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It's been a few weeks since Peter suggested the Eschewmenical blog. I'm not sure if four participants is enough, but that would allow us to have one post a week if we stagger the posts. That seems to be the minimum, so we probably would need one or two more to cover for eventualities such as vacations or writers dropping out. I'd also like to hear from someone who can speak to an Eastern Orthodox position.

Assuming we can get this idea off the ground, I'd like to keep the ball rolling by asking:

What topics should we cover?


I envision very specific topics (one per post, please) that will be of wide interest. Once we get started, we can pick the best of the bunch and keep the rest in the queue for future months.

Topics covered so far:

Stand-alone posts:

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    Do topics have to last the entire month? You could unintentionally be disqualifying topics that don't have 4 distinct views. – user23 May 13 '12 at 23:40
  • @JustinY: I think the consensus has been if we can get 4 (or 5) different writers, we will have enough different view points to fill in a month. I had doubts that the April topic would work, but it turned out pretty well. The other thing to remember is that we don't really have authors to cover the full range of perspectives that are represented by the site. We could do with more authors. – Jon Ericson May 14 '12 at 16:15

28 Answers 28

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I'd like to see a series of posts on the basics of Christianity, from different perspectives. Examples:

  • What is salvation? (covered July 2012)
  • How do we understand the atonement?
  • Why do we baptize the way we do?
  • In what way is bread and wine (or wafers and grape juice) the body and blood of Christ?
  • In what sense is the Bible the word of God? (covered August 2012)

I think if we can dig into the nuances of each perspective, we can learn from each other and gain a greater respect for other points of view.

  • +1 That's a 5-month series (at least)! But I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle the atonement question. ;-) – Jon Ericson Feb 16 '12 at 23:05
  • You do realize your first question was actually the name of the single most intense course I took in seminary, right? – Affable Geek Apr 1 '12 at 1:57
  • @AffableGeek Soteriology, right? Or did they call it something different? (+1 for #1, btw) – Thomas Shields Apr 1 '12 at 12:47
  • It was a soteriology course, but at our school the title of the class was "What is salvation?". Our Christology course was "Who was Jesus?" and that was the rule for each of the hard core theology classes. – Affable Geek Apr 1 '12 at 19:15
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Christian Music

Some sort of a debate about:

  1. What kind of music belongs in worship.

  2. What kind of music is OK to listen to.

  3. and what kind of music is EVIL.

Also, whether or not Christian Rock has dramatically improved over the last decade (or if I'm just getting soft) and what goes on at a Christian Rock concert. It would be a useful primer for us Catholics who are nervous about bringing our "un born again" children to them.

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    Christian music radio is evil, but not particularly because of the music. All the ads (at least on our local station) are appalling. My wife is hoping to go to a Third Day concert this week if we can manage it. We've seen them several times and they are awesome in concert. (And darn good recorded as well.) – Jon Ericson Apr 17 '12 at 16:55
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    We've got a great Christian rock station in Madison, WI with people who really goes out of their way to be family friendly. Listening to that station pretty much changed my entire opinion on Christian Rock, which (in my apathetic youth) I always had held in very low esteem. I'd hate to see artists like that be exploited. – Peter Turner Apr 17 '12 at 17:43
  • @Jon: OK, I'm curious. What's appalling about the ads you hear on whichever Christian radio station you listen to? – Mason Wheeler May 11 '12 at 22:12
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    @Mason: On an ordinary station, they would be fairly tame, but when you hear a great song about, say, being unafraid because of our faith in God, it's a bit jarring to follow it up with an ad that plays up the fear of losing your house. Or a song about how Jesus loves us just the way we are followed by an ad for a local plastic surgeon. Or the DJs telling the listeners how much some product changed their lives. It's the cognitive dissonance of it all, you know? – Jon Ericson May 11 '12 at 22:47
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What non-Bible book every Christian should read

There are many lists of books that are true classics not to be missed. If one devoted themself to all of them, there would be no time in life to actually put them into practice. So this topic would pick just one classic text that is not found in any Bible and make the case why it should be read. Think of it as a book review combined with an earnest plea. In the course of the post, the relevant criteria for picking that book should also be revealed.

(I think I can narrow down the volume I'd pick for my favorite authors, but I dread picking just one author.)

  • I'd also argue just "Good Books I've read recently" would be good filler. Between "The Loser Letters" and "Angry Conversations with God," I've got a few posts left in me yet! – Affable Geek Sep 14 '12 at 18:02
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Free Will vs. Predestination

What exactly is going on here anyway? Did God make me sin? Did He make me in such a way that I would sin? Did I choose to sin? Did God need me to sin in order for Him to be more fully glorified? Did He make me come to Him? Did He make me in such a way that I would choose to come to Him?

Is this whole thing called "life" just a big mechanical toy that God made to please Himself? Exactly how much control does He have over my life?

The Faith vs. Works blog barely touched on this, so I think it needs separate attention.

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Testimony Time

At our church when we get lazy and can't round up someone willing to teach Sunday School or a small group, we fall back to Testimony Time™. That's where someone in the group tells about their conversion experience. Personally, I find I learn a lot about people from what they chose to say during that time (though it might not be what they intended to communicate).

My idea for the blog is to collect a month's worth of personal testimonies from 30ish participants on the site. Some will be "How I became a Christian" and others will be "Why I am not a Christian", but all will explain the author's personal experience with the subject of the site. Then we'll publish one per day for an entire month.

To do this right, I really think we need to collect many diverse stories so that no one perspective is on the front page long. And to do that we need a lot of folks willing to put their experiences in writing. So it may take some time to bring this topic to fruition.

editor's note: we did this in Sept-Oct of 2012, but I'm leaving it around as we may revisit at a later date

  • 4
    +1 since I'm a cradle Catholic, I guess I could ask my mom to write this one. This is a good idea, because everyone has some sort of conversion experience. Mine would be "why I am still a Christian even though almost everyone in my family isn't" – Peter Turner Apr 18 '12 at 18:19
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    I think this is a great idea, and yes, it should be a mass participation exercise. – wax eagle Apr 19 '12 at 15:30
  • +1 I see this is a really good way to get additional people involved. I totally love the idea. – Affable Geek Jun 5 '12 at 21:53
  • @PeterTurner: Perhaps you could write about some other significant event. Like, I wouldn't write about conversion because I, like you, was a "cradle Christian". However, I would write about my baptism. – El'endia Starman Jun 11 '12 at 5:04
  • @El'endiaStarman. I could write about my baptism too. (Good grief that was a while ago.) – TRiG Jun 12 '12 at 1:17
  • Fine, it's a nice motivation to finish translation of my testimony to English, and perhaps to upgrade it a little. – Pavel Nov 23 '12 at 19:18
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The Eucharist (or Communion, or the Lord's supper)

  • What to call it

  • How to administer it

  • do the elements change or are they merely symbolic

etc etc etc.

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Morality in the Bible and Religious Life

Some Basic Philosophical sources:

  • Plato's Euthyphro
  • Kierkegaard's notion of the teleological suspensions of the ethical
  • Maimonides in the Guide to the Perplexed and elsewhere

Biblical sources:

  • The whole Abraham narrative (especially Sodom and the binding of Isaac)
  • God's response to Job at the end of that book
  • Countless passages about morality and social justice in the Later Prophets
  • The character of Saul vs. the character of David (especially Saul's mercy on the king of Amalek)

This is obviously a huge topic about which many books have been written. For a more narrow scope a series of blog posts can be devoted to:

  • The philosophical implications of the binding of Isaac story
  • Representations of evil in the Bible
  • Morality in the Pentateuch vs. morality in the prophets
  • Arguing with God
  • I like this idea, but would want to make sure the scope didn't creep outside of discussion about Christianity, specifically. – Jas 3.1 Jul 6 '12 at 1:28
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The Flood Real or Myth?

What bearing does it have on natural history?

What role does the natural play? the miraculous?

  • I think this would be a good topic, but I'm not sure whether we could get four distinct points of view. – Bruce Alderman Mar 12 '12 at 13:38
  • @bruce Good point, perhaps we could divide up aspects...not sure how it would look :) – wax eagle Mar 12 '12 at 13:45
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    There's also the "Myth or True Myth" dichotomy and the Local or Global split. – Peter Turner Mar 12 '12 at 15:21
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    @Bruce: I myself have four distinct points of view on the flood! – Jon Ericson Mar 12 '12 at 20:26
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    Could my rant on the topic be the basis of my entry, if we do? – Affable Geek Apr 1 '12 at 1:58
  • @AffableGeek absolutely. – wax eagle Apr 1 '12 at 3:07
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Euthanasia

Death with dignity or dignity in death?

Here's a start

  • 1
    I posted my answer in the "start". If you consider it worthy, I can make a blog article on this topic by expanding it (more stories from the hospice, more biblical reasoning, whatever will you want). – Pavel Nov 23 '12 at 21:57
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Church Calendar

I see this as a sort of fallback position if we don't have anything particularly relevant to the moment. It would get old (at least for me ;-) if we did whatever was relevant to the church calendar each month, but we ought to acknowledge it sometimes.

For a copy of the most ecumenical lectionary I know of, see the Revised Common Lectionary. I know the people behind the Online TUMI Sacred Roots Annual calendar, which I think is lovely.

We certainly should cover the seasons at least once in the first couple of years of the blog:

  • Advent
  • Christmastide
  • Epiphany
  • Lent
  • Easter
  • Pentecost

And if we could "go big" on Holy Week and do one post a day, that would be amazing! (But not perhaps realistic this year.)

  • 2
    For Catholics at least, we've got several other topical months. May := Mary, June := Sacred Heart, July := Precious Blood of Christ, September := Angels, October (and January because of Roe V. Wade in USA) := Respect Life, November := The dead (saints and souls in purgatory). – Peter Turner Feb 23 '12 at 18:15
  • @Peter: I had no idea. Many churches in our area have a "Sanctity of Human Life" Sunday in January for the same reason. – Jon Ericson Feb 24 '12 at 2:09
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Old Testament Morality

Christians sweep criticism of old testament under the rug by saying that we don't follow it anymore.

Never mind if we follow it or not. What we follow now is a continuation of that old thing (There are a lot of verses on this like "Christ did not come to abolish the law but to extend it" and etc etc). And if the old thing is not right how can it's continuation be any better?

Besides by saying that we don't follow it we absolve ourselves of any guilt. But what does that imply for the God who gave it?

I think we ought to discuss this issue on our blog to come to a better understanding of it and reach out to skeptics with better arguments.

In particular I would like to see discussions on Slavery and Polygamy.

  • 1
    I'd really like to see a Seventh-Day Adventist post on this. – Jon Ericson Jul 5 '12 at 2:09
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What is the Trinity?

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I'm up to the task myself. But this is clearly one of the stumbling blocks for people outside of the Christian faith (or even in it). And it was the subject of most of the early controversies and many of the modern differences among Christians. I'd love to read a survey of perspectives on this question.

Again, this is a topic that could use some dissenting opinions. Do you come from a tradition that rejects the notion of the Trinity? Please volunteer to write on this topic!

Perhaps we could add a link to the blog series in the wiki!

  • Good call. Along with the problem of evil this is one of the hard chestnuts of Christian faith. – Monika Michael Jul 27 '12 at 17:50
  • It's a great subject, but I'd probably just rehash the same thing my pastor says every Trinity Sunday about St. Augustine and the kid and the bucket and the ocean. So yeah, some non-trinitarians probably ought try and make their points. – Peter Turner Jul 31 '12 at 5:28
  • I could do a non-Trinitiarian rant, actually. It would be sort of fun to write, if a little disingenuous to present as my actual opinion. (It is my actual opinion that the Bible does not present a triune God. It is also my actual opinion that the Bible is completely irrelevant.) – TRiG Sep 29 '12 at 11:05
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Eschatology

Come on, admit it: you are fascinated by the end-times prophecies.

Who isn't? It has got to be one of the most talked about topics in Christianity, along-side Genesis 1, and soteriology!

Let's take a stab at summing up some of the major positions.

  • 1
    That's a good idea. It has a unique feature in that it runs orthogonal to denominational lines. – Jon Ericson Jul 17 '12 at 0:08
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    Would be a good November topic (at least for Catholics) – Peter Turner Jul 17 '12 at 12:26
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Jesus among other gods

At the core of all true* Christianity is a claim to exclusivity, that there is just one way to heaven and Christianity knows which way that is. What is sometimes surprising (and confusing) is that after identifying where the true center of things, the lines around it get concentric circles of many varied sizes. Some traditions see salvation as only being found in the tight innermost circle(s) (usually their own of course), while others see the net cast so wide that nobody actually falls outside the circle in the end. Just how does Christianity view other religions?

According to each tradition, at what point does holding non-orthodox views start making you something other than a follower of Christ? When does the line get drawn and claims of heresy come out? How would an "apostate group" be viewed differently than a "pagan religion"? When does worshiping God wrongly cross over to be worshiping the wrong God?

I would expect each tradition to have to forward their own definitions for terms such as pagan, heretic, orthodoxy, true religion, false religion, apostate, etc, then use those definitions to draw some lines in the sand. Using doctrinal statements from their respective traditions, it should be possible to show generally where these lines get drawn.

P.S. At least partially sparked by the disaster that plagued this question and the presence of both "yes" and "no" answers to a direct question.

* We're talking about Eschewmenical here so lets not mince words! You'll have to find somebody other than me to cover anything resembling 'christian' beliefs in universalism. ;-)

  • I'd be interested in the perspective of Neo-Pagans who include Jesus in their pantheon. I've read one Wiccan's account of invoking Jesus to request release from her baptism. It was quite fascinating, and somewhat moving. (She wouldn't generally call on Jesus; it was just that one time. Jesus is not a God she's interested in. And that, she feels, is fine by him.) – TRiG Aug 14 '12 at 16:47
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What is the Gospel?

Along with all of the subquestions that associate with it:

  • What does Jesus say the gospel is?
  • What do the Apostles say the gospel is?
  • Why is it so important?
  • What do we do with it?
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Why aren't we all Catholic?

May seem like a dumb question to some, but everyone's got their reasons (especially the other blog authors!).

For my part (as a Catholic) I can offer idle and infuriating speculation.

In the end, the topic should prove to be quite eschewmenical.

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Denominationalism

What is the purpose of a denomination? How does each tradition see their own version of functioning earthly church structure fitting into the definition of "the church"? How does the way they relate to other denominations differ?

Note: This is not, "What is the church?". While many of the issues are parallel, many denominations that have divergent definitions of each, defining the church in very idealistic and theological terms while their denominational structures in very pragmatic ones. Others don't recognize this divergence at all for themselves, but might have something to say about other people's structures.

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Achievable levels of earthly sanctification

Just how much holiness can a human attain to pre-glory? I know different Christian traditions have some pretty diverse ideas on this and their doctrines are usually verbosely documented. Some Protestant denominations harp on all of humanities continued wretchedness. Not a few crazies have gathered followings around their claims to having achieved states of sinless nirvana.

The most obvious rift is going to run between Catholics (with their claims of Mary's sinlessness, the Pope's ability to act infallably, their Saintings etc) and Protestants (who deny the possibility of the above). However, rather than harp on just that divide, I'd like to see the core doctrinal issue of how far earthly sanctification can go and whether there are different flavors of it dealt with from several traditions using a variety of case studies.

  • Was Enoch taken up because he achieved perfection and had no further need of the ongoing sanctification process?

  • Does "having found grace" tell us anything about Noah being less of a sinner than the wicked generation he lived in?

  • Were any of the OT prophets sinless?

  • Are prophets or apostles or any other special dispensation of holiness that is off limits to people of other callings?

  • Are there "Saints" that are different than just your ordinary saints?

  • [Other examples specific to individual viewpoints]

  • 1
    ooh excellent, and good point of conflict :) – wax eagle Aug 14 '12 at 13:09
  • There's also John Wesley's teaching of Christian Perfection, the belief that ordinary Christians can be sanctified completely in this life. – Bruce Alderman Aug 14 '12 at 14:59
  • @BruceAlderman: Funny back story: When drafting this I specifically changed "perfection" to "sinlessness" so as not to lump a few folks like Wesley who use the word "perfection" with specific connotations such as Wesley in with "crazies". Maybe I'll take that one step further. <edit> But you're right, that's definitely one view that could be covered here! – Caleb Aug 14 '12 at 15:17
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St. Paul

  • Who was he?
  • What books did he write?
  • What was the nature of his office/vocation/charism?
  • What happened to him?
  • I'd like to write a novelization (or three) of his life. I kid you not. So either this is a wonderful idea (and I'll get lots of research into my book idea done) or a terrible idea (and all of you will have to suffer through my dry book-idea notes). I guess one problem is: will we have multiple viewpoints? – Jon Ericson May 9 '12 at 19:33
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    I think as long as we remain 4-5 separate human beings, we'll have 4-5 completely different essays, although the viewpoints may coalesce. That would a good book, I've gotta read this one sometime, it's along a similar vein. – Peter Turner May 9 '12 at 19:56
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Sabbatarianism

What should a Christian do on Sunday (or possibly Saturday)? See the comments previously on the blog.

(This would be a good place to recruit a Seventh-Day Adventist perspective.)

  • This is a great one: an issue that is clearly divisive (sometimes even inside denominational boundaries) with strong cases to be made from several quaters. Perfect for Eschewmenical. – Caleb Jun 4 '12 at 21:56
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Spiritual Gifts

What are the spiritual gifts? Are they given to all Christians? Are gifts such as prophecy and tongues still active today?

  • Not sure how this hasn't come up already as a topic. Perfect for the blog. – Jon Ericson Jul 9 '12 at 19:52
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Nature of God

What is God?

This might be a topic wherein we can get some non-Christian perspectives that help round out and define the Christian perspective.

  • 1
    God is love. Duh. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'll write a post for this if I'm around!!) – Jas 3.1 Aug 6 '12 at 18:13
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Approaches to prosperity

From "Health and wealth" preachers saying riches are God's stamp of approval on life and without them you are doing something wrong to monks who take lifelong vows of poverty, the umbrella of "Christianity" has seen several different approaches to handling worldly possessions. Where do the major traditions fall? Where do they diverge? How much room for variation is there in each? What is the basis for the extreme views?

  • I would love to write on this topic. – Jon Ericson Apr 1 '13 at 17:57
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Creation

It's not a topic I particularly want to cover, but it does generate a lot of discussion on this site, and might bring a lot of traffic to the blog.

Rather than denominational perspectives, since few denominations are committed to a single point of view, we could cover the various perspectives about our origins:

  • I've done some reading on ID and specifically Dr. Behe's work. But as you say, most denominations don't take particular stands on this topic. – Jon Ericson May 7 '12 at 17:44
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    If you seriously want the atheistic view of evolution, it's something I could contribute to. – TRiG May 14 '12 at 15:51
  • I would love to see a collection of various Christian positions and how they are justified. – Jas 3.1 Jul 6 '12 at 1:30
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Tollerance vs. Love

"Tollerance" is a popular cultural value, but does Christianity view this attribute. When is it a good value and when is it a bad trait? Does it conflict with the Christian mandate to love?

P.S. This topic came to mind on seeing this answer to a question I also voted to close. I think the question format is problematic but the answer content that showed up is great and it might be well suited for Eschewmenical.

  • As long as the post doesn't contain a deliberate conservative misunderstanding of the liberal definition of "tolerance", that could be a good article. – TRiG Sep 14 '12 at 16:41
  • @trig you mean the liberal virtue of blithely floating dignity warping nothingness? Yeah, this will make for a good article. – Peter Turner Sep 16 '12 at 5:41
  • @PeterTurner. I have no idea what you're talking about. I strongly suspect that you have no idea what you're talking about either. – TRiG Sep 16 '12 at 17:30
  • @trig only time will tell. – Peter Turner Sep 16 '12 at 22:23
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Good answers to bad questions

TRiG's excellent comment suggests the blog could be a place where good answers that might otherwise be deleted could be preserved. Personally, I think this would be a fun idea and could work thusly:

  1. When good answers accumulate to questions that are likely to be closed, they are nominated in the Eschewmenical Blog Room.

  2. When there are enough posts, we schedule a "Good answers to bad questions" month.

  3. The answers are edited to indicate the nature of the question with details changed to protect the guilty (of asking bad questions).

  4. The regular contributors get an off month and we can preserve some good answers that would otherwise be deleted.

The only real problem I see with this scheme is that it might provide the missing link in this business plan:

  1. Answer a bad question on Christianity.SE

  2. ?

  3. Profit

  • However, the profit does not come in the form of rep points, so that's okay. – TRiG Apr 6 '13 at 0:18
2

Suggestions:

  1. A collaboration with Mi Yodeya on different approaches to the same text.
  2. If/When Islam goes live, another similar post.
  3. The Bible as story.
  4. Religion: Community, belief, and tribalism.
  5. Male and Female: but some don't fit in those boxes.

These are all subjects I might be interested in reading. I've not yet thought of anything I might want to write, except the sort of rants you probably don't want to publish.

  • 2
    Collaboration with other belief systems is a great idea! Rants might not be a good idea, but reasoned disagreement is practically the name of the blog. ;-) – Jon Ericson Mar 2 '12 at 18:59
  • @JonEricson. Well, reasoned depends on my mood. At the moment, I am, for various reasons, rather stressed, and therefore inclined to be snarky and somewhat cynical. (Also, incapable of writing anything long, so you won't be seening any rants from me. I'll try to control my urge to snipe from the sidelines.) – TRiG Mar 2 '12 at 19:41
  • @TRiG I'd actually love to see you contribute to the blog to. You definitely have a ... different opinion. I'm sure we could accelerate the schedule some :) – Affable Geek Mar 12 '12 at 1:23
0

Christianity and Programming

There was once an awesome site called programmers.stackexchange.com where questions like "why do programmers tend to be atheists" could be asked.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to tackle that here?

  • Out of curiosity, how long was P.SE "awesome"? It's always looked like a never-ending train wreck to me. ;-) – Jon Ericson Jul 27 '12 at 17:54
  • I dunno, maybe I was wrong and everyone else was right. If you read the meta backwards you'll see a sad tale it was just about the same time that I started that the site took a nose dive and got all authoritarian. – Peter Turner Jul 27 '12 at 19:36
  • As it is, noone can follow His code... – Affable Geek Aug 6 '12 at 17:17
  • @AffableGeek programmers.stackexchange.com/a/9457/1973 – Peter Turner Aug 6 '12 at 17:29

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