Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blessed Are The Children


Rush Crush, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

I was sitting on the the tube the other day, reading a newspaper, minding my own business, when a woman got on the train accompanied by two impossibly cute daughters. I'd guess they were 7 and 8 years of age.

The woman sat down and instantly started reading a very well thumbed copy of the bible. Her two daughters tugged at her sleeves a couple of times and tried to engage "Mummy" in conversation but she didn't look up from her book. So the kids decided to entertain themselves. They achieved this by taking a pile of leaflets from their Mum and walking up and down the carriage handing them to the other passengers.

The leaflets were advertising a church and looked to be full of quotations from the bible. I really don't know how I feel about this sort of thing. Actually, that's not true. I do know. I don't like it. I don't really think a parent should sit back and tacitly encourage their kids to engage in that kind of activity.

Faith - like politics - is contentious. People are entitled to their opinions and those opinions are often strongly felt. A grown up handing out such leaflets is, presumably, prepared for either rejection or debate - in a way an eight year old girl simply isn't.

A few people accepted the leaflets while others rejected them politely but there was a real sense of discomfort in the carriage. I certainly felt compromised when they thrust a leaflet my way. You look down at two eager, smiling, cute kids and you naturally want to make them happy. But I didn't want to give my tacit approval for the leaflet. I also figured that if a parent is going to encourage their kids to hand out that kind of literature, they have to have prepared them for the idea that not everyone would want them. So I smiled, gestured to my newspaper, in a look-I'm-reading-something way and said, "No, thanks."

They smiled, walked off and continued trying to hand out the leaflets to other people. I reckon about a third of people declined politely. Of the two thirds who took the leaflets... the vast majority just glanced at them before shoving them in a jacket pocket or leaving them on the seats. I think I saw one person actually reading the whole of it.

When the girls had approached everyone in the carriage, the younger of the two suggested to the other that they should go back to the people who hadn't taken the leaflets. The older girl thought about it for a moment and wasn't sure what to do, but just then the train arrived at a station where a couple of people left and four or five people joined the train. Fresh quarry... the girls were off.

It didn't take long. Two people accepted the leaflets. Three didn't. And once again the girls had nothing to do. Once again they discussed the merits of whether or not to approach those of us who'd declined their literature but this time they decided not to on the grounds that those were "bad people."

Now, for the sake of clarity, I'll make it clear that I wasn't straining to listen in to their conversation. They were propping themselves up against the two seats directly opposite me and they were talking in loud, un-self-conscious voices so that anyone within five yards of them could hear every word. Including their mother... who was still reading her bible.

So now I'm sitting there, hearing two young girls tell each other that I - and a third of the other passengers on the train - are bad people. It got worse. They continued by deciding that we were all going to go to hell. Proper hell. With lots of flames and things because the devil was going to punish us because we weren't interested in the good message that God wanted them to share with the world.

Along with a few other people I was being loudly condemned to hell by a pair of sisters, a few years shy of their tenth birthday... and their mother was sat there hearing them say it and doing nothing about it.

Now, as I don't believe in hell I think it's an empty threat... but even so, I think it's a hateful way to behave and wildly inappropriate for a parent to sit there allowing their kids to do so. If you want to bring your kids up with faith that's one thing... but the minute you want them to go out into the world on a recruitment drive you have a duty to explain to them that there are other views in the world and that people who hold them don't necessarily take kindly to being called evil. But what do you do?

I certainly wasn't going to try and remonstrate with two kids. I have no idea how much of what they were saying they understood let alone really believed. More than anything, I felt sorry for those kids. With an upbringing like that, I don't know how they have a chance of growing up as reasonable, balanced adults. Of course they're going to believe strange, hateful things if that's how they're raised. No, the person I had a problem with was obviously the mother. Whether or not the kids understood how much hate was contained in their words I couldn't tell you... but their mother sure should have done and in saying nothing to counter it she was sending out a strong message of approval.

I know I probably should have done nothing. I know I should have just got off the train and gone about my business, dismissing it as just another bit of eccentricity in the world, but I figured I had as much right to hand out literature expressing my point of view as they did. So I did.

We were approaching my stop so I hastily scribbled a few words on a scrap of paper and then, trying to do so in a way that her kids wouldn't notice, I handed it to the mother. I know it will have achieved nothing. I know the chances of that woman seeing any fault in her behaviour or that of her offspring is zero... but it still made me feel better to have done something. At least I didn't sit by and give their behaviour my tacit approval.

The words on my note were: "I find being condemned to hell by your children upsetting. They are learning to hate."

Like I say, it won't have made a jot of difference to anything or anyone but me. The children? You have to forgive them, they know not what they do. But their Mum does. And it's horrible.

86 comments:

Jonth said...

Wise words, Dave, and I wish I would have had the foresight to do something so well considered.

Planet Me said...

reading "The Good Book" does not automatically make the reader a "Good Person"..

Simon Varwell said...

Fascinating anecdote. Such people, while probably well-intentioned, give Christianity a bad name and alienate not only those whom they prosthelytise but mainstream Christians like me.

I'm all for spreading the word, but getting kids to do it for you and giving them a perverted, hate-filled view of things is creepy. Too few Christians realise that communication is as much about how you present a message as the substance of it.

I think you did the right thing, both in giving the woman that note and in telling the story in this post.

Jonathan said...

I have experienced the same thing Dave. Though I declined a leaflet from a man as opposed to children. Anyway, the man then walked up and down the carriage - I assume addressing those who didn't take a leaflet - talking about going to hell. I really got annoyed with him, but thankfully he got off at the next stop. I wonder what he would have said had I told him I was a believer?

The sad thing is these children will probably grow up to be just like their mother. I applaud you for doing something.

Rob said...

We shouldn't be expected to tolerate other people's intolerance. You are my actual hero.

geofftech said...

oh, i think you should have said MORE.

can you imagine the furore if you on a tube train you went about handing out leaflets saying "God doesn't exisit! Don't go to church! Don't be saved". You would be critisced by the church-goers immediately.

Why is it that they think we shouldn't be offended about them telling us their views in public, but not the other way round?

Mosher said...

geofftech - been done on a larger scale. I'm too tired to trawl through BBC News but about 12-18 months ago an Atheist movement put signs up on buses (big, outside ones) and on the Tube simply announcing that God didn't exist and that the world was still a nice place irregardless.

Needless to say there were many dissenting voices including one bus driver who refused to turn up for work unless he was guaranteed to be driving a vehicle that didn't have such an advert emblazoned on it.

Dave Gorman said...

@geofftech & mosher: I blogged about the atheist bus campaign at the time... it's here: http://gormano.blogspot.com/2009/01/stop-worrying.html

bteo said...

This depresses me in the same way (probably worse by having your children as a proxy) as street preachers screaming hell and damnation to all who walk within earshot. Not only on a practical level is it obviously counter-productive — it also runs contrary to the fundamentals of Christianity ("Love thy neighbour", anyone?) anyway.

Something different but related was the Jehovah's Witnesses that I spoke to on my doorstep recently. They were happy to agree with my personal stance on beliefs as long as it meant taking their booklet — they even promised to come back a week later so I could discuss it in more detail. It's kinda a shame they never did return because I would have liked an explanation as to why they felt lying was an acceptable to try and spread their beliefs.

@Mosher: Also… "irregardless"… really? Is regardless alone not enough? :P

Martyn said...

I thought child labour was illegal... Sadly the kids are brainwashed and don't know better, as you say it's not their fault. But I thought forgiveness was mentioned somewhere in that book? Good on you to write that note!

Just hope the mother doesn't come knocking. Unlike the two gentlemen who came to my door earlier. After introducing their names, they asked, 'Do you know Jesus' errr...No? It already sounds pre-scripted. Why can't people act 'normal'

Mosher said...

bteo - there's always room for an extra "i". Especially when you're really tired and feeling generous, such as I was last night. Take that "i" and fly with it :)

Malcolm said...

I think you're worrying to much. I doubt these children are being taught to hate. What you heard, from the way you've written it, sounds to me more like children expressing their simplified versions of some very complex concepts as children do. As they grow up they will move from the blacks and whites of childhood and the boundaries set by their parents to ever greater shades of grey, finding their own truths in their existence and learning tolerence and acceptance of other people and other points of view.

I grew up in the part of the UK where religious hatred is a business with a concession on every street corner, in every school, in every business and in many homes and almost all my friends went through this outcome and resulted in people who you'd be happy to call your friend and who are intolerant of hatred in all its forms.

What I find sad about your experience is that the mother finds something better in her bible than spending time with her children and is missing out on basking in alove that is greater than that of any god, her children's.

Anonymous said...

If their God is so all-powerful, why does he need small children to do His business for Him? Personally, I think that anyone who believes (in things that do not exist) is ever so slightly mentally challenged. I don't hold that against them of course. Unless they come round my house at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning waking me up (after an all-night party) to force their insanity on me...

LRRY said...

Dear Dave

I grew up in the church, believing everything and scared to death by the prospect of hell. I was probably taught just as those two young girls were but something happened, I grew up. I started thinking for myself. I think you took this a bit too serious. If it was the mum distributing the literature then I would understand how you felt. Kids believe what parents teach them till they get exposed to the world and then make their own decisions. I certainly don't have the same beliefs I had 22 years ago when I was 10 and probably you too.

Paul said...

Taking a child along while one evangelises is a well-honed, if tiresome, tactic; getting them to do one's bidding, however, is borderline child abuse.

James Melbow said...

I think your comments to the mother are slightly out. I don't think they are learning to hate. Because they think your going to hell, doesn't mean they hate you, but they do feel superior, 'better', 'right' and probably pity you. Misplaced pity is so horrid! I like the idea of engaging them in the same manner. Highlights the absurdity.

When people act like that it makes you feel like a currency on their purchase into heaven.

Ben Grubb said...

Great post, Dave and I applaud you for actually taking some action and to "return the favour" so to speak. I think it's outrageously ignorant behaviour from the mother. Things like that really make my blood boil.

I agree with the great quote from Planet Me - I agree whole heartedly.

Mars Central said...

As a Christian, I'm often finding myself a little embarrassed by the behaviour of my brothers and sisters. I hope their church (as well as those they come to know outside their faith) will broaden their understanding and teach them that our actions are supposed to be guided by love.

More worrying to me is that these young children were allowed to wander off talking to strangers while their parent is reading.

Andrew Cooper said...

A very unsettling experience, as you say Dave. There are powerful memes at work here and the idea of cognitive dissonance tells us all we need to know about the mother's likely reaction to your note.

It's quite possible, of course, that the mother is mentally ill: suffering from a literal god delusion (mixed in with some paranoia and who knows what else). It certainly sounds as though she is need of some help, but help of the kind she'd only seek if she wasn't seriously deluded.

Thanks for posting on this.

Mimi said...

I doubt I'd have had the tenacity to have passed the mother a note as you did, but I am glad that there are people out there that will make a stand, no matter how understated. Maybe your simple message will awaken more of a thoughtfulness to her children's state of mind and judgement of others then any stand-off with an angry passenger would have done (which would assumedly only prove to the children that the refusers of their literature were 'bad' people). I applaud your handling of this unsettling occurrence.

Dave Gorman said...

LRRY wrote, "I think you took this a bit too serious. If it was the mum distributing the literature then I would understand how you felt."

Me: I think sitting by and letting her children behave like that is effectively the same as her distributing the literature.

A parent takes responsibility for the actions of their children... especially when they're there being, you know, responsible for their children.

Graham F French said...

I'm with Dave on this one. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and opinions. After all, that is what makes Britain a great place to live.

What I cannot abide though, is the myopic views of religious radicals, whatever flavour they come in!

Preach about your god if you feel inclined to do so, but don't be surprised when I take umbridge to your infernal damnations of all and sundry who don't blindly follow!

There's nothing so intolerable as intolerance!!

Cheers

Graham

Anonymous said...

This is where an evangelical religion fails.
Look at Islam: it does not ask you sweetly to come to Allah; it says you bloody better or we will blow you up.

Dave Gorman said...

@Anonymous: Does it? I'm unaware of that.

Anonymous said...

Religion = Child Abuse. I'm with Dawkins in that one.

Lilysoo said...

I have a step daughter who is 6 and learning about Jesus and insists that we all pray with her. I felt awful as I am not religious, so one day when she asked I said I'd decline as I did not believe but I accepted that what she wanted to do, that members of her family were Christians, choosing to point out that my close friend and godson are Christians too and whatever view we take as long as we were good to one another, if you were religious or not it was fine either way and it appeared to be fine with her and then we talked about Disney princesses.


I feel you did the right thing too Dave.

In fact it was only yesterday (4th Nov) that as I was going out a lady was about to knock on my door I was pleasant but declined, however as I walked up my average length street there were 5 pairs of ladies all at different houses knocking! I had never seen so many out to recruit in one place before. Felt awkward and was glad I was going somewhere else. If I wanted any religion in my life I would go to them.

The Igloo Keeper... said...

I don't believe in God but I hope he exists, so I can deck the fucker when I meet him.

byjimini said...

I get the feeling you may have encountered the same family as I did way back in March. I muttered to my friend next to me "Sure, I'm going to hell. But it'll be warm and I'll know a few people there". A few other people perked up and smiled. I feel I won a small victory that day.

Andrew Cooper said...

That's a Redemption Fail I'm afraid, Igloo.

Not all's lost though: as I understand it if you say you're really sorry and abase yourself a bit you'll be back on track for the Pearly Gates!

Anonymous said...

Before I start, you can make your own bus banner here http://ruletheweb.co.uk/b3ta/bus/

I've regularly seen our local evangelists dragging their young children around, and I'm sure they do it to get a foot through the door.

I've no objection to people being evangelical. Its in the bible that people should spread the word, although I'd argue its taking the words too literally.

We get regularly visited, and with most I have a polite discussion about my faith and they leave.

With the odd few, I have real problems getting rid of them. To be told that I am not a real Christian, that my soul has already been condemned unless I join their viewpoint and that a generic quote from the bible can ONLY refer to the bible predicting world war one.

They have a problem with any alternative viewpoint. They even dispute that the wording of the bible has ever changed, something quite simple to disprove. They have a western biased view of the world divorced from history and ignorant of swathes of the bible that doesn't fit their views.

There is a difference between instilling believe and brainwashing children. The later only leads to long term harm.

Anonymous said...

yeah, I like to think I would have gone over to have a loud chat with the girls along the lines of "don't worry girls, there's not *really* a hell" and then seen if that attracted the mum's attention. In reality, though, I probably would have put on my sound-insulating headphones and some death metal...

Re*tox said...

So, the leaflet represents a "get out of Hell free card", eh?

On a similar note, I live about 200 yards from a Jehova's Witness Kingdom Hall; whilst their emissaries are unfailingly polite, I'd have thought they's be bored with visiting me EVERY week, just becase I happen to be local.

dougs said...

The Christian message is very simple: God loves you, wholeheartedly and without reservation, and loves the rest of creation just as much -- and the most faithful response to love like that is to reflect it, just as wholeheartedly. Any response by a "Christian" which acts at variance with the love which that message proclaims and mandates is a response which misses the point.

PLUChris said...

I think yours was a really appropriate response - you didn't openly criticise the woman, but made your objection clear to her. Maybe she will stop to think about what she is doing to her kids? Judging from your snapshot of her, I doubt it very much, but you never know!

Anonymous said...

If you are so smart and well-balanced then why do you proclaim not to believe in hell and then feel put-off when you hear a couple of little girls say that they think that is where you are headed. Logically, you should be unaffected by their assertions.

However, experience has told me that people only care about that which matters to them. You claim that hell is not real and therefore a non-issue. Conversely, you get mad when someone thinks you are going there. If you have had a few intimate relationships, there is probably one where the thought of that person still bothers you even though you "do not care about them". However, there are other relationships in which "you do not care about the other person" and in actuality to think of them does not bother you at all. The difference is that the one that still bothers you got to you on an intrinsically powerful level. They connected, if you will, with your soul.

It follows, then, that the issue of hell has the same effect on you because it taps into a primordial fear that you cannot shed. You can claim that it is not real and that you do not believe in it but the fact remains that you do not know. Obviously, by the same token these little girls don't know either. But, the fact that you showed fear of hell by revolting at the fact that they had a condemning opinion of you shows your ignorance and the truth about the insubstantial ground on which your life and your self image stands.

devrev said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post Dave.

I agree with much of what you say about the mother allowing her children to behave the way they did towards other passengers.

However, I would not agree that a belief in hell, or warning people about hell, speaks of hate.....in fact quite the reverse.

My belief in hell comes from reading all that Jesus said about hell - and he said quite a lot....and he also said that one big reason he came was to save people from that destination.

So his motive for coming was not about hate.....but love - John 3:16has a lot to say about all of this (I'm sure I heard a comedian refer to that verse somewhere recently?!?)

Thanks again.....

Mimi said...

@Anonymous I can't speak for Mr Gorman of course, but I'd also be 'put off' by the little girls, not because I'd feel anxious of the truth of what they were saying (as it is something that would not worry me as I have no belief in 'Hell' whatsoever), but that the mother so blithely ignored her two young girls as they set about loudly condemning complete strangers to eternal misery. Who are these two little would-be angels to decide on the ever-lasting fate of a carriage full of strangers on the basis that they didn't want to take up the offer of a leaflet? Why is it OK for two under-tens to sit in judgement over who is a good person and who is a bad person? The mother seems to be using her two young children to proselytise and yet also ignoring their presence whilst they decide the future of everyone else in a public place.

@devrev - I think that intolerance and hatred are often entwined. Though I can understand the thinking that these two girls wanted to 'save' people by spreading what they believed to be the truth, they clearly have been given the basis of intolerance for others that do not tow their line. To decide that fellow passengers are 'bad people' purely on the basis that some did not want their leaflets shows intolerance of anyone that does not want to read their religious literature. The mother should be teaching these girls tolerance, but chooses instead to let them carry on deciding who is hell-bound (not to be confused with travelling to Neasden tube station), and if they have decided that all people that do not want to receive their message through their leaflets is a 'bad' person and destined for eternal damnation it is not likely to lead to a tolerant outlook.

Dave Gorman said...

@Anonymous: If I replied to your message by saying that I was so annoyed that I wanted to come round to your house and burn it down with you in it you'd probably think that was an unpleasant way for me to react.

You'd also feel pretty damned certain that I wasn't actually going to do any such thing.

The fact that the threat would be entirely fictitious wouldn't change the fact that it's not a nice thing to say to someone.

You say, "Logically you should be unaffected by their assertions" and it's almost as if you've read the post, because within it I said "
Now, as I don't believe in hell I think it's an empty threat... but even so, I think it's a hateful way to behave and wildly inappropriate for a parent to sit there allowing their kids to do so"
so yeah, I agree with you.

For a more obviously contentious analogy... I don't believe that one race is inferior to another. If I heard someone espousing such a view it would offend me. Presumably you hear such things and feel no offence because Logically you should be unaffected by their assertions."

I doubt very much that that's the case.

Your comment seems to be based on the idea that I have displayed some latent fear of hell. I've re-read the post and can't figure out how you arrived at that conclusion. I'm offended that two kids are being raised to think I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity not because a small part of me thinks it might happen but because I think it's an offensive idea to pass on to children.

More to the point, while I accept that some people do think that's what will happen, I take exception to a parent who raises children with such a basic lack of manners.

Isidore Ducas said...

Quite frankly it sounds like a ship of fools to me. What purpose could your note and this post have other than make you feel better?

Neither the deluded and rude mother nor her victim children are going to change because of your note, you didn't stop the leaflet distribution, and you didn't contribute anything to the kids either.

Either you are willing to engage the kids and mother openly and clearly (along with the possible consequences of missing your stop, being just as unpopular on the car, etc.) or you have accomplished nothing. The time for action was there and then. The action to be taken was to politely talk to the mother, in front of the children exhorting her to behave appropriately and make her kids behave as well.
Either you assume she is sane and engage her as an equal or you dismiss her as insane. The little ambiguous note and this post strike me as cowardly and masturbatory.

Thomas Howard said...

I fail to see how you consider a woman who has obviously instructed her children the biblical truth of hell is a bad mother. I understand that you don't believe the Bible's teaching on the subject of hell, but if you did don't you think you would want your children to believe it too? Because the notion of eternal damnation in hell is offensive to you does not make it an inappropriate message for children to share with you.

I have 3 little girls that love to go with me and my wife knocking doors to "tell people about Jesus." Am I instilling hate in my daughters? Quite the contrary - To warn someone about the eternal separation from God that will result if we reject His free gift of salvation through the shed blood of Christ is not hate, it's love. You can go on not believing in God or hell, but that doesn't change reality. Your lack of belief is the very reason those little girls need to be spreading the word.

As you indicated, you saw someone reading the pamphlet - for that one person to accept God's gift of salvation (whether they did or not, I don't know) is worth all the ridicule of those who reject it. It's true that every child will one day have to make their own decisions about Jesus Christ. However, for a parent who does believe, how can you see it as anything but love to teach them what you believe?

I believe that hell is real, and that all who don't accept Christ's sacrifice as the only payment for their sins will be eternally judged there (Rom 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, Rev 20:15). Are you suggesting that I am a bad parent to do everything I can to get my children to see the truth and accept Christ as well?

BTW, the Bible teaches that you must become as a little child to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:15). It is quite likely that a 7 or 8 year-old girl does believe, and is fully capable of exercising what she understands to be God's commission to be a witness.

jazzpaulvero said...

I am currently deciding whether I should become more actively anti-theist or continue my current practice as a non-combative atheist. As a resident of the American South, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Anti-theism carries real physical, emotional and career risk in the bible belt of today's America... and the reason, therefore, to take a stand.

I enjoyed your story and will continue to follow your blog. Thanks.

Dave Gorman said...

@Isidore: I acknowledged in the post that writing the note was doing nothing except making me feel better. I haven't presented it as "exactly-the-right-thing-to-do" merely as "what-actually-happened" so responding to it as if that is how it was presented doesn't really make sense.

@Thomas Howard: yeah, yeah, yeah... and regardless of what you believe, there is nothing to suggest that turning down the leaflet means you automatically reject everything that it contains. I have no idea if I agree with the leaflet or not... I didn't read it. (I can have a good guess, mind, but it is only a guess. And that's all the kids and their Mum can do too.)

For what it's worth, I think the fear of a jealous God is a terrible thing to teach your children, so yep, I guess the honest answer is that I do indeed think you're a bad parent for doing so. (But then that does depend a bit on what you mean by "doing everything you can to get your children to see the truth.")

Mind you... I wouldn't choose to loudly condemn you for it in a public place on the basis of a guess. But seeing as you asked.

Still... let's imagine for a moment that you're right. I mean... if you are, how amazingly lucky are you? I mean, there are all these faith systems that contradict each other and they all make as much or as little sense as each other so how are you supposed to decide? I geography seems to play a large part. Loads of people born in one part of the world seem to choose Faith A while loads of people born elsewhere choose Faith B. It's almost as if culture and learned behaviour are more important factors than anything else. So lucky you for being born into a culture that taught you to choose the right one. Because if your body, your combination of genes, your flesh and blood, your brain, your molecules, your soul, had been born elsewhere and into a different culture you'd be exactly as convinced of another faith entirely. And then you'd be unwittingly walking towards an eternity in hell. Phewweee. Lucky, lucky, you.

Thomas Howard said...

@Dave Gorman Why do you think it is a terrible thing to teach my kids the truth? Apparently, because you don't believe it. It is only because you don't believe that you object. If there was an impending danger that you recognized with great clarity, would you wait for anyone (let alone your own kids) to figure it out for themselves, or would you warn them? Which option would be "hate?"

I hear your sarcasm loud and clear, but YES, indeed I am very grateful to have been raised in a environment conducive to the gospel message. The fact that there are so many people who don't know the truth is all the more reason to be getting the message out. BTW, every man (including you) will be "without excuse" (Rom 1) when they stand before God as he has revealed Himself to all.

FWIW, I may or may not accept the information on the pamphlet the little girls were distributing (not having read it) - I do accept and believe the Bible. You can continue to mock God, but you and I can't change the reality that God is holy, and He must judge sin (Prov 16:25).

Dave Gorman said...

@Thomas Howard: So as you and I have no idea what was in the leaflet... and as we both have no idea what is in the mind of any stranger who declines the leaflet would you confidently tell all those who declined it that they were bound for hell? Would you sit idly by and listen to your children making such hasty and ridiculous judgements?

What text is there that says refusing a seven year old's leaflet condemns you to hell?

They weren't condemning me for not accepting God... they were condemning me for choosing to read my newspaper rather than their leaflet.

I fail to understand why anyone can have such certain belief in something when it is so apparent that in only slightly different circumstances they would have equally certain faith in something entirely different. Once one can see that there is nothing much more than a lottery behind the particular faith one is gifted I'm afraid they all seem rather hollow to me.

You say, "If there was an impending danger that you recognized with great clarity, would you wait for anyone (let alone your own kids) to figure it out for themselves, or would you warn them?" and of course, if there was some physical peril... if I knew of a bomb or what have you then yes, I would try to warn people.

So... working with the same analogy... I would say not only is it right to warn people it is also wrong to not warn people.

If that's your belief then how do you ever get anything done? Is every waking moment of your life spent trying to warn people of the impending danger? If not, why not? I mean, you're aware of it, right? So do you ever ride the bus in silence, reading a book for your own pleasure? Would you really sit there and allow your children to condemn people to hell for not taking a leaflet from them... or would you try to explain to your children that not-taking-the-leaflet is not the same thing as not-believing-in-God?

I mean, really... you can't honestly think the two are equivalent. Can you?

Mark said...

Dave,

Whilst I doubt that anyone commenting on here is trolling, I'd just like to remind you that you've been affected by such people in the past, and I'd hate for you to get yourself worked up again in a similar manner.

Rabbit said...

@Thomas Howard - what version of the Bible is that? Proverbs 16:25 in mine says nothing like that.

That aside - your quote says HE must judge sin...not any other Christian including little girls on the train.

What's to say that not accepting a leaflet is sinful anyway? Whatever happened to man looking at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart?

Mike Peatman said...

@Thomas Howard

Hi Thomas, you have some very clear views on this, I appreciate. As a Christian minister myself, I felt Dave was raising some important questions, and acted in a remarkably restrained manner.

Let's clear a few things up

No-one seriously believes that accepting a leaflet or not is an indicator of someone's heart or commitment. Lots of Christians wouldn't choose to use this methodology and wouldn't necessarily accept a tract. What we do know is that God won't be asking us "where's the leaflet?"

I find it particularly concerning that the woman let her children do this giving out, rather than do it herself. Placing her kids in such a vulnerable situation is not what I'd do with my kids. It's also important to realise that young kids can be very compliant with their parents' wishes, not because they share their commitments, but because it means they are accepted and belong.

When it comes to judgement, I think we all have to be careful. I obviously don't share your tightly-drawn up definition of who is 'in' and who is 'out', but even with your perspective, it's God who judges, not us. Jesus greets, welcomes and includes all sorts of unlikely candidates into his company, and his harshest criticisms are of people like you and me - ie the ones who make some claim to know about God.

We can't know what Jesus would have done in that carriage, but my reading of his life is that he formed relationships and had conversations before forming judgments. I think we should model that to our kids, rather than condemn on first contact.

Thomas Howard said...

@Dave Gorman You have raised some critical points. I agree, there is no scripture that condemns the refusal of printed material. I'm not condemning that, and if the little girls were condemning that, they have a naive understanding. In fact, I'm not condemning anything - God is (John 3:36). Condemnation is made whether I (or those little girls) do anything. Those who don't believe often argue that no one has the right to judge them. It is true that no person does, but a holy God does. My job is not to cast judgment, but it is to warn about it. It is not a question of "where's the leaflet?", it is a question of "what did you do with Jesus Christ?"

You say, I fail to understand why anyone can have such certain belief in something when it is so apparent that in only slightly different circumstances they would have equally certain faith in something entirely different. I wish I could convince you why I believe. You see, my Christianity is not a walk of "blind" faith, it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ my Savior. If you knew Jesus as I do, you would understand.

Another important point that you make is that not only is it right to warn people it is also wrong to not warn people. You've hit the nail on the head. My obligation (as a Christian, and indeed as a human being) is to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13). He has given me an instruction book (the Bible) detailing His commandments, and because I fear God (i.e. I see Him for Who He is) I strive to be faithful to do the things He's told me to do. These things are not limited to being a witness for Him, but when given the opportunity (as were those girls) I should be faithful to be a witness for Him. Perhaps a great reason so many don't believe is because they observe Christians who are not committed to the things of God - such as those who refuse to be witnesses. I couldn't agree with you more, it is wrong for any Christian not to be an active witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thomas Howard said...

@Rabbit I didn't intend for Prov 16:25 to be a direct quote of my preceding phrase, I was emphasizing the point that even if we don't like the idea of God's judgment, it is still a reality. Scripture is replete with references to God's holiness (I John 1:5), and His righteous judgment of sin (Rom 2:5). My acknowledgment of a coming judgment (and active evangelism) does not make me a judge, it makes me a witness.

It is true that God sees the heart, and indeed I cannot know what a person believes or doesn't. Why do you think those who refused the leaflet did so? Because they loved the Lord with all their heart? I think not. I can't judge the heart, but I can observe "the outward appearance" - that is indeed what I Samuel 16:7 says.

@Mike Peatman I appreciate your perspective. I too agree that no one is condemned for refusing a leaflet as I have covered above.

I agree that the woman should actively be a witness for Christ as well. However, I see nothing so terrible about teaching your children to be witnesses, in spite of the vulnerability of the situation. I would tend to agree with you that it would be best if the mother was side-by-side with her children passing out the gospel (again, it is an assumption that that is what the leaflet contained).

It is true that Jesus greets, welcomes and includes all sorts of unlikely candidates - all of whom were sinners condemned to hell without accepting Him (Christ) as their Savior. Christ's harshest criticisms were not of people like me who truly know God, they were of people who professed a knowledge of God, but knew Him not.

I agree that it is important to forge relationships with people and to lead people to Christ by the way you live. However, I would venture to guess, that that opportunity was the only one those girls would ever have to be a witness to the people on that carriage. I'm not suggesting that you should walk up and greet people by saying, "you're going to hell," but I think you are mistaken about Jesus. He exposed people's sin - indeed he came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, cf. Mark 2:17).

Jeff Foley said...

I'm going to suggest a much simpler explanation, drawing on my 5 years now as a parent.

While sure, the mother is probably responsible for the education of the children, and is tacitly endorsing their behavior by letting them push the pamphlets...

... I bet she was just happy to have them occupied doing something besides bother her for 10-15minutes.

Seriously. All this "child abuse" and "she's encouraging them to hate" and whatnot. Sometimes we let our kids jump on the couch or cover themselves in marker because we're just too tired to tell them not to. There are days where my wife and I would be more than happy to let our kids go around passing out pamphlets about heaven, or hell, or the bible, or paganism, or atheism... just so they're not hanging on me and saying "Mom! Dad! Look at me! Look what I'm doing! Hey watch this!" which is the stage it sounded like they might have been at when the mother boarded the train. I have friends with the 7-8 year old range and it gets better, but still... I think the parents out there understand. And those who don't can pick up a copy of great books like "I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids" that speak to this. No one talks about how hard motherhood truly is. She may have been reading the bible looking for strength in the midst of a particularly tough day.

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing Dave and well done! I don't believe in any form of evangelism, street preaching what have you.

Not quite sure how to take the mother in this one, if that were me I'd be keeping my children close to me on a London Tube as you never know just when it's going to get crowded and you do not want to lose sight of your children should something happen to them. Can't be too careful these days.

I believe that you should find your own religion, not that religion should find you. I had a brief Christian upbringing when I was younger, I have some brief memories of attending Sunday school, I don't think I believed any of it. There were a few times when I stopped to listen to the people in school service, but I felt nothing. I slowly turned to Paganism and thats where I sit today, happy in my beliefs that I sought out.

I have to say that I have to applaud Mike Peatman and say, Mike, what a great answer. :) I find it refreshing to stumble across a Christian not wrapped up in Dogma (they seem to be few and far between in my part of the world sadly and you remind me of the old Parish Minister from back home :) Delightful man!)

Dave Gorman said...

Jeff Foley wrote "Sometimes we let our kids jump on the couch or cover themselves in marker because we're just too tired to tell them not to. There are days where my wife and I would be more than happy to let our kids go around passing out pamphlets about heaven, or hell, or the bible, or paganism, or atheism... just so they're not hanging on me and saying "Mom! Dad! Look at me! Look what I'm doing! Hey watch this!""

Me: Yeah... but that's your couch you're letting them jump on. And I bet you wouldn't sit quietly by if they started having a loud conversation about how that bloke had a big stupid nose and that woman was really, really fat because you'd suddenly feel responsible for the offence they were causing others.

For what it's worth, it wasn't two hyperactive, energised kids. They hardly said a word as they handed out the leaflets and they didn't run around or climb on the furniture. They were, ostensibly well behaved, until the point where they started their loud, earnest and naively impolite conversation.

Thomas Howard wrote"I agree, there is no scripture that condemns the refusal of printed material. I'm not condemning that, and if the little girls were condemning that, they have a naive understanding."

Me: That seems odd to me because you read a story in which I criticised a mother for sitting idly by while her kids condemned a bunch of strangers to hell for not-taking-a-leaflet and told me I was wrong to criticise that behaviour several times. In fact, that's really all you have been saying since you first arrived here. I'm glad you've finally admitted that you were wrong.

Anonymous said...

@Thomas Howard "what did you do with Jesus Christ?"

Why? Have you lost him?

M said...

Ah, it has been long months since I've been smacked in the face by religion, and even longer still since I've enjoyed it vicariously. Thank you for the eloquent anecdote.

It has reminded me that the persistence of religious leaflets leaves me saddened. Just as an eight-year-old girl often can pose no riposte to one's probing questions about belief, a leaflet holds a similar role in the world of "spreading the word". It represents many of the more pedestrian issues I, for one, have with organized religion: taking passages out-of-context, carelessly vilifying one's fellow man, and proudly upholding a complete disconnect from the responsibility to understand and defend one's statements.

As an atheist who's been damned to Hell by a swathe of people from family to complete strangers, I can agree that it's certainly not pleasant. Yet there's something so much more aggravating about being damned by an unresponsive oracle, be they text or flesh. And surely, like you, I don't comprehend it as a possible future because I do not believe in the existence of such a place. However, where you are most saddened by the hatred inherent in said damnation, I find the lack of it [and faith?] to be disturbing.

People will always be bigoted against something- it's one of the foundations of a communal mindset (a mindset that is really about the best thing we've got going for us, survival-wise). It's a rallying point to separate a group from The Other. So, I don't expect that to change. But when a Christian condemns one to the very worst fate imaginable in their belief system, I want some fire. Some rage. Some good old-fashioned confrontation. Don't write it on a pamphlet to hand out- or worse, for your kids to hand out- without even discussing the material. Yeah, that edict was eternal damnation, and you just announced it without so much as a greeting or explanation.
If I am mistaken, and they believe and- for lack of a better concept- grok what they say, then they ought to at least try to save others from eternal suffering with something more convincing than a generalized and disingenuous piece of propaganda. (The counterargument: It's not their responsibility to save and convince others to believe in their God. To which I respond: Unspeakably poor taste telling everyone about Hell, then.)
I'm afraid I've lost the plot a bit... but mainly yes. The note may have been on the catty side, but if starts to impart an outsider's perspective to the mother, then I can only hope it will breed future confrontation and further understand of both their religious message and the views of the much more diverse group which makes up the world.

Thomas Howard said...

@Dave Gorman You seem to fail to understand my point that your condemnation is not determined by two little girls. Your issue is with the condemnatory attitude of the girls, suggesting that they are learning to hate. This is where my objection lies. Perhaps naive in their thinking - give 'em a break, they're little kids - at least they are doing something to spread the good message of God - an act of love. It is apparent from your article that the children were not condemning you, they were assuming that your rejection of the leaflet was an indication of you rejection of Christ. Whether or not their mother should have interjected the finer details of soteriology into their conversation is a moot issue, because your problem is in being condemned, in your mind by little girls, but in reality by God.

Why did you refuse the leaflet? You have indicated that it was because you didn't want to give your tacit approval of it. Really? How does accepting a piece of printed material in any way indicate approval of the material? The reality is you assumed that the leaflet was "about religion" - perhaps telling you that you need Christ, perhaps even indicating that you would be condemned to hell without Him.

If you reject the gospel message - in whatever form it appears - you have rejected Christ. I think it is clear that is where your objection lies. It makes no sense to accuse people of hate for trying to help you avoid hell.

I don't wish to appear mean-spirited, and I truly pray that you would accept Christ. When I tell people about Jesus it's because I care about the lost. Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). You can have your "own religion" as I've been told many times when I try to tell people about Jesus, but the truth is that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Andrew Cooper said...

'People will always be bigoted against something ... It's a rallying point to separate a group from The Other.'

Precisely, M. Why do people have such extreme and, to many of us, bizarre beliefs? Because it provides an off-the-shelf group identity and, as you say, this has a strong survival value.

The more bizarre your beliefs the stronger your investment in, and therefore sense of belonging to, the group. That's why it's possible for apparently sane, intelligent people to be, for example, Scientologists.

Dave Gorman said...

@Thomas Howard: Oh dear. I really do find your attitude horribly patronising. Let's accept that were not going to persuade one another to our different views of faith and leave it at that. I'll tell you what... I'll even go so far as to say that I 100% believe that your faith is sincerely held and so I accept that your desire to save people is also 100% sincere and that I genuinely appreciate your well intentioned desire to save me and others from hell and damnation. I genuinely thank you for caring so. Now please desist.

The impression I have of you - rightly or wrongly - is of some single-issue obsessive floating around the internet waiting to pounce wherever his services are needed. Someone sent the bat signal up into the sky and you answered the call, rushing to my blog to read the latest piece of atheism for you to refute.

But you must have skim read the post because you failed to notice that the story was really about manners not faith. The reason I and several other passengers were condemned to hell by two children was that we had politely declined their leaflets.

Which is ridiculous.

And which makes their condemnation selfish, hollow and impolite. And their mother's tacit approval of it more so. Regardless of ones position on faith.

Your first response begins, "I fail to see how you consider a woman who has obviously instructed her children the biblical truth of hell is a bad mother." and goes on from there.

My first reply to you starts, "and regardless of what you believe, there is nothing to suggest that turning down the leaflet means you automatically reject everything that it contains."

But you ignore that and come back for more.

It's only when I make the same point once more - and after a clergyman makes the same point (more eloquently) - that you finally concede that point saying, "I'm not condemning that, and if the little girls were condemning that, they have a naive understanding."

To which I think, What do you mean if the little girls were condemning that?' If?!! That's precisely what they were doing, it's blindingly obvious from the story that that's what they were doing... and it's been repeatedly pointed out to you that that is what they were doing. The fact that you stomped in here, missing that point, and just seized on it as another opportunity to make your point does you a disservice.

Anonymous said...

Howard, I do not understand you at all. If I wrote down everything that made me disagree with you, I'd be here for days. What I don't understand is why, if you are so happy and content in your faith and your belief in Jesus Christ - then why do you care so much about how other people are living their lives? I can pretty much guarantee you that almost everyone has been exposed to the bible and/or God's messages around you at some point in their lives, and yet they STILL decided to reject it. Do you honestly think that you, your wife and your daughters are going to change their minds?
That if you pester them at their homes where they don't want to be pestered in the first place, it would change their faith, and their whole outlook on lives, just because you and your family are trying to stick it in their faces?

I think you're heavily wasting your time. But that's your problem, not mine.



Gorman, I admire you standing up for your principles in a non-aggressive and sensible manner. Well done.

Gilder said...

Hello Dave, I very much enjoyed this tale, and I think you reacted with restraint and intelligent tact.

The original point was not about faith but since it has devolved there I will wade in pointlessly.

The main issue I take with religion is the inaccurate language that is used in describing it.

Thomas Howard says: I fear God (i.e. I see Him for Who He is).

That's not what 'fear' means. You are using language in a hugely confusing and cryptic way. You also said that you cannot explain your version of the 'truth', and that is the problem with that. Science/rationalism et al CAN be explained, whilst religion cannot, as it is based on the ideas of a group of random people several millenia ago.

No one is going to hell. Everyone is just going to die. In the meantime, cheer up.

geofftech said...

@mosher & DG - didn't know about the bus adverts, ah... they're brilliant and refreshing to see. i've been away from London for too long - i'm coming back next week and very much looking forward to it.

@Thomas Howard

i'm really happy that you believe in god. really - i am. it's your belief and you life your life by it and i honestly think that's great and that you've got meaning in your life because of it.

but i've got meaning in my life because of my non-belief, and yet i don't feel the need to go around telling believers that i think they're wrong.

i think that those that believe would get better results at 'recruiting' new followers if they weren't so sanctimonious when talking about their beleifs, as you have been in all the tone of your comments here.

just .. get on with your life, do nice things, be a nice person, believe in god and go to church.

and i and the rest of the atheists will get on with our lives, do nice things, be nice people and not believe or go to church.

shreddakj said...

That is rather shocking. I don't know how to react to proslytizing children.

Balance Board Blog said...

Amen.

Mike Peatman said...

@Thomas Howard

Christ's harshest criticisms were not of people like me who truly know God

Thomas I think a little Christian humility wouldn't come amiss here.
Let's be clear. I am a Christian. I believe that gives me a relationship with God. (Dave G probably thinks I'm weird as a result.)

But assuming one truly knows God, when by (Christian) definition God is infinite, and beyond the comprehension of our puny minds is, at the very least, presumptuous.

We all crave certainty, but I think all of what we have understood about God from the Bible, from worship and prayer, from our own experience and from the world always has to be open to revision.

We might have got some stuff wrong!

That's why I don't walk around railway carriages assuming I know who is heave-bound and who isn't. Nor do I get my kids to do it because they are more cute.

Born Again Athiest said...

As a devout athiest I've given your post a lot of thought over the last few days.
Let's just change a few aspects of the story for a minute.
Let's say the mother was engrossed in "Heat" magazine.
Let's say the kids were handing out leaflets about a fayre their school was having for Christmas.
Let's say they then went on to say that everybody on the carriage were "big blue meanies" for not taking their leaflets.
Would you have been so upset at the mother, or would you just have though "wow those kids are rude"?
I don't think this scenario shows that those kids were learning to hate (although for all we know, they might be, but this scenario doesn't prove this) I think it just shows that they were being rude and anti-social and being allowed to get away with it by their mother. It's almost a side-issue that religion was involved.
Just my thoughts anyway.

Dave Gorman said...

@Born Again Atheist: I agree that faith is (almost) a side issue here. I agree that it is (mostly) to do with a simple lack of manners...

And maybe if the scenario had been as you suggest - with us being labelled big blue meanies for not taking the leaflets for their school fayre - I would have handed their Mum a not saying that I found her children rude and that they were learning bad manners.

But they didn't call us names. They wished ill upon us. How clearly that was understood by them I don't know... but there's a difference between calling people names and actually wishing them ill.

Born Again Athiest said...

Hello, me again.
Fair comment and I agree with you that it is horrible.
I wonder though if the mother even thought they were wishing you ill, as that is what she (and as a result, her kids) believe is actually going to happen to you for not taking the leaflets and therefore didn't feel it necessary to pull them up on their behaviour.
Things becomes so emotive when religion is involved (as we've seen from the very theological discussion generated)
I wasn't trying to "catch you out" or anything, just trying to see things from a different perspective.
All I would say, as an inhabitant of the west country, living mostly surrounded by fields, I happened to visit London recently, and I'd say given the temperature of the carriages on the tube, you were all already half-way to hell anyway!
Keep up the good blogging / photography / entertaining work!

Simon said...

I agree with religion being a side issue here. That is terrible parenting regardless of what the mother was reading and regardless of what was said on the leaflets handed about.

However, it is wrong for the mother to allow the children to utter such condemnation on three counts: her teaching to the children of what hell is is theologically wrong - if indeed they were talking about fire; it is not up to Christians to condemn people, people condemn themselves because of their own decisions (before people reply to this I'm approaching this from my theological understanding, not speaking from personal opinion); and, most pertinently, it's just plainly not acceptable social practice. You can't do that, no matter what your religious viewpoint. Good on you Dave for writing that note.

Simon said...

@dougs
I think you are spot on with your comment, couldn't say it better

wee folding bike said...

Mr Howard:

I do accept and believe the Bible.


So Genesis 1:25-27 or 2:18-19. They contradict each other. Which one do you accept and believe?

Simon said...

@wee folding bike
With all due respect, your comment smacks of a personal attack on somebody's beliefs that is off topic for this discussion. The way I understand Dave's post is that there is a time and a place for discussing beliefs: this discussion is therefore on that, not the beliefs of individuals themselves.

wee folding bike said...

Simon,

Are comments supporting stories from middle eastern nomads on or off topic in your opinion?

Simon said...

@wee folding bike
My point was that, though you or I may not agree with Thomas Howard's comments, I don't think it is fair to simply insult him, particularly when the insult is off topic and therefore uncalled for. The relevance or lack thereof of previous comments has no bearing on whether your own words are fair. Or mine, for that matter, but I felt the need to speak my mind. Have a nice day.

wee folding bike said...

Simon,

I'm unclear on how asking someone about the bible is insulting and yet you didn't complain when Mr Howard was compared to Batman. Do you care more about the beliefs or the man?

You supported an earlier theistic comment, "I think you are spot on with your comment, couldn't say it better", was that comment on or off topic?

The comment was about a loving God. Have you read Genesis 21: 16-23? God doesn't like handicapped people. Too old testament? Then try Peter 1:1-3 - believe what you're told or really bad things happen to you. Does it still seem to be a loving God?

Simon said...

I agreed with a comment that said that the Christian faith is about love, and that any act by a Christian that shows anything contrary - as in this example, alienating the public - misses the point. That I believe is on topic. If you take offence at me supporting a theistic statement simply because it is a theistic statement, that's a different issue.

Your need to pick at apparent contradictions in the Bible is tantamount to taking pot shots at the author of comments. Whether or not the Bible is accurate is besides the point with regards to this thread - Mr Howard's beliefs are his own and don't deserve insulting. It is whether his or other's beliefs are portrayed in a suitable way (or whether they should be at all) in the scenario proposed that is up for discussion.

You also seem to have changed scripture now. Your point was originally made on scripture about the order of creation, which I fail to see as relevant to a discussion about love, hate and hell.

wee folding bike said...

Simon,

Did you read the bible verses I referenced? Even Jesus is reported as saying not very loving things. Try Matthew 10:34-36 or even 10:14-15 which is much the same as the girls on the train said. The Christian faith may portray itself as being about love but if you have a look at the foundations of it that doesn't hold up.

Asking about the bible is not taking potshots at the author of the comments it's a very clear example of playing the ball and not the man. Why do you think religious beliefs come in for special protection and, in your words, should not be insulted? I still don't see how a question is an insult.

I didn't change scripture, I got it all straight from the bible. You seem to think Abrahamic religions are based on some fluffy concept of love. It's easy to find sections of the bible which are not about this. Mr Howard claims to believe and accept the bible I merely asked him about the first contradiction I found and how this works. I can find plenty of others but this is still playing the ball and not the man. I have not compared him to a cartoon character or called him an insulting person.

Simon said...

@wee folding bike

OK fair enough, I may have been overly sensitive and read too much into your initial comment and therefore apologize. Your argument is very interesting and there is of course much in it - I will read those passages with an open frame of mind.

I stress that I don't agree with Mr Howard, but there have been what I feel are pot shots at him and I don't think that's fair, no matter what somebody believes, hence standing up for him. Disagreement is reasonable, but not insults - I hope you agree with that, be it a religious argument or not. I have many questions about the consistency and understanding of the Bible and in many ways your comments have struck a chord. The disparity between the 'love' of the New Testament does seem to be counter to the wrath of God that seems to manifest itself in the Old Testament; nonetheless, Christian teaching emphasizes love and a personal relationship with Jesus. If we take that teaching at face value, the desire to share this is understandable, but, as dougs says, sharing this inappropriately misses the point (and I would add, undermines any efforts). That's what I agreed with. The foundation for this 'love' requires greater understanding, which I admit I don't have and plan to study as I find it very interesting. You seem to be an expert on this topic so any useful passages and external texts would be appreciated.

My personal feeling is that when it comes down to it, why can't we all just get along? People have different beliefs. As long as nobody is hurting anybody or inciting hatred, then I think people should be allowed to believe whatever they wish without fear of persecution. That applies to the internet as much as in life generally.

I'm not now saying you were being insulting (although I admit that is what I thought at first - your subsequent points have won me over), but after all that has been said here, the many attempts to rebuke Mr Howard, can I ask why you felt the need to chip in with what you did, given the many criticisms he has received already? I notice he hasn't replied in a while - maybe all the criticisms were taken personally and pushed him away. If true, that is a shame.

wee folding bike said...

Simon,

The new testament is far from love laden. How about Matthew 18:6-9 which is one I remember being surprised about when I was in school. It's about how you should pull your own eye out if you look sinfully at someone. As teenagers we did a lot of sinful looking but I didn't see anyone lose an eye over it no matter how religious they were.

I'm no expert but I have read enough of the bible to have found that sort of thing. I suppose it's a bit like the way I don't really use Windows by choice but I have a copy of Win XP and Win 7 on my MacBook. At least I have tried it out before deciding to not use it and I can tell people why. I have some time for the Amish in this respect because they allow their young people to try out the wider world before deciding to stay or leave.

It would be great if we could all get along but I'm not sure religion helps in this. If you look at conflict around the world do you see a religious factor in some of them? Even in the west of Scotland there is religious strife.

Mr Howard made a statement about following the bible. I am aware of many contradictions in it as well as absurdities and downright cruelty. I was interested to see how he would defend the simple contradiction.

It's always good to challenge assumptions. For example, you may have noticed I ride a bike. I don't wear a helmet. I've got one in the garage someplace but it's going to stay there. I looked into their effect and found that they may help with minor scrapes but actually increase the incidence of serious, life threatening, injury. Cycling is a very safe activity in spite of what people may think.

Simon said...

I wonder what Dave might say about your bicycle helmet thoughts?!

I could go into what I believe the gouging out eye story is about, but I will leave that to the masses. You are right to challenge assumptions, but, as a general rule, be careful not to make them yourself!

wee folding bike said...

Simon,

I would suggest that he check out this:

http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/helmets.html

and decide for himself.

Anonymous said...

One thing I noticed, reading online discussions like this, is that militant athiests and fundamentalist Christians have in common is the belief that the Bible is supposed to be read 100% literally. Another thing is that both groups have a very poor understanding of the historicity of the Bible, when books were written, who is talking to to who, etc. A final thing is that they both draw on fiction/art from the Middle Ages in their thinking on Hell and damnation rather than anything from the Bible.

The last point is most interesting, because artists and writers make up their own stories very loosely based on Biblical themes, as do militant athiests and fundamentalist christians. They come up with a point they'd like to make, cherry-pick something from the Bible that seems to back up that point and then work themselves up into a frenzy.

Dave's article was not really about believing in Hell but in the actions of a woman and her kids. I've seen worse on public transport.

wee folding bike said...

Anonymous,

I don't take the bible literally but when people claim to do so I will ask them to explain bits.

I've got some bikes, I don't use public transport unless I've got to take my kids somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Well, aren't you the great one. Mind your halo doesn't slip and choke you.

SteveL said...

The road I live in has a monument at the top to some Maryan Martyrs: Protestants burned alive in the time of Queen Mary. Then explain my family is from the part of the British Isles where that sectarian war is still going on.

I use these fact as the opening gambit for any discussion with evangelists at the front door, before announcing I'm a scientist and then picking on part of their belief system. Mormons: geologic history. Jehovas Witnesses: the fact that every time they've made testable preduction -the end of the earth- they've been wrong. They don't come back.

Question is, should I bring my small child out to watch as try to engage in rational evidence-driven debate with people whose belief system doesn't hold up to tests, or not?

Jonathan Hunt said...

Quite a post and thread.

I'm a Christian and believe me, 'evangelism' is very hard work in this day and age - it is much easier to keep your mouth shut than risk ridicule (or worse).

I cannot imagine _ever_ allowing my child to take part in any evangelism until he was an adult - old enough to decide to do it because it was the thing he wanted to do, rather than just to please his parents or 'fit in'.

besides which, he's 12 and he has no stated religious position of his own yet. It is his life, not mine, no matter how much I long for him to take what I view as the right direction.

On the case in point, had I been derelict enough to allow my children to wander about tube carriages speaking to strangers, I would have told them to stop their unsubtle asides about the non-leafletted passengers, and used the occasion to talk some things through. Ignoring your children and reading your Bible on public transport is so contrary TO the Bible's teaching that I could laugh at it. But I won't - cause it is just sad.

Leroy said...

I think this is more an issue of ignorance than religion. I think your actions were entirely correct Dave and, as a school teacher that has to regularly deal with the shit heaped upon kids by the negligence or outright selfishness of adults, I wish society was more prepared to intervene in small ways like this.

As a practicing christian, I would also like to say that, although lots of people go for this sort of thing, it's not what the majority of christians approve of. Faith is a personal choice and shouldn't be bought and sold in this way. Jesus never did it, and nor should we. If someone asks me what I think about something, I tell them. If they're not interested, that's fine too. We all make our own choices. Trouble is, human nature seems to lead us into these entrenched, bigoted positions that we then hand over to our kids. Athiests do it, Muslims do it, football supporters do it!

Ironically, one of the most insistant and powerful messages of the bible is to not judge others, or prepare to be judged yourself...something that is never too pretty! Why are we christians so bad at that when it is the cornerstone of our faith? To be honest Dave, what you did was exactly that: you took their judgement on you and turned it back to them. You were acting in a more 'christian' way than they were.

So, yes, there are some very misguided and ignorant christians out there, but please people, don't judge all christians by the standards displayed here. Get to know some who don't shout at you on the street: you might be nicely surprised at how well-balanced some of them are!

wee folding bike said...

Anonymous,

I'm not really scared of a halo. I use a bike because it's usually the best tool for the job. If I need to take my kids into town then the train works better.

Last night I had to use a bike to rescue a car in the show. It's not the first time.