Religions and violence: they’re not pretty much all the same

Over the years, I’ve noticed it’s rare for a skeptic to differentiate between the religions.  So rare that when noted Atheist and comedian Bill Maher takes people to task for placing Christianity and Islam on equal footings when it comes to violence ‘in the name of’, it actually makes the news.  And now that ISIS has taken to beheading Westerners, it is vitally important that we don’t ignore or blindly lump together religions with substantive differences.

For the most part, skeptics don’t ignore distinctions between religions for identification’s sake, rather, it’s when discussing the real or perceived evils done in the name of religion, or by adherents themselves.  I’ve always suspected that this is an intentional blurring of the lines because I get the feeling it makes them feel intellectually insulated from having to fuss with the details.  But the details are the most significant aspect of the religions.

For many skeptics, “god(s)”, a supposedly morally superior being, who is the single most important identifying factor, and therefore, it is “religion” — regardless of the specifics — that matters when talking about religious evil.  There are at least two important distinctions skeptics fail to make that are foundationally important.

The first is the differences in the details of the religions.  Since I like analogies, I’ll offer one.  Cyanide, aspirin, and breath mints can all come in tablet form.  If these three tablets are defined only by their similar shape and size, they do appear to all be alike.  But would it be accurate to say the three are all pretty much the same?  Certainly not.  Their differences are  more important than their single unifying feature: God.

In fact, it would be silly to blame Tic Tacs and Bayer if people started dropping dead of cyanide poisoning.  To be sure, even skeptics would see such an equivocation as nonsensical.  But for some reason, it seems perfectly rational to some of them to lump all religion together because they all come in “God” form.  Post-September 11th, some skeptics started blaming tablets rather than cyanide.

The second problem, is the lack of differentiating between actions done in the name of an ideology, and actions done by a person who happens to hold a particular ideology.  This might not seem to be a big deal, but the difference is immensely important.  If the reader will indulge me in another analogy which I think makes clear the distinction.

Police officers are sworn to both uphold the laws of the State, and the policies of the department for which they work.  If police officers started regularly pulling over citizens who speed, but then robs and assaults them, the officers are acting outside the set scope and boundaries of their sworn oaths.  They become robbers and assailants who are police officers.  They are not robbing and assaulting people in their official capacity of police officers even though they may be wearing a uniform at the time.  However, if officers pull over citizens who speed and issues warnings or tickets, they are acting in accord with the scope and boundaries of their oaths, and they are being good officers.

Again I ask: Does it make sense to blame the occupation of police officer because of those who abuse their authority?  Or do we rightfully blame the particular officers who abuse their power, acting outside the capacity of their official duties?  This is one of the more important and precise distinctions.  There is one religion in particular, that by prescriptionand in context — advocates violence.  In this case, the adherents who perpetrate violence in the name of their religion are acting in accord to its teaching.  Other religion’s adherents who perpetrate violence, however, are acting outside the dictates and — though are members of the religion — are violent not in the name of their religion.

It’s my opinion, that these equivocations are made by skeptics in order to afford them — in their own mind — the intellectual satisfaction of their skepticism.  If all religions can be reduced to tablet form, it’s much easier to fight against (i.e., “tablets are dangerous”).  Getting in the lab and breaking down the tablets to examine and discover the ingredients takes a lot more effort.


  1. I think your analogies are spot on. Dan, take notes.

  2. paynehollow says:

    ? Not sure why my name’s been dragged into this.

    Of course, we can all agree that we ought not judge the main of a group based on a few random outiers who may be harmful or crazy. Christians don’t want to be judged by the Westboro Gang, Muslims don’t want to be judged by the ISIS crew, conservatives don’t want to be judged by the Tim McVeigh types, and atheists don’t want to be judged by the Stalin or Dahmer types.

    On the other hand, IF a group doesn’t want to be judged by their crazier or more violent members (or self-identified members, anyway), then it is imperative that the Main Group clearly denounces the crazier fringe components of that group.


    • Dan,

      You are famous within our blogging circle for the most inane and idiotic analogies you invent with the hope of making your points. John’s analogies here are well crafted and illustrate the situation very well. Study them and compare to the goofy crap with which you’ve embarrassed yourself. Seriously. You’re no good at it.

      • paynehollow says:

        “I don’t like that analogy…” or “that analogy points to holes in my argument, so I’m going to ignore it…” are not the same as “Your analogy is STOOPID…”

        Just noting.


        • By STOOPID, Dan, I mean they fail at illustrating accurately the position of your opponents, and thus, do not support your position at all. Indeed, they do not point to any holes, unless erecting straw men counts to your credit. I don’t think it does. Indeed, your analogies often present an illustration for something that doesn’t in the least bit represent what is the reality of another’s position. I know you would like to believe that I’m taking issue with your argument against a position I might take. But the fact is that when you try to invent an analogy to clarify your argument, you make a fool of yourself in the attempt because the analogy simply doesn’t do what you hope it will.

          Again, my point is that you would be best served by never again trying to put forth an analogy of your own making. Another technique of debate and argument might serve you better. I don’t know that would be, considering how often you’re wrong (no technique can get around that), but only that your use of analogy isn’t working for you. Because I possess at least some level of the grace you only pretend to have, I’m saying this in an effort to assist. I don’t need to denigrate as your poor analogies do that all by themselves.

          • Richard Nash says:

            If you have to, or feel compelled under any circumstances to describe yourself a having “some level of grace”, it’s seems the chances of having any at all dwindle exponentially the longer you speak/type.

        • That may be true, Richard. But then again, it’s YOU saying it, so I doubt it is.

  3. paynehollow says:
  4. The Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers don’t now, nor have they in the past burned witches, or lobbied their state legislatures for exclusive rights, or to concentrate their rights to the point that they make others second class citizens, and their is no reason to think that they might or could do anything of the like in the future.

    The Shakers of central VT/NH for instance are not the breed of tablet that has them denouncing homosexuals as sinners, judging all of those who are not exactly like they are, and screaming that they are going to hell. To my knowledge they spend an inordinate amount of time minding their own business. Something that other more cyanide-like tablets could take a cue from.

    Further, you are again taking a very narrow view on skeptics/atheists who lump all religions together as a bad pill. I for one go to a huge number of conferences, meetings and national gatherings, and I never seen this happening. Hitchens never did it, Harris doesn’t do it, and Dennett would chuckle at the very idea of it all. And Dawkins does do it, but very much specifies that he is questioning the legitimacy of such a filter to reality, and argues that in that way, at a minimum the monotheistic faiths are very much the same. But he has never not made it abundantly clear that islam is the special psychopath on the block. And the lot of them have said numerous times that christianity was largely forced to conform to the rules of law via the Enlightenment. Just because we forced you to give up your Dark Age practices doesn’t mean than historically you shouldn’t own up to your zealot like past. Give yourselves a pat on the back for no longer Crusading your way through the land forcing your views by sword, but remember that skeptics will meet you head on as your denouncements and pronouncements devolve back to your more radical past.

    Skeptics have no ancient texts affording them any positions of authority, a more perfect morality, or commands from on high that inflate our place in civilization to something above any others. Yet your book delivers a fantastically violent history of your own behaviors done for just these reasons.

    • Nash,

      You have a very twisted and revisionist notion of the “ills” of people of faith.

      • You have a perverted way of ignoring facts, and re-creating everything under the Sun to fit your biased views.

        Your constant dismissals make the point better than I ever could.

        What exactly is so twisted? The fact that there simply can’t be Shaker Crusades/witch burnings, or that more than likely you would have gladly taken part in such heinous and barbarous events?

        • How many witches were burned?

          • How many Crusades were marched? How many clinics were bombed? How many doctors were shot? How many slaves/ex-slaves were owned, tortured, whipped, or hung by the protestant christian Klan? How many militias or white supremacist groups are secular humanists vs christian? How many of the witch burnings in central Europe from 1484-1590 should we count? Which of the half dozen Inquisitions should be ignored?What about the Maronite christian militias and their Sabra and Shatilla massacres. Don’t forget your fellow zealots in Orange in N. Ireland, the list of their atrocities is too lengthy to list. Anders Breivik, every anti semite organization in the world is christian. Kony and his Lord’s Army, Army of God (US) Huttaree (US), Christian Identity, Dominionists, Christian Patriots, Scott Roeder, every single anti federal government group in the country is christian. The Freemen Community? Do we even need to bring up the 1500 year history of forced christian conversions the world over?

            So let me guess they aren’t, or weren’t christians, so says you. But they would/will tell you that you are doing it wrong. They will tell you that they are christians, and very specifically that you are not.

            This is the same conundrum that “moderate/progressive” muslims face today, you need to start policing your own backyards. This is more your mess than mine.

            So why are we the ones so vocal about the likes of the WBC congregation, why are we out counter protesting for example? Where is your pushback against the list above? Where is your denouncement of violence in general and specifically in the name of your god? Silence is an action. Knowingly and intentionally not engaging is a choice that reflects on you poorly.

  5. paynehollow says:


    How many slaves/ex-slaves were owned, tortured, whipped, or hung by the protestant christian Klan?

    Just a point of clarification: The Klan began post-Civil War/post-slavery, so no slaves were owned by KKK types. But they certainly were owned by Christian types.


    why are we out counter protesting for example? Where is your pushback against the list above?

    Churches like mine do the pushback, oftimes. For instance, we are sometimes literally on the front lines of pushing back against the denigration/dehumanizing of gay and lesbian folk. I was across from a sweet old Baptist lady at a rally in support of gay rights, once. She noted that the Bible say that “the gays” are wrong, that “man shall not lie with man!” I noted that the verse ends with “if they do, then stone them…” and she responded with “Well, maybe we should.”

    I bent over and handed her a stone and asked, “Really?”

    As with the Civil Rights movement, the fight against Contra terrorism, the fight against Apartheid, Christians are often on the front lines against oppression.

    Indeed, as noted earlier, our very notion of freedom of religion/freedom of conscience owes a bit of debt to our Baptist and anabaptist forebears.

    For what it’s worth.


    • Dan,

      Please try to at least pretend you have a shred of honesty. When one preaches the truth regarding God’s labeling of homosexuality as an abomination, it stands with or without His mandate to the Israelites as to how to deal with one convicted of having engaged in it. That is to say, we don’t hang horse thieves anymore, but stealing horses is still wrong. The same is true with all scenarios in which one might engage in homosexual behavior, The reason is because it is an abomination, God therefor prohibits it, and He has given no indication that there might be come context in which it would not be.

      As to denigrating and dehumanizing “gay folk”, they do that themselves when they given themselves over to their carnal desires, just as we all do regardless of what that carnal desire might be.

      “As with the Civil Rights movement, the fight against Contra terrorism, the fight against Apartheid, Christians are often on the front lines against oppression.”

      Try to be more accurate. Where some insist that Christians owned slaves, also true is that Christians fought to end slavery. Do we denigrate the Christian world for having done what was for so long common place, or do we laud them for being the first to end the practice? This is what people like Nash won’t consider as they look to demonize Christians in general.

      Next, what of the Christians that opposed Sandinista terrorism? When will you acknowledge the truth of this? Is it because you favor the communists who supported them?

      And how about focusing on why there was a preference to separate during the Apartheid era? While presuming that all of another race are incapable of living in brotherhood with one’s own race, it is no gracious Christian that supposes that all separation has no justification. There’s was always a liberal knee-jerk response to the African apartheid system that was not truly based on reality, but on perceptions of white supremacy. It was more the result of mere culture clash.

      Worth far more.

      • Richard Nash says:

        Aren’t you an imperfect sinner marshall? If you are a sinner, then what lofts you to a superior position to cast judgement and aspersions on others?

        Does the glass house, self righteous inequities and lack of humbleness words spoken by jesus ring any bells?

        • Nash,

          If you can find someplace where I have suggested I am without blemish, do so. Otherwise, your questions regarding my own sinfulness and suggestions that I am casting judgement are simply foolish projection.

          Jesus never refrained from calling sinners to account. It is His purpose to entice sinners to repent and come to Him, not to remain as they are because He is too humble to point out sin where it stands. Your obviously unschooled in Scripture to believe that Jesus remained tight-lipped in the face of sinfulness. It is not so. “Go and sin no more”. Does that ring any bells for you?

          • Richard Nash says:

            You are a blemished sinner. So how is that me projecting? Where is your humility? I’ll give you a hint, it’s no where to be found because your inflated ego and so much pride disallow it’s existence.

            You say jesus never refrained……..Are you jesus marshall? So maybe get off your jesus horse and focus on just your errant sinfulness and not live a life in which you are trying to point out anyone else’s sin?

            Turn the other cheek……..ring any bells?

        • Nash,

          These are discussions about specific behaviors, and I’m supposed to not involve myself? If I care about my fellow man, should I refrain from speaking out regarding what I consider beneficial/detrimental behaviors? Are you that unconcerned about your fellow man that you do not? What a sad example of a human being you would be to stand by with information that would benefit your fellow man?

          I don’t go around interfering with the lives of others, and blog discussions regarding behaviors is not an example of such. But I do have a duty to vote and voice opinions where appropriate so as to hopefully bring about understanding to others and myself. If you wish to admonish me with Scripture, however, I suggest you study it and understand it first. “Turn the other cheek” does not apply here.

    • So, to be clear the communist Sandinista rebels were Christians while the South African Dutch reformed church was not. History sucks sometimes.

      • Richard Nash says:

        Yeah, the day a fundamentalist christian ever successfully argues their position with any sound moral outcomes using history, I will let you know cherry picker.

        Hah, as if the Dutch in South Africa are not some of the most tainted immoral humans to ever walk the planet…..

        • Richard Nash says:

          Wrong thread John.

        • R.
          I think you miss my point. Dan was attempting to argue that christians were the driving force in both the Sandinista revolution (which he also insist was nonviolent, excepting the murder and kidnapping), as well as in overthrowing Apartheid in South Africa. In the first case I doubt that the communist leaning Sandinistas were christian in any meaningful way. In the second, a primary driver of Apartheid was the Dutch Reformed Church (who at least claimed to be christian), while the primary force against was the ANC which was certainly not christian. I don’t deny that in SA there were dedicated Christians involved in the anti-Apartheid movement, but to deny the place of the Dutch Reformed Church is as ridiculous as is ignoring the ANC.

          I was not suggesting anything positive about the DRC in SA, i was merely pointing out that Dan is cherry picking “history” in order to attempt to score points.

          As i said, history sucks

      • Of course we all know that the C an ANC stands for Christian, right.

  6. paynehollow says:

    Where did I say the Sandinistans were specifically Christian?

    Fact: I didn’t. The Christian Witness for Peace groups were specifically what I was speaking about in regards to Christians standing against terrorism.

    But feel free to argue against points I have not made all you want, Craig, if it makes you feel any better.

    For what it’s worth, I’m sure there were as many Christians in the largely catholic Sandinistan military as there are in any US military. But they are not what I was speaking of. You can tell by the way I never made that argument. I merely noted the reality that Christians stood up against the oppression of Apartheid, the Contra terrorists, the oppressive (often churched) white systems of the US South, etc.

    Feel free to argue against my actual points, if you wish, but the facts are a matter of history so it would probably be a stupid thing to do.


    • Right back at you Dan. I merely pointed out the fact that you cherry picked your history to make your point. The reality of history is that in both Nicaragua and SA the driving forces against the oppressors were not christians. As you may have noted, I affirmed the fact that (at least in SA) there were Christians against Apartheid, I just pointed out that in neither situation was christianity the major driving force

      • paynehollow says:

        Did you even read what I wrote?

      • paynehollow says:

        WHERE DO YOU THINK I’VE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT THE SANDINISTAS? I said Christians DID rise up against the Contra terrorists, and we did, in the form of the Christian group, Witness for Peace and others sympathetic to the cause.

        Reading, it’s not just for school kids, any more.

        As a point of fact, Christians DID side against Contra terrorism. Are you agreeing with reality or disagreeing with it? As a point of fact, the Witness for Peace movement WAS a driving force in stopping Contra terrorism.

        Now, perhaps you can understand the actual point I was making.

        You’re welcome.


        • “As with the Civil Rights movement, the fight against Contra terrorism, the fight against Apartheid, Christians are often on the front lines against oppression.”

          Here’s exactly what you said, what I pointed out was that the primary (at least most visible) factions in your examples were NOT christians. That doesn’t say that there weren’t christians involved, just that they were not the primary drivers of either of your two examples.

          Perhaps, you are the one who would benefit from reading what was actually said.

      • Here’s exactly what you said, what I pointed out was that the primary (at least most visible) factions in your examples were NOT christians.

        As a South African resident for the past three decades your summation re: this country might be off the mark.
        Some of the most visible and vocal opponents of Apartheid in South Africa and abroad, were in fact Christian.

  7. paynehollow says:

    Craig, as this Contra diversion is not the point of this post, you should really just give up. What you accused me of was saying that when I said Christians were involved in the front lines in stopping Contra terrorism, that I was speaking of (what you claim with no support) the Sandinistas who were not very much representing Christianity. I pointed out that when I’m speaking of the front lines of fighting Contra terrorism, I was speaking of the Witness for Peace-type Christian advocacy, which, IN FACT, were on the front lines (quite literally) in fighting terrorism. I spoke a fact, you chose to try to denigrate the fact, even though it was a fact.

    The Contras were fed by conservative politicians in the US. WFP type NVDA helped stopped BOTH the violence in Nicaragua and the money feeding that terrorism. So, I repeat the fact, again: Christians were on the front lines fighting against terrorism in Nicaragua. NOW that I have again pointed out my facts, can you just agree with the facts or will you continue to misconstrue what I’ve written?

    Give it up, man. Sometimes, you just make a mistake and the right thing to do is to STOP fighting against reality and just cut your losses and admit the mistake.

    Let it go.


    • Of course, as it’s virtually impossible to admit that you could possibly wrong I’d better just give up. Of course, the fact that you’ve completely misrepresented what I actually said is beside the point, the fact that I didn’t dispute that there may well have been christians involved is beside the point, the point is that you couldn’t possibly;y be wrong no matter what may or may not have actually happened.

  8. @John

    As has been pointed out, the fact that there are so many different Christian sects/cults( 40,000?) who cannot agree on a single unified version of Christianity should be a great concern, and of course it was, back in the day when internecine fighting and slaughter was the order of the day.
    These days, of course, you lot are much more civilised, and simply sidestep these issues and embrace the diversity, including your penchant for biblical interpretation.
    I think in the Olden Days, trying to liquidate each other seemed at least a more honest approach.
    Have you ever researched the history of the Cathars? Fascinating! You should read up on the Albigensian Crusade and the siege of Carcasonne ( it’s in France). I’ve been there. A beautiful Medieval city.
    There are still a few extant records of the siege, I believe.

    I note that you, John, have yet to properly answer the question regarding the Coptics.
    Could it be that you are simply ignorant of their doctrine?

    Also, you have not offered a concise argument for why your particular christian cult ( brand?) is the one to follow.
    If one were considering apostasy why should a person choose your particular brand of Christianity?
    Any thoughts?

    • Ark. Read the bible. Paul even says there’s room for disagreement on non-essentials. There’s many denominational factions who broke away just on mere procedural opinions that aren’t anything related to biblical interpretation. Those numbers counting denominations include pretty much every church that doesn’t affiliate also. It’s an unsubstantiated number. There’s really EXACTLY 40,000 denominations? What a coincidence.

      • John, I have read the bible – twice, and still do on occasion.
        I did not say anything about exactly 40,000. Are you pulling this out your backside again?
        You can check wiki for the latest Christian-cult= count if you like.

        Now, about the question of the Coptics?
        Let’s hear your answer to this please.
        And also the argument for your particular brand of Christianity, which you consider to be the right one.

        Please, for a change, answer the questions without sidestepping.

      • Richard Nash says:

        There isn’t a shred of elegance in this side stepping and white washing.

        There is nothing slippery about these questions. Nothing.

        To the exact point again John, are catholics, all 900 million of them going to hell. If so why?

  9. John, I have read the bible – twice, and still do on occasion.
    I did not say anything about exactly 40,000. Are you pulling this out your backside again?
    You can check wiki for the latest Christian-cult= count if you like.

    Now, about the question of the Coptics?
    Let’s hear your answer to this please.
    And also the argument for your particular brand of Christianity, which you consider to be the right one.

    Please, for a change, answer the questions without sidestepping.

    • You have to give me the details you want me to consider. You don’t get to assign me homework.

      • Details? lol….Nash has brought this up several; times in this thread and you have yet to address the issue.

        So, why do you think your brand of Christianity is a) The brand of Christianity to follow.
        b) Why do you believe your brand of Christianity should be chosen above Coptic?

        I hope that is succinct enough for you?

        Lets not pussyfoot around this issue any longer, shall we?
        So, details …

        • What specifically about the coptics?

          And for clarity, it’s not my brand. I didn’t invent it. I believe the things I think are true. I don’t just ascribe to an overall standard set of tenets. So if you want me to compare what I think is true to what in general Coptics think is true, then you’ll have to give me something to work with. What specific doctrine do you need compared?

          • I am struggling to understand what you are struggling to understand.
            You obviously believe you brand of Christianity is the right one – possibly the only one, so I am merely echoing Nash’s request concerning the Coptics and why you follow the brand of Christianity that you do, and not the Coptic brand of Christianity.
            You obviously believe your’s is superior otherwise you would be Coptic.
            Can you explain the reason?

            • There are plenty of things that can be disagreed on that doesn’t effect salvation. Coptics and myself have many different areas of disagreement. I can’t see what you don’t understand: if you want me to compare, tell me specifically what things. What specific differences do you want me to address?

              • So give me five reasons why you believe your brand of Christianity is superior to the Coptics and where you derive the authority to believe so.

              • What do they believe? Why are you so reticent to be specific?

              • Me reticent?
                You are the believer, I am the atheist. Why should I know the ins and outs of every Christian cult?
                You have chosen to follow your specific brand of Christianity.
                I am asking why. Why you think it is superior to other forms of of Christianity and in this specific case, Coptic.
                If you do not know about the Coptic form of Christianity simply say so.
                But of this is the case, how can you know that your brand is the right one?
                Please can you explain.

              • So you criticize ideas that you don’t even know about? And you’re on the side of intellectual superiority? Pfft. I’m plenty familiar with the Coptics. I was certain you didnt.

                Our differences aren’t even important to you. You don’t care. What you’re focused on is what gives me the authority to say I am right and they are wrong. But it doesnt matter. It’s not my opinion that makes them wrong, I don’t have or need authority to think they’re wrong, just like you don’t need it to think I’m wrong.

              • Ah, another evasion? I hope not?

                Unfortunately, I cannot offer comparisons as I do not know what brand of Christian you are ( other than fundamentalist, yes?) It is but a moment to research after that.
                Caring is not the issue here, rather your assertion that your brand of Christianity is superior to all others and because of this you rightly should know the difference for how else are you able to make an informed choice – as you believe you have , as have I. (By rejecting all god-belief based on the evidence provided.)
                Now, once again, unlike me,you on the other hand are obviously fully aware of the differences so please, enlighten me with reasons why you reject the Coptics and have chosen your current brand of Christianity ( which faith are you if you dont mind me asking?)

              • Again, I don’t ascribe to a brand. Also, I don’t need to know what others believe in order to know what I believe, so there isn’t any need for me to know the differences. So because this is the case, for all I know (hypothetically) I could be Coptic by doctrinal affirmation.

                I’m not affiliated with a denomination, if that’s what you mean by which faith am I.

              • So, therefore, by this rationale your doctrine may well be
                wrong. Very wrong! Especially when we consider that the Coptic church was supposedly founded by St. Mark.

                It isn’t that you believe what you believe but rather that you believe your form of Christianity is the right one.
                My question, is on what authority do you base you belief?

              • Actually the Catholic Church was supposedly founded by Peter and the Coptic church founded by mark

              • Richard Nash says:

                If you don’t know anything about other sects and denominations, how can you be so sure that you are doing it right?

              • Nash, I don’t need to know what others are doing to think I’m right. What does what someone else does have to do with whether or not I’m correct?

              • But if you insist, much of the Coptic sect and traditional Christianity aren’t different in a significant way. The main differences are a focus on fasting and they have some of the same veneration and confession issues that Catholics have as it relates to partially earning salvation. I’ve written about my concerns with the Catholic Church previously if you search for it. Or wait a minute and I’ll get you the link.

              • Now, why do you think your form of Christianity is superior to the Coptics?
                And also, on what authority do you base this upon?

              • Ark, why do you keep asking on what authority I base anything on. I don’t need authority to see differences.

                I would point to their propensity to venerate (which is a white washed way of saying worship) and a semi – works based salvation, the other differences are immaterial. The bible says worship of anyone but God is idolatry. The bible says salvation cannot be earned. I don’t need authority to recognize this.

              • So whom else do the Coptics worship?

                And , on this basis, do you believe the Coptics are going to Hell?

              • Do you know what veneration is? I don’t mean this sarcastically, but Google Catholic veneration of saints and mary, so you k ow what I mean first.

              • Yes, I know what veneration is.
                I asked you whom do the Coptics worship, not the Catholics.

              • Officially? They say God. I don’t know how deep their veneration of saints are, so I can’t say.

                If they venerate to the degree I see many Catholics do, then that’s quite a sticky situation. It’s not something I can answer because it’s an individual thing, not a group identity. While Coptics in general may take to veneration, each person is different.

              • So, in actual fact you do not know?

                Based on this limited understanding do you believe they will be going to Hell?

              • In actual fact, I don’t have access to their mind. Other religious movements you don’t need it. Jehovahs Witnesses, or Mormons who doctrinally reject Jesus as presented in the bible, and must believe those incorrect things to even identify with the groups. The issue with coptics is they are solid Christian with a couple areas that could be touchy depending on the individual, so with coptics, you can’t say one way or the other.

              • Which ”areas” are touchy, John? I have been unable to find anything so far to support your claim.
                if you could provide some evidence?

                the phrase …. ”depending on the individual” seems ambiguous to me.

                Are you saying then, that based on the individual’s approach to their own faith will determine if they go to hell or not and this is based on your belief that they venerate saints etc?

              • I told you which areas. Google is a wonderful thing. Search: coptics beliefs.

              • And I mentioned that there is no hard evidence to support your claim.
                Once again you are skirting the issue.

                I did find this though … from a Coptic.


                As an Orthodox Christian of the Coptic rite, I disagree with many things of this article. It is poorly researched and filled with generalizations. For example, we certainly Do NOT emphasize meritorious works to earn salvation. Faith is an act of forming a relationship of trust with God and not a mental assent to certain doctrinal statements. We believe that salvation is only through participation with Christ’s life in order to live in communion with the holy trinity (i.e. to become partakers of the divine nature 1Peter1:4). Hence, we emphasize the need for the entire person to repent, be transformed and be conformed to the Divine Image. It is a process of healing for the entire person (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12).
                The author also claims that we lean on liturgical worship rather than on a personal relationship with Christ–this is completely false and offensive to me. Our liturgical worship is the assembly of the body of Christ gathering around the one table of the Lord offering thanksgiving to Him and being mystically united with Him, just as He commanded in John 6 and just as the Apostles and the early church worshiped. Please read the NT carefully, then Ignatius of Antioch, then Irenaeus of Lyon to get a better understanding. Finally, we are not like the Catholics (in fact, protestant and Catholic traditions are more similar than Orthodox ones in their understanding of salvation, thanks to Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas.

                Seems that once again you have erred and maybe shot yourself in the foot , John?

                And now that we have a (slightly) better understanding of the Coptics would you now consider they were hell- bound? Yes or No?

              • So the one blogger speaks for the whole sect?

              • Ah ….so you speak for your sect?
                Are they, in your estimation, going to hell? Yes or No?

              • I speak only for myself. I can, however, make assessments of others claims.

              • So then, there may be others of your sect that don’t come up to scratch?

                Are the Coptics going to hell, yes or no?

              • I answered whether I think coptics are going to hell or not yesterday afternoon, scroll back.

                And I’m not a member of a sect.

              • So if you are not a member of a sect what church/tenets do you follow/belong to?

              • If you missed it, scroll back.

                I don’t follow church tenets as if they are prescribed. The church I attend doesn’t speak for me either so that’s irrelevant.

              • But you attend church service. So which church do you attend, please?
                If you are not, in fact, a member of a church or particular religious group then, are you merely a protest– ant, yes?
                If so, which doctrine do you follow, and based on what?

              • Ark, I attend a reformed Baptist Church but I’m not reformed in my theology. I consider myself an evangelical protestant. There is no single doctrine. The question “what doctrine do I follow” doesn’t make sense.

              • You must follow some form/tenets of Christianity; you are obviously NOT Arian!
                Based on whose teachings then?

              • Who says I derive my convictions based on someone’s teachings? Your atheist bias is showing. You think I believe things because someone told me, don’t you.

              • I was referring to the character Jesus of Nazareth, in point of fact .
                Are you truly stating that you do NOT base your convictions on this purported teachings of this character?
                If not, who?

              • As the person from the Coptic church pointed out, they do not believe in works based salvation. And none of the links you have posted suggest otherwise.

                While individuals may believe they have to do do good works to get into heaven the Coptic doctrine does not specify this is mandatory.
                At least nothing I have read so far suggests this. Neither is there anything that suggests worship of idols or icons.
                Do you then, not believe that doing good deeds is the right thing to do or is it okay to be a Jeffery Dharmar/Charles Manson figure and merely confess on one’s death bed or somesuch?

                It seems you have definitely erred in your judgement in this regard, John, and may be showing a little too much prejudice.

                A bit more tolerance might be in order, methinks? Otherwise I would venture this might be a black mark against you ”Passing Go”, as it were, hmm?

              • I didn’t err in my judgement. It is common for copts to venerate saints and believe that they somehow contribute to their salvation. I said depending on the degree with which the veneration becomes worship and the believe that we have a hand in salvation becomes trying to earn it will make the difference. I also said otherwise they’re pretty orthodox.

              • Wrong AGAIN. Veneration is not worship, neither do they believe they can in ANY way influence their salvation. Your interpretation is flawed. You have erred. Study their doctrine correctly and stop allowing your obvious prejudice to cloud your judgement, John.
                Based on your flawed assessment, do you now consider they have the right to enter Heaven?

              • You’re very generous as to presume that veneration isn’t a form of worship.

              • Not generous at all – remember, I am a hard core atheist – I think you are all nuts. I am merely reading what the Coptic person said and reading what their official doctrine states.
                Just trying to clear up an obvious error of judgment on your part and make this issue clearer for both of us, John,

                Are you now prepared to admit they have the right to expect entrance to heaven or are you going to continually avoid answering the question?

              • But if you ask Dan about official Christian doctrine you’ll get a very different answer. Every sect has their heritics.

              • Even your sect, I have no doubt.

                But the OFFICIAL standpoint of the Coptic church does not consider meritorious works are required for salvation. Neither do they worship idols or saints.
                In this area you have erred and falsely judged the Coptic church.
                An acknowledgment of this fact would be nice – just to clear the air, if nothing else.
                So, how about it, John?

              • I would love it if they didn’t allow for veneration or synergism.

                However, if I say I borrowed a pack of gum from the store, no matter how much I insist it was borrowed, it’s really stolen no matter how much I protest.

              • You’re dodging again.
                You are wrong. Time to be Christian and admit it.
                Apologies are due …

              • Based on my knowledge of common Coptic practice, I’m not wrong. Maybe according to your patheos blogger, but not in reality.

              • I am not interested in YOUR knowledge, (which is simply opinion), but rather the official position of the church and its followers.
                Based on THIS you are WRONG, John.
                Apologies are due.

              • I’m not avoiding the question at all. We went over it yesterday and I even linked a previous comment. You’re beating a dead horse.

              • Well, just clarify your position one more time then, please?

              • IF any veneration doesn’t become worship, and they affirm salvation is solely based on trust in Christ, then given all else, they’re orthodox and will most likely be saved.

              • Veneration is NOT worship in the Coptic church and you have failed repeatedly to demonstrate otherwise.
                Thus you have erred. You owe an apology for your false judgement in their matter.

              • That’s your problem. Veneration in practice is indistinguishable from worship.

              • Not my problem at all. Yours … and you have erred in your judgment.
                Your prejudice has blinded your ability to evaluate this issue without emotion.
                That you cannot distinguish between veneration and worship simply means you are ignorant of the practice
                Such ignorance and patent intolerance is one of the great failings of Christianity in general. Sadly, such behavior is prevalent across the board.

                You have erred and have falsely judged the Coptic Church and its followers.

              • I gave you that link as a summary. You should check official coptic doctrines, not one guy you found on patheos. After all, Dan doesn’t speak for christians, he’s actually on the fringe. But you’d likely cite him as a christian source. Do actual research. I’ve been at it for 10 years now, I’m familiar with Coptics.

              • Ah, familiar?
                There is nothing in their doctrine that supports your claim.
                You seem to be comparing them to Catholics and extrapolating.
                You are flat wrong.
                And have been for ten years, it seems.
                Time to ‘fess up ], be a man, take it on the chin and state you have made an error and have been falsely judging these folk.
                Are you Christian enough, John?

              • I didn’t make an error. In fact I qualified all my statements about veneration and synergistic salvation. So you can either take my answers from earlier or you can pretend like this is the first time we’re discussing this.

              • I am aware of your qualification. But this is YOUR interpretation and NOT the official standpoint of the Coptic church or ( based on the commenter I linked) the position of its followers.

                So, based on the evidence, yes, I am afraid you have erred, and have falsely judged these people and their church.
                Perhaps you ought to eat a little Humble Pie, John and actually say sorry?

              • Based on one bloggers say so, not evidence.

              • You are being obtuse rather than face up to the fact you have erred. You continually fail to address the official position of the church and thus simply make an ass of your self.

                You do not attend any sort of service in the Coptic church so how are you able to make such sweeping judgments?

                You are merely showing your ignorance in this regard and are wrong.

              • Catholics will insist they don’t worship Mary but in practice they do. It’s not always based on a written statement, you have to look at the manifestation.

              • I already answered whether they are going to hell or not. Scroll back to yesterday afternoons back and forth.

              • Must have missed it, John. Yes or no?


                Here’s a very brief summary which also links to a coptic statement of faith.

              • So what problems do you have with the Coptics then?
                They are not Catholic, and believe what you believe.

              • Did someone hack your account? We went over this yesterday.

              • But they believe what you believe.
                Trinity, divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, faith.
                How much more specific can you get?
                Why do you consider your form of Christianity superior to theirs?
                Can youy please be specific.
                bullet point comparisons if it makes it easier. It will for me.

              • I pointed out the differences that I had concerns with yesterday afternoon, and I linked to a comment in the discussion. Scroll back, I’m not retyping it.

              • But these are your concerns,and it seems they are based on a certain degree ignorance. They are not official articles of faith or official Coptic doctrine.

                So, it appears you have erred in your judgment of these people and their church.

                On this basis, are you now willing to admit that they have as much right to believe they will be allowed into heaven as you, John?

              • Richard Nash says:

                I have met snake oil salesmen more honest.

                This is pathetic John. This is the kind of slippery that comes fro attorneys who represent the worst of the worst.

              • Richard Nash says:

                Tell us if the coptics will be in heaven John. Are they practicing all the same details, to include those specific to salvation correctly?

              • You can’t just classify an entire group of people based on a name. You’d have to find out what each one believes. So you can’t ask if coptics are going to hell. I can say that in so far as they agree with the Catholic Church on works based salvation, and to the degree they venerate/worship anyone but God, that’s where you’d have to see what the individual thinks and does.

          • Richard Nash says:


            What the hell is so complex about this question?

      • Richard Nash says:


        Homework now is the excuse!?!?!?!!?

        For fucking real?!?!?!?!?


        • I have always found it ironic when followers of these recent (in the last 400 years or so, often much less) theologies and interpretations are so antagonistic to the original forms of Christianity. The teachings of Jesus had their first wide acceptance and spread in Alexandria Egypt, not in Syria or (what is now) Turkey or Rome even. As for the classic misunderstanding of the “faith vs. works” beliefs in the development of Christianity over it’s two thousand year history, if you really have faith, then you are supposed to be out there doing the works. It’s only in the writings attributed to Paul that you find the idea that just believing is enough, Jesus himself says that’s not true! (see the parable of the seed that falls in various places). If you are a follower of Jesus, why take the words of someone who never even met him against those attributed to Jesus himself? OK, it is a nice cop out, but it’s not true, is it? it would seem from a reading of the “Paul” writings that even he thought it was a cop out when he referred to the flesh being weak. Ah, once the book called the Bible is made an idol of, as in the recent developments in Christianity, then anything can be argued as being the “real” Christianity.

  10. As I read this nonsensical line of questioning from Nash and Arkie, it occurs to me that none of us have stated that ours is definitely and without question (even by ourselves) the right and true understanding. We can argue why we believe a specific issue is A as opposed to the B of, say, a Dan Trabue, but that does not mean we are so absolute that we are beyond convincing. Indeed, at least in my case, I simply haven’t seen any reason or argument that is coherent and/or convincing that, say, a Dan Trabue, hasn’t merely his head up his backside.

    This question of whether or not we believe someone else is going to hell based on their particular flavor of Christian belief is irrelevant and proves, what exactly? And as long as no distinct comparison of any issue is brought to the table, on what are we supposed to base this notion if we actually hold it? First of all, I would prefer thinking in terms of who’s beliefs lead to God and eternal salvation, not what condemns one to hell. As we’ve pointed out time and again, of all the 14 trillion denominations (or is it 40K?—and who did the counting?), most of those that call themselves Christian abide the same essential elements of the doctrines of Christian belief. Whether they allow song in worship or not is personal preference, not a matter of salvation.

    The assailants here, think this is a dodge. But the line of inquiry is without weight or importance. I simply don’t know which, if any, are hell bound or on the stairway to heaven. Not my concern unless I see someone I know involving him/herself in a church that is clearly preaching that which is contrary to Scripture.

    As to someone like Dan being “picked on” by those of us who disagree with him, he clearly preaches in favor of sinful behaviors being something God would bless. We can cite Scripture to back this position of ours, and he cites nothing to back his position. That’s a greatly distinctive difference than merely whether or not he anoints himself with holy water upon entering or leaving his church for services.

    It is obvious that the atheists here think they’ve stumbled upon something with which they can righteously denigrate believers here and everywhere. How sad.

    • Then, can you supply a short list of say, five( official church doctrine) things that you consider the Coptic Church is in violation of Scripture?

      • To what purpose, and why would I? Pick either or both and provide a coherent answer so that I might understand that your insistence has something akin to merit.

        • Because it would help me understand your position and apparent hostility to any point of view – and in context, Christian POV – that differs from your own.

          • Ark, as far as declared doctrinal affirmations, I don’t disagree with them on anything of substance. What seems to be the problem?

            • I don’t have a problem. Whilst you seem to be steadfastly avoiding making any sort of firm commitment re: them going to hell … or admitting that you have erred regarding their standpoint on veneration and salvation.
              Come ON, John … time to bite the bullet. We are all only human after all and even a staunch Evangelist can make a cock-up now and then. Really, it ain’t that big a deal, you know?
              How hard is it to say, ”Oops…I think I was wrong in my assessment of the Coptics, sorry!”

          • But you all are right. I’m not gojng to be pigeon – holed into answering a yes or no question that can’t be answered without clarification. It’s not a simple yes or no.

        • paynehollow says:

          You all appear to be making the claim that you “know” that your position is right and that you “know” my, RC, Coptic, Quaker, etc, etc positions are wrong. That’s a general claim and it’s hard to discuss general claims. But let’s get specific.

          For instance, I believe Jesus clearly taught against war-making (at the least, for those who’d follow his Way) and against deadly violence in general and especially/specifically against violence against innocents, such as children. Beyond the teachings of Jesus, I believe in Just Peacemaking Theory types solutions as being rational and ideal.

          You appear to disagree that Jesus teaches this and think, instead, that it IS okay for even Jesus followers to wage war and, not only that, but that it is acceptable in certain circumstances to specifically do acts like Hiroshima that directly killed hundreds of thousands of men, women and children – innocent bystanders.

          There is one specific. The question then, is, what makes your opinion the “right” one and mine “wrong…”? On what basis do you speak for God on this issue and I am just singing Kum Ba Ya (a great song, by the way, that you continue to denigrate for some reason… “Come by Here, my Lord, Come by Here…”)?

          If I may answer the question: WHY answer some specifics? Because we can then ask the follow up question: On what basis are you right about that specific hunch of yours and everyone else is mistaken? Sometimes even to the point of being hell-bound for their mistaken opinions?


        • How stupid is it that anyone would expect John or anybody else for that matter to make a definitive statement about the salvation of a group of based on Wikipedia.

          Just bizarre, John this is when you might consider moderating stupid comments.


          You last comment is somewhat undermined by two things.

          1. No one here has proclaimed that they have absolute 100% guaranteed knowledge about what God’s “opinion” might be.

          2. You are unable to provide any actual proof that your hunch about what Jesus taught about peace is actually universally true, and that is normative for all believers. So, while you are welcome to your hunch, there is no reason to believe that it is anything beyond your biased (possibly incorrect) interpretation of a text that may or may not be accurate.

  11. paynehollow says:

    “The Catholics” (at least the ones who believe as the RC Church teaches) are going to hell?

    Dang. How about the Quakers? They must almost certainly be hell-bound.


    • Who are you addressing here, Dan?

      • paynehollow says:


        “In so far as coptics share these things with catholicism, I’d say they’re questionable… [as to their salvation, it seems… dt]”

        “If they venerate to the degree I see many Catholics do, then that’s quite a sticky situation.” [as it relates to salvation]

  12. This threat was a fantastic read and very amusing!

    We can conclude that even self-proclaimed Christians believe that the vast majority of other self-proclaimed Christians are bound for hell! I guess heaven is a rather exclusive club with an extremely limited membership.

    This exchange is a perfect example of why it’s so difficult to have a discussion with folks like John. He’s reluctant to explain his beliefs in fear of being pigeon-holed and exposed as just another flavor of the Christian faith. Every Christian’s opinions of textual interpretations have led to the large number of denominations and sects of Christian faith.

    Note the way John constantly bemoans any external reading as homework. Meanwhile, he refuses to answer a simple yes or no question and demands that a review of the previous day’s conversation be re-read. Priceless!

    • Z

      There is no yes or no to asking broadly if a whole group is or isn’t hell bound. I answered easily a dozen times that depending on the degree a particular Coptic venerate anyone who’s not God, and to what degree they believe they can earn salvation, will determine their fate. Coptics are in all other ways orthodox. Given what I just wrote, what is still unclear?

      • But you have not offered any evidence of this veneration by individual Coptics, and I even provided a comment by a Coptic who vehemently denied the type of accusation you are leveling at them, individually and as a church.
        So, let’s be clear.
        The official Coptic doctrine does not include worship/veneration of saints or idols in any fashion that may allude in any way as acceptable as a means to gain favour regarding access to heaven or further the aims of salvation.

        Therefore, based on the evidence you have erred in your judgement of the Coptic church and their members/followers.
        On this basis I feel an apology from a fellow Christian who has in no small way besmirched the Coptics to be the honourable thing to do and under the circumstances is a fair request.

    • And for the record, I don’t mind doing outside reading, but send me a link. Don’t make a claim then tell me to go figure it out. That’s the difference. I always read links you post.

      • Still waiting for an an acknowledgment that you erred over the Coptics, John. You are not simply going to ignore this issue are you?

        • I haven’t ignored it. I made a distinction between practice and official doctrine. There’s nothing to apologize for.

          • But you have not identified any evidence of this practice you claim, as I have pointed out. And also the Coptic follower I linked for you has emphatically denied this claim.
            Do you have another Coptic that supports your claim?
            If not then, your distinction is one you have created – not them.
            Thus you have erred. An apology is due.

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