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Why I Do What I Do

In case anyone is wondering why I do the work that I do, I direct you to this comment, posted by Brad in response to my piece How Religion Contorts Morality: Respected Theologian Defends Genocide and Infanticide.

Hmm, I don’t think “Enjoy!” is quite the right tone for your link to the original article ;) Extremely thought-provoking, disturbing even, but hardly “enjoyable”.

I’m a lifelong evangelical in the middle of what might end up being a deconversion, and arguments like you’ve posted here are profoundly persuasive.

When you start with the presumption that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant, then rationalizations like this are so easy and natural (and necessary when dealing with difficult passages). It’s only when you allow yourself to step outside that presumption for a moment can you see and understand all the problems.

The use of the Israelite soldiers as the “sword” of judgement is somewhat unique to this specific passage, but the overall theme isn’t out of character for the God of the bible:

* Destruction of 99.9999% of humanity through Noah’s flood
* Destruction of entire populations of Sodom and Gomorrah
* Prophecies of widespread death and destruction at the “end times” in the book of Revelation

Not trying to justify, mind you, just showing how someone inside this mindset (from which I am slowly emerging) might find it easy to lump this “judgement” of the Canaanites with other similar passages.

To Brad: Thank you for having the courage to seriously question your ideas and consider whether they’re defensible. I know — from personal experience, and from what I know of others’ experience — that this can be difficult, and I applaud you for doing it. If you have any questions or ideas you want to bounce off of us, I hope you’ll feel free to bring them. And if you need any emotional or practical support in your process, please don’t hesitate to ask.

And to everyone else reading this: Atheist activism works. Making arguments against religion works; coming out as atheist works; creating atheist communities works. If a lifelong evangelical like Brad can question and possibly let go of his religious beliefs, we should never assume that it’s a waste of time.

Comments

  1. Lion IRC says

    I support and encourage open and vigorous AvT discussion – the contest of ideas.

    Activism can change hearts and minds as long your ideas are capable of surviving a bit of natural selection.

    But victory in a one-sided discussion isnt the same as “activism works”.

    The “public square” which many atheists feel should be off-limits to religion isnt a place for the faint-hearted.

  2. says

    Brad, you’ve taken an amazing and difficult first step – stepping outside the assumption that the Bible is true, and examining it like an outsider. That is quite possibly the hardest thing for a believer to do. But it’s essential if one is to assess whether one’s beliefs are actually true.

  3. says

    @Lion IRC said:

    The “public square” which many atheists feel should be off-limits to religion

    Not allowing government to endorse or enforce the religious views of believers is not the same as banishing religion from the public square. It’s making sure one religion doesn’t control that square to the detriment of other faiths or nonbelievers. The First Amendment is a double-edged sword – if you want your Free Exercise, you have to accept No Establishment.

    On a less diplomatic note: atheists are happy to have religion participate in the clash of ideas. It just has to play by the same rules as all other ideas and not cry “persecution” when it loses.

  4. says

    I’d suggest avoiding engaging LionIRC on this topic. On his planet Christianity is publicly persecuted in majority Christian nations, and all atheist activism is proof of such.

  5. Nilou Ataie says

    Slowly, surely, we come to see

    Religion warps morality

    It claims the good to persist

    In truth it feeds the narcissist

  6. Brad says

    And thank you, Greta, for your writing on this blog, which I’ve found to be clear and persuasive, and frequently very on-point to my current journey.

    Some of your other posts I’ve found particularly helpful/challenging/inspiring/vexing:

    * The Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Believe In God
    Different than the lists I’d encountered before, and each one a strong argument.

    * The Armor of God, or, The Top One Reason Religion Is Harmful
    * A Self-Referential Game of Twister: What Religion Looks Like From the Outside
    These make it difficult to listen to a religious argument or sermon without asking “how much of this is just rationalization?”

    * True or False? Helpful or Harmful? The Two Different Arguments About Religion
    * Do You Care Whether The Things You Believe Are True?
    Almost an exact mirror argument to a witnessing technique I was taught in church: “If what you believed wasn’t true, would you want to know?”

    Also nearly all of the “Why (insert argument here) is a Terrible Argument for God” posts.

    I’ve still got some ways to go, but I think its pretty clear where the path I’m on is leading. Thanks for your help on the way.

  7. Greta Christina says

    Brad @ #7: I think I’m going to cry. Thank you so much.

    And I’m serious: If you have any questions or ideas you want to bounce off of us, I hope you’ll feel free to bring them. And if you need any emotional or practical support in your process, please don’t hesitate to ask. If we can’t help you here, we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

  8. hoverfrog says

    Brad, I’ve never been a theist and belief in gods has always struck me as rather a strange thing to have but deconverts very often express joy and a sense of release at their loss of faith. I’m sure that there are any number of former believers who could give you their own stories which might make the transition a bit easier.

    It is far too often that discussions with believers end up with them storming off yelling persecution without them ever really looking at the arguments presented against their faith. It is a brave thing to stand up and stare your own beliefs in the face and test them. Clearly not everyone manages it as many invent elaborate and convoluted twists and turns of logic to explain away why this or that biblical event happened (or didn’t is a metaphor for something else).

    I wish you smooth sailing on your voyage examining your faith whether you shed it or not in the end.

  9. says

    The previous comment, from “Georgene Feduccia” at 3:36 PM, is actually spam. The page it links to is a profile on gitorious.org (under a different name) with no content beyond a gmail address and a link to shoe selling website. It’s spam.

    (Spam deleted. Thanks! -GC)

  10. Lion IRC says

    Greta Christina says:
    “Atheist activism works… making arguments against religion works..”

    .

    PhiloKGB says:
    “I’d suggest avoiding engaging [insert name] on this topic..”

    .

    I prefer the approach of people like [insert name – Greta Christina]
    It’s much more enlightened.

  11. says

    I can completely relate to Brad because I went through the same process of examining the fundamentalist beliefs I was indoctrinated with first by the Catholic church and then by evangelicals. I also find Greta’s writings on atheism contain some of the best insights and arguments I’ve come across. I was already an atheist long before I discovered her blog, but I still find her insights very useful for my personal life as well as my activism. Her’s is one of the few blogs I have added the RSS feed to on one of my blogs. Here’s an excerpt from a post on another of my blogs where I briefly describe my journey from religious indoctrination to atheism.

    ******

    I was recently publicly accused of being anti-Christian by a Christian fundamentalist who believes that everything in the Bible is literally true. It is a false accusation, but doesn’t surprise me given the confused, narrow worldview of my accuser and the fact that I publicly identify myself as an atheist while helping to expose on my websiteabusive religious behaviour that violates the rights of others. Other believers who have contacted me through my site stopped communicating with me after they realized I was an atheist, or have told me my website is too ‘dangerous’ to visit, perhaps out of fear that they might stumble on some uncomfortable facts or that I might try to’convert’ them, a practice I left behind when I deconverted from Christianity. It seems that some believers automatically assume I will be hostile towards them because I openly declare my unbelief, help expose religiously motivated harm, and occasionally blaspheme or ridicule religious dogma in the process of exposing that harm.

    I’m writing this, therefore, to clarify for my Christian family members and friends, who probably do find the accusation surprising, as well as for Christians and other believers who visit my website, that just because I am an atheist does not mean that I am anti-Christian (or anti-Muslim or anti-Jew, etc.). In fact, I will argue that even though I have completely rejected my Christian indoctrination, no longer believe in God and think the Bible is a book of myths, metaphors and misrepresentations, I am more respectful of Christians as a whole, and their right to believe whatever they want, than is my fundamentalist Christian accuser.

    I am one of those atheists who came to that position via fundamentalist Christianity, so I know that mentality too well. I was indoctrinated into that belief system as a naive teenager in 1972 by manipulative, evangelical Jesus freaks …

    http://perry-bulwer.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html

  12. Jeffrey P says

    It’s a shame that people accept the fact that Prime Ministers and Presidents have an army to defend the nation from harm, and not see Israel as God’s ‘police force’. After all, God was meant to be their President at the time.

    If a sub-culture within the country, such as what happened in England recently, when gangs looted and threatened the safety of entire families, police and force were employed without anybody lifting a finger. This was the scene prior to Noah’s flood – the world had degraded so low in its values that, to continue it would mean whole generations of future children being exposed to a world of danger, barbarianism, theft, loss of life and loss of safety.

    Why are armies and police seen as a need in every generation that has ever existed, yet God is blamed whenever He tries to bring justice into the world through Himself or through His chosen representatives?

  13. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Jeffrey P #13

    This was the scene prior to Noah’s flood – the world had degraded so low in its values that, to continue it would mean whole generations of future children being exposed to a world of danger, barbarianism, theft, loss of life and loss of safety.

    According to the propaganda The Big Guy In The Sky kills everyone (except for eight people) on Earth during the Noachian flood. Does that sound like the action of a loving, omnibenevolent being or a sociopathic bully? TBGITS goes on killing rampages every so often, killing folks just because he can. Sure he’s always got an excuse for killing people, sociopaths generally have excuses for their actions. TBGITS comes across as a narcissistic sadist with the emotional maturity of a spoiled six year old.

  14. Jeffrey P says

    ” Does that sound like the action of a loving, omnibenevolent being or a sociopathic bully? TBGITS goes on killing rampages every so often, killing folks just because he can.”

    OM, you paint an unrealistic picture of TBGITS, otherwise known as God, because you paint Him as going on a killing rampage just because He was bored or had a morbid personality. No, in the context of Noah’s story, wickedness was great and the thoughts of all humans except 8 people were constantly on doing evil to each other. This was a picture of total anarchy, a picture showing women and children in constant fear of their own security, of widespread deprivation of rights. This was what God had to weigh up. The story then says TBGITS had a ‘broken heart’ over this situation.

    The story does not paint a picture of a six year old throwing a tantrum, but a wise Father like world leader watching what was happening to the world He was in charge of, having His heart broken over what humans were doing to each other, and then trying to remedy this by creating a plan to protect those whose rights and safety were being deprived as a result of the people around them.

    The same with Sodom and Gomorrah. The story says the ‘outcry to God was great.’ That means the people in the city was saying “enough is enough”. God heard the general consent of the people in that country, and the king of Gomorrah did nothing. God acted because no-one else did.

  15. says

    Jeffery P, excuse me for butting into your conversation, but I couldn’t help responding to your biblical literalism. I presume you believe God is omnipotent and omniscient. If that assumption is true, then why did God have to ‘remedy’ his initial creation by destroying it? Moreover, why did his new plan also fail? People went right on behaving as they always did, which you acknowledge by referencing Sodom and Gomorrah. So much for the plans of an all-powerful, all-knowing God.

    Your comment is an example of how easily people who believe the Bible is literal can get tripped up by its inconsistencies. Genesis 18:20 says either ‘the cry of S & G’ or ‘the outcry of S & G’, depending on the translation. You have interpreted that to mean that the people of that city were appealing to God to do something about the ‘wickedness’. However, if you read the entire story you discover that Abraham could not find even 10 righteous people in S & G, therefore God destroyed it. So the cry or outcry of S & G that prompted God to destroy it could not have been the cries of righteous believers. On the other hand, if those cries really were from believers imploring God to intervene, why did he then kill them along with all the sinners?

    I think it is either very naive or disingenuous for you to use the notion of human rights in this context. You seem to be claiming that before the flood women and children lived in “constant fear of their own security, of widespread deprivation of rights”, but that it got better afterwards. You claim that God’s new plan was to protect those rights, but did it? Under God’s new plan, the rights of women and children were severely curtailed. Women remained second class citizens and children had even less rights. One of God’s first commandments under his new plan was to mutilate the genitals of boys. Abraham was even willing to murder his own son in obedience to God. The situation has only gotten worse, as I have documented in an archive of news articles at Religion and Child Abuse News.

    http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/

  16. Jeffrey P says

    One question to Greta Christina (incidently, your surname means ‘Follower of Christ’). When you ‘do as you do’ and support people like Brad, who have some misconceptions about their faith, do you advocate God allowing deprivation of human rights to women and children, and the powerless?

    Because, in each scenario that Brad mentioned, namely the Flood story in Genesis, and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, plus the prophecy in Revelation, the examples shown are God’s response to a world plunged into anarchy, violence, hatred and sexual violence. In each situation, God only acted when there was enough people crying out about the crimes being perpetrated against them; that they were actually PLEADING with God to stop it. This means the most vulnerable in the society at that time was being ignored by the kings, Prime Ministers and Presidents; and the only cry the people could make was to God. His response – He was heartbroken for the oppressed. He waited until there was no other choice left to Him but to act on BEHALF OF the children, the mothers, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and the other minorities within the culture of the time who were being ignored by the corrupt secular governments of the day.

    Kind of like what happens when Atheists start having a say in governments today, hey? ;)

  17. Jeffrey P says

    Perry, you have reinforced what I said. In the part you mentioned, Abraham actually pleaded on behalf of S & G, and each time God was not able to find a number of people that correlated with that number. So, in fact, S & G had slid into corruption on a scale that the vast majority of the city was in anarchy, conducting crimes against each other, hurting the weak and the oppressed.

    Regarding the failure of God’s plan, He did the best He could do. He handpicked the family who were the cream of the crop, and then allowed that family to continue the human race. In other words, He So loved humans, He gave them a second choice, but knowing that one of their descendants would decide to ignore Him and go the path of atheism. This is love in action, because it means that God KEEPS on giving us freedom to choose as we wish, DESPITE knowing what will happen.

    If you are a parent, this is exactly what a human mother and father would do for children who deliberately go against their will. A human mother and father will talk to the child, will provide some consequences for that disobedience, try to guide the child to an alternative way; but then has to allow the child to make future decisions on his or her own.

    God shows a lot of patience and love in the way He reacts to the people concerned in Genesis; and He continues to right throughout the book Genesis is in – despite thousands of years of Israel, apparently Abraham’s descendants, deliberately ignoring Him and His representatives, namely the prophets such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, and many more mentioned.

  18. Jeffrey P says

    To Perry, who wrote:
    “Under God’s new plan, the rights of women and children were severely curtailed. Women remained second class citizens and children had even less rights. One of God’s first commandments under his new plan was to mutilate the genitals of boys. Abraham was even willing to murder his own son in obedience to God”.

    God’s plans was ALWAYS to protect the rights of the weak, of women, of children, and the like. He stated this to Moses, who gave it to the people of Israel, He stated it over thousands of years through prophets. You need to separate the actions of the ‘survival of the fittest’ syndrome that is prevalent in societies from the beginning of history. God DOES NOT encourage the oppression of the weak. Humans do it to each other – but God allows free will to prevail just as leaders in every strata of our society do. Police and armies only react when the choices of humans become so depraved that innocent lives are threatened, or injustices occur to other humans – what we call ‘crimes.’

    Medically, circumcision does show temporary pain, but does no harm to a male. In fact, it is more hygienic as it merely removes the foreskin on a male’s penis.Many parents around the world actually CHOOSE to have their male babies circumcised because of this removal of an unnecessary foreskin. God did not advocate female circumcision, because this is an entirely different matter.

    Regarding God’s test of Abraham. There was never a time that Abraham’s son’s life was in danger. If you see the end, Abraham acted only because he trusted God’s goodness. Abraham said to His son – ‘God will provide a sacrifice, my son’, indicating that Abraham did not believe God was going to take away something from Abraham because God previously promised Abraham’s own child would create a new nation, which eventually came to pass.

  19. says

    I submitted two more short comments in reply to Jeffery P, and they appeared here briefly or at least I thought they did, but have now disappeared. I didn’t keep a copy of them, and no time to rewrite them. Besides, I get the impression JP is merely regurgitating rather than thinking, so anything I say won’t change his mind.

  20. Jeffrey P says

    Perry states:
    “I get the impression JP is merely regurgitating rather than thinking, so anything I say won’t change his mind.”

    The statements I make have not been copied from any sources (besides, perhaps the circumcision) and have come from my own evaluation and consideration of each statement or comment made; together with a careful evaluation of the source material referred to, namely the book known as the Bible, where the stories of Noah, Abraham, circumcision, and Sodom and Gomorrah came from.

  21. DSimon says

    OM, you paint an unrealistic picture of TBGITS, otherwise known as God, because you paint Him as going on a killing rampage just because He was bored or had a morbid personality.

    Jeffrey P, talking about motivations is granting too much; genocide itself is drastically in conflict with the notion of an all-powerful all-loving god, no matter why it’s done.

    Let’s consider the scenario: the world is filled with suffering, and the people are all behaving evilly towards each other. You have omnipotence and omniscience, and want to use these powers to solve this problem. Your only real restriction is that you want to make sure people still have free will; thus, no directly mucking about inside their brains.

    Seriously: consider it for a little while, carefully, as though you were the one who had to make this decision. Can you come up with any possible ideas better than “kill everybody but the best dozen or so and hope the next generations turn out better”? If not, I wonder about the capacity of your imagination.

  22. Jeffrey P says

    DSimon writes:

    “Seriously: consider it for a little while, carefully, as though you were the one who had to make this decision. Can you come up with any possible ideas better than “kill everybody but the best dozen or so and hope the next generations turn out better”?”

    Mr DSimon, consider this for a while. Your family is being threatened by a mob of people with weapons, and you have tried to negotiate with them verbally. They are toying with you, and now have decided they are going to kill your family, who are children under 5 years of age, your dear wife, and your mother, who has dementia. Would you kill everybody who has a weapon and is seriously threatening to exterminate you and your family if you have one weapon that can do it in as humane a way as possible without degrading the mob who are threatening you?

    Seriously, ‘what if’ scenarios are not a serious form of debate as every person has a different solution, and no-one really knows how they would react when ACTUALLY put into the situation. Imagination is not the same as reality.

  23. DSimon says

    Seriously, ‘what if’ scenarios are not a serious form of debate as every person has a different solution, and no-one really knows how they would react when ACTUALLY put into the situation.

    Such a “no what-if scenarios” policy would rule out every discussion that involves:

    * Planning for the future: What will we do if such-and-such happens?
    * Figuring out any kind of ethical system: following ethical system X, if such-and-such happened, you would have a duty to do Y.
    * Evaluating another’s actions: What did X do when such-and-such happened, and what ought one to do if such-and-such happens again?

    To be honest I think you’re just ducking the question; are you really unable to come up with any possible answers?

    (By the way, my answer to your hypothetical scenario is “Yes”, on the unstated but seemingly implicit assumption that my only other option is to let the mob kill my family.)

  24. hoverfrog says

    Jeffrey P (19)

    Medically, circumcision does show temporary pain, but does no harm to a male. In fact, it is more hygienic as it merely removes the foreskin on a male’s penis.Many parents around the world actually CHOOSE to have their male babies circumcised because of this removal of an unnecessary foreskin. God did not advocate female circumcision, because this is an entirely different matter.

    It is still unnecessary genital mutilation when there isn’t a medical reason for it. If “God” did advocate female circumcision would you support it? It is a stupid and destructive practice that much more harmful to women than to men. Why would you support such a thing? Tradition? Divine authority?

    Regarding God’s test of Abraham. There was never a time that Abraham’s son’s life was in danger. If you see the end, Abraham acted only because he trusted God’s goodness. Abraham said to His son – ‘God will provide a sacrifice, my son’, indicating that Abraham did not believe God was going to take away something from Abraham because God previously promised Abraham’s own child would create a new nation, which eventually came to pass.

    Did Isaac know that? Did Abraham? If they are acting as players with full knowledge that it is some kind of dumb show then what is the point? If they believed that a sacrifice was to be made of Isaac then what kind of twisted individual would put someone through that just to prove a point? It is sick and wrong. Anyone with an ounce of moral fibre or empathy could see that.

  25. Jeffrey P says

    Hover frog states:
     “If “God” did advocate female circumcision would you support it?  It is a stupid and destructive practice that much more harmful to women than to men. Why would you support such a thing?  Tradition? Divine authority? ”
    Answer: ‘what if’ scenarios are circular reasoning and hence not a fruitful method
    of debate.

    Relating to the question of whether or not Abraham’s son and Abraham knew the end result, no human knows the future. Everyone takes faith steps daily as they drive in a car, walk over a bridge, cross a street, use a mobile phone, eat KFC, etc. Any number of things may occur in our lives at any moment, and we cannot predict the end result of our actions. BeIng finite beings without the ability to know the next minute of our lives means that our whole entire lives are a series of faith actions. The question is to whom or to what do we put our trust and faith?

  26. says

    At comment #20 I explain I submitted two more comments responding to some of Jeffery P’s arguments, but they disappeared after I submitted them. My comments dealt with the conceits about God’s love that are contained in Jeff’s comments. Rather than trying to recreate my lost comments, here are some questions for Jeff that no believer I have yet encountered has been able to adequately answer. The questions are in the following excerpt from a post on my blog where I discuss the problem of why children suffer and provide some quotations from Bart Ehrman’s book, “God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer”. Ehrman was a life-long, devout and committed evangelical Christian, until he stopped to consider the question of human suffering.

    *****

    The suffering experienced by children from the misguided actions of religious adults is a specific subset of suffering that I have purposely focused on in this archive [Religion and Child Abuse News] to help expose the dogma that God is good and faith is beneficial. What kind of god or God would allow innocent children to suffer or die at the hands of believers and do nothing to intervene and stop the suffering? It is certainly not a kind, loving, compassionate god or God, at least not by any reasonable standard of kindness, love or compassion. No believer has any reasonable answer to that question of why a presumably good, all-powerful god allows innocent children to needlessly suffer. Neither does the Bible.

    The broader question of suffering, any suffering of any human whether related to religion or not, is enough to invalidate the god of the Bible, who is the god of Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. That is the conclusion of Bart Ehrman who has a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a life-long, devout and committed evangelical Christian, until he considered deeply the question of why humans suffer. In his 2008 book, “God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer”, he explains that the question of suffering is the reason he lost his faith. Rather than paraphrasing him, I provide here two brief excerpts from that book. The first is a description in chapter one of his personal history and why he came to write the book. The second is from the concluding chapter nine in which he discusses a passage from The Brothers Karamazov that considers the question of suffering children. …

    http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/p/why-do-children-suffer.html

  27. Leum says

    Regarding the failure of God’s plan (for Sodom and Gomorrah), He did the best He could do. He handpicked the family who were the cream of the crop, and then allowed that family to continue the human race.

    Emphasis added.

    Let’s get this straight. Lot, who offered his own daughters up to be raped, was the “cream of the crop”? Lot’s daughters, who plied heir father with so much drink he was unable to give meaningful consent and then raped him, were the “cream of the crop”? On the other hand, the hundreds of children and infants who lived in the city, and were killed by God, in His infinite mercy, were reprobate sinners fully deserving of death?

    You may need to examine your moral code. I think it’s broken.

  28. hoverfrog says

    Jeffrey P (27)

    ‘what if’ scenarios are circular reasoning and hence not a fruitful method of debate.

    Do you know what circular reasoning is? It isn’t the same as posing “what if” questions? Nice bit of misdirection though. So would you support female circumcision if it was biblical?

    Relating to the question of whether or not Abraham’s son and Abraham knew the end result, no human knows the future. Everyone takes faith steps daily as they drive in a car, walk over a bridge, cross a street, use a mobile phone, eat KFC, etc. Any number of things may occur in our lives at any moment, and we cannot predict the end result of our actions. BeIng finite beings without the ability to know the next minute of our lives means that our whole entire lives are a series of faith actions. The question is to whom or to what do we put our trust and faith?

    That’s just a load of bollocks. You cannot possible equate a faith position of building a pyre for your own son with that of crossing the street. They are simply not equivalent. Nor does it take faith to do what is reasonable based on past experience and knowledge. It takes faith to do something unreasonable like cutting off parts of your children or dismissing people simply because they fell in love with someone with the same reproductive organs as themselves.

  29. Jeffrey P says

    Leum states:
    “Leum says:
    October 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm
    Regarding the failure of God’s plan (for Sodom and Gomorrah), He did the best He could do. He handpicked the family who were the cream of the crop, and then allowed that family to continue the human race.
    Emphasis added.
    Let’s get this straight. Lot, who offered his own daughters up to be raped, was the “cream of the crop”? Lot’s daughters, who plied heir father with so much drink he was unable to give meaningful consent and then raped him, were the “cream of the crop”? On the other hand, the hundreds of children and infants who lived in the city, and were killed by God, in His infinite mercy, were reprobate sinners fully deserving of death?
    You may need to examine your moral code. I think it’s broken.

    Response- Lot was only chosen because He was the nephew of Abraham. Lot and his family chose to live in Sodom and Gomirrah. Thus, his children and he made some unwise choices as a result of living in a city that had become totally corrupt, totally depraved and totally uncaring about each other’s right. Said a lot for the moral qualities existing in S & G at the time. Total anarchy and the corrupt and weak leadership by the City’s government created an untenable living environment in S & G, and Lot’s family’s moral values were twisted as a result.
    By the way, throughout the Bible, God chose people who weren’t exactly perfect. They had their problems. Examples are David, Solomon, Jacob, Judas, Peter, Darius, Nebuchadnezzar,Mary Magdalene, Ruth, Moses, Samson and Rahab. He chose by seeing their willingness to trust Him at the time, together with the unique talents and abilities required to do the job.
    In summary, if you are looking for people who are perfect role models in the Bible, you will find only one out of thousands mentioned. The intention of the Bible is to show, not that God’s followers are perfect, but that God can use imperfect beings to bring about positive change within corrupted and decadent environments that exist in our world.

  30. Jeffrey P says

    To Perry, on the question of suffering.

    Yes, Perry, there are many people who make a decision to reject a loving God because they blame God for the world’s sufferings. They tend to hold onto anger and bitterness, and conclude that an all powerful God should eliminate all suffering and death. By the way, there are myriads of books that address this issue for your reference, not the least the late CS Lewis. Below are some Christian arguments that deal with suffering:
    1. The Bible states God began a perfect world, and will one day create another perfect world without suffering. He NEVER intended humans to suffer in His original plan.
    2. Humanity decided to ignore God and make choices based on their own perception of what the world should be lIke. Some of these humans became so corrupt in their views of reality that fellow hUmans started suffering when conflicts of values occurred.
    3. Sadly, leaders arose from the so-called ‘survival of the fittest’ and began to rule families, tribes,cities and nations. Wars began, mass genocides occurred at the hands of human dictators, food was restricted from the poorest of poor. The wealthy became wealthier through the suffering of the marginalised of the society, most often women and children. The cycle continues to this day.

    This is where sceptics step in and blame God for allowing dictators to rise up and suppress the poor. But then, God is THEN blamed for being cruel if He eliminates certain segments of society because they are so corrupt. One part of the argument is that God is weak if He doesn’t intervene and allows humans to live with their own choices and its consequences; the other says a truly loving God should do nothing and allow humans to have total freedom to choose as they wish; and not have God use His power to stop it.

    Personally, I see God quietly working behind the scenes in every facet of world history, inspiring certain individuals to discover ways of alleviating suffering. I see humans that endure suffering and become better human beings. I also see that the concept of a loving God who has promised a new world one day, and promises to wipe away every tear, is very … comforting.

    So, Perry, you choose to blame God for all the sufferings in this world. I choose to acknowledge the imperfections of humanity, attempt to gain positive growth from my own suffering experiences; and work WITH God to help alleviate human suffering with other like-minded people who all have their unique talents given by their Creator. :-)

  31. says

    “So, Perry, you choose to blame God for all the sufferings in this world.”

    Jeffrey, stop putting words in my mouth. Nowhere did I say I blame God for all the suffering in the world. It would be ridiculous if I did because as I stated in my first comment here, I am an atheist. How could I possibly blame something I don’t believe exists? If you had bothered to actually go to the link I provided where I describe my journey from a fundamentalist mindset like yours to atheism, you would know that I didn’t reject my faith because of human suffering.

    And if you had properly read my comment above on suffering, you would have realized I never made such a comment about myself. It was Erhman who said he lost his faith as a direct result of his extensive theological studies on the subject of suffering, not me. Furthermore, if you had gone to the link I provided and read the excerpts from Erhman you would have realized that he has taken on those Christian arguments on suffering you reference and found them unable to satisfactorily answer the question.

    The question of suffering is just one good argument to reject belief in God or gods. Greta has offered many other good arguments on this blog. My own reasons for becoming an atheist are too many to mention here, but the process I went through to get there may be instructive, if not for you Jeff, then perhaps for Brad and others in his situation of questioning their faith.

    Deconverting was not an over night process. I had struggled for some time to break out of my fundamentalist indoctrination. I had been convinced as a teen that worldly education was unnecessary because, as the Bible says, the carnal mind is at enmity with God. As I struggled with my faith in my 30s I decided to get a university education. I made a conscious decision to suspend my beliefs, to put them on hold while I explored a world of ideas that had been off limits to me. Though I didn’t consciously reject belief in God, I did stop praying, reading the Bible, and thinking about my beliefs except in relation to the new realities I was learning at school. It did not take me long before I was including criticisms of the Bible in my writing assignments, often because it was the only frame of reference I had at the time.

    I guess at that point you could say I was an agnostic, but the more I began to read, think and learn the closer I got to atheism. As long as I held on to even just a simple, basic belief in God, all of my indoctrination kept kicking in and locking me in that supernatural worldview. It was only when I suspended that belief and engaged in all the new ideas I was learning that I could see the reality that exists outside of that bubble of faith. That’s when the bubble burst and I became an atheist. And guess what? I wasn’t struck by lightening or inflicted with a deadly disease or any of the other fears instilled in me. In fact, for the first time in my life I finally felt truly free and unafraid, having broken the chains of dogma.

  32. Jeffrey P says

    Perry writes:

    ‘I had been convinced as a teen that worldly education was unnecessary because, as the Bible says, the carnal mind is at enmity with God. As I struggled with my faith in my 30s I decided to get a university education. I made a conscious decision to suspend my beliefs, to put them on hold while I explored a world of ideas that had been off limits to me. Though I didn’t consciously reject belief in God, I did stop praying, reading the Bible, and thinking about my beliefs except in relation to the new realities I was learning at school. It did not take me long before I was including criticisms of the Bible in my writing assignments, often because it was the only frame of reference I had at the time. ‘

    Jeffrey P’s response:

    Hello, Perry, thanks for sharing your journey. I too went to an evangelical church as a child. However, my parents were not participants. I also went to university, but by then I had decided in my late teens that, what I had seen of secular family members and friends, that a journey with God was the most reasonable way of life, and offered the most hope and best guidance to my life journey.

    My university life was tough – I understand the many forces one must come across that challenges the very fibre of faith. But, I read the literature, I spoke to many advocates of an atheist or secular world view, and investigated for myself. There was never a real time that I could say that a life without a loving God was an option. A secular way of life only led to undermining values I held dear – unconditional love, the concept that I was designed and had a purpose given to me by the Creator, the thoughts that I could be myself without having to conform to the expectations given to me by my peers – such as ‘drink hard’, ‘sleep with anyone you like’, and ‘do anything you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone (as if that’s possible – your actions are seen and observed by all around you; and you can’t avoid interacting with other people in your society).

    Instead of stopping prayer, stopping reading the Bible and stopping including God in my explanation of the world, I was able to assimilate it into my secular education; and use it as a springboard for understanding my friends and how others viewed the world. Sure, I wrestled with questions like ‘suffering’, ‘why does God let things happen to good people’, etc, but I investigated and searched for answers. I read BOTH viewpoints. My faith was STRENGTHENED, not ABANDONED. I have since become an advocate of change in many ways, and know that God has an immense love for the oppressed, for the weak and embattled in our society, and am convinced that His followers today have made the world a better place historically by setting up hospitals, schools, shelters for abused women; and have challenged us to love people regardless of their circumstances. You would agree that Mother Teresa in Calcutta did not do it because she believed God did not exist. She did it BECAUSE she believed God loved her and the people trapped in a caste system stating they were ‘untouchables’ and therefore unlovable.

  33. Leum says

    Jefferey, what evidence do you have that Lot was any better than the people of Sodom? Textually, I don’t think there is any. The only sin we see the people of Sodom committing is rape, the sin that Lot and his family explicitly commit or suggest.

    Furthermore, you didn’t answer my implicit question about children and infants. There were undoubtedly both among the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. Was their destruction just?

  34. Jeffrey P says

    Leum, unless you have an ability to look
    at the entire context of the story, then I do not believe you are able to make a just interpretation not based on your subjective opinion. Hence, I will not be backed into a corner to make the same opinions as you. Read the relevant chapters yourself with your preconceived judgements. History and literature cannot be analysed in the same way as a laboratory experiment.

  35. says

    “You would agree that Mother Teresa in Calcutta did not do it because she believed God did not exist.”

    Jeffrey, you posted that right after I had politely asked you to stop putting words in my mouth. No, I don’t agree with your statement. She was indoctrinated from birth to be a believer, and religion seems to have been the only option for her. If she had been raised an atheist instead, she still could have served the poor through humanistic service without any need for God. Besides, there are plenty of religious leaders who don’t believe in God, meaning they are merely pretending to be religious for various reasons. Read a study on this by Daniel C Dennett at: http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP08122150.pdf

    Mother Teresa was a moral fraud who abused the nuns in her order and failed to protect young seminarians from the sexual abuses of a notorious pedophile who was her spiritual adviser for two decades. Here’s a brief article I wrote on this:

    Book by former Missionaries of Charity nun describes abuse in cult of Mother Teresa
    http://chainthedogma.blogspot.com/2011/09/book-by-former-missionaries-of-charity.html

    There is so much more I could say in response to all of your comments here, but personally, I think its a waste of time based on my experiences on another forum. Greta has on this blog dozens of articles that take apart all of the arguments you have made here in this thread. If you are not going to read her cogent arguments, or answer simple questions put to you here, such as whether or not you believe the slaughter of innocent babies is divine morality, then nothing further I might add to the conversation will convince you. However, I do think that Bart Erhman’s books would be very instructive for you, if you had the courage to read them. If you read his bio you will see that for the first half of his life he was someone you would be in complete agreement with and highly respect for the depth of his biblical knowledge. But Erhman has seen the light and has exposed the bible for the fraudulent document it is. If you are truly interested in debating these various issues to further your knowledge and understanding, I suggest you engage with Greta’s and Erhman’s writings and grapple with the issues they raise.

  36. Jeffrey P says

    Perry writes:
    “She was indoctrinated from birth to be a believer, and religion seems to have been the only option for her. If she had been raised an atheist instead, she still could have served the poor through humanistic service without any need for God.”

    Reply: Perry, have you actually observed the fruits of an atheist family as a longitudinal study? If so, did you actually interview every member and discover whether there was any teaching about God in any of their family histories? Hard to really establish these facts and what influences them to do philanthropic work, if one exists. Historically, a lot of the philanthropic work has been conducted, or founded, by Christian missionaries or individuals who were professed God-believers who desired to reach the poor or disadvantaged in the name of a loving God. Study the origins of nurses, social workers, mental health workers; as well as institutions such as schools, hospitals, universities, and orphanages; and you will see dedicated volunteers who had a deep conviction of a loving God who cares for the marginalised.

    Of course, even if atheists DO philanthropic work, this does not help, as there is a Bible passage that states that, when people naturally do what they are wired to do by their Creator unconsciously, it reinforces the view there must be a loving Creator who has compassion for the poor.I ask you to look at a passage in the Bible – Romans 2:14-15. The Bible states throughout that God is caring to the poor and marginalised, that He watches each one, that He implores each nation and its members to look after the poor and marginalised; and that He set up laws for the Jewish people that considered the poor, that released the poor from overwhelming financial obligations after a certain time period; and that God asked many Kings and leaders of nations to consider the marginalised – speaking through people He chose to represent Him – the so-called ‘prophets’ and ‘judges’ seen throughout the pages of the Bible.

    Perry also wrote:
    “Mother Teresa was a moral fraud who abused the nuns in her order and failed to protect young seminarians from the sexual abuses of a notorious pedophile who was her spiritual adviser for two decades.”

    Reply: The book written by a former Calcutta nun speaks very highly of Mother Teresa, as the article you asked me to read states. Sadly, there are many paedophiles, and people attracted to religious positions for the wrong reasons of wanting power, in a variety of organisations. The leaders of every Christian Church need to deal with that, as even Paul referred to in his letter to a church started at Corinth in around 80CE in Greece. Of course, being a God-believer does not mean that internal struggles do not occur. I am encouraged to be careful of external temptations, and consistently work with God to live a life of purity and love. The Catholic Church, and other churches around the world, are brave enough to acknowledge there have been errors of judgement made, that ordained priests have not fulfilled their vows and should have been relieved of their duties, and that some acts have occurred that does not reflect God’s nature.
    I ask you now, Perry, have you researched the abuses conducted by Atheist philanthropists or leaders? Have you done an intense study on the number of abuses of children in orphanages in Communist Eastern Europe, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, China and other so-called ‘Atheist’ governments? If you haven’t, I suggest you do so because otherwise it means you have researched in a way that does not give a fair evaluation of both your former ‘Christian’ upbringing; and the Atheist way of life you now cling to. In fact, I would say that, without a belief in a Higher Being that oversees the planet and has some standards and laws that surpass EVERY human law, than there are no universal morals. That is why we see many Communist societies eventually falling into corruption, leader worship, and human rights abuse as it is ‘every leader to him/herself’ in deciding what is right or wrong. Often, the ones that lose are the marginalised, the poor, the uneducated and …. inevitably the ones who have a belief in a Higher authority otherwise known as ‘God.’
    I would question the author of that book that stated this adviser of Mother Teresa was sexually abusing children. Was the author there when the abuse occurred? Does she know out of hearsay or gossip? Did the Catholic Church attempt to deal with it and this is why she knew? Was it a disgruntled child who became an atheist, and decided to whistleblow? Did Mother Teresa know, and how did she respond once she was made aware of the allegations? More complex than merely accepting an author’s claims. We all know authors can be misguided or incorrect.

    Perry writes:
    “Greta has on this blog dozens of articles that take apart all of the arguments you have made here in this thread. If you are not going to read her cogent arguments, or answer simple questions put to you here, such as whether or not you believe the slaughter of innocent babies is divine morality, then nothing further I might add to the conversation will convince you. However, I do think that Bart Erhman’s books would be very instructive for you, if you had the courage to read them.”

    Reply: In Sociology, there are four types of authority – ‘legitimate’, ‘traditional’, ‘charismatic’ and ‘rational-legal’. When you take the values of writers, you are often relying on ‘charismatic’ authority, as an Atheist cannot possibly have an objective view of God or His representatives, namely the Church, the religious books associated with the particular religion, and the Nature of each. In any debate, writers will research often negative aspects of their opponents to legitimise their claim. This may be based on hearsay, on lies, or on moral judgements, such as ‘if God is TRULY good, He would do ….’ That is why you must not blindly accept what writers such as Greta Christina claim, until you evaluate the REASONS for their writing, their doctrinal position, and any negative experiences that have led them to that position. Forcing someone to say that a person with legitimate authority is unfair because they have followed through with a certain action is like a child accusing their parent of unfairness because their brother or sister has been given a privilege. The child who shouts ‘unfair’ needs to understand the position of the parent; separate any emotional feelings such as envy, bitterness, or jealousy; see reasons WHY the sibling was rewarded (did he/she do something well that the child shouting ‘unfair’ did not see) and examine the fruit of the sibling’s actions which prompted the questioned privilege.
    Perry, I wonder whether you are looking at articles of disgruntled former believers or Atheist writers because you had a question about God, or the way one of His so-called ‘followers’ reacted to you in your youth. Many former believers often face a traumatic experience and blame God, such as being abused by a trusted leader, the loss of a loved one, or by looking at an event in the world and deciding it is unfair. Often, rather than resolving the issue, it is easier to blame God and declare Him as morally deficient in some way. Do you think Leum, Bart Erhman, Greta Christina, Daniel C Dennett, or – even yourself – fit into the category of making a moral judgement about God because they have faced a crisis in their lives and have decided to blame God rather than do a total evaluation of the circumstances and think about it in a more mature manner which would’ve allowed resolution of the issue within their mind?

  37. says

    Obviously, Jeffery, you are only here to evangelize, not think or learn, which you can only truly do by embracing doubt and asking the right questions. You only hear what you want to hear and read what you want to read, and base your baseless assumptions on that, so it is disingenuous of you to lecture me on how to read or do research and on giving fair consideration to both sides of a debate when you fail to do the same. You forget after all, that it is I who have lived with both mindsets, steeped even more deeply than you in the Christian worldview, and now for many years firmly in the reality of the atheist worldview.

    I notice too, that like other evangelicals I’ve encountered on other forums you insist on having the last word because you are certain of your righteousness, so have at it. I’m done. There is no argument you have presented in this thread that I have not heard before dozens of times, each time demolished by more critical thinkers.

  38. Jeffrey P says

    Perry writes:
    “Obviously, Jeffery, you are only here to evangelize, not think or learn, which you can only truly do by embracing doubt and asking the right questions.”

    Perry, I am sorry you believe that. True discourse requires a consideration of both sides. I have indeed read the articles you have suggested, and have offered questions to consider. Must one embrace doubt, or need to succumb to the viewpoint of a writer, to be truly open. Does the ‘right questions’ embrace discarding a health belief in a loving God?

    According to the wikipedia dictionary, a definition of evangelism is as follows:
    ‘Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs.’

    In other words, Greta Christina is evangelising. You are evangelising. Our media is evangelising. Our universities are evangelising. Our movies are evangelising. Our children’s computer games are evangelising. Every member of the human race is evangelising when they hold a belief that is contrary to someone else’s.

    I would rather call my approach as – defending my beliefs, and offering an alternative viewpoint to those who may have been discouraged, may be angry, may have been abused, or may have not adequately thought through the issues they deem as important enough to change their world view.

    Let me ask you, Perry, when you have examined both the Christian and the Atheist worldview, is there enough benefit and evidence for you to abandon the Christian worlview? Is there enough for Brad? Is there enough for Bart Erhman?

    Is there enough evidence for an Atheist writer such as Greta Christina to ‘do what she does’?

    God loves you, Perry, and He still has a great destiny for you to complete if you only would allow Him to speak to you again.

  39. Steve Jeffers says

    “I would rather call my approach as – defending my beliefs, and offering an alternative viewpoint to those who may have been discouraged, may be angry, may have been abused, or may have not adequately thought through the issues they deem as important enough to change their world view.”

    I’ve asked questions on a couple of (mainstream) religious boards and been told basically to go back to Russia, my kind aren’t welcome in their club. I think it would be … discourteous if atheists did the same to religious people who came here to ask questions and listen to the answers, who are polite and constructive. Greta’s blog, so Greta’s rules, of course.

    It’s my very firm belief that any good argument can be utterly interrogated, by anyone, using any tone of voice. And, following from that, anyone who shies away from questions probably doesn’t have a good argument.

    In that spirit:

    “God loves you, Perry, and He still has a great destiny for you to complete if you only would allow Him to speak to you again.”

    http://photo.pds.org:5004/view/Entry/51082?rskey=PxX6we&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid

    If it only *might* happen, it’s not a destiny. It’s simply not what the word means. So your statement is a logical absurdity. If your religion teaches that, it teaches a falsehood. If your God has spoken to you and said that, I’d like to buy Him a dictionary. Where should I send it?

  40. Jeffrey P says

    To Steve Jeffers,
    Sir, you impress me with your courtesy. You are a gentleman.

    Firstly, I would like to say sorry for times when people have not been patient enough to listen to your queries.

    Secondly, a destiny comes from the root word ‘destination’, or a course. Many believers say that life is a journey. But we are always given the ability to choose the direction we take. In a number of thesaurus, another word for destiny is ‘fate’ or ‘blessing’. So, to talk about destiny without choice is foreign. It is a little bit of an acronym, isn’t it?

    This is often confusing to English learners or where English
    is a second language. Another difficulty is that words change over time. One example
    is the word ‘wicked’. It USED to mean evil, but young people in the early 2000s used it to mean ‘good’.

    So, I understand your concern. Thank you for your courtesy. :)

  41. Steve Jeffers says

    “a destiny comes from the root word ‘destination’, or a course.”

    OK. No. A destination is where you end up, not the route you take to get there. If my destination is JFK airport, I can get there by walking, car, bus, train, taxi, bicycle or aircraft. The *destination* is the same.

    ‘Destiny’ and ‘destination’ come from the Latin ‘destinare’ which means ‘establish, hold firm’.

    “In a number of thesaurus, another word for destiny is ‘fate’ or ‘blessing’.”

    http://thesaurus.com/browse/destiny

    ‘Fate’, yes. ‘Blessing’ … I don’t see that anywhere. A search of ‘blessing’ doesn’t generate anything like ‘destiny’. Thesauruses don’t deal with definitions, they deal with words that deal with similar concepts. ‘Fate’ is a different word from ‘destiny’. Even so, it concerns the destination, not the journey.

    “So, to talk about destiny without choice is foreign.”

    No. To talk about ‘destiny’ *with* choice is a logical absurdity. I understand the concept you are trying to get across, but you are using the wrong word to describe it. I don’t see any room for debate or discussion here. I’ll discuss it if you can find a dictionary that defines ‘destiny’ as ‘blessing’. Or ‘blessing’ as ‘destiny’. ‘Fate’ often has supernatural connotations, but again it’s where you end up, not how you get there.

    “It is a little bit of an acronym, isn’t it?”

    No. An acronym is … not that.

    “Another difficulty is that words change over time. One example
    is the word ‘wicked’. It USED to mean evil, but young people in the early 2000s used it to mean ‘good’.”

    Yes. That doesn’t apply to ‘destiny’.

    This is not grammar pedantry on my part. The sentence you came up with is logically meaningless. It’s a nonsense sentence.

    Discussing these things is useful, defining terms is useful. The words we use are important. Now, Christianity is a belief system built from cherrypicking deliberately vague language from a wishy-washy cobbled together bunch of lies and stories, translated and mistranslated over centuries. So the occasion linguistic imprecision or misunderstanding is bound to creep in.

    In my terms, that’s just evidence it’s extremely shaky. In your terms, though, the consequences of getting this right are literally infinite and eternal. As I’m sure you know, Christian factions divide over the idea of ‘destiny’. The logical absurdity of your God is that, yes, he knew whether he’s going to assign you to Heaven or Hell before the creation of the universe … but gave you free will to choose … to do exactly what he knows you’ll do. The failure to reconcile these two things among Christian sects has led to wars. The reason it can’t be reconciled is the truth that Christians dare not acknowledge: it’s a massive logical flaw that *can’t* be reconciled.

    There’s an easy way to explain this. It does, though, rule out all that ‘God exists’ stuff.

  42. Steve Jeffers says

    “Have you done an intense study on the number of abuses of children in orphanages in Communist Eastern Europe, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, China and other so-called ‘Atheist’ governments?”

    I’ll leave aside the fact that you seem to be implying that Jesus teaches ‘eh, two wrongs make a right, don’t sweat it’, because Greta’s demolished that. The crime is terrible, but the Catholic Church’s particular sin is the international, systematic, current-leadership led cover up. And it’s particularly galling to hear it from ‘moral guardians’ who take a strict line on moral relativism except when it’s their fingers caught in the pie. (It wasn’t fingers and pies, as it happens). Archbishop Dolan of New York, for example, who spent millions in a futile, anti-democratic, unconstitutional campaign to block gay marriage legislation … he’s also accused of moving over $100M out of his parish to plead poverty and avoid paying court ordered settlements to thousands of abuse victims. The expression ‘put your own house in order’ and ‘let he who is without sin throw the first stone’ spring to mind. As, indeed, does ‘clap him in irons’.

    And we’ll leave aside the double standard here that if an atheist dares to suggest that the Vatican’s stance during WW2 reflects badly on the Church that we’re somehow invoking some distant past and how dare we suggest that all Catholics are complicit in the crimes of every Catholic. And the nested double standard that Catholics will happily point to a piece of art or architecture from 1600 as evidence of why the Church is a good thing but if you talk about child abuse in the 1970s you’re raking up the distant past.

    Instead, I’ll point out the mistake you’re making. Atheists don’t believe in god, that’s all. We’re not part of one organization.

    If it helps, picture it this way. Imagine there was an ex-Nazi called Benny who leads an international women-hating, homophobe fan club. This fan club was, with his full knowledge and support, sheltering pedophiles who met the kids as part of fan club activities.

    Person A is not in that club.

    Person B is a paid up member of the club and goes to meetings every Sunday and knows about the scandal.

    There are pedophiles who aren’t in that club.

    Person A *can* say ‘Person B is complicit’.

    Person B can’t say ‘oh, silly Person A, you are complicit with all the pedophiles who aren’t in the club’.

    Imagining that all the people who’ve ever *not* believed in something are part of a group is absurd. It’s like saying you can be a fan of Not-Star Wars.

  43. Jeffrey P says

    Hello Steve Jeffers,

    I did not mean ‘acronym’, I meant an ‘anachronism’, but the spelling checker changed it without my knowledge.

    I tried to understand your sentence construction, but failed in some parts. You are trying very hard, and I applaud your use of the English dictionary to attempt to discern the grammar and root words. Thesaurus and dictionaries are limited on the computer, and can often not give a complete picture. The Thesaurus I used is probably not on the computer. I apologise you did not find the words in your own thesaurus or dictionary.

    ‘Fate’ is the closest word we can get in an English thesaurus, but you are correct, it is often used where one has no choice. But, in the Bible, destiny is used like a ‘fate with choice.’ This is hard to understand for some people, but remember, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Ancient Greek and some Aramaic. Ancient Greek is very different to modern Greek. Therefore, the English meaning of ‘destiny’ and ‘pre-destined’ is not as accurate as it would be if we all read the original Ancient Greek language.

    Your question is: how can God know what a person will decide, and still allow free will? I do not want to confuse you, but it is possible to bring about circumstances without influencing the final decision of the participant. We say that God has a very good knowledge of every person that has ever lived, or will live. He is beyond time, and hence knows simultaneously past, present and future. Hence, even though He knows the ultimate decision of each person, He has always provided options for that person which allows free will. Nor will God manipulate or use His powers to force that person to make a decision.

    Therefore, God does not ultimately ‘assign’ anyone to heaven or hell. This is ultimately decided by each person’s choices. God will not force any person by any power. However, His foreknowledge allows Him to plan the best strategies DESPITE the person’s choices. I have tried to make it simple for you, but it is a very complex topic. Rest assured that every person has free will to make choices throughout his or her life.

    The existence of God is not ruled out by apparent ‘logical inconsistencies’. Our limited knowledge creates logical inconsistencies, but does not limit reality or existence. If you transport a man from the 1700’s into the 21st Century, and show him/her an Apple ipod, and describe verbally its functions, it will not discount the existence of the apple ipod simply because the man has had not enough pre-knowledge or experience of smart phones and its components to judge it ‘impossible to exist.’

    I am sorry again, Stephen. If you do not understand, please let me know and I will try to simply these concepts further. I am sorry about the wrong spelling of ‘anachronism’, which confused you in the previous comment.

    :)

  44. Jeffrey P says

    Hello Steve Jeffers,

    I did not mean ‘acronym’, I meant an ‘anachronism’, but the spelling checker changed it without my knowledge.

    I tried to understand your sentence construction, but failed in some parts. You are trying very hard, and I applaud your use of the English dictionary to attempt to discern the grammar and root words. Thesaurus and dictionaries are limited on the computer, and can often not give a complete picture. The Thesaurus I used is probably not on the computer. I apologise you did not find the words in your own thesaurus or dictionary.

    ‘Fate’ is the closest word we can get in an English thesaurus, but you are correct, it is often used where one has no choice. But, in the Bible, destiny is used like a ‘fate with choice.’ This is hard to understand for some people, but remember, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Ancient Greek and some Aramaic. Ancient Greek is very different to modern Greek. Therefore, the English meaning of ‘destiny’ and ‘pre-destined’ is not as accurate as it would be if we all read the original Ancient Greek language.

    Your question is: how can God know what a person will decide, and still allow free will? I do not want to confuse you, but it is possible to bring about circumstances without influencing the final decision of the participant. We say that God has a very good knowledge of every person that has ever lived, or will live. He is beyond time, and hence knows simultaneously past, present and future. Even though He knows the ultimate decision of each person, He has always provided options for that person which allows free will. Nor will God manipulate or use His powers to force that person to make a decision.

    Therefore, God does not ultimately ‘assign’ anyone to heaven or hell. This is ultimately decided by each person’s choices. God will not force any person by any power. However, His foreknowledge allows Him to plan the best strategies DESPITE the person’s choices. I have tried to make it simple for you, but it is a very complex topic. Rest assured that every person has free will to make choices throughout his or her life.

    The existence of God is not ruled out by apparent ‘logical inconsistencies’. Our limited knowledge creates logical inconsistencies, but does not limit reality or existence. If you transport a man from the 1700’s into the 21st Century, and show him/her an Apple ipod, and describe verbally its functions, it will not discount the existence of the apple ipod simply because the man has had not enough pre-knowledge or experience of smart phones and its components to judge it ‘impossible to exist.’

    I am sorry again, Stephen. If you do not understand, please let me know and I will try to simplify these concepts further. I am sorry about the wrong spelling of ‘anachronism’, which confused you in the previous comment.

    :)

  45. Jeffrey P says

    Steve Jeffers says:
    November 1, 2011 at 9:20 am

    “Have you done an intense study on the number of abuses of children in orphanages in Communist Eastern Europe, Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, China and other so-called ‘Atheist’ governments?”

    Communism is well known to reject the existence of God, and teach that God does not exist. If you can think of a similar government or NGO on earth that exists and are atheist in views, that provides a social service such as orphanages, please study that organisation.

    We are all aware of imperfections in Christian churches, as well as imperfections in other non-religious organisations. I doubt that any organisation in the world will state that its members make the best decisions at every point in time. The Christian religion does not preach that its members are perfect. It always states that its members have flaws, and will make mistakes.

  46. Steve Jeffers says

    “The Christian religion does not preach that its members are perfect. It always states that its members have flaws, and will make mistakes.”

    Oh come on – yes, some of us eat a biscuit when we’re on a diet. The Vatican ran an international pedophile racket. Research around the Cloyne Report suggested that the *majority* of children who went to a Catholic school in Eire in the 1970s were abused.

    Greta’s dealt with this. Whenever adults are left alone with children, there will be abuse. It’s a known risk, and they way to tackle it is transparency, a good way to report abusers, a clear process for dealing with allegations.

    If you suspected that your kid’s teacher abused a child, what number would you ring? It’s easy enough to find. If you suspected your priest was abusing kids, what’s the number? In most parts of the US, there still isn’t one.

    The Catholic Church continues to shelter abusers, it continues to block investigations. And *that* is the scandal.

  47. Steve Jeffers says

    “If you can think of a similar government or NGO on earth that exists and are atheist in views, that provides a social service such as orphanages, please study that organisation.”

    Define ‘atheist’ in this context. Not connected with a specific religious organization?

  48. Steve Jeffers says

    “You are trying very hard, and I applaud your use of the English dictionary to attempt to discern the grammar and root words. Thesaurus and dictionaries are limited on the computer, and can often not give a complete picture. The Thesaurus I used is probably not on the computer.”

    Cite it, I’ll find it.

    “I apologise you did not find the words in your own thesaurus or dictionary.”

    No need to apologize. Just give me the name of your dictionary. If you’re using a set of established definitions that have been written down somewhere, great, let’s all make sure we’re working from the same document. Happy to pick up a copy. ISBN me.

    “‘Fate’ is the closest word we can get in an English thesaurus, but you are correct, it is often used where one has no choice. But, in the Bible, destiny is used like a ‘fate with choice.’ This is hard to understand for some people, but remember, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Ancient Greek and some Aramaic. Ancient Greek is very different to modern Greek. Therefore, the English meaning of ‘destiny’ and ‘pre-destined’ is not as accurate as it would be if we all read the original Ancient Greek language.”

    Interesting. Could you quote the original? A very good friend of mine is a professor of Ancient Greek, so if you give me the Bible verses in question, I’ll run them by her.

    From memory, the only reference to ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ in the New Testament is in Philippians 3:19. The word in the original there is τέλος, telos, so … ‘fate with choice’? Really? A literal translation would be something like ‘end’, wouldn’t it?

    “Your question is: how can God know what a person will decide, and still allow free will? I do not want to confuse you, but it is possible to bring about circumstances without influencing the final decision of the participant. We say that God has a very good knowledge of every person that has ever lived, or will live. He is beyond time, and hence knows simultaneously past, present and future. Hence, even though He knows the ultimate decision of each person, He has always provided options for that person which allows free will. Nor will God manipulate or use His powers to force that person to make a decision.”

    … he just says he’ll send you to Hell if you disagree. Believe it or not, I do understand the theology, and that this has been a problem for Christian philosophers pretty much since there have been Christian philosophers. I know the argument you’re making, it’s from Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. It’s basic stuff. And makes no sense.

    It’s not that I don’t understand big words or that meanings shift in translation, it’s that, framed in Christian terms, I necessarily have a knowable destiny. Looking back, people have destinies. When we look at, say, President Lincoln, we know looking back that his destiny was to be President, that his destiny was to free the slaves and be assassinated. God has, it’s claimed – you just claimed it – he ability to look at a living person – me, say – from (in our terms) a future vantage point. So God would know my destiny.

    If something is knowable, God knows it. Therefore God knows my destiny. God isn’t said to have ‘good knowledge’, he’s *omniscient*. He knows everything that can be known.

    “Therefore, God does not ultimately ‘assign’ anyone to heaven or hell. This is ultimately decided by each person’s choices.”

    As a percentage, how many Christians believe this? Actually, no, make it easier: as a percentage, how many Christians belong to a sect that teaches that? Round to the nearest 5% if you want.

    “I have tried to make it simple for you, but it is a very complex topic. Rest assured that every person has free will to make choices throughout his or her life.”

    Please … I understand the big words, make it as complicated as you like. Cite your sources, cite the original. I’m a grown up. Go as deep as you can. Because I’ve studied theology and I know that ‘as deep as you can’ is to mumble that Aquinas said or Augustine said or that perhaps it’s a mistranslation. You can’t offer evidence in a way a physicist could if they had to demonstrate what a quark is.

    “The existence of God is not ruled out by apparent ‘logical inconsistencies’. Our limited knowledge creates logical inconsistencies, but does not limit reality or existence. If you transport a man from the 1700′s into the 21st Century, and show him/her an Apple ipod, and describe verbally its functions, it will not discount the existence of the apple ipod simply because the man has had not enough pre-knowledge or experience of smart phones and its components to judge it ‘impossible to exist.’”

    No, he won’t discount the existence of an iPod because *it manifestly exists*.

    It is possible to formulate a logically inconsistent sentence. ‘I know what happens in the future, the future isn’t set’ is not a logically consistent sentence.

  49. says

    Wow, the bogosity is strong with these theists…

    …yet God is blamed whenever He tries to bring justice into the world…

    How can we be blaming God for anything, when we don’t even believe he exists? How can someone be blamed for anything if he doesn’t even exist?

    …through Himself…

    When and where? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    …or through His chosen representatives?

    How are we supposed to know who is, or is not, a “chosen representative” of your God? Lots of lying scumbags have made that claim, so I’m sure you’ll understand why we want to be careful here.

    When you ‘do as you do’ and support people like Brad, who have some misconceptions about their faith, do you advocate God allowing deprivation of human rights to women and children, and the powerless?

    Non-sequitur. How is the former connected to the latter?

    …God only acted when there was enough people crying out about the crimes being perpetrated against them; that they were actually PLEADING with God to stop it.

    You mean God knew what was going on all along, and allowed things to get worse until they were begging God to exterminate the overwhelming majority of the human population indiscriminately, without regard to individual guilt or innocence? Or was that just the only “solution” your all-knowing god could come up with?

    Regarding the failure of God’s plan, He did the best He could do.

    So your god really isn’t as all-powerful or all-wise as you want us to think he is.

    This is love in action, because it means that God KEEPS on giving us freedom to choose as we wish, DESPITE knowing what will happen.

    Allowing things to get so bad that wholesale extermination is the only answer is “love in action?” Sounds more to me like an abusive, capricious, alcoholic parent. And that, I suspect, is what’s wrong with so many paternalistic religions at their root: they’re based on the wrong parenting and authority-figure models, and all they end up doing is perpetuating cycle of abusers brutalizing the next generation of abusers.

    If you are a parent, this is exactly what a human mother and father would do for children who deliberately go against their will…

    Well, there you go — my point is proven. And no, my parents didn’t threaten me with death or torture when I went against their will. They were better than that; which is why I’m able to at least imagine a better god than you can.

  50. says

    Regarding the failure of God’s plan, He did the best He could do.

    I quote that sentence again for emphasis: this guy’s God is no more imaginitive than Stalin.

    That quote alone should flush Jeffy’s credibility down the toilet. And he’s saying BRAD has misconceptions? At least Brad seems able to imagine a God better than our worst genocidal tyrants.

  51. Steve Jeffers says

    “How can we be blaming God for anything, when we don’t even believe he exists? How can someone be blamed for anything if he doesn’t even exist?”

    This does seem to be a mental hurdle a lot of Christians can’t leap.

  52. says

    So, in fact, S & G had slid into corruption on a scale that the vast majority of the city was in anarchy, conducting crimes against each other, hurting the weak and the oppressed.

    You know, there are plenty of societies, throughout history, where the humans have been able to prevent things from getting that bad without recourse to wholesale slaughter. Seriously, it’s not like every ancient city-state that didn’t have Yahweh’s strong guiding hand fell predictably into such bloody internal chaos. In fact, such socio-political chaos is pretty rare in history.

    Can I take this to mean that even in ancient times, the majority of human leaders were more enlightened than your God?

  53. says

    The existence of God is not ruled out by apparent ‘logical inconsistencies’.

    The existence of YOUR god, as YOU imagine him, is indeed so ruled out. If there is a God, it’s not the one you understand, because you clearly don’t understand squat.

  54. Steve Jeffers says

    “The existence of YOUR god, as YOU imagine him, is indeed so ruled out.”

    Exactly. If we’re told that something is both invisible and bright orange, then that thing is impossible. If we’re told that a being knows the future, but doesn’t know what will happen, then such a being is not possible. It’s not a question of perspective, it’s a basic question of words meaning things.

    The paradox that God is said to be omniscient but that he also doesn’t know stuff is is not some ‘gotcha’ that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens cooked up three weeks ago. Factions of Christianity have started wars over this.

    That’s the other thing about theology: there’s so little of it, that every possible angle has been explored to death. Christian scholars understand the absurdities, they simply pick on some other Christian sect and say they’re even more absurd.

    The traditional method is just to make sure no one asks the question, or to pat them on the head when they do and say some very smart people have written about this. Some very smart people did. Aquinas is a very smart person. He said some very silly things once he started taking the Christian message to its logical conclusion.

    For example: the reason there’s a Hell is so that the saved can look down and their bliss will be all the sweeter because they’ll see people who didn’t make the grade get tortured.

    If this ‘benign’ God ran a restaurant, he’d stick a bunch of starving Africans on the sidewalk outside. Not to make you feel guilty, but to make the platters of food even more delicious.

    That’s the God of the Christians.

  55. says

    For example: the reason there’s a Hell is so that the saved can look down and their bliss will be all the sweeter because they’ll see people who didn’t make the grade get tortured.

    Actually, that’s a very plausible thing to say. Have you had a good look at the maturity of the “born again” folks? They really would get blissed out by the eternal torment of others — you can hear it whenever they mention Hell. Notice how gleefully Jeffy goes on and on about how God created Hell, God puts people there according to his judgment, but they’re there because of THEIR choices? Their version of Christianity is about the most infantile religion I’ve ever seen…with the possible exception of the Mor[m]ons.

  56. Steve Jeffers says

    “Their version of Christianity is about the most infantile religion I’ve ever seen”

    If you poke around some of the evangelical sites, the leaders are terrified by this – they created a generation with absolutely no critical thinking skills and a massive distrust of authority, governance and books. And that was a fun scam, and made a lot of them rich, but now the morons have had kids, and they’re sitting around going ‘huh, what do we believe again?’.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/0310/p09s01-coop.html

    To put it another way, now Sarah Palin is grifting *them*. And it’s meant to be the other way round.

    They’ve created an incredibly superficial type of Christianity, using borrowed money. It’s basically a bubble.

    Anglicanism’s dead, kept alive by nostalgia and habit. Catholicism’s going to be lawsuited to oblivion, and the Vatican knows it.

    Christianity’s peaked, the Jesus fad is over. I guess, as before, atheists will soon be moving on to some new God to disbelieve in.

  57. says

    I do not want to confuse you, but it is possible to bring about circumstances without influencing the final decision of the participant.

    How is that possible? If you “bring about circumstances,” that act, by definition, influences the decisions of the participants. You can’t have one without the other — they’re both the same thing. And if we have free will, not 100% constrained by God’s actions, then God cannot know in advance what our decisions will be, except in the most general/macro sense.

    And no, you’re not confusing us. We’ve heard all this sophistry before (I’ve been hearing it since I became an atheist at the age of 12), and it’s perfectly obvious you’re grasping at straws to rationalize a set of beliefs that doesn’t square with logic or reality. That’s what most Christian theology is: ever more complicated and convoluted rationalizations of a simpleminded belief that refuses to adjust to reality.

  58. says

    That’s what most Christian theology is: ever more complicated and convoluted rationalizations of a simpleminded belief that refuses to adjust to reality.

    The irony missed by most Christian theologists is that Jesus supposedly said that unless you become like a little child you can’t enter heaven. The way I understand that particular scripture is that Christian theology is supposed to be so simple (simpleminded) that even a child can grasp it. Unfortunately, that particular scripture is often used to infantilize believers by institutionalizing patriarchy as the basis for their belief system. You can see that appeal to infantalizing patriarchy in many of the theistic comments above. The “ever more complicated and convulted rationalizations” you refer to are what I was referring to in my comments above about engaging with other evangelical fundamentalists in other forums. It’s a common tactic.

  59. hoverfrog says

    Jeffrey P, I feel that we should thank you. You’ve provided an excellent example of the kinds of mental gymnastics that many Christians have to go through to stick to their stated beliefs. We don’t accept that gods exist. Talking about the destiny that your god has for us (or doesn’t know about because he knows everything except what free will does) is as much a waste of time as discussing the merits of a system of weights and measures for fairy dust and unicorn smiles.

  60. Jeffrey P says

    To the most recent commenters, Raging Bee and Steve Jeffers.

    Your discounts of God’s existence and His inherent goodness and love broadly fall into the following categories:

    1. You believe anyone who has faith in God has some sort of intellectual impairment.
    2. You find fault within a world leader, or a Christian organisation, and then say ‘there you go, they are imperfect and hence you should not believe in God.
    3. You make moral judgements based on a perceived injustice conducted by either God (whom you say doesn’t exist) or several isolated events referred to by other Atheist writers who may or may not have their facts straight, and who are just as angry as you with God and His followers.
    4. You both make sensationalist claims stating that Christianity, or a belief in God, is ‘old hat’ and hence not valid in the twenty first century because the world has ‘moved
    Reply:
    As Steve Jeffers likes to say, these above arguments are typical Atheist arguments and not new. Some very short comments will follow, without having to resort to emotional claims, hate statements and ranting about how unjust God or His followers are.

    Firstly, Steve, your tone changed from one of tolerance to intolerance. I am a little disappointed when I tried to empathise with you and gently assist you with your questions. Hence, you will allow yourself to make derisive and condescending comments to a stranger whom you admitted is a guest, and you apparently were ‘kicked out’ and ignored by God-followers in the past. If you made your claims with Rage, violence and screaming, I would not be surprised. I shall, however, continue to show gentleness and kindness to you and Raging Bee as this reflects God’s character :).

    To Steve, you said you studied theology and have a friend who is a Professor in Ancient Greek. I ask you two things- 1) was your reason to study theology to find arguments that confirmed the invalidity of the existence of God and to strengthen your claims that religion in any form is invalid?
    2) is the Professor you are friends with coming from your philosophical position?
    You quoted one Ancient Greek word – bravo! Phillipians 3:19 is also quoted. I notice this verse DOES use ‘fate’, so you took my explanation quite literally, and probably used a Concordance to do so. Did you also read similar words such as ‘foreordained’, ‘destined’ or ‘pre-destined’. You might like trying to study Acts 13:48, Acts 17:31, Romans 8:29, or Ephesians 1:5. Ancient Greek had a rich treasure trove of words which cannot fully be defined literally by going to an English dictionary or thesaurus. Ask your Professor friend and she will confirm this :-).

    Let’s talk to Raging Bee for a moment. I applaud your use of ‘Yahweh’, indicating your awareness that the Hebrew scribes left out the vowels of God’s name lest they used God’s name disrespectfully. I assume, therefore, you may also have been a disgruntled God-believer not too long ago, and had your ‘faith’ shaken. Was this as a 12 year old boy when something happened that caused you to question. Or perhaps you were like Steve who studied some theology at a university, perhaps taught by an Atheist professor? Or like Perry, who had a strict religious upbringing and stopped reading the Bible and praying when he started university?

    I am glad you know of Stalin, the great Communist leader who was an Atheist, and exterminated myriads of people who opposed his theory that God doesn’t exist. He then replaced any teachings of God in schools with Atheist teaching, and sent opposers to re-training camps. This was also done by Mao Tse Tung, by North Korean Presidents, and by other leaders in the last two centuries. The reasoning was that any believers in a loving God could be detrimental to the stability
    of their government and had to be replaced.

    Let’s talk about hell, shall we? Atheists talk about this a lot as a reason for stating God is unfair and a tyrant. If you look at hell, it is not a preferred place by God. A study on it would take forever, and it is not something that Evangelicals would wish their friends or loved ones would attend. In fact, many Evangelicals talk about the love of God much more nowadays. It is all about the choices we make.

    We see in life natural laws that have consequences. You try to oppose gravity and jump off a building without a parachute, you know there is a consequence. You know that, if you drink a toxic poison, you will do damage to your body. Choices are made on a daily basis. A justice system is set up to judge persons who deprive people of security or freedom. The consequences for them are either isolation from the world, or perhaps death in some countries where this penalty is incurred. If you are a parent, you create boundaries for your child; and no loving parent who issues a consequence in an attempt to protect their child from future harm. I am sure you have heard it all before.

    Would you say that our society can exist without a police, or without laws to protect? Anarchists would say ‘yes’, but historically every society without a justice system or leader will eventually cease to exist. In this instance, I question Raging Bee’s assertion that:
    “there are plenty of societies, throughout history, where the humans have been able to prevent things from getting that bad without recourse to wholesale slaughter. Seriously, it’s not like every ancient city-state that didn’t have Yahweh’s strong guiding hand fell predictably into such bloody internal chaos. In fact, such socio-political chaos is pretty rare in history.’

    If Raging Bee can produce evidence of this without resorting to legends or folk lores, I would be very surprised.

    Let’s talk about God’s solution. If you are using the Bible as a basis for your criticism, it claims that God Himself became a human being (Jesus stated he was equal with God several times throughout his life, which caused His fellow Jewish people a lot of anxiety) with the intent of eliminating the penalties that you so criticise as unloving. The penalties of Hell is a choice, and hence free will is the basis for judgement, and not merely a ‘stern, unloving God who doesn’t care.’ Jesus, the key character in the New Testament, always accepted the fact that he had to die, and he did it willingly out of love for what he claimed he created – mankind. You have heard it all before – and this is the part you reject. How would a God of love create a consequence as drastic as hell, then claim a part of Him became a human to absorb the penalty?

    You decide for yourself. It is rather simple. It may be, like Perry says, ‘a way of infantalizing patriarchy.’ If, as you claim, there is no god, then there is no hell, no heaven, no worries. DO as you please and accept the natural consequences we see on our planet. If God is real, and does know past, present and future; has the qualities of compassion, love, and is indeed the Creator of this universe; then reality cannot be explained away. If God exists, then it is plausible that the opponent exists. In the Bible, this is Satan, a fallen angel who desires to arouse our desires within and cause us to mock God and His goodness.

    There is no way that a God-believer can undeniably prove the existence of God, just as atheists cannot undeniably prove the non-existence of God. Sure, we can see the shortfall of each ideological system, find faults in certain individuals or institutions that claim to be the followers of such ideologies, and claim that eloquent writers on both sides of the fence have proved without a doubt the claims of the ideology they represent. We can criticise the opposition by saying they lack grey matter, they are immature, or that they are blindly going along with traditions they do not understand. We can even say that a particular movement is dying (in fact, Christianity and Islam are still the two fastest growing religions in the world today); but ultimately, numbers do not count. You can still be in a majority and be wrong.

    But, reality is the telling factor, isn’t it? Fact and not fiction. May all who have written find what is correct and true. As for me, I will choose to believe God loves you. I will choose to believe God loves me. I will choose to believe a new heaven and earth will replace the suffering we see in this world one day. I choose to believe that God has compassion for the marginalised, the suffering and the weak. I choose to believe that God has made a way to enrich the lives of all who trust Him. I choose to believe I am imperfect, and so are the people around me.

    I guess these beliefs are similar to what you oppose? You heard it all before, right? We will see where each worldview takes us.
    :)

  61. Jeffrey P says

    TO Hover Frog,

    You came a little late, but I am praying that you will embrace a life that God originally intended for you. Remember, if fairy dust and unicorn smiles deflects you away from knowing a REAL God that truly loves you, then so be it. As you have probably read in my last comment, I have chosen to accept a reality that I think is a preferred worldview, and superior in every way to a reality presented by the Atheist worldview. Choose, baby, choose. ^-^

  62. Steve Jeffers says

    “The reasoning was that any believers in a loving God could be detrimental to the stability of their government”

    No.

    I’ll deal with the longer points and the issue of my tone tomorrow, but this is simply not why Stalin cracked down on the Russian Orthodox Church.

    You would not want the reintroduction of the Russian Orthodox Church circa 1912 to modern Russia. I’m not condoning the murders or taking sides, but it wasn’t some lovely fluffy gorup of harmless, peaceful hippies that Stalin swept away, it was a corrupt, nasty instrument of the old regime. One utterly despised by the people.

    I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m not a Stalinist or anything like it, I’m not Russian Orthodox. A plague on both of them. If you see the 1912 Russian Orthodox Church as ‘your side’, then please just do a little reading.

    I believe in total religious freedom, unlike either Stalin or the Church he cracked down on. Freedom to, freedom from.

  63. hoverfrog says

    Jeffrey P

    I have chosen to accept a reality that I think is a preferred worldview, and superior in every way to a reality presented by the Atheist worldview

    For one thing there is no “atheist worldview”. Basing one’s entire outlook on life on something that you don’t believe in is a ridiculous idea. Do you base your life on a lack of belief in leprechauns? Of course not, the very idea is stupid.

    You have chosen to base your life on Jesus. Your philosophy of life, your conception of the world, your worldview, isn’t based on reality. Instead it is based on a first century myth that draws on earlier tribal myths. You are not accepting reality, not in any testable or verifiable way.You’re already twisting yourself around and around in order to try to bring your mythology into line with reality but the cracks are showing through. That is dangerous for you and for other people and I urge you to reconsider.

  64. Jeffrey P says

    Hover Frog states:
    “Basing one’s entire outlook on life on something that you don’t believe in is a ridiculous idea”
    I’m glad we have something in common. Living your life based on something you don’t believe in IS a ridiculous idea. Why don’t you investigate the thing you DON’T believe in fully before you live based on an disbelief in it.

    I have. :-)

  65. Jeffrey P says

    Hover Frog says:

    “Instead it is based on a first century myth that draws on earlier tribal myths.”

    Have you been attending sceptic history Professor’s lectures
    again? Jesus was a historical figure. Look up Josephus and Tacitus – one Jewish
    and one Roman historian. Count the number of original manuscripts of
    the New Testament that existed within sixty years of the
    actual event. That’s pretty good in historical analysis, since a historical figure
    like Hannibal is regarded as a historical figure and
    any original documents relating to him date around 900 years AFTER
    his existence.
    See Lee Strobel, a former Atheist lawyer who did considerable
    research about the existence of Jesus and his students. Another one who has done considerable research is
    Josh McDowall, a former sociologist. Of course, we can’t
    go past CS Lewis, a former professor at Oxford University (or was it Cambridge?) who wrote the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ . Plenty of research you can do if you are
    interested. :)

  66. hoverfrog says

    Jeffrey P, I’ve investigated a variety of religions, probably more religions than you have. None of them are compelling and I’m simply not convinced by any of them.

    Reality is important and I have found that religious belief is based on mythology and wishful or magical thinking rather than reality. Religion doesn’t help people to better understand reality, if anything it gets in the way. At its worst it actively hinders people’s understanding of reality.

    Religion is a poor moral guide. Most religions are based on a command morality rather than advancing a mutual social contract. If you take Kohlberg’s stages of moral development as a guide you’ll see how mainstream Islam, Judaism and Christianity are grounded in pre-conventional level of moral reasoning, the morality of children. Do as I say or be punished. You’ll find that many atheists have grown beyond the religion that they were raised in. I was fortunate enough not to have been raised with a religion so I’ve never had to work my way out of that kind of primitive moral thinking.

    Try looking at the world without your Jesus tinted glasses for a change. Look at reality and evidence and try to understand the world and the universe. It is a big topic so expect to make mistakes and draw the wrong conclusions from time to time. Allow that you’ll mess up sometimes. Learn from your mistakes and when reality tells you that something that you believe is wrong then change your beliefs. Religion discourages this. Religion teaches that you must read into reality whatever it is that the holy books say is true even when it clearly isn’t.

    There are people in the world who believe in a literal, world wide flood that wiped out all living things except for a boatload of animals and a half dozen people. They believe this literally. The evidence of a world wide flood does not exist. The evidence of a million species across the globe demonstrates that it never happened. Don’t be one of those foolish believers who rejects reality in favour of their mythology.

    Gods are not necessary for living. If you remove gods from the hypotheses that we make about the universe or our world it looks the same as it does now. You don’t need gods to understand the world. You don’t need gods to live a good life. You don’t need gods for anything.

    The common arguments for gods aren’t compelling. Nobody is convinced by the ontological argument, the argument from design fallacious and the first cause argument is nothing more than special pleading. Other arguments are even worse and are typically circular like trying to prove that God exists because the bible says so. The opposing arguments like the Problem of Evil remain unanswered by the faithful or so many convoluted arguments are made that the question is obfuscated to the point where it loses all value as an answer.

    There are explanations for god belief that don’t include the existence of gods. God is a function of society and a function of the mind. We are wired to believe in things on authority and to follow the herd. It takes reason and intelligence to buck the trend and ask why we do something.

    Most importantly from my perspective as a life long atheist is that “god” is a meaningless word. Define “god” in such a way as to provide meaning to the term. I usually hear such vagaries as “God is love” or “God is the ground of all our being” as if this is supposed to be the answer to anything. It is simply more smoke and mirrors.

    As for Jesus being an historical figure I think that you need to reassess what you actually understand about history. Where is your evidence? Josephus and Tacitus talk about Christians and their beliefs, not about Christ except in terms of hearsay. They are producing tertiary contemporary evidence, not secondary or primary evidence.

    Lee Strobel is a dishonest revisionist. He is not a good example of a person to put arguments forward for an atheist to appreciate.

  67. Steve Jeffers says

    OK … point one: my tone.

    “Firstly, Steve, your tone changed from one of tolerance to intolerance.”

    You started it, with a string of patronizing remarks: ‘You are trying very hard, and I applaud your use of the English dictionary … Thesaurus and dictionaries are limited on the computer, and can often not give a complete picture … This is hard to understand for some people … remember, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Ancient Greek and some Aramaic … I do not want to confuse you … I have tried to make it simple for you, but it is a very complex topic … . If you do not understand, please let me know and I will try to simplify these concepts further.”

    I understand all the concepts you put across, and recognize them, as anyone who’d even skimmed a philosophy primer would. These are not complex ideas. One of the reasons, I think, predestination is such a bugbear for theologians is precisely because it’s so simple to grasp the problem, and so easy to see proposed solutions wriggling on a hook.

    Now, you’ve made a claim, that you have a dictionary that defines ‘destiny’ as ‘blessing’. I’m afraid I don’t believe such a dictionary exists, because … well, destiny doesn’t mean blessing.

    I asked you to do something for me, which was simply to tell me the name of your dictionary, so that I can use that in future discussions. You’ve ignored this request. Now, this dictionary may exist, but I’m suspicious, I have to admit.

    I would like you to do one of two things before we continue, please:

    1. Tell me the name of the dictionary.
    or
    2. Admit that it doesn’t exist.

    I said I would like to have a discussion with you, and I’ll keep it polite. I don’t appreciate being patronized, I don’t appreciate being told I’d understand if only I read a book the title of which you’re withholding. I’ll talk to you, but I will cite chapter and verse as to why I think you’re wrong. I will keep digging. I don’t want to hear ‘you wouldn’t understand’, I want you to try to explain, using as big and complicated words as you like, citing as you go. That’s what I’ve been doing to you, and if it feels hostile … well, no, it’s not hostile.
    I said right at the beginning that I think that if an argument is good or a statement is true then it can resist any counterargument delivered in any tone.

    In that spirit, I believe that you’re wrong, and I believe I can explain why, and, essentially, while I’m keen to learn, if your arguments are silly, wrong and muddleheaded – as, I’m afraid, they appear at the moment – then, yes, I would like to break them in half, feast on the entrails and hand back whatever pieces are left to you. And I’d expect the same from you.

    This is far more respectful than a wishy-washy accomodationist tolerance that pats you on the head, tells you you can believe in whatever you like and secretly assumes you’re a moron. I don’t assume you’re a moron, I simply think it’s a testable hypothesis.

  68. Steve Jeffers says

    And two:
    “You believe anyone who has faith in God has some sort of intellectual impairment.”

    No, I believe that ‘God exists’ is testable, and has failed every test ever devised. Any theory that requires special pleading seems to be a weak one, particularly when the claims for that God’s properties, achievements, lack of properties and knowability change so frequently that those claims barely survive a paragraph of argument.

    “2. You find fault within a world leader, or a Christian organisation, and then say ‘there you go, they are imperfect and hence you should not believe in God.”
    Yes. See above. I do not believe the current Vatican hierarchy to be examples of great moral strength. I think their wickedness does reflect badly on their God claims, yes. In a field devoid of many pieces of firm evidence, the claim ‘Jesus left us in charge and we’re doing God’s work’ is either true, in which case God yearns to run an extreme right wing mafia gang of sex abusers with the apparent aim of maximizing the number of AIDS deaths; or it’s false.
    “3. You make moral judgements based on a perceived injustice conducted by either God (whom you say doesn’t exist) or several isolated events referred to by other Atheist writers who may or may not have their facts straight, and who are just as angry as you with God and His followers.”
    OK. No. I think Christians just don’t get this. You think being an atheist is like falling out with dad, and we’ve basically run away from home and we’re sulkily refusing to phone him.
    No. My relationship with God is more like my relationship with Bugs Bunny. Seen him on the telly, caught a movie with him in it once that was OK, there are some genuine laughs and moments of pathos there. But I would find it odd to decide moral issues by referring to his stories.
    “4. You both make sensationalist claims stating that Christianity, or a belief in God, is ‘old hat’ and hence not valid in the twenty first century”
    Jesus condones slavery, do you? God tells Noah to ‘terrorize’ animals, does that sound like a plan? No. We’ve worked out better solutions.
    Put it this way: do you like democracy? Do you like things like the US Constitution and the European Declaration of Human Rights? OK … how much of the US Constitution will apply in Heaven? Freedom of religion? Freedom of speech? Separation of Church and State? Right to a fair trial? Right, for that matter, to bear arms? The ability to elect leaders?
    The Christian view of God and Heaven is the vestige of a feudal model, one where God is simply the rank above Emperor. It’s a model we’ve abandoned. Heaven, as formulated by Christianity, resembles North Korea more than anywhere else on Earth. It sounds *horrible*.
    We have better ways of doing things now that top down feudal adoration of elites.
    “To Steve, you said you studied theology and have a friend who is a Professor in Ancient Greek. I ask you two things- 1) was your reason to study theology to find arguments that confirmed the invalidity of the existence of God and to strengthen your claims that religion in any form is invalid?”
    A couple of years back, Richard Dawkins was accused of ‘not knowing theology’ and I laughed. How long would we have to study, say, homeopathy, before concluding it was bullshit? One second? No, no, wait, got it: 10^23rd of a second.
    But theology did used to involve smart people thinking about big ideas. It is a branch of human knowledge, and the critics were right that, in my case at least, I didn’t know much about it. So I studied it. And … it’s a howling void. It’s a hollow shell of a discipline, the illusion of one. And the current theologians … good grief, they’re appallingly lightweight.
    “2) is the Professor you are friends with coming from your philosophical position?
    You quoted one Ancient Greek word – bravo!”
    See what I mean about patronizing?
    Let’s spell out what just happened: You said that I couldn’t possibly understand, because – you informed me, seeming to think I didn’t know this – that the Bible wasn’t originally in English so the original word meant ‘fate with choices’. So, in response, I told you what the original word was – telos – and demonstrated that it *didn’t* mean ‘fate with choices’. ‘Telos’ is pretty much the first word of Greek someone on a Philosophy 101 course learns. It means the *opposite* of what you asserted it meant.
    To conclude: you were wrong, I demonstrated why you were wrong. So don’t patronize me from your position of error and falsehood. There’s no dishonor in being wrong, but the next time you assert it, you will knowingly be lying.
    “Ancient Greek had a rich treasure trove of words which cannot fully be defined literally by going to an English dictionary or thesaurus”
    The word in question is ‘telos’. You have a go at defining it, or coming up with the modern English synonym. Or be strong enough to admit you’re wrong.

  69. Steve Jeffers says

    “If, as you claim, there is no god, then there is no hell, no heaven, no worries. DO as you please”

    No one is saying ‘do as you please’, though, are they? The alternative to theocracy is not Stalinism or some form of anarchic libertarianism, it’s groups of people setting up a framework that allows discussion and conflict resolution and multiple solutions to problems. Democracy – rule by the people.

    Christianity is fundamentally undemocratic – CS Lewis said so himself, he said that unless you accept monarchy on Earth, you can’t understand God.

    Now, I happen to like democracy, and one of the benefits is that every belief system can be accommodated. It’s no coincidence that the leaders of the major world religions are unelected and suppress even mild criticism. Or that they lag generations behind in terms of basic human rights or representation of women. Or that the established Churches stood on the barricades *defending the old regimes* as the people overthrew them.

    The solution is not ‘do as you please’ it’s ‘OK … let’s figure this out’. Frequently, religious territorial marking gets in the way of that. Often, these days, religious dogma is the problem, not the route to the solution.

  70. jeffrey P says

    TO Hoverfog

    You oversimplify the findings of Flavius Josephus and Tacitus who lived within the same era as the students of Christ, and reasonably had access to records orally and written. Josephus was Jewish, and Tactitus was not a Christian at all. You are making the mistake of rejecting historical tests of validity in favour of your own ideological upbringing. I am surprised taht Lee Strobel, who was a legal journalist and investigated with an open mind, should be called a ‘dishonesr revisionist.’ Atheists must discredit converted Christians as morally dishonest, only in there for the wealth and the opportunity to abuse. You have read too many Atheist readings and have gained a basic minstrust in anything that even smells of the word ‘God’. I call this very sad.

    You make a mistake by saying humans do not need God. We Christians would say ‘In Him, we live and move and have our being.’ He is the supplier of everything we see and everything we own. Our very breath is a result of His great love for us. Reality is a truth that ‘is’, even though we may deny its existence.

    Reality for you is a world without the possibility of a Higher Being, of knowing that you are a special creation and that this whole universe and its brilliance speaks of a Creator who is proud of it, and is proud of you as one of His creations. It is sad, Hover Frog, because existence is enriched when your reality includes the presence of God. It is enriched when you know you are loved, and that a curtain that has blinded you for so long from the truth cannot be unveiled as you have…closed your mind to it.

    To Steve Jeffers, I have not been patronizing to you at any time, because I am very much interested in other cultures. I have accommodated over one hundred overseas students who learn English as a second language, and understand the difficulties faced in learning a second language. I also understand the importance of positive words – so I always like to encourage people whenever they have achieved something I think is valuable. I have only attempted to encourage you as I recognise your attempts to come to grips with some complex issues. Call it ‘patronising’, I call it ‘enouragement.’

    Regarding the word ‘telos’ that you would like to refer to. I have no doubt that it means what you said it means. The way I was using it is in terms of the journey one takes as a believer, and the process of transformation that occurs once one turns to, or returns to being, a follower of God. The Bible promises a total transformation of heart in our journey, and this will, in turn, change our whole way of thinking, our behaviour and our actions. By the way, I looked up a Collins Thesaurus in an attempt to elicit an English word as close as I could to my understanding of what I wanted to say.

    You were saying theology was a ‘hollow void.’ I wonder what you were searching for as you studied it? You have made some sweeping statements probably based on some prior teaching you have learned as an atheist. Jesus did not condone slavery – he never spoke about slavery, but only spoke about his intention to provide freedom. I do not know of any comment by Noah that he was to terrorize animals.

    Anyway, for both of you, I do not think I need to state anything else. My previous comments have been placed, and the comments for which I have read from all state only constant dark comments about the supposed flaws of believers, of the institutions that support a belief in God, and in God Himself. I have suggested some avenues of study, some reasons for believing in a Creator, and the inherent hope that is created when one walks on a journey with a living Being known as ‘God’.

    I cannot remain here longer, as my family needs my time, and I need to work to attain a living. I also have a daughter who needs my attention. I have found it a pleasure to talk with you and share your stance over one week or more. I shall be praying for all of those whom I read and wrote to – Greta, Perry, Steve, Leum, Raging Bee and Hoeverfrog, and all the others who have either responded or read my comments. Thank you for your time. You are all special, and there will be no other person in the history of humanity that has quite the DNA combinations you have, the personalities you possess, the gifts and talents you exhibit and the great potential inherently within you. Until we meet again, au revoir. :)

  71. Steve Jeffers says

    “I cannot remain here longer, as- ”

    Well, that was easy. Another theist asked to show his cards flees the table.

  72. says

    Your discounts of God’s existence and His inherent goodness and love broadly fall into the following categories…

    Here we see a typical example of the dishonesty of Christian evangelists: when faced with arguments they can’t address, they simply reword the other guys’ arguments and pretend the other guy said something else entirely, then try to refute what they imagine the other guy said, not what the other guy actually said. Most Christian evengelists argue from a preset script, and are often forced to distort other people’s responses to fit their script, otherwise they can’t get a grip at all.

    Another bit of Christian dishonesty is their claim that atheists are “angry with God.” In addition to being insulting, patronizing, and a blatant atempt to pretend they’re superior and all their critics are nothing but little children (there’s that dysfunctional paternalist model again), it’s also just plain false. No, we’re not angry with God; we’re angry with PEOPLE who make up idiotic, demonstrably false, and sometimes hateful and harmful nonsense ABOUT their God; and who often use their alleged God to justify evil acts toward other people. When people spout such insane bullshit, and advocate policies that are clearly evil, anger is the appropriate response. And people who worship a God as angry and vindictive as Yahweh have no right to complain about anyone else’s anger.

    Also, Jeffy, your “assumptions” about me are false. I became an atheist for one very simple reason: all the God talk I heard, at home, in church and elsewhere, simply made no sense. Later, a junior-high-school teacher of mine became a born-again Christian, and tried to convert me. His God talk made a little more sense, but still not enough; and his blind rejection of huge masses of history and discourse simply disgusted me. He was a good guy who meant well, but he had nothing to offer, intellectually, morally or spiritually. His religion was, quite literally, an opiate that helped people escape from reality, not deal with it.

    (BTW, FWIW, I’m not an atheist anymore, I’m a Pagan. I won’t bother anyone with my spiritual path because it’s not relevant to this conversation — people like Jeffery are wrong and dishonest on their own merits, regardless of what God(s), if any, really exist.)

    I am glad you know of Stalin, the great Communist leader who was an Atheist, and exterminated myriads of people who opposed his theory that God doesn’t exist.

    I knew you’d pick up on that, and your argument fails for one obvious reason: the overwhelming majority of the Russian people who SUPPORTED Stalin were not atheists, they were Christians — and yet their religion didn’t lead them to effectively oppose their new atheist regime, or to create a better one. It also didn’t lead them to oppose CHRISTIAN Tsars who were almost as bad as Stalin (why do you think the Tsars got overthrown?). And no, Stalin didn’t kill people for “opposing his theory that God didn’t exist;” he killed them for a variety of reasons, most notably because his policies were just plain incompetent, and all failed at colossal cost.

    Let’s talk about hell, shall we? … A study on it would take forever…

    Yeah, it would take forever to find any evidence that Hell even exists.

    The penalties of Hell is a choice…

    Here you’re just droningly repeating an argument that’s already been refuted. If God created Hell, and God decreed that people go to Hell for not making the right choices, then God, and only God, is responsible for people being eternally punished for finite crimes. Blaming people for the infinite punishment that God chooses to give for finite crimes is not only dishonest and cowardly, it’s also proof of a downright deranged and hateful mindset. A person who’s deranged enough to imagine a place like Hell, and to imagine that anyone could possibly deserve to go there FOREVER, is a person who’s too insane to be credible. (If your mother was not the right kind of Christian, would you say she deserves to be in Hell forever?)

    If you are a parent, you create boundaries for your child…

    Very few parents punish their children for the rest of their lives for making the wrong choices. Once again, you’ve shown that your model of “divine justice” is based on the most abusive parenting style imaginiable.

    I question Raging Bee’s assertion that: “there are plenty of societies, throughout history, where the humans have been able to prevent things from getting that bad without recourse to wholesale slaughter.

    You’re questioning how many thousands of years of written history? Seriously, pick up a history textbook sometime: most human societies, while always imperfect and at least somewhat corrupt, manage to keep our basest instincts under control without recourse to wholesale slaughter. Ergo, most human leaders are more enlightened than your God.

    Let’s talk about God’s solution. If you are using the Bible as a basis for your criticism, it claims that God Himself became a human being (Jesus stated he was equal with God several times throughout his life, which caused His fellow Jewish people a lot of anxiety) with the intent of eliminating the penalties that you so criticise as unloving.

    What about people who do their level best to become enlightened, and do good for others, without believing in Jesus, or even hearing about him? Do they still go to Hell for their “choices?” Are all the pre-Columbian Indians in Hell because they chose to be born too early on the wrong continent?

    How would a God of love create a consequence as drastic as hell…?

    Good question. Either your God is not a “god of love,” or you’re not even close to understanding what God is really like, or your God is nothing more than the wet dream of a miserable hateful authoritarian twit.

    If, as you claim, there is no god, then there is no hell, no heaven, no worries. DO as you please and accept the natural consequences we see on our planet.

    That is, in fact, how most decent people, religious and non-religious, function every day: by learning, using their best reason and judgement, and deciding what’s right and wrong, and which voices in their heads to listen to, without recourse to hateful morons making up folktales and imagined threats of eternal torture. Seriously, do you REALLY need any God story to figure out that you shouldn’t kill people, or your daughter shouldn’t be raped or molested? I don’t.

    But, reality is the telling factor, isn’t it?

    Indeed it is. And the reality is: a) there’s no evidence for the existence of any gods; b) so many people have spouted lies, BS and pure insanity in the name of this or that (unproven) god that the only sensible response is to ignore it all and resort to reason and experience instead; c) if so many people claim to know what God wants, and are all saying contradictory things, then it makes no sense to trust any of them; and d) if someone’s words are demonstrably ignorant, irrational, self-contradictory, and/or contradoctory to basic decency, then pretending it’s “God’s will, not Man’s,” with no evidence of God’s will, doesn’t make it right. Agreed?

  73. Steve Jeffers says

    “Regarding the word ‘telos’ that you would like to refer to. I have no doubt that it means what you said it means. The way I was using it is in terms of the journey one takes as a believer”

    Yes. Here’s the thing: words mean things. You don’t get to decide that the word ‘end’ means ‘journey’. You certainly don’t get to do it halfway through a discussion without raising suspicions that your argument is … not watertight.

    “By the way, I looked up a Collins Thesaurus in an attempt to elicit an English word as close as I could to my understanding of what I wanted to say.”

    Collins Thesaurus. Good, thank you:

    “destiny noun
    1. fate, We are masters of our own destiny. fortune, lot, portion, doom, nemesis, divine decree,
    2. (usually cap.) fortune, Is it Destiny or accident that brings people together? stars, chance, karma, providence, kismet, predestination, divine will”

    The word ‘blessing’, or anything like it, is not there. So when you said it did … why did you say that?

    “You have made some sweeping statements probably based on some prior teaching you have learned as an atheist.”

    Ah yes, it was what old Professor Dawkins taught me in Applied Hitchensology when I studied at Fuckgod College, Stalingrad. No, I’ve made sweeping statements because I spent two years reading up on the subject and all I found was people sat around in an unchallenged environment.

    “Jesus did not condone slavery – he never spoke about slavery, but only spoke about his intention to provide freedom.”

    Wrong. http://www.religioustolerance.org/sla_bibl2.htm

    “I do not know of any comment by Noah that he was to terrorize animals.”

    Then read Genesis 9.

    OK.

    You’re a great example of why I say the arguments are ‘hollow’. You state something, but when you’re called on it you backtrack, attempt to redefine terms midway, either don’t cite sources or misrepresent what they say, you add entirely irrelevant personal anecdotes, don’t answer simple points put to you, mumble how it’s all so complicated I couldn’t possibly understand, question *my* education and knowledge while demonstrating near total ignorance of *your own belief system*, then suddenly you can’t spare the time to be on the board any more.

    There’s nothing there, is there? Just the howling void. As I said, we say show the cards, you fold. As ever.

    Now, I hope you agree that I’ve done you the courtesy of taking your argument seriously. Tested it to destruction, as it were. Goodbye.

  74. hoverfrog says

    Jeffrey P

    You oversimplify the findings of Flavius Josephus and Tacitus who lived within the same era as the students of Christ, and reasonably had access to records orally and written.

    Are you an historian? Have you formally studied history? Do you know what the different kinds of evidences are when discussing history and how we determine whether a purported event is reasonable to accept or not?

    1. Primary Sources
    These are sources of information which come from the time.
    Take The Battle of Hastings as an example. We have the Bayeux Tapestry is a primary source for 1066 and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, or the Chronicle of William of Poitiers. An axe-head dug up at the site of the battle (at the town of Battle and not Hastings) would be a ‘primary source’. They were written/made by people who were there, and they are called ‘primary sources’ because they form the original information base for the events. They were the first to write/draw this information, and the information comes from them.

    One thing to remember about primary evidence is that it is not ‘better’ simply because it comes from the time. Both the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the Chronicle of William of Poitiers, are both VERY biased and unreliable. Remember that a soldier in a battle might give an ‘eye-witness account’ which sounds very exciting and ‘real’, but he probably only saw what was going on in his section of the battle – he did not have the overview.

    2. Secondary Sources
    Over the years, professional historians and textbook writers have collected together all the primary evidence, and weighed and evaluated it, and patched it together to make synthesised accounts of what they think went on. These are called ‘secondary’ histories, because they are made ‘at second hand’ – the people writing/drawing them weren’t there at the time; they based what they did on the primary accounts of other people who were alive at the time.

    One thing to remember is that, some secondary histories are VERY careful, well-researched and unbiased. Having said that, however, not all secondary histories are ‘good’. They are written long after the event, with the benefit of hindsight. They cannot be based on ALL the facts because some facts have been lost through time. And some of them are poorly-researched and very biased. Examples of appalling secondary histories are the Mel Gibson films on Braveheart and the American War of Independence (The Patriot).

    2. Tertiary Histories
    When someone writes an account of a mythical figure in another land, a generation or two after he supposedly lived, based on what they have heard from people who write to them then they are of course writing AT THIRD HAND. It could be said, therefore, that what they are is a ‘tertiary source’, but by this time it’s just getting silly, isn’t it!

    Where does Tacitus and Josephus fit into these sources of evidence?

    I am surprised taht Lee Strobel, who was a legal journalist and investigated with an open mind, should be called a ‘dishonesr revisionist.’

    I base my judgement of him on his writings, on a number of interviews that he has undertaken and on answers given to atheists who questioned his accounts and literature. I may be harsh in my judgement but I find him to be quite dishonest about answering questions and giving a forthright account of himself.

    Atheists must discredit converted Christians as morally dishonest, only in there for the wealth and the opportunity to abuse.

    Not at all. Karen Armstrong is a fine writer. Rowan Williams is a very nice man indeed and is very open about the difficulties of his faith. John Shelby Spong is awfully well versed in theology and argument. Richard Holloway is an excellent writer who seems to deeply care about the future of his faith and about reasoned discourse across faith.

    You have read too many Atheist readings and have gained a basic minstrust in anything that even smells of the word ‘God’. I call this very sad.

    I hope that my examples dispel your silly attempt to label me as an anti theist who only reads the works of the archbishop of atheism, Richard Dawkins. I have certainly read a number of atheist books and I do agree with a great deal of what is written. Surprise! What I find sad is that you clearly haven’t bothered to verse yourself in the opinions and writing of those who you have chosen to engage in debate. I find Strobel dishonest. I found William Young (The Shack) to be revolting in its crawling sophistry. I found C.S Lewis to be filled with half answers and poorly addressed (though brilliantly stated) questions. Feel free to recommend someone else. I can’t promise that I’ll read anything quickly as I’ve got a huge pile of reading to do but I will get round to it eventually.

    You make a mistake by saying humans do not need God.

    I don’t believe so. I see absolutely no need for gods of any kind.

    We Christians would say ‘In Him, we live and move and have our being.’ He is the supplier of everything we see and everything we own. Our very breath is a result of His great love for us. Reality is a truth that ‘is’, even though we may deny its existence.

    I’m sure that makes you very happy but someone may feel the same about a popular musician or actor or even a character in a film as I’m sure you can see for yourself in the popular media. Your emotional response to your imagined perfect being isn’t evidence such a being exists. It is simply evidence of the strength of your own feelings.

    Reality for you is a world without the possibility of a Higher Being, of knowing that you are a special creation and that this whole universe and its brilliance speaks of a Creator who is proud of it, and is proud of you as one of His creations.

    Yes, exactly. I am liberated by my lack of pretence and lack of special status. I am one with the people around me and form part of nature and the flora and fauna that we rely on to survive. My successes are my work and not some special service for an indifferent deity. My failures are my own to learn from and not the work of benighted demons lurking always to trip me. The universe does not exist for me. It is older and far more grand than I can ever imagine and will continue long after I am dust, long after our world is blasted to fragments by our dying sun. That is wonderful and humbling and I find peace in accepting it. I am sorry that you place so much emotional investment in a being who you cannot even see or hear or touch. A being that exists only in the minds of believers like you.

    It is enriched when you know you are loved, and that a curtain that has blinded you for so long from the truth cannot be unveiled as you have…closed your mind to it.

    How sad. I suppose I’ll have to enrich myself with the genuine love of my family and friends instead. Real, tangible and undeniable interaction with people who really exist. As for the oh so common accusation of the closed mind I’m sure that Greta has written something wonderful on the subject but for my part I can only say that having an open mind means having some willingness to admit to being wrong and a willingness to discard what does not conform to reality in favour of what does. I know that I change my mind when presented with strong evidence that I am wrong. I may not like it and I may even resist if I cannot bring myself to discard a well loved hypothesis but eventually I must let it go and accept the competing and more realistic argument as fact.

    Can you say the same? Better yet can you produce the evidence asked for that this “god” thing that you love so much ins’t merely the fluff and nonsense of wishful thinking and fancy? Present your evidence. If it is compelling and stands up to close examination then I’ll change my mind. I dare you.

    Anyway, for both of you, I do not think I need to state anything else. My previous comments have been placed, and the comments for which I have read from all state only constant dark comments about the supposed flaws of believers, of the institutions that support a belief in God, and in God Himself. I have suggested some avenues of study, some reasons for believing in a Creator, and the inherent hope that is created when one walks on a journey with a living Being known as ‘God’.

    So soon? But we’ve barely scratched the surface. You’ve not even presented any arguments beside a repeated assertion that you’re right and we’re wrong. Come now, you must have something of substance?

    I cannot remain here longer, as my family needs my time, and I need to work to attain a living. I also have a daughter who needs my attention.

    Good, honest work and a family life. I know the pressures so well. There is no time limit. Feel free to take a day, a week or even longer to gather your arguments and evidence before presenting it. I doubt if you will have anything that hasn’t already been presented but if you do then I’m sure it will be worth the wait.

    I have found it a pleasure to talk with you and share your stance over one week or more./

    I’d like to echo that and add that you’ve been very accommodating in your answers. Let’s hope that you find the time to return at some point.

    I shall be praying for all of those whom I read and wrote to – Greta, Perry, Steve, Leum, Raging Bee and Hoeverfrog, and all the others who have either responded or read my comments.

    I can’t help feeling a little insulted by the offer of prayer. You must know that at best we consider prayer to be a form of personal meditation and at worst a blanket dismissal of our views and opinions. You probably meant well, eh?

  75. says

    I have chosen to accept a reality that I think is a preferred worldview…

    “Choosing to accept a reality” does not make it any more real. And that pretty much sums up the problem: you choose to believe something, without regard to observable reality, and pretend that somehow makes it real. And if someone else has “chosen to accept a reality” where God wants us to kill gays, Jews, atheists and Pagans, well, that choice is just as valid as yours. That’s really all any god-belief amounts to — choosing to believe what you want to believe.

  76. says

    And now this thread is topped by a targeted ad for an outfit selling on-line divinity degrees. It must be a sign, right? Or just targeted advertizing?

    Then again, most evangelistic horseshit is just targeted advertizing anyway…

  77. Steve Jeffers says

    “I can’t help feeling a little insulted by the offer of prayer.”

    Indeed, it is a bit like telling a Jew that they’ll be thinking of them the next time they scoff a bacon sandwich.

    Here’s a compromise, Jeffrey P: don’t pray, just donate some money to a charity … a homeless charity, say, a foodbank. Something that helps another human being. Doesn’t have to be very much, at all.

    Think of it as a variation on Pascal’s Wager. If you’re right, God will give a big smile and he may grant you an extra virgin in Heaven, or whatever *. If there’s no God, at least someone gets some help.

    * I’ve just realized – that’s what all the nuns are for: God’s stocking up.

  78. Steve Jeffers says

    “That’s really all any god-belief amounts to — choosing to believe what you want to believe.”

    Ultimately, I think that does apply to us non-believers, too. I’d prefer to think we didn’t share a universe with the Christian God, because he sounds like a nasty piece of work. The idea of spending eternity with a bunch of fucking Christians sounds like Hell, not Heaven. But my preference has no bearing on his existence.

    Scientifically, there are ways in which that Christian God might exist, although he’d be a particularly deceptive god, an advanced version of the one the 19th century preachers said had buried fossils to trick the unholy. Again, there might be a lying git of a God out there, we can’t rule it out. There comes a point where a perfectly faked atheistic universe is … well, a universe without any signs of a god in it.

    I don’t buy that for a second, obviously. But it’s not *impossible*, and it is untestable by definition. It’s hardly the God that Christians bang on about, though.

  79. says

    Ultimately, I think that does apply to us non-believers, too…

    No, it doesn’t really apply, unless you can show non-believers believing something that’s not at all supported by evidence or reason. Beleving a non-testable claim of the NON-existence of a supernatural being doesn’t count: in cases like the one you mention, it simply makes practical sense to take non-belief as a default position, because the alternative is to allow oneself to believe a virtually unlimited number of untestable claims about supernatural beings and events. A god who fakes a godless universe? Sure, why not? Invisible pink unicorns frolicking about on Venus? Well, okay, at least until we land there and start testing the claim…

  80. Steve Jeffers says

    “No, it doesn’t really apply, unless you can show non-believers believing something that’s not at all supported by evidence or reason.”

    I absolutely agree that there’s a difference. The only thing I’m saying – and it’s one of the oldest philosophical questions – is that there’s no way to distinguish between something that’s real and something that’s *perfectly* faked, because by definition a perfect fake would pass every test we could possibly design.

    Just on basic probabilities, the idea our universe assembled ‘at random’ is far more likely than that a powerful being made it look random (flipping five coins is easy, engineering five coins that perfectly replicate those first five results … less easy, to put it mildly). And the universe looks like the result of ‘random’ mechanical processes.

    I agree absolutely that there are burden of proof issues that fall on the believer. Ultimately … we *may* be in a universe created by an absurdly powerful being. It’s extremely unlikely, and doesn’t answer any of the questions it purports to … but it *may*. At some level, by being atheists, we are making an aesthetic choice – I’d *prefer* to live in a universe that I can take at face value, acts rationally and I can assume isn’t a fake (just as I’d prefer to live in a universe where I’m not constantly spied on and judged by a giant pixie who’s waiting for me to eat pork so he can whisk me away and torture me for billions of years).

    In the end, the possibility is another example of solipsistic wanking on the part of theologians. Is the universe *identical* to one that wasn’t created by a God? Yes. Then that’s good enough for me.

  81. says

    The only thing I’m saying – and it’s one of the oldest philosophical questions – is that there’s no way to distinguish between something that’s real and something that’s *perfectly* faked, because by definition a perfect fake would pass every test we could possibly design.

    True, but there are practical reasons for not believing the “perfect fake” hypothesis, even though it’s no less testable than the “it’s all real” hypothesis. Believing things are real when they act real allows us to respond sensibly to the real universe; but believing it’s all faked leads to solipsism, paranoid delusions, and a form of insanity. Therefore, even though both of these claims are (in theory at least) equally untestable, there are still compelling rational reasons for choosing one and flatly rejecting the other.

    This is also the case WRT many religious beliefs: we can’t disprove them, but we still have good reason to reject them for lack of supporting evidence. God MAY poof extra money into my bank account, ya never know, but I’m not basing my purchasing decisions on the assumption that he will.

  82. Brad says

    Wow, this discussion certainly raged on for awhile. I realize this post was a long time ago, but a couple of follow-up thoughts:

    My original comment that Greta quoted was primarily on how different these kinds of biblical passages look when you are “inside the bubble” (of a Christian worldview) vs now that I’ve allowed myself to see things “from the outside” (the Outsider Test for Faith as described by John W. Loftus shows why this is important).

    This is perfectly illustrated by the lengthy discussion between Steve and Jeffrey above.

    I’ve yet to (formally) abandon my faith, so I can very easily put myself in the “seat” of jeffrey p, coming up with explanations/rationalizations/etc for why God must have done certain things. The key, though, is that this position starts from the presumption that God is good, and the Bible is true, so there must be an explanation. And even if we can’t find one that satisfies us, we just fall back to “it’s just a mystery, God can explain it all when we get to heaven.”

    Textbook confimation bias.

    Now that I can see that, its a whole lot harder to slip back into “rationalization mode”, and the serious questions raised by atheists start becoming a whole lot more challenging to my faith.

  83. Atheist antagonist says

    Hi, Brad, this is Aussie.Xian, otherwise known as ‘Jeffrey P’ in previous comments. The ‘rationalist’ mode is used by both Atheists and theists. Both are positions of faith as there is no way that an atheist can scan every parsec of the universe to determine the existence of God. We also can consider a variety of dimensions that we cannot perceive with our five senses, which is beyond our rational thought.
    There is adequate, but not exhaustive, evidence historically that Jesus existed and he claimed to be God. There is some adequate, but not exhaustive, evidence that scientists grasp at evolutionary theory and thus date the earth and fossils at an age much older than they could if they take into account other theories such as a worldwide flood supposition taken on by Creation Scientists.
    Overall, our rationalism causes us to have faith in one direction- and causes us to have hope that the human writers we adhere to – whether Atheist or Theist – are correct. I choose to believe a good God exists and that believing in an atheism view relying on evolutionary theories leads to racism, ethnic genocides and gender inequality.

    Permit me to leave you, Brad, with a quote from a book theists hold dear, and I CHOOSE to trust more than atheist writers. It is a passage written by Paul to a bunch of Romans over 1900 years ago:

    “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. (Romans 1:19-23 MSG)

  84. Brad says

    You got the batsignal!

    The ‘rationalist’ mode is used by both Atheists and theists. Both are positions of faith as there is no way that an atheist can scan every parsec of the universe to determine the existence of God.

    I’m not sure that “both are positions of faith” is actually true.

    Skepticism attemps to make sure we are aware of our own tendency to fool ourselves (cognitive biases) and uses techniques that test and verify what we know (the scientific method), and changes its mind in the face of new evidence.

    My experience in evangelical Christianity, on the other hand, emphasizes a faith that actively discourages delving into anything that sniffs of “worldly understanding”, and absolutely refuses to change even in the indisputable light of new evidence (or they co-opt it to say “oh, we always believed it that way”).

    And scanning every parsec of the universe for God is not the issue. Modern (Evangelical) Christianity makes very specific testable claims:
    * The Bible is a reliable document
    * We can experience a real encounter with God
    * God can and does answer our prayers

    For me, the jury is currently out on the first of those, but on the others, I’ve pretty much decided that what I had percieved to be religous experiences were just emotional response/peer presure/response to worship music, and what I thought were answers to prayer were really just suggestibility/confimation bias/hindsight bias.

    I’m familiar with that passage from Romans, and I’m just not sure that I buy it anymore. If God’s majesty is “obvious” from looking at the world around us, then why don’t all people come up with the same “answers” about God when they see his creation?

  85. Atheist Antagonist says

    Brad, the scientific method works well in the laboratory when there are events that can be repeated and verified, but not for events that are unrepeatable, such as history. Having a community to critically evaluate your experiments are also important, but can act like a committee voting if certain presumptions are considered universally true , eg. evolution.

    Thus, often the skeptic is UNAWARE that they have a cognitive bias, or are fooling themselves. It comes back to their worldview, and what they set out to prove for themselves. Thus, atheism is the same as theism in that they have a set of presuppositions to ‘scientifically’ disprove the existence of God. This is subjective research, not objective.

  86. Atheist Antagonist says

    By the way, atheist antagonist, Jeffrey P, and aussie.xian are the same identity if you are confused.

  87. DSimon says

    Atheist Antagonist, you seem to be saying something along the lines of “There’s evidence either way, so choosing which to believe is a matter of personal discretion.” Although you describe this as being “rational”, however, it is not.

    Given any set of evidence, there is exactly one set of beliefs that should rationally result from that. If the evidence for atheism and theism were equally strong either way (which I dispute, but let’s assume it for the moment), then the only resulting rational position would be “The likelihood of there being a God, or of there not being a God, is just the same as the likelihood of a fair coin showing heads after a random toss.”

    It’s not rational to just pick a side and go for it under uncertainty; the math of probability is clear on this. I’m an atheist because the prior probability of God existing is very low, and there’s not any good positive evidence to overcome that.

  88. Atheist antagonist says

    DSimon says:
    “It’s not rational to just pick a side and go for it under uncertainty; the math of probability is clear on this. I’m an atheist because the prior probability of God existing is very low, and there’s not any good positive evidence to overcome that.”

    Creationists and many theists would say the same about the IMPROBABILITY of God existing and the probability that such an ordered universe came about by chance.

  89. articulett says

    Saying that the universe came about by chance is ignorant and not really what scientists are saying– the only people whom I’ve heard describe cosmology or evolution as “chance” is theists with a vested interest in not understanding things like natural selection or the actual things scientists are saying. So long as theists can imagine that scientists think the universe came about akin to a 747 being assembled from a tornado passing through a junkyard (theistic understanding of chance) they can believe that it makes MORE sense to instead believe that an invisible 3-in-1 “uncaused first cause” created the universe for them. If they actually took the time to understand what scientists are actually saying, they may not feel so smug with their incoherent delusions.

    Magical explanations might feel good to Muslims, Scientologists, Christians, Mormons,etc. who think that their salvation depends upon believing unbelievable stories, but they aren’t really valid for those interested in the truth. A scientific hypothesis becomes a theory when it is able to predict new evidence. Science is the best tool we have for uncovering the truth that is the same for everybody no matter what they believe. This is why there is one science and an infinity of supernatural beliefs. Woo “hypothesis” are never able to predict new evidence; The woo the woo-ist believes in has no more evidence in its favor than the woo the woo-ist rejects. (i.e. there is no more evidence for gods than there are for fairies.) The woo-ist has to keep telling themselves “Science can’t prove my woo is wrong– therefore my woo is true” even though woo with conflicting beliefs are doing the same thing.

    Those who believe in a god that sends people to hell for lack of faith have quite the vested interest in propping up their delusions at all costs. This would be true of most Muslims and many Christians. Fortunately the internet allows many people the chance to break free of this horrific meme so often inflicted on trusting children. I’m glad to hear there’s a possibility for Brad to break free even if it’s too late for the atheist antagonist eager to convince himself that his chains are just what he wants.

    I’m an atheist because I think if there was even an iota of evidence that consciousness could exist absent a material brain, scientists would be refining and honing that evidence for their own benefit and no one would need to be manipulated by preachers and holy books and this idea that faith is a virtue. Theists wouldn’t have to dishonestly represent what scientists are saying or obfuscate rather than clarify.

    There are no such things as immortal souls that can suffer forever– or rather there are no more evidence for such things than there are for gremlins. The evidence shows that you need a material brain to think or experience everything. Souls that can suffer forever are a problems that religions have invented so they can proffer themselves and their gods as a solution and manipulate people accordingly. But I think that with the internet more and more people will be catching on to the idea that there are no invisible beings– that the ones various people believe in are no more real than the ones they dismiss as fantastical.

  90. DSimon says

    I’m an atheist because the prior probability of God existing is very low, and there’s not any good positive evidence to overcome that.

    Creationists and many theists would say the same about the IMPROBABILITY of God existing and the probability that such an ordered universe came about by chance.

    They can say that, but they won’t be correct to do so. The prior probability of God not existing is higher than that of God existing because, like any other non-null-hypothesis, the latter has to pay the Occam’s Razor penalty first.

    Once that’s done, it’s still possible for it to pull ahead due to specific evidence in its favor, but for the hypothesis of God’s existence there isn’t any of that that’s any good (at least that I’ve heard of).

    As for the probability of the universe being ordered by chance, keep in mind that we’ve discovered many ways for complex order to be generated by relatively simple processes, such as biology. We only need to figure out the probability of arriving at a suitable “seed” situation with a very basic self-improving system, not any of the more complex modern situations that result.

  91. Atheist Antagonist says

    articulett says:

    “magic”, “incoherent delusions”, “horrific”, “fantastical”.

    Articulett, you are very good in using strong, emotive adjectives and demeaning language to prop up your world view that theists believe in a cruel God who vaporises people at whim. It is the same language that atheists use to imply that theists are ‘dumb blonde’ stereotypes that people with prejudices use to reinforce their stance and use fear to impose their views on the opposition.

    I expect little more from the atheists, the ‘rationalists’, and the so-called ‘skeptic’. Those who reject their godly heritage seem to fall into the camp that uses threats, gossip, criticism and ridicule to make their stance known. It is typical of the methodology used by males, and also the scientific research community, to cause scientists and social scientists who don’t toe the line on issues regarding evolution, stem cell research, homosexuality, natural selection, women’s rights to choose abortion,etc, to conform to their stance.

    This method of intimidation to conform is very typical in every culture and sub-culture; and does not necessarily mean the stance taken by this sub-culture is correct in their views.

    I agree – the scientific style of creating a theory, doing research to validate it, and come to conclusions is very sound. However, the theory that the research is designed to prove or disprove can be based on a worldview that excludes other just as valid theories. So, like anything else, science is only as good as the implementer of it is.

    Brad, do you really want to substitute your whole evangelical worldview that God is a loving creator who gives humanity everything they need on a daily basis, provides every human with a lifetime of chances, and who loved the world enough to sacrifice His son so that the legal consequences of their rebellion is paid for- for a ‘skeptics’ view that says they will only believe in a visible world, and will intimidate anyone who says otherwise?

  92. Brad says

    Brad, do you really want to substitute your whole evangelical worldview that God is a loving creator who gives humanity everything they need on a daily basis, provides every human with a lifetime of chances, and who loved the world enough to sacrifice His son so that the legal consequences of their rebellion is paid for- for a ‘skeptics’ view that says they will only believe in a visible world, and will intimidate anyone who says otherwise?

    Of course I don’t want to lose my faith!!

    This past 6 months have been some of the most difficult and traumatic of my life, and that’s just been my own internal struggle. My entire extended family and nearly all my friends are strongly committed Christians, how will they react if I ultimately come out as an atheist? I’ve heard some pretty heart-breaking stories of rejections/disownings from other former believers. My wife is praying fervently that I’ll stay within the faith, and it doesn’t take a prophet to foresee some rough waters ahead for us and our 3 kids if that doesn’t happen.

    I know what’s at stake here, and its not a matter of deciding which world view I find the most palatable, because I no longer am willing to be uncritical about what I believe.

    I’ve always believed what Jesus said in John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But what if the truth is that God is a figment of our own mind? What if the institution of religion is nothing more than a social construct? What if my “relationship with Jesus” is just me talking to myself? What if prayer doesn’t really have any actual effect on the world? What if the my perception of the Holy Spirit is just me ascribing agency to one aspect of my own thoughts? What if the Bible really is nothing more than “typical” mythological writings by ancient peoples? What if Jesus was just a regular guy, or what if he didn’t exist at all??

    Wouldn’t you want to know it if that were true? If any of those turned out to be true, don’t you think that would be a pretty dramatic upheaval in your life?

    (I know I’m not providing arguments about all the individual questions, but I hope you can at least agree that the questions themselves are legitimate, important, and really are objective questions about reality, not just subjective questions about what we would like to be true.)

    One of the realizations I came to recently is that I never really critically examined the foundations of my faith. I thought I did (I have a 4-year Bible degree and shelves full of apologetic books), but I now realize that I was always very careful to avoid non-evangelical sources (“liberal theology”, “critical” biblical research, etc).

    I guess I always trusted that someone else had already done the “hard work” of showing that a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian position was defensible against the opposition (liberal theological as well as atheist arguments): that it was internally consistent, supported by the evidence, worked in the real world, etc. All I had to do, then, was work out the details of living a day-to-day Christian life.

    I’ve now concluded that this trust was misplaced.

    The arguments for God’s existence aren’t terribly persuasive.
    Its highly likely that there are mundane explainations for most if not all of my spiritual experiences.
    Stories about miracles, spirits, angels, and demons don’t sound that plausable any more.
    Now, after examining the “critical” sources myself, my prior trust in the inerrancy and authority of scripture seems somewhat naive.
    Its very easy for me now to identify fallacies and potential problems in every sermon I hear.

    My journey isn’t over yet, but to directly answer your original question:

    Yes, I’d rather believe the truth, even if it is less comforting.

  93. Brad says

    And as difficult as the journey might be, at least for a time, its encouraging to read stories (like several of Christina’s excellent posts) that talk about how for some people, “letting go of God” can be freeing, and liberating, and bring a new determination and hope for all the good things we have in this life: love and family and friends and music and incredible chocolate pie and sex and kids and science and nature and the internet. Wonder and amazement at the fact that we’re even here. Sadness that this life might in fact be all there is, but gratitude for the time we have, and those that we have to spend it with.

  94. Atheist Antagonist says

    Hi Brad,

    I can see your internal struggle. I too have a four year degree in theology, plus another degree in a secular degree. I have a friend who found it hard to reconcile the death of a favourite aunt, and hence blamed God for bringing death to the world. Many of the apologists you refer to on your bookshelves have probably come from an atheist or enquiring perspective in life, and I have seen many of their arguments have provided me with adequate explanation for my faith and beliefs.

    I have looked at the ‘liberal’ and ‘critical’ research, and see no substance to their arguments. If you are truly objective, you should read anything hand-in-hand. Can letting go of God truly be freeing and liberating? All depends on your Christian tradition – did you come from a Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist Tradition, or Herbert W Armstrong philosophy? Have you really found a personal friendship on a daily basis with a loving God who is involved in every circumstance on your life – or did you merely go through the motions on Sunday?

    For me, ‘letting go of God’ is not freeing because it means that life becomes only for ‘me’, and not for any higher purpose.Post modernism states that truth is relative, that only your own fulfillment is imperative. You say you have three children – their whole future will depend on your decisions now. Will they raise their children to know of a loving God who cares about them, or that there is no God beside themselves, and the meaning of life is self fulfillment and nothing else?

    Your wife is praying hard too as she will no longer be able to share her faith in the loving God she trusts with you. She can no longer pray with you, no longer share favourite verses with you, no longer guarantee you attending church with her. She may feel alone, and her whole world shaken. She will see changes in you as you ultimately seek to shake the ‘shackles’ of God, and the ‘freedom’ that apparently arises from you becoming god.

    The same temptations that Adam and Eve faced, and indeed every human on this planet, particularly males; are being faced by you. It is a hard call, but you are at the crossroads. Just remember, the decision you make of embracing ‘skepticism’, post-modernism, secularism, and the subsequent other views that are alternatives to your faith, has far reaching consequences not only for you, but your wife, your children, your grandchildren, and indeed the whole of your community of friends, acquaintances and persons you come into contact on a daily basis.

    You know that Jesus claimed he was the truth in John14:6, he claimed you are ‘truly free, if the Son sets you free’ in John 18:36, and that you become a slave if you go elsewhere. I prefer being a prince, a son, and knowing there is more than this life to look forward to.

  95. DSimon says

    Will they raise their children to know of a loving God who cares about them, or that there is no God beside themselves, and the meaning of life is self fulfillment and nothing else?

    She will see changes in you as you ultimately seek to shake the ‘shackles’ of God, and the ‘freedom’ that apparently arises from you becoming god.

    Post modernism states that truth is relative, that only your own fulfillment is imperative.

    Where are you getting these notions of what atheists are like? Has anyone here actually said anything along the lines of “the meaning of life is self fulfillment”, or that they intend to “becom[e] god”?

    I’m particularly puzzled by your frequent mentions of post-modernism, as though you expect this to be something we support. Seriously, skeptics are not post-modernists, and we do not think that “truth is relative” or any such thing. If anything, we’re like the opposite of post-modernists; have you even read anything explaining what we mean by “skepticism”?

    Please respond to what we actually say, not just what you expect us to say based on these strange stereotypes.

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