how they are to behave and what they are to do as witnesses, and it is explicit on forbidding public displays of piety. So that’s the standard he’s got, and nowhere in scripture do I see any allowance for this kind of thing. Only the opposite. So again it is not harmless to his own faith, but demonstrates hypocrisy, if indeed it is the bible he is trying to follow (and who knows for sure?). But my bet is that’s going to be the takeaway for unbelievers. So I am back again to saying that the only good I can see is cheerleading for believers and a public display of piety.

        Let’s finally zero in on the encouragement of believers. Is that a good thing? As a concept, I’m willing to grant that. Is this the best way to do it? Rather, is this even a good way to do it, given the potential risks it carries for scorn (and again, I do not mean this scorn as legitimate persecution. I mean scorn for coming off holier than thou)? Would believers be better encouraged perhaps by having an example set for something like you suggested or any number of other ways to do good? Do we remember this kind of thing, or people who take real risks to actually help others? Which is more moving, more compelling? I am rather surprised to see so many people defending this kind of thing than rising up in condemnation of it as they would whenever Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham or Harold Camping or any of the others say or do anything off the tracks. Let me agree with you on this point; I don’t mind seeing this guy either. BUt I will tell you I think it weakens the message, not strengthens it. If he was sincere, if this faith was meaningful, potent, powerful, real, we would not be seeing people standing on streets holding signs or crosses. We would see adherents doing such good that the rest of the world would have to take notice. But no, that is not what we see. Rather than beating a path to the door of love as a result of the example of activated followers, people are going to avoid talking to people that do such things like the plague.

        Yes, this guy's shirt probably encourages people too.

  8. Only what we do for Christ will last. I applaud this man for this because even though you might think it serves no purpose, just look at this forum….Jesus’ name is being lifted up, and I’m sure this is not the only place. Someone has been, is being , or will be touched by what this man is doing. Praise the Lord!

    • Well, I guess I disagree with you on two points. First, I’m not sure how at all “Jesus’ name is being lifted up.” Perhaps to other believers, which is what I said… this is just so much cheerleading. But I have never met or talked to anyone who is not a born again christian that would look at something like this and drop to her knees glorifying God. Second, in what way is this doing anything for Christ? I can just see Jesus standing around on a street corner waving to people. Thanks for reading.

      • Since the symbol of the cross carries a narrative embedded in its visual representation, some could argue that the presentation of the symbol artistically communicates that narrative. One could say that the present post-Christian state of the U.S. renders the narrative less immediately recognizable, but it could serve as a memory inducer for those who do know it or a curiosity inducer for those who do not. There is a point to say that it is not the most immediately effective for clear presentation of the Gospel message.

      • I would argue that the cross carries multiple narratives since no two sects agree on even the most important and central tenets of the faith. People will see their own sect reflected in the symbol. I would also argue that not only is this not the most “immediately effective” way to present what you call the gospel message, I can imagine no scenario where this would be the behavior of choice. There is always something better to do than this to represent that message.

      • And I don’t understand the basis of your criticism. You have chosen to abandon the principles of the religion. And unless you can claim to specifically know this particular man’s perspective to discern why he is doing this, then I don’t understand on what basis you critique it. Maybe he’s mentally challenged and this is all he can do. Are you going to criticize people like that?

        You can cherry-pick Christian principles for the basis of critique of him, but you’ve abandoned the remainder for yourself. On what principles of lovism and Freethought should this man be critiqued? That is where I think you need to start.

      • I have said that my critique of the behavior (not the person) is not personal. This guy simply represents any number of people who do the same kind of thing. So my critique is not of him, but a question, really, as the post asked. “What is it about this guy’s belief system and the many others who do similar things, that make him think that this is a better way to spend a lot of time than actually doing something; something that might honor his implied faith and provide real benefit to someone?”

        On the point of mental illness, I am not willing to consider that everyone who does such kinds of behavior are mentally ill clinically, and I have avoided over and over again trying to make this question about this guy specifically. He was the nearest example of something most of us have seen many times before. But ok, for the sake of argument, let’s go there. He had a cross, he had a chair, he had a cooler for himself. He seemed coherent to me, waving and such. But ok, let’s still say that perhaps he is mentally ill. Is he under someone’s care or is he healthy enough to be independent? If he is independent then he is competent enough to understand, should his pastor or friends tell him, that this is probably the least effective way to do any good for the sake of his cause as far as this actual time-space world is concerned. If he is under someone else’s care then those caretakers ought to take it upon themselves to teach him that there are better ways to do real good and benefit people. Go to a retirement home and sing. Pull weeds. Sweep the driveway. Anything! It’s not that I’m against this or offended by it. He can do it all he wants. I don’t care at all. If I am allowed to empathize with him and others who believe as he does, it is incumbent upon me to speak up if nobody else will and say, “you know, there are better ways to do what you want to do. Lots of them. In no scenario is this the best way to benefit people or bring honor to your cause.” AS a human being, I feel compelled. Anyone who wants to make this about me being offended or hating the faith or anything like that has missed my point and misrepresents me.

      • Well dropping to the knees is not the only way to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, is it? This man is doing it his way and I see nothing wrong with it. As for being a cheerleader for Christ….YES I AM!!!

    • Why should he do anything other than what he wants to do? What principle of Freethought requires him to do anything? You may want him to, so are you his god now? Give him a break and let him do what he freely thinks he should do. If he wants to live under some philosophical system then he is free to think so and choose so.

      What principle of Freethought requires him to be a productive do-gooder? If he wants to take up space and freeload and live off the public dole, then why shouldn’t he do so? On what basis other than your independent opinion should he conform to your opinions about the quality of his choices?

      I would like you to be consistent and “love” him and allow him his own free thought without judging him.

      I’m going to be sarcastic and ironic now. You are approaching being “religious” by your judging of his contribution of “good” and “better”.

      • I’ve already said explicitly in the article that he has every right to do whatever he wants to do. You’re making this now out to be something I never said nor intended.

    • Yes, you never said or intended, but I am saying the action of your comments is a judgment of him. You said his ethic of behavior was not as “good” or less “better” than something else. That is a judgment of him. You want him to conform to another ethic. I am suggesting that this curiosity of yours about him has moved from mere inquiry to his motivations to a critique of what he is doing. He should be doing something “better”.

      I’m saying why can’t you be absolutely neutral? There is no “good” or “better” there only is activity. He does what he does, you do what you do. Now, if my philosophy requires him to do “good” or do “better” then I need to have some grounding for why I would want him to do so. I just don’t get how Freethought has a “should” for anyone other than the self.

      The roofer is here so I’ve got to go.

      Thanks for the back and forth.

      • There is nothing in any of my comments that made a judgment on this man, and to the contrary you should see me continually steer away from him personally to the behavior itself. That’s what I’m critiquing, not him personally and I’ve gone to great pains to make that point. I don’t care what ethic he conforms to. He can be a JW, a Mormon, a Catholic, a Satanist, an unbeliever, it matters not and I don’t really care. But whatever the ethic, the behavior itself is under analysis not him, not his motives. In fact, look again at my question… it was focused on what it is about the faith, the belief system that makes this a desirable or acceptable behavior, not him personally. It is perfectly appropriate to look at this behavior and assess it and evaluate it. That’s what’s being judged, the results, not him. Even your Jesus required you to judge by the fruit. If I was going to advise someone, a student of mine perhaps, who said “Hey, I’m going to go carry around a cross today and wave at people and really give it up for the lord Jesus!” I’d advise otherwise. Again, it’s hard for me to see that you’ve read or understood what I’m saying here and you are attributing motivations to me that are simply not there. And that is amply reflected in the article and the language I used. Good luck with the roof!

      • Thanks for the roof sentiments.

        Let me be clearer. I don’t think you are meaning to “judge” the person, but your evaluations of his actions as not as “good” or less “better” is a judgement of his personal actions.
        You began critiquing him with your perception of his actions conforming to your perception of what Christianity evaluates as “good” or “better”, but I contend that you do not have a basis for critiquing him.
        That is where my critiques is intended. I am trying to force you to recognize that your evaluation of his actions as not really “good” or less “better” is not understood by me based on my understanding of Freethought.
        In other words, I contend that Freethought provides no rational basis for evaluating any other person’s behavior’s, beliefs, actions as “good” or “better”. I am saying that Freethought is rationally incoherent when it evaluates any other person.
        What I am accusing you of is rational incoherence. I am challenging you by suggesting that your belief system cannot be practiced on a rational basis when it evaluates or assesses any other person. You can evaluate or assess other people but you by doing so are moving away from Freethought because your basis for assessment is not based in what Freethought affirms which is ““a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.”

        I’m saying your evaluation of his actions as less “good” or less “better” is not on the basis of “reason, independent of authority or tradition” but is actually on the basis of a tradition rooted in either emotionalism or religion-based principles. Reason cannot derive “shoulds” from what “is”. Reason cannot evaluate what is “good” or “better” until it assumes principles that cannot be derived from sheer reason but must be borrowed from some tradition. Sheer reason cannot produce ethics on its own and it certainly cannot evaluate or assess anything outside of a tradition.

        With all this wordiness, I’m saying you are not actually a Freethinker. You actually have traditions embedded in your philosophical system, you just don’t recognize them. Freethought is incoherent and unworkable in real life.

        And now I need to take a chill pill. I really have enjoyed this. And I do have a reply to the issue of “public” and “government” but I need to give myself and you a break from my anal need to reply to everything.

      • Whew, that’s a lot of stuff, and not much of it on target! Let me take them one at a time.

        1) Yes, they are a judgment of his actions. Glad we can agree on that finally, and not that I am judging him as a person.
        2) I have no perception of what Christianity evaluate as “good” or “better.” First, there really is no such thing as “Christianity,” there are only a collection of sects loosely organized if at all, but they all differ in what they believe in even the major doctrines, so there’s that. But more than that, I did provide a basis for critiquing him in the two articles I linked you to, the well-being of sentient beings. But those are not criteria that carry much weight in religion, nor are they likely to be recognized as valuable on their own, which is why I said earlier that the moral system of most religions is divorced from any sense of well-being. You may not like it, but those are the values our laws are built on (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” otherwise known as our well-being, or as the Constitution calls it, our “general welfare.”
        3) I would suggest your understanding of freethought, which really has nothing to do with this discussion at all (you were the one who brought that up), could use some fortifying. I could recommend a number of good books and that’s always available to you if you want it. But I’m not sure how freethought enters into this at all since that has more to do with how we evaluate objective claims and view the world objectively rather than by faith and religious authority.
        4) Since you do not understand freethought that well, as you yourself admitted, I don’t know how you can also assert that it is rationally incoherent. In fact, it is just the opposite, and strives for rational coherence. Again, reason has brought us everything, pure theology nothing.
        5) I would accept the “accusation” from an authority on freethought, but then my prior comment takes care of that one. Just saying so doesn’t make it so and you must, of course demonstrate the incoherence you accuse me of, an unfortunate choice of words, by the way.
        6) The principles I evaluated the results of his actions on are based purely on logic and reason. I don’t know how anyone could read those articles I linked to and argue otherwise.
        7) You have also not shown how reason cannot produce ethics on its own. Rather, it is we who produce our morals as a result of our need to live together, to reproduce, to cooperate. Morals and ethics stem from those and even animals demonstrate them to varying degrees. The Is/Ought argument is just silly, and while Hume argues as you do, it has long since been dispensed with by all but the likes of William Lane Craig who for some reason still holds on to it.
        8) “Freethought is incoherent and unworkable in real life,” as you type on a computer using technology and logic derived only from reason, not from religion, not from theology, not from scripture, not from authority, but from engineering, physics, from reason. Again, it is only reason that has brought humanity anything. I have already issued the challenge. If you can give me the list of all the ways pure theology (not the disciplines it employs like history and anthropology) has benefitted the human race in any way, please go ahead and list them. In the meantime, science, reason, and thus freethought is not only coherent, it is paramount. It works. It has results.
        9) I don’t know that not having met, or if we have, certainly not knowing each other very well would qualify you to say I am not actually a freethinker, but whatever. I am not married to labels. The point is I accept evidence and only evidence to evaluate the objective claims anyone makes independent of religion, religious authority or tradition. If you think that makes me something else, then I’m ok with calling it whatever you want. A rose by any other name…

        Cheers!

      • Lots to go through and I will attend to it. I do appreciate the time you are taking to involve yourself in the back and forth. Please let me know if you feel we are at a stalemate.

        We have not met, though I would love to.

        I’ll have a longer explanation later but I’ll just say that my evaluation of Freethought and your status as one is based sheerly on the definition you provided for it, the statements that you have made that I believe indicate your philosophical assumptions, and my alleged logical analysis of the meaning of the definition and how it doesn’t match with the assumptions behind the statements you have made (as I have evaluated them). Now, of course I will have to make a case for those statements of mine and whether I can clearly communicate what I mean and whether I can logically dissect your responses. It may take a while, but let me reiterate that I have enjoyed today and appreciate the opportunity for interaction through comments.

        Like I have said before, it is a real joy to interact with someone with whom I have enjoyed their work.

        P.S. Is there any way to get “I Rose Falling” I completely understand if you are not interested in promoting it, or maybe you are, just asking.

        Cheers back to you.

  9. Ojo,

    By the way, I have been a fan of your music for years and while I am saddened by the trajectory of your journey, I still believe in the principle that iron sharpens iron. When I have time I may jump in here and give some philosophical pushback hoping both to sharpen myself and maybe you. I still hold you in high regard and will occasionally chime in now and then. I’ll check back later to see if you’ve responded.

    Blessings,

    David Rogers
    Pastor
    First Baptist Church
    Biscoe, Arkansas

    • THanks David, you’re welcome to chime in anytime! I’m not sure why you would be saddened, but I grant you your feelings. I have a blog post brewing on that one too. Thanks so much for the exchange and for reading.
      ~J

      • Thanks. The sadness is integrated with my commitment to Christian belief. Its philosophy is wholistic integrating both thoughts and emotions.

      • Yes, I get that, but sad on whose account? Mine? Jesus’? And how would either of those show up? Rhetorical questions, but those are the kinds of questions my post will take. Thanks.

  10. “if this faith was meaningful, potent, powerful, real, we would not be seeing people standing on streets holding signs or crosses”

    This. And, that’s the problem. It isn’t real so christians aren’t any better at loving and giving than the average person. Even Jesus was supposed to have said that we would know them by their fruits. Watching the Republican right wing evangelicals these days, it’s completely obvious their faith is empty of any morality, compassion or selflessness.

  11. I spent most of last evening working on specific replies to your enumerated response to me. I got about 90% done and went to bed. Since getting up I’ve done some reflecting and decided not to send it. I don’t know that we could really make headway in the back and forth dealing with a philosophical analysis of Freethought. I do think I can make a case of why it is relevant to your post since your blog themes have the word in it, and I assumed that philosophical approach could be examined as to its relevance to what you post on almost any topic.

    My analysis of Freethought came from your provided definition, if the definition doesn’t capture the philosophy then someone needs to re-define it, it seemed to be a clear-cut summary to me. (One little note “authority on freethought” seems rather ironic to me given the definition). All that is needed to defeat the concept is to show any logical inconsistencies in it and/or demonstrate that reason always exists in some traditioned state (cf.. Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm approach regarding science) and/or that the presuppositional rejection of religion demonstrates a bias that does not cohere with being “rational.” You, of course, may think that Freethought is unassailable on those fronts:. your free choice to think so.

    My attempts to demonstrate the logical holes in the linked articles would take too much space in this comment section and I’m not sure that spending the time typing a response would be the most productive use of my time nor the time you spent reading them. Thinking through them has been helpful in strengthening my position, in my opinion, so thank you for the resource reference. Whether you evaluate my non-reply as a victory or not for your position, I leave up to you.

    I’m not a Freethinker. You say you are. And I’m sure you think I’m at a disadvantage for not being so and I think the same applies to you for being one. We are in different philosophical pastures.

    I’ll check in every once in a while. Maybe even comment.

    Cheers.

    David Rogers

    I will not be offended if you determine my comments are too far off topic for this particular blog post and need to be cleaned off to preserve the integrity of wholeness of the post.

  12. I often find myself wondering why people offer having a basis in scripture and theology is somehow a firm foundation. Scripture is written by men claiming to speak for their God, it was not a deity. Believing it inspired does not make it so. Theology is the attempts by men and women to reconcile and clarify scriptures written by men. Scriptuer has authority only because people *assign* authority to it. That is no more a sound basis than any other belief. It is simply *a* basis. Religion certainly makes morality easier, as the “old adage” that I heard from many fellow Christians (when I was one) of “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” When you can say “God says so!” it requires little attempt at sound reasoning as to *why*. You do not argue with God, afterall.

    I also find it interesting that, often in discussions with Christians… “I don’t know, it is a mystery” is an acceptable answer. But if people don’t believe in God, Christians expect a highly detailed answer to things like “how did we get here?” If there are any supposed missing info (such as with evolution) it is clearly suspect and cannot possibly be true. The thing is, life, life philosophies, science and so on is a process. For some that leads them to convert to a religion. I get that. That is fine. For someof us that is not the obvious end point simply because we do not have an answer to every question.

  13. Just some thoughts:

    Man can thus be his own God. And being “free” from the constraints of a deity, he can no longer have to be accountable to a Creator. This is the end game. The “obvious point”. It was one of the reason’s for Darwin’s theory. He was devestated by his daughter’s passing and couldn’t reconcile a proper theodicy with the Almighty.

    An atheist “freethinker” is an oxymoron to me. By definition, the idea of “free thinking” under agnosticism/atheism is pure illusion. Your thoughts, actions, behavior, etc are all results of a random combination of chemicals in a soulless machine. How this is “freedom”, I do not understand. Under this paradigm, everyone is, in essence, inside a matrix of sorts. All human behavior is explained in that context. Any talk of “love” or “loveism” is pure romanticism. “Love” is only a chemical reaction in the brain. Nothing more.

    Materialism is much like a religion. It explains everything and has a creation story. It’s adherents are faithful not to stray from orthodoxy (ie, a refusal to consider alternative possibilities because the “issue has been settled”..) There are “explanations” for things like morality, (a species’ need to cooperate), and religion and/or God (a crutch, something to believe in, etc).

    Some atheists and/or materialists will be honest to admit this bias. For example, Michael Ruse said: ‘Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit in this one complaint. . . the literalists [i.e., creationists] are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.’

  14. I would also add materialists’ belief (or faith) in the unseen ( ie intelligent life in the universe besides our own because the laws of probablility ‘demand’ it.)

    • Hmmm..I certainly don’t think alien life out there is outside of the realm of possibility. But I don’t assume it is out there either. Space unicorns might exist. Don’t know. But I don’t assume they do.

  15. Just out of curiosiity, Joe, I would ask the same question you’ve no doubt been asked thousands of times-How can one justify standing in front of a crowd singing words he or she openly has no belief in? That is the very definition of hypocrite. I grew up with one-my father-who was a deacon on Sunday but a child-beater Monday through Saturday. I am aware that my question smacks of aggressiveness to you in light of your current beliefs, but it is a legitimate one nonetheless, and one which needs asking.

    • Well, no, the very definition of hypocrite is, according to dictionary.com, “a person who pretends to be what he is not.” If I stood on stage and sang lyrics and said that I believed every word, and every word literally, and then acted differently, I would be a hypocrite, like your father. But I am quite open and public about what songs resonate with me and what songs do not. I am not trying to fool anyone. There are songs I simply will not play anymore specifically for that reason, but other songs that have multiple meanings and do not need to be interpreted within a Christian construct. Ono top of that, I will disagree with you in another sense, in that if one of my band mates feels strongly about a song, I am happy to support him, as a hired hand as it were. None of these constitute hypocrisy. So while it may be a legitimate question, it is also rude the way you framed it, but more than anything shows a misunderstanding of hypocrisy in the first place. Good day, sir.

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