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On Religion as a Public Health Threat.

KAGIN’S COLUMN

                                   ON RELIGION AS A PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT

 My own view on religion is that of Lucretius.  I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.   Bertrand Russell

 

The Christian Religion produces in many followers a kind of mass psychosis.  Belief in fundamentalist dogma is a contagious, addictive disease that destroys all thought that might challenge the delusional system.  The disease is so virulent and destructive to affected believers that it threatens the extinction of the human species through overpopulation, and must also be understood as a threat to the mental health of the public.

Christianity teaches an infantile belief in imaginary places and imaginary friends.  Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Angels, Satan et al travel from Heaven and Hell to visit Earth, perform miracles, impregnate Earth girls, and teach that we are doomed for eternity if we prefer being alive in this world to being entombed in a scriptural world.  Contentment is reserved for those who have died for Christ.  Everyone else if cosmic flotsam.

Rather than remain silently smug in the knowledge they are saved and all non-believers are damned, Christians attempt to make all human beings play in their sandbox and to agree with their fantasy world.  It really does make an enormous difference in how adults view the world if they were humanistically reared or if they were raised to think like children: to believe that a magical Being magically made everything, including them; that the purpose of their lives is to worship and obey the magical Creator so they can be with the Creator after they die in a magical place called Heaven, and that the Creator raised his magical Son from the dead– after killing him as a blood sacrifice for their otherwise irreversibly shamed and debased nature.  This is a message guaranteed to scramble your mind.

Fanatical believers in this system recognize a duty to force others to believe it.  This is a threat to the public’s psychological health.  Of course the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution permits the free exercise of religion.  But the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact.  If we can, through law, try to protect the public from itself by regulating smoking, alcohol consumption, and sale of firearms, surely we have the constitutional power and duty as Americans to defend the wall between church and state and to protect freedom of conscience from the force of ancient myths.

Fundagelicals are pounding their battering rams at the wall of separation and at the pillars of democracy.  They want people to surrender their personal power to them and share their pathological illness.  They have seen many changes and have been against every one of them.  What a difference it might make if their one life was seen as one to live for growth in relationships and for the discovery of knowledge that permits something beyond groveling before non-existent, capricious gods.

Our species may well be in a transitional evolutionary phase wherein we either use our minds to survive or become extinct in consequence of idiotic religious behavior.  Easter Island is a tidy little microcosm.  Space was limited.  Islands are that way.  The people destroyed themselves, their civilization and their environment by overbreeding and internecine wars.  Religion was their fatal disease.  It might be ours.

We might have settled the stars by now, but we have wasted the lifespace of our species with such nonsense as mythically believing God wants sex used only for making babies.  This defect in rational though alone has produced tragedy for countless humans.

Despite overwhelming evidence that uncontrolled population growth will destroy the human race as it destroyed Easter Island, certain Christians will kill you if you believe in preventing this through contraception and abortion.  That Pope, J2P2, has canceled a visit to the U.S.  He is piqued because the U.S. didn’t support his deadly doctrine, at the world population control conference in Cairo, that population should be controlled by using no population control.  Clearly, religion is a threat to public health.

Christians display another dead give-away symptom of an addictive disease — denial.  Facts are not facts.  Believers have not committed provable crimes.  They are afraid of dying, and rather than deal with it, they invent a make believe world that Pliny described to the Roman Emperor Trajan (1st century, Common Era) as “an absurd and extravagant superstition.”  He further observed, “In fact, this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among the neighboring villages and country.”  Pliny saw it coming.

The ancient terrors are still here.  The disease continues to threaten democracy, personal freedom, and life itself.  How can it be controlled?  The Chinese have a neat criminal law punishing theft by superstition.  That might help.  So might taxing religion and using their money for repairing their damages.  Religious practices could be limited to certain times and places and be scrupulously kept out of public life.  Under no circumstances should impressionable children be exposed to religious beliefs until they no longer believe in Santa Claus.  Religion must be rated R.  Reason is an effective inoculation.

Religious bigots must be exposed.  They don’t like being called bigots, but they are.  “Bigot” is defined in the New Little Oxford Dictionary as an “obstinate and intolerant adherent of creed or view.”  Yup, that’s them.  They don’t like what they perceive as “religion bashing” either.  This, in their diseased view, is what occurs when potential victims refuse to consent, and fight back.

Would a rational, caring God really endorse what Christians believe?  Fundagelicals are right when they say they are at war with atheists.  If you are fond of freedom, you’d better pray the atheists win.

Edwin Kagin

 

 

Comments

  1. matthewbarraco says

    I must be crazy for posting here, but I feel like there is a bit of hypocrisy here.

    The blog doesn’t address real problems. The freedom to not hear and not see a religion is not relative to a government’s ability to control what is preached but by the individual’s will to look away and stop listening.

    Here is an example. When XXX Church carries its debates with Ron Jeremy, one of the things sited is that pornography is dangerous to people and is obscene. The counter-argument is that parents should be better parents by regulating what they can see. Yet, everywhere you go, you’ll likely run into an advertisement that portrays sexually suggestive advertisements. Then the counter-argument is that it is the freedom of expression and that people should practice self-control. So, it is peoples’ right to portray sexually suggestive art yet it isn’t their right to advertise against it?

    Again, hypocrisy.

    I’m not trying to be rude either. I understand that many Christians carry on with fanatical and false doctrines of Hell, methadologies, and impolite evangelism. But then again, there are atheists that take things too far as well. When Mohammed first began reciting the Koran, he was appalled at Christian doctine. However, anyone with the ability to attain a Bible and the internet can see for themselves that Christian doctrine was not universal nor accurate to that of the one portrayed in the New Testament. When Martin Luther read Romans 3:25, he was floored because all the Catholic priests were saying that buying indulgences would buy peoples’ time outnof purgatory (which doesn’t exist.) Why was he floored? Because the doctrine he had seen before was nothing like it was originally supposed to be like. How much more can atheists be about Christianity if all they have to go by are creationists and fundagelicals?

    Reason calls for a better method of learning truth than by takimg things at face value.

    The fact is that, despite radical fundamentalist Muslims killing people out of religious zeal, Christianity is still picked on the most because of two reasons:

    1) The majority of humanists don’t live in countries with Sharia Law, therefore making Christianity the most common religion they encounter.

    2) Christianity tolerates their insults, hypocrisy, and slander.

    This author portrays a view not stemmed from Reason, but from emotion. Because nobody in their rational state of mind would utter such dangerous demands that have been comparable to antisemitic at worst and reminescent of the Reign of Terror at best. Connected to these words are indeed a lot of pain.

    A religionless world does not mean a better world. A better world means a better world. In my opinion, this not a good blog and, in no ways, presents that atheism is either more correct or better than Christianity or any other worldview.

  2. Stevarious says

    @matthewbarraco

    1) The majority of humanists don’t live in countries with Sharia Law, therefore making Christianity the most common religion they encounter.

    Sooo…. your argument is that despite the incredible amounts of demonstrable harm that Christianity demonstrably causes, we shouldn’t give it a hard time, because Islam is even worse?
    According to wikipedia (and taking the worst numbers offered) there have been 1.7 million deaths in the Middle East attributable to conflicts with Muslims.
    On the other hand, just in 2005, 2.3 million people in Africa died from AIDS – an epidemic that Christianity has actively worked to promote by spreading lies that condoms do not prevent AIDS.
    Islam is a terrible religion. Christianity is equally terrible, in entirely different and much more subtle ways. Christianity, unlike Islam, is right here in America, doing it’s very best to ruin people’s lives on a daily basis. The vast majority of posters on this blog, which is primarily populated by Americans, therefore argue against Christianity.
    However, we are also greatly concerned about the harm that Islam does. You will find a primarily anti-Islamic Freethought Blog here, and several other bloggers (PZ, Greta, a couple others) frequently talk about it.

    2) Christianity tolerates their insults, hypocrisy, and slander.

    Bullshit. Look at Rhode Island. Christianity doesn’t even tolerate reasonable, logical requests to obey the law. Christianity threatened to rape and murder a teenage girl because she requested that a school take down an illegal prayer banner.
    Don’t you sit there and tell me that Christianity is tolerant. That is a baldfaced lie. Christianity doesn’t tolerate a damned thing – it is the largest source of intolerance in America today. It has spent the last four centuries being dragged, screaming, into the modern age – it lost it’s best argument when it stopped burning people at the stake for heresy.

    I understand that many Christians carry on with fanatical and false doctrines of Hell

    Replace ‘many’ with ‘vast, vast majority’. Honestly it’s quite tedious when someone claims that Hell is a ‘false doctrine’, when it’s what the vast majority of christians actually believe. I unfortunately cannot find the survey, but I recall recently reading that it was a belief shared by about 85% of American christians. YOU may not believe in hell, but clearly christianity believes in it! Why should I accept you as a spokesperson for christianity when you don’t even follow it?

    A religionless world does not mean a better world.

    I daresay that even if Christianity were correct, it’s absence would still make for a better world.
    But I’m willing to concede for a moment, for the sake of argument, that it’s possible that a religionless world would be worse if christianity were true.
    All you have to do is demonstrate that Christianity is true. That wouldn’t make up for all the harm it’s done, but it would be a place to start. Go ahead, I’m listening.

    • matthewbarraco says

      Alright, I’m having a hard time figuring this out because I’m not used to this format, so I don’t know how blockquote your response.

      Basically, I think you have a point about the AIDS piece. But I don’t think that the real problem is the Roman Church. Its as if you are asking the Roman Church to at once be the physician without even worrying about the underlying cause. AIDS is still spreading there. 5.3 million people didn’t die because they didn’t use condoms. They died because they had sex and contracted aids even though they knew the risk. The blame isn’t solely on the Roman Church. But I get where you are coming from.

      I’m not the biggest fan of the Roman Church. As a Christian, I find the idea of a Papacy absolutely antichristian. According to the New Testament, the veil in the temple was rent in two so that anybody could have access to God. Seven centuries later, wealthy families are purchasing Church offices from Frankish kings to further enrich their families. And the kings made a good penny off of it. So basically, by the 8th century, the veil had been sewn back together and men had to once again be separated from God. Sounds silly if you ask me.

      And I know that you aren’t Christian by any means. I just don’t think that you know the whole story and therefore are only going by what is most readily observable.

      I have a huge interest in Church History because it explains WHY Christianity is the way it is, rather than assuming God doesn’t exist at all. The root of the arguments are not about what the Bible said, but about what the Church did. As rational beings, we must not rule out the circumstance behind which all these teachings developed.

      It is my opinion that the Roman Papacy is a false prophet. Its history of lies, corruption, war, and murder have made Isaiah 52:2 as true today as it was in Paul’s day when he quoted it in Romans 2:24, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

      Men don’t have a problem with religion. They have a problem with religious institutions. As a Bible-believing Christian, I have problems with teachers of religion because they mandate that they are the authority on doctrinal matters. Try and argue with them about what the Greek New Testament says about hell and they will flip out as if you were introducing come king of new heresy.

      I get your pain about religion, I really do. But I think Jesus is better than religion. I think He better than government. And I think He is better than atheism. It would make very little sense to talk about proving Christianity or arguing about endless genealogies. Jesus is better. Any Christian that has suffered and doubted but come back stronger has known that. I hope someday that you can be convinced. Maybe when the Roman Papacy sees its troubles in the next two to four years?

      The Church needs a lot of work. No doubt. But the Church was never a place of perfect people, otherwise it would be empty. Its a place for people who are what they are, whatever they are. It is the teachers, especially the Papacy and all those who enjoy prestigious titles and positions within the Church that are being called into question. Therefore, I think accusations are best aimed at them. And WBC…I don’t even want to get started with that.

      • Stevarious says

        It would make very little sense to talk about proving Christianity or arguing about endless genealogies. Jesus is better.

        No. It is the very crux of the matter. Is Jesus a real being that exists? Or is he a shared delusion? It’s obvious that there are massively shared delusions in the world – just for instance, even if you assume that between Islam and Christianity one is right and the other wrong, either way over a billion people are sharing a massive collective delusion. Massive collective delusions exist, this much is certain if anything is. Is Jesus one of them?
        If Jesus is real, then you can make an argument for him being ‘better’. But if he is NOT real, then the delusion is responsible for incalculable waste and harm and suffering and misery, for very little benefit.
        You and I can easily agree that Islam is a massively shared delusion that causes incredible waste and harm. Are you not even capable of considering that the same might be so for Christianity?
        Or do you not care whether or not it’s true, because it makes you feel good? Most atheists I know are people who care whether things are true. This is a true dichotomy – either you care whether things are true, or you prefer to believe in things you like regardless of whether it’s true. Which is it for you? Which do you value more, your beliefs, or the truth?

  3. matthewbarraco says

    Perhaps I’m too used to discussing this issue with people who have no aim in their arguments. You threw me for a loop.

    The existence of Jesus is the crux of the matter, I agree. But peoples’ expectations for the evidence can never be met. They ask why there were no statues made, like other historical figures? Because for three and a half centuries after Jesus resurrected, both Romans and Jews persecuted the Christians. They didn’t have the convenience of memorializing Jesus.

    Why didn’t other writers mention Jesus outside of the Bible? Because Christianity wasn’t a popular cult. They didn’t have a broad facination for cults. The Romans really only appealed to imperial cult, and the Jews were more reknown than Christians were. In fact, Christians were only considered one of the four sects of Judaism.

    And so what would be a reasonable justification for the lack of outside-of-bias evidence for any other person in history would never pass for Jesus. I feel like many don’t want Jesus to be real.

    And those are two of the many reasons why evidence will never be enough. It is the implications of Jesus existence that I believe cause many to oppose it. Few oppose Buddhism because a great majority of Buddhists don’t evangelize. They are monastic.

    I know this sounds counter to what you were arguing, but I believe many atheists will reject even solid evidence of Jesus existence. At least the atheists I’ve talked to follow their beliefs rather than the truth.

    So the field is even. As for me, I care about what is true. That is why I have conflicting views on hell, am opposed to the Roman Papacy, and state that Jesus is better than anything, even better than Church. I believe Christianity is true because I sought the truth. If I said I could be wrong, Christianity wouldn’t be what I truly believe.

    In the Bible, both Jesus and His apostles warned of false prophets that would enter into the Church, divide and conquer the laity, and change the teachings. They said that these false teachers would also persecute God’s people and kill anyone that didn’t follow their teachings.

    If they knew back then, why are people so surprised and deceived about it today? They know that Jesus never condoned the crusades, inquistions, fornications, molestations, world dominations, and spiritual deceptions that were introduced by the Roman Papacy. Why are they calling that Christianity when they know that is not what the Bible teaches?

  4. Stevarious says

    And so what would be a reasonable justification for the lack of outside-of-bias evidence for any other person in history would never pass for Jesus.

    Three things, here. One – the existence for a number of historical figures is up in the air, and probably always will be. Take Socrates, for example. There is considerably greater and more reliable evidence that he existed than there is of Jesus – we have the writings of Plato, who claims to have been taught by him, and attributes several revolutionary advances in ethics, epistemology, and logic to him. Yet any historian worth his salt would freely admit that Socrates may never have actually existed. There are no actual contemporary accounts of Socrates. We have none of his writings – everything we know about his teachings comes secondhand.
    On the other hand, we are much more certain of the existence of Plato and Aristotle. Why? We have works by their own hands, and works by others that reference both them AND their works. We have the writings of people they met and taught, of politicians they advised and criticized. We even have Aristotle’s will! We are as certain as we can be that Plato and Aristotle were real people.
    We have no books written by Jesus. We have no contemporary records of him or the fantastic events of his lifetime. We don’t even have any writings of anyone who is reliably claimed to have met him. All we have are stories, passed down orally for decades before being written down – and we don’t even know who wrote them down! We have considerably less evidence for Jesus then we do for Socrates – and no historian would ever claim that we even know Socrates was a real person.
    These are the standards by which historical figures are judged, and Jesus fails miserably.
    This is perfectly understandable if he was just some itinerant preacher who gathered a cult and was executed for blasphemy, and then stories were made up about him after he died. This is completely ridiculous if, after he was executed, he got better, and was seen by thousands of people afterward. And what about the zombies all over Jerusalem as described in Matthew 27:51-53? Is it possible that there was an earthquake, followed by ‘many’ dead people coming back to life and roaming the streets, and nobody saw fit to write it down? Nobody?
    The bible makes fantastical claims, and while the fact that there is no contemporary documentation is not proof that it did not happen, it is a very good reason to refrain from belief until they ARE corroborated.
    Second: For most historical figures, it’s not nearly as important whether or not the particular figure exists. It doesn’t matter to me if Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle actually existed, because the ideas attributed to them are what made them important. The ideas (The Socratic method, the Golden Mean, so many others) are concepts that exist regardless of who discovered them, and would continue to exist and be just as important and meaningful, even if we found proof tomorrow that all three were made up completely.
    But Jesus… Everything rides on whether or not he was a real person. According to the bible, he isn’t just ‘any other person in history’. If he was real, he was the son of God, and his words and deeds can only be considered critical to history – perhaps the most critical. If he was fake – if he never lived at all, or lived but was just a crazy guy, or lived and was perfectly normal but a lot of crazy stories got made up about him after he died. And without evidence, clear evidence, of his divinity, all of these things are far more likely than the idea that he was actually the son of God. Far more likely because we have so many examples in history of the exact same thing happening to other people.
    Thirdly – What does it say about your god, that he is content to let the question of his existence (and that of his son) be unanswerable and evidence for his existence be unfindable, so that people that actually care about whether their beliefs are true will never believe? Did he deliberately create me to be the sort of person that cannot belief without evidence, thus damning me? Or does he just not exist?

    I feel like many don’t want Jesus to be real.

    It’s entirely possible that a good many people don’t want Jesus to be real. But it’s not the point. I’m not interested (specifically) in disproving Jesus’ existence (though that position can be a useful one to take). The question is, is it true? This is the question that matters. And if the question cannot be definitively be answered ‘yes’, then we (as people who care whether our beliefs are true) are not justified in believing it.

    I know this sounds counter to what you were arguing, but I believe many atheists will reject even solid evidence of Jesus existence. At least the atheists I’ve talked to follow their beliefs rather than the truth.

    I know a lot of atheists. I don’t know any that would reject solid evidence of Jesus’ existence. I know many that would refuse to worship such a being, but there is a very wide difference between accepting the existence of a thing and refusing to worship a thing. I accept that Kim Jong-Il existed. I do not believe he was divine and would never have worshiped him (though I might have pretended to to save my life). I could have solid evidence that Jesus existed, and I would believe that he existed – but evidence that he lived, and evidence that he was god, are two very different things. I don’t even know how you COULD prove that Jesus was actually god – but then, that’s his problem, not mine.

    So the field is even.

    It certainly is not. This is not a dichotomy. It’s not an issue of “Well, either atheists are right or Christians are right, and there’s no evidence for either, so just pick one you like.”
    The situation instead is this: “Well, there are thousands of religions out there, and none of them have any actual evidence that they are true, so if you don’t care if what you believe is true, you can pick one you like that makes you feel good. Or, if you DO care if what you believe is true, then you can refrain from picking ANY of them until one has demonstrated that it is true, and in the meantime try to be a good person for the sake of being a good person.
    If there IS a god or gods, hopefully he (they) won’t judge you too harshly since you did your best to be a good person and didn’t waste any time worshiping the wrong god(s). (And, after all, (s)he is (they are) supposedly the one(s) that provided insufficient evidence for his/her/their existence and then created beings like myself that are incapable of belief without evidence – so (s)he(they) would really only have himself (herself/themselves) to blame anyway.)
    And, if there ISN’T a god then you haven’t wasted any time worshiping any false god either – and hopefully, since you had more time to spend making the world a better place, you left it better than you found it.
    There is nothing about Christianity that suggests it would be any more likely to be true then any of the other religions.

    I believe Christianity is true because I sought the truth.

    A meaningless platitude. How could you possibly know that you found the truth if you admittedly do not have the evidence to back it up? Are you claiming that the followers of all the other religions do not seek the truth? Were you just lucky? How do you compare that to, say, a convert to Islam who says “I believe Islam is true because I sought the truth”? How do you know that he is wrong and you are right? How do you justify it?

    If I said I could be wrong, Christianity wouldn’t be what I truly believe.

    You can’t even admit that you could be wrong? What makes you infallible? I believe a lot of things (though the only ‘faith’ position that I hold is ‘I think therefore I am’) but freely admit that I could be wrong about all of them. I believe things based on evidence but freely admit that my understanding of the evidence could be wrong or the evidence incomplete. I’m not infallible, and neither is anyone else. Even you.

  5. matthewbarraco says

    I feel like it will do more damage than good to try and address all points, since the entire system of quoting is foreign to me.

    So I’ll address you point on the surviving works of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle as opposed to those of the apostles.

    At first, I find it necessary to point out that, like Jesus, Socrates willingly met his murder and that none of his original works survived him. He spoke and all was recorded down through his school. Much of Socrates’ work was survived by Plato, whom recorded much of their conversations. Aristotle was Plato’s student and passed on his works.

    Now, I brought that into mention because I find it necessary to mention that followers of Socrates preserved his works, and likewise for Plato and Aristotle. It was not the concern of much pagans to wrap themselves in philosophical quarrels. But, seeing that a great portion of Greeks indulged in philosophy, it can hardly be compared to the teachings of Christ and of His apostles.

    Unlike Socrates’ followers, nearly all of Jesus’ apostles were murdered in their endeavor to spread his teachings. Also, Christianity, much less than Judaism, wasn’t very popular or embraced in the Roman world. And finally, the works of the philosophers were not the subject of systematic eradication as was the Christians, for the Greeks lived in a free world but the Christians were revolutionaries against the Roman spirit that was acclaimed to have been manifest in the person of the emperor.

    The conditions of which these two become disparities are like a collection of gulfs between each point previously addressed.

    Furthermore, in the first three hundred years in which Christianity was outlawed, the Romans had decreed Christianity to be treason for its insistance to retract from pagan customs and imperial cult worship to the point that the persecutions became systematic and detestable, the churches in various cities were burned to the ground, Christian literature and letters were burned, and the gentleness and sincerity of such men and women as was typtical of Christians before papism were given no regard to their sex or reputation but were subjected to the most distasteful of deaths.

    This hardly characterizes the climate in which the philosophers established their schools of thought.

  6. matthewbarraco says

    You asked earlier how I knew I found the truth in Jesus Christ. I found the truth by experience that I believe was supernatural in the expounding of the knowledge of God and as well as the miraculous turn around that my life has had.

    Humanists may declare this kind of knowledge to be superstition and this kind of experience to be the result of will, but none of them were with me nor did they know me. So the skeptic must either call me crazy or call me honest.

    And I could only admit that I could be wrong if I felt convinced that I wasn’t right. Otherwise, how could I say I believe it to be true? What sense does it make for a man to say that he believes in one thing when he doesn’t believe it entirely. He might as well as say that he is suspicious and never come to a conclusion out of fear that men may take him to be arrogant.

    And at what length should I go to expose the absurdities of the modern age that has given rise to modern criticisms that have yet to reveal their most sinister evils? Robepierre took advantage of the lower class by telling them what they wanted to hear and thereby removed the head from every upperclassman he could. Hitler siezed opportunity when Germany was stricken with economic woe and led men into insanity. I dare say that the next event will be nothing less than an attempt to destroy religion completely from the West. What else would you expect from a generation of thinkers such as was quoted by G.K. Chesterson before WWI?

    “You cannot call upon any wilder vision than a city in which men ask themselves if they have any selves…Free thought has exhausted its own freedom. It is weary of its own success.”

  7. Stevarious says

    The conditions of which these two become disparities are like a collection of gulfs between each point previously addressed.

    But it just further serves to prove the point, that what you call “reasonable justification for the lack of outside-of-bias evidence for any other person in history” is not the case. There is less evidence for Jesus than there is for Socrates, and historians do not say, with any certainty, that Socrates was a real person.
    That a person named Jesus lived and died is probably true, just like it’s probably true that Socrates existed. Did he perform miracles? There’s no reason to believe that Jesus, unlike the hundreds of other historical figures about whom magical events were invented after their death, actually performed those magical deeds. I rather think that it’s because Socrates had so many students, that documented so many of his words, that all kinds of absurd stories were not made up about him after his death.

    And finally, the works of the philosophers were not the subject of systematic eradication as was the Christians

    The hell they weren’t. Christians strove mightily to erase them from the world over the course of a thousand years. If the work of these great thinkers has not already spread to the East before Christians came to power, we would know nothing of the Greek philosophers.

    You asked earlier how I knew I found the truth in Jesus Christ. I found the truth by experience that I believe was supernatural in the expounding of the knowledge of God and as well as the miraculous turn around that my life has had.

    And how am I supposed to take this, in light of members of every other religion making the same claim? Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Wiccans, even freaking Alcoholics Anonymous; all claim spiritual supernatural experiences and life-turning-aroundings are common to every modern religion. (AA is more like a cult.) Why is your claim any more convincing than theirs?

    Humanists may declare this kind of knowledge to be superstition and this kind of experience to be the result of will, but none of them were with me nor did they know me. So the skeptic must either call me crazy or call me honest.

    I could call you crazy if I was feeling uncharitable, but I think it is more accurate to call you honestly mistaken. A billion Muslims are honestly mistaken, aren’t they? From where I stand I see little difference between Christianity and Islam, except that Islam is still in the ‘bloodthirsty forced conversion’ phase that Christianity (mostly) got over a couple hundred years ago.

    And I could only admit that I could be wrong if I felt convinced that I wasn’t right. Otherwise, how could I say I believe it to be true?

    No, you say that you could be wrong when you understand that the human mind is fallible and capable of being tricked. That’s it. This is the way an honest thinker thinks. You can be wrong, about everything. Not even the Pope is infallible. I could be wrong about being an atheist (though it will take evidence to convince me of that, since, as I explained before, evidence is the only thing that can demonstrate, with any amount of certainty, that a thing is true).

    What sense does it make for a man to say that he believes in one thing when he doesn’t believe it entirely.

    It makes perfect sense. You have a very binary view on knowledge, when of course, like so many things, it is shades of gray ‘Believing’ something doesn’t mean ‘knowing with certainty’. It means that you act as though that particular thing is true. I believe that my car is outside where I parked it. I also understand that it could have been stolen in the last ten hours since I parked it there. I believe that my boss is going to put the raise he promised me last month on my next paycheck. I also understand that he could have forgotten about it or lied. And I do not believe in any gods, because I have not been shown any compelling evidence that any exist. Should I hedge my bets and pick one to pretend to believe in, just in case? No. Without evidence, my odds of being right in that guess are infinitesimal. Could I be wrong? Of course. But until I see evidence, there is no reason to change my life.

    Robepierre took advantage of the lower class by telling them what they wanted to hear

    Christianity has been doing this for two thousand years. “Afraid of death? If you follow us and live your life how we say, then you don’t have to really die! Tired of being poor? If you just accept that being poor in THIS life isn’t really so bad, then you get not one but TWO mansions in heaven after you die! Feeling bad about some mean things you did? You don’t have to make it up to your sister, just apologize to Jesus (who will NEVER judge you) and you can be completely absolved of your guilt without making amends! Oh, and by the way, if you don’t? Torture forever.

    Christianity is the ultimate ‘tell people what they want to hear’. It promises that every hardship they endure will be met with equal pleasure in the afterlife, that their oppressors may sit high and dry in life, but will be punished brutally afterwards. Oh, and don’t forget 1 Timothy 6:1-2 – Slaves should work extra hard for their masters if their masters are also christians! The bible seems custom made to make oppressed people content with their lot based on promises of a better life to come – you may argue that this was not the intent, but it is how the book has been used from the day it was written.

  8. Stevarious says

    Oh, and to block quote something, you put <blockquote> and </blockquote> around whatever text you are pasting.
    So,
    <blockquote>Blah blah blah blah blah.</blockquote>
    becomes

    Blah blah blah blah blah.

    when typed out exactly as it’s displaying now.

    You can then hit the Preview button before you submit it, and it will display your comment exactly as it’s going to appear on the page, to make sure you got the tags right.

  9. matthewbarraco says

    Hi Stevarious, I appreciate the useful tip on blockquoting. Thanks!

    But it just further serves to prove the point, that what you call “reasonable justification for the lack of outside-of-bias evidence for any other person in history” is not the case. There is less evidence for Jesus than there is for Socrates, and historiansdo not say, with any certainty, that Socrates was a real person.

    That a person named Jesus lived and died is probably true, just like it’s probably true that Socrates existed. Did he perform miracles? There’s no reason to believe that Jesus, unlike the hundreds of other historical figures about whom magical events wereinvented after their death, actually performed those magical deeds. I rather think that it’s because Socrates had so many students, that documented so many of his words, that all kinds of absurd stories were not made up about him after his death.

    There were survivors of Jesus’ teachings, such as the apostles and various disciples who wrote down the teachings of Jesus as well. In fact, the manuscripts that Christians produce are proven to have been copied a great deal earlier than those of the philosophers. For example, the oldest surviving copy of any work by Plato comes from 900 CE, nearly 800 years younger than the oldest surviving gospel. That being said, by your argument, there is more evidence to support the teachings of Jesus than there are of Socrates. And on the topic of evidence, it is a preference to evidence to assume that miracles don’t or didn’t happen. You have ample reason not to believe they occurred or that the stories are true, I agree. But I feel like so much in Christian history provides rich evidence of the contrary. And suppose that a man, myself in this case, was determined to prove Christianity wrong, and find that he is convinced of its truth, is that still not enough? I don’t make an assumption on what can or can’t be true. If I believe something, I believe it. But I don’t say what can’t be believable. It is good practice to establish a worldview, but I think itis unwise to fortify it, and I believe that includes scientific observation and human reason.

    The hell they weren’t. Christians strove mightily to erase them from the world over the course of a thousand years. If the work of these great thinkers has not already spread to the East before Christians came to power, we would know nothing of the Greekphilosophers.

    Actually, that isn’t true. Christians sought to eradicate paganism, and only imperial Christians starting with Constantine. Philosophy was actually embraced throughout the early development of Christian thought and in various places through the Middle Ages. Justin Martyr (103-165 CE) actually indulged in Plato’s philosophic teachings. Clement ofAlexandria (150-215 CE), a great contributor to Christian thought, followed Plato and criticized the pagan teachings. Origen (184-253 CE) was influenced by Plato as well, and was a great contributor to textual criticism and philosophic theology in the Church. Athanasius of Alexandria, a great defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism, followed Plato’s works and even applied Aristotlian concepts to his thinking. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) was a neoplatonic philosopher that criticized paganism and demonstratesit well in his book The City of God. So much of Christian thought was aided by Plato’s work that it hardly seems conceivable that you thought this accusation through after thorough investigation. Furthermore, it would be worth mentioning that,after Augustine’s death, the Western Roman Empire fell and Latin thought was sapped for a period as most of society collapsed and was constantly subjected to pillaging and cruelties of Barbarians. Shortly afterward, the main topic of Christianity switchedto caring for the poor, reforming Christian liturgy, and arguing solely Christian concepts with the icon worshiping Greek Orthodox Church. The Dark Ages weren’t just on poor in Europe, but also over the governments and priesthoods. But then again, these couldbe just endless genealogies that will produce nothing but more opposition. If history could make a loud enough argument, the holocaust would have never happened.

    And how am I supposed to take this, in light of members of every other religion making the same claim? Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Wiccans, even freaking Alcoholics Anonymous; all claim spiritual supernatural experiences and life-turning-aroundingsare common to every modern religion. (AA is more like a cult.) Why is your claim any more convincing than theirs?

    I take it that you went to AA before? I’ve never looked into it. Christianity, much like philosophy, got its breakthrough in Western thought by criticizing the popularly accept worldviews of its surrounding people. Christianity will always be basedon miracles, I agree. However, if you carefully read the arguments of Jesus with the Pharisees, of Paul against the Judaizers, of Augustine against the pagans, of Jean Wycliffe against the Papists, of Martin Luther against the practice of Indulgence, and manymore, you will see that Christianity has been a continuously evolving worldview needed neither acceptance or force to thrive. I have arguments against Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Wiccan, but those are arguments of a freethinker and not solely a Christian.

    I could call you crazy if I was feeling uncharitable, but I think it is more accurate to call you honestly mistaken. A billion Muslims are honestly mistaken, aren’t they? From where I stand I see little difference between Christianity and Islam, exceptthat Islam is still in the ‘bloodthirsty forced conversion’ phase that Christianity (mostly) got over a couple hundred years ago.

    The idea that millions could be duped by false teachings isn’t anything new. Even John, on the isle of Patmos, saw it coming, and from within the Church itself no less!

    Ex: “The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his welling, that is, those who dwellin heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language, and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundationof the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.” (Revelation 13:5-8)

    This beast was most evidently the Roman Empire after it had fallen to the Barbarians and the mouth was the bishop of Rome, better known as the pope. Jean Wycliffe, Jon Huss, Jerome, John Clark, the Waldenses, the Anabaptists, Martin Luther, John Calvin,William Farrel, and many more criticized the office of the pope for his abuses of authority which, until the 14th century, was largely unchallenged. By the 16th century, it became common accuse the pope of being the antichrist. My question would be, how couldone of the most popular people in Christianity teach the world something so contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as to allow the Roman Church to take the place of Jesus in matters of salvation; even to allow Johann Tetzel to claim indulgences to posses savingpowers? The entire Western world was duped by the Roman Papacy. If Jesus and his apostles saw a future in which even devout Christians could be misled, then something tells me that the idea of a religious leader misleading many into abominable practices andteachings was not uncommon. But if these Jews were allowed to think through with their consciences and criticize the popular teachings of certain Pharisees (who were the most popular of Jewish rabbis, I see no reason why I cannot be a Christian and yet challengepopular Christian authorities. And furthermore, I’m not going to let the mistakes of the past cause me to stop moving into the future. Otherwise, I have learned nothing from the past.

    No, you say that you could be wrong when you understand that the human mind is fallible and capable of being tricked. That’s it. This is the way an honest thinker thinks. You can be wrong, about everything. Not even the Pope is infallible. I could be wrongabout being an atheist (though it will take evidence to convince me of that, since, as I explained before, evidence is the only thing that can demonstrate, with any amount of certainty, that a thing is true).

    You mean empirical evidence, right? That would make you an empiricist. What makes you think that empirical evidence is the only way to know truth? You don’t even think you could be wrong about that? If not, I don’t see how that is any different of me experiencing spiritual truth and not feelingdoubt about it. I don’t trust empericism to be the only method of defining evidence. I was certain that O.J. Simpson was guilty of murder, especially when they matched gloves and everything. But the lawyer was able to discredit even a great amount of evidence.Anyway, I have become convinced that Jesus is true. I had my doubts several times and did my investigations about Jesus. But now I’m convinced and I channel my doubts to various teachings, especially within the Church, as can be seen as my difference in opinionabout what the Bible teaches about hell.

    It makes perfect sense. You have a very binary view on knowledge, when of course, like so many things, it is shades of gray ‘Believing’ something doesn’t mean ‘knowing with certainty’. It means that you act as though that particular thing is true. I believethat my car is outside where I parked it. I also understand that it could have been stolen in the last ten hours since I parked it there. I believe that my boss is going to put the raise he promised me last month on my next paycheck. I also understand thathe could have forgotten about it or lied. And I do not believe in any gods, because I have not been shown any compelling evidence that any exist. Should I hedge my bets and pick one to pretend to believe in, just in case? No. Without evidence, my odds of beingright in that guess are infinitesimal. Could I be wrong? Of course. But until I see evidence, there is no reason to change my life.

    I’m not one for pretending. That was why I went through such a difficult time shortly after my first wife cheated on me. I was faced with the truth that everything I had worked hard for came collapsing in front of me. I had to deal with the way thingswere, not the way I wanted them. And so I did a long investigation into Christianity. I challenged the divinity of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, and much more. I also determined that my choice of religion would no longer be based on the fear of hell, buton the love of God. When I did my investigation, I was flabbergasted to discover that I knew nothing about God. All these people were telling me to get fire insurance when they had no clue what they were talking about. So, I am no longer one to pretend oravoid a difficult discussion. You can believe that your car is parked outside, but you must be certain of your car’s existence. You can believe that your boss will give you a raise, but you cannot doubt your boss’s existence or his role. Those are fundamentalsand are building blocks to both where you parked your car and whether a raise is even possible. And likewise, I can doubt whether eternal torment is the result of every nonbeliever and I can doubt whether the idea that a place called hell even exists. ButI must know for sure if Jesus exists and that His claims are true. Such an existence MUST be taken from testimony (a.k.a. letters, commentary, writings, etc.) from which there is plenty of and such claims must be thorough weighed and considered. I have becomeconvinced of these basic things and therefore it makes sense to question all the other things.

    Christianity has been doing this for two thousand years. “Afraid of death? If you follow us and live your life how we say, then you don’t have to really die! Tired of being poor? If you just accept that being poor in THIS life isn’t really so bad, thenyou get not one but TWO mansions in heaven after you die! Feeling bad about some mean things you did? You don’t have to make it up to your sister, just apologize to Jesus (who will NEVER judge you) and you can be completely absolved of your guilt without makingamends! Oh, and by the way, if you don’t? Torture forever.”

    That is partly true. Catholicism is notorious for its charity and promises of comfort. That is why it is still far more popular than atheism. Atheism is the situation of much of the world’s poor, stricken, and oppressed as likened to the story in Jobwhere the poor man had lost everything he had and his wife’s only solution was this advice: “Curse God and die!” And I think the entire ‘torture forever’ is a sham that was fiscally applied during the Dark Ages to sap the Western population of its funds sothat St. Peter’s Basilica could be rebuilt. I can hardly come up with any other era in which such hypocrisy and irony thrived unnoticed. However, in the origins of Christianity, entire families were put to death by pagans (whom many atheists defend thesedays as an argument against Christian) simply because they would not worship the pagan gods. They believed that their comfort was coming, and that the Roman emperor or the pagan gods were incapable of competing with those promises. Nowadays, we call thatinvestments. And the general consensus is that investments, especially wise investments, are good things. Other people call them gambles.

    Christianity is the ultimate ‘tell people what they want to hear’. It promises that every hardship they endure will be met with equal pleasure in the afterlife, that their oppressors may sit high and dry in life, but will be punished brutally afterwards.Oh, and don’t forget 1 Timothy 6:1-2 – Slaves should work extra hard for their masters if their masters are also christians! The bible seems custom made to make oppressed people content with their lot based on promises of a better life to come – you may arguethat this was not the intent, but it is how the book has been used from the day it was written.

    I don’t think it means to make the oppressed content, lest such a thing such as justice cease to possess any value or truth. I think that it means to promote forgiveness, righteousness, gentleness, and philanthropy. If you keep bringing the hell subject into the whole argument, then you may have a point. But I don’t hold fast to the Middle Ages Latin idea of hell and am therefore free to think of the rest of Christian teachings as free from such a cage. In the days that Christianity began, things like charity, forgiveness,goodwill, meekness, and selflessness were not highly promoted in the Roman world, even by much of the Jewish elite, though some did by nature of their consciences.

    The Middle Ages wasn’t just a curse on Christianity. It was a curse on all of Western Europe. And when Barbarians overrun churches and sell their offices to aristocrats, what would make anyone think that such men would be expected to behave humanely and selflessly?

  10. Stevarious says

    There were survivors of Jesus’ teachings, such as the apostles and various disciples who wrote down the teachings of Jesus as well. In fact, the manuscripts that Christians produce are proven to have been copied a great deal earlier than those of the philosophers.

    I’m not talking about ‘age of document’. I’m talking about ‘distance to source’. The writings of Plato and Aristotle are the writings of people who supposedly knew Socrates. We don’t know who wrote the gospels, but we know that they were NOT the actual apostles they are falsely attributed to. We know that a number of the letters attributed to Paul in the NT were not writen by him. We know that a number of the books were altered or added to after the fact. These are all facts which discredit the veracity of the gospels.

    But I feel like so much in Christian history provides rich evidence of the contrary.

    There is no amount of textual evidence that could prove a miracle. Text could only prove that people believed they saw a miracle. A god would know this, and would not rely on text to attempt to ‘prove’ miracles to later generations.

    But then again, these couldbe just endless genealogies that will produce nothing but more opposition. If history could make a loud enough argument, the holocaust would have never happened.

    Agreed. Beside the point anyway.

    I take it that you went to AA before?

    Not for myself.

    I have arguments against Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Wiccan, but those are arguments of a freethinker and not solely a Christian.

    I think you’ve missed the point. If Christianity is the only true religion, and ‘spiritual awakenings’ and ‘major life alterations’ are supposed to be evidence that Christianity is true, then why do we find these things at eq

  11. matthewbarraco says

    I’m not talking about ‘age of document’. I’m talking about ‘distance to source’. The writings of Plato and Aristotle are the writings of people who supposedly knew Socrates. We don’t know who wrote the gospels, but we know that they were NOT the actual apostles they are falsely attributed to. We know that a number of the letters attributed to Paul in the NT were not writen by him. We know that a number of the books were altered or added to after the fact. These are all facts which discredit the veracity of the gospels.

    Actually we don’t. We know that the first four books of the Bible were possibly pseudo works. I’d contest that Luke was actually written by look to a recipient named Theophilus. The book of Luke was a good literary Greek composition. As far as the works of Paul, it has not been proven to be pseudonymous. If it has, I would like to see your evidence to look it over. The works that are attributed Paul that I know of at the moment are Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Titus, and Timothy. And for the books that were altered, many were minor alterations with the greatest alterations being additions to the Lord’s prayer in the canonical Gospels and the addition of the 1 John 5:8′s three witnesses (added in the 14th century.) Notice that one phrase is added between ten centuries of the Christian canon, meaning that the Scriptures were not often enough subjected to alterations that the messages and implications of the letters could not be trusted. If a man looks for reasons to deny any kind of evidence, then he has already passed judgment. I find it hard to believe that all of Christianity is one giant conspiracy in which men that never met Jesus influenced men years down the road to begin a religion which had no power. Islam began with Mohammed and was written down a generation after him, yet we need not writings and testimonies to prove them wrong for even their own teachings lack truth and accuracy. And so, if Christianity is false, it should be declared false by its own teachings, IMO. But I feel like I should go further and distinguish between Christianity and Catholicism because they seem quite contrary to the other.

    I think you’ve missed the point. If Christianity is the only true religion, and ‘spiritual awakenings’ and ‘major life alterations’ are supposed to be evidence that Christianity is true, then why do we find these things at eq

    Did your statement get cut off or am I not understanding the acronym?

  12. Stevarious says

    How odd. I wasn’t even close to finished, but had to go to bed to get up early this morning. The site weirdly posted like a quarter of what I had written, without me posting it. Never had that problem before. Anyway, back to it.

    If a man looks for reasons to deny any kind of evidence, then he has already passed judgment.

    I’m going to address this first because it’s easily the most important thing you’ve said, and my response to it is the most important thing I have to say.
    The mind that is concerned with the truth finds reasons to deny any and all evidence. ALL evidence. No matter what you’re looking at. No matter whether the evidence is for a position you already dislike. Especially, doubly so if the evidence is for a position you already support! This is how you avoid confirmation bias. This is how you avoid being deceived not only by others, but by yourself. Self-deception is something that humans do very, very well. It’s built in. Ask any psychologist – the person we are all best at lying to is ourselves, and we do it every day. “Oh, the noise from the car is probably nothing, just turn up the radio.” (It’s not nothing, your transmission’s going.) “Oh, it’s just indigestion, never mind the family history of heart disease.” (And they all died thinking the same exact thing.) “Oh, the priest said it was okay, he doesn’t have a reason to lie!” (He most certainly does and has been trained to do so by the Church.)
    ALL evidence must be criticized. All positions must be justified. All beliefs must be based on evidence. If you base your beliefs on bad evidence, or no evidence, you have no way of knowing if they are true. You might still be wrong, if your evidence is incomplete or not understood correctly. That’s life. That’s the world we live in.
    I want my beliefs to mirror reality as closely as possible. So all evidence presented me gets the same critical eye. Doubly so if it’s evidence that relates to things I feels strongly about, because those are the things where I’m most likely to deceive myself. Your holy book doesn’t get a pass.

    I’d contest that Luke was actually written by look to a recipient named Theophilus. The book of Luke was a good literary Greek composition.

    But there’s no evidence for that – that’s just conjecture. You’re claiming a lot, certainly more than any actual bible scholar does – at least, that I’ve seen.
    You work from a position of accepting things to be true if they are consistent. I work from a position of accepting things to be true to the degree that they are demonstrated by evidence. And this is not demonstrated.
    For this to be demonstrated, I would require AT LEAST the level of evidence that we have for Socrates – that is, give me a bunch of Luke’s students, all claiming to have known him and read his work and heavily referenced his work (and the references need to have the same text as the original work!). THEN you can claim that it’s evidenced that Luke actually wrote the thing – and even then, it wouldn’t be certain.

    The works that are attributed Paul that I know of at the moment are Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Titus, and Timothy.

    As I understand the current state of biblical scholarship, 7 books are confirmed (as much as can be) to have legitimate Paulian authorship: Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, and Philemon. I am no bible scholar but I used to follow this stuff pretty closely.
    Colossians is disputed, based on differences in style and vocabulary. The similarites between Collossians and Philemon are strong, but this could merely mean that whoever forged it had Philemon to work from.
    The evidence against Ephesians being legit is much stronger. The style and vocabulary differences are more pronounced, and the eschatology and theology presented are markedly different. (In most of Paul’s letters, he is concerned with Christ’s imminent return (and boy was he wrong), in Ephesians he talks about ‘future generations’ instead. Also, he references his other letters that he sent to other people, which doesn’t make much sense in a letter but makes perfect sense if you have access to all his letters and are trying to write a summary.)
    The argument against 2nd Thessalonians is even stronger. The difference in style is more pronounced and it references the synoptic gospels, which had not been written yet in Paul’s time. Also, it has that bit insisting on it’s own legitimacy and warning against forgeries – a very common forgery tactic.
    Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy are the worst offenders. They contain words that were not used in first century greek, but were common to second century christian writers. The style and context are very different and describe Paul going on journeys that he could not have gone and are not mentioned in Acts.

    You may well say that you believe that all these letters were actually written by Paul. It’s possible that they were (though the last three that seems extremely unlikely.
    The thing is, unlike, say, the writings of Socrates, the legitimacy of the ideas presented in the text are dependent on the author himself, and do not stand on their own, as Paul claims the right to dictate church doctrine on the strength of of his own miracle.
    On another level, of course, it’s immaterial. As I said before, there is no amount of textual evidence that could prove a miracle. A god would know this, and would not rely on text to attempt to ‘prove’ miracles to later generations. And without it’s miracles, Christianity has nothing to go on. So Christianity is, on one level, refuted simply on it’s insistence on textual transmission.

    I have arguments against Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Wiccan, but those are arguments of a freethinker and not solely a Christian.

    I think you’ve missed the point. If Christianity is the only true religion, and ‘spiritual awakenings’ and ‘major life alterations’ are supposed to be evidence that Christianity is true, then why do we find these things at equal rates in other (supposedly false) religions?

    The idea that millions could be duped by false teachings isn’t anything new. Even John, on the isle of Patmos, saw it coming, and from within the Church itself no less!

    Again, you are missing the point. If Christianity is the only true religion, why is it possible to have the same types of spiritual experiences when following a false religion? Why is it possible to be misled by a false religion if following a false religion is indistinguishable to the follower from the true religion? And if there’s no difference, how do you know which one’s false?

    You mean empirical evidence, right? That would make you an empiricist.

    Technically I’m an evidentialist.

    What makes you think that empirical evidence is the only way to know truth?

    There is a really really long answer to this. I don’t have time to write it, so I’ll give the short instead. Empirical evidence is the only sort of evidence that’s reproducible and therefor reliable. But of course I could be wrong. A thousand people can pray for an answer to a question they don’t know. If prayer was a valid way of gaining knowledge, schools would have to find some way of banning it while you take a test to prevent cheating. When prayers start offering actual verifiable knowledge in a reproducible, consistent manner, then I will believe that there are other ways of knowing truth. Of course, that would be evidence, wouldn’t it?
    But prayer doesn’t do that. A thousand people pray and you end up with a thousand and one answers. You might claim that this is another way of ‘knowing’, but it’s clearly not a way of knowing anything reliably.

    I was certain that O.J. Simpson was guilty of murder, especially when they matched gloves and everything. But the lawyer was able to discredit even a great amount of evidence

    Weren’t you just telling me that people can be deceived by false teachings? Obviously, liars can lie and people can believe them. This is not a strike against evidence, this is a strike against people.

    I don’t see how that is any different of me experiencing spiritual truth and not feeling doubt about it.

    And if everyone came to the same answer when they ‘experienced spiritual truth’ and didn’t feel doubt about it, you might even have a point. However, people the world over have these experiences and they are ALL DIFFERENT. How can you not see that that makes that sort of ‘knowledge’ extremely suspect?

    You can believe that your car is parked outside, but you must be certain of your car’s existence. You can believe that your boss will give you a raise, but you cannot doubt your boss’s existence or his role. Those are fundamentalsand are building blocks to both where you parked your car and whether a raise is even possible

    And the reason I’m certain of the existence of my car and the role of my boss? Evidence. If I did not have evidence of these things, why would I believe they exist? Unlike my boss and my car, I have no evidence that any god exists. Why would I believe he does?

    I challenged the divinity of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, and much more. I also determined that my choice of religion would no longer be based on the fear of hell, buton the love of God.

    You were putting the cart before the horse here. You started with the assumption that a god existed. This doesn’t work for anything else in life. I can’t start with the assumption that I own a car, then go out into the parking lot to discover what color it is. I have to figure out if the car exists before I can try to determine it’s attributes.

    And I think the entire ‘torture forever’ is a sham that was fiscally applied during the Dark Ages to sap the Western population of its funds sothat St. Peter’s Basilica could be rebuilt

    So you are admitting that major tenets of the religion were edited into the bible for political and financial gain? If you KNOW that the bible has been heavily altered for personal gain, why do you assume that any of it is accurate?

    But I don’t hold fast to the Middle Ages Latin idea of hell

    Then how do you explain it’s presence in the bible? Why does Jesus specifically mention postmortem fire and torment in the bible several times if it doesn’t actually exist? Was the bible heavily altered (and thus not a reliable source)? Or is it possible for Jesus himself to spread a false teaching?

    I find it hard to believe that all of Christianity is one giant conspiracy in which men that never met Jesus influenced men years down the road to begin a religion which had no power.

    Why not? So many other religions demonstrably are exactly that. Look at Mormonism, or Scientology, just to give two recent examples.
    Though to say that it’s a ‘giant conspiracy’ is overstating things a bit. I rather think that almost all believers legitimately believe in it all. I save the claims of true hypocrisy for the leaders who actively work to dupe people. Pat Robertson – took donations to help people in Africa then used the money for mining equipment for his mines instead. Peter Popoff, demonstrated to be the worst of the fake faith healers. Creflo Dollar – an aptly named rotten crook with his ‘prosperity gospel’ who tells people outright to give him all their money, and if they are a good enough christian, money will just fall from heaven. Eddie Long, who just had himself crowned King of Israel (or something) in a completely bizarre ceremony a couple weeks ago – probably to distract his followers from the sexual harassment suits he just settled. Follow the money, man. The more a person’s making off this whole scheme, the more likely they are a fake. And they rely very heavily on people like you – educated Christians who don’t necessarily share the same points of dogma, but actively work to protect the average uneducated believer from viewpoints like ours that would protect them from the outright robbery of the scam artists. Of course, those people are saved already, so who cares what happens to them in THIS life, right? Right?

    And so, if Christianity is false, it should be declared false by its own teachings

    That’s simple enough, as it does so, rather thoroughly. According to Jesus, a prophet whose prophecies do not come true is a false prophet. Jesus prophesied several times that he would return in the lifetime of those present. Ergo, Jesus was a false prophet. Paul, too, since he prophesied the same thing.

    If you don’t see that one, then you can tell from the immoral teachings. In Luke 12:51-53 and 14:26, Jesus teaches the worst kind of hate and intolerance. Those passage alone disqualify Jesus from any sort of moral authority. Jesus also said to give no thought for the morrow – if we actually did that, we wouldn’t even HAVE society. There is, of course, the blatant lie of Matthew 17:20. And one can only imagine the amount of suffering that could have been averted, if only Jesus had taken a moment to condemn slavery instead of condoning it in Luke 12:45-48. If nothing else, we could have avoided the Civil War.
    Jesus said some good things and some new things regarding morality. Unfortunately, the good stuff wasn’t new, and the new stuff wasn’t good. If this doesn’t disqualify Christianity, what would?
    That’s my question to you – what would it take to prove that Christianity is wrong? (It’s the wrong question, of course, as the burden of proof is on you to prove it right. But I’m curious anyway.)

  13. matthewbarraco says

    How odd. I wasn’t even close to finished, but had to go to bed to get up early this morning. The site weirdly posted like a quarter of what I had written, without me posting it. Never had that problem before. Anyway, back to it.

           I’m going to address this first because it’s easily the most important thing you’ve said, and my response to it is the most important thing I have to say.The mind that is concerned with the truth finds reasons to deny any and all evidence. ALL evidence. No matter what you’re looking at. No matter whether the evidence is for a position you already dislike. Especially, doubly so if the evidence is for a position you already support! This is how you avoid confirmation bias. This is how you avoid being deceived not only by others, but by yourself. Self-deception is something that humans do very, very well. It’s built in. Ask any psychologist – the person we are all best at lying to is ourselves, and we do it every day. “Oh, the noise from the car is probably nothing, just turn up the radio.” (It’s not nothing, your transmission’s going.) “Oh, it’s just indigestion, never mind the family history of heart disease.” (And they all died thinking the same exact thing.) “Oh, the priest said it was okay, he doesn’t have a reason to lie!” (He most certainly does and has been trained to do so by the Church.)ALL evidence must be criticized. All positions must be justified. All beliefs must be based on evidence. If you base your beliefs on bad evidence, or no evidence, you have no way of knowing if they are true. You might still be wrong, if your evidence is incomplete or not understood correctly. That’s life. That’s the world we live in.

    I have to agree that everything should be questioned.  But I don’t agree with you if you are saying that I should never be convinced of anything.  I don’t see that as a wise way to live life, and philosophy, after all is the love of wisdom.

    I want my beliefs to mirror reality as closely as possible. So all evidence presented me gets the same critical eye. Doubly so if it’s evidence that relates to things I feels strongly about, because those are the things where I’m most likely to deceive myself. Your holy book doesn’t get a pass.

     I wasn’t about to assume it would.  I’m aware of the additions, redactions, and other editions made to the Bible.  However, I believe the primary messages of those letters, that Jesus is the Eternal Creator in the flesh and that he died as resurrected and ascended to heaven and has been reigning and will until all nations belong to him.  These are messages that I believe.  They were the first and primary targets of my doubts.  That I didn’t come to your conclusion by no means insists that I was unwise in my investigation or that I am wrong.

    I agree that we are prone to self-deception and deception especially from those we esteem the highest.  Jesus was nailed to a cross as a criminal.  Paul was beheaded as though he wasn’t even a Roman citizen.  Peter was crucified as an enemy of the state.  For the first three centuries, almost every well-supported leader of Christianity was subjected and succumbed to brutal persecution.  There is nothing about that which would cause me to doubt the intentions of the early writers.  They knew they were going to die for writing and spreading the Gospel of Jesus down.

    Now, I know that some have fables and traditions that were made up to boost the credibility of the Roman Church, but I don’t see the New Testament or the earliest Christian writing supporting the Roman Church.  Even Martin Luther, when he read Paul’s letter to the Romans, was appalled at the Roman Church’s teachings on indulgences.  So the accusation that the Church altered the Bible to control the masses falls short.  They didn’t use the Bible to control the masses, they used the Frankish kings.  The Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome, was what the Church used during the Middle Ages.  The errors weren’t just in translating from Greek to Latin but in the worldview of the translator.  But even that did not hide the Gospel.  And if anything else should be said, the Roman Church did not authorize the laity to have their own Bibles.  So the Roman Church didn’t need to alter the messages of the New Testament, they rarely read it themselves!  They taught from reformed liturgy and catechisms that were based on traditions that were largely discovered to be in themselves forgeries, such as the pseudo-Isidore Decretals that Hildebrande used as a defense for a college of Cardinals during the Investiture Controvery of the 11th century.

    But there’s no evidence for that – that’s just conjecture. You’re claiming a lot, certainly more than any actual bible scholar does – at least, that I’ve seen.You work from a position of accepting things to be true if they are consistent. I work from a position of accepting things to be true to the degree that they are demonstrated by evidence. And this is not demonstrated.

    I agree that Luke COULD be a pseudo composition, with the earliest mentioning being in the second century.  The best argument for Luke being the author of the gospel is the obscurity of this man in early Christianity (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 2007).  However, the letter has elements that make me suspect that Luke was the original author.  For example, a specific person is addressed, rather than the typical general crowd.  This doesn’t mean that it was written by a pseudo author.  But it does mean it wasn’t meant for just anyone’s interpretation.  Furthermore, the book of Luke takes the position on informing a certain person about the life of Jesus and his teachings, rather than making a specific argument (such as Mark and Matthew were written primarily to Jewish Christians who were being pressured by Judaizers, even as late as the second century; or that of John’s Gospel, which makes a theological statement of the divinity of Jesus.)  I think it is likely that the Gospel According to Luke was written mainly to inform a non-Jewish reader of Jesus and his disciples.  Notice that the understanding of Jewish rites and beliefs is not very thorough yet is very familiar with pagan concepts such as Hades being a place of fire and torment as shown in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.

    I do work from a position of accepting things to be true if they are consistent, I suppose.  But also if I think they are credible.  I will explain more further down in my response.

    For this to be demonstrated, I would require AT LEAST the level of evidence that we have for Socrates – that is, give me a bunch of Luke’s students, all claiming to have known him and read his work and heavily referenced his work (and the references need to have the same text as the original work!). THEN you can claim that it’s evidenced that Luke actually wrote the thing – and even then, it wouldn’t be certain.

    As I said earlier, Christians didn’t have the luxury.  They were being persecuted, not only by the pagans, but also by the Jews.  That is why the first universal (or Catholic) organization of Christians occurred AFTER it was legalized, which occurred almost three centuries after Jesus first came.  So I wish I could provide you with solid information, but history states that no such thing was possible.  Furthermore, the Romans emperors in the early third century initiated the worst systematic persecution of Christians up to that point.  They killed bishops, burned Scriptures and letters, and destroyed the churches.  They were determined to eradicate Christianity from the Roman Empire.  So, if one were to find evidence, it would have had to survived the Diocletian persecution, which was the last of the ten primitive Christian persecutions by the Roman Empire, according John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, 1563.  His research included the works historians such as Eusebius and Bede.  So, since the Christians had nearly everything they had destroyed in 4th century, would you then make a different decision based off of what has survived?

    As I understand the current state of biblical scholarship, 7 books are confirmed (as much as can be) to have legitimate Paulian authorship: Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, and Philemon. I am no bible scholar but I used to follow this stuff pretty closely.Colossians is disputed, based on differences in style and vocabulary. The similarites between Collossians and Philemon are strong, but this could merely mean that whoever forged it had Philemon to work from.The evidence against Ephesians being legit is much stronger. The style and vocabulary differences are more pronounced, and the eschatology and theology presented are markedly different. (In most of Paul’s letters, he is concerned with Christ’s imminent return (and boy was he wrong), in Ephesians he talks about ‘future generations’ instead. Also, he references his other letters that he sent to other people, which doesn’t make much sense in a letter but makes perfect sense if you have access to all his letters and are trying to write a summary.)The argument against 2nd Thessalonians is even stronger. The difference in style is more pronounced and it references the synoptic gospels, which had not been written yet in Paul’s time. Also, it has that bit insisting on it’s own legitimacy and warning against forgeries – a very common forgery tactic.

    Ah yes, I forgot about Philippians and Philemon.  Yes, 2nd Thessalonians is different from most of his writings, especially in chapter 2 about the ‘lawless one’ that would be destroyed by Christ’s second coming.  However, it was in his second letter to the Corinthians that Paul denounced the idea of bragging about revelation.  This can be shown by Paul referencing to himself in the third person by saying in 2 Cor. 12:2, “I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.”   Instead, he boasted in revealing the person of Christ and the salvation that comes from him.  What 2 Thess. 2 did indicate however, is that it was believed that there would be two major factors preceding the resurrection:  1)  A Falling Away; Apostasy (likely due to persecution by the Romans) and a false prophet would deceive many into a false religion.  Incidently, the Roman Church was subjected to a couple schismed in the third and fourth century because of its policy toward apostates.  Once the Diocletian persecution came to an end and Christianity was legalized, the Roman Church began its steps toward primacy…

    Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy are the worst offenders. They contain words that were not used in first century greek, but were common to second century christian writers. The style and context are very different and describe Paul going on journeys that he could not have gone and are not mentioned in Acts.

    Interesting.  I’ll have to look into that.

    You may well say that you believe that all these letters were actually written by Paul. It’s possible that they were (though the last three that seems extremely unlikely.The thing is, unlike, say, the writings of Socrates, the legitimacy of the ideas presented in the text are dependent on the author himself, and do not stand on their own, as Paul claims the right to dictate church doctrine on the strength of of his own miracle.

     If Paul were the only writer of the New Testament and the only apostle mentioned, I might agree with you that Paul used the strength of his own doctrine.  Yet even  in his writings, he quotes the canonical gospels, the Sacrament, for example.  That means that he wasn’t the inventor such teachings, and therefore his miracles did not establish those doctrine.  I believe the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus did.

    On another level, of course, it’s immaterial. As I said before, there is no amount of textual evidence that could prove a miracle. A god would know this, and would not rely on text to attempt to ‘prove’ miracles to later generations. And without it’s miracles, Christianity has nothing to go on. So Christianity is, on one level, refuted simply on it’s insistence on textual transmission.

     I guess I disagree.  As I have shown, Christians were in the beginning under heavy persecution to the point that they were not able to organize as one until the fourth century.  Christianity has always been about the Spirit of Christ in us revealing His salvation in us.  And Christianity has always been about hearing of the wonderful things that God has done.  For those who didn’t value that Gospel, it would be an understatement to say that they either paid it no mind or outright rejected it.  Even in Christian teachings, people doubted Christ, despite the miracles.  Jesus even told the Jews that the only miracle they would see would be the sign of Jonah (representing the resurrection of Jesus) and in Luke 16, Jesus reveals that not even that would convince the Jews, who were supposedly experts in Jewish prophecy and literature.  If God’s own people missed Jesus by a long shot and rejected Him, why should I be any more surprised that people that don’t know God reject Him?  However, I believe.

    I think you’ve missed the point. If Christianity is the only true religion, and ‘spiritual awakenings’ and ‘major life alterations’ are supposed to be evidence that Christianity is true, then why do we find these things at equal rates in other (supposedly false) religions?

    You mean, how come every religion claims to have spiritual awakenings and major life alterations?  Well, while I do agree that every religion has those claims, I do not believe they are all the same kind of claims.  Perhaps, I’m not getting your exact point here.

    Again, you are missing the point. If Christianity is the only true religion, why is it possible to have the same types of spiritual experiences when following a false religion? Why is it possible to be misled by a false religion if following a false religion is indistinguishable to the follower from the true religion? And if there’s no difference, how do you know which one’s false?

    How a false religion can demonstrate miracles is beyond me.  The Bible seems to state that it is possible.  However, if you want to know which is right and which one is wrong, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.”  In other words, look out for hypocrites and evil doers.

    Technically I’m an evidentialist.

     Thanks for clarifying that.  I think I understand your point of view now.

    There is a really really long answer to this. I don’t have time to write it, so I’ll give the short instead. Empirical evidence is the only sort of evidence that’s reproducible and therefor reliable. But of course I could be wrong. A thousand people can pray for an answer to a question they don’t know. If prayer was a valid way of gaining knowledge, schools would have to find some way of banning it while you take a test to prevent cheating. When prayers start offering actual verifiable knowledge in a reproducible, consistent manner, then I will believe that there are other ways of knowing truth. Of course, that would be evidence, wouldn’t it?

    But prayer doesn’t do that. A thousand people pray and you end up with a thousand and one answers. You might claim that this is another way of ‘knowing’, but it’s clearly not a way of knowing anything reliably.

     Gotcha.  Thanks again.

    Weren’t you just telling me that people can be deceived by false teachings? Obviously, liars can lie and people can believe them. This is not a strike against evidence, this is a strike against people.

     Oh, I wasn’t just talking about people lying.  The biggest thing taken from the O.J. Simpson trial was that, how evidence is handled from the moment it is gathered until the moment it is produced is the most important element of proving the truth of guilt.  Everybody knew he did it, but none could prove it because the evidence wasn’t reliable due to the process between the crime and the trial.  That means that the claims of some can not only be based on reliable evidence, but also on the lack of reliable evidence.

    And if everyone came to the same answer when they ‘experienced spiritual truth’ and didn’t feel doubt about it, you might even have a point. However, people the world over have these experiences and they are ALL DIFFERENT. How can you not see that that makes that sort of ‘knowledge’ extremely suspect?

     I agree it that it does.  Like I said, I’m convinced.

    And the reason I’m certain of the existence of my car and the role of my boss? Evidence. If I did not have evidence of these things, why would I believe they exist? Unlike my boss and my car, I have no evidence that any god exists. Why would I believe he does?

    You were putting the cart before the horse here. You started with the assumption that a god existed. This doesn’t work for anything else in life. I can’t start with the assumption that I own a car, then go out into the parking lot to discover what color it is. I have to figure out if the car exists before I can try to determine it’s attributes.

    Fair enough.  Good point.

    So you are admitting that major tenets of the religion were edited into the bible for political and financial gain? If you KNOW that the bible has been heavily altered for personal gain, why do you assume that any of it is accurate?

    Lol, no.  I don’t admit that major tenets were edited.  If you look at the Catholic Sacraments, there are six more than there are in the Bible.  If you look at the Roman Church’s position on purgatory, you won’t find that in the Bible.  So basically, they put the Bible into storage to collect dust.  That one can read the Bible and automatically detect that the Roman Church is not following the Bible should be a direct indication that something is wrong with the accuracy of the Roman Church, not the Bible.

    Then how do you explain it’s presence in the bible? Why does Jesus specifically mention postmortem fire and torment in the bible several times if it doesn’t actually exist? Was the bible heavily altered (and thus not a reliable source)? Or is it possible for Jesus himself to spread a false teaching?

    Well, like your claim for evidentialism is quite long, so is the claim for Universal Reconciliation.  I’m not completely on board with the interpretation, but it makes good points that I cannot ignore.  In the Greek New Testament, hell was often translated as Hades (the Hebrew for Sheol was the general understanding), rarely translated as Gehenna, and only once translated as Tartarus.  The idea was that such things were used in the Greek New Testament to describe a period of purification, like how fire purifies gold, rather than the object of eternal torment.  And the translation for eternal was aion, which was a period of time such as an Age (Examples:  Golden Age, Middle Age, Age of Enligtenment) that did not depend on the passing to time but on the events that occurred between each point.  So, according the Universal Reconciliationists, hell is not permanent and eternal.  They also mean to say that everyone will one day come to repentance and embrace the salvation of Jesus.  In context to many of Jesus’ parables, this makes sense.

    So how did we get such a terrifying understanding of hell?  When Jerome translated the Bible from Greek to Latin, every word for hell such as Hades, Sheol, Gehenna, and Tartarus were all reduced to the word ‘Hell.’  Some the mixture of ideas between Tarturus being a place of punishment and Sheol being the grave melted together and, when mixed together with Medieval thought, produced a terrifying place of eternal torment for all who rejected Jesus, and later for those who rejected the Roman Church (post-Great Schism of 1054).  The difference between Greek and Latin is evidently like night and day.

    http://www.tentmakers.com and Gary Amirault is one place to start.  Love Wins by Rob Bell slightly leans toward that interpretation as well.  It is actually a quickly spreading belief in Christianity today, due to the Emergence Movement.

    Why not? So many other religions demonstrably are exactly that. Look at Mormonism, or Scientology, just to give two recent examples.

    Though to say that it’s a ‘giant conspiracy’ is overstating things a bit. I rather think that almost all believers legitimately believe in it all. I save the claims of true hypocrisy for the leaders who actively work to dupe people. Pat Robertson – took donations to help people in Africa then used the money for mining equipment for his mines instead. Peter Popoff, demonstrated to be the worst of the fake faith healers. Creflo Dollar – an aptly named rotten crook with his ‘prosperity gospel’ who tells people outright to give him all their money, and if they are a good enough christian, money will just fall from heaven. Eddie Long, who just had himself crowned King of Israel (or something) in a completely bizarre ceremony a couple weeks ago – probably to distract his followers from the sexual harassment suits he just settled. Follow the money, man. The more a person’s making off this whole scheme, the more likely they are a fake. And they rely very heavily on people like you – educated Christians who don’t necessarily share the same points of dogma, but actively work to protect the average uneducated believer from viewpoints like ours that would protect them from the outright robbery of the scam artists.

     I agree.  And I think Jesus saved his harshest criticism for those people.  It’s good to know their history though.  Jesus criticized the Pharisees of his day for misleading people and getting rich off of the people.  However, if you look back into Jewish history, the Pharisees were responsible for Rome’s oppression and taxing of Jerusalem in the first place.  What the Pharisees expected of the Messiah was someone that would clean of their mess.  What the Messiah did, instead, was hand the city over to be destroyed.  Likewise, the history of the Roman Church and its mingling with politics is very similar.  For about a century or more, the Papacy itself was subject to Simony, which was what caused false teachings to begin in the first place.

    Of course, those people are saved already, so who cares what happens to them in THIS life, right? Right?

    No.  Saved is a relative term, to a degree.  The Pharisees saw salvation as the deliverance of Jerusalem from Gentile power and the ushering in of the Messianic Age by which they would receive honor for following the Law so well.  THE EXACT OPPOSITE HAPPENED.  I wonder if such a thing is possible for those who see themselves as deserving eternal life and honor in heaven…

    That’s simple enough, as it does so, rather thoroughly. According to Jesus, a prophet whose prophecies do not come true is a false prophet. Jesus prophesied several times that he would return in the lifetime of those present. Ergo, Jesus was a false prophet. Paul, too, since he prophesied the same thing.

    Jesus said that there would be some standing that would not taste death until they saw the kingdom coming in its glory.  That verse does not imply that they would not die afterward.  Yet, the kingdom in its glorious arrival begins with the resurrection of the martyrs and saints.  So I think your understanding of the Messianic Kingdom is a bit inaccurate.  Furthermore, Jesus said that this Age would not end until all the things he promised had happened.  The apostles believed that every condition was fulfilled.  That is why they believed that the age would end soon.  However, if you read Luke 21:21-24, before the return of the Messiah could come true, the times of the gentiles would first need to be fulfilled.

    Furthermore, in the Olivet Discourse of Luke 21, the prophets are quoted in their description of the Day of the Lord in which God would begin reversing the fortunes of Israel from exile to permanent establishment.  The other comparisons in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 insist that this ‘times of the Gentiles’, then, is the great tribulation.  As we know, 6 million Jews were murdered during the Nazi regime’s reign.  So, to say that such a time was ended should lend credence to the idea that Jesus meant something else by “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.”  The word ‘generation’ in Greek is genea, meaning a generation; by imply. An age (the period of the persons):–age, generation, nation, time. (The New Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 1990.)

    So, generation, without being first described in advance, is a vague and loose term.  In other discussions, Jesus condemned his time as a ‘wicked generation’ and a ‘brood of vipers.’  It is very possible that he didn’t mean just the time he lived in, but the Age in general.  Jesus often spoke of this age as a wicked generation and spoke of the age to come as the kingdom of God.  So, I think that Jesus meant to imply this wicked generation of false prophets and religious profiteers would not end until all those things he discussed in the Olivet Discourse would happen, to include the persecution of the Church, the destruction of Jerusalem and the persecution of the Jews, the times of the Gentiles, the collapse of the world’s governments in the Day of the Lord, and the extremely erratic and intense behavior of the natural order.

    If you don’t see that one, then you can tell from the immoral teachings. In Luke 12:51-53 and 14:26, Jesus teaches the worst kind of hate and intolerance.

     Actually, Luke 12:51-53 was not Jesus telling people to divide their families and bring chaos.  What he was saying is that embracing Jesus’ teachings would stir loved ones to betray them.  The Jews, from whom the first Christians came from, persecuted the Christians for following Christ.  So Jesus wasn’t teaching Christians to tear their families apart.  Jesus knew that if people would stand for what is true, they must be willing to pay the cost by a world opposed to that truth.  In Foxe’s book of martyrs, John Foxe details a persecution that broke out in the days of Emperor Decius. He writes of one account saying,

    “Lucian and Marcian, two wicked pagans, though skilful magicians, becoming converts to Christianity, to make amends for their former errors, lived the lives of hermits, and subsisted upon bread and water only.  After some time spent in this time, they were seized upon, and carried before Sabinus, the governor of Bithynia.  On being asked by what authority they took upon themselves to preach, Lucian answered, ‘That the laws of charity and humanity obliged all men to endeavour the conversion of their neighbours, and to do every thing in their power to rescue them from the snares of the devil.’…The proconsul, finding that he could not prevail with them to renounce their faith, condemned them to be burnt alive, which sentence was soon after executed.”

    Thus, Luke 12:51-53, stands true.  Now, Luke 14:26.  Jesus wasn’t telling people to be hateful toward their fathers and sons.  The context of the chapter was that, though people claimed to follow Jesus, they would turn back because of their stronger love for other things, family included.  If people loved their parents, their gold, their reputation, or anything more than Jesus, then those things would be used later to turn them away from Him.  The Greek word for hate in this passage is miseo, which could mean to detest (espec. To persecute: by extens. To love less:–hate(ful).  Since Jesus told his people to withstand persecution and not persecute, then the first meaning to miseo can be ruled out.  Since Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor,” and “see these people around me?  They are my brother, and sister, and mother,” then it can be ruled out that Jesus was teaching his disciples to be hateful.

    He was telling them to love everything less that Jesus or that would prevent them from truly following him when persecution hits.

    Those passage alone disqualify Jesus from any sort of moral authority. Jesus also said to give no thought for the morrow – if we actually did that, we wouldn’t even HAVE society. There is, of course, the blatant lie of Matthew 17:20.

     Again, I think you’re taking it out of context.  The point was that the demon wasn’t cast out by human effort but by God’s power.  It wasn’t for the apostles to have their reputations increased, as if to say that they had power, but for God’s.  Likewise, when the disciples were being persecuted, it was not their power sustained them but God’s.  That is a noticeable theme in the Bible.  I don’t see how you missed that.

    And one can only imagine the amount of suffering that could have been averted, if only Jesus had taken a moment to condemn slavery instead of condoning it in Luke 12:45-48.

    Actually, no slavery would have been averted.  The Barbarians believed in slaves, as did the Moors.  The Parthians and Romans did too.  Jesus wasn’t condoning slavery.  He was telling his followers to make the best of every situation for God’s glory, rather than playing the victim.  Joseph, in the book of Genesis, was made a slave and eventually saved all of Egypt from starvation.

    If nothing else, we could have avoided the Civil War.Jesus said some good things and some new things regarding morality. Unfortunately, the good stuff wasn’t new, and the new stuff wasn’t good. If this doesn’t disqualify Christianity, what would?

    I think your expectations about Christianity are not the same as was presented and called upon by the Biblical authors.  What you would do with Christianity and what Christianity is can be two different things.  Your expectations of Jesus seem to be suspect here, not the teachings of Jesus themselves.

    That’s my question to you – what would it take to prove that Christianity is wrong? (It’s the wrong question, of course, as the burden of proof is on you to prove it right. But I’m curious anyway.)

    Honestly, I don’t know.  From what I hear, people become ‘disillusioned’ when certain things happen.  Of course, upon hearing most arguments, it seems that they didn’t look into the matter completely to begin with.  I dunno.  I guess I don’t have a solid answer for you.  Sorry Stev.

  14. Stevarious says

    I have to agree that everything should be questioned. But I don’t agree with you if you are saying that I should never be convinced of anything. I don’t see that as a wise way to live life, and philosophy, after all is the love of wisdom.

    I’m not saying you should never be convinced of anything. I’m saying that you should not be convinced of things on the basis of bad or insufficient evidence.
    Christianity has only a collection of bad and insufficient evidence. The Bible is insufficient. Testimonies about how ‘I had a magical feeling and now I’m 100% convinced and nothing could change my mind’ is bad evidence. To the outsider, to the person who did not have the magical feeling, there is no difference between a person who follows that sentence with “And thus I became a Christian.” and “And thus I believe that I was Napoleon in a past life.” There is no way for me to accept either of those on that basis.

    However, I believe the primary messages of those letters, that Jesus is the Eternal Creator in the flesh and that he died as resurrected and ascended to heaven and has been reigning and will until all nations belong to him.

    And once again, I don’t see how you can see the bible as a reliable evidence for any of the magical events it describes. It could only ever be evidence that some people chose to write about these things happening. It doesn’t even prove that the author believed any of it, let alone that any of it actually happened.

    Let me put it this way. Right now, today, I can show you books written by people who believe they were abducted by aliens. Single people, married people, married couples, entire families. Their stories are remarkably similar. They are internally consistent. They tell a coherent narrative. These people and families are heavily persecuted for their beliefs, and have had their lives uprooted, jobs ended, friends and family lost, because they persist in insisting to everyone that they have been abducted by aliens. They have no reason to lie and every reason to never talk about it again – but they are convinced that this thing happened to them and will not be convinced otherwise.
    Yet, no one with a rational mind would believe them. Why? Because they have no good evidence. They have no pictures of the inside of the spaceship. They have no alien DNA under their fingernails from scratching the aliens as they try to defend themselves. They have no alien tools snatched off a table during their ordeal. Any of these things would be sufficient evidence to demonstrate the truth of their claims – yet not one of the literally thousands of ‘alien abductess’ have managed to obtain any of these things.
    Is it because the aliens are just that good at kidnapping humans then putting them back while leaving no evidence? Or are they under the effects of some sort of collective delusion that we just don’t understand yet?

    And here’s the kicker – how does that compare to Christianity? Pretty well, I’d say. It’s just a lot more socially acceptable nowadays to be a Christian than to be an ‘alien abductee’, but the early persecuted Christians were the same as modern alien abductees. (Okay, almost the same – we don’t execute alien abductees.) Obviously, the content of Christianity is completely different. But there is far more evidence for aliens than there is for the Resurrection, of exactly the type that you claim to find convincing for Christianity. None of it is GOOD evidence, though, and no rational person believes them.

    As I said earlier, Christians didn’t have the luxury. They were being persecuted, not only by the pagans, but also by the Jews.

    Pretty sloppy of God to allow the evidence to get lost like that. I guess he doesn’t care enough about me, personally, to make sure that enough evidence survives till I’m here to read about it.
    But that would be the other point, wouldn’t it? Does he want me to believe, or not? If your god exists, and is both all knowing and all-powerful, and wants me to believe in him, than there’s no excuse for me to be able to not believe in him. He would know exactly what amount of evidence would convince me without violating my free will, and he (being omnipotent) has the power to produce that evidence. That it hasn’t happened means that either he doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist.

    The errors weren’t just in translating from Greek to Latin but in the worldview of the translator. But even that did not hide the Gospel.

    How do you know? How do you know that what survived all this time was the actual important parts? If it was lost, you wouldn’t know.

    So I wish I could provide you with solid information, but history states that no such thing was possible.

    That’s what’s called a good reason not to believe in it. It doesn’t matter WHY the evidence did not survive. All that matters (when we talk about accepting something as true) is whether or not you have enough evidence to justify it. If it takes a miracle, by all means, send me a miracle. But that’s not the first time I’ve asked, and I don’t suppose I’ll even be disappointed when this request falls on deaf ears too.
    I’m not trying to explain to you why you should stop believing in Jesus. I’m trying to explain to you that you were never justified in believing in it in the first place. Very likely the only reason you DID is because of childhood conditioning, which is VERY powerful.

    So, since the Christians had nearly everything they had destroyed in 4th century, would you then make a different decision based off of what has survived?

    It’s not my problem that there’s not enough evidence. It’s yours. You are the one that is trying to justify this belief you have. I’m not interested in holding beliefs that are not justified. It’s entirely possible that what was destroyed was the ‘true’ Gospel and what survived was completely made up.

    It’s also entirely possible that what seems to me to be true is what is actually true – that there was a popular but heretical rabbi in Jerusalem who got executed, then a bunch of fantastic stories were invented about him after he died. This happened ALL THE TIME, to all sorts of famous (and infamous) figures, throughout history. Google Sabbatai Zevi, or John Frum. Shoot, google Paul Bunyan! It’s only very recently, since humans have become MUCH better at keeping history, that this sort of thing doesn’t happen so much anymore – and in some parts of the world, it still happens – see Sai Baba, Joseph Kony, or José Luis de Jesús. What evidence is there that the same exact thing did not happen with Jesus of Nazareth? This is a much more reasonable explanation of the bible – it does not require you to assume that anything magical happened. It does not assume that god was so stupid as to send his savior into the most illiterate, backward part of the world possible. Why not send him to China, or the Mayans? The average citizen could read and write in those places and times. We’d have stacks of documents to prove his existence. Or, if it HAD to be Isreal, why not in the (relatively) enlightened times before the Maccabees?

    As I have shown, Christians were in the beginning under heavy persecution to the point that they were not able to organize as one until the fourth century.

    This is not evidence for the validity of their beliefs. What about all the other persecuted minorities? Christians are certainly not unique in this respect. The Jews reject Christ, yet they have been persecuted harder than anyone. If level of persecution equals validity of beliefs, then obviously the correct course of action is to join them in rejecting Jesus, right?

    And Christianity has always been about hearing of the wonderful things that God has done.

    The Bible, especially the old testament, reads to me as a list of horrifying atrocities committed by the most awful tyrant ever dreamed up. No crime, no hypocrisy is too low for the god of the old testament. He murders children with abandon, orders the slaughter of whole peoples, sends his followers to rape children, at one point wipes out quite nearly all life on earth, and delights in the scent of human sacrifice. Then he caps it all off in the end by sending his own son to die. Then it says ‘God is love’ – not in THIS book he isn’t. Love doesn’t send she-bears to murder children. Love doesn’t order soldiers to slash open the bellies of pregnant women. Love doesn’t harden the heart of the Pharaoh so that he can have an excuse to send MORE plagues down on an innocent people. Love doesn’t order god’s own chosen people to go forth with swords and slay their own families. Tell me, what is the VERY FIRST THING that god commands the Israelites to do after he hands down the commandments? That’s right. “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone—even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.” That is not love. It’s hypocrisy. He’s ordering his followers to go forth and break a commandment that he JUST set forth.

    Quite frankly, the idea that it could be true is terrifying – who would want to live in a universe run by such a vicious, bloodthirsty monster? Fortunately for everyone, there’s no good reason to believe that any of it is true.
    Why would you WANT it to be true?

    How a false religion can demonstrate miracles is beyond me. The Bible seems to state that it is possible.

    Actually, you’re right, it does. What happened when Moses threw down his staff and it turned into a snake? The priests threw down THEIR staves and turned them into snakes.
    Fortunately, we’re all grown ups here and don’t actually believe in magic. Right?

    However, if you want to know which is right and which one is wrong, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” In other words, look out for hypocrites and evil doers.

    How convenient – right back to the point of the original post. The fruits of Christianity are pretty awful. Take a look at the post up top and you will see the fruits of Christianity. For every nice person who justifies being good to Christianity, there are two vile barely human people who use it to justify oppression and cruelty. For every good liberal christian, claiming that everyone gets to heaven eventually, there are ten screaming hellfire and damnation.
    And HOW many politicians are running for president right now who would use Christianity as an excuse to ruin this country? How many are using Christianity to destroy our education system and force teachers to teach myths and fables in science class? How many are using it to try and make sure that gays remain second class citizens in the land of the ‘free’? Look at Rhode Island – rape and death threats from the Christians, aimed at a teenage girl, who simply requested that the school obey the law. Why, with so much persecution being hurled at her, her beliefs MUST be true. Right?

    Christians are, every day trying to make sure that I, too, as an atheist, remain a second class citizen. You expect me to ignore those fruits, just because you say that they are reading the book wrong? And what am I supposed to make of a ‘holy’ book that can be used to justify any position, any at all, on either side of any point of morality? Love your neighbor, sure, except when you’re supposed to take slaves from your neighbors. Jesus forgives – except if your on his left hand – then it’s into the fire with you! If the bible really were the work of an all-powerful, all-loving god, I rather think that all-loving god would have used his all-power to make sure it’s message couldn’t be so easily twisted.

    Jesus said that there would be some standing that would not taste death until they saw the kingdom coming in its glory. That verse does not imply that they would not die afterward.

    That’s a pretty slippery dodge. Got one for Matthew 10:23? Because it seems to me that they’ve probably reached all the cities of Israel by now.

    Actually, no slavery would have been averted. The Barbarians believed in slaves, as did the Moors. The Parthians and Romans did too. Jesus wasn’t condoning slavery. He was telling his followers to make the best of every situation for God’s glory, rather than playing the victim. Joseph, in the book of Genesis, was made a slave and eventually saved all of Egypt from starvation.

    Yet another religionist that seems to feel that owning other human beings isn’t that big a deal. I can’t say I’m surprised.
    Let me put it this way. According to the bible, God clearly did not have any problem ordering his creations to follow commands that they were literally incapable of following. (For instance, ‘Thou shalt not covet’, which isn’t even immoral, BTW – kinda forms the basis of our economy. Why does Yahweh hate capitalism?) Jesus also did not have a problem with this, extending ‘adultery’ to include ‘looking on a woman with lust’. (This is something that every heterosexual man does, and some women too. If God didn’t want his creations to do this… maybe he should have designed himself a species that hadn’t evolved to do this? Also, the sexism, which is rampant through the bible. How come it’s only with looking on a woman with lust that causes adultery? How come a woman can look on a man with lust, without committing a crime?)
    IF owning other human beings as property is horrible (and it is) then why does god never say a word against it? Why does he set out specific rules on how to do it in the old testament, and never rescind them? Why does Paul encourage slaves to work harder, instead of encouraging slave owners to NOT OWN SLAVES?
    On an issue like slavery, the absence of condemnation is the same as condoning a thing. Especially if Jesus was claiming to actually BE god, and therefore claiming to be the same being who a few centuries earlier who set out specific rules on how to own slaves. Slavery may not have been averted everywhere. But in the Christian west, at least, it would have ended MUCH sooner – and Christians would not have that shameful bit of history hanging on to them, the whole part about how it was Christians – the most devout Christians – who fought tooth and nail in the south to keep the institution and had plenty of bible verses to back them up.

    Your expectations of Jesus seem to be suspect here, not the teachings of Jesus themselves.

    I expect that if the bible and the characters in it are expected to be held as some sort of moral authority (which they claim to be, over and over), they should display some sort of moral excellence at least as good as some humans. Not the ‘vastly inferior’ morality that is actually presented. Is this an unfair expectation?

    From what I hear, people become ‘disillusioned’ when certain things happen.

    In my experience, the people who get disillusioned go to a different religion. It generally takes investigation to become an atheist. This is not universal, of course.

    Of course, upon hearing most arguments, it seems that they didn’t look into the matter completely to begin with.

    For atheists who weren’t raised in a christian household and therefore do not have piles of childhood conditioning to fight against, it really is as simple as this: “What evidence does Christianity have? An old book, and baseless claims of miracles that can’t be proven? So it’s just like all the others? Ah well.”
    You don’t NEED to have an in depth understanding of the bible to reject it. You don’t NEED to even read the damned thing – just like you probably haven’t read the Koran, yet reject it. All you need to know is, on what evidence is the claim based? An old book? An old book couldn’t possibly ‘prove’ that anything magical ever happened, any more that the Lord of the Rings proves that hobbits exist.
    To a rational mind, that’s all there is to it, its the same as rejecting any other superstition. How much did you have to ‘look into the matter’ before you decided leprechauns weren’t real? Djinn? Thor? Faeries? Allah? Superman? Vodyanoi? Shen? There are people all over the world who believe all these things are real things. They believe just as hard as you do, and have just as much evidence. Yet for both you and me, dismissing these concepts as fairy tales is easy, and some people are lucky enough to be raised without superstition and therefore do not require any great effort to reject any superstition.

    For Christians, with oodles of childhood conditioning to accept irrationality at face value to fight through, it’s much harder. For a good friend of mine, it took an article that takes the definition of love set forth in 1 Corinthians 13 and demonstrates how the god of the bible violates every single one of it’s proscriptions – and Jesus, by extension, since Jesus is supposedly also God. I can’t find it now, I’ve been googling for it for the last 20 minutes, which is too bad since it’s an excellent article.
    I don’t know what it would take for you. I don’t even know if it’s possible for everyone to throw off these mind-forged shackles. But I hope you figure it out someday – nobody should have to live in that terrible combination of compulsory love and compulsory fear that makes it just so exhausting to be a Christian.

  15. matthewbarraco says

    I’m not saying you should never be convinced of anything. I’m saying that you should not be convinced of things on the basis of bad or insufficient evidence.

    Christianity has only a collection of bad and insufficient evidence. The Bible is insufficient. Testimonies about how ‘I had a magical feeling and now I’m 100% convinced and nothing could change my mind’ is bad evidence. To the outsider, to the person who did not have the magical feeling, there is no difference between a person who follows that sentence with “And thus I became a Christian.” and “And thus I believe that I was Napoleon in a past life.” There is no way for me to accept either of those on that basis.

    So, gathering from all you’ve posted on what deems good evidence, especially about a testimony, are you saying that good evidence depends on the length of time from when an event is recorded in addition to the amount of credible witnesses? Credible = Eyewitness and of trustworthy reputation.

    So then, you say that all of Christianity provides bad evidence, or insufficient evidence, because we can only present documents dated at least a century after the event, when all living witnesses have died. So, whatever claims are made cannot be validated, and therefore are insufficient?

    And once again, I don’t see how you can see the bible as a reliable evidence for any of the magical events it describes. It could only ever be evidence that some people chose to write about these things happening. It doesn’t even prove that the author believed any of it, let alone that any of it actually happened.

    I think that the reason why I can accept it is because I don’t feel threatened by the evidence, I have faith that I’ll discover the truth in the process, and therefore I am free to investigate such an issue that cannot be validated. The issue comes down to, “Do I believe the witnesses?” Based on the miracles I have experienced, the sense that God makes to me, and what I’ve learned so far, I believe them. I’ll explain more later in the response.

    Let me put it this way. Right now, today, I can show you books written by people who believe they were abducted by aliens. Single people, married people, married couples, entire families. Their stories are remarkably similar. They are internally consistent. They tell a coherent narrative. These people and families are heavily persecuted for their beliefs, and have had their lives uprooted, jobs ended, friends and family lost, because they persist in insisting to everyone that they have been abducted by aliens. They have no reason to lie and every reason to never talk about it again – but they are convinced that this thing happened to them and will not be convinced otherwise.Yet, no one with a rational mind would believe them. Why? Because they have no good evidence. They have no pictures of the inside of the spaceship. They have no alien DNA under their fingernails from scratching the aliens as they try to defend themselves. They have no alien tools snatched off a table during their ordeal. Any of these things would be sufficient evidence to demonstrate the truth of their claims – yet not one of the literally thousands of ‘alien abductess’ have managed to obtain any of these things.

    Is it because the aliens are just that good at kidnapping humans then putting them back while leaving no evidence? Or are they under the effects of some sort of collective delusion that we just don’t understand yet?

    So, because the witnesses were seized in terror, which is common, they are liars because they cannot be proven true because they didn’t think to grab something that validated their experience? Let’s suppose that we put their experience on trial, a testimony is still valid. More testimonies make an event more valid. However, whatever happened, because there is no evidence, is still up in the air. That means that you do with the truth what you feel is right. That can be a bad thing, I agree. However, the fact that several people, both within the same experience and outside of the experience tells me that SOMETHING IS HAPPENING. Whether their story is true or not now becomes separated from whether anything is happening at all. Furthermore, there are several experiences that are not so extraordinary that may support the testimonies. If one is looking for evidence in support of alien abduction, one only needs to read the accounts of people who have woken up in the middle of surgery and terror it caused them so much that they needed counseling to cope with what they saw. They could not move or speak but were completely aware of all that was happening. My conclusion from such an overwhelming argument is that something is happening and all investigations should be made before it is merely dismissed because a lack of fingerprints (assuming aliens would have any) and probes (you would think people would have prevented such a situation if they could.) Whether it is urban legend or not, it becomes increasingly more likely to have happened when similar accounts happen side by side, in different times and locations, and among lots of people.

    And here’s the kicker – how does that compare to Christianity? Pretty well, I’d say. It’s just a lot more socially acceptable nowadays to be a Christian than to be an ‘alien abductee’, but the early persecuted Christians were the same as modern alien abductees. (Okay, almost the same – we don’t execute alien abductees.) Obviously, the content of Christianity is completely different. But there is far more evidence for aliens than there is for the Resurrection, of exactly the type that you claim to find convincing for Christianity. None of it is GOOD evidence, though, and no rational person believes them.

    So you are saying that, because evidence doesn’t appear that convinces you, then it never happened? Especially if lots of people over a lot of time and on lots of accounts experienced the same thing? I’m not saying that it proves that the event is true. I’m saying that is makes a stronger argument than you are saying it makes.

    Pretty sloppy of God to allow the evidence to get lost like that. I guess he doesn’t care enough about me, personally, to make sure that enough evidence survives till I’m here to read about it.

    I guess I could flip this around and ask you, “Do you really think you are that great that the Eternal Spirit would go out of His way to make sure you have no questions left for him?” But I don’t think pride is really an issue here. If God left no room for faith, then there would be no such thing as faith. There are strong enough arguments, a rich history, and a free world to explore them truly.

    But that would be the other point, wouldn’t it? Does he want me to believe, or not? If your god exists, and is both all knowing and all-powerful, and wants me to believe in him, than there’s no excuse for me to be able to not believe in him. He would know exactly what amount of evidence would convince me without violating my free will, and he (being omnipotent) has the power to produce that evidence. That it hasn’t happened means that either he doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist.

    So you’re saying that God would ensure you believe in Him while leaving your freewill intact? I guess I don’t get your reasoning.

    How do you know? How do you know that what survived all this time was the actual important parts? If it was lost, you wouldn’t know.

    Put the history of the Church and its doctrines/claims on trial with what the Bible teaches and you will see they do not line up.

    Furthermore, we have the history of just about every translation. During the entire time, the Greek New Testament, as well as the Septuagint, was kept.

    And to demonstrate what I mean, here is a bit of history on the New Testament and the conflict between the Greek Orthodox Church and the iconoclasts during the 8th century. The Greek Orthodox Church, who kept the Greek New Testament, prayed to pictures and relics and treated them as holy. The iconoclasts said that such a thing was not taught by Jesus and that it is idolatry. If the Greek Orthodox Church had no Scriptural justification for praying to paintings and icons, why did they do it? The answer is because that is how tradition mandated it. For the Greeks in the East, tradition was older than Scripture, therefore tradition was superior to Scripture. The term ‘sola scriptura’ wasn’t even embraced until the 14th century at the earliest. So, until the Protestants, starting with John Wycliffe, began condemning the doctrines of the Roman Church in the 14th century, even the Roman Church had practices that were contrary to Scripture.

    So how can I say that the message wasn’t changed? Because both the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches had and still have doctrines that don’t even match the teachings in even the earliest of manuscripts. You would think that, if the Bible supported such institutions, then the Bible would have actually agreed with them. When the Protestants stood trial in the Inquisition, they said they would only recant if they could be proven wrong with the Scripture. I think the truth of the matter is that many of the Roman Catholics didn’t know what the Scriptures taught. The evidence was always there, but the traditional ways of thinking caused them not to see it at all.

    That’s what’s called a good reason not to believe in it. It doesn’t matter WHY the evidence did not survive. All that matters (when we talk about accepting something as true) is whether or not you have enough evidence to justify it. If it takes a miracle, by all means, send me a miracle. But that’s not the first time I’ve asked, and I don’t suppose I’ll even be disappointed when this request falls on deaf ears too.

    Does it take a miracle or does it take evidence. I thought you just said that a miracle is intangible and thus not evidence. I’m confused here. It sounds like to me that you want to put your hands on something that is surefire. But even today, things claimed as miracles are called natural phenomena by scientists. Everybody has an out I guess. Of course miracles are natural phenomena…because they happen in the natural world.

    I’m not trying to explain to you why you should stop believing in Jesus. I’m trying to explain to you that you were never justified in believing in it in the first place. Very likely the only reason you DID is because of childhood conditioning, which is VERY powerful.

    I see what you are saying, but I disagree. While I held a reverence for God as a child, especially because my family believed in God, I wasn’t cultured into a religion with specific doctrines. My mom never forced God onto us and we often fell asleep in the pews whenever she did bring us to Church. So, by the time I was 26 and have learned a lot about Christianity, I couldn’t help but be in awe of how ignorant I was before about Jesus. If I was conditioned, you’d figure I would have never come to such an enlightenment on my understanding of Jesus. Therefore, the reason why I believe in Christ is because I hit the books, investigated the matter, and weighed it heavily.

    To you, all the arguments that Christianity makes are not convincing. To me, they are. Therefore, it is not about what I was cultured into at this point. It is about what I find convincing.

    It’s not my problem that there’s not enough evidence. It’s yours. You are the one that is trying to justify this belief you have. I’m not interested in holding beliefs that are not justified. It’s entirely possible that what was destroyed was the ‘true’ Gospel and what survived was completely made up.

    Then it must be entirely possible that a true Gospel does exist and may not have been completely made up. It’s not your problem that there’s not enough evidence. There is evidence. It’s your problem that the evidence isn’t good enough for you. It is, however, good enough for me. And I don’t think I’m worse off for believing in it.

    It’s also entirely possible that what seems to me to be true is what is actually true – that there was a popular but heretical rabbi in Jerusalem who got executed, then a bunch of fantastic stories were invented about him after he died. This happened ALL THE TIME, to all sorts of famous (and infamous) figures, throughout history. Google Sabbatai Zevi, or John Frum. Shoot, google Paul Bunyan! It’s only very recently, since humans have become MUCH better at keeping history, that this sort of thing doesn’t happen so much anymore – and in some parts of the world, it still happens – see Sai Baba, Joseph Kony, or José Luis de Jesús. What evidence is there that the same exact thing did not happen with Jesus of Nazareth? This is a much more reasonable explanation of the bible – it does not require you to assume that anything magical happened. It does not assume that god was so stupid as to send his savior into the most illiterate, backward part of the world possible. Why not send him to China, or the Mayans? The average citizen could read and write in those places and times. We’d have stacks of documents to prove his existence. Or, if it HAD to be Isreal, why not in the (relatively) enlightened times before the Maccabees?

    I would never assume that God is stupid. I would assume that he doesn’t do things our way, though. I find it interesting that you ask why didn’t God Christ to come in the pre-Maccabean time, as if to say that the Maccabean era was a sort of Middle Eastern Dark Ages. I would agree that they were. However, the earliest manuscripts we have come from this era, just shortly before the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire. The manuscripts, when broken down, tell the truth of the pre-Maccabean to post-Maccabean period very allegorically. Take the book of Susanna for example: It is a book that is written about a 6th century BCE beautiful Jewish daughter of a man named Eleazor (common priestly name) that was coveted by two Jewish elders that were very well liked by the people. The elders plot to rape her but she refuses and screams out loud. Therefore, they fabricated a story that the woman was cheating on her husband. Just before they laid hands on her to condemn her to death for adultery, the hero of the story, Daniel, protests and demands that the Law be followed that the witnesses be examine. Their stories about which tree she committed adultery under were different and therefore they were proven as liars and were condemned to death.

    Now, scholars date the book to circa 100 BCE. At that time, there was a civil war between the Pharisees and the Asmonean king whom supported the Sadducees. The Pharisees wanted the Asmonean king to give up his priestly seat to them and attempted to draft an accusation that his mother was an apostate during the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This pissed the king off and he switched his support to the Sadducees.

    Incidentally, the plot thickens. The Pharisees, in order to gain the seat of Moses (priesthood) from the Sadducees, appealed to Pompey to dethrone the Asmonean king, which he proceeded to do. Pompey conquered Jerusalem, desecrated the temple (which the Pharisees claimed was God’s punishment on the Jews for following the Sadducees), and reduced the power of the Asmoneans until it was finished for good. The result of this was that the Pharisees gained the Jewish priesthood. What also happened, however, was a huge tax on the city for the Roman campaign against it, which people were still paying tribute for when Jesus was born. And so, Matthew 23:1 continues that story with Jesus telling his disciples that the Pharisees sit in Moses seat, but then he says in Matthew 24 that the seat of the Moses would be destroyed, which was fulfilled by the Romans in 70 CE.

    So, the story is also very similar with the Roman Church, whom sought the help of the Franks to drive out the Lombard Arians away from the territories near Rome. That began a long and dark era in which not only did the priesthood become corrupted, but that corrupt priesthood gained power over the kings of the Franks! As the days were dark in the Maccabean era, they were also dark in the Middle Ages. The Pharisees made a great many laws and traditions up themselves that they ordered others to follow. This is recorded by Josephus in The Antiquity of the Jews, book 13, chapter 10, section 6, verse 297. “What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers…” Likewise, the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church were also like the Pharisees in that they did not follow the written word (the Bible) stated, but made their own traditions. In Jesus’ day, interpretation of the law was based on which school you represented and who you fathers were. Is it any different now? You just told me that you suspected that I was a Christian because of how I was raised. If my father was a pastor rather than heavy drinking pipe-fitter, I would be even more suspect.

    And so, much to the nature of the Bible in general, God appears not to those of high reputation, but to those whom people considered worthless. The deliverer of the Jews from the Egyptians was not from the tribe of Judah, but from the tribe of Levi, whom wasn’t given an inheritance. The deliverer of all mankind was in the same manner born of a lowly maidservant who was married to a Jewish carpenter who had no reputation at all. The most famed king of the Jews, David, was not the tall, powerful man that Saul was, but was a kid who shepherded sheep. His appearance was so lowly that Saul assumed that David would need all the armor he could get just to take on the Philistine. These are not just heroic stories. The theme of those stories is that God was trying to make a name for Himself so that all the people that raped, pillaged, cheated, stole, murdered, etc. would see his greatness demonstrated in people to weak and lowly to take the credit for themselves, so that the world would be united under one banner of peace. But, we see that people, especially the Israelites, didn’t jive with that plan.

    This is not evidence for the validity of their beliefs. What about all the other persecuted minorities? Christians are certainly not unique in this respect. The Jews reject Christ, yet they have been persecuted harder than anyone. If level of persecution equals validity of beliefs, then obviously the correct course of action is to join them in rejecting Jesus, right?

    I disagree. People don’t die for something they have no experience or belief in. If Jesus was lying, he would have recanted after the first lash. If Peter was lying, he wouldn’t have taken the place of the Christians in Rome to be crucified upside down. If Polycarp, a disciple of John, wasn’t sure of his faith, then he wouldn’t have let the Romans try to burn him on a stake and stab him with swords. All these men, especially the first hand witnesses would not have died for a lie. If the alien abductees would have been put to the sword, I wouldn’t be able to prove their experiences. But I definitely wouldn’t say they were intentionally lying about their experiences.

    The Bible, especially the old testament, reads to me as a list of horrifying atrocities committed by the most awful tyrant ever dreamed up. No crime, no hypocrisy is too low for the god of the old testament. He murders children with abandon, orders the slaughter of whole peoples, sends his followers to rape children, at one point wipes out quite nearly all life on earth, and delights in the scent of human sacrifice. Then he caps it all off in the end by sending his own son to die. Then it says ‘God is love’ – not in THIS book he isn’t. Love doesn’t send she-bears to murder children. Love doesn’t order soldiers to slash open the bellies of pregnant women. Love doesn’t harden the heart of the Pharaoh so that he can have an excuse to send MORE plagues down on an innocent people. Love doesn’t order god’s own chosen people to go forth with swords and slay their own families. Tell me, what is the VERY FIRST THING that god commands the Israelites to do after he hands down the commandments? That’s right. “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone—even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.” That is not love. It’s hypocrisy. He’s ordering his followers to go forth and break a commandment that he JUST set forth.

    Do you think that it reads to you like a horror story because of your 21st century way of thinking? Historically, those weren’t times were people like you and I could discuss the validity of certain beliefs, especially during downtime at work, and freely protest evil behavior without the risk of persecution if we saw it was wrong. Those were times when mortality rate was high, commoners like you and I were considered to be worthless, there was no great embrace of civil liberties and human value on a large scale, and people weren’t so able to access information much less interpret what it said. Between the times described in the Bible and now, there have been over 3000 years of progressing thought. The people that God ordered to be killed would have killed the Israelites. Only an ignorant person who doesn’t understand what people were like back then would so quickly judge the Israelites according to 21st century Western standards. That’s called ethnocentrism and seems to be considered wrong for everything except judging religious texts. So, God makes a promise to Abraham to make him as countless as the sands by the sea and the stars in the sky, and yet you are saying God should have let them be killed off? So, I don’t see God as a horrifying and atrocious villain. I see God as a loving and faithful God that kept a people together in horrifying and atrocious times; times where men sacrificed their firstborn to idols and took whatever they were powerful enough to take. The Middle Ages were no different. People can’t be judged so harshly by other peoples’ times. It would be an embarrassment if the times before us were to judge us though.

    Quite frankly, the idea that it could be true isterrifying – who would want to live in a universe run by such a vicious, bloodthirsty monster? Fortunately for everyone, there’s no good reason to believe that any of it is true.

    I really think you just look at it wrong. Even more interestingly, Middle Eastern society, particularly Palestinian society, changed dramatically just between the times of the first and second exile of the Jews. There is a lot that you aren’t saying. I think you are creating your own story here.

    Why would you WANT it to be true?

    Because if God makes me a promise, I expect Him to keep it.

    Actually, you’re right, it does. What happened when Moses threw down his staff and it turned into a snake? The priests threw down THEIR staves and turned them into snakes.

    Yep. I don’t understand it at all. 2 Thessalonians 2 calls it ‘the mystery of lawlessness.’ How could people who have experienced the divine ever teach lies about it? How can people who have seen evidence of God and have become convinced ever teach lies about Him? I dunno man.

    Fortunately, we’re all grown ups here and don’t actually believe in magic. Right?

    Doctors once thought that cigarettes were healthy for us…and science fiction is quickly becoming science fact.

    How convenient – right back to the point of the original post. The fruits of Christianity are pretty awful. Take a look at the post up top and you will see the fruits of Christianity. For every nice person who justifies being good to Christianity, there are two vile barely human people who use it to justify oppression and cruelty. For every good liberal christian, claiming that everyone gets to heaven eventually, there are ten screaming hellfire and damnation.

    We didn’t get this far in talking about human reasoning only to let bad apples dictate what is true to us. If something is true, it is true by its own good merit. If love is a Christian teaching, then Christians who don’t practice love by no means determine that Jesus does not teach about love. We are better off saying that any kind of person with any kind of belief can be a bad person and do contrary to what they claim. Hypocrisy isn’t reserved just for Christians. If you know what is right, the fact that others do contrary should by no means affect your opinion. That is, after all, the entire theme behind the sufferings of the early day Christians at the hands of the pagans. And that is also a great theme in our society today. Nobody honors a man that does contrary to what he claims. Atheists and skeptics are not an exception.

    And HOW many politicians are running for president right now who would use Christianity as an excuse to ruin this country?

    What some Christians do today by no means excuses you of not knowing what is good fruit and what is bad fruit and acting accordingly. You have access to the information, so bad examples should have no impact on your ability to make a sound judgment about what is good.

    How many are using Christianity to destroy our education system and force teachers to teach myths and fables in science class?

    Again, how does that invalidate Christian teachings? A man may murder another for raping his wife, but the fact that he didn’t use his best judgment, but was overwhelmed by emotion does not excuse him for taking the law into his own hands, though it is understandable why he would do so. Again, I’m telling you that, if you want to know what is truly Christian and what is not, then you have all the opportunities and capabilities to go out and find out for yourself without basing your actions and judgments on how something offends you. If Christianity is true, it is true regardless of the bad apples. Or else we can say evolution if false because of the unethical decisions of the Eugenics program.

    How many are using it to try and make sure that gays remain second class citizens in the land of the ‘free’? Look at Rhode Island – rape and death threats from the Christians, aimed at a teenage girl, who simply requested that the school obey the law. Why, with so much persecution being hurled at her, her beliefs MUST be true. Right?

    You know that they are wrong and I know they are wrong, so I don’t see why this is an argument?

    Christians are, every day trying to make sure that I, too, as an atheist, remain a second class citizen. You expect me to ignore those fruits, just because you say that they are reading the book wrong? And what am I supposed to make of a ‘holy’ book that can be used to justify any position, any at all, on either side of any point of morality? Love your neighbor, sure, except when you’re supposed to take slaves from your neighbors. Jesus forgives – except if your on his left hand – then it’s into the fire with you! If the bible really were the work of an all-powerful, all-loving god, I rather think that all-loving god would have used his all-power to make sure it’s message couldn’t be so easily twisted.

    I’m not justifying evil behavior, but you are making it sound like I am simply because I’m a Christian. I have provided you with information that teaches against the Evangelical method of Fire Insurance, with information regarding the background of Christian teachings as opposed to Roman Catholic and fundagelical teachings, as well as made a case for history and God’s action within it. I don’t see why you are holding on so hard to the resentment. Christians, in the first century had more guts and courage than that. While their enemies were flaying their skin from their bones and ripping their flesh to pieces, they cried out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” At that moment, they had courage to forgive their enemies of their evil and ignorant behavior. If what you believe is truly right, no amount of inhumanity and disservice should ever shake you from it, and should only cause you to proclaim the truth ever louder. Why be angry at one system when every system is equally broken. The church at one point in time shifted from calling Jesus their savior to calling the Roman Church their savior. So when the Roman Church failed to save, is it no surprise? No amount of censorship or prejudice should ever change your mind. And death and slavery should not sway you from what you truly believe is right. That is the early Christian story. That isn’t the Christian story anymore and you should know that by now. Christians of the first three centuries would be appalled at many of the Christians today, who fight for the freedom to raise Christians according to Christian principles as if any government could ever prevent them from doing so. It was criticized by Paul for people abandoning their Christian liberties to those who said, “Do not eat,” and “Do not marry.” They had been blessed by God to do all those things with thanksgiving. Now, because someone says, “No,” all a sudden we should unite in protest? I disagree. I don’t need the right to be a Christian to be a Christian. It is not Christian-like to shy away from persecution or hardship, but to outperform anyone else in the same situation. There is a reason why the Christian history is rich with courage and heroism, stories of miracles, and the tragedy of oppression. That is because they loved life so much that they were willing to lose it. They loved freedom so much that they willingly subjected themselves to their enemies to lead them to repentance of their evil behavior. They loved virtue so much that they stood up against the wicked practices and opposed the pagan practices, revealing them as the licentious and morally bankrupt practices that they were.

    That’s a pretty slippery dodge. Got one for Matthew 10:23? Because it seems to me that they’ve probably reached all the cities of Israel by now.

    I do. Just a few verses prior to that, Jesus tells him that the disciples would be dragged away to the Gentiles and persecuted their as a testimony. Then Jesus says that they won’t have gone through all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The answer to this confusing scenario is that the Christians would make their way back to Israel. It was thought by Simon Peter that Israel would first be ministered to and receive Christ before the Gentiles would. However, Jesus, Matthew 10 paints a different picture. In Matthew 10, the Jews persecute the Christians and hand them over to the Gentiles where they make more converts from their testimonies. In Matthew 24, Jesus also said that Jerusalem would be destroyed before the Lord’s coming. The Christians fled Jerusalem when they saw the temple get fortified and Cestius surround the city and then flee. See? They didn’t hit every down. Jerusalem, Damascus, and Antioch were the main cities mentioned because of their influence. But there is no evidence to suggest every town was visited by them. There is evidence to suggest that the Church had fled Judea though.

    Yet another religionist that seems to feel that owning other human beings isn’t that big a deal. I can’t say I’m surprised.Let me put it this way. According to the bible, God clearly did not have any problem ordering his creations to follow commands that they were literally incapable of following. (For instance, ‘Thou shalt not covet’, which isn’t even immoral, BTW – kinda forms the basis of our economy. Why does Yahweh hate capitalism?) Jesus also did not have a problem with this, extending ‘adultery’ to include ‘looking on a woman with lust’. (This is something that every heterosexual man does, and some women too. If God didn’t want his creations to do this… maybe he should have designed himself a species that hadn’t evolved to do this?

    Like Pharisees, you missed the point in the entire Law. The Law doesn’t bring life. That was what Paul spent a good portion of Hebrews talking about. Yet, the Law is good. It convicts us of the sin in us. Those that live by the Law are judged and condemned by the law. If it is that easy to break even one command, then we are all guilty. However, in another place, Paul pointed out that the Law was our schoolteacher to point us to Jesus. It created the hopeless situation that only God could deliver us from. I don’t expect this to make sense to you or get past your criticism, but this argument is Paul’s and it makes sense to me.

    Also, the sexism, which is rampant through the bible. How come it’s only with looking on a woman with lust that causes adultery? How come a woman can look on a man with lust, without committing a crime?)

    And how come if a man divorces his wife, his wife is considered the adulterer, but not him? Dude, people shouldn’t be treating each other so bad that they should need a divorce. Likewise, a man ought to value women as the godly creatures they are and treat them well. Somehow, that slipped the Pharisees minds, because they thought of women as lower than servants that washed peoples’ feet. If anything Christianity actually promoted the dignity of women. But I suppose you’ll hear whatever you want to hear and see whatever you want to see.
    No point in using logic anymore at this point.

    IF owning other human beings as property is horrible (and it is) then why does god never say a word against it?

    He didn’t take too kindly to bondage, but having a servant was understandable for those times. You live in a capitalistic society where, if a person can’t make enough, he collects the welfare. Back then, if you couldn’t take care of yourself, you either offered yourself as a slave or died. Let’s be real here. Why didn’t got say much on slavery? He didn’t want his people to starve to death. Seems loving to me.

    Why does he set out specific rules on how to do it in the old testament, and never rescind them? Why does Paul encourage slaves to work harder, instead of encouraging slave owners to NOT OWN SLAVES?

    For the first question, God said to Jeremiah that he was doing away with the old covenant and would write his commands on peoples’ hearts. When the Pharisees were criticizing Jesus for breaking the law, which he did, he justified it by referring to a higher law; the law of love. So God did away with the law. You missed that one because many Christian teachers recognize the conflict but fail to address it boldly and confidently enough without getting mixed up.

    As for the second question, please refer to my question above. Slavery was a way of life. They didn’t have civil rights protests and the freedom to rally in front of the courthouse. Paul was asking the Christians not to be pansies and to face their ordeals with grace and love. He didn’t want the Christian slaves breaking the law and bringing upon themselves the death sentence. In fact, he wanted the Christians to live so extraordinarily that their masters would come to Christ.

    On an issue like slavery, the absence of condemnation is the same as condoning a thing. Especially if Jesus was claiming to actually BE god, and therefore claiming to be the same being who a few centuries earlier who set out specific rules on how to own slaves. Slavery may not have been averted everywhere. But in the Christian west, at least, it would have ended MUCH sooner – and Christians would not have that shameful bit of history hanging on to them, the whole part about how it was Christians – the most devout Christians – who fought tooth and nail in the south to keep the institution and had plenty of bible verses to back them up.

    And it was the Christians, the devout Christians, who fought tooth in nail in England to end the slave trade against other Christians, devout Christians, who saw slavery as the benefit of the English Empire. William Wilberforce wrote a book called Real Christianity that addressed the difference between spirit filled Christians and cultural Christians. His arguments are far better than mine, so if you want a detailed explanation of this, I recommend his book. William Wilberforce was the man who fought to bring slave trade in England to an end. His friend John Newton, wrote ‘Amazing Grace.’ John Newton was a slave ship captain that was merciless to his passengers. On the day that GOD OPENED HIS EYES, he became ashamed of his behavior and stopped being a captain. I don’t think either of those two would have come to the conclusion that Jesus truly detested the forced slavery, especially in their time, if Christianity truly promoted it. They used the same Scriptures and came to a different conclusion.

    I expect that if the bible and the characters in it are expected to be held as some sort of moral authority (which they claim to be, over and over), they should display some sort of moral excellence at least as good as some humans. Not the ‘vastly inferior’ morality that is actually presented. Is this an unfair expectation?

    Yes. Because, you are, in a way, saying that your morality is superior. My question would by, by what claim? Second, you are not specifying how, with the realistic setting of those times, you would have done things better. I hear a lot of judgment, but no explanation.

    In my experience, the people who get disillusioned go to a different religion. It generally takes investigation to become an atheist. This is not universal, of course.

    Likewise for atheists crossing over. Its not all systematic. Some wake up one day and come to belief that there truly is a God. Some look at the complexities of science and can’t help but lose themselves in wonder. Others have supernatural experiences that just can’t be explained rationally.

    For atheists who weren’t raised in a christian household and therefore do not have piles of childhood conditioning to fight against, it really is as simple as this: “What evidence does Christianity have? An old book, and baseless claims of miracles that can’t be proven? So it’s just like all the others? Ah well.”You don’t NEED to have an in depth understanding of the bible to reject it. You don’t NEED to even read the damned thing – just like you probably haven’t read the Koran, yet reject it. All you need to know is, on what evidence is the claim based? An old book? An old book couldn’t possibly ‘prove’ that anything magical ever happened, any more that the Lord of the Rings proves that hobbits exist.

    I see your reasoning. Just to throw this out there: The Bible isn’t just one book written by one author at one time. It’s a collection of stories, proverbs, psalms, prophecies, teachings, and poems that all express the same thing about a same God toward the same people. It’s not just so easy as saying, “an old book.”

    To a rational mind, that’s all there is to it, its the same as rejecting any other superstition. How much did you have to ‘look into the matter’ before you decided leprechauns weren’t real? Djinn? Thor? Faeries? Allah? Superman? Vodyanoi? Shen? There are people all over the world who believe all these things are real things. They believe just as hard as you do, and have just as much evidence. Yet for both you and me, dismissing these concepts as fairy tales is easy, and some people are lucky enough to be raised without superstition and therefore do not require any great effort to reject any superstition.

    I see your point. I think the history of Israel and the fact that God is not a visible being, but is Spirit (contrary to pretty much all of the religions during the days of Antiquity) makes a different argument. The monotheistic God doesn’t have a beard, isn’t the sun or wolf, doesn’t need a body, and can be anywhere at once. Such attributes were give to the Supreme Ideal by Plato. That is why so many Christians quoted Plato when they developed their arguments against paganism. I don’t know if you mean to or not, but you are leaving out a lot of detail.

    For Christians, with oodles of childhood conditioning to accept irrationality at face value to fight through, it’s much harder. For a good friend of mine, it took an article that takes the definition of love set forth in 1 Corinthians 13 and demonstrates how the god of the bible violates every single one of it’s proscriptions – and Jesus, by extension, since <bJesus is supposedly also God. I can’t find it now, I’ve been googling for it for the last 20 minutes, which is too bad since it’s an excellent article.

    Such a view can be somewhat understood, I guess, if the people of Israel were not the main audience of the Bible. You look at God slaying enemies, but you don’t see God protecting His people. Back then, the success of a nation in war sent a message to all the surrounding nations of who their God was and that their God was a force to be recogned with. God is patient. He watched his own people pick up the trends of the surrounding nations as they sacrificed their firstborns to the fires of a fake god. Should he have stopped them? Would it have been unloving? The accusations don’t make sense Stev.

    I don’t know what it would take for you. I don’t even know if it’s possible for everyone to throw off these mind-forged shackles. But I hope you figure it out someday – nobody should have to live in that terrible combination of compulsory love and compulsory fear that makes it just so exhausting to be a Christian.

    If that is you understanding of Jesus, then I would conclude that you know a lot about the Bible and a lot about Christianity, but nearly nothing about the message of the Bible or the founder of Christianity. No offense.

  16. Stevarious says

    So then, you say that all of Christianity provides bad evidence, or insufficient evidence, because we can only present documents dated at least a century after the event, when all living witnesses have died. So, whatever claims are made cannot be validated, and therefore are insufficient?

    That would be sufficient evidence for us to be as certain as we can be that Jesus was a real person and probably said the things that he is said to have said.
    It would NOT be sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he was able to perform magic. No amount of textual evidence would be sufficient to prove any more than that people believed he could perform magic. It would be much simpler to think that he was merely fooling people, because we already know that people can be fooled with magic tricks and actual magic would violate the laws of nature in such a manner that would require a repeat demonstration to be believable.

    However, the fact that several people, both within the same experience and outside of the experience tells me that SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.

    You misunderstand me. I’m not accusing them of lying. It’s obvious that they truly believe that they were kidnapped by aliens. What I’m saying is that there is no good reason to believe that they were actually kidnapped by aliens – it’s much more likely that something else is at work here. Just because we don’t know exactly what is going on is no reason at all to believe that they are actually being kidnapped by aliens – a claim like that requires more than testimony to be believed, now matter how consistent the testimony is.

    So you are saying that, because evidence doesn’t appear that convinces you, then it never happened? Especially if lots of people over a lot of time and on lots of accounts experienced the same thing?

    No. Obviously not. Our beliefs do not determine reality. There IS an objective reality. The question is how we make our beliefs most closely mirror that reality. And that hinges on us only accepting things as true that which has sufficient evidence. It’s about making sure what we find ‘convincing’ be the same as what is evidenced, because if we are being convinced by things that are NOT evidence, we have no way of knowing if they are true.
    There is a saying – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So whether or not you believe a claim depends not just on how much evidence you have, but how that evidence weighs against evidence for other things. So mostly it depends on the claim – does the claim, say, violate the laws of physics? Is it a simple claim that assumes nothing? If you tell me that you had a tuna sandwich for lunch, this is an inconsequential claim and I don’t need anything more than your word to believe it. But if you say that you had a tuna sandwich, with the president and the Pope, this is a much more fantastic claim and I think I’d need a picture.
    A good example would be the Miracle of the Sun in 1917 near Fatima Portugal. 30,000 people claim to have seen the sun dance around in the sky, swing close to the earth and zig-zag about. The testimony of 30,000 people is certainly enough to believe that they believed that they saw the sun dance about. But it’s not enough to accept that the earth actually left its orbit, bounced around the solar system like a ping pong ball, then went back to it’s proper orbit. Nor is it sufficient evidence to believe that the sun did the same – without anyone else on the earth noticing? Obviously, something else is at work here – and I don’t find it difficult at all to believe that a bunch of people, told to stare at the sun for long periods of time, would hallucinate. And we know enough about psychology to know that if you have a bunch of people in a highly suggestive state, and one of them shouts out, “Ooh, the sun is moving!”, the rest of them will begin to see the same thing.

    I guess I could flip this around and ask you, “Do you really think you are that great that the Eternal Spirit would go out of His way to make sure you have no questions left for him?” But I don’t think pride is really an issue here.

    Is he omnipotent and omnipresent, or isn’t he? If he IS, then there’s literally no such thing as ‘out of his way’, in terms of either distance or effort.

    If God left no room for faith, then there would be no such thing as faith.

    And…? You say that like faith is a good thing. Faith is, by definition, believing things for which you have insufficient evidence for. If you are making decisions based on faith, then you have no means to determine if your faith is the right one. You have no means to distinguish between the beliefs of any religions or none. Faith is feeling blindly in the dark and believing that the thing you feel is what you are told to believe, and don’t bother taking off that blindfold to see for yourself, you can trust me!

    There are strong enough arguments, a rich history, and a free world to explore them truly.

    Well, I can agree with the latter two.

    So you’re saying that God would ensure you believe in Him while leaving your freewill intact? I guess I don’t get your reasoning.

    I’m saying that if he cared about both free will and gathering all his children to him, he would make it a legitimate choice, instead of leaving so little evidence but that I am forced to refuse to believe he exists. As it stands now, I could only ever pretend to believe. I could never honestly believe.

    Does it take a miracle or does it take evidence. I thought you just said that a miracle is intangible and thus not evidence. I’m confused here.

    A miracle would be the only acceptable evidence to prove that miracles exist. A reproducible miracle, with some sort of evidence built into the miracle that made it clear that it was the Christian god that was responsible for it, not just ANY god.

    Of course miracles are natural phenomena…because they happen in the natural world.

    Like what? What miracle is part of the ‘natural world’? As I understand it, miracles are, by definition, a suspension of the natural laws.

    Therefore, the reason why I believe in Christ is because I hit the books, investigated the matter, and weighed it heavily.

    It was uncharitable of me to insist that you could only believe because you were conditioned as a child. If you say that you came to your belief through investigation, I will accept that.
    Still think you’re wrong, though.

    Therefore, it is not about what I was cultured into at this point. It is about what I find convincing.

    Is it impossible that you find the arguments convincing because you were cultured to do so? Just sayin…

    It’s your problem that the evidence isn’t good enough for you.

    It’s not actually a problem for me. It’s a problem for god, or it would be if he existed. It’s certainly a problem for anyone who desires to convert me.

    I would never assume that God is stupid.

    Nor would I. That’s why I don’t believe he exists. If he does, he’s an incompetent hack, a childish, temper-tantrum-throwing monster. No god worth believing in would have the traits given to him in the bible.

    The theme of those stories is that God was trying to make a name for Himself so that all the people that raped, pillaged, cheated, stole, murdered, etc. would see his greatness demonstrated in people to weak and lowly to take the credit for themselves, so that the world would be united under one banner of peace. But, we see that people, especially the Israelites, didn’t jive with that plan.

    Yeah, it’s almost like the god of the bible completely lacks any sort of god-like foresight, that a band of thugs like the ancient Israelites could so ruin his plans by raping, pillaging, and murdering their way across the land and basically being worse than all their neighbors. Kinda sets the opposite tone of what he was trying for, huh? As I said, no being this stupid is worthy of the title ‘god’. If there is one, this guy ain’t it.

    I keep seeing this theme in apologetics about how god is supposedly perfect, but we keep on ruining his plans. How is this possible? Can god not see the future? Is he no smarter than us, no better at predicting our actions than a regular human? He can’t see how, say, ordering his people to never commit murder, then immediately afterward ordering his people to murder each other by the thousands kind of undermines his own moral authority? He can’t see how ordering his people not to covet, then shortly thereafter ordering his people to go take lands from their owners because the lands are nicer then where they live now undermines that same moral authority? He can’t see how taking those lands by force and not just conquering their peoples, but brutally annihilating them to a man (and raping all their daughters!) would make the new neighbors just a bit nervous, and liable to attack? I don’t blame those other peoples from wanting to wipe out the Israelites one bit.

    People don’t die for something they have no experience or belief in. If Jesus was lying, he would have recanted after the first lash. If Peter was lying, he wouldn’t have taken the place of the Christians in Rome to be crucified upside down.

    When did I claim they were all liars? It’s perfectly clear that they were just plain wrong. They probably wouldn’t have died for a lie that they knew to be a lie. But they could easily have just been mistaken. Are you saying that Muslim martyrs die for a lie? Or are they just mistaken?

    Between the times described in the Bible and now, there have been over 3000 years of progressing thought.

    So god’s morality has changed? Or is he still consider human life so worthless that he’s willing to kill every firstborn in a city, just to make a point?

    The people that God ordered to be killed would have killed the Israelites.

    A fate, I daresay, they brought upon themselves by invading lands that did not belong to them and killing all the men and raping all the daughters. How am I supposed to have any sympathy for the Israelites after Jericho? The people of Jericho did nothing to the Israelites at all. If the battle had gone the other way, Rahab would have been remembered as the wretched traitor she was, who betrayed her people to a brutal annihilation at the hands of brigands.

    That’s called ethnocentrism and seems to be considered wrong for everything except judging religious texts.

    I’m sorry. I keep getting told by Christians that god’s moral laws are perfect and unchanging. Is that not your position?

    I don’t blame the people for how they acted. (Well, maybe a little. I’m sure even by the standards of the time, invading a country you do not own and slaying all the men and raping all the daughters was at least frowned upon in some circles.) But then, I’m the atheist – I don’t have a problem with changing moral standards. If I’m supposed to accept your deity as a moral lawgiver, however, his moral laws better be at least as good as mine.

    So, God makes a promise to Abraham to make him as countless as the sands by the sea and the stars in the sky, and yet you are saying God should have let them be killed off?

    I’m saying that even by the standards of the time, promising someone lands that belong to someone else is probably wrong.

    So, I don’t see God as a horrifying and atrocious villain. I see God as a loving and faithful God that kept a people together in horrifying and atrocious times

    We’ll ignore for a moment all the times god rains down vicious torment and destruction upon his own people for the slightest misstep, and yet can somehow be called ‘loving and faithful’.

    Yep. I don’t understand it at all. 2 Thessalonians 2 calls it ‘the mystery of lawlessness.’ How could people who have experienced the divine ever teach lies about it? How can people who have seen evidence of God and have become convinced ever teach lies about Him?

    From the context of the story, it’s pretty clear they drew power from a different god. These people were polytheistic, doncha know. Even Moses erects an icon to Nehushtan, a Midianite god, in Numbers 21 to cure his people of snakebites.
    The Torah was edited later to make it seem like Yahweh was the only god, around 640 BC. Try Karen Armstrong’s ‘A History of God’. If not, this video has a very (very!) brief rundown of the details.

    We didn’t get this far in talking about human reasoning only to let bad apples dictate what is true to us. If something is true, it is true by its own good merit. If love is a Christian teaching, then Christians who don’t practice love by no means determine that Jesus does not teach about love. We are better off saying that any kind of person with any kind of belief can be a bad person and do contrary to what they claim.

    The problem is, I, as a nonbeliever, have no interest in adjudicating differences in dogma between different believers. I’ve read the bible, several times. It teaches love AND hate, forgiveness AND condemnation, freedom AND slavery. It is a mess, and it’s words can be used to justify ANY position at all. I don’t believe in any magical, ‘pure’ Christianity and have no way of telling who is following the ‘real’ teachings of the bible.
    All I can see is the whole tree. Good fruits and bad fruits seem to be the fruits of Christianity, the fruits of the bible.

    If Christianity is true, it is true regardless of the bad apples.

    And if it were false, how would it be different from what we see now?

    You know that they are wrong and I know they are wrong, so I don’t see why this is an argument?

    You and I know what they are doing is immoral. Why would I distinguish their behavior from ‘proper’ Christian behavior? I do not equate ‘moral behavior’ with ‘Christian behavior’, because I see Christians behaving in an immoral manner more often than anyone else and their holy book preaching immoral teachings. Take a look at prison population statistics. Far more Christians in there than any other religion, and precious few atheists. Why would I assume that Christian behavior is ‘supposed’ to be the ‘best’ behavior when all it seems to promote is the worst?

    I have provided you with information that teaches against the Evangelical method of Fire Insurance

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but you’ve provided me with an opinion that teaches against ‘Fire Insurance’ – an opinion that contradicts both the established dogma of your religion and the words on the page of the book you call holy.

    If what you believe is truly right, no amount of inhumanity and disservice should ever shake you from it, and should only cause you to proclaim the truth ever louder.

    But no amount of inhumanity and disservice sent your way because of your belief makes those beliefs true! You keep on bringing up the suffering of early Christians as proof that their beliefs were correct. I’ve said as many times as I can that their suffering proves nothing! People have suffering for EVERY major religion! The natives of Easter Island starved and died horribly, to a man, woman, and child, for their religion. They were probably wrong! America has had Muslims in prisons in Cuba for a decade, and tortured them and starved them because they are Muslims! They are probably wrong!
    I’m sorry that the early Christians suffered for their beliefs. I’m even sorrier that it seems clear that they died for nothing. They are not evidence for anything other that the fact that humans will die for their beliefs, no matter what they are.

    Why be angry at one system when every system is equally broken.

    Oh, I am quite angry at all of them. Christianity, however, as I tried to make clear, is the religion that affects me personally the most.

    I don’t need the right to be a Christian to be a Christian.

    Quite frankly, if most Christians were like you, I’d spend a lot more time fighting against the Catholic Church and Muslims.

    Unfortunately, they aren’t. And those people that aren’t, that make up the vast majority of your co-religionists? They are the fruit of Christianity, just as much as you are.

    Yet, the Law is good.

    No, it’s not. The Law explains how to sell your daughter as a sex slave in Exodus 21:7. The law says that a raped woman has to marry her rapist in Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The Law gives the death penalty for the imaginary crime of witchcraft in Exodus 22:18. What the hell kind of ‘good’ law warrants death for an imaginary crime? What the hell kind of loving god condemns so many people to a horrible death, for committing an impossible crime? There is NO reason for that law to exist except to make sure that for thousands of years, people would be put to death for something they could not have done. Untold suffering and death and misery, that continues to this day, in Africa, where children – children! – are put out into the streets to starve because they are suspected of witchcraft. Are you saying that your god chose for all of those people, those children, to die for nothing? Is your god THAT cruel?
    Or was the Law written by a bunch of bronze age patriarchs, instead of god?
    Which seems more likely?

    If anything Christianity actually promoted the dignity of women.

    I’ve lived to hear it said. (Or at least, see it typed.) Seeing as how the words in the bible have been used to oppress women since it was written right up to today and beyond, I take issue. But I somehow doubt I’m going to budge you on this issue – misogyny is FAR too heavily ingrained in the bible.

    Back then, if you couldn’t take care of yourself, you either offered yourself as a slave or died. Let’s be real here. Why didn’t got say much on slavery? He didn’t want his people to starve to death. Seems loving to me.

    Yes, so loving that if your owner beat you, and you died, he would be fined – but only if you died in the first day or two. Exodus 21:20-21. So loving that you could sell your daughter as a sex slave, and if they buyer didn’t like her, he could get his money back! Exodus 21:7 So loving that if your slaves got married, you could still release one slave and keep the wife, and the only way he could get his wife back is by becoming your slave again, permanently. Exodus 21:6 So loving that you could take slaves from neighboring countries, no matter how THAT got them, and own them and their families forever. Leviticus 25:44-46

    You seem to have a highly romantisized view of how slavery was in the bible, that it was some sort of temporary indentured servitude. It COULD be, if you were male and a Jew. If you were anything else, there was no rules that made the experience any different from what blacks endured in the south for a few centuries.
    But then, if there’s one thing that the bible shows, the only thing god REALLY cared about even a little bit was male Jews.

    So God did away with the law.

    You know, THIS is the point that the bible contradicts itself the most on. On the side of the Law being done away with, you have: Luke 16:16; Romans 6:14, 7:4-6, and 10:4; Galatians 3:13, 3:24-25, and 5:18; Ephesions 2:15, and Colossians 2:14.

    But you have, in the old testament, numerous pronouncements by Yahweh that the Law will under forever, not just for a while: Genesis 17:19, Exodus 12:14, 17, and 24; Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31; Deuteronomy 4:8-9, 7:9, 11:1, and 11:26-28; and Psalm 119:151. And you have a couple of times in the NT that Jesus himself states that the law will persist forever, directly contradicting his own statement (in the previous verse!) that it persists forever. (Luke 16:17)

    So the bible is pretty wishy washy on the subject, and I see equal justification for both positions – which rather makes the thing useless for answering the question.

    He didn’t want the Christian slaves breaking the law and bringing upon themselves the death sentence. In fact, he wanted the Christians to live so extraordinarily that their masters would come to Christ.

    He also did not order the Christian slave owners to release their Christian slaves – instead, he ordered the Christian slaves to work harder for a Christian master. Clear support for slavery. If the bible is the guide to morality, then why is slavery even wrong?

    They used the same Scriptures and came to a different conclusion.

    That would be a firm strike against it. Any guide to life that can be read by two people and have them come to the exact opposite answer on an issue is not useful.

    Yes. Because, you are, in a way, saying that your morality is superior. My question would by, by what claim?

    Yes, my morality is superior to the bible, or any character in it. My claim? I recognize that the point of morality is to cause the least amount of harm and the greatest happiness to as many people as possible. Some of the teachings in the bible seem designed to cause harm, or are contrary to promoting health, and are therefore immoral.

    Second, you are not specifying how, with the realistic setting of those times, you would have done things better. I hear a lot of judgment, but no explanation.

    Assuming I’m god and all powerful and all knowing? Damn, that’s a ten-thousand word post all by itself. But here’s a quicky:

    Garden of Eden: “Hey, kids, so I’m God, and I’ve created you, and now I’m going to give you a choice: You can NOT eat the fruit, and remain here in My Garden for all of eternity with no cares or needs or wants. OR, you can eat the fruit. This will cause you to age and die, but give you the ability to think for yourselves and make your own choices and know right from wrong. It would be cruel and unfair to order you not to eat the fruit without telling you why, and even crueler to punish for making a decision I knew you were going to make when I created you. Also, there was a talking snake running around in here, but he was planning on messing things up so I got rid of him.”

    Cain and Abel: “Why are you burning stuff? I don’t need you to burn stuff at me. I’m all powerful and all knowing! I already know exactly how much you appreciate me in your heart and don’t need you to destroy valuable crops and livestock, because I’m not so insecure that I need you to destroy your own wealth just to reassure me that I’m your main deity.”

    Noah: “Man, Noah, those guys are assholes. I think I’ll tell them to stop.” They don’t stop. “Man, Noah, they sure are being jerks, even after I told them not to! It’s almost like the divine command theory of morality is insufficient to create true morality in thinking beings! Let me look at the future… hmmm…. looks like in the future, I’m going to decide that it’s better to be good for the sake of being good to each other, and have my followers teach THAT. But it looks like THESE guys are too wicked to learn it right away – man did I somehow screw up even though I’m all powerful and all-knowing! Welp, it’s would be a huge awful waste to destroy the whole world, and pretty unfair to all the animals that didn’t do anything wrong. So a world-wide flood is out – plus I can see the future and know that I would regret it right after I did it. Being all-knowing sure is useful in avoiding regret! So I think I’ll just strike all the incorrigible people with bolts of lightning and kill them. Better vaporize their bodies, too, so that disease doesn’t start spreading. (Did I tell you about disease? Oh, right, you see, disease is cause by these things called bacteria, and if you just wash your hands a few times a day….)

    Tower of Babel: “Nice tower, guys! Wow, my children sure have come a long way! Good thing I’m not a jealous god, and can just be proud of the amazing accomplishments my children have performed! Way to go guys! First one to reach the clouds gets birth-defect-free triplets and a new horse! What’s that, Gabriel? Multiple languages? That’d be an asshole thing to do, why would I do that? I LOVE my children!”

    Egypt: “What’s that Gabriel? Harden Pharoah’s heart so that I have to murder a bunch of children to convince him to let my people go? That sure would be an asshole thing to do – not to mention a violation of the free will I care so much about. I mean, look, they’re all descended from Noah, aren’t they? All of them are my children! Look, he’s already willing to let them go, they don’t need plagues to convince them.”

    I could go on, but honestly, this clip from the excellent movie “God on Trial” describes better than I even could just how viciously and with just how much unnecessary cruelty Yahweh acts in Exodus and other parts of the OT. It’s an excellent movie, which describes a trial held by Jewish rabbis and scholars in Auschwitz, when they try to determine whether or not god has broken the covenent.

    Just to throw this out there: The Bible isn’t just one book written by one author at one time. It’s a collection of stories, proverbs, psalms, prophecies, teachings, and poems

    So is the Koran. So is the Mahabharata.

    that all express the same thing about a same God toward the same people.

    It takes a VERY careful reading of the bible to come to that conclusion. And by ‘careful’, I mean ‘assume that conclusion from the beginning and carefully ignore all contradictory evidence.’

    You look at God slaying enemies, but you don’t see God protecting His people.

    By helping them invade and take lands that did not belong to them?

    Back then, the success of a nation in war sent a message to all the surrounding nations of who their God was and that their God was a force to be recogned with.

    Then maybe the Israelites should not have ever lost a war, since they had the only real god. The fact that they seemed to lose many wars is evidence that their god was no more real then anyone else’s.

    He watched his own people pick up the trends of the surrounding nations as they sacrificed their firstborns to the fires of a fake god. Should he have stopped them?

    Well, it seems to me that if I were a real god, I would make it so that my true followers gained some tangible benefit that marked them out as the true followers of the one real deity. Then they wouldn’t follow some other god. I mean, jeez, it would be a simple as making it so that only true followers could have children. Bam! Nobody has to follow me against their will. If they don’t want to follow me, they can do whatever the hell they want. Except have children. Proof of my existence, no violation of free will. I mean, the whole reason that god MADE humans, according to Genesis, is to have some people to worship him. Lots more people would be worshiping him if there was evidence. Reliance on faith is what ensures that the vast majority of humanity does not follow the ‘true’ deity and thus runs counter to his own stated goals.

    If that is you understanding of Jesus, then I would conclude that you know a lot about the Bible and a lot about Christianity, but nearly nothing about the message of the Bible or the founder of Christianity. No offense.

    None taken, as the ‘message’ of the bible seems completely incoherent and self-contradictory, and the information we have about the founder seems to be a combination of unprovable scraps mixed up with obvious mythical elements.

  17. KG says

    I’ll just take one point out of this ridiculous farrago of nonsense, because it’s a ludicrous claim Christians often make.

    So you’re saying that God would ensure you believe in Him while leaving your freewill intact? I guess I don’t get your reasoning.

    Withholding from someone information essential to their making a vital decision rationally is not “leaving freewill intact”; it’s clear evidence of malice: the better the information you have, the better you can exercise your freewill. If I am facing the decision of whether to have a surgical operation, and the surgeon withholds the information that if I don’t have it I will die, that doctor would be liable to being sued, and struck off for malpractice. If God wants every person to make a decision to love and follow him, then he should give every person undeniable evidence that he exists and is in fact worthy of love. That he does not means either that he does not exist, or that he is not worthy of love.

  18. Stevarious says

    So I guess we’re done here, which is too bad, it seemed like we were finally gettings somewhere.

    I’ll just close with this, then: Your argument against the ‘evils’ of Christianity all essentially boil down to a huge ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy. Christians threatening hell? Not a ‘real’ Christian teaching. Christians regularly doing bad things? Not really Christians. Christians occaisionally doing bad things? Christians who fail to be proper Christians all the time.

    The problem is that you and I have extremely different perceptions of what Christianity is. You think there is some sort of magical, Platonic ideal of ‘Christianity’ that all the followers fail to live up to. Therefore you can pass off any failings as the fault of the person failing to live up to the ideal, rather than a failing of the ideal.

    We, on the other hand, are stuck here in a little place called ‘reality’. Here in reality, Christianity is defined by the actions of people claiming to be Christians. Aside from obvious frauds, like Popoff or Robertson, there’s no reason for us to assume that Chrisitianity is ‘supposed’ to be anything other than it is. You see Christians threatening to rape and murder a teenage girl in Rhode Island as failing to be Christians. We see them as Christians being Christians – because we see this shit ALL THE TIME. We see Christians in Uganda, with huge popular support in their country and financial support from Christians in America, trying to pass a law making homosexuality punishable by death – just like it says to do in your book! We see it as a clear failure on the part of Christianity to keep these people from being evil bastards – worse, we can see it as the obvious reason WHY these people have decided to be evil bastards instead of supporting her in her effort to make a school obey the law. It is, after all, the reason they state for their actions, over and over and over, usually in all caps.

    The thing about Platonic ideals is that they don’t actually exist here in the real world. And while you sit and try and perfect that ideal, twisting and bending the words of the bible to fit the prettiest ideal that you can dream up and decrying the evil atheists who would blame Christianity for all the horrible things it’s followers do, we’re here actually dealing with those asshole followers. Every fucking day. And we’re tired of it.

    Our problem is not with your Platonic ideal of Christianity – if all Christians kept to themselves and were generally kind and gave to charity and (most importantly) didn’t constantly try to force their beliefs on others, I wouldn’t have a problem with them at all. I (and most atheists) would view them kind of how we view Buddhists – probably wrong, but for the most part decent harmless people.

    Our problem is with how Christianity is actually practiced. And it seems to me that they are your problem, too. Your problem is not with atheists, calling out Christians for being horrible people. Your problem is with Christianity as it is actually practiced – Christians, who are being horrible people in the name of Christianity. And if you want to improve Christianity, you are in the wrong place.

    Our view, of course, is that not only is Christianity harmful, it is wrong. It could, possibly, be forgiven one or the other. But not both.

  19. matthewbarraco says

           That would be sufficient evidence for us to be as certain as we can be that Jesus was a real person and probably said the things that he is said to have said.
           It would NOT be sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he was able to perform magic. No amount of textual evidence would be sufficient to prove any more than that people believed he could perform magic. It would be much simpler to think that he was merely fooling people, because we already know that people can be fooled with magic tricks and actual magic would violate the laws of nature in such a manner that would require a repeat demonstration to be believable.

    So, then Jesus goes under heavier scrutiny because of the miraculous claims about Him than, say, Socrates?  However, on your piece on miracles; please understand that I can’t help but be skeptical of your claim that a repeat demonstration would be needed to be believable.  When people found out that water dividing itself was a natural phenomenon, they discredited the story of Moses at the Red (or Reed?) Sea.  Before such a thing was discovered to happen naturally, they said that such a thing was scientifically impossible.  So my skepticism tells me that, if a repeat demonstration was to occur, then men would strive to declare it to be a natural phenomenon, not the act of God or any defiance of natural laws.  It is the endeavor of some to discredit the miraculous, and thus the Spirit, completely.  So please understand that I am doubtful that you would ever be convinced of the miraculous based on repeat demonstration.  You are welcome to try and prove me wrong however.

           You misunderstand me. I’m not accusing them of lying. It’s obvious that they truly believe that they were kidnapped by aliens. What I’m saying is that there is no good reason to believe that they wereactually kidnapped by aliens – it’s much more likely that something else is at work here. Just because we don’t know exactly what is going on is no reason at all to believe that they are actually being kidnapped by aliens – a claim like that requires more than testimony to be believed, now matter how consistent the testimony is.

    See, here, you are discrediting their experience based on your own.  You are free to do so, and I’m not complaining.  I’m just saying, evidence is no longer evidence when the jury makes assumptions or projects their expectations on the testimony.  If you have ever seen the movie 12 Angry Men, it goes to show prejudice, worries, tolerance, and much more can be at play when people way evidence for a case.  Have I ever experienced alien abduction?  No.  But I am not going to assume that such a thing does not exist because I have no way of proving it, whatever it is.  Lack of evidence is not evidence.  We take risks with the things we believe.  Wisdom is not to keep us from making risky choices.  Wisdom is to keep us from making unnecessary and foolish choices.  Believing in a God, or in the possibility that some people are alien abductees, is a risky choice, but not necessarily a foolish choice.

    Religious minds have greatly contributed to the development of society and science fiction has broke through technology with innovations that our children will be thankful for.  Risky does not equal foolish.

           No. Obviously not. Our beliefs do not determine reality. There IS an objective reality. The question is how we make our beliefs most closely mirror that reality. And that hinges on us only accepting things as true that which has sufficient evidence.

    I disagree.  People don’t need evidence to know that loneliness is not healthy; that justice is a universal virtue, that forgiveness is easier said than done, that between two people there is a third thing called ‘the relationship,’ and much more.  Such things are natural and present themselves by virtue of their practice, not in the things evident about them.  A relationship is proven with the personal experience of it.  Plato might have looked at virtue as an ideal, something that was invisible, yet true.  And, though a man could survive alone, it needs no more evidence than the feeling of loneliness, as invisible as it is, to become evident.  There is the invisible world which has no evidence, but is universally accepted by all people of all beliefs.  A man, being cheated of all he had by his brother, could choose to resent the man, or to liberate himself from anger by forgiving him.  Such things are proven in their practice like the proof of pudding is in the tasting.  That is the component of faith.  It does not depend on observation.  It depends on hope.  That is where risk comes in, and one must wisely weigh the cost.   So, no, evidentialism is not necessary to determine reality.  It is one of many ways of doing so.

    It’s about making sure what we find ‘convincing’ be the same as what is evidenced, because if we are being convinced by things that are NOT evidence, we have no way of knowing if they are true.

     I love truth a lot.  So, I dig what you are saying.  But if we constantly questioned the world, then what can me make of our existence?  In effort to know everything true, we have moved only from one microscope to the next while ignoring the entire invisible, yet blatantly evident world around us.  There is a reason why the Greeks loved stories, why the Jews embraced tradition, why the Christians died for their faith, why the poets pointed out the absurdity of the political entities of their times, and why the revolutionaries determined that all men were created equal.  It was not by evidence that they came to that truth, but by faith, which is the substance of all that they hoped for.  If a man can read Plato and agree with much that he said, I find it hard that such a man would ever need to know for sure a thing is true before believing it and acting upon it.

           There is a saying – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So whether or not you believe a claim depends not just on how much evidence you have, but how that evidence weighs against evidence for other things. So mostly it depends on the claim – does the claim, say, violate the laws of physics? Is it a simple claim that assumes nothing? If you tell me that you had a tuna sandwich for lunch, this is an inconsequential claim and I don’t need anything more than your word to believe it. But if you say that you had a tuna sandwich, with the president and the Pope, this is a much more fantastic claim and I think I’d need a picture.

    Fair enough.  I can’t fault you for that.  Christianity has always been skepticized against by its opponents even before it became a religion.  The Jews slandered it, yet did not deny Jesus’ existence.  The Romans slandered it, but admitted their first century existence.  The FACT that outer-Biblical sources mentioned the sect and its leader lends a great amount of credence that its claims have been, from the first century, the same.  That means that a man named Jesus did live among the Jews and did have a following.  It also means that the following didn’t adopt later ideas, but, from the beginning, claimed that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.  Whether such claims can be proven may always be a matter of faith.  And I’m okay with that.  Christianity’s evidence, via the Scriptures, prophecies, testimonies, history, and my own spiritual experience and understanding is enough for me.  And I don’t feel like I’m any worse of a person or any more ignorant of reality than you.

           A good example would be the Miracle of the Sun in 1917 near Fatima Portugal. 30,000 people claim to have seen the sun dance around in the sky, swing close to the earth and zig-zag about. The testimony of 30,000 people is certainly enough to believe that they believed that they saw the sun dance about. But it’s not enough to accept that the earth actually left its orbit, bounced around the solar system like a ping pong ball, then went back to it’s proper orbit. Nor is it sufficient evidence to believe that the sun did the same – without anyone else on the earth noticing? Obviously, something else is at work here – and I don’t find it difficult at all to believe that a bunch of people, told to stare at the sun for long periods of time, would hallucinate. And we know enough about psychology to know that if you have a bunch of people in a highly suggestive state, and one of them shouts out, “Ooh, the sun is moving!”, the rest of them will begin to see the same thing.

    Do you think that it is possible that they all saw a vision?  Beside, if a spirit wanted to present a vision to one person or to 30,000, it is hardly beyond our ability to observe or control.  It’s possible.  Honestly, I do believe they saw a vision, but I think it was a deceiving spirit.

                   Is he omnipotent and omnipresent, or isn’t he? If he IS, then there’s literally no such thing as ‘out of his way’, in terms of either distance or effort.

     Good point.  I was really just trying to point out the size of pride in you, not so much as discredit God’s ability.  Anyway, many Christians go by this Scripture:

    “For what can be known about God is plain to them (the ungodly and unrighteous), because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  Amen!”  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.  For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving the due penalty for their error.  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to so what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”   (Romans 1:19-32)

    Now, before you respond, I would like to break this down, so as to clearly explaining it outside of anger, disgust, or resentment.  Please allow me the opportunity.

    Now, all the attributes of these people, who, at Paul’s time, were known as the pagans, are not common to all.  Not all were murders, slanders, covetous, lustful, dishonorable, foolish, gossipers, haters of God, haughts, etc. all in one.  What Paul was pointing at is such men through off the governance of their souls to God and instead exchanged His authority with their own.  And so, their ethical life was determined upon their desires, rather than the laws of the Supreme Spirit.  Martin Luther once wrote, “The laws of the civil magistrate’s government extend no further than over the body or goods, and to that which is external:  for over the soul God will not suffer any man to rule; only he himself will rule there.”  This is the point that the Bible points out through the experience of the people of Israel.  They knew God, and they knew His laws, but exchanged them for the customs of the nations around them so that they could live a more peaceful, fulfilling, and gratifying life.  In the process of doing so, they subjected themselves to some of mankind’s worst atrocities, such as child sacrifice.  And the criminals of today are no better.  Whether the Zetas gang is filled with God-fearing Catholics is a moot point now.  They kill for money.  The human traffickers who sell children to the rich to become objects of dehumanization by black-listed pornographers may very well never gossip or boast of their cruel inventions, nor does it mean that they desire to have sex with children, but it cannot be doubted that such men are corrupt and futile in their thinking.  Not all gay men hate God or religion, but it could hardly be said that they were not driven by their lusts (or sexual desires) otherwise, what reason would they have for practicing homosexuality?

    However, when a man says, “Be godly,” the result is not deep contemplative thought among such individuals whether their practices are wrong or not, but rather that the fact that any man should challenge their way of life is a direct insult to their individuality and autonomy and is met with the most flagrant and slanderous insults.  And while not even most atheists are unrighteous or practice such abominable deeds that Paul mentioned above, nor is it evidence that most hate God, it is evident that such men would unjustified in telling others how they should live or what they should believe without first presenting a solid authority by which the human reason must follow.  For even the worshipers of the goddess of reason where they same that participated in the blood Reign of Terror. The same atheists that called for the common good of all people were the same that oppressed all religious men.  And the Eugenics scientists, by whatever mode of thinking, saw it upon themselves to deprive people they thought unfit for reproduction of their ability to reproduce before they were ever aware of themselves.  And while the religious do not have clean track record, they do have an authority and all educated men, believers and nonbelievers, can weigh their actions against what is written.  For men in the Crusades went about killing in the name of God, not knowing that Jesus Himself said, “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”  (John 16:2-3)  They tried men by the inquisition, forgetting that Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”  They made claims about themselves and were subjects of miraculous stories while forgetting that the Bible said, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  (1 John 4:1).

    Atheism, however, does not have that authority.  To claim that men are obligated to certain practices is contrary to atheism for no being is higher than man in his own autonomous ethical realm.  It is by each generation’s ability to reason that such ethics are determined.  And thus, what is wrong for this generation may be right for the next.  There is no thing more wrong than the thing most wrong to the individual.  In the words of Thomas S. Szasz, “The modern, liberal-scientific ethic:  if it’s bad for you, it should be prohibited; if it’s good for you, it should be required.”  Where liberty and freedom are the ideals of many Americans, so are the abuses of liberty and freedom carried out without even the slightest concern for whom they offend.  And yet there is nothing more offensive to this society than the slight of liberty and freedom!  We live in a hypocritical age where men tell others how to act but they themselves have no evidence that their authority should ever be considered.  And so haters of God slander while they are still unaware of how awefully their own beliefs can be practiced in the future.  Marx believed in revolution but not the kind Stalin practiced.  Herbert Spencer probably believed that only the superior race would survive, but I don’t think he had in mind the practices of the Nazi party against the Jews during the Holocaust.  I’d rather take Anna Quindlen’s opinion on this, “We liberals must acknowledge this:  that while the rights of the individual are precious, at some deep level individualism alone does not suffice.  And the ability of the radical right to seize and explit the terrain of the soul has been helped immeasurably by the failure of some many of the rest of us to even acknowledge the soul’s existence.”

           And…? You say that like faith is a good thing. Faith is, by definition, believing things for which you have insufficient evidence for.

     That hasn’t stopped humanity from progressing, from loving, from acting, from thinking for themselves, from reforming, or from anything good.  Therefore, faith is a good thing.  Otherwise, let’s all break our bonds to society and law, since we know that our own politicians are unable to keep their promises by which we, by good faith in the virtue of the person and the system they are elected to, have held them to.  We are, by nature of our existence, unable to live without faith.  Endurance, courage, love, truth, and much more all DEPEND on faith.  It would be much better to say that we need a strong argument for faith, rather than absolute evidence for faith.

    If you are making decisions based on faith, then you have no means to determine if your faith is the right one.

     I send money to a man that is taking care of a quadriplegic that was shot in the neck in Curacao and transported back to his native land of Jamaica where he is only allowed to stay on life support so long as people send money, because Jamaica doesn’t want to pay for him to stay in his condition.  I have never met either the man taking care of him nor the poor man suffering in bed.  For all I know, I could be getting scammed of $120 dollars a month.  However, I know very well the man that baptized the quadriplegic in his very hospital bed while he was in Curacoa.  Therefore, I have a strong argument for knowing that I am sending money to the right man.  I also see the hospital bills by the man that is managing the charity.  Therefore, while I don’t have enough proof to make you believe that Sheldon is truly a quadriplegic, or even exists, I have enough to make a strong argument.  If I am right, then the poor soul who was robbed of his liberties at the age of 25 is allowed to keep hoping, keep praying, keep seeing the ones he loves, keep reasoning, and keep struggling.  Jamaica would rather the poor man die and have no hope.  It is not by evidence that I donate nor by evidence that he continues to hope, but by faith. In any case, if I was a quadriplegic, I would want someone to encourage me with hope.

    You have no means to distinguish between the beliefs of any religions or none. Faith is feeling blindly in the dark and believing that the thing you feel is what you are told to believe, and don’t bother taking off that blindfold to see for yourself, you can trust me!

     I think you have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  Reason is not there not make us godless, nor is evidence there to substitute faith.  Reason is for making wise choices, be it if they are risky or not.  What good would we do for the future generations by saying faith is bad and reason is good, not acknowledging that such men embrace reason and evidentialism on good faith.

           I’m saying that if he cared about both free will and gathering all his children to him, he would make it a legitimate choice, instead of leaving so little evidence but that I am forced to refuse to believe he exists. As it stands now, I could only ever pretend to believe. I could never honestly believe.

     Fair enough for you.  I believe that reality has paradoxes.  Nothing is clear cut and dry.  Nothing is black and white about reality.  How is it that courage asks us to risk our lives so that we may truly live.  How is it that love is only merited when the one receiving it is unworthy?  How is it that people can be so busy that they have no time for anything?  “We are confronted by the great paradox of human life.  It is our conditioning which develops our consciousness; but in order to make full use of this developed consciousness, we must start by getting rid of the conditioning which developed it.”  - Aldous Huxley.

    Did God assign us to freewill or predestination?  Or both?  The paradoxes to human life can be best understood in this light, IMO, that:  “The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything.  Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility.  Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world.”  - G.K. Chesterson

    So, I embrace the fact that there are seemingly contradictions to our existence.  Is it nature, or is it nurture?  Or is both along a continuum?  We must, IMO, have faith and that faith must be a mystery, or else every things is cut and dry.  If there is no God, then by what right, other than an individual’s self-perpetuated autonomy, do we have to tell others how they ought to live their lives? (For the religious are not the only ones with propaganda.)

           A miracle would be the only acceptable evidence to prove that miracles exist. A reproducible miracle, with some sort of evidence built into the miracle that made it clear that it was theChristian god that was responsible for it, not just ANY god.

     I stated my skepticism on this reply, so I won’t say more here about this.

           It was uncharitable of me to insist that you could only believe because you were conditioned as a child. If you say that you came to your belief through investigation, I will accept that.

     Thank you.  I appreciate it.
           

    Still think you’re wrong, though.  And you are right?

           It’s not actually a problem for me. It’s a problem for god, or it would be if he existed. It’s certainly a problem for anyone who desires to convert me.

    Sir, respectfully, I disagree.  If one is to be so great as to not need anything, it would be a contradiction that one would need your worship.  I believe that, every time you show love, forgive a person, cry at misfortune, show compassion, give charity, and stand up for what you believe is true, you are showing worship to the one true God.  I say this because, the pagans of the first three centuries considered Christians to be atheists because they stood for everything they believed in about the Roman Peace.  They were subjected to cruelty because they believed differently.  And not just differently, but they saw that the pagan system was an insult to the Christ that died for them and to the people Jesus loved.  An honestly mistaken man is pitied less than a double-minded man, whom says he believes something, but does not stand by it.  I hardly think of you as a double-minded man.  And therefore, I am not attempting to convert you.  I am attempting to show you that you act in worship to the Spirit higher than yourself, whether you realize it or not.

           Nor would I. That’s why I don’t believe he exists. If he does, he’s an incompetent hack, a childish, temper-tantrum-throwing monster. No god worth believing in would have the traits given to him in the bible.

     Or you are interpreting the Bible, the entire religion and its history wrong.

    Yeah, it’s almost like the god of the bible completely lacks any sort of god-like foresight, that a band of thugs like the ancient Israelites could so ruin his plans by raping, pillaging, and murdering their way across the land and basically being worse than all their neighbors. Kinda sets the opposite tone of what he was trying for, huh? As I said, no being this stupid is worthy of the title ‘god’. If there is one, this guy ain’t it.

     And thus, you have been unable to reconcile the OT with the NT and have almost treated it like it was two different religions.  The fact that Israelite’s screwed up proves something different about God.  It doesn’t show him to be stupid.  It shows him to be loving.  God made a promise to Abraham to bless the world through his seed.  His seed prospers because God keeps his promise.  His seed fails to keep their part of the covenant and, after a period rebuke, God shows mercy toward them.  Throughout the entire history of the Jewish people, there has been the proof that God loves them.  He gave them what they didn’t deserve, withheld more punishment than they actually did deserve, took upon Himself their injustices, and encouraged others to do the same.  The Law in the OT, according to what Paul interpreted, was not to demonstrate cruelty, but to highlight sinfulness and the need for salvation. That is the Christian interpretation.  You, however, are telling me that it means something else.  I can’t help but think that your reasoning is not only contrary to the Bible, but hostile to it.  How, then, could I ever expect you to understand with clarity, the justifications within it?  You are evidently not arguing because you are open to other interpretations, but are convinced that you know the real truth. However, through our discussions, you have neither accurately weighed the social history of the Jews nor showed openness to the Christian interpretation. So I feel skeptical that your claim of openness to conversion based on evidence is even true.  I can’t help but believe that, regardless of the arguments, you don’t want it to be true.

    I disbelieve in Buddhism because it contradicts teleology.  I disbelieve Islam because the Koran, the supposed words of God, give inaccurate accounts of Christianity.  I disbelieve in New Age because I don’t believe that I am the authority on reality.  I disbelieve in atheism, because there it makes claims that it actually contradicts.  I disbelieve in Hinduism because just one God would be powerful enough to  not require or permit the existence of others.  If a God is everywhere at once, how can there be more than one God?  As you see, I am open-minded as a Christian and not hostile to competing truths.  I am not trying to disbelieve them.  There is not agenda or emotion attached to my opposition toward them.  However, after things I’ve seen here and the way they were worded, I can’t help but believe that you have an agenda or emotion set toward disproving Christianity.  I could be wrong, and I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

           I keep seeing this theme in apologetics about how god is supposedly perfect, but we keep on ruining his plans. How is this possible? Can god not see the future? Is he no smarter than us, no better at predicting our actions than a regular human? He can’t see how, say, ordering his people to never commit murder, then immediately afterward ordering his people to murder each other by the thousands kind of undermines his own moral authority? He can’t see how ordering his people not to covet, then shortly thereafter ordering his people to go take lands from their owners because the lands are nicer then where they live now undermines that same moral authority? He can’t see how taking those lands by force and not just conquering their peoples, but brutally annihilating them to a man (and raping all their daughters!) would make the new neighbors just a bit nervous, and liable to attack? I don’t blame those other peoples from wanting to wipe out the Israelites one bit.

    Okay, I’ll address this in two parts, because I interpret your knowledge of them to be very biased and not critical upon itself.

    1)  You asked if God cannot see in the future.  Prophecy has always proven God true, if one understands what the message behind the prophecy is.  Revelations, in my opinion, still stands as irrefutable evidence of not only its own prophecies but the several prophecies made in the OT and NT.  If you want a bit of my interpretations, I would need an entire post to present it.

           When did I claim they were all liars? It’s perfectly clear that they were just plain wrong.

     Is it perfectly clear?  Or is it perfectly unclear?  Lack of sufficient evidence is not proof.

    They probably wouldn’t have died for a lie that they knew to be a lie. But they could easily have just been mistaken. Are you saying that Muslim martyrs die for a lie? Or are they just mistaken?

     I agree with your point.  I BELIEVE that they are mistaken.  But I have no way of proving it.  Therefore, I won’t state it like a fact nor mask my reason in pride over the fact that such a thing cannot be proven.  Furthermore, I do believe the Muslims experience the divine.  I just think that they are deceived.  The difference in our opinions is the belief in the divine.

           So god’s morality has changed? Or is he still consider human life so worthless that he’s willing to kill every firstborn in a city, just to make a point?

    For one, God is able to raise men from the dead.  So, how God administers justice is completely within his realm, as being one capable of administering proper mercy as well.  (The proper observation being:  If God doesn’t change and God is an eternal God of both justice and mercy, then doesn’t that also mean that God’s mercy is as endless as His justice?)  Humans lack that capability.

    Secondly, God’s morality has not changed.  Man’s has.  We can argue this day and night though.  Jesus, in discussing the issue of not observing the working rules on the Sabbath did not do away with God’s Laws, but defined them according to a higher law; the Law of Love.  Therefore, God permitted David to partake in the priests bread because God loved David.

    Also, I know this from experience.  I am a Quality Assurance evaluator for my communications job.  When a safety law is broken, the violator is not necessarily wrong for not following the procedure to the word.  If a man is ordered to wear safety goggles when checking for leaks, but yet turns his face away from the direction of leak, does he not meet the spirit, or intent, of the law?  Likewise the Pharisees, and you, uphold the letter of God’s law and prophets, rather than the spirit.  That is why I say that your interpretations are wrong.

           A fate, I daresay, they brought upon themselves by invading lands that did not belong to them and killing all the men and raping all the daughters. How am I supposed to have any sympathy for the Israelites after Jericho?

     You obviously don’t know the whole story on Jericho or the inhabitants of that land.

    The people of Jericho did nothing to the Israelites at all. If the battle had gone the other way, Rahab would have been remembered as the wretched traitor she was, who betrayed her people to a brutal annihilation at the hands of brigands.

    She would have indeed been known today as a woman who abhorred the practices of her people that believed that sacrificing your firstborn to a stone or wooden god and orgies that produce nothing but disease and emptiness was the right way to live, and instead supported the cause of people who had just been miraculously freed from 400 years of forced labor because of their nationality.  Your picture here is not complete and is charged full of bias and ethnocentrism.

           I’m sorry. I keep getting told by Christians that god’s moral laws are perfect and unchanging. Is that not your position?

     This has indeed between a huge stumbling block for many Christian teachers.  Paul makes it so painstakingly clear about this, but is often overseen because of traditional ways of interpreting and the pressures from those in charge to maintain an orthodox interpretation.

    In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the author writes, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (the recipients of God’s laws), not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (the Mosaic and Levitical Laws), my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days (after they are restored to their land), declares the Lord:  I will put my law within them (rather than in the Arc of the Covenant), and I will write it on their hearts (rather than tablets of stone.)  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and eacH his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ (via observing the Mosaic Law), for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.  FOR I WILL FORGIVE THEIR INIQUITY AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SIN NO MORE.”

    In those days, forgiveness or atonement, was made through sacrifice.  So the confirmation of the new covenant, with the new law, was the sacrifice of Jesus.  Paul understood this and even had a hard time getting it through to the Jews that he originally preached to.  I can, therefore, hardly doubt that this would be a difficult thing for you to understand and accept as well.

           I don’t blame the people for how they acted. (Well, maybe a little. I’m sure even by the standards of the time, invading a country you do not own and slaying all the men and raping all the daughters was at least frowned upon in some circles.)

     Actually, it was looked highly upon.  All the Greek stories of war and conquest, all the history of Persia’s great army, of Babylon’s spectacular exhibits and orders of slaves, of the Roman Peace that the Romans perceived as a justification for imperialism, of the warrior like attitude of the Barbarians that raped whoever they wanted and killed whoever they could because they were powerful and warrior-like enough to do so, of the Dominican ideal that was so ruthlessly enforced onto Native Americans as the Spanish took their lands, of the Communist ideal that saw destruction of entire societies, and of the capitalistic system that ensures that other societies will not survive so long as they have nothing of value to offer; all these argue that men approve of imperialism, but only to their own ideals.

    As in the words of Jerry Tucker, “Liberal:  Someone who believes crime is the fault of Society–until he’s robbed.”

    But then, I’m the atheist – I don’t have a problem with changing moral standards. If I’m supposed to accept your deity as a moral lawgiver, however, his moral laws better be at least as good as mine.

     Okay.  How would you have handled the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt?  Without forcing them to, at the same time acknowledge your existence as a deity and acknowledge the liberty of your people, how would you have liberated the Israelites from bondange?  How would you have ensured the survival of an entire people in the desert, and to where would you have had to live.  How would you have changed the minds of idol worshippers that had endless orgies that introduced horrid STD’s to their people and sacrifice of firstborns to imaginary gods?  If your morals are so good, I want to know how you would have been able to do things better.  How would you have kept an entire people together that everybody around them wanted to dilute, ruin, and destroy?

           I’m saying that even by the standards of the time, promising someone lands that belong to someone else is probably wrong.

     If you own a business and hire people who abuse their positions, waste your products, undermine your authority, and insult the customers, would you tell your customers to go elsewhere, or would you fire the workers and hire others while at the same time implementing a higher standard than all the other businesses around you?  How would you handle that situation?

    “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”  (Deuteronomy 9:5-6)

    It wasn’t because God was blood thirsty that he gave the Israelites the land of the Philistines, nor was it because of the righteousness of the Israelites.  He gave them the land because the Philistines were not taking care of it or each other.  They were wicked and destructive. In other words, God had allowed them to work the land and take care of it, and they chose not to.  God warned the Israelites of the same consequences.  So, is God unfair?  You would naturally fire unfit employees at your business and hire new ones with stricter standards to ensure not only the continuation of your business but also its prosperity yet you find issue with God driving out stewards from his land and bringing in new ones.  Again, I think your knowledge on this subject is too incomplete to make a solid argument.

           We’ll ignore for a moment all the times god rains down vicious torment and destruction upon hisown people for the slightest misstep, and yet can somehow be called ‘loving and faithful’.

     Then you might as well ignore Jesus and all the mercy he showed too.  A vicious god does not allow room for mercy.  Again, how would you have brought about the coming of the Messiah without first having His people and the God-fearers have a good understanding of why He came in the first place?

           From the context of the story, it’s pretty clear they drew power from a different god. These people were polytheistic, doncha know. Even Moses erects an icon to Nehushtan, a Midianite god, in Numbers 21 to cure his people of snakebites.

    It was paganism that plagued Moses’ people.  And so it was by gazing upon a pagan idol that they were saved.  Wait.  What?  Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”  (John 3:14-15)

    In other words, the Jews were looking upon the idol, which was originally their sin, but they looking upon the sacrifice for their sin, which was Jesus.  So no, not two gods.  Just one.

           The Torah was edited later to make it seem like Yahweh was the only god, around 640 BC. Try Karen Armstrong’s ‘A History of God’. If not, this video  has a very (very!) brief rundown of the details.

     I’ve read the arguments, especially the difference between Yahweh and Elohim.  However, I’ve read arguments against it saying that those words were used in the Bible side by side as if to  describe God as being the Eternal Sovereign over all the heavenly host (angels).  It should be further understood that many scholars believe that the OT was written down until after 5th century BCE, after the exile for idolatry and transgressing the Law had already come to an end.

    The problem is, I, as a nonbeliever, have no interest in adjudicating differences in dogma between different believers. I’ve read the bible, several times. It teaches love AND hate, forgiveness AND condemnation, freedom AND slavery. It is a mess, and it’s words can be used to justify ANY position at all.

     So, it teaches reality, and yet you have a problem with that?  I you love something, it is required that you hate, or at least love less, the thing that opposes that which you love.  If you are to forgive someone, and a person refuses to accept that forgiveness, then they condemn themselves.  If a man has a wife and two kids, lives in the desert, and does not own his own prospering business, he might sell himself or ask his kids to commit to slavery for the sake of their survival.

    It seems like you are saying that, since love is so highly esteemed, then hatred is to be demonized. Or to say that because forgiveness is so highly esteemed, then there should be no such thing as condemnation.  Yet you go on and say that everyone should be free, and therefore have every choice to accept forgiveness.  If nobody is condemned, then everyone accepts forgiveness, which means that we truly don’t have freedom.  The ideals of the modern world are wild and destructive.  I’d caution against such thinking.

    I don’t believe in any magical, ‘pure’ Christianity and have no way of telling who is following the ‘real’ teachings of the bible.

     Then it is evident that you don’t care to try, for it isn’t that hard to tell.

           All I can see is the whole tree. Good fruits and bad fruits seem to be the fruits of Christianity, the fruits of the bible.

     Jesus told a parable about a man that sowed wheat in field.  While he was away, a thief came in a planted tares among them.  When the began to grow, the attendants of the field saw that there were weeds among the wheat and wondered if they should pulled up.  The man told them not to take action, lest the wheat be pulled up too and pull up the wheat too, stopping it from growing.  He told them to wait until harvest season when both the wheat and the tares were fully grown.  That parable was about the Christians and people of God in general.  He said that the true ones will produce different fruit that the false ones.  However, they would all be in the same field until harvest season.  Therefore, it is ultimately up to you to tell the difference.  If it wasn’t a surprise to Jesus and his disciples, I see no reason why you, who have read the Bible several times, still fail to see this.

           You and I know what they are doing is immoral. Why would I distinguish their behavior from ‘proper’ Christian behavior? I do not equate ‘moral behavior’ with ‘Christian behavior’, because I see Christians behaving in an immoral manner more often than anyone else and their holy book preaching immoral teachings.

    I’ll bring up a quote from Paul in the book of Romans:  “For it is not the hearers of the law (the bad apples) who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.  For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law unto themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their consciences also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 2:13-16)

    So, the moral code wasn’t the point of the Law, for even the Gentiles could be moral.  It was the knowledge of God that was the point of the Law.  That person could not attain knowledge of God through the Law showed that God had a better Law in mind, called the Law of Love, which men would not know of unless they were first convicted and found unworthy of it.  If a man could have succeeded in following every law in the old covenant, then Jesus would not have needed to die and the pride of righteousness would be boasted by man, and not God.  But the point of the Law was that nobody could fulfill it, so that when God came as Jesus and fulfilled the Law, then God could boast of both his righteous judgment and of His eternal mercy.

    Take a look at prison population statistics. Far more Christians in there than any other religion, and precious few atheists. Why would I assume that Christian behavior is ‘supposed’ to be the ‘best’ behavior when all it seems to promote is the worst?

    That’s kind of a poor point.  The Roman Catholic Spanish Empire conquered pretty much all of the world, receiving the name as the Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets.  Do you really think that everyone who supposedly grew up in the Catholic community and took up the Roman Catholic religion really followed it or even cared about God.  You see Catholic mobsters toting around rosaries and gutting any man that offends his God, yet he himself justifies himself in wickedness that was clearly condemned by Christ.  Or should I assume that every thug on rap channels that talks about smacking women around and sleeping other peoples’ spouses are somehow truly Christian because they wear big shiny crosses around their necks?  Or should I suppose that people that protest funerals as a demonstration of their 1st amendment somehow demonstrates their love for Christ?

    Furthermore, perhaps a reason why most men in prison are considered Christian is because they have had to bear the penalty for their crimes and have found the grace to do it and accept their circumstances.  A friend of mine, who committed a very disturbing crime, had come to know Christ and forgiveness, and is bearing his sentence with grace.  Just because atheists don’t dominate the prisons it doesn’t mean that they are any better.  Many of the atheists that I know are indeed good people.  But they aren’t the people who forgive, love their enemies, or ever allow themselves to be in the position where they would ever need grace in the first place.  They are too good for me to relate to.  That is why the story of Christianity is a story of redemption and not convenience.  And that is why Christians dominate a place where they must pay for their sins. A man that has never sinned has no need of grace, forgiveness, or humility.

           Not to put to fine a point on it, but you’ve provided me with an opinion that teaches against ‘Fire Insurance’ – an opinion that contradicts both the established dogma of your religion and the words on the page of the book you call holy.

     It doesn’t contradict anything really.  And I doubt you looked into it, otherwise your arguments would be more precise than saying that I oppose my own Bible.  If you don’t want to do the research, please don’t even bother telling me that I haven’t done mine.

           But no amount of inhumanity and disservice sent your way because of your belief makes those beliefs true! You keep on bringing up the suffering of early Christians as proof that their beliefs were correct. I’ve said as many times as I can that their suffering proves nothing! People have suffering for EVERY major religion! The natives of Easter Island starved and died horribly, to a man, woman, and child, for their religion. They were probably wrong! America has had Muslims in prisons in Cuba for a decade, and tortured them and starved them because they are Muslims! They are probably wrong!
           I’m sorry that the early Christians suffered for their beliefs. I’m even sorrier that it seems clear that they died for nothing. They are not evidence for anything other that the fact that humans will die for their beliefs, no matter what they are.

    I see your point.  I just disagree.

           Quite frankly, if most Christians were like you, I’d spend a lot more time fighting against the Catholic Church and Muslims.

     Thanks.  The odd thing is, Stev, the majority of religious people in the West are Roman Catholics and Muslims.  Do you think perhaps you have been distracted?

           Unfortunately, they aren’t. And those people that aren’t, that make up the vast majority of your co-religionists? They are the fruit of Christianity, just as much as you are.

     I disagree.  They are the fruit of false religion and corrupt priesthoods.

           No, it’s not. The Law explains how to sell your daughter as a sex slave in Exodus 21:7. The law says that a raped woman has to marry her rapistin Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The Law gives the death penalty for the imaginary crime of witchcraft in Exodus 22:18. What the hell kind of ‘good’ law warrants death for an imaginary crime? What the hell kind of loving god condemns so many people to a horrible death, for committing an impossible crime?

     Actually, there is really no recorded history of most of those things happening back then among the Israelites.  The same God that gave those laws said to the people, “I desire justice, mercy, and faith.”  Is it that the Law was cruel or that men are quick to do evil?

    There is NO reason for that law to exist except to make sure that for thousands of years, people would be put to death for something they could not have done.

     Again, such a thing wasn’t common nor was it recorded to have even happened.  Not too long after the Law was given to the Israelites at Sinai, they went about disobeying it anyway.  However, at that point, they were guilty of idolatry, and were without excuse.  They accepted the law and said they would live under it, and thus, they were judged under it.

    Untold suffering and death and misery, that continues to this day, in Africa, where children – children! – are put out into the streets to starvebecause they are suspected of witchcraft.

     But that isn’t justified by the majority of Christians you argue with.  That is justified by the Church of Rome and those that follow it, whom I have already exposed for the false teachings it passes down.  They follow Canon Law, which, IMO, is no better than the Mosaic Law.

    Are you saying that your god chose for all of those people, those children, to die for nothing? Is your god THAT cruel?
           Or was the Law written by a bunch of bronze age patriarchs, instead of god?
           Which seems more likely?

     Those children in Africa are dying for three reasons:  1)  The government sucks.  2)  They are remnants of the Roman Catholic Empire and will not suffer anyone to oppose the Pope.  3)  Because they follow laws that were never intended to bring about perfection of character.

           I’ve lived to hear it said. (Or at least, see it typed.) Seeing as how the words in the bible have been used to oppress women since it was written right up to today and beyond, I take issue. But I somehow doubt I’m going to budge you on this issue – misogyny is FAR too heavily ingrained in the bible.

     Actually, around the time of Christ, misogyny was the way those societies believed.  It wasn’t until Jesus that women started getting a favored role in society.  During the days of the Apostles, women were considered to not even be credible witnesses upon proving a testimony.  However, the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women.  A woman anointed Jesus with oil and used her hair, a practice that all the others around him were appalled by.  Women were considered esteemed as prophetesses rather than just good for producing babies with.  However, it is not the trend of society to change their customs to match Christianity, but the other way around.  When the Barbarians, who had little respect for women, were confronted with Christianity, they were at a dilemma.  They admired the warrior-like Christ but despised the Christ that died for everyone’s sins.  And they never dropped that attitude.  The feudal lords were Christians so long as Christ supported their values.  This is the dilemma of even today’s society.  It is much easier to change a religion than it is to change social customs and values.  People aren’t going to give up oppressing women simply because the Bible says not to.

                   

       Yes, so loving that if your owner beat you, and you died, he would be fined – but only if you died in the first day or two. Exodus 21:20-21. So loving that you could sell your daughter as a sex slave, and if they buyer didn’t like her, he could get his money back! Exodus 21:7 So loving that if your slaves got married, you could still release one slave and keep the wife, and the only way he could get his wife back is by becoming your slave again, permanently. Exodus 21:6 So loving that you could take slaves from neighboring countries, no matter how THAT got them, and own them and their families forever. Leviticus 25:44-46  

     Thankfully that law of Moses was inferior to the Law of Christ!  Moses received the law from angels, whom are but vapors before the everlasting throne and prestige of Christ (Hebrews 1:7), but the Apostles received the superior law from Christ, the Son of God (Hebrews 1:8).

           You seem to have a highly romantisized view of how slavery was in the bible, that it was some sort of temporary indentured servitude. It COULD be, if you were male and a Jew. If you were anything else, there was no rules that made the experience any different from what blacks endured in the south for a few centuries.
           But then, if there’s one thing that the bible shows, the only thing god REALLY cared about even a little bit was male Jews.

    I see what your caught up on.  You have been told by Christians all around you that you must keep the law to be a good Christian and a good person in general.  So you are under the impression that since Christian pastors teach such a thing, then it must be a fundamental teaching to Christianity.  I disagree.  The Law of Moses was inferior to the Law of Christ in every respect.  People who subject themselves to that law, then, live an inferior life, which you have no doubt observed.

           You know, THIS is the point that the bible contradicts itself the most on. On the side of the Law being done away with, you have: Luke 16:16; Romans 6:14, 7:4-6, and 10:4; Galatians 3:13, 3:24-25, and 5:18; Ephesions 2:15, and Colossians 2:14.

     Luke 16:16 spoke that the Law was imparted on the Jews that they should live by it.  And therefore, so long as they embraced the Law, they would be judged and condemned by it.  And that won’t change.  But those who have died with Christ have died to the law.  For God gave the law to the Jews that they might live by those commands.  That brings us to the paradox of the resurrection.  Christ died and rose again, having put to death both the law and the sin it condemned.  As Paul writes in Romans 6:7, “For one who has died has been set free from sin”  and else where, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”  (Romans 7:4)  The Law must be fulfilled so long as we are partakers in the old covenant.  But those who have died have been released from the covenant.  That is the mystery of Christ, that those who believe in Him and are baptized in His name (and thus baptized into His death) share in both His death and resurrection.  And this covenant is open to all.  That is the true Gospel, the paradox you and millions of others keep stumbling over.

           But you have, in the old testament, numerous pronouncements by Yahweh that the Law will under forever, not just for a while: Genesis 17:19, Exodus 12:14, 17, and 24; Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31; Deuteronomy 4:8-9, 7:9, 11:1, and 11:26-28; and Psalm 119:151. And you have a couple of times in the NT that Jesus himself states that the law will persist forever, directly contradicting his own statement (in the previous verse!) that it persists forever. (Luke 16:17)

    As I said, the Law endures for those under it.  Those who have died are no longer under that Law.  So long as people stay under that law, they will be condemned by that Law.  In other places the Bible says that, before the commandment (the Law) came, sin was dead in us.  But when it did come, sin sprung to life and produced all manners of unrighteousness and ungodliness.  So, the more we are commanded, the more we sin.  That was so that sin could be identified within us and bring us to hope in a better Law, one that puts sin to death and bring the righteousness of the Spirit to life in us.  So therefore, the old law is never ended.  People must die to be released from it.

    To paint a better picture, in the OT, when God made a covenant with Abraham, He ordered that animals be cut in two and form a row in the middle.  Then, God ‘walked’ down the path with Abraham saying, “If I do not keep my promises which I made to you, then let it be so with me.”  And Abraham repeated the same.  God kept his promises, but much of the descendants of Abraham did not.  Therefore, the only release from a covenant like that is death.  Christ, having died for us, and rose again, is our mediator of the Covenant.  That is the Christian teaching as handed down by the early Church.

           So the bible is pretty wishy washy on the subject, and I see equal justification for both positions – which rather makes the thing useless for answering the question.

     I hope I have helped clear up the fogginess on that issue.  It was clearly a big problem in the early Church, as recorded several times in the Acts and through the Epistles.

           He also did not order the Christian slave owners to release their Christian slaves – instead, he ordered the Christian slaves to work harder for a Christian master. Clear support for slavery. If the bible is the guide to morality, then why is slavery even wrong?

     Woah!  I never called the Bible the guide to morality, even though it has helped clean up society’s act a bit.

           That would be a firm strike against it. Any guide to life that can be read by two people and have them come to the exact opposite answer on an issue is not useful.

     Let’s not forget that the modern, atheistic idealists of the 19th and 20th centuries have brought humanity through great atrocities because they had idolized one virtue and demonized those who did not.  There is truly an inner law that is common to all societies that makes it easy to point out who is lawless.  The problem with religious government being that those atrocities find their justification in not the Scriptures, but in the traditions and reputations.  That was exactly the issue between Jesus and the Pharisees.  That was the issue between the Reformers and the Roman Papacy.  That was the issue between Stalin and the religious.  And that is the issue between the Taliban and the Muslims.

           Yes, my morality is superior to the bible, or any character in it. My claim? I recognize that the point of morality is to cause the least amount of harm and the greatest happiness to as many people as possible. Some of the teachings in the bible seem designed to cause harm, or are contrary to promoting health, and are therefore immoral.

     Like, ‘love your neighbor’ or ‘This is my command to you, that you love one another as I have loved you?’  I think that you are picking and choosing rather than considering the entire thing as a whole.  So, while you may claim to demonstrate a higher morality, you do not demonstrate a higher humility.

                   Assuming I’m god and all powerful and all knowing? Damn, that’s a ten-thousand word post all by itself. But here’s a quicky:

           Garden of Eden: “Hey, kids, so I’m God, and I’ve created you, and now I’m going to give you a choice: You can NOT eat the fruit, and remain here in My Garden for all of eternity with no cares or needs or wants. OR, you can eat the fruit. This will cause you to age and die, but give you the ability to think for yourselves and make your own choices and know right from wrong. It would be cruel and unfair to order you not to eat the fruit without telling you why, and even crueler to punish for making a decision I knew you were going to make when I created you. Also, there was a talking snake running around in here, but he was planning on messing things up so I got rid of him.”

     So, you rid the possibility of chance without ridding the possibility of choice.  So society never messes up and they never learn the extent of God’s love.  That’s at least what I’m taking from it.  Love is proven in its testing, not in its enjoyment.  However, it was not the snake that made the woman eat of the fruit.  It was the command not to eat of it, even though they were told that death would result from it.  What they learned from the sin was not just the consequence, but the inclination to sin more.

           Cain and Abel: “Why are you burning stuff? I don’t need you to burn stuff at me. I’m all powerful and all knowing! I already know exactly how much you appreciate me in your heart and don’t need you to destroy valuable crops and livestock, because I’m not so insecure that I need you to destroy your own wealth just to reassure me that I’m your main deity.”

    Abel to Cain:  “Hey brother, how can we worship God?”  The truth of the matter was that God had already determined a sacrifice to prove his love, and that was Jesus.  Every sacrifice beforehand was inferior.

           Noah: “Man, Noah, those guys are assholes. I think I’ll tell them to stop.” They don’t stop. “Man, Noah, they sure are being jerks, even after I told them not to! It’s almost like the divine command theory of morality is insufficient to create true morality in thinking beings! Let me look at the future… hmmm…. looks like in the future, I’m going to decide that it’s better to be good for the sake of being good to each other, and have my followers teach THAT. But it looks like THESE guys are too wicked to learn it right away – man did I somehow screw up even though I’m all powerful and all-knowing! Welp, it’s would be a huge awful waste to destroy the whole world, and pretty unfair to all the animals that didn’t do anything wrong. So a world-wide flood is out – plus I can see the future and know that I would regret it right after I did it. Being all-knowing sure is useful in avoiding regret! So I think I’ll just strike all the incorrigible people with bolts of lightning and kill them. Better vaporize their bodies, too, so that disease doesn’t start spreading. (Did I tell you about disease? Oh, right, you see, disease is cause by these things called bacteria, and if you just wash your hands a few times a day….)

     So you would kill all the wicked anyway?  How is that different from the flood?  If the entire point of the flood was to cleanse humanity of wickedness and make a new start, how is zapping the wicked dead any different?

           Tower of Babel: “Nice tower, guys! Wow, my children sure have come a long way! Good thing I’m not a jealous god, and can just be proud of the amazing accomplishments my children have performed! Way to go guys! First one to reach the clouds gets birth-defect-free triplets and a new horse! What’s that, Gabriel? Multiple languages? That’d be an asshole thing to do, why would I do that? I LOVE my children!”

     Builders of Babel to God:  “Um, by the way, uh God, this tower is our middle finger up to you for destroying our wicked and murderous ancestors with lightning bolts.  You might love us, but we hate your guts.  See?  We built a tower without your help, will build it up to the highest of heaven (even though that’s impossible) and will kick you off your throne.”

           Egypt: “What’s that Gabriel? Harden Pharoah’s heart so that I have to murder a bunch of children to convince him to let my people go? That sure would be an asshole thing to do – not to mention

  20. matthewbarraco says

    I’ll just take one point out of this ridiculous farrago of nonsense, because it’s a ludicrous claim Christians often make.

    So you’re saying that God would ensure you believe in Him while leaving your freewill intact? I guess I don’t get your reasoning.

    I believe in paradoxes.  I think paradoxes leave room for hope.  And hope inspires courage, endurance, and vision.  Even atheists must admit that not everything can be known and that every generation must admit there are mysteries that don’t make sense.  When logicians fail to do so, and people become raptured in their folly, you see the sort of insane behavior that accompanied events such as the Reign of Terror, the horrors of the Bolshevic Revolution, the Holocaust, Eugenics, etc.  Ideals are created and exalted to an extent to where the contrary cannot be tolerated.

    “Mysticism keeps men sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic…He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them.  He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.  His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.  Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also…It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.  The who secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.  The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious.  The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”  (G.K. Chesterson, Orthodoxy)

    The evidentialist leaves no room for mystery.  Nothing that can be proved with sufficient evidence is not real.  There is no mystery in the mind of the logician.  For he can only claim that he boasts of superior knowledge of things that are well accepted as mysterious by everyone else.  The logician says that Jesus never resurrected, that aliens never abducted people, and that miracles are impossible.  This sort of thinking doesn’t relieve the world of mystery, but creates more mystery.  These events then, beyond the logician’s claims of what could have happened, are left in the dark.  “Something happened, ” says the logician, “but it’s not what they say happened.”  And the logician is content with the blind men feeling the elephant so long as he knows it’s an elephant they are feeling.

    Withholding from someone information essential to their making a vital decision rationally is not “leaving freewill intact”; it’s clear evidence of malice: the better the information you have, the better you can exercise your freewill.

     What could be more informative than, “Don’t eat this certain fruit or you’ll die?”

    If I am facing the decision of whether to have a surgical operation, and the surgeon withholds the information that if I don’t have it I will die, that doctor would be liable to being sued, and struck off for malpractice. If God wants every person to make a decision to love and follow him, then he should give every person undeniable evidence that he exists and is in fact worthy of love. That he does not means either that he does not exist, or that he is not worthy of love.

    See, I’m of the opinion that people who are hostile to God will deny the miraculous anyway.  So what would be the point in a miracle or proof of God.  They are determined, and by golly they will, prove that the evidence is evidence for something, but not God.

  21. Stevarious says

    I’m going to skip a lot of the above simply because a lot of it is reiterating the same points in different ways, and instead address the pertinent issues.

    I believe in paradoxes. I think paradoxes leave room for hope.

    So you’re comfortable believing in things that you know can’t be actually true because they make you feel better? I mean, obviously this has been the case since this discussion began. Pretty brave of you to openly state it, though.
    If this is the kind of broken thinking required to be in a religion, count me out. I need no more justification to reject Christianity and warn everyone away from it that I can than this statement – Christianity is believing things you know aren’t true because they make you feel good. You know what else makes you feel good? Heroin. Does that MAKE it good? No! And the sleep of reason that is required to believe in religion might feel good too. But that doesn’t mean squat to the two questions that actually matter: ‘Is it true?’ and ‘Does it help?’ The answer seems to be an emphatic NO! on both points! In what way, then, is religion better than heroin?

    Even atheists must admit that not everything can be known and that every generation must admit there are mysteries that don’t make sense.

    The only people I have EVER met that have ever said anything like ‘we already know everything we need to know’ have been pointing at the bible, or the koran, or whatever as they said it.
    Of COURSE there are mysteries and unknowns. What came before the big bang? We’ll probably never know. What’s on the other side of the event horizon? We’ll probably never know. There are plenty of mysteries in the natural world, we don’t need to go around inventing gods and demons and other nonsense, and when they don’t make sense (because they are made up), call those inconsistencies ‘mysteries’ and take comfort in those ridiculous made up mysteries as if they mean something.
    Being rational means understanding and accepting what you actually don’t know. Religion is pretending that you DO know things that you can’t know.

    “Blah blah blah!” – G.K. Chesterson

    Chesterson was wrong then and he is wrong now. Demonstrably, destroying ‘mystery’ (AKA ignorance) has improved health. Were we better off when we didn’t know about bacteria? When we thought when people got sick and died because of a little cut on their foot, it was because a demon got in? Of course not, that’s one mystery we’re well rid of. Were we better off when we thought the mentally ill were touched by the gods, or possessed, or cursed by the devil? Of course not, now we can treat them. No need to drive pigs over a cliff over it.

    Can you really show me a single thing that we’ve discovered about the world that has made us worse off, as humans? One thing?

    What could be more informative than, “Don’t eat this certain fruit or you’ll die?”

    Well, considering it was a lie (they ate the fruit and did not die!) it wasn’t very informative. In the context of the myth, God lies and the serpent tells the truth. Thus Adam and Eve were able to make an actual choice, and they chose. The fact that god’s only command to them was to remain ignorant – and that this state of incurious ignorance was somehow considered ‘pure’, just demonstrates the contempt that religion has always had for knowledge. And why not? There is no greater destroyer of religion-based superstition than knowledge. They were right to be afraid.

    See, I’m of the opinion that people who are hostile to God will deny the miraculous anyway. So what would be the point in a miracle or proof of God. They are determined, and by golly they will, prove that the evidence is evidence for something, but not God.

    A blatant and contemptible smear on the character of all atheists. As bad as me saying ‘All Christians believe in god because they are like tiny children and just cannot give up the idea of their favorite invisible friend.’

    What I care about is the truth. It was this desire to make sure that the beliefs I held were actually true that led to atheism. If religious belief cannot stand up to a simple search for truth without resorting to puerile assertions of ‘ignorance and mystery is good for us’ and ‘you’d just deny miracles anyway’ then it has no truth value. The fact that it also makes otherwise good people do horrible things is a huge mark against it’s value otherwise.

    Nothing that cannot be proved with sufficient evidence is not real justified to be believed. There is no mystery in the mind of the logician, because nobody on the side of rational inquiry pretends to know everything or even most things. For he can only claim that he boasts of superior knowledge of you should not accept as true things that are well accepted as mysterious well known and understood by everyone else the religious, despite the complete lack of evidence. The logician says that Jesus never probably wasn’t resurrected, since there’s no evidence for it and it violates the laws of nature that seem otherwise immutable and similar stories have been made up about dozens of other men and gods and they can’t all be true; that aliens probably never abducted people – there’s certainly no evidence for it, which means there’s no reason to believe it; and that miracles are impossible highly improbable, especially since every single person in history claiming to be able to perform miracles who’ve been tested have turned out to be a fraud.

    Fixed that for you. I’m curious – have I deliberately misrepresented your position in any way in this conversation? Because I sure don’t appreciate my positions being deliberately misrepresented by you.

    So please understand that I am doubtful that you would ever be convinced of the miraculous based on repeat demonstration. You are welcome to try and prove me wrong however.

    I don’t see how I could do that without some sort of miracle that can be repeated for me to test my powers of disbelief against.
    The Red Sea thing is a Red Herring Sea. The story in the bible presents it as a miraculous occurrence, caused by god himself. It was presented as an inundation (when the waters returned) so powerful and sudden as to drown an army of Egyptians. The Reed Sea retreat was a pitiful trickle that took hours. It doesn’t prove that the Red Sea event in the bible didn’t actually happen. What it DOES suggest is, like most religious fables, the actual events were blown completely out of proportion by generations of retellings, until it achieved legendary status. The original story (if the original story has anything to do with the Reed Sea) was probably something along the lines of ‘Moses happened to know the days which the Reed Sea could be crossed, so he led them there, and after they crossed the waters returned and their pursuers could not chase them.’ The point is, of course, that we just don’t know.

    Religious minds have greatly contributed to the development of society

    I would say only incidentally. In that, people that contributed to the development of society happened to be religious. Historically, it’s much more likely that a person who was hindering progress was doing so for religious reasons.
    Take the civil rights struggle again. Many of the individuals fighting for equal rights, including most of MLK’s top advisers and assistants, were atheists. You know why schools teach that Rosa Parks just decided one day that she didn’t want to move? Because the detailed training in non-violent resistance that she had undergone beforehand was organized and taught by atheists – and she was one of many. But we can’t have THAT sort of thing in the history books! So when kids read the story, it’s the great preacher MLK Jr., who just inspired people to nonviolent protest.
    And King himself, of course, was a preacher. But the struggle he spoke of was, while it used allegories galore from the book of Exodus, did not in fact encapsulate the struggle of Exodus. There was no talk of taking lands that did not belong to them. There was no talk of retaliation against the people that wronged them. THOSE would have been biblical. King’s message was a message of peace, and there are no messages of peace in the bible. Just division, war, and in the end, fire and death.

    See, here, you are discrediting their experience based on your own.

    No! I’m discrediting their experiences because they aren’t evidenced!

    People don’t need evidence to know that loneliness is not healthy

    Sure they do. The fact that being lonely makes them feel bad is evidence.

    that justice is a universal virtue

    This is neither self-evident, nor universally understood or accepted. Quite a few people rather firmly believe that justice should only given to themselves, or to their immediate family, or town, or city, or state, or country, or race, or gender, or religion, or species. It’s this sort of tribalism that is rampant all throughout humanity, and religion does quite a bit to exacerbate it.

    that forgiveness is easier said than done

    Personal experience is evidence. For some things, it’s good evidence.

    that between two people there is a third thing called ‘the relationship,’

    Anybody who has ever talked to anybody has evidence of this.

    and much more.

    Still waiting for one thing that doesn’t need evidence.

    Such things are natural and present themselves by virtue of their practice, not in the things evident about them. A relationship is proven with the personal experience of it.

    Personal experience IS evidence, especially when you speak of things like personal interaction. A theoretical person, who has lived their entire life on an island alone, has no idea about these things. In fact, he would know nothing about morality or relationships or justice or even loneliness, since he has never experienced anything but loneliness.

    And, though a man could survive alone, it needs no more evidence than the feeling of loneliness, as invisible as it is, to become evident. There is the invisible world which has no evidence, but is universally accepted by all people of all beliefs.

    Gah. Emotions are chemical reactions and electrical patterns in the brain. Shoot, nueroscience has progressed to the point where you can hook a person up to a machine, and with enough practice, the machine can tell you what the person is feeling. This is not a mystery here. Loneliness is not a thing that exists outside of the brains that are experiencing it.

    A man, being cheated of all he had by his brother, could choose to resent the man, or to liberate himself from anger by forgiving him. Such things are proven in their practice like the proof of pudding is in the tasting. That is the component of faith.

    No it’s not. What does faith have to do with it? What is he believing without evidence that allows him to forgive? I can forgive, and I need no faith to do so.

    That is the component of faith. It does not depend on observation. It depends on hope. That is where risk comes in, and one must wisely weigh the cost. So, no, evidentialism is not necessary to determine reality. It is one of many ways of doing so.

    If you’re ‘having faith’ about whether to forgive someone, then you are making the decision independent of reality. This has nothing at all whatsoever to do with ‘determining’ reality.

    In effort to know everything true, we have moved only from one microscope to the next while ignoring the entire invisible, yet blatantly evident world around us.

    Blatantly evident? Really? Where?

    There is a reason why the Greeks loved stories, why the Jews embraced tradition, why the Christians died for their faith

    But none for all those other religions, right? They all believed for no reason and died for nothing, right?

    and why the revolutionaries determined that all men were created equal

    Oh, no you don’t. This they came to in spite of religious tradition. Religious tradition taught that there were good people (believers) and bad people (everyone else). *All* men, created equal, required that religion be marginalized or shut out completely. A large number of the founding fathers were deists, especially the author of that line, and were not interested in christian ‘mysteries’.

    It was not by evidence that they came to that truth, but by faith, which is the substance of all that they hoped for.

    Which probably explains why they were wrong about so many things. They were working by believing in what felt good and what they hoped to be true, instead of what could actually be demonstrated to be true. Do you still try to cure people of diseases by telling the demons to get out and go live in some pigs?

    yet did not deny Jesus’ existence.

    Maimonides would have made a great catholic. Did you see what he wrote about Jesus’ torments in hell?

    but admitted their first century existence.

    No one here is arguing that Christians did not exist.

    The FACT that outer-Biblical sources mentioned the sect and its leader

    Oh? Do you have some contemporary sources that no one else has? Someone writing 40 years after Jesus’ supposed death is not a contemporary.

    That means that a man named Jesus did live among the Jews and did have a following.

    Probably.

    It also means that the following didn’t adopt later ideas, but, from the beginning, claimed that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

    40 years is a long time for stories to spring up. You obviously didn’t read anything about John Frum or Sabbatai Zevi like I told you to.

    Whether such claims can be proven may always be a matter of faith.

    Nonsense. We could always find his body. That would disprove the story rather neatly. Or he could float down here and just tell us – in fact, isn’t that what your book says he’s going to do?

    And I don’t feel like I’m any worse of a person or any more ignorant of reality than you.

    Honestly, I do believe they saw a vision, but I think it was a deceiving spirit.

    Honestly, the fact that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why 30,000 would claim to have seen such a thing that assumes nothing that we do not already know about biology and psychology, yet you claim to somehow know (or at least believe) that ‘an evil demon made them all see a magical vision with his evil magic’ is the more rational explanation, tells me clearly that you are deliberately more ignorant of reality than I. Obviously you see things differently – but it’s a self-imposed blindness.

    his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

    That the teleological argument is right there in the bible does not make it any more legitimate.

    Atheism, however, does not have that authority.

    THAT’S where you were going with all that? Jeez. Okay. Hold on.

    The modern, liberal-scientific ethic: if it’s bad for you, it should be prohibited; if it’s good for you, it should be required.

    He was obviously wrong. I don’t know of any liberal who thinks like this. When a liberal argues that pot isn’t any more harmful than alcohol, he isn’t arguing this because he wants booze banned (and lets not forget it was the conservatives 90 years ago that were responsible for the ban).

    Liberals want more freedom. We want bad-for-you things discouraged, sure, but rarely prohibited, and more importantly, education for why it’s bad for you – so you can decide for yourself whether the risk is worth the benefit. We want good for you things encouraged, not mandatory – except of course the basics required for success, like health and food and shelter and education.

    You are forgetting that it’s the conservative authoritarians that want to tell people how to live their lives. You know, like someone who would put down 613 or so laws about what you can do on a particular day of the week (punishable by death!) and who you can do what with in the privacy of your own bedroom (punishable by death!) and whether you should disobey your parents (punishable by death!).

    We live in a hypocritical age where men tell others how to act but they themselves have no evidence that their authority should ever be considered.

    That’s ridiculous. Rule by mutual consensus is the foundation of democracy. We answer to the authority of each other. Our ethics are based on our empathy – our ability to understand that other people are thinking, feeling creatures that don’t like being hurt any more than we do. That’s what I answer to. Only a sociopath with no ability to feel empathy could possibly need a god to tell him right from wrong.

    That hasn’t stopped humanity from progressing, from loving, from acting, from thinking for themselves, from reforming, or from anything good. Therefore, faith is a good thing.

    Complete non-sequitur.

    Otherwise, let’s all break our bonds to society and law, since we know that our own politicians are unable to keep their promises by which we, by good faith in the virtue of the person and the system they are elected to, have held them to.

    No, obviously not, even somewhat corrupt society is better than anarchy, and only a complete idiot thinks otherwise. Anyone who does can move to that anarchist’s paradise, Somalia.

    We are, by nature of our existence, unable to live without faith. Endurance, courage, love, truth, and much more all DEPEND on faith.

    No, no they don’t. Trust is not faith. All of those things depend on trust.
    Except truth. Once again, if you are depending on faith to determine truth, you by definition have no way of knowing what the truth is and have substituted the things you WANT to be true for reality. And self-delusion may be great for a coping mechanism – but it’s not great for progress. All progress has coming from discovering knew things about the world, instead of assuming that you already know things that you don’t. Where would medicine be if we had just accepted that disease comes from demons, instead of investigating?

    Therefore, I have a strong argument for knowing that I am sending money to the right man.

    Trust is not faith. You trust a person based on past honest dealings – past honest dealings are evidence that trust is warranted, and probably one of the most important forms of evidence we have for believing each other’s claims.

    That said, a quadriplegic man is not an extraordinary claim. There’s nothing physics defying here. You also have hospital bills, and a registered charity. These are evidence. This is an order of magnitude more believable than alien abductions, because there IS solid evidence, and there are no fantastic claims. Faith is not required here.

    I think you have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

    The invisible, intangible baby that looks and feels exactly like the bathwater?

    Reason is not there not make us godless, nor is evidence there to substitute faith.

    You are right! Reason is just for finding out the truth about the world. So far as I can tell, there is no god in it. So why should I believe in one?
    It’s not reason’s fault and it’s not my fault that your god is indistinguishable to reason from a god that doesn’t exist.

    What good would we do for the future generations by saying faith is bad and reason is good, not acknowledging that such men embrace reason and evidentialism on good faith.

    Faith that the world around us exists in something resembling the form in which we experience – the only thing that I am required to take on faith – is not the same as faith that a god exists. For one thing, we can see, smell, hear, touch, and taste the world around us. It’s not so big a leap to assume that it’s actually real.
    God, on the other hand, cannot be sensed in this way. Or any other way, as far as I can tell.

    If there is no God, then by what right, other than an individual’s self-perpetuated autonomy, do we have to tell others how they ought to live their lives?

    Once again you display an incredible lack of understanding about morality. If morality is just doing as we’re told, and we can be told to do things at one time that contradict our orders another time, then we aren’t truly moral. We’re just following orders.

    And you are right?

    Well OBVIOUSLY.

    Seriously, though, I thought we already addressed this. I accept that I’m as right as I know how to be. I also accept that I could be wrong. I don’t have all knowledge, and can only make conclusions based on the knowledge I have.

    If one is to be so great as to not need anything, it would be a contradiction that one would need your worship.

    Well that’s kind of my point. Why would an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent god need worship? How is it possible that such a great and powerful being could possibly need or want the adulation of such lesser beings? How could you or I ever need, want, or care about, say, the adulation of ants? Let alone go to so much trouble to arrange it? And stomp on them whenever they didn’t do it right?

    I believe that, every time you show love, forgive a person, cry at misfortune, show compassion, give charity, and stand up for what you believe is true, you are showing worship to the one true God.

    What an odd thing to say.

    I am attempting to show you that you act in worship to the Spirit higher than yourself, whether you realize it or not.

    But how could you, if you can’t show me that this Spirit even exists? Or does that matter to you?

    Or you are interpreting the Bible, the entire religion and its history wrong.

    Sure, I COULD be. But it doesn’t seem like it.

    The Law in the OT, according to what Paul interpreted, was not to demonstrate cruelty, but to highlight sinfulness and the need for salvation. That is the Christian interpretation. You, however, are telling me that it means something else.

    How could I believe that, when the Law in the OT says that some immoral things are moral, and that some moral things are immoral? Shoot, even Jesus points this out. Is working on the Sabbath a sin? Or not? If so, then you can’t say that Jesus never sinned. If not, then whats the point of the Law? Jesus’ response to this very question is woefully inadequate, and insists upon a sort of situational ethics that Paul later decries. If Jesus and Paul, the two founders of your religion, can’t agree on this point, why should I listen?

    How, then, could I ever expect you to understand with clarity, the justifications within it?

    Because the only way that the bible makes sense is if you first assume that the bible makes sense, then twist everything it says into that assumption.

    You are evidently not arguing because you are open to other interpretations, but are convinced that you know the real truth.

    Because you’re not telling me anything new about the bible that I haven’t already read or been told. Apologetics isn’t new to me, from either side of the argument. I know most of your arguments before you make them. (Okay, almost all. You went a completely new direction with Matthew 10:23 that I haven’t seen before. No more convincing, though.)

    So I feel skeptical that your claim of openness to conversion based on evidence is even true.

    As I thought I made clear, no amount of written evidence could ever demonstrate a miracle to be true – and Christianity is either true or false based on it’s miracles.

    I can’t help but believe that, regardless of the arguments, you don’t want it to be true.

    Seeing as how I’ve said as much, this is understandable.

    I disbelieve in atheism, because there it makes claims that it actually contradicts.

    Hmmm… what could this mean, I wonder? Do tell.

    Furthermore, I do believe the Muslims experience the divine. I just think that they are deceived. The difference in our opinions is the belief in the divine.

    And how could you possibly know that you are not the one deceived?

    Therefore, I won’t state it like a fact nor mask my reason in pride over the fact that such a thing cannot be proven.

    Such a thing could of course be proven easily. If god is all powerful, he could literally end this argument in a million different ways. The fact that he does not, despite millions of prayers daily, and his own promise (through Jesus in Luke 17:6) that you can, means either he is a liar or he doesn’t exist.

    If God doesn’t change and God is an eternal God of both justice and mercy, then doesn’t that also mean that God’s mercy is as endless as His justice?

    If, if, if.

    Secondly, God’s morality has not changed. Man’s has.

    Oh, and here I thought our morality was a gift from god. So the morality that he has chosen to give us has changed?

    Jesus, in discussing the issue of not observing the working rules on the Sabbath did not do away with God’s Laws, but defined them according to a higher law; the Law of Love.

    So you don’t think that adding new laws, that countermand the old laws, is changing the laws? What WOULD be changing the laws then?

    Likewise the Pharisees, and you, uphold the letter of God’s law and prophets, rather than the spirit. That is why I say that your interpretations are wrong.

    So what, exactly, was the spirit of ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’?

    She would have indeed been known today as a woman who abhorred the practices of her people that believed that sacrificing your firstborn to a stone or wooden god and orgies that produce nothing but disease and emptiness was the right way to live

    Yes obviously a god that murders the firstborns himself is much better. The god that tells his followers to only murder the boy children is vastly superior. The god that tells his followers to slice open the bellies of pregnant women and splatter the fetuses on rocks is soooooo much better.

    instead supported the cause of people who had just been miraculously freed from 400 years of forced labor because of their nationality.

    That would be a lot more impressive if, after immediately being freed from slavery, they hadn’t made up detailed rules on how to own slaves.

    Your picture here is not complete and is charged full of bias and ethnocentrism.

    While you condemn one culture for their evil practices but excuse the other for just as vile practices.

    I don’t blame the people for how they acted. (Well, maybe a little. I’m sure even by the standards of the time, invading a country you do not own and slaying all the men and raping all the daughters was at least frowned upon in some circles.)

    Actually, it was looked highly upon

    Oh, well, bully for them then.

    How would you have handled the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt? Without forcing them to, at the same time acknowledge your existence as a deity and acknowledge the liberty of your people, how would you have liberated the Israelites from bondange?

    I would have let Pharoah let them go, instead of hardening his heart over and over so I could visit more and more punishment on his people! This is a no brainer.

    How would you have ensured the survival of an entire people in the desert, and to where would you have had to live.

    Am I god, or not? Come on. Alakazam! The desert is now a paradise.

    How would you have changed the minds of idol worshippers that had endless orgies that introduced horrid STD’s to their people and sacrifice of firstborns to imaginary gods?

    Wasn’t it his absence that allowed them to start doing that in the first place?

    Priest #1: Hey, I know, lets sacrifice a baby!
    Priest #2: Is that a good idea, god?
    God: I don’t want you to do that. I won’t stop you, because that would violate your free will and I inexplicably care more about that than I do the life of that baby. But I don’t need any baby sacrifices.
    Priests: Okay!

    There you go. Communication is key to any relationship. If I’m god, I want to have a relationship with ALL my people, not just some of them. Therefore, open communication with all my children. This constant silence is a really good way for all these insane practices to get started up.

    How would you have kept an entire people together that everybody around them wanted to dilute, ruin, and destroy?

    Amalakite #1: Man, every time I try to stab a Jew, I magically miss!
    Amalakite #2: They must be the chosen people of the best god. Maybe we can join them.
    God: Sure you can! See a guy named Moses, he’ll sign you up! If you don’t want to you can just leave, though.

    If you own a business and hire people who abuse their positions, waste your products, undermine your authority, and insult the customers, would you tell your customers to go elsewhere, or would you fire the workers and hire others while at the same time implementing a higher standard than all the other businesses around you? How would you handle that situation?

    Obviously the latter… buuuuuut, as I already pointed out:

    but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God

    It was god’s absence, his refusal to communicate with his children, that allowed things to get this bad. A better analogy would be if I owned a business, and left for a couple of decades with no communication at all, and then came back and found things in such a state. Would I be upset and fire people? Probably. But I’ve myself to blame as much as anyone else, as I didn’t give any direction or indication that I cared for 20 years, allowing the employees to run my business into the ground for their own benefit.

    Again, how would you have brought about the coming of the Messiah without first having His people and the God-fearers have a good understanding of why He came in the first place?

    If he hadn;t failed so miserably, every step of the way up till then, he wouldn’t have needed a messiah. And obviously that measure failed as well. The world is still a pretty screwed up place – when all he needs to fix it is an open an honest dialogue.

    It was paganism that plagued Moses’ people.

    PotAto, potAHto. They obviously believed in multiple gods. Asherah, Baal, bunch of others. Originally, Yahweh was just the god of war in a much larger pantheon. When Solomon requested wisdom from Yahweh, he was actually asking to have Wisdom (Asherah) as his consort. Later, the Yahwists gained power, killed the priests of the other gods and destroyed their temples. Then (still later) they re-wrote the Pentateuch to make it seem like Yahweh did all that stuff that was originally attributed to Marduk, El Shaddai, and the rest. This is all already known to historians. You didn’t watch that video or read that book I recommended, did you?

    However, I’ve read arguments against it saying that those words were used in the Bible side by side as if to describe God as being the Eternal Sovereign over all the heavenly host (angels).

    Evidence that doesn’t hold any water after you look at the vocabulary differences that tell scholars that different parts of the Pentateuch were written centuries a part.

    It should be further understood that many scholars believe that the OT was written down until after 5th century BCE, after the exile for idolatry and transgressing the Law had already come to an end.

    The OT wasn’t written at one time, any more than the NT was. It was constantly added to and edited by many generations over hundreds of years.

    If nobody is condemned, then everyone accepts forgiveness, which means that we truly don’t have freedom.

    Everyone is free to stop breathing. Are we any less free because no one wants to stop breathing?

    Then it is evident that you don’t care to try, for it isn’t that hard to tell.

    Ha! Yeah, Christians have been killing each other over it for centuries because it’s so easy.

    But the point of the Law was that nobody could fulfill it, so that when God came as Jesus and fulfilled the Law, then God could boast of both his righteous judgment and of His eternal mercy.

    The REAL problem with religion? You don’t see how ridiculously cruel, evil, and self-serving that plan is. That god would torture and torment and slaughter humanity over a set of laws that he himself knew couldn’t be followed when he wrote them. That he sends souls to the flame after death for failing to do the impossible. That’s just sick.

    The odd thing is, Stev, the majority of religious people in the West are Roman Catholics and Muslims. Do you think perhaps you have been distracted?

    There are fewer Muslims in America than almost anything else. Catholics only statistically make up about 25% of Americans, and those numbers are almost definitely vastly inflated, as poeple have been leaving the Church in droves over the last couple decades, yet the Church almost never actually removes them from the rolls.
    No, the problems here are the protestants. In Europe, no doubt, the Catholics and the Muslims are a much bigger problem. But I need to clean out my backyard before I go borrowing Europe’s problems.

    I disagree. They are the fruit of false religion and corrupt priesthoods.

    So you’re saying for a thousand years, between the real establishment of the Church and Martin Luther, there weren’t ANY Real True Christians?
    Man, we must’ve missed out on all KINDS of shouting rocks.

    The same God that gave those laws said to the people, “I desire justice, mercy, and faith.” Is it that the Law was cruel or that men are quick to do evil?

    I see no mention of mercy in the Law.

    And you are dodging the fact that witchcraft is an imaginary crime that real people were really put to death for. It doesn’t matter WHEN it happened.

    But that isn’t justified by the majority of Christians you argue with. That is justified by the Church of Rome and those that follow it

    Ah, so the Catholics inserted the line about witchcraft into the bible?

    3) Because they follow laws that were never intended to bring about perfection of character.

    The law ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ could only possibly be intended to give people an excuse to murder other people for an unproveable crime – assuming that god knew that witches weren’t real. Of course, if the law was just written by people who didn’t know any better…

    People aren’t going to give up oppressing women simply because the Bible says not to.

    That it doesn’t say not to doesn’t exactly help.

    You have been told by Christians all around you that you must keep the law to be a good Christian and a good person in general.

    No, I was told by you that the Law was a guide to sin.

    The Law of Moses was inferior to the Law of Christ in every respect.

    Why did god bother giving them an inferior law, then? I thought he was perfect? Surely he could have gotten it right the first time? Oh, right, the whole ‘making a set of laws that couldn’t possibly be followed by humans so that He can gloat about how generous and magnanimous He is when He does away with them! Thanks Kim Jong-Il – I mean, Yahweh!

    Woah! I never called the Bible the guide to morality, even though it has helped clean up society’s act a bit.

    Ah. So where do you get your morality from?

    Let’s not forget that the modern, atheistic idealists of the 19th and 20th centuries have brought humanity through great atrocities because they had idolized one virtue and demonized those who did not.

    Could you perhaps clarify this point? Hitler was no atheist. Stalin sought to make of himself a god – oh yeah, he was insane also. Mao – also insane.

    And lets not forget the modern, atheist idealists like Norman Borlaug that have saved billions! Just by himself that puts the atheist idealists waaaay ahead of the pack.

    you do not demonstrate a higher humility.

    Heh. Guilty.

    So, you rid the possibility of chance without ridding the possibility of choice. So society never messes up and they never learn the extent of God’s love.

    So what? Are you saying every child should fall into drugs and orgies and dangerous cults where they grind up babies for sausage, just so they can see the ‘extent’ of their parent’s love when they come crawling back? OR, perhaps love is more subtly but more effectively shown by simply raising your children well so that they are never drawn to such abasement?

    Abel to Cain: ”Hey brother, how can we worship God?” The truth of the matter was that God had already determined a sacrifice to prove his love, and that was Jesus. Every sacrifice beforehand was inferior.

    So instead of telling them that their sacrifice was unnecessary, he deliberately inspired Cain’s jealousy by letting them both know that he preferred Abel’s sacrifice? Why does god want people to burn shit? What possible enjoyment could an omnipotent, omniscient being get out of such an absurd practice?

    So you would kill all the wicked anyway? How is that different from the flood? If the entire point of the flood was to cleanse humanity of wickedness and make a new start, how is zapping the wicked dead any different?

    By playing along with the idea that all the bad people somehow need to be wiped out, I’m exposing both the absurdity of god allowing things to get that bad by failing to communicate morality to them from the start, and desplaying the utter wastefullness of the flood. Yeah, it loses it’s effect by having to be explained.
    To answer the question – no. Things wouldn’t GET that bad because I would have properly explained morality in the first place. And if I was REALLY keen on having humans that act morally, I would have designed them with slightly more moral inclination.

    ”Um, by the way, uh God, this tower is our middle finger up to you for destroying our wicked and murderous ancestors with lightning bolts. You might love us, but we hate your guts

    “Damn, I thought Noah was on My side. How could he not put a better spin on that debacle?”

    We built a tower without your help, will build it up to the highest of heaven (even though that’s impossible) and will kick you off your throne.”

    “Well, good for you! I’ll put out the welcome mat.” Five thousand years go by, and the space shuttle finally makes it to the Highest Heaven – and there’s Buzz Aldrin to give Me the finger!

    Soooo… your saying that the tower builders were justified in their rebellion against god, since god killed all their ancestors with a flood?

    I disbelieve in Hinduism because just one God would be powerful enough to not require or permit the existence of others. If a God is everywhere at once, how can there be more than one God?

    Sure, if you assume that there IS a god powerful enough to do everything and be everywhere. Also, you have to assume that this god desires no equals. If we are made in his image, and WE desire equals to share our lives with, why doesn’t he? Surely he doesn’t consider us ants to be equals.

    I disbelieve Islam because the Koran, the supposed words of God, give inaccurate accounts of Christianity

    Ah, so, since you already believe the bible to be true, you don’t believe the Koran?
    How do you know the bible has it right and the Koran is wrong? Couldn’t it be the other way round?

    I disbelieve in Buddhism because it contradicts teleology.

    Let me talk about teleology for a second by paraphrasing Douglas Adams.

    Once upon a time there was a puddle of water in a muddy hole. Somehow, some way, it woke up. It examined itself. “Wow!” it said. “What an amazing little hole I find myself in! Why, it fits me perfectly. It fits me so well, it must have been made to have me in it.”
    So the puddle sits there, content in the knowledge that the world around it was created specifically to contain him and only him, perfectly. Meanwhile, the sun comes out and starts to dry up the puddle. The puddle starts to worry about it a bit – but not too much. “After all,” says the puddle. “This world was made to have me in it!”
    So the moment where he finally evaporates him comes as a complete surprise.
    We are that puddle. We fit the world we live in so perfectly that it seems to be made to have us in it. This is an illusion brought on by the fact that we evolved to fit the world we are in. If the world had been different, we would have been different. Teleology is an illusion, brought on by the conclusion that we were somehow meant to be the way we are, when of course it is the way we are that was very carefully molded, over millions of years, to fit the environment.
    We really aught to be watching for the sun to be coming out, instead of sitting around congratulating ourselves on how perfectly the world was made for us.

    Also, if teleology is true and the world was made for ANYthing, it was made for bacteria, who outnumber us (even in our own bodies!) considerably and at whose complete mercy we have been at until very very recently.

  22. matthewbarraco says

           So you’re comfortable believing in things that you know can’t be actually true because they make you feel better?  I mean, obviously this has been the case since this discussion began.  Pretty brave of you to openly state it, though.
           If this is the kind of broken thinking required to be in a religion, count me out.  I need no more justification to reject Christianity and warn everyone away from it that I can than this statement – Christianity is believing things you know aren’t true because they make you feel good.  You know what else makes you feel good?  Heroin.  Does that MAKE it good?  No!  And the sleep of reason that is required to believe in religion might feel good too.  But that doesn’t mean squat to the two questions that actually matter: ‘Is it true?’ and ‘Does it help?’  The answer seems to be an emphatic NO! on both points!  In what way, then, is religion better than heroin?

    Don’t you think you’ve jumped the gun a bit Stev?  Yes, I believe that the blessed assurance of Christ makes me feel better.  However, the reason why I believe Christianity is true is because it doesn’t ignore the ideal, which you gracefully put aside.  As I said earlier, the early Church fathers were Platonic philosophers.  They believed that invisible, intangible ideals were true, realistic, and important. Most importantly, they had no sound reason not to.  Should a man question his inherent freedom?  If he does, he will find that freedom is dependent on how powerful he is to deliver himself from mastery.  For those too poor to deliver themselves, they seek a savior.  (Are you saying that atheism can save the world?)  So, freedom is important to us.  But it is not important to us solely because we naturally desire autonomy.  Freedom is important to us because it is virtuous, meaningful, and costly.  We BELIEVE that everybody should experience it.  WE BELIEVE.

    Therefore, one of the reasons that I am a Christian is because I believe that life has meaning outside of our own reasoning.  And I’ve yet to find a reason not to.

           

           The only people I have EVER met that have ever said anything like ‘we already know everything we need to know’ have been pointing at the bible, or the koran, or whatever as they said it.
           Of COURSE there are mysteries and unknowns.  What came before the big bang?  We’ll probably never know.  What’s on the other side of the event horizon?  We’ll probably never know.  There are plenty of mysteries in the natural world, we don’t need to go around inventing gods and demons and other nonsense, and when they don’t make sense (because they are made up), call those inconsistencies ‘mysteries’ and take comfort in those ridiculous made up mysteries as if they mean something.
           Being rational means understanding and accepting what you actually don’t know.  Religion is pretending that you DO know things that you can’t know.

    Rational…how can you rationally explain atheism to those people dying of AIDS in Africa?  I get your perspective and why you feel the way you do concerning religion.

    However, I’m not talking about the mysteries of the natural world.  You skipped over what I was trying to get at, and understandingly so.  Are you saying that you don’t believe in the immaterial world or the reality of ideals?

           Chesterson was wrong then and he is wrong now.  Demonstrably, destroying ‘mystery’ (AKA ignorance) has improved health.  Were we better off when we didn’t know about bacteria?  When we thought when people got sick and died because of a little cut on their foot, it was because a demon got in?  Of course not, that’s one mystery we’re well rid of.  Were we better off when we thought the mentally ill were touched by the gods, or possessed, or cursed by the devil?  Of course not, now we can treat them.  No need to drive pigs over a cliff over it.

    That wasn’t the mystery that G.K. Chesterson was talking about.

           Can you really show me a single thing that we’ve discovered about the world that has made us worse off, as humans?  One thing?

    Yes.  Sin.  If you don’t believe it exists, I dare you to lead a life where you don’t think one bad thing about someone, don’t slander, easily forgive, speak gently to those who offend you, control your lust and thoughts about women, etc. for an entire week.  The Bible has pointed out that humanity is worse off because of its discovery of sin.  Sin is not the offense itself, but the condition of the individual’s will.

    Furthermore, I would argue that sin has caused people to take every good thing we’ve discovered and use it to oppress others, including Christianity.  Among those things are nuclear energy and biological engineering.

    So I would reverse that question you asked and ask you, “Can you really show me a thing that we’ve discovered that we haven’t used against each other?”

           Well, considering it was a lie (they ate the fruit and did not die!) it wasn’t very informative.  In the context of the myth, God lies and the serpent tells the truth.  Thus Adam and Eve were able to make an actual choice, and they chose.  The fact that god’s only command to them was to remain ignorant – and that this state of incurious ignorance was somehow considered ‘pure’, just demonstrates the contempt that religion has always had for knowledge.  And why not?  There is no greater destroyer of religion-based superstition than knowledge.  They were right to be afraid.

    Is that the truth, or your interpretation?  Paul argued that death was the result of sin, but sin was dead before the command came.  So, when God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit or else they would die, sin sprung to life and caused death to enter into humanity.  The man and woman ate the fruit and began dying.  From the moment we are born now, we don’t start living, we start dying.  Our bodies grow old, become susceptible to disease, our bones get brittle, our brains stop functioning properly.  This is not a sign of living.  It is a sign of dying.

    Evidently, the authors of the account of Adam and Eve knew this, otherwise the story would have stopped at Adam and Eve eating the apple.  The authors, in support of their argument for God’s truthfulness and faithfulness, would not have painted God to be unfaithful and deceiving.  It would have been counterproductive to the entire reason for even taking the time to publish the account.  Therefore, I have strong reason to believe that you are misinterpreting the account of the Garden of Eden.

           

    A blatant and contemptible smear on the character of all atheists.  As bad as me saying ‘All Christians believe in god because they are like tiny children and just cannot give up the idea of their favorite invisible friend.’

     I’m not being offensive.  I’m stating my experience and my suspicions.  I’m not saying that I’m right.  I’m saying that I’m skeptical.  To better demonstrate why, please consider this argument:

    A reproducible miracle would be neither miraculous nor supernatural BECAUSE anything that happens in the natural world will clearly demonstrate the natural means by which they occur.  If a man rises from the dead three days later, I wouldn’t doubt that biologists would seek to explain it with science and show their justifications, calling it a natural phenomenon.

    So, how could a reproducible miracle keep the message behind it without it being separated from the event, be explained by observations of the physical world (science) and not have the message discarded?

    Furthermore, the physical world becomes evident when light reflects off of physical things.  If a miracle can be observed, how could be possibly separate it from scientific observation?

    Can you understand my skepticism now?

           What I care about is the truth.  It was this desire to make sure that the beliefs I held were actually true that led to atheism.  If religious belief cannot stand up to a simple search for truth without resorting to puerile assertions of ‘ignorance and mystery is good for us’

    What G.K. Chesterson meant was that the paradoxes of life are BOTH true.  And atheism is not excluded from this conundrum.  I’ll quote his experience:

    “As I read and re-read all the non-Christian or anti-Christian accounts of the faith, from Huxley to Bradlaugh, a slow and awful impression grew gradually but graphically upon my mind–the impression that Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing.  For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other.  It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons.  No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it was much too far to the west.  No sooner had my indignation died down at its angular and aggressive squareness then I was called up again to notice and condemn its enervating and sensual roundness…

    But the extraordinary thing is this.  They did prove to me in Chapter I. (to my complete satisfaction) that Christianity was too pessimistic; and then, in Chapter II., they began to prove to me that it was a great deal too optimistic.  One accusation against Christianity was that it prevented men, by morbid tears and terrors, from seeking joy and liberty in the bosom of Nature.  But another accusation was that it comforted men with a fictitious providence, and put them in pink-and-white nursery.  One great agnostic asked why Nature was not beautiful enough, and why it was hard to be free.  Another great agnostic objected that Christian optimism, ‘hid from us the fact that Nature was ugly, and that it was impossible to be free.  One rationalist had hardly done calling Christianity a nightmare before another began to call a fool’s paradise.  This puzzled me; the charges seemed inconsistent.  Christianity could not at once be the black mask on a white world, and also the white mask on a black world.  The state of the Christian cold not be at once so comfortable that he was a coward to cling to it, and so uncomfortable the he was a fool to stand in it.  If it falsified human vision it must falsify in one way or another; it could not wear both green and reose-coloured spectacles.”

    So which is it Stev?  Is Christianity a nightmare or a fool’s dream?  Is it too negative or too positive?  Is it too dark or is it too light?  Furthermore, G.K. points out:

    “The Gospel paradox about the other cheek, the fact that priests never fought, a hundred things made plausible the accusation that Christianity was an attempt to make a man too like a sheep.  I read it and believed it, and if I had read nothing different, I should have gone on believing it.  But I read something very different.  I turned the next page in my agnostic manual, and my brain turned upside down.  Now I found that I was to hate Christianity not for fighting too little, but for fighting too much.  Christianity, it seemed, was the mother of wars.  Christianity had deluged the world with blood.  I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he was never angry.  And now I was told to be angry with him because his anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history; because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun.  The very people who reproached Christianity with the meekness and non-resistance of the monasteries were the very people who reproached it also with the violence and valour of the Crusades.  It was the fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Leon did.  The Quakers (we were told) were the only characteristic Christians; and yet the massacres of Cromwell and Alva were characteristic Christian crimes.”

    Continuing, he raised a very good question:  “What could it all mean?  What was this Christianity which always forbade war and always produced wars?”

    “I take a third case; the strangest of all, because it involves the one real objection to the faith.  The one real objection to the Christian religion is simply that it is one religion. Christianity (it may reasonably be said) is one thing confined to one kind of people; it began in Palestine, it has practically stopped at Europe.  I was duly impressed with this argument in my youth, and I was much drawn towards the doctrine often preached in Ethical Societies–I mean the doctrine that there is one great unconscious church of all humanity founded on the omnipresence of the human conscience.  Creeds, it was said, divided men; but at least morals united them.  The sould might seek the strangest and most remote lands and ages and still find essential ethical common sense…And I was thoroughly annoyed with Christianity for suggesting (as I supposed) that whole ages and empires of men had utterly escaped this light of justice and reason.  But then I found an astonishing thing.  I found that the very people who said that mankind was one church from Plato to Emerson were the very people who said that morality had changed altogether, and that what was right in one age was wrong in another…

    “I found it was their daily taunt against Christianity that it was the light of one people and had left all others to die in the dark.  But I also found that it was their special boast for themselves that science and progress were the discovery of one people, and that all other peoples had died in the dark.  Their chief insult to Christianity was actually their chief compliment to themselves, and there seemed to be a strange unfairness about all their relative insistence on the two things.  When considering some pagan or agnostic, we were to remember that all men had one religion; when considering some mystic or spiritualist, we were only to consider what absurd religions some men had…

    “This began to be alarming.  It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with.  What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves?”

    There are more paradoxes mentioned by him if you would like me to go on.

    and ‘you’d just deny miracles anyway’ then it has no truth value.  

     I’m still skeptical.

    The fact that it also makes otherwise good people do horrible things is a huge mark against it’s value otherwise.

     I wouldn’t call the actions of William Wilberforce a horrible thing.  Rather, it has often caused horrible people like John Newton to stop doing horrible things.  I wonder if there are not a few Christians that you have yet to forgive for whatever they did that offended you.

    The greater testimonies of Christianity is not what blessings men have received from God, but from what curses they were delivered.

     Fixed that for you.  I’m curious – have I deliberately misrepresented your position in any way in this conversation?  Because I sure don’t appreciate my positions being deliberately misrepresented by you.

     Again, I didn’t misrepresent you.  I just doubted.

       I don’t see how I could do that without some sort of miracle that can be repeated for me to test my powers of disbelief against.
    The Red Sea thing is a Red Herring Sea.  The story in the bible presents it as a miraculous occurrence, caused by god himself.  It was presented as an inundation (when the waters returned) so powerful and sudden as to drown an army of Egyptians.  The Reed Sea retreat was a pitiful trickle that took hours.  It doesn’t prove that the Red Sea event in the bible didn’t actually happen.  What it DOES suggest is, like most religious fables, the actual events were blown completely out of proportion by generations of retellings, until it achieved legendary status.  The original story (if the original story has anything to do with the Reed Sea) was probably something along the lines of ‘Moses happened to know the days which the Reed Sea could be crossed, so he led them there, and after they crossed the waters returned and their pursuers could not chase them.’  The point is, of course, that we just don’t know.

    So, you’re saying that Pharoah’s army was never drowned, but merely that they had to retreat?  Beside the Egyptians never mentioning either the army drowning or them turning back, by what evidence did you come to that conclusion?

    I would say only incidentally.  In that, people that contributed to the development of society happened to be religious.  Historically, it’s much more likely that a person who was hindering progress was doing so for religious reasons.  Take the civil rights struggle again.  Many of the individuals fighting for equal rights, including most of MLK’s top advisers and assistants, were atheists.  You know why schools teach that Rosa Parks just decided one day that she didn’t want to move?  Because the detailed training in non-violent resistance that she had undergone beforehand was organized and taught by atheists – and she was one of many.  But we can’t have THAT sort of thing in the history books!  So when kids read the story, it’s the great preacher MLK Jr., who just inspired people to nonviolent protest.  And King himself, of course, was a preacher.  But the struggle he spoke of was, while it used allegories galore from the book of Exodus, did not in fact encapsulate the struggle of Exodus.  There was no talk of taking lands that did not belong to them.  There was no talk of retaliation against the people that wronged them.  THOSE would have been biblical.  King’s message was a message of peace, and there are no messages of peace in the bible.  Just division, war, and in the end, fire and death.

    So, you’re saying that the Bible has no message of peace, yet its teachings are the basis for which people cling to it out of hope.  Which is it?

     No!  I’m discrediting their experiences because they aren’t evidenced

     They are actually.  It’s just not the kind you are looking for.  As for me, I go by the Principle of Belief Conservation as stated by Tom Morris, Ph.D. in philosophy and religion, “For any proposition, P: If

    1.  Taking a certain cognitive stance toward P (for example, believing it, rejecting it, or withholding judgment) would require rejecting or doubting a vast number of your current beliefs,

    2.  You have no independent positive reason to reject or doubt all those other beliefs, and

    3.  You have no compelling reason to take up that cognitive stance toward P.”

    He continues:

    “The Principle of Belief Conservation seems to capture a fundamental way in which all rational people think.  And in it lies the basis on which we respond to the skeptic.  But how do we know that the Principle of Belief Conservation itself is true?  It passes its own test, unlike evidentialism, but there is still not independent proof of it.

    We accept it without proof.  We accept it without independent evidence that it is true.  And we are rational for so doing.  There is no independent standard of rationality that can condemn or call into question this principle.  Nonetheless, we accept it without any independent support.  It is just true.  We just believe it.  It is not based on any deeper beliefs.  It is itself basic.

    The Principle of Belief Conservation can be taken as what philosophers nowadays call a ‘basic belief.’  It can be used to justify other beliefs, but is itself without further independent justification.  We find that we believe it, and that it would be impossible not to believe it.  But that in itself is no proof that it is true.  Yet it is true.”

    To clarify my position so that you know I am no hijacking this principle, please consider a few of these things:

    1.  I feel no strong impulse to deny the existence of the soul, yet I feel a very strong reasoning to believe in it because:

    2.  Without a proof in the world, I believe that life means something and that meaning is no more derived from self than a ship determines that it is not meant to sail.

    3.  Since I fundamentally believe in the meaning of life and the existence of the invisible soul, I also believe in the realm of the invisible soul and the laws which govern it, and the Maker of those Laws.

    Those foundational beliefs which I find relevant and self-evident throughout not only my experience but in the testimonies of human history, both religious and non-religious, lead me to reasonably conclude the testimonies in the holy scriptures and the theology laid out by them testify of the relationship of that supernatural Law Maker and the souls in which He governs.  You might blame me for being Christian, but you cannot blame me for believing that life has meaning outside of that which I assign to it and that there is an immaterial realm to our existence.  These are things I just believe it and I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

           Personal experience is evidence.  For some things, it’s good evidence.  But not for other things, right?

           Personal experience IS evidence, especially when you speak of things like personal interaction.  A theoretical person, who has lived their entire life on an island alone, has no idea about these things.  In fact, he would know nothing about morality or relationships or justice or even loneliness, since he has never experienced anything but loneliness.  Destroy his house, eat his food, or injure his body and I believe he would inherently know that such things, without out just cause, are in fact injust.

           Gah.  Emotions are chemical reactions and electrical patterns in the brain.  Shoot, nueroscience has progressed to the point where you can hook a person up to a machine, and with enough practice, the machine can tell you what the person is feeling.  This is not a mystery here.  Loneliness is not a thing that exists outside of the brains that are experiencing it.

    So, what you’re saying is that the Pope isn’t doing anything wrong by telling his followers to withhold from contraceptives…its just chemical reactions and electrical patters that are causing you to be upset about this?

           

    A man, being cheated of all he had by his brother, could choose to resent the man, or to liberate himself from anger by forgiving him.  Such things are proven in their practice like the proof of pudding is in the tasting.  That is the component of faith.

           Blatantly evident?  Really?  Where?

     The evidence of the invisible world is in your very words about how you feel about Christianity, and the meaning you assign to them, for example.

           But none for all those other religions, right?  They all believed for no reason and died for nothing, right?

     Am I a Greek or a Jew?  No.  So, I think you’re jumping the gun here Stev.

    Oh, no you don’t.  This they came to in spite of religious tradition.  Religious tradition taught that there were good people (believers) and bad people (everyone else).  *All* men, created equal, required that religion be marginalized or shut out completely.  A large number of the founding fathers were deists, especially the author of that line, and were not interested in christian ‘mysteries’

     And yet the founding fathers of that line thoroughly believed that Christianity was necessary in their society.

    And if the founding fathers really wanted religion to be marginalized or shut out completely, they would not have included in the first amendment that all men would have the right to the free exercise of religion without government interference.  That means that the government cannot stop me from wearing a T-Shirt saying, “Jesus is Coming, Praise God!” or from playing Christians songs in my own business.  It means that the government cannot our children from bringing Bibles to school and having group Bible studies on their lunch breaks or recesses.  That means that a candidate for office can clearly state his religious preference, that chaplains can host public events to promote spiritual wellness, and that a musician can praise God during his/her Grammy acceptance speech.  To strip people of such freedoms would be to contradict the very reason why this country was founded.  This country was not founded JUST FOR deists, agnostics, atheists, and everybody else who does express religious preference, but FOR ALL beliefs.  Frankly, I do not need this freedom to be granted by the government, because I feel it is evidently granted by the Ruler of my soul, and therefore I can express my religious beliefs despite the physical consequences, and feel no shame about it.

    Furthermore, religious tradition, taught by men, stated that good people were believers and bad people were everyone else. But not Christian Scripture.

    “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)

    “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like polluted garments (like bloody menstrual clothes)…”  (Isaiah 64:6)

    Even the parable of the Kingdom of God, which Jesus described as a fishnet being cast over ALL fish and both the good and the bad were under the same net.  Even more scandalously, Jesus flipped the script in Matthew 23 when he declared that those who considered themselves most righteous (Pharisees) were guilty of the most evil.  The very men who awaited the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from the Romans were guilty of bringing the Romans to Jerusalem in the first place.

    “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”  (Romans 3:20)

  23. Stevarious says

    As I said earlier, the early Church fathers were Platonic philosophers. They believed that invisible, intangible ideals were true, realistic, and important.

    They were wrong. Platonic ideals exist only in our minds. They are mental constructs. They are not real things. Pure Christianity does not become a real thing because people believe in it, any more than imagining a ‘true’ perfect circle causes one to exist. I’m imagining a ‘true’ Platonic ideal of a dragon right now. Does it exist anywhere but in my imagination? No? Then what makes you think this is true for anything else?

    Should a man question his inherent freedom? If he does, he will find that freedom is dependent on how powerful he is to deliver himself from mastery.

    But we see that this is, in fact, the case. We only have the rights we fight for. We only have the freedoms we secure for ourselves.

    (Are you saying that atheism can save the world?)

    Atheism is the rejection of an idea. Atheism has no dogma, makes no assertions, and has no beliefs. It can’t save anything or anybody, any more than a-leprechaunism can save the world from leprechauns.
    The only reason atheism is even a ‘thing’ is because of all the religionists, running around and telling people that they can’t be anything but baby-raping murderers unless they have a god belief.

    Freedom is important to us because it is virtuous, meaningful, and costly.

    Freedom has these qualities because we give it those qualities.
    If we did not value it, it would not be valuable. Just like any other concept.
    Religionists used to value killing anyone who exercised any sort of ‘freedom of religion’. Was freedom valuable then? To whom? Obviously not God, since according to your bible, he was the one mandating the killings. In the OT, freedom has another name: disobedience. And it is punished at every turn. You may claim that the NT values freedom – but this can only be true if your god had a drastic shift in priorities in that 500 years between them.

    We BELIEVE that everybody should experience it. WE BELIEVE.

    Sure you do. NOW. You’re the minority now – just like you were the minority in American government when the constitution was written. Point me to a single historical society dominated by Christians that valued freedom of religion.

    Therefore, one of the reasons that I am a Christian is because I believe that life has meaning outside of our own reasoning. And I’ve yet to find a reason not to.

    The reason you are a christian, once again, is because you have made an assumption about how the world works, then looked for evidence against – instead of looking for evidence for your assumption.
    There is no evidence that our lives have any meaning outside of our lives. Just a lot of people assuming that such a thing is true, and then asserting it as if it were a fact instead of wishful thinking.
    Why does there NEED to be such a thing? Isn’t this life enough? Isn’t this world enough? I find so much more meaning in my daily interactions with people than I ever did acting inwardly, interacting with myself, and hoping that someone was out there magically listening.

    how can you rationally explain atheism to those people dying of AIDS in Africa?

    It would really depend on the person, wouldn’t it? I see them as individuals, myself, instead of ‘just a bunch of people what need jesus then they’ll be okay’. You tell me, how do you rationally explain that a ‘loving’ god decided they should die a horrible death without ever having really lived?

    Are you saying that you don’t believe in the immaterial world or the reality of ideals?

    Believe in it? I don’t even know what that means.
    Immaterial things are indistinguishable from non-existent things. An ideal is a concept. Concepts exist as thoughts in the mind. The mind is a material thing. All the thoughts inside of a mind are also material things. Therefore, concepts and ideals are material things – but only in the context that they are part of a mind. They don’t exist outside of minds.
    If every mind on earth were to be extinguished, then the ‘idea’ of a perfect Platonic ideal circle would also cease to exist, until (and if!) another intelligent species evolved enough to imagine such a thing. There is no immaterial world, as far as any human can tell, for that Platonic ideal circle to exist outside of us. Or at least, there’s no reason to believe that there is such a thing, except the reason ‘I want there to be such a thing’, which is a pretty terrible reason.

    Can you really show me a single thing that we’ve discovered about the world that has made us worse off, as humans? One thing?

    Yes. Sin.

    You are incredibly wrong here – and how you are wrong depends on how you define sin.
    If you define sin as ‘disobedience to god’, then it wasn’t ‘discovered’, it was ‘invented’, by either your god (if he exists) or, more likely, by religionists who needed a better reason than ‘I told you so’ to make people obey. If you count ‘lustful thoughts of women’ or ‘thinking one bad thing about someone’ as a sin, then I utterly reject your assertion that either such a thing was ‘discovered’ and that it is ‘bad’. Thought crimes harm no one. They are the essence of totalitarianism and the perfect opposite of freedom. If you define sin as ‘disobedience to god’ then freedom is, by definition, sin, and you count that as a negative discovery – which means you only pretend to value freedom and are in fact, freedom’s enemy. Unless you tell me how the concepts of freedom and sin can coexist and freedom still be a virtue. (And please don’t come back with ‘freedom to obey’ because that will prove you wrong.)

    If you define sin, however, as realization that our actions can harm others – that is, morality – than I would count this realization as our most important discovery. Our realization that other people are also individuals, that they prefer to be treated in the same, positive way that we ourselves would like to be, is perhaps our greatest achievement as a species. Do you think that our ancestors were super nice to each other back before we were sentient? That it was the onset of sentience that caused our ancestors to suddenly competing with each other, instead of living in perfect magical harmony?
    To assume that morality was given to us by the same invisible being that supposedly ‘gave’ us birth defects and eye-eating worms diminishes us, reduces us to slaves twitching at the whim of an uncaring monster.

    So I would reverse that question you asked and ask you, “Can you really show me a thing that we’ve discovered that we haven’t used against each other?”

    Nope. Humans pretty clever like that. It’s a constant battle between our recently discovered reasoning and morality, and millions of years of evolved competitiveness. In fact, it’s our desire for competition that has driven some of our greatest discoveries, which are then sometimes turned around and used for the better! You might even call it…. a paradox! (I wouldn’t, but that’s because you don’t understand that the word paradox refers to things that are actually impossible, not just seemingly contradictory.)

    Paul argued that death was the result of sin, but sin was dead before the command came. So, when God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit or else they would die, sin sprung to life and caused death to enter into humanity.

    Okay, so… you realize it’s a myth, right? Adam and Eve weren’t real people, the story is just adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh, just like the story of Noah. Right? Didn’t actually happen? Humanity evolved from a less intelligent ancestor, the smallest our population ever reached was about 10,000 (a lot more than 2), the Garden of Eden and the fruit and the serpent, just a big ole myth.

    Right?

    That said, in the context of the story as presented in the bible, god didn’t say ‘you will eventually die’. He said, very specifically: “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” He said that they would die the same day. Not ‘begin to die’. To believe that god didn’t lie, you have to pretend that this very clear, unambiguous statement means something completely other than what it says. But it’s irrelevant, it’s quibbling over meaningless details, of course, because it didn’t happen.

    The authors, in support of their argument for God’s truthfulness and faithfulness, would not have painted God to be unfaithful and deceiving.

    Or, the authors were not the least bit interested in the perceived ‘truthfulness and faithfulness’ of their deity, and were simply interested in demonizing the pursuit of knowledge. Why would they care if anyone liked their god? They had a theocracy! ‘Liking’ god was meaningless, because obedience was what mattered, and disobedience was punishable by death! It makes perfect sense, in that context, that they would want a story that taught people that obedience was much more important than knowledge.

    Therefore, I have strong reason to believe that you are misinterpreting the account of the Garden of Eden.

    You are, once again, asserting the conclusion you wish to reach as evidence FOR that conclusion, and then disregarding any interpretation that doesn’t fit the conclusion you’re looking for. This is NOT reason.

    If a man rises from the dead three days later, I wouldn’t doubt that biologists would seek to explain it with science and show their justifications, calling it a natural phenomenon.

    If it IS a natural phenomenon, then it is, by definition, not a miracle. They could only find a natural explanation for a thing if there was such a thing to find. Therefore, they could only find a natural explanation for it if it was not a miracle.

    So, how could a reproducible miracle keep the message behind it without it being separated from the event, be explained by observations of the physical world (science) and not have the message discarded?

    I can think of a dozen ways of the top of my head, but simply making it so that the dead guy only came back if you said ‘In Jesus’ name, get up!’ would be pretty conclusive – and only when the person saying it had been properly baptized. A natural thing shouldn’t care about whether or not you were dunked into a bathtub 30 years prior while magic words were said – but a religious miracle, I imagine, would.

    Furthermore, the physical world becomes evident when light reflects off of physical things.

    That’s one way but not the only way.

    If a miracle can be observed, how could be possibly separate it from scientific observation?

    But… isn’t that the point of what I’m trying to say? We need the miracle so that we can observe it, scientifically, and confirm, scientifically, that miracles are a real thing!

    Can you understand my skepticism now?

    No, I can’t!

    So which is it Stev? Is Christianity a nightmare or a fool’s dream? Is it too negative or too positive? Is it too dark or is it too light?

    It’s not a paradox, but a seeming contradiction – with a resolution.
    Christianity paints the world that exists as terrible for the purpose of making the immaterial things it promises seem better than they are. It promises great, beautiful things to come – but only by contrasting it against the awful terrible horrible things that are here now. It has to convince you that the things of this world are of little or no value, to make the promises of heaven so great in comparison.

    There are more paradoxes mentioned by him if you would like me to go on.

    They aren’t paradoxes, they are seeming contradictions. They are also fairly tedious and easily answered. Christianity is not some big amorphous homogeneous blob, and anyone who says so is just wrong. Some Christians have been condemned for refusing to fight to combat injustice towards others, and other Christians are also condemned for being ready to fight to maintain their own privileges.

    It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons.

    Not a paradox! Different Christians have done different bad things at different times in different places! This is not rocket science.

    They did prove to me in Chapter I. (to my complete satisfaction) that Christianity was too pessimistic

    Because it (sometimes) teaches that everything in this world is worthless!

    ; and then, in Chapter II., they began to prove to me that it was a great deal too optimistic.

    Because it (sometimes) teaches that the next world is going to be impossibly perfect!

    So which is it Stev? Is Christianity a nightmare or a fool’s dream? Is it too negative or too positive? Is it too dark or is it too light?

    These painfully stupid over-generalizations are a huge distraction. Christianity frequently teaches that this world is filthy and worthless and fallen. Christianity sometimes teaches that there is ANOTHER world, a super-uber-paradise, that you can get to if you just obey in THIS world. Some Christians live well – they are wealthy and want for nothing – and place their gratitude for this happy chance at the feet of god. Some christians live utterly miserable lives – and most brands of christianity teach that it’s NOT god’s fault, it’s OUR fault, it’s THEIR fault that their lives are so miserable. All glory to god, all blame to the pathetic, worthless humans. How abject. What a sorry, awful thing to teach. But of course, not all denominations teach these things! So are you going to point at the ones that teach something different and cry ‘Paradox!’ as if it was such a thing? Or are you going to accept that the perfect, pure, ideal Christianity only exists in the heads of those who imagine such a thing, and that here in the real world, Christianity is as Christianity does, and no two groups of Christians do it the same?

    But I also found that it was their special boast for themselves that science and progress were the discovery of one people

    Obviously they were wrong. Newton was a devout Christian. Einstein was a pantheist. So what? Some critics were wrong? I don’t care about weak arguments, no matter who’s making them.

    It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with. What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves?”

    How tedious. Christians are all different. Different Christians have done different bad things in the name of Christianity. The problem is not that Christianity is all bad things at the same time. The problem is that Christianity is SO poorly written in it’s holy book, that it can be used to justify any evil deed. You give me an evil deed, I’ll give you a bible verse that has been used to justify it.
    The problem is that Christianity does not restrain it’s followers from using it as a justification for any evil deed. The problem is that the magical, pure, ideal Christianity is a myth. There is only the book and the people that use it to justify every wrong under the sun. They also use it to justify every right in under the sun. Except critical thinking.

    I’m still skeptical.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    I wouldn’t call the actions of William Wilberforce a horrible thing.

    Yes, but I would call them anti-biblical. As his opponents of the day reminded him regularly, the bible clearly condones slavery in both testaments.

    Rather, it has often caused horrible people like John Newton to stop doing horrible things.

    Oh, is Christianity the only religion with such stories?

    I wonder if there are not a few Christians that you have yet to forgive for whatever they did that offended you.

    Ding ding ding! Wow, usually I get that much sooner in these conversations!

    The greater testimonies of Christianity is not what blessings men have received from God, but from what curses they were delivered.

    Again, find me a religion that does not have such stories.

    Again, I didn’t misrepresent you. I just doubted.

    No, you repeatedly asserted that I claimed knowledge of things I have specifically explained to you that I don’t know, that I only doubt based on lack of evidence, that I see no reason to believe. That is VERY different from me claiming to know for a fact that something is not true.

    Principle of Belief Conservation

    It says it right in the title – “This is the principle I use to retain my beliefs.”

    “The Principle of Belief Conservation seems to capture a fundamental way in which all rational people think.

    Close. It’s how people think at least.

    But how do we know that the Principle of Belief Conservation itself is true? It passes its own test, unlike evidentialism, but there is still not independent proof of it.

    Because it’s designed to pass it’s own test. What’s worse, it doesn’t actually require ANY knowledge to do so!

    To clarify my position so that you know I am no hijacking this principle, please consider a few of these things:

    You aren’t ‘hijacking’ the principle because it was designed to give believers an excuse to retain their cherished beliefs without evidence. It was designed to give you an excuse not to examine your beliefs, because they must be true because you believe them already!
    This is like high school-level philosophy. You can build ANY house of cards on this principle – all it takes is one dearly held belief that you can’t bear to let go, and you can put a hundred more beliefs on top of it. At that point, you’ve got the weight of a hundred beliefs, all built on one belief, that you then use as ‘evidence’ for the 101st belief.
    All without a proof in the world, as you put it.

    You might blame me for being Christian, but you cannot blame me for believing that life has meaning outside of that which I assign to it and that there is an immaterial realm to our existence. These are things I just believe it and I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

    Sure I can blame you. You’ve never critically examined your core beliefs. You have no reason to believe them other than that you feel very strongly that they are true. Then you used them as ‘evidence’ that further beliefs are true. This is completely irrational.

    Destroy his house, eat his food, or injure his body and I believe he would inherently know that such things, without out just cause, are in fact injust.

    Why? How COULD he? How would he even know, immediately, that you are a person? He’s never met a person before. He did not know, until that moment, that other people were a thing that exists. He would probably treat you like any other wild animal – do we consider it ‘unjust’ when a bear eats the picnic basket? Or simply an unfortunate incident?

    So, what you’re saying is that the Pope isn’t doing anything wrong by telling his followers to withhold from contraceptives…its just chemical reactions and electrical patters that are causing you to be upset about this?

    Just because it’s chemicals that cause a person to feel suffering, does not make that suffering any less real. I can’t believe I even have to say that.

    The evidence of the invisible world is in your very words about how you feel about Christianity, and the meaning you assign to them, for example.

    The ‘invisible world’? You mean the one that would cease to exist the moment we did? The one that only exists as concepts in the minds of thinking creatures? That’s not evidence for anything except the meanings we assign to our own thoughts.

    And yet the founding fathers of that line thoroughly believed that Christianity was necessary in their society.

    No. No, no, no. If you actually read the context of those statements, you will see that some of them believed that some of the moral teachings that were taught at the time by Christianity were important to that society. They believed that a moral framework was necessary, and some of them even believed that Christianity, as it was practiced in that time, in the absence of a proper education, could provide teachings that would establish that moral framework.
    At no point did they ever say that believing that a magical Jewish carpenter rose from the dead was actually necessary or useful to society – except the ones that actually believed that that happened, who were the small minority. And every single time any of the religionists in Congress tried to get God language put into the constitution, it was voted down. The same thing happened when the constitution arrived at each state for ratification – the religionists voted for God language, the God language was voted down.
    Whatever their personal beliefs, both the founding fathers and the vast majority of state politicians believed that God had no place in the origin of our country – that it was man that gave itself the authority to establish our country in the way that it was. They may have believed in a creator (and they used this very vague term ‘creator’ intentionally, so that it excluded no one, even atheists) and believed that their rights originated in their creation – but they knew that establishing these rights into a legal framework was our responsibility, and no One was going to do it for them. In this, they were the opposite of Christians – they did not wait for a Messiah to show them the way, they did not ask for a magical revelation to give them guidance. They worked out, through reason and argument and trial and error, the best method that they could come up with for creating a country. There were false starts and changes made along the way and long after, but they got it done.

    And if the founding fathers really wanted religion to be marginalized or shut out completely, they would not have included in the first amendment that all men would have the right to the free exercise of religion without government interference.

    And now YOU are perhaps guilty of cultural relativism. Can you not be aware that America was the very first nation with no state religion? That the mere fact that they set up a nation where you HAD freedom of religion WAS marginalizing religion, because for the first time, it was not compulsory? This was a HUGE deal at the time and a lot of religionists were really upset about it.

    That means that a candidate for office can clearly state his religious preference

    Not and get elected, in most parts of this country, thanks to your co-religionists. Not unless he is some sort of Christian.

    This country was not founded JUST FOR deists, agnostics, atheists, and everybody else who does express religious preference, but FOR ALL beliefs.

    You are exactly correct there. Why are you arguing with me, when you should be arguing with the theocrats that are trying to take over the country in your god’s name? Why aren’t you arguing with your fellow christians that support them? THEY are the ones that want to do away with freedom of religion. Not atheists! We are desperately trying to protect it!

    So, you’re saying that the Bible has no message of peace, yet its teachings are the basis for which people cling to it out of hope. Which is it?

    I’m saying, taken at face value, it has no message of peace – but that it’s words can easily be taken out of context to justify any position, even one of excellent moral quality.
    King took the story of Exodus out of context to justify his message of peace – because the original story was one of horrible slaughter and death. Bully for him, I say, as he accomplished great good. But the ethic cleansers of Rwanda used the exact same story to justify their atrocities – and they were actually being more faithful to the original text, as the bible is the oldest story we have of divinely inspired genocide. Which is the true teaching?

    So, you’re saying that Pharoah’s army was never drowned, but merely that they had to retreat? Beside the Egyptians never mentioning either the army drowning or them turning back, by what evidence did you come to that conclusion?

    If you’d actually read the words I wrote, you would see that I was merely conjecturing what was more likely, based on the way we already know how legends grow over time in cultures with oral traditions. I also clearly stated that I don’t, in any way, know.
    The actual archaeological evidence that we have suggests that the entire Exodus story is a fabrication, and that there was no flight from Egypt or conquering of the ‘promised’ land. And if you can’t trust an actual Jewish archaeologist from the University of Tel Aviv to be honest about something like that, who can you trust?

    Furthermore, religious tradition, taught by men, stated that good people were believers and bad people were everyone else. But not Christian Scripture.

    “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

    Quick! Is that Christian scripture? That teaches that unbelievers are dark and unrighteous? And that you shouldn’t be friends with them, you should stay separate?
    Once again, the bible teaches both sides, so you can pick and choose which position you’d like to hold. Useless.

    Also, I’m still waiting for an explanation for ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ Since witchcraft, is, of course, a myth, the only reason that a god could possible forbid it would be to give people like this hideous example of a human an excuse to torture and murder children. She is, BTW, not a Catholic, but a Pentecostal. Perhaps Pentecostals are also fake Christians like the Catholics? Or perhaps just her brand of Pentecostalism, that has churches all across Africa? Her position, that witches exist and they should not be suffered to live, comes straight from the bible with no careful interpretation needed. Do you, perhaps, have a refutation for HER Christianity that uses some bible verse? I don’t doubt it – after all, the bible can be used to support any position at all, good or bad. Except critical thinking.

  24. matthewbarraco says

    They were wrong. Platonic ideals exist only in our minds. They are mental constructs. They are not real things. Pure Christianity does not become a real thing because people believe in it, any more than imagining a ‘true’ perfect circle causes one to exist. I’m imagining a ‘true’ Platonic ideal of a dragon right now. Does it exist anywhere but in my imagination? No? Then what makes you think this is true for anything else?

    Likely it exists in your imagination. However, I would contend that power, nobility, and wrath; all characteristics of a dragon, are ideals. I suppose you may be correct is saying that ideals are derived from how we perceive the human experience, and develop as we receive more education, but then I must, like any rational person, obey my conscience. I believe that those ideals (among which are virtues) are both important and true.

    But we see that this is, in fact, the case. We only have the rights we fight for. We only have the freedoms we secure for ourselves.

    Which makes freedom more of an attained privilege than an inherent right.

    Atheism is the rejection of an idea. Atheism has no dogma, makes no assertions, and has no beliefs. It can’t save anything or anybody, any more than a-leprechaunism can save the world from leprechauns.
    The only reason atheism is even a ‘thing’ is because of all the religionists, running around and telling people that they can’t be anything but baby-raping murderers unless they have a god belief.

    You said that evidentialism supports things that are both true and helpful. Whether atheism is true or not, how is it, judging by the bold, any help to us as a humanity?

    Furthermore, you said that atheism has no beliefs. Beside finding it ironic that atheism is itself a belief that’s only dogma is that it has no dogma and that its only assertions are that there is no such thing as the divine, how can atheists protest the Pope’s policy on contraceptives in the first place?

    Of course, I don’t think you mean to say that atheists, as people, claim to not hold beliefs. I’m just pointing it out because, what seems like a little issue between you and I, could be devastating to society, as you have shown in your distrust toward Christianity.

    Freedom has these qualities because we give it those qualities.
    If we did not value it, it would not be valuable. Just like any other concept.

    I can’t help but believe that freedom was always important to people. In the days of Moses, freedom was important to the Egyptians, but the lack of freedom of the Israelites was also important to them.

    Religionists used to value killing anyone who exercised any sort of ‘freedom of religion’. Was freedom valuable then? To whom? Obviously not God, since according to your bible, he was the one mandating the killings. In the OT, freedom has another name: disobedience. And it is punished at every turn. You may claim that the NT values freedom – but this can only be true if your god had a drastic shift in priorities in that 500 years between them.

    Well, first off, I would like to bring up the scholarly research that has shown the possibility that the Pentateuch was written not in Moses’ time, but in Ezra’s time (c. 5th century CE.) The purpose in writing down the Pentateuch was to remind the Jews why they went into exile and that it was because of disobedience to the Law. That’s a snapshot of history, but it’s an important snapshot. What this means is that everything that is written in the Pentateuch is not the entire history of the Jews but moreso events in Jewish history that support the purpose in writing them down. That means that the creation story in Genesis 1 was not meant to be a truth statement about the nature of creation but was written in poetic prose to demonstrate to the Jews still living in Babylon that the Babylonians were wrong in saying that Yahweh was dead. That means that the story of Joseph bearing his betrayal and imprisonment was purposed to encourage the Jews to bear their exile with grace and humility so as to return to the promises of God and be blessed. All these were not written to declare how the world was supposed to function, unlike how many evangelists and atheists interpret it. It is not the end-all to all education and opposing views.

    Now, back to your accusation. Freedom was not disobedience, because the Israelites were freed from Egypt and that the Jubilee mandated that all slaves be released from their servitude, their debts forgiven, and their property restored to them. This law was never kept by the Israelites, whom often times wanted to return to bondage. Freedom was not disobedience at all. Freedom was the occasion for disobedience. And that brings up what Paul tried to point out was the entire purpose of the law: to show sin for what it was. The Israelites were not free, although they were not in bondage to the Egyptians any longer. They were, as Paul stated, slaves to sin. The law pointed that out and convicted it. Before the Jews were told not to practice homosexuality, it was considered right or wrong based on how each city viewed it (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah.)

    Paul went on to say that anybody that lived by the Law were condemned by the law. If the entire purpose of the law was to point men out to the fact that they were slaves to sin, then how is obedience to the Law ever going to free anyone? That was the conundrum that Jesus’ death and resurrection put an end to. Paul went on to say that the Law was our school teacher to lead us to Christ. The Law was meant to show just how unable we were to live righteously. Jesus offered freedom from that law THROUGH His death, as he had said, “The truth shall set you free.” (The Jews claimed they were free because they were descendants of Abraham, but they were truthfully slaves to sin and unrighteousness.) So no, God isn’t opposed to freedom. He’s actually for it.

    Sure you do. NOW. You’re the minority now – just like you were the minority in American government when the constitution was written. Point me to a single historical society dominated by Christians that valued freedom of religion.

    I cannot. I haven’t heard of any as of yet.

    The reason you are a christian, once again, is because you have made an assumption about how the world works, then looked for evidence against – instead of looking for evidence for your assumption.

    I disagree. The things I went through, the betrayals I have experienced, the forgiveness I received, the nature of meaning, and several other things I can’t help but believe do not seem like assumptions. I do not feel I have made a mistake in thinking that it was wrong for my first stepdad to have shoved my head through a wall for not brushing my teeth one morning. I do not feel I have made a mistake in thinking that my first wife cheating on me with my best friend was truly wrong. I do not feel like I have made a mistake in thinking highly of my current wife’s humility and devotion. I cannot, without losing my own ability to reason, undo these things I’ve learned just to ‘be safe and not be deceived.’ I have not experienced the infallibility of the pope, the perfection of the Roman Church, the manifestation of Jesus in the Eucharist, and many other things. These, I can reasonably examine without feeling like I’m being a complete idiot toward myself.

    The suicide of reason is not proper use of reason. If we must unlearn everything we have learned, then we must unlearn our ability to reason. If not, then I think we can stop beating this topic to death.

    There is no evidence that our lives have any meaning outside of our lives. Just a lot of people assuming that such a thing is true, and then asserting it as if it were a fact instead of wishful thinking.

    I find it odd that you protest Christianity, the pope’s policy on contraceptives, and several other things, and then tell me that there is no meaning outside of our lives and that you have no beliefs. Why do you care about the people in Africa? How are they impacting your life? If there is no meaning outside of our lives, then there is not truly anything wrong with Christianity or the pope’s policy toward contraceptives. It’s as if to say that when you die, the meaning of such things dies with you. I would feel silly for even thinking such a thing. The point in philosophy is to love wisdom; and the point of wisdom is to make better choices.

    That atheism should have a cause or to be taught is a contradiction to everything you described atheism was (the rejection of an idea.)

    Why does there NEED to be such a thing? Isn’t this life enough? Isn’t this world enough? I find so much more meaning in my daily interactions with people than I ever did acting inwardly, interacting with myself, and hoping that someone was out there magically listening.

    Are you proposing a belief or telling me something factual? Furthermore, I’m a Christian, and I pray. But I do not isolate myself and only interact with God. I see the point you’re trying to make, though.

    It would really depend on the person, wouldn’t it? I see them as individuals, myself, instead of ‘just a bunch of people what need jesus then they’ll be okay’. You tell me, how do you rationally explain that a ‘loving’ god decided they should die a horrible death without ever having really lived?

    Honestly, I don’t know. Atheism or any kind of ism doesn’t provide a good enough explanation WHY they should suffer. The fact that they do is the only evident thing. I do not look at that and conclude that God is unloving though. God can resurrect, recreate, soften hearts, and whatever He wants. The question is not whether I can prove that. I question is whether I can believe that. You can’t. I can. I feel no shame, nor does it show me to be a worse person because of it.

    Believe in it? I don’t even know what that means.
    Immaterial things are indistinguishable from non-existent things. An ideal is a concept. Concepts exist as thoughts in the mind. The mind is a material thing. All the thoughts inside of a mind are also material things. Therefore, concepts and ideals are material things – but only in the context that they are part of a mind. They don’t exist outside of minds.

    So, you’re saying that justice, happiness, righteousness, evil, peace, equality, freedom, and much more are not real…just concepts. What are we arguing about then? How can you say, at one point, that you only believe what is proven to be true and then call everything you believe conditional to your perception?

    If every mind on earth were to be extinguished, then the ‘idea’ of a perfect Platonic ideal circle would also cease to exist, until (and if!) another intelligent species evolved enough to imagine such a thing. There is no immaterial world, as far as any human can tell, for that Platonic ideal circle to exist outside of us. Or at least, there’s no reason to believe that there is such a thing, except the reason ‘I want there to be such a thing’, which is a pretty terrible reason.

    I suppose. However, I can say such a thing because right now I am typing this debate to you rather than being forced to be a sex slave to some wealthy criminal or counting the weeks that I have gone without a healthy portion of food. These things I can type because I have the privilege and convenience of doing so. I find it to be a disservice to those who long for such a life to say that such a life is only real to the one that perceives it. I won’t crush their hopes and dreams of a better life, even for the truth, especially while I enjoy the better life.

    You are incredibly wrong here – and how you are wrong depends on how you define sin.
    If you define sin as ‘disobedience to god’, then it wasn’t ‘discovered’, it was ‘invented’, by either your god (if he exists) or, more likely, by religionists who needed a better reason than ‘I told you so’ to make people obey.

    Nope. I define sin as a human condition. It is in our genetics; it is part of our programming. If you did something that was wrong, but never knew it to be wrong, could you really be doing wrong? However, if you did something wrong, and you knew it to be wrong, then you are not only wrong, but guilty for knowingly doing so. That is why I say that the commandment brought sin to life. The Law caused sin to flourish. It was there, right from the beginning. In our origins, according Genesis, the ability to be unworthy was always with us. That is how love is glorified. My wife is more astounded by my love when she notices that her offenses and disrespect toward me does not cause me to withhold my love from her. She would not be impressed, however, if she always deserved it. Your argument against God’s policy toward sinners is that there should never have been sin in the first place. And because of that, you are in essence arguing against the great expression of love. Your argument against something turns out to argue with itself. How can people properly know love without being unworthy of it? How can people comprehend grace if they don’t deserve something? How can people comprehend mercy if they do deserve something and don’t get it? All your arguments have been about proving things, while you have withheld your opinions on how life should be lived. The fact that the Big Bang happened does not argue that there is love. What is beyond the event horizon adds no more worth and dignity to the human race. That Christ forgave for our sins says far more than anything Mr. Hawking can utter. That is why Christianity is not dying out any time soon. Atheism cannot state a belief without first being an authority. (It resorts to an expression of personal opinion in hopes that others feel the same way.) So long as people value humanity and believe that life has purpose beyond what we give it, there will be Christianity. It is an odd thing. And if the numbers die down, they will again increase when injustice, inhumanity, and hatefulness increase.

    The fact that there are witch hunts, exorcisms, genocides, wars, sex slaves, and many more does not argue against divine justice. It actually argues for it.

    If you count ‘lustful thoughts of women’ or ‘thinking one bad thing about someone’ as a sin, then I utterly reject your assertion that either such a thing was ‘discovered’ and that it is ‘bad’. Thought crimes harm no one.

    If that were true, then there would be no such thing as ‘premeditated murder.’ Nearly all crimes start with a thought. God told Cain to beware of the thoughts he had, for they COULD take him captive and cause him to do evil.

    They are the essence of totalitarianism and the perfect opposite of freedom. If you define sin as ‘disobedience to god’ then freedom is, by definition, sin, and you count that as a negative discovery – which means you only pretend to value freedom and are in fact, freedom’s enemy. Unless you tell me how the concepts of freedom and sin can coexist and freedom still be a virtue. (And please don’t come back with ‘freedom to obey’ because that will prove you wrong.)

    I believe they are both true. Hence, my perspective on paradoxes. I believe both in free will and fate. It doesn’t make sense, but it would make even less sense to do without the other. I don’t like polarizing ideals and concepts. I’m not going to idolize Christianity so I can demonize atheism. I’m not going to idolize freedom so I can demonize slavery. And I won’t idolize reason so I can demonize faith. It’s unbalanced and narrow. I believe in free will because I am the acting agent, and I am a person. I believe in destiny, or fate, because I was born with sin in me, and I am unable to pry myself from it. It is in me. We can convict a madman of murder, although the murder was evidently influenced by his madness. But he still chose to murder and is thus punished for his crime. It doesn’t make sense. It just is.

    If you define sin, however, as realization that our actions can harm others – that is, morality – than I would count this realization as our most important discovery. Our realization that other people are also individuals, that they prefer to be treated in the same, positive way that we ourselves would like to be, is perhaps our greatest achievement as a species. Do you think that our ancestors were super nice to each other back before we were sentient? That it was the onset of sentience that caused our ancestors to suddenly competing with each other, instead of living in perfect magical harmony?

    I wouldn’t define sin as the realization of how our actions harm others, or morality. As I said before, I believe sin to be a condition that causes us to harm others and ourselves. St. Augustine once wrote about stealing, saying that he didn’t steal because he liked what he stole. He stole because he liked stealing. That paints a very good picture of what I mean by sin. It is not the action or the consequence. It is the influence. It is that fated brokenness about us that taints our free will. St. Paul once wrote that, although he loved what was good and cherished the Law, he did evil anyway. He called this state slavery to sin. We find then, that no amount of freedom can release us from this broken state of human nature. No amount of liberty, justice, equality, peace, democracy, capitalism, or whatever we desire will ever fix humanity’s problem. We will continue to hurt each other because it is natural for us.

    I would agree that civilization has jacked with our ability to live harmoniously. But civilization is impossible to avoid when you consider the growth of the human population. No matter how far we would move away from one tribe, we’d be moving closer to another.

    To assume that morality was given to us by the same invisible being that supposedly ‘gave’ us birth defects and eye-eating worms diminishes us, reduces us to slaves twitching at the whim of an uncaring monster.

    Dude, I don’t know what to tell you. I look around and see (and experience) just pointless and hateful injustice in the world that has never been deterred. No amount of slander and discredit can move me to say that it is all natural. I feel, and believe in my conscience, that the way people treat each other is not natural. It is unnatural. It is a level of hatred, animosity, slander, deception, infidelity, violence, and much more that causes me to look out with my jaw dropped at the effects of sin. I don’t blame it on religion, for there are good religious people. I don’t blame it on atheism, for there are good atheists. I don’t blame it on Muslims because there are good Muslims. I blame it on sin. I believe that sin is the problem and death is only way it will stop. Education can do much, so long as the economy (which is realistically going to fade once we run out of profitable resources) can sustain it. If you want an example of just how bad humanity can get in so short a time, take a look at the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century when the Barbarians took over. Our system is not impenetrable and we are not impervious to the same conditions Rome was subjected to.

    All that being said, I’m not going to waste my time channeling my frustration to other people or to God. I truly believe that sin is the problem.

    Nope. Humans pretty clever like that. It’s a constant battle between our recently discovered reasoning and morality, and millions of years of evolved competitiveness. In fact, it’s our desire for competition that has driven some of our greatest discoveries, which are then sometimes turned around and used for the better! You might even call it…. a paradox! (I wouldn’t, but that’s because you don’t understand that the word paradox refers to things that are actually impossible, not just seemingly contradictory.)

    So, you say that humans are clever for using our good discoveries for evil against each other? I wouldn’t call us clever. We’re the type of people that oppose God on a daily basis. That’s not clever. That’s stupid. (If one actually discovers God to be real, and really what the Christians say about him.) When I started reading eschatology, it struck me strange that Bible prophecy states that men will go to war with Christ Himself. Now, I was thinking, “How can that be? You’d figure that, if men saw Jesus coming out of the sky, they would automatically yield and render worship. But then, I met more and more atheists that insisted that no God exists, that he can’t exist, and if he does exit, they’d kill him all over again (Yes, those kind of atheists do exist.) It occurred to me, that the story of Jesus’ crucifixion made sense; at least in the aspect that he performed miracles in front of them to prove who he was, and then was accused of having a demon. Clever is not the word I would use to describe human history either.

    You’d figure that, after the Dark Ages, Europeans had evolved in thought. However, once economic conditions worsened, so did the moral condition of those societies. We were not clever because Hitler rose. And if Hitler wasn’t bad enough, there was Stalin. And the next madman will show his face in the next mad times, which are just around the corner if we can’t stop it somehow.

    I would use wonderful and fearful to describe humanity. We are wonderful in the fact that we love, and create art, and we cherish our creations, and that we discover wonderful things. We are fearful because we can as easily turn around and hate, destroy, grow apathetic to human suffering, and use our wonderful discoveries to oppress and be cruel. We are not that clever.

    Okay, so… you realize it’s a myth, right? Adam and Eve weren’t real people, the story is just adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh, just like the story of Noah. Right? Didn’t actually happen? Humanity evolved from a less intelligent ancestor, the smallest our population ever reached was about 10,000 (a lot more than 2), the Garden of Eden and the fruit and the serpent, just a big ole myth.

    You realize that I was using the story of Adam and Eve to speak about something else, right? In Paul’s account of sin coming to life when the command came, it was evident that he was drawing from the Adam and Eve account, but left that out. The story of Adam and Eve was to communicate a message about the nature of sin to the readers.

    That said, in the context of the story as presented in the bible, god didn’t say ‘you will eventually die’. He said, very specifically: “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” He said that they would die the same day. Not ‘begin to die’. To believe that god didn’t lie, you have to pretend that this very clear, unambiguous statement means something completely other than what it says. But it’s irrelevant, it’s quibbling over meaningless details, of course, because it didn’t happen.

    I think it did mean something else.

    Or, the authors were not the least bit interested in the perceived ‘truthfulness and faithfulness’ of their deity, and were simply interested in demonizing the pursuit of knowledge.

    I highly doubt it.

    Why would they care if anyone liked their god? They had a theocracy! ‘Liking’ god was meaningless, because obedience was what mattered, and disobedience was punishable by death! It makes perfect sense, in that context, that they would want a story that taught people that obedience was much more important than knowledge.

    I’d disagree. Pagans acted that way toward their gods. In the Psalms and Prophets, the intimate communication between the prophet and the Law Giver was recorded. The prophet Isaiah records God’s plans for the people. The pagans were not involved in such plans, but rather, everything seemed to be a big play where, at any moment the gods could interfere and change the course of the story to fit their entertainment (as was evident in the Odyssey.) In the Psalms and Prophets, God describes his desire for His people, and how he wanted to bless them. However, the Jews, as Paul pointed out, had a sacred commission that they almost immediately forfeited when they requested their own king so that they could be like the pagans around them. God gave them the Law also so they could get to know him and know that he is holy. As you read the OT, you’ll see the characteristics of God become discovered ONLY through the interaction of the people in their ability/inability to follow the Law. Then, when they did not follow the law, God would send prophets to communicate what kind of specific actions that God wanted the people to do (much to your displeasure I’m sure.) It became evident that the Israelites wanted to suck their thumb and have fun, while that is the quickest way for an entire people to become desolate and hasting toward their destruction. If you want an example, consider Greece.

    You are, once again, asserting the conclusion you wish to reach as evidence FOR that conclusion, and then disregarding any interpretation that doesn’t fit the conclusion you’re looking for. This is NOT reason.

    I believe you are misinterpreting because you bring an explanation to something that is outside of the text itself. Often times, Biblical texts don’t say anything for no good reason. A point is often being tried to be made. But, every argument you’ve posed was not a careful examination of the text and what suspect passages had in context to those entire chapters, but an event pulled out of context to support your argument against God. That is why I didn’t believe your interpretation was scholastic or holistic. That is why you called my interpretation of passage in Matthew as a ‘slippery’ one. It was by the Greek and evident upon careful study. All the authors wrote to a specific people, at a specific time, to address certain issues, and to communicate certain messages. Those aren’t communicating how terrible the God of the Bible is. Those passages are communicating how terrible the people in the Bible were. What you think of the text and what they were communicating are two different things, and it is evident. That is why I said you were misinterpreting. I did not mean to cause offense though. It’s evident that you’ve done your studies, but I wouldn’t say that you’re studies are very deep.

    If it IS a natural phenomenon, then it is, by definition, not a miracle. They could only find a natural explanation for a thing if there was such a thing to find. Therefore, they could only find a natural explanation for it if it was not a miracle.

    I guess I don’t understand by what you mean by miracle. What miracle could be noticed in our natural world that would not have a natural explanation? That’s been my point the entire time. If you can observe something, you can measure it.

    I can think of a dozen ways of the top of my head, but simply making it so that the dead guy only came back if you said ‘In Jesus’ name, get up!’ would be pretty conclusive – and only when the person saying it had been properly baptized. A natural thing shouldn’t care about whether or not you were dunked into a bathtub 30 years prior while magic words were said – but a religious miracle, I imagine, would.

    Oh, okay. Well, forgive me for my doubt. I’ve just experienced a lot of negativity to make me skeptical that people would react rationally toward a miracle. I have to ask though, wouldn’t you do a thorough investigation and treat it the way you do every investigation? And how would you know if it were from Jesus or from a deceiving spirit?

    But… isn’t that the point of what I’m trying to say? We need the miracle so that we can observe it, scientifically, and confirm, scientifically, that miracles are a real thing!

    You mean, you need to confirm that God is really working in the phenomenon, right? How would you prove that? How would the miracle prove that?

    No, I can’t!

    I’m skeptical because I’ve met a lot of rude, hateful, slanderous, and pompous atheists who made it quite clear that miracles were not enough. Check http://www.if-jesus-returns-kill-him-again.com

    Clearly, these people have anger and frustration, but are not content to funnel it to those that they truly have a problem with, but are intent on projecting that anger on all Christians. I understand that religious people do the same dumb thing. But then, that would cause me to understand the skepticism of those atheists that are subjected to it. I am a skeptic because of the people I have met. I figured you’d understand.

    It’s not a paradox, but a seeming contradiction – with a resolution.
    Christianity paints the world that exists as terrible for the purpose of making the immaterial things it promises seem better than they are. It promises great, beautiful things to come – but only by contrasting it against the awful terrible horrible things that are here now. It has to convince you that the things of this world are of little or no value, to make the promises of heaven so great in comparison.

    What, then, is the resolution? And, what can atheism do for those that are subjected to cruel injustices around the world? And how can it do so without falling into the same practice?

    They aren’t paradoxes, they are seeming contradictions. They are also fairly tedious and easily answered. Christianity is not some big amorphous homogeneous blob, and anyone who says so is just wrong. Some Christians have been condemned for refusing to fight to combat injustice towards others, and other Christians are also condemned for being ready to fight to maintain their own privileges.

    That’s an understandable response. I dunno. I agree with G.K.

    Not a paradox! Different Christians have done different bad things at different times in different places! This is not rocket science.

    But not different good things at all?

    Because it (sometimes) teaches that everything in this world is worthless!

    Hmmm. I wonder about this statement. I wouldn’t deny that Christians preached about the kingdom to come, but the early writers taught about an kingdom on earth, not in paradise somewhere in heaven. They believed that all things, which you say Christians deem are worthless, would be reconciled and ruled righteously by Christ. That is a biblical perspective on the kingdom of God, or as called in other places in the NT, the age to come.

  25. matthewbarraco says

           These painfully stupid over-generalizations are a huge distraction.  Christianity frequently teaches that this world is filthy and worthless and fallen.  Christianity sometimes teaches that there is ANOTHER world, a super-uber-paradise, that you can get to if you just obey in THIS world.  Some Christians live well – they are wealthy and want for nothing – and place their gratitude for this happy chance at the feet of god.  Some christians live utterly miserable lives – and most brands of christianity teach that it’s NOT god’s fault, it’s OUR fault, it’s THEIR fault that their lives are so miserable.  All glory to god, all blame to the pathetic, worthless humans.  How abject.  What a sorry, awful thing to teach.  But of course, not all denominations teach these things!  So are you going to point at the ones that teach something different and cry ‘Paradox!’ as if it was such a thing?  Or are you going to accept that the perfect, pure, ideal Christianity only exists in the heads of those who imagine such a thing, and that here in the real world, Christianity is as Christianity does, and no two groups of Christians do it the same?

    Is Christianity truly what Christianity does or is humanity truly what humanity does?  Anyway, I’m not going to dodge this argument.  It is evident, even as early as the first century that Christians hoped for a better world.  They willingly subjected themselves to brutal torture and execution.  However, they did so not in anticipation of escaping the world, but rather in anticipation of Christ returning, resurrecting the dead, and conquering THIS world.  They weren’t looking for an escape as much as they were looking for a coming.  I’m sure that there were some who thought of the body and anything physical as evil (Gnostics, Cathars, etc.), but it wasn’t help by the majority of Christians back then.  What happened between then and now is that wealthy Franks found a way to purchase church offices, gain support among commoners, and convince them that their money would help them get to heaven since their mortality rates were high anyway.  Good way to make money.  Another example would be Johann Tetzel’s fiery indulgence speech that convinced people that every time their coins hit a coffer, a soul was released from purgatory…all to fund the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  WTH.

           

     Obviously they were wrong.  Newton was a devout Christian.  Einstein was a pantheist.  So what?  Some critics were wrong?  I don’t care about weak arguments, no matter who’s making them.

     Word.

           

           How tedious.  Christians are all different.  Different Christians have done different bad things in the name of Christianity.  The problem is not that Christianity is all bad things at the same time.  The problem is that Christianity is SO poorly written in it’s holy book, that it can be used to justify any evil deed.  You give me an evil deed, I’ll give you a bible verse that has been used to justify it.

    Crime.  Disrespecting parents.  Orgies.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Blasphemy.  Adultery.  Oppression of orphans.  Just to say a few.

           The problem is that Christianity does not restrain it’s followers from using it as a justification for any evil deed.  The problem is that the magical, pure, ideal Christianity is a myth.  There is only the book and the people that use it to justify every wrong under the sun.  They also use it to justify every right in under the sun.  Except critical thinking.

     So, you’re saying that the Bible justifies both good and evil?  You’d figure if it was justifying evil, then it couldn’t justify good.  Is ice warm or are lies true?  Yes, it seems a paradox.  You say that Christianity has done all bad things at different times.  However, you never mention the good.  Then come around and say that it is used to justify the good?  What good?

           

    You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

     It means that I don’t have sufficient evidence (i.e. experience) to believe your stance on miracles.

           Yes, but I would call them anti-biblical.  As his opponents of the day reminded him regularly, the bible clearly condones slavery in both testaments.

     I disagree.  Jesus told the Pharisees, who were experts at the law, that they followed only the letter and not the spirit of the law.  They knew what their ‘Bible’ said, but they didn’t perceive what it was communicating.  While slavery, in the form of paying of debts or becoming a servant in order to survive, was condoned, forced slavery based on the free labor acquired because of racism was not looked highly upon.  It would have been common knowledge in Jesus’ day that such a hateful form of slavery was immoral and unjust.  The sad fact is that people didn’t care.  They liked their profits more than they liked righteousness, which was the same problem that the people in Britain had when Wilberforce, a member of Parliament, brought this issue to light.  The most obvious observation is that those men loved their wealth, and perhaps saw slavery to be the salvation of the British Empire, more than they loved Jesus.

           

    Oh, is Christianity the only religion with such stories?

     Now, you’re changing stories Stev.  Does the Christ cause evil or does he cause repentance?  By your previous arguments, you can’t have both.

           

    Ding ding ding!  Wow, usually I get that much sooner in these conversations!  

     I did recognize it, but I wasn’t going to get on the topic of how unforgiving and hateful you are, and yet find it okay to say the same for Christians.  Often times, the strongest argument for or against something is the character of the person arguing.  If I can’t trust you to be kind, forgiving, understanding, compassionate, open-minded, and sympathetic, I’m neither going to trust your argument against Christianity nor your argument for atheism.  But, since you can’t forgive Christians, obviously you have experienced the same.  I would encourage you to forgive them.  Hate upon hate doesn’t produce good.  Unforgiveness does not satisfy justice.  I’m not the world’s most perfect character, but I can forgive.

           

    Again, find me a religion that does not have such stories.

     Again, if the religion was essentially evil, then such stories wouldn’t exist.

           

       No, you repeatedly asserted that I claimed knowledge of things I have specifically explained to you that I don’t know, that I only doubt based on lack of evidence, that I see no reason to believe.  That is VERY different from me claiming to know for a fact that something is not true.

    No I didn’t.  I doubted that you would be convinced of any miracle if you saw it (and for legitimate reasons).  That was what my skepticism was about.  What you read, and what was actually typed are two different things.  I wonder if you do that with the Bible too.

           

    It says it right in the title – “This is the principle I use to retain my beliefs.”

     No, not justify any belief.  Justify basic beliefs.  It prevents stupid (yet true) statements like, “I think, therefore I am.”  That men should ever question whether they truly exist is actually opposed to the very purpose of reason and wisdom.  It is the suicide of both.

           

    Close.  It’s how people think at least.

           Because it’s designed to pass it’s own test.  What’s worse, it doesn’t actually require ANY knowledge to do so!

     I don’t need to prove to anyone that I exist and have a mind, since the two are essentially evident to myself and to many other individuals.  It is self-evident.  The soul used to be self-evident to people until they began to question it.  But they couldn’t deny the existence of something likened to the soul, so they changed the name and description of it to Reason or something else they thought highly of.

           

    You aren’t ‘hijacking’ the principle because it was designed to give believers an excuse to retain their cherished beliefs without evidence.  It was designed to give you an excuse not to examine your beliefs, because they must be true because you believe them already!

     Again, I don’t need to question that life has meaning or that the spiritual realm exists.  They are self-evident to me.  They may not be evident to you, and I don’t know what you would call such an obvious thing, but they are to me.

           This is like high school-level philosophy.  You can build ANY house of cards on this principle – all it takes is one dearly held belief that you can’t bear to let go, and you can put a hundred more beliefs on top of it.  At that point, you’ve got the weight of a hundred beliefs, all built on one belief, that you then use as ‘evidence’ for the 101st belief.

    I don’t call it high school philosophy.  If you can deduce one thing is true, say for example, I exist, then I can conclude that I am a physical being with consciousness.  If I discover that I do not exist, then I can’t conclude that I am a physical being with consciousness.  As silly as it may seem, its true.  When something becomes evident and convincing to you, you move on to the next thing.  You don’t stay there beating it with a stick until it is no longer true to you (and out of fear of being convinced.)  I believe in the spiritual and that life has meaning.  I’m convinced of such things.  So then I move on to find out what revelation there could be and what life truly means.  And I don’t stop until I am convinced.  But many see through a matter so much that, in the words of C.S. Lewis, they see right through it.  I find the philosophies of many modern people to be neither loving nor loving toward wisdom.

           All without a proof in the world, as you put it.

     Because such things are evident.  And also because many of us enter situations in which we must act on faith.  The man in a sinking ship a mile from the main land knows that the ship is sinking to fast for anyone to save him and that the current is strong.  Does he give up because he knows the odds are against him or does he swim anyway?  Does he strive to live knowing that he will likely die?  He has all the proof in the world that his life will end.  But does he give up?  There are some things that must be accepted before the proof presents itself if we ever want to grow as a society and live prosperously.  We must act on faith.  The rejection of faith is the rejection of hope.  And the rejection of hope brings about a depressing and pitiable life.

           

       Sure I can blame you.  You’ve never critically examined your core beliefs.

    Because such a thing would be stupid to do.  Pardon me for being rude, but I FIND NO REASON, to doubt whether or not I exist, or if life means anything, or there is such thing as a spirit.  These are so blatantly obvious and reasonable that I find I would be making a fool of myself for doing so.  I’m not saying that you are a fool.  If you feel like you made the best choice, then Bully for you.  But I feel like doing so would be unwise.

     You have no reason to believe them other than that you feel very strongly that they are true.  Then you used them as ‘evidence’ that further beliefs are true.  This is completely irrational.

     No its not.  A police officer that puts himself in harm’s way, knowing that he could leave his family behind, is not thought of as irrational.  He is thought of as a hero and a good man, because he put the lives of others before himself.  He never questions his value of justice or the worth of the world.  He is not irrational.  There are some things that are self-evident and true.  And the world is better because of such a thing.  The criminal can ask, “Where’s your proof” so that he can shoot down an argument that his deeds are truly wrong.  He can also say that God does not exist.  Then nobody can tell him he’s wrong.  For, if he truly believed he was wrong, he would have to make the hard choice of giving them up or lose his credibility anyway.

           

     Why?  How COULD he?  How would he even know, immediately, that you are a person?  He’s never met a person before.  He did not know, until that moment, that other people were a thing that exists.  He would probably treat you like any other wild animal – do we consider it ‘unjust’ when a bear eats the picnic basket?  Or simply an unfortunate incident?

     From our birth, we have an understanding of fair play.  My old pastor had a child less than two years old.  He gave something to Maxwell, then took it away, and it was evident that Maxwell was offended.  He knew it was wrong.  If a child less that two can get it, and stranger on an island can get it.  Unless you are asserting that he isn’t a person.

           

       Just because it’s chemicals that cause a person to feel suffering, does not make that suffering any less real.  I can’t believe I even have to say that.  

     No it does make it less real.  It makes the pain real.  Pain and suffering are two different things.  Suffering is a condition.  Pain is a sensation.  If chemicals are firing, then the suffering isn’t real.  There is nothing that says that the pain needs to stop.  There is nothing saying that happiness is of any importance.  Suffering is the condition of the human person.  Pain is the sensation of nerves firing chemicals to the brain.  Two different things.  One is physical, the other is not.

           

       The ‘invisible world’?  You mean the one that would cease to exist the moment we did?  The one that only exists as concepts in the minds of thinking creatures?  That’s not evidence for anything except the meanings we assign to our own thoughts.  

     I find it odd that you so quickly assert that the invisible world comes from our thoughts rather than our thoughts tuning in to the invisible world.  How is it that so many people can be so keenly aware of this ‘invisible world’ and yet you deny it so strongly?

           

       No.  No, no, no.  If you actually read the context of those statements, you will see that some of them believed that some of the moral teachings that were taught at the time by Christianity were important to that society.  They believed that a moral framework was necessary, and some of them even believed that Christianity, as it was practiced in that time, in the absence of a proper education, could provide teachings that would establish that moral framework.

    Oh, I wasn’t denying anything you just said.  I was just stating that the founding fathers weren’t as opposed to Christianity as you made it sound like.  In fact, that time that the Constitution was drafted was just a short period in which Deists were the majority.  The rest of American history, post-Constitution, was possessed by the majority of Christians.  If Christianity was so opposed, this would have happened.

           At no point did they ever say that believing that a magical Jewish carpenter rose from the dead was actually necessary or useful to society – except the ones that actually believed that that happened, who were the small minority.  And every single time any of the religionists in Congress tried to get God language put into the constitution, it was voted down.  The same thing happened when the constitution arrived at each state for ratification – the religionists voted for God language, the God language was voted down.

    Lol, wow.  I’m actually opposed to religiosity in government too.  I find that the only fit politician would be Jesus, because he would be the only one able to prove that the other politicians were lying.  I’ve had my share of debating with religionists, and I can sympathize with you.  It is very frustrating.

           Whatever their personal beliefs, both the founding fathers and the vast majority of state politicians believed that God had no place in the origin of our country – that it was man that gave itself the authority to establish our country in the way that it was.  They may have believed in a creator (and they used this very vague term ‘creator’ intentionally, so that it excluded no one, even atheists) and believed that their rights originated in their creation – but they knew that establishing these rights into a legal framework was our responsibility, and no One was going to do it for them.  In this, they were the opposite of Christians – they did not wait for a Messiah to show them the way, they did not ask for a magical revelation to give them guidance.  They worked out, through reason and argument and trial and error, the best method that they could come up with for creating a country.  There were false starts and changes made along the way and long after, but they got it done.

    Word.  The Constitution is a wonderful thing, which is why it survived so long.  I find it ironic that many liberals, who at one point cry out over the abuse of freedom, are most strongly pushing for socialism.  Do they not know that socialism means the either the destruction or the severe modification of the wonderful constitution?  Anyway, Constitution was great for religious people because it meant that the government could no longer dictate which denomination or which deity they should worship, and has contributed to the general health of the relationship between Protestants and Catholics in America.

           

       And now YOU are perhaps guilty of cultural relativism.  Can you not be aware that America was the very first nation with no state religion?  That the mere fact that they set up a nation where you HAD freedom of religion WAS marginalizing religion, because for the first time, it was not compulsory?  This was a HUGE deal at the time and a lot of religionists were really upset about it.

    That’s not what I learned.  I learned that one of the motivating factors for people leaving were the HUGE conflicts between monarchy’s telling Protestants and Catholics which religion they should embrace.  I would find it mentally exhausting to have one king as Catholic, forcing me to go to Mass on Sunday, then another king as Protestant, forcing me to denounce the Roman Pontiff, then another king telling me that I should once again align with the pope.  That was what Christians were freed from when they came to America.  The marginalization of religion was good.  EVEN AS EARLY AS THE TWELFTH CENTURY, protestants like Jean Wycliffe rose up and protested the fact that the Roman Church owned its own property, suggesting that the monasteries should be taxed by the government as government property.  If Christians were so upset about the separation of church and state, then Jean Wycliffe, Jon Huss, and many more would not have protested Rome’s investiture powers.

           

       Not and get elected, in most parts of this country, thanks to your co-religionists.  Not unless he is some sort of Christian.

     When atheists stop taking such extreme leftist positions toward social policies, then perhaps it wouldn’t be a stigma for atheists to show that they have no religious preference, or that they are even atheists.  People want a candidate that shares their same values, not one that will tell them that they are stupid for being the way they are and that they should change.  The majority of Americans are Christians.  At the moment, that is how it is.  I’m not saying that this country needs a Christian ruler.  What I’m saying is that the people will use their power of vote to vote into office someone whom they feel won’t screw them in the end.  That is why rich people like Republicans and poor people like Democrats.  Each social class knows that the other will get screwed when their politician gets voted in.  That is how it is.  It can be upsetting, but that is the system that our Constitution permits…which brings in the obvious observation that politicians are constantly trying to change the Constitution in secret.

           

     You are exactly correct there.  Why are you arguing with me, when you should be arguing with the theocrats that are trying to take over the country in your god’s name?  Why aren’t you arguing with your fellow christians that support them?  THEY are the ones that want to do away with freedom of religion.  Not atheists!  We are desperately trying to protect it!

     My peeps are not all alike.  Many take their freedoms for granted.  Some don’t.  Such people won’t be persuaded with words.  I’ve tried.  Tradition often trumps spirit in the majority because tradition is the typical way of keeping people in one mind.  They will undoubtedly lament over the loss of freedoms because they had always relied on the Constitution for such freedoms rather than Christ.  Their refusal to adjust, reform, and revive will be their calamity.  They need to know that they truly believe in what they say they believe, and that God is faithful regardless of the fact that we have nothing.  I’m not sad, I’m encouraged.  I believe in reform.  I don’t think that things should stay the same for too long.  That includes American Christian society.

    In the words of…guess who?…G.K. Chesterson:  “If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.  If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post.  If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.  Briefly, if you want the old post white you must have a new white post.”

           

     I’m saying, taken at face value, it has no message of peace – but that it’s words can easily be taken out of context to justify any position, even one of excellent moral quality.  

     Words that can be used either way are neutral words, meaning that they take no side.  How can such a thing be dangerous?  Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that the parties that use those words are either dangerous or safe?  It’s the incorrect direction of blame then.

           King took the story of Exodus out of context to justify his message of peace – because the original story was one of horrible slaughter and death.  Bully for him, I say, as he accomplished great good.  But the ethic cleansers of Rwanda used the exact same story to justify their atrocities – and they were actually being more faithful to the original text, as the bible is the oldest story we have of divinely inspired genocide.  Which is the true teaching?  

    First, this argument again points out the neutrality of the Biblical words, according to your argument.  Second, which peoples do you know were completely killed off by the Jewish people?

           

    If you’d actually read the words I wrote, you would see that I was merely conjecturing what was more likely, based on the way we already know how legends grow over time in cultures with oral traditions.  I also clearly stated that I don’t, in any way, know.

     Fair enough.  My apology.

           The actual archaeological evidence that we have suggests that the entire Exodus story is a fabrication, and that there was no flight from Egypt or conquering of the ‘promised’ land.  And if you can’t trust an actual Jewish archaeologist from the University of Tel Aviv to be honest about something like that, who can you trust?

    I’m not saying that he isn’t being honest nor more than I am saying that you aren’t being honest.  In your words, I think he is honestly mistaken.  I’ve read the arguments and heard the proposals.  I’ve also heard the counter arguments.  I have one of my own:

    I think it could be possible that the Egyptians held such a national embarrassment from their records, lest they assert that the God of Israel was greater than their gods, which would make the Israelite people worthy of ruling Egypt.  It was a racist issue.  So they could have instead painted the Israelites as troublesome rebels that were expelled from Egypt and up to Palestine.  Likewise, the only way America would ever admit that it was taken over is if it was actually taken over.  That is why we refuse to admit that Vietnam was a war and that we lost but rather call it a conflict that was mutually put on standstill.  It is mostly true what they say, that the history is determined by the victor.  No matter how great the Bible paints Israel during the days of Exodus, it doesn’t change the fact that the Egyptians thought little of them just as the Pharisees thought little of the miracle performing Christians of their time.  What was important to the Egyptians, as was important to the Jews and the Romans in all their mishandling of God’s people, was nationalism.  Nationalism won in the minds of men.  If it were not so, the Nazi’s wouldn’t still be a party that denies the holocaust or creates fables about Hitler.  I find it all ironic since Abraham had left his nation to create his own and the Christians lived among many nations, being revolutionaries against the spirit of Rome that was supposedly manifest in the emperor himself.

           

           “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

    In other words, if you hang out with thieves, you will eventually start stealing.  If you hang out with the godless…If you hang out with the worldly…If you hang out with the heretics…  In modern words, “You are who you hang out with.”

           Quick!  Is that Christian scripture?  That teaches that unbelievers are dark and unrighteous?  And that you shouldn’t be friends with them, you should stay separate?
           Once again, the bible teaches both sides, so you can pick and choose which position you’d like to hold.  Useless.

    It didn’t say don’t be friends with them.  It says don’t associate with them, meaning that Christians had no place in pagan festivals or ritualistic orgies. (As shown by the discussions among the apostles in the book of Acts.) It was counterproductive to the Christian faith.  If a man were struggling with his faith, would his pagan friends encourage him to stay with Jesus?

    It did not, however, insist that you should not show nonbelievers kindness, charity, love, for fidelity.  I have atheist friends whom I don’t go out drinking with or doing ungodly things with.  But I will spend time talking and laughing with them, and building them up (rather than tearing them down.)  Again, I think you misunderstood the purpose and context of that scripture.

           Also, I’m still waiting for an explanation for ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’  Since witchcraft, is, of course, a myth, the only reason that a god could possible forbid it would be to give people like this hideous example of a human an excuse to torture and murder children.  She is, BTW, not a Catholic, but a Pentecostal.  Perhaps Pentecostals are also fake Christians like the Catholics?  Or perhaps just her brand of Pentecostalism, that has churches all across Africa?  Her position, that witches exist and they should not be suffered to live, comes straight from the bible with no careful interpretation needed.  Do you, perhaps, have a refutation for HER Christianity that uses some bible verse?  I don’t doubt it – after all, the bible can be used to support any position at all, good or bad.  Except critical thinking.
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    Honestly, there are a few more problems wrong with this picture than the fact that she is Pentecostal.  Not only is she Pentecostal, but she is African, and she makes no small effort to use her heritage and nationality as a justification for her arguments, such as saying that Africans take children serious.  While that may be true, it is a tribal tradition.  I was read a fiction called Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe that was written in 1958.  In it, the author, who obviously has African heritage, talks about women who left twins at the forest edge to die of exposure because of their superstitious beliefs.  It has long been a problem of mine that culture insists on changing the religion rather than the religion changing the culture when the exact religion speaks out against things that the culture finds traditionally correct, such as infanticide.  An example of this is that Greek Orthodox church looks a lot like Greek culture, and the Roman Catholic Church looks a lot like the barbarian culture.  The thing that set Christians so distinctly apart from their pagan Roman fellow citizens was there refusal to associate with pagans and the pagan religion.  Unfortunately, there is always that problem that kings face when trying convert an entire nation to a different religion.  It would be much easier if he just changed the names and tweaked the elements.  And post-Constantinian Christianity looked very much like that.  Who else, than a king assuming a priest’s role, would march his army through the Rhine River to Baptize them, knowing full well that they were pagans?

  26. matthewbarraco says

    Hi Stev,
     
    I wanted to elaborate my skepticism and have some sources I wanted you to check out that would explain why I’m skeptical that miracles are sufficient evidence to support Christian claims.
     
    Go to youtube.com and search for “Miracles Prove Nothing” by sisyphusredeemed.  In it, he argues that, even if a miracle was proven to have defied the laws of nature, it still wouldn’t prove that the Christian claims of Jesus’ divinity and so forth are true.  It only indicates that something extraordinary happened. 
     
    Second, check out atheism.about.com/argumentsforgod/a/miracles.htm.  It supports the same argument that sisyphusredeemed states.  Even the Bible seems to indicate that miracles are not strong enough evidence.  Jesus performed miracles and people followed him…only because they wanted to see more miracles.  They thought very little of His claims.  In fact, once He made His claims, many people stopped following Him. 
     
    And, when Jesus did perform miracles, the Pharisees accused him of some other supernatural claim…that he was possessed by a demon.  There are many problems with using miracles to support claims, the main one being peoples’ disbelief.
     
    So, that is one argument for my skepticism.  If you were to see a man rise from the dead in Christ’s name, how would you know that you weren’t being deceived?  You already said that you don’t support the Principle of Belief Conservation, so you must question everything under the sun.  How would you ever be convinced, then?
     
    I’ll take you for your word though, since I don’t know you personally.  If you believe that a miracle is enough, then I’ll take you serious.  But only you.

  27. Stevarious says

    I believe that those ideals (among which are virtues) are both important and true.

    The question is not ‘are they important or true’. The question is whether they would continue to exist in the absence of beings who hold them.

    Which makes freedom more of an attained privilege than an inherent right.

    Hmmm…. ‘inherent’ right. No, I don’t see rights as being inherent. Where would they derive frmo? DNA? Physics? No, rights are a social copnstruct. Proper respect for rights comes from, of all places, self-interest – that is, in general, you are better off in a world (country/state/city) where everyone has basic human rights and no one is denied them. Freedom is not a zero-sum game – I don’t lose freedom when someone else gains it. I don’t lose rights when blacks become equal under the law. I don’t become a second class citizen when gays are given equal protection. My marriage isn’t changed if a gay couple gets married, and neither is yours.
    However, I’m demonstrably worse off in a world (country/state/etc) where one class is denied rights another possesses. If I am a member of the oppressed – well, obviously, I’m being oppressed. But if I am a member of the oppressors, then I am still supporting a world where oppression is standard, and one day, that oppression may be directed at me – or my children, or my friends, or someone I care about.

    Furthermore, you said that atheism has no beliefs.

    Atheism is the lack of a belief in god, just like a-leprechaunism is a lack of a belief in leprechauns. Atheism is a belief like bald is a hair color. Atheism is a belief like not collecting stamps is a hobby.
    Atheism is not a belief. I wonder how many times you have been corrected on this point, and continue to get it wrong?

    Beside finding it ironic that atheism is itself a belief that’s only dogma is that it has no dogma and that its only assertions are that there is no such thing as the divine,

    Atheism has no dogma. This is not a dogma, it is a lack of a dogma. Atheism makes no assertions. It rejects your assertion that there is a god as lacking in evidence.

    how can atheists protest the Pope’s policy on contraceptives in the first place?

    Because most atheists are also humanists, and derive morality from compassion. Some atheists are not very compassionate and don’t give a crap about dying Africans. Just like some Christians lack compassion and don’t give a crap about dying Africans. The difference would be the atheists aren’t out there actively supporting courses of action that will result in more dead Africans – at least, none that I know of.

    Well, first off, I would like to bring up the scholarly research that has shown the possibility that the Pentateuch was written not in Moses’ time, but in Ezra’s time (c. 5th century CE.)

    Oh, that it wasn’t written by Moses or any of his contemporaries is obvious in the text. What does Deut. 34:9 imply but a great passage of time since the events described?

    That means that the creation story in Genesis 1 was not meant to be a truth statement about the nature of creation but was written in poetic prose to demonstrate to the Jews still living in Babylon that the Babylonians were wrong in saying that Yahweh was dead.

    I wonder, then, at the fact that Jesus and the authors of Luke and Matthew seemed to think the story true? The authors could be forgiven their ignorance, but wouldn’t Jesus have known?

    Freedom was not disobedience at all. Freedom was the occasion for disobedience.

    Ah, so freedom doesn’t equal disobedience. Freedom is the opportunity to disobey. They are still free to obey, right?

    Before the Jews were told not to practice homosexuality, it was considered right or wrong based on how each city viewed it (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah.)

    I rather think that if God didn’t want some of his people to be gay, that he wouldn’t have created them that way?

    The Law was meant to show just how unable we were to live righteously.

    Soooo…. you know that the laws were unjust, because they couldn’t be followed by anybody?

    I do not feel I have made a mistake in thinking that it was wrong for my first stepdad to have shoved my head through a wall for not brushing my teeth one morning.

    You see, this is part of the (obviously intentional) problem of tying morality to religious belief. You get people thinking that they have to give up morality if they give up religion. It’s so twisted and wrong.

    If we must unlearn everything we have learned, then we must unlearn our ability to reason.

    Well… yeah. If you don’t question your ability to reason, how can you be sure that you are reasoning properly? Once again, humans are fallible. If you can’t recognize that human reasoning is fallible, what have we to even talk about?

    I find it odd that you protest Christianity, the pope’s policy on contraceptives, and several other things, and then tell me that there is no meaning outside of our lives and that you have no beliefs.

    Weakness of the English language. When I say ‘our’ lives, I’m referring to all 7 billion of us. We all matter and have meaning to each other. This is no small thing.

    Why do you care about the people in Africa? How are they impacting your life? If there is no meaning outside of our lives, then there is not truly anything wrong with Christianity or the pope’s policy toward contraceptives.

    It’s completely normal for humans to look at the suffering of other humans and wish to alleviate it. It stems from understanding that I would want to live in a world where suffering is reduced as much as possible, because someday, I may be the one made to suffer. It’s called compassion, and nowadays it takes a great deal of religion to stamp it out.

    It’s as if to say that when you die, the meaning of such things dies with you.

    Well, if we ALL died, that would happen. When I die all that will die is my perception of suffering. You know, because I won’t be able to perceive anything anymore.

    I would feel silly for even thinking such a thing.

    So would I, but then, you haven’t accurately restated my position.

    That atheism should have a cause or to be taught is a contradiction to everything you described atheism was (the rejection of an idea.)

    Most atheists are also humanists. We do these things – we care about these things – because we are humanists, not because we are atheists. And humanism and atheism mostly come from the same place – critical investigation of the world around us.

    Atheism or any kind of ism doesn’t provide a good enough explanation WHY they should suffer.

    I would agree – with the corollary that my humanism tells me that they shouldn’t have to suffer, and that we should do what we can to end suffering.

    So, you’re saying that justice, happiness, righteousness, evil, peace, equality, freedom, and much more are not real…just concepts.

    No. I am saying that they are real concepts that humans have adopted about how to interact. If humans (or any other type of thinking being) did not exist, than not only would these concepts be meaningless, but they would not exist. Their meaning is completely tied up in how we treat each other and they only exist inside our minds, so without us, they could not exist.

    How can you say, at one point, that you only believe what is proven to be true and then call everything you believe conditional to your perception?

    Not MY perception. OUR perception. I need the perceptions of others to confirm my own. My perceptions are easily fooled. And I don’t mean ‘proven’ to be true because it’s very difficult to ‘prove’ anything. I hold things to be true to the extent that they can be demonstrated to be true, and all these are subject to revision upon new evidence.

    I find it to be a disservice to those who long for such a life to say that such a life is only real to the one that perceives it. I won’t crush their hopes and dreams of a better life, even for the truth, especially while I enjoy the better life.

    I never said that there is no objective truth outside of our perceptions. In fact, I’m fairly sure there has to be. But I think you’re trying to distract from the issue at hand.

    Nope. I define sin as a human condition. It is in our genetics; it is part of our programming.

    Actually, I’ve read this paragraph about four times now and you don’t actually define sin at all. What is it?

    The fact that there are witch hunts, exorcisms, genocides, wars, sex slaves, and many more does not argue against divine justice. It actually argues for it.

    It certainly could argue for why you WANT there to be divine justice. But it doesn’t actually demonstrate it one way or the other.

    If that were true, then there would be no such thing as ‘premeditated murder.’ Nearly all crimes start with a thought. God told Cain to beware of the thoughts he had, for they COULD take him captive and cause him to do evil.

    We distinguish intent because that implies that a person considered their consequences and went ahead anyway. Whether this is ACTUALLY more immoral is a question for philosophers, but it’s obvious that humans instinctively see it as so, so it’s punished more heavily.
    That does not mean that thinking about killing someone is, in itself, immoral. It definitely means that Jesus was completely wrong when he said that thinking about adultery was exactly as bad as actual adultery.
    I mean, do you really believe that thinking about a crime is as bad as doing a crime? Should we lock people up for thinking about robbing a bank? Should we round up everyone who plays war games on their Xbox and charge them with hundreds of counts of murder?

    I believe they are both true. Hence, my perspective on paradoxes. I believe both in free will and fate. It doesn’t make sense

    Soooo…. you believe that god either intentionally created humans so that they would not be able to live up to his standards, and then punished them over and over and over again when they failed? Or you believe that god deliberately set the standards too high, and then punished them over and over again when they failed?
    I just don’t get how you can reconcile the repeated vicious atrocities committed by the god of the OT with the supposed love of the god of the NT. And I don’t get how you can, say, condemn the practices of the people of Jericho, when the god of the OT does things just as horrifying.
    Unless you substitute ‘cognitive dissonance’ everywhere you’ve said ‘paradox’, than it all makes sense. Doesn’t exactly paint you in a very good light though.

    I truly believe that sin is the problem.

    How do you blame birth defects on sin?

    So, you say that humans are clever for using our good discoveries for evil against each other?

    I’m not using ‘clever’ here as a positive descriptor. I’m using it as neutral term – humans are clever. We cleverly twist beneficial things to harm others. We cleverly twist harmful things to benefit ourselves and others.

    We’re the type of people that oppose God on a daily basis. That’s not clever. That’s stupid.

    Maybe if, you know, he was a better communicator.

    God gave them the Law also so they could get to know him and know that he is holy.

    Then he probably should have done a better job of writing a law that didn’t contain so much immorality. If ‘holy’ is a mixture of the moral and immoral, how is he better than humans?

    I guess I don’t understand by what you mean by miracle. What miracle could be noticed in our natural world that would not have a natural explanation? That’s been my point the entire time. If you can observe something, you can measure it.

    A ‘miracle’ would be a suspension of natural laws that are otherwise immutable. I agree that it would be difficult to prove that a particular event WAS a suspension of those laws, since the burden of proof would be so high. But not difficult at all, I imagine, for an omnipotent, omniscient being to accomplish. It’s not up to me to determine exactly the parameters that would establish a miracle. It’s up to the miracle worker.

    I have to ask though, wouldn’t you do a thorough investigation and treat it the way you do every investigation?

    That’s the idea.

    And how would you know if it were from Jesus or from a deceiving spirit?

    Again, that’s god’s problem, not mine. How do YOU know that YOUR experiences weren’t ‘a deceiving spirit’? Really, how could you possibly know? The bible could have been altered by deceiving spirits to make it LOOK like the Koran had it wrong, couldn’t it have? Once you believe that supernatural things can trick you at any time, how could you possibly know that anything you’ve ever experienced wasn’t some magical illusion?

    You mean, you need to confirm that God is really working in the phenomenon, right? How would you prove that? How would the miracle prove that?

    I leave these problems in the hands of the Almighty. If he exists, they should be trivial for him to solve. If he doesn’t, then it’s not a problem at all. (So far he hasn’t done much with them.)

    I’m skeptical because I’ve met a lot of rude, hateful, slanderous, and pompous atheists who made it quite clear that miracles were not enough. Check http://www.if-jesus-returns-kill-him-again.com

    Let me ask you a question. If you were somehow transported back in time to the Crucifixion, and given the ability to stop Jesus from being murdered the first time… would you stop it?

    Clearly, these people have anger and frustration, but are not content to funnel it to those that they truly have a problem with, but are intent on projecting that anger on all Christians.

    I have seen some pretty vicious things done in the name of the bible. And not just isolated incidents, either, but concerted, systematic efforts to harm non-Christians. I’ve seen it in small towns and I’ve seen it in state legislatures. I’ve seen schoolchildren turn on each other like rabid dogs because one of them said something blasphemous. I’ve seen and heard the stories of women who were raped by Christians because they were different – lesbians raped by men who felt that it might ‘fix’ them so they could be right with god, non-Christians who felt that if they were impregnated with christian babies that it would somehow convert them too. I have seen candidates for president say that ‘freedom of religion’ means ‘freedom to obey the christian laws in the bible’ and insist, with all seriousness, that they intend to change to laws of the land to conform to what THEY believe the bible says. And at this very moment, Christians in Virginia are passing a law that compels the state to mechanically rape any women who dares ask for an abortion. In fact, the way the law is worded, the moment she even suggests that she might want an abortion, the state is required to shove a device through her vagina into her uterus against her will and force her to look at the pictures. When the law was presented, some questioned that this might be the case and presented an amendment that said she had to consent to this procedure – and the Christians voted the amendment down. It’s very important to the Christians in Virginia that any woman considering an abortion be made to suffer for even thinking about it – and they are succeeding right this moment.
    How many of these people would do these horrible things if they were taught critical thinking skills and a humanistic morality based on reason and empathy, instead of ‘The bible is the word of god, just do what the bible says and everything will be fine’?
    It’s very easy to hold Christianity responsible for the things that Christians do in the name of Jesus. Are some of these things actually representative of Christianity? Well, how many Christians have to support a thing before it ‘becomes’ what Christianity is about? How many Christian churches have to teach a thing before it becomes a ‘teaching’? You tell me where to draw the line. Also, do me a favor and tell me why I should believe you over any other Christian what ‘real’ Christianity is.

    What, then, is the resolution?

    Well, obviously, the realization that the bible doesn’t actually teach what it claims to teach, and that it does so on false authority – so its claims to moral authority and cosmological accuracy can be discounted.

    Crime. Disrespecting parents. Orgies. Abortion. Homosexuality. Blasphemy. Adultery. Oppression of orphans. Just to say a few.

    Crime: Too vague – but in the spirit of the exercise: The book of Exodus. All sort of deception, murder, and even genocide are endorsed.

    Disrespecting parents: Matthew 12:47-48. If it’s okay for Jesus….
    Matthew 23:9 – Disrespecting your own father = sometimes okay, depending on context.
    Luke 14:26 – Not just okay but required to hate your father if he is not also a Christian.

    Orgies: I heartily disagree that this is ‘evil’ if all parties are freely consenting. But again, in the spirit of the exercise: Matthew 22:39. Bowm chicka wow wow….

    Abortion: There is plenty of evidence that god did not consider fetuses to be people in the old testament: for instance, Exodus 21:22-23 states clearly that causing a miscarriage in a woman only warrants a fine, where murder is of course punishable by death. And sometimes, God himself causes abortions by cursing unfaithful wives – so abortion is okay if the child is illegitimate? Numbers 5:21, 27-28

    Homosexuality: Of course, I don’t consider homosexuality to be evil. But Matthew 22:39 works just fine for it too.

    Blasphemy: I won’t even bother listing the instances of blasphemy that god is perfectly okay with as long as it’s not directed at him.

    Adultery: Hosea 1:2

    Oppression of orphans: Wow, really? What a softball. Numbers 31:18 – first, make them orphans by slaughtering their families. Then take the orphans and keep them as sex slaves. That’s an easy one.

    I like this game. Give me some more.

    So, you’re saying that the Bible justifies both good and evil? You’d figure if it was justifying evil, then it couldn’t justify good. Is ice warm or are lies true? Yes, it seems a paradox. You say that Christianity has done all bad things at different times. However, you never mention the good.

    If I say that ‘unbelievers must be brutally murdered’, then say ‘you believers must treat each other with fairness and love’, I have endorsed evil and good. Both of these positions can be endorsed by the bible. This is not a paradox. This is two different positions on two different subjects – one good and one evil – justified by the bible.

    Then come around and say that it is used to justify the good? What good?

    I assumed that was your half of the argument to make. Wouldn’t want to step on your toes. That the bible does teach some good things does not cancel out the fact that it teaches bad things. I myself am fond of Philippians 4:8 – though probably not for the reasons the author intended.

    forced slavery based on the free labor acquired because of racism was not looked highly upon

    But still never specifically condemned by the bible.

    Does the Christ cause evil or does he cause repentance? By your previous arguments, you can’t have both.

    *sigh* You need to stop thinking in such a binary manner. A thing can be a catalyst for both good and evil. Yes, people have had epic conversion stories and claimed it was because of Jesus. But you also see these claims in nearly every other major religion. There are two possibilities for these phenomena – one, that all religions with conversion stories are true. This is obviously impossible, as they make competing claims. Or two – there is something going on within the human psyche that makes these ‘spiritual’ conversions possible when conjoined with highly emotional events – events that can be triggered by well-known stimuli like low lights, heat, loud chanting, and a bunch of people telling you that this magical thing is going to happen if you just believe.

    Again, if the religion was essentially evil, then such stories wouldn’t exist.

    I never said that religion was essentially evil. Just almost definitely wrong, and possessing great potential for ‘evil’. Potential for ‘evil’ exists in everything, even things created for good. You could strangle a person with a seat belt. You could overdose on antibiotics and die. Within every single thing in existence is the potential to by used for harm.
    I don’t think that religion was originally intended for harm – religion was our first attempts at figuring out the world around us. I think most people still think it’s used for good, and I think it can still sometimes be used for good.

    My argument is not that religion is essentially or always evil. My argument is that the harm vastly outweighs the harm, and that it’s almost definitely wrong anyway, as it has no good evidence to support it.
    I said this like a week ago.

    But they couldn’t deny the existence of something likened to the soul, so they changed the name and description of it to Reason or something else they thought highly of.

    Something likened to the soul? As in, a part of us that continues to exist after we die? What does a soul do?

    Again, I don’t need to question that life has meaning or that the spiritual realm exists. They are self-evident to me.

    I never claimed that life has no meaning. All I said is that life has meaning to us, to each other. My life has meaning in the ways that it effects 7 billion or so other lives. Isn’t that enough?

    As far as a ‘spiritual realm’ – how can something for which there is, by definition, no evidence be ‘self-evident’?

    If you can deduce one thing is true, say for example, I exist, then I can conclude that I am a physical being with consciousness. If I discover that I do not exist, then I can’t conclude that I am a physical being with consciousness.

    This is (if you scroll up a bit) in fact one of the only two assumptions that I make about the world, because the opposites (that I don’t exist or that the world doesn’t exist) is untenable.

    When something becomes evident and convincing to you, you move on to the next thing.

    Or you could realize that you are fallible and re-examine your positions on the context of new information. Your approach renders you immune to new information that contradicts the beliefs you already hold.

    All without a proof in the world, as you put it.

    Because such things are evident.

    If you don’t have evidence for something, it is by definition not evident.

    Does he give up because he knows the odds are against him or does he swim anyway? Does he strive to live knowing that he will likely die? He has all the proof in the world that his life will end. But does he give up?

    Of course he doesn’t. Just because the odds are against you doesn’t mean you don’t try. But survival is not belief. This is a category error – you will not die if you don’t believe against evidence.

    The rejection of faith is the rejection of hope. And the rejection of hope brings about a depressing and pitiable life.

    Completely wrong. Faith and hope are two different things.

    Hope is trying for the longshot, even when you know the odds are against you. You accept that you may fail, but you try because either the rewards of success are great enough, or the penalty for failure is harsh enough, that the effort is worth the risk. The man swimming for shore does not give up, even though the odds are against him, because he has hope that he might succeed.

    Faith is assuming that the longshot is a certainty, because you want it to be. Faith is refusing to even consider the possibility that you might be wrong, as you have repeatedly done throughout this conversation. Faith is, instead of swimming for shore, just dogpaddling around, waiting for help to arrive from above. And if it doesn’t, well, god must’ve meant for him to die that day, and he’s going to heaven anyway so death isn’t really that bad. Why bother swimming for shore? God’s will be done.

    Sure I can blame you. You’ve never critically examined your core beliefs.

    Because such a thing would be stupid to do. Pardon me for being rude, but I FIND NO REASON, to doubt whether or not I exist, or if life means anything, or there is such thing as a spirit.

    Well, then, I’m not sure what to say to you. Why are you so resistant to a little self-examination? Are you afraid of what you’ll find?
    I examined these things because I wanted to know if they were true. I found that one was as close to definitely true as makes no difference, the second was provisionally true but not the way I used to believe, and the third… well, there’s no reason to believe that it’s true at all.
    Clearly, you feel that believing in them without examination is more important to you than whether or not they are actually true. You’d rather just assume that they are. I don’t understand how someone can hold these beliefs so strongly and yet not care if they were really true.

    A police officer that puts himself in harm’s way, knowing that he could leave his family behind, is not thought of as irrational. He is thought of as a hero and a good man, because he put the lives of others before himself. He never questions his value of justice or the worth of the world. He is not irrational.

    But he HAS evidence. He can see how the world is bettered by his own sacrifices and those like him. He can see how everyone’s lives are improved, even his own. This is not irrational.

    The criminal can ask, “Where’s your proof” so that he can shoot down an argument that his deeds are truly wrong. He can also say that God does not exist. Then nobody can tell him he’s wrong. For, if he truly believed he was wrong, he would have to make the hard choice of giving them up or lose his credibility anyway.

    Sure, if you assume that morality must come from divine commandment, instead of just realizing that moral acts are moral because they benefit everyone, and immoral acts are immoral because they cause harm.

    From our birth, we have an understanding of fair play. My old pastor had a child less than two years old. He gave something to Maxwell, then took it away, and it was evident that Maxwell was offended. He knew it was wrong. If a child less that two can get it, and stranger on an island can get it. Unless you are asserting that he isn’t a person.

    A two year old has spent two years around other people. I don’t know what else to tell you here, you’re clearly not getting it.

    No it does make it less real. It makes the pain real. Pain and suffering are two different things. Suffering is a condition. Pain is a sensation. If chemicals are firing, then the suffering isn’t real. There is nothing that says that the pain needs to stop. There is nothing saying that happiness is of any importance. Suffering is the condition of the human person. Pain is the sensation of nerves firing chemicals to the brain. Two different things. One is physical, the other is not.

    Suffering is a perception of ongoing pain, or injustice, or both, or worse. It’s still in the brain. It’s only a ‘condition’ because we assign it this condition. This is why things like the Holocaust are possible – how did the soldiers not see the suffering of the Jews under their ‘care’? Because they were carefully conditioned not to see the Jews as ‘human’, and therefore perceived no suffering.

    I find it odd that you so quickly assert that the invisible world comes from our thoughts rather than our thoughts tuning in to the invisible world. How is it that so many people can be so keenly aware of this ‘invisible world’ and yet you deny it so strongly?

    One requires considerably less assumptions than the other. Occam’s Razor. This ‘keen shared awareness’ is simply our shared experiences as humans. This is why people who don’t share experiences are not able to empathize – how a millionaire banker can throw McDonald’s job applications at a crowd of homeless teenagers. If this ‘awareness’ is so ‘keenly shared’, how come everybody doesn’t share it?

    When atheists stop taking such extreme leftist positions toward social policies, then perhaps it wouldn’t be a stigma for atheists to show that they have no religious preference, or that they are even atheists.

    Or, the religionists could realize that their religious beliefs have no place in public policy, and submit to merely policing their own instead of insisting on imposing their irrational beliefs on others.

    The majority of Americans are Christians.

    Bah. Are Catholics Christians or not? I’m tired of this little bait and switch, where Catholics are decried as not really Christians most of the argument, then counted as ‘part of the flock’ when it’s time to determine the majority.

    Words that can be used either way are neutral words, meaning that they take no side. How can such a thing be dangerous?

    As you pointed out to me, the bible is not one single collection of words, but a bunch of books smashed together. Some parts of some of these books are evil and are used that way. Some parts of some of these books are good and are used that way. Lets not be silly and pretend that you can just ‘average them out’.

    And it’s dangerous because it’s regarded as an authority – and worse, a religious one, so most people won’t argue against it out of respect.

    Second, which peoples do you know were completely killed off by the Jewish people?

    The Amalekites?

    I’m not saying that he isn’t being honest nor more than I am saying that you aren’t being honest. In your words, I think he is honestly mistaken.

    Fair enough.

    So they could have instead painted the Israelites as troublesome rebels that were expelled from Egypt and up to Palestine.

    You are aware that Palestine was actually ruled by Egypt in the time that this is supposed to happen? Your assertion is that Egypt could have allowed these rebels to take over part of it’s own territory?

    Honestly, there are a few more problems wrong with this picture than the fact that she is Pentecostal. Not only is she Pentecostal, but she is African, and she makes no small effort to use her heritage and nationality as a justification for her arguments, such as saying that Africans take children serious. While that may be true, it is a tribal tradition.

    I don’t know if you realize it, but you’re still dodging the question. Why does the bible condemn an imaginary crime? Why does the bible condemn to death people who are, by definition, innocent of the crime they have been accused of?

    Go to youtube.com and search for “Miracles Prove Nothing” by sisyphusredeemed. In it, he argues that, even if a miracle was proven to have defied the laws of nature, it still wouldn’t prove that the Christian claims of Jesus’ divinity and so forth are true. It only indicates that something extraordinary happened.

    Which is why I was so very careful to say that the miracle not only had to occur, but tied into a specific religion in a fundamental way. An unattributed miracle simply proves that the laws of physics can be violated, and suggests that the miracles in the bible could have happened. Whereas a miracle that seems functionally tied into the specific claims of a particular religion can be evidence for that particular religion’s truth value.

    Jesus performed miracles and people followed him…only because they wanted to see more miracles. They thought very little of His claims. In fact, once He made His claims, many people stopped following Him.

    Well, possibly because they were superstitious peasants who believed in demons and ghosts and thought that magical stuff happened ALL THE TIME. So once he started preaching heresies, they took off in fear for their lives and souls.
    Assuming of course that any of it happened. It’s far more likely that the miracle stories were added later. Like John Frum, or Sabbatai Zevi, or Paul Bunyan, or Gilgamesh, or any of thousands of other historical figures about whom magical stories were made up after the fact.

    If you were to see a man rise from the dead in Christ’s name, how would you know that you weren’t being deceived? You already said that you don’t support the Principle of Belief Conservation, so you must question everything under the sun. How would you ever be convinced, then?

    I don’t know for certain how I would be convinced. But as I said, if your god wanted to convince me, and is both all-knowing and all-powerful, it shouldn’t be a problem for him.

    If you believe that a miracle is enough, then I’ll take you serious. But only you.

    I imagine that any atheist could be convinced that miracles exist by the presence of miracles. That bar isn’t very high.

  28. matthewbarraco says

    Atheism makes no assertions. It rejects your assertion that there is a god as lacking in evidence.

    Got it. So atheism makes no assertions, but atheists sometimes do?

    I found an interesting link I wanted to talk about, as it kind of puts all the other conversations on hold. Please read the entire article, because the fullest description is given in the latter part.

    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/28/tomb-jonah-discovered-finder-lost-tomb-jesus-claims/?intcmp=features

    I’m still looking into this. Apparently a ossuary, with highly Christian symbols including a drawing of Jonah in a well, was discovered in a tomb approximately 200 ft. away from the controversial ‘Tomb of Jesus’ in Jerusalem, under a modern condominium. The ossuary dates back to the kinds used between 20 BCE and 70 CE. Also, a cross and many fish, which were typical symbols in Christianity, were discovered on the ossuary. Interestingly enough, the inscriptions, two of three which were legible, were written in Greek stating “Jehovah will raise us.”

    There are so many uncertainties that we don’t have enough information about. Among, did the tomb belong to someone who actually witnessed and followed Jesus or did he receive second hand information? It’s also not necessarily Christian, since Jesus name is not mentioned on the ossuary.

    However, I wanted to bring this up to you because of your skepticism about a miracle and its affiliation with a specific religious claim. To defend the possibility that Jesus did resurrect and that this ossuary is from a Christian family, I wanted to quote the canonical gospels:

    “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’” (Luke 11:29)

    “But he answered them, ‘An evil generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:29)

    “‘Evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ So he left them and departed.” (Matthew 16:4)

    “For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” (Luke 11:30)

    It was evident that the readers of the canonical gospels understood this sign of Jonah to represent the resurrection of Jesus, whose main message to the Jews was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” That walks side by side with Jonah, who was spit up from the belly of a whale so that he could pronounce God’s judgment on Nineveh with the exception that they repent of their wickedness. Jesus scolded the people of his time for being more wicked that those in Nineveh because of their unrepentance. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus was a beacon of hope for the repentant but sign of judgment for the unrepentant. Evidently he was talking about the Pharisees and scribes.

    Furthermore, it might lead credence that the person whose remains were laid in the ossuary was alive during or a little after Jesus’ ministry, as claims were made the Jesus died around 30-33 CE.

    What do you make of this information?

  29. Stevarious says

    Got it. So atheism makes no assertions, but atheists sometimes do?

    You’ve got it.

    What do you make of this information?

    That it’s entirely possible that some people believed that Jesus rose from the dead?
    Once again, it can only be evidence (if it is in fact evidence even of this) that some people believed that a miracle occurred. It is not evidence that a miracle occurred.

    People believe right now that Joseph Kony can perform miracles. He’s not even dead. You can, right now, talk to people – even people he has greatly harmed – who will say he has miraculous powers.

    It wouldn’t matter if you found a letter, dated to exactly 32 AD, that said “I watched a guy named Jesus raise another guy named Lazarus from the dead!” – all it would prove is that some people probably believed that this happened. It would not be evidence that it happened.

    I don’t understand why this distinction is so hard to understand. Things do not become any more true if more people believe a thing is true. That people believe a thing to be true is never evidence for it’s truthfulness.

    (Also, you need to stop reading Fox News. They are incompetent. Did you notice the caption on the picture? “A CGI-enhanced image of “Jonah and the Whale,” an engraving that has led some Biblical scholars to conclude that a tomb in Jerusalem is the last resting place of the prophet Jonah.”
    Absolute idiocy. Tomb of Jonah? Please. Notice there’s no by-line on the story? I wouldn’t want my name tied to that piece of trash reporting either. Try here instead – much more actual information, much less ridiculous speculation.)

  30. matthewbarraco says

    That it’s entirely possible that some people believed that Jesus rose from the dead?

    Once again, it can only be evidence (if it is in fact evidence even of this) that some people believed that a miracle occurred. It is not evidence that a miracle occurred.

    I understand that.  I was asking if it made a stronger argument.  I tried hard not to make any assertions about the information. Let me ask you a question though.  If I showed you over 2,000 years of fulfilled prophecy from the Bible, asked you to research against my arguments, and prevailed, would you consider that evidence?

    People believe right now that Joseph Kony can perform miracles. He’s not even dead. You can, right now, talk to people – even people he has greatly harmed – who will say he has miraculous powers.

    It wouldn’t matter if you found a letter, dated to exactly 32 AD, that said “I watched a guy named Jesus raise another guy named Lazarus from the dead!” – all it would prove is that some people probably believed that this happened. It would not be evidence that it happened.

    Okay.  I don’t understand how you can argue that there is more evidence of what Socrates said and not Jesus, and then come and say that it was not evidence that it happened.  If you deny a first century eye witness account, then you must deny that Socrates said anything at all and assume the possibility that someone made up this Socrates character.

    I don’t understand why this distinction is so hard to understand. Things do not become any more true if more people believe a thing is true. That people believe a thing to be true is never evidence for it’s truthfulness.

    It’s not hard to understand.  I think you are overreacting Stev.

    (Also, you need to stop reading Fox News. They are incompetent. Did you notice the caption on the picture? “A CGI-enhanced image of “Jonah and the Whale,” an engraving that has led some Biblical scholars to conclude that a tomb in Jerusalem is the last resting place of the prophet Jonah.”

    Absolute idiocy. Tomb of Jonah? Please. Notice there’s no by-line on the story? I wouldn’t want my name tied to that piece of trash reporting either. Try here  instead – much more actual information, much less ridiculous speculation.)

    Hence, why I didn’t make any assertions.  Besides that, I’m not the slanderous type.  I could say CNN is full of hypocrites, but that would be unjust, biased, and injurious. We have discovered in the course of our discussions that, while there are some who profane Christ’s name, there are many that don’t.  And while there are some atheists that make assertions, there are many that don’t.  It could be said that many popes have been blasphemous, but it would also be true that some have been genuinely interested in the people they serve.  Likewise, if Fox News is full of right-wing conservatives (if such a thing offends you), it can’t be said that all their news is false.  We talk about truth, love of wisdom, and honesty.  I would like that to keep happening.

  31. Stevarious says

    If I showed you over 2,000 years of fulfilled prophecy from the Bible, asked you to research against my arguments, and prevailed, would you consider that evidence?

    You’d have to show me a different bible than the one that exists. The ‘prophecies’ in that one range between sketchily vague (and therefore useless) like the bits where Jesus supposedly prophesies that Jerusalem will be destroyed (useless because, of course, they could only be interpreted to mean that after the fact) to prophecies that were deliberately misinterpreted by the author of Matthew to give his work more legitimacy. (Mat 1:23, 2:15, 2:23, 21:4, 27:9. Matthew 2:5-6 is the most egregious example – the author changes the wording of Micah 5:2 to make it seem like the prophecy was about the town of Bethlehem, instead of the clan of Bethlehem Ephratah. Liar liar pants on fire, Matthew – IF that’s your REAL name!) Then there’s the verses in the NT where it’s claimed that a particular prophecy was fulfilled when no such prophecy exists (John 5:46, 7:38, 19:33, Luke 24:44-46, Mat 24:54-56). And of course there’s a wealth and multitude of failed prophecies in the bible to pick from, OT and NT. (Gen 4:12, 26:4, 46:3, Josh 1:3-5, 8:28, 2Sam 7:13-16, 2Kin 22:20, Isa 19:5, Eze 30:12, Zec 9:8, Mat 16:28, 23:36, 24:34, 26:64, Mark 9:1, 13:30, 14:62, Luke 9:27, 21:32, John 1:51, 21:22 are just a few examples.)

    But do you know what my favorite bible mis-prophecies are? Jeremiah 22:30, and John 10:16. The passage in Jeremiah has god promising that none of Jeconiah’s descendants will ever rule on the throne of David or in Judah. Yet Jesus is listed in Matthew as a descendant of Jeconiah! So did god lie in Jeremiah, or is the geneology of Matthew wrong – or is Jesus not going to inherit the throne of David like it says in Luke 1:32?
    John 10:16, in effect, claims that there will only ever be one denomination of Christianity. That it’s not true is trivially, laughably obvious, and the only way to support it is to commit the No True Scotsman fallacy. Any book that has built in logical fallacies is not the book for me.

    Now I’m sure you might have some clever, convoluted rationalizations to explain away some of these obvious conflicts. But here’s the thing. If a prophecy has to be ‘explained away’, it’s a crappy prophecy. If you have to pretend that words don’t actually mean what they mean (Matthew 1:23), or take them completely out of context (John 12:25), or just make excuses for stuff that was obviously made up out of whole cloth (Matthew 2:23) then it is not a legitimate book of prophecy.

    You make the mistake of assuming that this work hasn’t been done already. Yes, there are some prophecies in the bible that seem to be fulfilled, under certain interpretations. But there’s two problems with even that. One, most of the prophecies that do appear to have been fulfilled are fulfilled in the same book that they are made, or in a book by the same author. That’s about as convincing as a prophecy made in The Fellowship of the Rings being fulfilled by the end of The Return of the King – that is, not very. Two, for a book that’s supposedly the word of god, a large percentage of failed prophecies suggests very strongly that any that DID succeed were more a result of luck or deliberate action to fulfill a prophecy that the fulfiller already knew about. Matthew 21:4 is a perfect example of this – if Jesus already knew that there was a prophecy about the Messiah riding into Jerusalem on an ass, then there’s nothing magical in the least about him choosing to ride into Jerusalem on an ass. And the book clearly states that he performed this action to fulfill the prophecy. Not compelling at all.

    So, yes. If you had a book of prophecy that could be demonstrated that the prophecies were true and there was no explanation for how it could have happened, then I would consider that evidence. But that condition rather thoroughly disqualifies the bible and Christianity.

    The only way you can read the bible and come to the conclusion that it was a book of successful prophecies is if you held that conclusion before you opened the book, and only went looking for things in the book that confirm the belief you already have.

    This is what Christians do. Mountains of paper have been pissed away at this exercise. Millions of man-years wasted. The progress of humanity, stunted for centuries by this useless, pointless activity.

    I could say CNN is full of hypocrites, but that would be unjust, biased, and injurious.

    You could say that. But the question isn’t whether it’s ‘unjust, biased, and unjurious’. The question is, is it true.

    We have discovered in the course of our discussions that, while there are some who profane Christ’s name, there are many that don’t.

    And there’s some that find the concept of ‘profaning a name’ to be meaningless. I’m honestly not sure what you’re getting at here.

    It could be said that many popes have been blasphemous, but it would also be true that some have been genuinely interested in the people they serve.

    Probably. I’m not interested in intent. Intent isn’t magic. If you intend to help people, and you end up hurting people, you don’t get a pass because your intentions were good. Don’t christians have a saying about intentions as pavement?

    Likewise, if Fox News is full of right-wing conservatives (if such a thing offends you)

    There is nothing inherently offensive about being a ‘right-wing conservative’. It’s a different point of view than mine, obviously, typically with vastly different priorities. Some of those priorities I find incomprehensible, and some genuinely shocking in their lack of concern for other humans.
    But it’s actions that offend me, not opinions. I don’t care if a person is opposed to, say, contraception (just to pick a recent issue). Fine, if you don’t like it, don’t use it. But I find it offensive when a person acts to limit another person’s access to contraception because they think their belief that contraception is wrong is more important than another person’s belief that contraception is okay. That sort of arrogant and authoritarian behavior is incredibly offensive to me, and worse so when a person uses lies and underhanded tactics to further these goals.

    it can’t be said that all their news is false.

    Well of course not every single thing they say is false. Call em what you like, but stupid they are not (at least, most of the time).
    That said, they never issue retractions when they blatantly lie (like with the death panel manufactuversy) or when they photoshop pictures of their enemies to make them look more sinister. Amusingly enough, you can tell when they accidentally tell the truth because that’s the only time they’ve ever issued a retraction.

    We already know, thanks to Akre-Wilson v Fox Television that Fox will defend in court their right to invent and report lies as news here in the US. (The decision against Akre and Wilson read, and I quote, “the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a ‘law, rule, or regulation,’ it is simply a ‘policy.’ Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.”)
    Do you know why Fox News – or rather News Corp, their owner – couldn’t open a network in Canada? In Canada, unlike in the US, it’s against the law to lie and call it news. News Corp is currently working very hard to overturn that law in Canada. It’s a blanket admission that they cannot function in an environment where they are required to not knowingly lie.

    All in all, while obviously you can sometimes get news from Fox, for the most part they are simply untrustworthy. They lie when it will benefit them, and demonstrably have no compunctions about it. Their factual standards are very low (tomb of Jonah indeed) and are much more concerned with pandering to their audience than they are reporting facts. Jon Stewart, always funny, has a rundown of some of the worst lies Fox has spread and never retracted, including PolitiFact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ award two years in a row! (Notice that when Stewart is wrong, he offers a retraction – and he’s very open about his bias, unlike Fox who consistently tries to pretend they have none.)

    We talk about truth, love of wisdom, and honesty. I would like that to keep happening.

    Then you should probably avoid linking to Fox News. They have falsehoods, love of ignorance, and liars there.

  32. matthewbarraco says

    Now I’m sure you might have some clever, convoluted rationalizations to explain away some of these obvious conflicts. But here’s the thing. If a prophecy has to be ‘explained away’, it’s a crappy prophecy. If you have to pretend that words don’t actually mean what they mean (Matthew 1:23), or take them completely out of context (John 12:25), or just make excuses for stuff that was obviously made up out of whole cloth (Matthew 2:23) then it is not a legitimate book of prophecy.

    I do have explanations for those passages, but they are backed up by Scripture. I don’t see what is so offensive about John 12:25. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates (or loves less) his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

    Jesus wasn’t explaining rocket science. People too wrapped up in their lives and their own happiness will lose both regardless. But those who invest in a better life in the age to come will love their lives and happiness less than the lives and happiness of others in this life. I don’t find this confusing or offensive.

    And Matthew 2:23. Ah, the ‘where’s Nazareth?’ argument. First, I would like to argue that it would have made no sense for the author to add that in if Nazareth wasn’t an actual place. It would have been hard to argue that Jesus was from Nazareth; or was a Nazarene.

    The whole point of Matthew was the Jewish Christians believed in the Messianic prophecies so as to not revert back to Judaism and the oppression of that (as you displayed, offensive) Mosaic Law.

  33. matthewbarraco says

    Oh, and Matthew 1:23 is up for grabs. Jews say that the word to describe virgin means young woman, not necessarily stating that she had never had sex. That’s a cop-out in my opinion. Teens got pregnant all the time. It would have been no sign at all if a teen got pregnant. Thus the prophecy connected to Isaiah 7.10-14 was not fulfilled in Ahaz’s time, since it was not noted that a virgin birth of the house of Judah or any miraculous sign occurred for Ahaz. The author of Matthew draws on the mysterious birth of Jesus to, again, capitalize on the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies.

    Anyway, I’ll get back on track in my next post.

  34. matthewbarraco says

    So, yes. If you had a book of prophecy that could be demonstrated that the prophecies were true and there was no explanation for how it could have happened, then I would consider that evidence. But that condition rather thoroughly disqualifies the bible and Christianity.

    The only way you can read the bible and come to the conclusion that it was a book of successful prophecies is if you held that conclusion before you opened the book, and only went looking for things in the book that confirm the belief you already have.

    This is what Christians do. Mountains of paper have been pissed away at this exercise. Millions of man-years wasted. The progress of humanity, stunted for centuries by this useless, pointless activity.

    Perhaps. It could be said the same about hypotheses. A scientist poses a hypothesis that something is true, then he goes out trying to prove it. He gets to where he can reproduce it enough to call it a theory. I don’t see how you wouldn’t have a problem with experimenting a hypothesis but yet have a problem with interpreting Scripture.

    I have been working on an interpretation of prophecies about the Roman Empire from Daniel 7, the Prophecies of the Popes by St. Malachy, Revelation 13, Revelation 17,and Revelation 18. Its pretty lengthy but chewy enough to break down into pieces and digest at healthy pace. If you’re interested, I’ll message it to you (since it would take up a lot of space on this thread.)

    As they are interpretations, they are hypotheses that I have been experimenting with. I’m not a typical eschatologist either, since I don’t follow any school of thought.

  35. Stevarious says

    And Matthew 2:23. Ah, the ‘where’s Nazareth?’ argument.

    No. The problem isn’t ‘was there a Nazareth’. The problem is that nowhere in the OT or any Jewish writings does it prophesy that “He will be called a Nazarene.”

    Perhaps. It could be said the same about hypotheses.

    Well, no, because it’s demonstrable that science actually advances humanity. Science makes progress. Science wipes out smallpox and put men on the moon. No amount of praying ever got rid of smallpox – if this was the only thing science had ever done for man, it would still rank higher than religion in terms of usefulness.

    A scientist poses a hypothesis that something is true, then he goes out trying to prove it. He gets to where he can reproduce it enough to call it a theory.

    No scientific idea gets to the point of a theory on the say so of one scientist.

    This is what most religionists don’t seem to understand about science. It isn’t enough for a single experiment to work once, or even several times. There is peer review – which, when done properly, involves several or even dozens of other scientists going over every piece of your research, methods, findings, conclusions, assumptions, tools, and motives with a fine tooth comb to see where you screwed up. Scientists often spend more time at this than in the lab sometimes, and years of work can be flushed down the drain if it can’t measure up to peer review.

    Then, and only then, when your idea has passed peer review, do other scientists attempt to replicate your work. And then their work goes through the peer review process. It is an exhausting and exacting process that requires an incredible amount of precision and care on the part of the scientist, because a mistake will make it very difficult to get funding for your next project – and an uncovered lie will end your career. Politicians who lie get re-elected. Scientists who lie either get a degree in education and teach high school science for the rest of their lives, or join the Discovery Institute or a Republican “think-tank” – but they don’t do science anymore. (This is why most scientists dislike politicians.)
    The understanding from the outset is that humans are fallible. We make mistakes. We make assumptions we don’t realize we’re making. We make errors in judgement and we don’t catch them. Peer review isn’t just important – it is the most important step of the process.

    Science is incredibly critical of itself. This is the only way to avoid the very thing that is absolutely required to believe in a religion – a personal bias towards wanting a thing to be true. This is why so few scientists are religious, and why other scientists tend to distrust overtly fundamentalist religious scientists – a fundamentalist religious scientist is a scientist who openly admits (whether he realizes it or not) that he has huge unexamined biases about how the world works.

    I don’t see how you wouldn’t have a problem with experimenting a hypothesis but yet have a problem with interpreting Scripture.

    Because examining something critically means looking for reasons why it might be wrong! Not reasons why it might be right! With enough bias, you can justify ANY position. Why even bother? You know what a synonym for ‘interpretation’ is? Opinion.

    Realize it or not, you examine things critically all the time. Scroll up a bit, you will see where you explained why you don’t follow any other religions. You were being critical of those religions because you have no bias towards believing they are true. You are critical of Islam because you have no desire to believe in it. Billions of people in this world WANT Islam to be true, and are thereby perfectly capable of interpreting it to fit their worldview. There are Muslims who are complete pacifists and there are Muslims that want to kill you and I right now – and the only difference between them is their interpretation – that is, their opinion – of what the Koran really means.
    You say that the Koran contradicts the bible, and that is why you don’t believe it. But I have no doubt that if you wanted to find a way to interpret the words of the Koran so that they fit with the bible, you could! Shoot, the work has already been done for you. There you are, the Koran confirms the bible perfectly. That’s someone’s life work there. An entire life, pissed away, interpreting the verses of two almost completely incompatible holy books so that they mesh. What a waste. But if he can do that, what possible use could it be to engage in the exercise? For both you and I, it outrages reason to think both that such a thing could be done, and that such a thing WAS done.

    But this is the very same thing you do when you interpret bible verses. You fit the words to the beliefs you already have. This is excellent for maintaining and affirming faith. This is utterly useless and counterproductive for discovering truth, because there is no position you cannot justify this way.

    If you take only one thing away from this conversation, let it please be this. ‘Interpreting’ bible verses fits the verses into the slots of your belief. It doesn’t make them true and it doesn’t help you find truth. It just helps you confirm the beliefs you already hold, without a chance of discovering whether those beliefs are true.There’s no peer review possible, no way to test and recreate your results. Just another opinion in an endless sea of opinions. Bible verse interpretation is the opposite of scientific inquiry.

    If you’re interested, I’ll message it to you (since it would take up a lot of space on this thread.)

    Why would I find your interpretation in any way more convincing than the guy up there who made the bible and the koran compatible? It’s just another opinion in a sea of opinions, drawn from the great big book of multiple choice that can be used to justify any opinion. ANY opinion.

  36. matthewbarraco says

    No. The problem isn’t ‘was there a Nazareth’. The problem is that nowhere in the OT or any Jewish writings does it prophesy that “He will be called a Nazarene.”

    I think you miss the point here, again, Stev.  There is nothing that foretells that a star would guide the Messiah, yet the Magi seemed to know about it.  I think that the author used some of canonized Scripture and some other works that have not survived the test of time and history.  

    Well, no, because it’s demonstrable that science actually advances humanity. Science makes progress. Science wipes out smallpox and put men on the moon. No amount of praying ever got rid of smallpox – if this was the only thing science had ever done for man, it would still rank higher than religion in terms of usefulness.

     

    I disagree.  Science, like religion, is only as good for humanity as the people that uses it.  

    No scientific idea gets to the point of a theory on the say so of one scientist.

    This is what most religionists don’t seem to understand about science. It isn’t enough for a single experiment to work once, or even several times. There is peer review – which, when done properly, involves several or even dozens of other scientists going over every piece of your research, methods, findings, conclusions, assumptions, tools, and motives with a fine tooth comb to see where you screwed up. Scientists often spend more time at this than in the lab sometimes, and years of work can be flushed down the drain if it can’t measure up to peer review.

    Then, and only then, when your idea has passed peer review, do other scientists attempt to replicate your work. And then their work goes through the peer review process. It is an exhausting and exacting process that requires an incredible amount of precision and care on the part of the scientist, because a mistake will make it very difficult to get funding for your next project – and an uncovered lie will end your career. Politicians who lie get re-elected. Scientists who lie either get a degree in education and teach high school science for the rest of their lives, or join the Discovery Institute or a Republican “think-tank” – but they don’t do science anymore. (This is why most scientists dislike politicians.)

    I can imagine that any scientist that wants to run for politics would have to lie to people as well.  The job of politics is the way it is because the people want to be lied to.  Scientist want their funding and will only vote for a politician that values science.  So, even if the politician cared little about science, it would not be made known, because he wants to get elected.  If those scientists vote, then they are part of the system.  If they don’t vote, then they can’t complain about their loss of freedoms.

    The understanding from the outset is that humans are fallible. We make mistakes. We make assumptions we don’t realize we’re making. We make errors in judgement and we don’t catch them. Peer review isn’t just important – it is themost important step of the process.

     Makes sense.  I don’t come to my own conclusions without peer review as well.  I bring my interpretations through a rigorous and time consuming process of testing, both against eschatologists and against people who care nothing for prophecy.  I make sure that there are no holes and no stretching in my interpretation.  I look for obvious fulfillment rather than secret and undefined fulfillments.  I have been testing my interpretations and improving them for about 19 years now.  I’ve even taken time away from it to research the rest of the Bible and Church History so that I could get a better understanding.  Every time I improve my interpretations, I test them against other people.  I don’t have a following and have no intention on being a cult leader.  I am just a guy that believes that the prophecies, especially of Revelation, are divinely inspired.

    Science is incredibly critical of itself. This is the only way to avoid the very thing that is absolutely required to believe in a religion – a personal bias towards wanting a thing to be true. This is why so few scientists are religious, and why other scientists tend to distrust overtly fundamentalist religious scientists – a fundamentalist religious scientist is a scientist who openly admits (whether he realizes it or not) that he has huge unexamined biases about how the world works.

    Religion is supposed to be self-critical.  That is why there are so many denominations and so many different sects.  There are people who see other people fighting tooth and nail to keep things the way they have always been, when in reality, the only things that can survive the test of time are the things that evolve from one generation to the other.  

    Because examining something critically means looking for reasons why it might be wrong! Not reasons why it might be right!

     I disagree.  Critical examination is both looking for reasons why it might be wrong and why it might be right.  Not one or the other.  A person who only looks for reasons why ice cream isn’t the best dessert will likely only come to the conclusion that it is not.  And I am just talking about subjective truth here.  In legal court, something is innocent until proven guilty.  In your court, however, something is guilty until proven innocent, which, as history shows, is a system that can be manipulated and abused.

    With enough bias, you can justify ANY position. Why even bother? You know what a synonym for ‘interpretation’ is? Opinion.

     Is it fact or is it your opinion that religion does not advance humanity?  Is it fact or is it your opinion that there is no such thing as a deity?  You interpret things all the time, especially about religion.  

    Realize it or not, you examine things critically all the time. Scroll up a bit, you will see where you explained why you don’t follow any other religions. You were being critical of those religions because you have no bias towards believing they are true. You are critical of Islam because you have no desire to believe in it. Billions of people in this world WANT Islam to be true, and are thereby perfectly capable of interpreting it to fit their worldview. There are Muslims who are complete pacifists and there are Muslims that want to kill you and I right now – and the only difference between them is their interpretation – that is, their opinion – of what the Koran really means.

    Also another huge difference in Islam is peer review.  There were twelve disciples that followed Jesus.  One doubted, one turned his back on him, one denied him three times, two fought to be better than the rest, and the rest fled when he was executed.  Much of his following left him.  Islam however, depended on the experience, teachings, and interpretation of only one man.  Christianity came in peace, Islam began in bloodshed.  Christianity did not change Judaism, but Islam altered both Christianity and Judaism in its teachings.  There are very obvious reasons why I distrust Islam.  Also, the Bible is a collection of books about orally transferred stories, teachings, songs, and prophecies that written down by people who were inspired by God.  The Koran is said to be passed down from an angel to a man.  The Muslims claim that the Koran IS the literal word of Allah, which means that everything MUST be perfect and without contradiction.  However, it is obvious, by reading the Koran, that Mohammed was the origin of those words, sense the Koran portrays Christian teaching as it was in the 7th century, not how it was in the beginning and according to Christian Scripture.  However, there are conflicts in testimonies between the four (not one) of many gospels that show and evident amount of personal testimony and oral transfer.  If seven people mention that a baseball game was played in the fields of North Korea during the Korean war, the stories could differ in how many people were played or how many innings they actually played, but it could not be so easily questioned whether or not they had a baseball game there.  That is the side the Bible takes.  Whether there were one angel, two angels, or no angels at the tomb, it was evident that the tomb that did contain the body of Jesus and was sealed was found on the third day empty and open.  Whether all eleven apostles saw Jesus in a room or only on a road to Emmaus, it could hardly be questioned that they saw the risen Lord.  The Koran doesn’t take that position.  It is the sole interpretation of Mohammed with the claim that the words he received were Allah’s literal words.  That means, if such a claim were true, it would be irrefutable.

    You say that the Koran contradicts the bible, and that is why you don’t believe it. But I have no doubt that if you wanted to find a way to interpret the words of the Koran so that they fit with the bible, you could!

    Nope.  Islam strictly states that it was not Isaac that received God’s promises, but Ishmael (the ancestor of the Arabs.)  Islam strictly states that Jesus was not the Son of God, but only a prophet.  It claims that the Bible was altered to make Jesus the Son of God and only provides the Koran as its proof.  You can’t fit them together because they don’t fit.

    Shoot, the work has already been done for you.  There you are, the Koran confirms the bible perfectly. That’s someone’s life work there. An entire life, pissed away, interpreting the verses of two almost completely incompatible holy books so that they mesh. What a waste. But if he can do that, what possible use could it be to engage in the exercise? For both you and I, it outrages reason to think both that such a thing could be done, and that such a thing WAS done.

    Outrageous, I agree.  They are incompatible.  You could probably skew some things to mesh, but the main messages in the Bible are incompatible with the Koran.  

    But this is the very same thing you do when you interpret bible verses. You fit the words to the beliefs you already have.

     Not true.  Since I was chided during a Bible As Literature Online Class by the Jewish instructor for forcing my Christian interpretations into certain books and on public forum, I have sense stopped doing that and accepted the practice of critical examination and scholarly research.  I have learned so much more since then!

    Did you know that the Apocryphal book about Susanna was not written during the Babylonian Exile of the Jews but approximately around 100 BC?  Susanna is a story that is full of symbols describing the civil war between the Pharisees and Sadducees over the seat of Moses (Jewish priesthood.)  I would not have known that if I didn’t read the article critically.  So believe me when I say that I do read Scripture with a critical eye.  I do not, however, and contrary to Socrates, assume it is wrong until proven right.  I just look at it to understand it more.

    This is excellent for maintaining and affirming faith. This is utterly useless and counterproductive for discovering truth, because there is no position you cannot justify this way.

     I don’t assume that everyone has evil will toward Scripture.  There is over two hundred years of scholarly research into Biblical writings and religion.  It would not make sense to take advantage of it.

    If you take only one thing away from this conversation, let it please be this. ‘Interpreting’ bible verses fits the verses into the slots of your belief. It doesn’t make them true and it doesn’t help you find truth. It just helps you confirm the beliefs you already hold, without a chance of discovering whether those beliefs are true.There’s no peer review possible, no way to test and recreate your results. Just another opinion in an endless sea of opinions. Bible verse interpretation is the oppositeof scientific inquiry.

    I butt heads with eschatologists all the time because of this observation.  I started out a spiritualist, became a futurist, researched preterism, embraced tribulationalism, researched historicism, refuted futurism, preterism, and tribulationalism, embraced historicism, remodified historism to refute Adventist claims, and am now looking into new avenues of eschatological interpretation with one key practice:  I refuse to stretch things to fit a preconceived notion.  This has allowed me to learn more deeply about not only eschatology but Christian theology as well.  I have a friend who is not an eschatologist, but a very educated theologian.  We keep each other frosty.

    Why would I find your interpretation in any way more convincing than the guy up there who made the bible and the koran compatible? It’s just another opinion in a sea of opinions, drawn from the great big book of multiple choice that can be used to justify any opinion. ANY opinion.

     You’re not interested.  Noted.  I won’t waste your time then Stev.

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