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Hank Zumach

Hank Zumach is president of the La Crosse Area Freethought Society.

We all have repeatedly heard and read the word Christian. It is used in common phrases such as “Christian nation,” “Christian values” and “Christian beliefs” to indicate a broad set of commonly held values and doctrines we all understand.

But, other than the core belief that a man named Jesus Christ was born about 2,000 years ago, was the son of God and preached some basic human values, it seems that is as much as Christians have in common. To an outside observer, it might even seem they worship and follow different gods.

I attended a religious school for five years, and over the course of my adult life I have had discussions with a number of devoted Christian laypeople and clergy and have read a range of religious publications.

The more I have come to understand their sincerely held beliefs, the more I have come to understand that Christians have significantly different beliefs about which version, and which interpretation, of the Bible is correct. Perhaps more importantly, they have significant differences about how society should meet the social goals of the Bible.

If, as is often claimed by various Christian leaders, the United States is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, then it seems reasonable to ask that there be a clear understanding of what that means.

It cannot be said that Christians have a belief in the Bible because immediately the questions become which Bible? The King James version? The New Revised Standard version? The New American Bible version? There are many different versions that have differences so significant that using the same book title seems meaningless.

Do Christians believe the Bible was literally dictated to men by God or was it written by men who thought they knew God’s mind? Were its rules meant to apply only to the people living at the time, or are the rules and stories largely metaphors that do not actually apply to the present society? Which rules still apply and which do not?

If there is meaningful agreement among Christian denominations, why can’t they come together to write a clearly understood version, written in today’s verbiage, perhaps with explanatory footnotes? If something as simple as that cannot be done, using the term Christian has little real meaning or value.

On a separate, related topic not so entwined with doctrinal questions, there are important social issues that have slowly come to the forefront of modern society. Homosexuals’ rights and women’s health issues are in the news almost daily. These issues have not been settled, in large measure due to the serious disagreements within large segments of Christianity.

If agreement on such basic social questions cannot be reached, I suggest that when a spokesperson for a denomination makes a public statement that, for the sake of clarity, they only use the name of their specific denomination, thus indicating they are not speaking for all, rather than use the term Christian. The same guideline should be used by the media.

I accept that the primary motivation of the leadership of the various denominations is to do good works as they believe Jesus Christ taught. There seems to be little disagreement between theologians that among the basic societal obligations taught by Jesus Christ are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and shelter the homeless.

However, throughout history and up to our present time, those societal obligations have seldom been met. While a few denominations have focused on those charitable works, too many have had other priorities. Can’t the various denominations set aside their sectarian differences, even briefly, to reach across the theological aisle to arrive at a sound, reasonably detailed description of how the poor should be helped, the homeless sheltered, the sick provided with professional health care?

From a practical standpoint, the most effective method to achieve those highly desirable goals would be to come together with a true, nondenominational plan.

I am not writing this to criticize people with sincere religious beliefs. Rather I’m writing as a person who has serious concerns that our country seems as politically divided as any time since the Civil War. There is little meaningful dialogue between the two political parties — or has it actually become three? This divisiveness is due in part to the fact that some religious denominations have aligned themselves with one or the other of the political parties. Our social safety nets are fraying, and neither side seems willing to cooperate in developing workable solutions.

Nearly all Freethinkers, myself included, strongly believe in the need for the separation of church and state. However, what I am advocating would not violate that requirement of the First Amendment. This can be done in a way that meets the constitutional requirements while actually improving our cultural health.

Isn’t that a basic societal value we can all agree with?

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Hank Zumach is president of the La Crosse Area Freethought Society.

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(29) comments

Mentat

HTURT:

So if the only way to paradise is through Jesus Christ, do you really believe that the 4.8 billion non-Christians on this planet are all going to roast for eternity, simply because they happened to be born in the Middle East or Asia or the Australian outback? Does that make any sense to you at all? What kind of god would doom 2/3 of his "children" to eternal torment due solely to unfortunate circumstances of birth?

Monteee

Careful, Mentat. The guy is TRUTH spelled backwards, so everything he says is a lie.

Be afraid. Be very afraid..... ;-)

HTURT

Christianity is not a religion. A Christian is a person who accepts the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.. The Bible is the Inspired word of God. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father in Heaven. A true Christian will admit to not being perfect. We sin just like the next person, but we have accepted the wondeful free gift of grace and forgiveness of our Father. He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for ALL of our sins. This gift is free, you need to only accept and believe.
If you were to talk to leaders of various religions, you would find out that their goals are very similar. All want good. The difference is they don't have Jesus Christ.

retiredone

Tribune could do us a real favor by letting this jerk have an open page every month or so. He is warped.

Jefferson Paine

Most of our prominent Founder's were "FreeThinkers".....those that insult freethinkers insult America. Doh !!!

Buggs Raplin

They were deists, who believed in God, but not Jesus. Many referred to God as the great architect. So, JP, you're wrong again.

retiredone

U a dope Jeff-see Bu8gs comment which is accurate

RemoteEmployee

Dear Hank - Thank you for writing the article. My code for living is the Golden Rule:

Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

It is interesting because every religion, in some form or another, includes this concept.

It really isn't about being atheist or religious. It is about taking care of each other.

Redwall

If Mr. Zumach knows not the meaning of "Christian"...perhaps he could enlighten us on the meaning of Islam or Judaism?

Or perhaps he could do what he does best, highlighting his fatalistic and cynical self, and enlighten us on the meaning of his own religion...atheism.


MidwestAtheist

Atheism is not a religion, it is the absence of religion.

To say atheism is a religion is to say that bald is a hair color, not collecting stamps is a hobby, and off is a tv channel.

ShudaElectedBigJimmy

Let's see M/A:

#1 I bet your group meets regularly
#2 I bet your group collects dues
#3 I bet only those who profess your unbelief are welcomed your meetings
#4 I bet you collectively give thanks and congratulate for your ability of free choice
#5 I bet you collectively discuss how your free thought is an advantage to persevere in the strife of life
#6 I bet you select a leader to voice the opinion of the group to the group and challenge members to excel in the overall understanding and benefit of contemplation on the advantage of being a member of your group which it gives you in the self actualization of the experience of your existence.

If I win 5 of 6, I say you got yourself a nice little religion going there!

Redwall

Atheist, setting your ridiculous metaphors aside, to be an atheist you profess there is no God, and since that cannot be proven, you must have faith that it is not so, ergo, you have the religion of atheism.

Religion, as defined by Webster: "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith"

So there you have it, you not only practice the religion of atheism, but you and Mr. Zumach are religious zealots, as well.

saltydogscientist

Redwall

And how wonderful it would be to have a paper free of religious dogma, news, etc. every day! And then there would be no need for the non religious people to comment!

MidwestAtheist

a good point. I did find myself remarking when reading the paper this sunday that like 4 tiny blurbs in a row internationally all had to do with religions attacking each other. How much less violence would we have if religions just went away?

Comment deleted.
wishsciencerules

Thanks again, Hank, for something that should make people think. Unfortunately, unquestioning faith is so much easier. And, their minds continue to deteriorate, just like bodies continuously stuffed with vital nutrient free food and no exercise. By the way, Aone and Red wall, I do work on sunday and christmas and all your other fantasy play days.

Bill Payer

Two months ago Hank was here complaining about the Rotary Lights display. You know, that nondenominational effort that has collected over 2,000,000 food items for the poor and hungry in our area?
Hmmm. Who could possibly be against an effort like that? From a 'practical standpoint', what sort of group would use the backdrop of that beneficial event to introduce divisiveness and selfishly promote their agenda, based solely on where the event is hosted?
'Freethinkers', please stop looking down your noses at the rest of us. You are just as complicit in creating the divisive nature of today as any other group.

Clydefromona

Hank, you ole son of a sea catcher, you can quote scripture, no one jumps down your throat?

What is the meaning of christian?

Just so you know, I am a christian and what I am going to say is what I feel, through my free will I have determined this:

To be christian is to acknowledge I am flawed.

The purpose of my existence is not to acquire the correct number of tokens over a life time to achieve entry into a spiritual gated resort community, but to acknowledge I am small and will always be a small part of a vastly greater body, to ever strive to improve myself, to love my neighbors as myself, not forcing my neighbors to pay for things others request but which my neighbors would not choose for themselves.

Each are encouraged to offer charity to those least among us. The christian goodness of sharing what you have is very gratifying and fulfills a person want to be to be needed.

Forced contribution is modern slavery.

Where charity and love prevail, there God is found.

Jefferson Paine

Jesus preached about living a life of poverty, caring for the less fortunate, putting down the sword.....forgiveness, understanding and love. The GOP has hi-jacked Jesus and made Him a greedy, warmongering hater. The right wing tries to demonize dissenters of their fascist views......this type of evil and hypocrisy was one of the few prophesies Jesus and the rest of the Biblical prophets got right.

Buggs Raplin

JP, Jesus had about 7 or 8 distinct personalities. You've opted for the warm, fuzzy one, ignoring the others. Still hoping you can pull yourself from the intellectual mud puddle known as the false left/right paradigm.

Jefferson Paine

The greater majority of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels speak directly to social and economic injustice. Yes, Jesus drove a villages pigs off a cliff to destroy demons he tossed into them, yes, Jesus refused to see and aknowledge his own Mother once while preaching, Yes, Jesus said he was here to pit father against son and brother against brother.....yes, yes, yes. But anyone, including our most cherished Free Thinking Founders, found the majority of Jesus' teachings to be of the 'warm and fuzzy' nature. Jefferson, Paine, Washington, Adams, Franklin....Madison.....to name a few.

Redwall

Ah, yes. How nice it is to pick up the Sunday paper and encounter the atheists (herein rebranded as "freethinkers").

Not all Jews are alike, nor Muslims, nor Christians. And after stating Christians should have a one size fits all approach, Mr Zumach then says "Nearly all Freethinkers, myself included, strongly believe...".

Its a free country, but could you and the Tribune practice your religion of atheism on a day other than Sunday, please. Just out of courtesy. Thank you.

Seriously Now

A nice point about Hank unconsciously appointing himself the leader of the atheists. But it is nice to see an increased airing of issues on religion in this time of Lent. During the tumultuous times leading up to the "The Last Supper" and subsequent events, was there not also a vigorous (and deadly serious) debate on who Jesus was that involved challenge to power, authority, long held beliefs, etc.? And just as is the case today, there was confusion, misinformation, deliberate distortion and more. I'm sure there were snide and uninformed remarks shouted from the rabble as well, just as there is today with cut-and-paste regularity. Since each religion is sure they only have it correct, and nothing can be discussed in schools or any taxpayer funded venues, that leaves forums like this one, right?

MidwestAtheist

Why should they avoid your particular holy day? The Jews have Saturday, Thor has Thursday, many Christians also worship on Wednesday... Tell me, what day of the week works best for you, Redwall? After all, that is really what is most important.

Seriously Now

Hank, you say, "I am not writing this to criticize people with sincere religious beliefs." Then you say, "This divisiveness is due in part to the fact that some religious denominations have aligned themselves with one or the other of the political parties." Not that I dispute what you say, but who (right or wrong) have taken divisive positions and aligned themselves with political parties are doing so out of their sincere religious beliefs. So if you are not criticizing them, what ARE you doing?

Monteee

Hank, you're wasting your time. People these days don't care about forming a concensus, and they don't care about agreeing with anyone else. They care about being RIGHT, with everyone being WRONG. Our society is too full of narcissistic, self-centered, self-righteous people for anything to get done. It's about time for the sensible, unselfish, and humble people to speak up and tell the self-righteous crowd to SHUT UP for once.

lostinparadize

Somehow I just knew you'd be the first to orate on this article Nappy. Out to spread a little hate and venom on those who espouse some form of religion again are we? You must have a veritable warehouse of cute sayings. I do think some are actually cute, just not when you use them to try to belittle religion. What do figure your last thought might be when your on your death bed croakingf? Me, I'm thinking "I'm going to a better place". Ma the deity of your choice bless you Nappy.

Seriously Now

Don't feed the troll. Hit the "Report Abuse" button and perhaps the moderator will someday realize how much Nappy/Fang/etc. is posting his hateful, useless stuff and will kick him off. But, like mold in a dark place, he will regenerate and come back with a new name. He is obsessed, and when you respond directly to him, it feeds the obsession. (And please don't hit me with that politically correct freedom of expression nonsense. This is a privately run site. If he -or anyone- was verbally doing this in a mall they'd toss his sorry butt out the door.)

Buggs Raplin

SN, our 'arbiter' of appropriate discourse. By the way, SN, you need to firm up your understanding of politically correct; it has nothing to do with freedom of expression, which you are denying to Nappy. Hey, you don't like Nappy? Then don't read him. Duh!

Napoleon

The "Original Christianity" is long gone.. the real Xtian bible is no more because it was snipped, censored, revised, edited, mashed, shaken and stirred. But the original Xtian bible was snipped, censored, revised, edited, mashed, shaken and stirred too.

Let's just come out and say it: the whole damned thing is bull$hit!

My bull$hit meter is reading that as 'false'.”
― Charlaine Harris, Dead as a Doornail

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― Mel Brooks

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