Losing Patience with Christianity

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People far and wide are losing patience with the Christian church. And so they are leaving her. In droves. And I don’t blame them. Not one bit. It has become a tired religion. And it’s a tiring religion. It kicks your ass, makes you feel like a loathsome spider, and then sends you packing the moment you step out of line.

That’s been my experience anyway.

Now, to be clear, in spite of this harsh criticism, I will gladly admit that there are many wonderful Christians out there. I’m friends with a lot of them. I even consider myself one. But, if I may be so bold, the religion we’ve built has become a monster, so full of law and wrath and judgement that I doubt either Jesus or Paul would recognize it. And if they did, I’m guessing they’d both weep bitterly with what we’ve done to the hopeful message of grace and peace.

Because, you see, all we seem to get these days is condemnation. All we hear about God is how pissed off he is. He’s gonna get you for this, he’s gonna get you for that. We rarely (if ever?) hear about how much God loves us. We rarely (if ever?) tell non-believers that Jesus loves them so much that he emptied himself for them while they were yet sinners. No. It’s always embedded in some economy of exchange. It’s always qualified—either explicitly or otherwise—with something like, “And if you don’t love him back, you’re dead meat!”

But that’s not love.

That’s not grace.

That’s not the Gospel.

And that’s why I’m losing patience with this thing we call Christianity. It’s got too much law. It’s got too many holiness codes. It’s too zealous. It’s too “us vs. them,” so much so that other Christians are all too often a “them.” Need I remind folks how many thousands of denominations there currently are? What a joke!

In spite of this, I still love Jesus. I still love the idea of Christianity. Not a Christianity built upon the altar of sacrifice, not one built upon a divine being that is more like Zeus than Jesus, not a Christianity who beats the drums of war, or who denounces gay folks simply for being gay; but a Christianity that is known by one thing and one thing only—love.

Without love we are but a clanging gong. The Apostle Paul said that. Sadly, though, it’s exactly what we’ve become. We clamor on and on about our supposed correct doctrines, our supposed biblical truths, our supposed orthodoxy, all the while failing to love others as ourselves. And then we have the nerve to condemn those who walk away from us and our message.

Guess what though? The times are changing. The Gospel of peace is breaking out. In spite of all the religious nonsense we’ve laden the good news with, the reality of what has already been done for the entire world is being grasped by one person at a time. The good news of grace is liberating one soul at a time.

But many within Christendom cannot accept it. Maybe some will even be the last ones to accept it. It’s sad, but it may be true. We just need our hell. We need our wrath. We need our sacrificial and highly limited atonement. We need our hierarchy. We need our ability to dole out judgment. In other words, we need the status quo.

I get it though. I get why we opt for these things. It’s far easier to hold fast to the things we’ve grown accustomed to than to step out into the desert of doubt. It’s far easier to stick to what we know than to trust the process of growing up.

One way or another, however, we have to grow up. Either that, or we die like some root-bound plant desperate to stretch out its legs. So, I guess my question is this: Will we grow? Will we take the risk of planting our roots deep into God’s green earth? We owe ourselves—and the world—this much, don’t we?

I believe so.

So I’ll do my best to continue to grow. And, in spite of my seasons of cynicism, I’m optimistic the church will do the same. I’ve seen glimmers of hope so I’ll continue to push on. My patience may be wearing thin, but that’s okay. I’m sure others will continue to come along for the journey and help keep me going. I hope so, anyway.

Until next time.

Matthew J. Distefano is the author of four books, including the recently released "Heretic!: An LGBTQ-Affirming, Divine-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist's Responses to Some of Evangelical Christianity's Most Pressing Concerns," out now on Quoir Publishing. He is married, has one daughter, and likes to spend his free time hiking, gardening, and cooking. You can read more about the author here.
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  • WisdomLover

    There is no Gospel without the Law, there is no grace without justice.

    Our society is growing ‘tired’ of Christianity because it won’t acknowledge what Christianity teaches: that we are all condemned under the Law…that justice is that we all suffer the wrath of God for as long as we keep sinning.

    We have to admit that first.

  • Meh, you can keep your angry God.

  • WisdomLover

    Yes, My God is angry…and justly so. I’m as blasé as you are about some milquetoast heavenly grandpa of a god.

    So what’s the good news again?

    I take it to be the fact that my angry God took the wrath upon Himself and made me His son.

    Heavenly grandpa doesn’t really care, so there’s really no good news.

  • Chad Hoelzel

    An angry God, is a human attribute (one of the worst ones) projected upon God. Of course God is angry…. the gods have always been angry. That is why they required the sacrifice of a son to appease them… oh wait that was god sacrificing himself to himself.

  • Heavenly grandpa? Lol! Hey, just make sure to tell your God to roast me low and slow. Don’t want the meat to be overdone and dried out in his oh so holy underground barbecue.

  • God took his own wrath upon himself so he can spare us from his own wrath…yeah, sounds legit.

  • WisdomLover

    God isn’t going to roast you or pour His wrath out upon you. Jesus bore that punishment.

    Don’t you see that that’s the point of substitution/satisfaction?

    The trouble hellions run into isn’t from God, it’s their own ongoing sin.

  • WisdomLover

    A judge (who is also the lawgiver and the wronged party in the crime) cannot pay a lawbreaker’s fine?

    Why is that illegitimate?

  • Oh no, it’s totally legit. I mean, whenever my daughter screws up, I just beat myself up and then if she accepts my ass kicking, she unlocks my forgiveness. It works wonderfully.

  • Oh, good, the Father had Jesus murdered so he wouldn’t have to do it to me. Glory be!

  • WisdomLover

    When your daughter screws up, you are not, and no human ever is, the wronged party.

    Because of that, you are not, and no mere human ever is, in any position to accept any punishment she deserves.

    It’s not surprising that when we put a broken old sinner into the place of God in an analogy, that the analogy will often end in absurdity.

  • We don’t wrong each other? Good to know.

  • And why do we deserve punishment? Let me guess, because the Bible says…

  • Matthew

    I think some key issues here are that of literalism, innerancy, and poor interpretive skills.
    Unless these topics are discussed, addressed and widely reformed in the church,
    I´m afraid we´ll still see much of the same. 🙁

  • I’m afraid you are correct.

  • WisdomLover

    Because we wrong God.

    Note…I didn’t say that we don’t harm each other. Nor do I say that harming another person isn’t wrong.

    But the wrong is against God. Were it just a matter of the harm we do to each other, it would be a trivial matter for God to heal it as if it had never happened.

  • WisdomLover

    As if the punishment amounted to nothing more than Jesus getting murdered.

    And why not say instead that God Himself bore the punishment the His justice requires.

    It isn’t as though God the Father just picked some poor b@$+@rd to pour out His wrath upon. Jesus is as fully God as the Father is.

  • WisdomLover

    Why is anger the worst human attribute?

    It makes no sense for there to even be a worst human attribute…if what you mean is a human emotion like anger, hate, jealousy or love. Every emotion serves a proper purpose.

  • Justice? That is Justice? Sick.

  • And God simply couldn’t forgive, he had to have blood, have death, have a grotesque torture? Yikes.

  • WisdomLover

    No. It isn’t only justice. It’s also grace.

    You are again, putting a sinner in the place of God in your thinking. As if you or I executed some person to satisfy our rage.

    Suffice it to say, that’s not what it’s like. It’s more like the payment of a debt by the very person to whom the debt is owed.

  • WisdomLover

    Sure, He could simply forgive, as long as He doesn’t care about justice.

  • It’s a presupposed and might I say, perverted sense of justice.

  • Vengeance, you mean. Retribution, you mean. Of course it couldn’t be restorative justice. No. It couldn’t be that.

  • Chad Hoelzel

    I’ve never loved someone to death. By definition love doesn’t kill…. anger does.

  • WisdomLover

    If you mean the emotion of love, don’t make me laugh. Love kills all the time.

    If by “Love” you refer to the practice of love, then not as much…though I doubt that it is true that love never kills. For one thing, one can kill one person because one is practicing love toward another.

  • WisdomLover

    Well, this just goes to show another aspect of the whole tableau to be true. We have nothing in us that’s says “yes” to God and the offense of the Cross. We have to be dragged to it by God Himself.

    We just can’t resist putting ourselves into the picture where God belongs. It is not for us to decide what justice required for our sin. We don’t know enough for that.

  • WisdomLover

    How do you know that the justice isn’t restorative? Because it doesn’t seem that way to you?

    Wouldn’t we have to say first what belongs to whom by right in order to talk about restoring anything to the just distribution?

    The problem is that everything is owed to God, and we’re not in a position to give Him anything and never will be as long as our unpayable debt stands between us.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    I grew up in a non-religious violent household. As early as I can remember I took the dusty family bible off the shelf, and saw what my heart told me to look for – LOVE. If there was supposed to be some justice for what my parents or siblings did, it was not to come from me. The message that God told me they needed was LOVE, and that was what I gave, without complaint, with compassion.

    I begged my parents to send me to Catholic H.S. and there I met the nuns who taught me what unconditional love, and showed me what Jesus was, and what I was commanded to be and do. LOVE. These nuns sacrificed their loves to teach us and and be of service to the school and the hospital.

    They taught me that action was the way to win the hearts of others and bring them to Christ – not judgment or condemnation. The Holy Spirit would convict them. And God would perhaps judge them, or his grace would cover any and all of their sins.

    That’s been my plan and I’m sticking to it.

    We humans have one job – LOVE GOD and LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS.

    And all this quibbling amongst yourself, as seen below, I know there is a verse against that in the bible somewhere. Oh yeah, a quick google found over twenty https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/quarreling-bible-verses/

    2 Timothy 2:23-24
    23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

  • Love kills? Oh my, what an asinine thing to say.

  • More economies of exchange…sigh

  • Chad Hoelzel

    If love kills it is only love of self… which is not true love.

  • Guy Norred

    The good news is that we are loved. Do you not see how radical a concept this in and of itself truly was when Jesus first came to preach it–in word and in in action?

  • WisdomLover

    Yes. It is radical…my angry God loves me.

  • WisdomLover

    Yes, yes, very assinine. If I kill the man who’s about to rape and murder my daughter…that can’t be love. No that’s just assinine!

  • Guy Norred

    Why is God angry at you?

  • Ah, the old, tired argument that never goes away. You do realize that you can protect others without dealing death, right?

  • Probably because we are all wretched worms.

  • WisdomLover

    Because of our sin.

  • WisdomLover

    Sighing back at ya…I’m certain that the arguments against my misguided ‘economy’ of exchange will turn on the error of placing a limited being, like you or me, in the place of God in the exchange.

  • WisdomLover

    “You do realize that you can protect others without dealing death, right?”

    And you realize that sometimes you can’t, right? And in those cases at least, love kills. Assinine though that may seem to you.

  • Guy Norred

    When did He first become angry with you?

  • WisdomLover

    When I sinned in Adam.

  • Guy Norred

    So God was angry with you from your creation?

  • WisdomLover

    In sin did my mother conceive me.

  • It’s a shame we tend to start our thinking with Genesis 3, rather than Genesis 1. It’s always a starting place of sin, rather than a starting place that says humanity is 1) made in the image of God, and B) tov tov. Protestants the world over would do well to start digesting some Franciscan theology.

  • I think the original point being made vis a vis love is that because God is love, then God isn’t a killer. If you want to refute that with the example you used, that it is a loving act to kill another in order to stop a rape, be prepared to also answer the question “Then why isn’t God killing folks in order to stop rapes, to stop murders, to stop children from getting cancer?”

  • But it’s for you to tell me what that justice is? Sounds like typical Calvinist tripe. Forgive me if it’s not, I’ve just heard that same thing from all my Calvinist friends. They will tell me I’m thinking as a human, and then proceed to tell me how God thinks. Um, pardon me for not quite understanding why I can’t turn around and say to you the same exact things you are saying to me.

  • KingstonJack

    It seems to me that there are two broad streams to Christianity: one is Creation and Incarnation, and the other is Sin and Redemption. We find both of these strands running throughout the bible, and we find ourselves responding to one or the other. I’m not suggesting that it’s impossible to hold both in tension, but that we are naturally drawn to one and will always preference it over the other. In these comments, it’s incredibly clear how some preference the Sin and Redemption narrative, to the extent of denying Creation and Incarnation. When Sin and Redemption are the focus, then God is always angry and can never, ever be satisfied. There is always some other sin that has to be judged, and the sinner has to earn God’s forgiveness. In other words, justification by works – the work of confession. It’s easy to see how the evangelical/pentecostal church focusses almost exclusively on the sinfulness of humanity, including the absolute rubbish of original sin – a doctrine dreamt up Augustine and with no foundation in biblical theology. In this strand, there can be no such thing as unconditional love; the notion of agape simply cannot be embraced because God always demands payment. Always.

    On the other hand, focussing on Creation and Incarnation allows Christians to embrace the goodness of God. God is not only good but also makes all of us in the image of God – male/female, black/white, rich/poor, heterosexual/other, Christian/non-Christian. Incarnation then places the good God in our midst, and allows our brokenness (rather than sinfulness) to be embraced as God is also broken. In this narrative, Penal Substitutionary Atonement is recognised as the nonsense it is. God is the victim not the executioner.

    The two strands of thinking – Sin/Redemption and Creation/Incarnation – are entwined throughout the bible. I believe we need to untangle these threads and see them for what they are. One is a revelation of the Divine, the other is the attribution to God of human vengefulness dressed up as justice. I know which strand I believe in.

  • WisdomLover

    God kills everyone.

    Or who else is it that sentenced us and the entire universe to death on account of our sin in Adam?

    And, btw, that was because He loves us. Because, you see, Hell = (Sin + Eternity) – Death.

    Hell isn’t God’s wrath, it’s God allowing sinners to live on forever and continue in sin without the release of death.

    Death is a mercy that does not allow earth to become Hell.

  • Well God is just so dandy, ain’t he? He kills everyone. And then he allows them to burn forever in a torture chamber that he, by definition, must be present in. How quaint.

  • Chad Hoelzel

    I was a member of a church for 30 years that focused on sin and redemption. It left me wanting. Now I’m a Jesus follower and creation/incarnation is like music to the soul

  • Chad Hoelzel

    God and Hitler must be buddies

  • WisdomLover

    A. I’m not a Calvinist.

    B. I’m not telling you what justice is. I am simply not presuming to judge God for His deeds.

    C. I’m not saying that human beings can’t muddle along with some form of justice suitable for a limited, fallen and condemned race.

    Human justice probably involves some activity of minimizing harms and maximizing happiness (as both harms and happiness can be foreseen by our limited intellects and perceptions). This activity is probably tempered in some way by a few rules or rights that always apply no matter what.

    While there my be some resemblance or analog in the case of God I wouldn’t count on notions of human justice to apply across the board to Him.

  • Guy Norred

    So God is angry with you for something over which you had no control? If I were angry at someone for a similar reason it would be I who was in the wrong.

  • WisdomLover

    Who said I had no control? That’s more than I know.

    We all sinned in Adam.

  • Guy Norred

    Could you have not sinned in Adam? If that is not possible then you had no control over it. God might as well be angry at you over the color of your eyes.

  • WisdomLover

    I don’t see why I could not have avoided sinning in Adam.

    I think the standard view is that Adam acted as our perfect representative. Unlike an imperfect representative like Paul Ryan or Nancy Pelosi, Adam would not have acted as he did in Eden were all his constituents not ‘with him’.

  • Steve Bailey

    Thanks, Matt. Right on, as usual. The Jesus movement has been so layered by European and American religious baggage that Jesus and Paul would not recognize it. It’s been renewing for me to be part of a study course in Israel that focuses on the Jewish historical and spiritual context of Jesus. Two thousand years of political and theological baggage is irrelevant to Jewish women and men who see Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. The Kingdom teaching of Jesus comes alive and restored to its central place in God’s unfolding plan for humanity. American and European Christianity, in their overwhelming hubris, have become blinded to the mission of of God in Jesus, replacing that mission with what has now become irrelevant institutional religion that does very little significant good for humanity as a whole; that is, there is very little will or effort to proclaim and help bring in what Jesus calls ‘the Kingdom of God’.

  • Guy Norred

    If you could have avoided it, why didn’t you? Are you saying that if one person ever had not wanted it, Adam would not have sinned?

  • WisdomLover

    I think that’s what I said, yes. Adam would not have acted as he did in Eden were all his constituents not ‘with him’.

  • Guy Norred

    That is some serious unity.

  • Kathy Bryson

    Wow, I’m reading “WisdomLover” in disbelief. Maybe your mother conceived you in sin, but when my children were conceived almost 4 decades ago, their father and I were definitely engaged in an act of love, with the hope of creating a child as well as, in deep love, pleasuring one another. My children were absolutely conceived in love and, at their birth (no drugs, folks), I definitely felt the presence of God as these children – born without the fraudulent taint of “original sin” – emerged to amazing love (hormone-mediated adoration). So, if it feeds your personal pain to feel “conceived in sin,” I grieve for you. Your view casts a destructive shadow over organized religion. I participate in organized religion, using the primary two relational commandments of Christ (love!) to guide my interactions in this imperfect world. And love permeates the newest generation of my family.

  • cgosling

    Yes, people are leaving the Christian church, even when the European churches are government funded, so it is not a matter of economics. Many Christians do not understand why children are held responsible for their father’s sin, going back to Adam. In civil law why would you condemn a child to a life of suffering if its father committed a crime. It is nonsensical and totally unfair. Another reason why people are losing interest in most religion is its dependance upon supernatural events. And, although some churches try to remain neutral on political matters, too many churches have become political. Secular Humanists and liberal Protestant churches fight a continual battle to keep church and state apart, like our founding fathers intended. I would guess that nearly half of those attending church today do it for social and personal reasons and not because they believe in supernatural events that supposedly occurred before people began to rely upon science and reason.

  • WisdomLover

    I’m sure that the parents of King David, who I was quoting, loved each other too.

  • WisdomLover

    It would have to be wouldn’t it, in order for Death to come through that one man. Fortunately there is also some serious union between me and Christ.

  • WisdomLover

    David must have read his Augustine. That’s why he described his sinful condition this way: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”

    I can see why, if we are sinful God doesn’t just forgive us. There is a moral barrier there. His own Divine attribute of Justice prevents it. You might have problems with the idea of substitution of satisfaction, but at least you can see why God can’t just square things up, and something as extraordinary as the incarnation, crucifixion and vicarious atonement had to happen.

    Can you tell me what the point of the incarnation was if it wasn’t to act as a satisfaction for our sin? What did it do? Why was it necessary? If we are simply broken, why didn’t God just fix us? What was stopping Him that required that He be incarnated?

  • WisdomLover

    I doubt very much that a discussion of why or how we are saved would qualify, for Paul, as a foolish or stupid argument.

    I do agree that we have that one job though.

    How’s that going for you?

    I’m not doing too good at it.

    That’s why Christ came, because none of us ever do very well on loving God and neighbor.

  • Carl Hansen

    So, David had long-range vision to read Augustine who was not born until several centuries later…

  • WisdomLover

    “In civil law why would you condemn a child to a life of suffering if its father committed a crime. It is nonsensical and totally unfair.”

    And why do you expect the human condition to be like civil law?

    It might be unfair, but it’s not nonsensical that children are born adicts because of what their parents did.

    Should rich children be stripped of their inheritance, because it’s unfair to poor children?

    It is a fact, not nonsense, that children inherit all sorts of things from their parents, both good and bad.

    Whether that’s unfair, I don’t know that I’m fully equipped to judge.

  • WisdomLover

    Kind of my point.

    David seems to believe in Original Sin. So it probably wasn’t ‘dreamt up by Augustine’ as KingstonJack claimed in his post.

  • WisdomLover

    “God is morally responsible for the death of every single creature” is true by definition (His being Omnipotent and Omniscient and all that).

    You might as well blame bachelors for not liking women because they’re always unmarried.

    Your proposal is what? God should never let anyone die?

    God should do what with sinners who want nothing to do with Him? Force them to experience His presence anyway?

  • WisdomLover

    Well, He certainly loves Hitler and every other sinner.

    But if your point is that Christianity is false because Hitler, or some such, maybe it’s time to invoke Godwin’s Law.

  • WisdomLover

    BTW, there has never been a more intolerant preacher of the Law than Christ. That’s what His words and actions include.

    This underscores the fact that there is no Gospel without the Law, and the more strident the demands of the Law are, the greater the grace that is revealed in the Gospel.

  • KingstonJack

    Oh, for goodness sake, can you not read? Can you not understand plain English? And, far more importantly, can you not read your bible?

    Nowhere, repeat nowhere, does the bible use the phrase “original sin”. That was Augustine. Don’t believe me? Do some research.

    Secondly, and here you might like some help from a bible scholar rather than placing your own interpretation on the text, Psalm 51- from which you take your quotation – was not written by David. Yes, it may have been attributed to him, but given it was written many years after his death it’s fairly unlikely he wrote it. (In much the same way Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch.) If you take the story of David from 1 & 2 Samuel, you will not find the words you’re quoting, nor will you find anything which indicates he was “conceived in sin”.

    However, what is abundantly clear is that you will continue to swim in the stream of Sin and Redemption, finding no sign of the grace of God anywhere. Each and every one of your posts confirms it.

  • WisdomLover

    I guess the Bible doesn’t teach Divine Omnipotence either…nowhere, I repeat nowhere, does the Bible use the word “Omnipotent”. Don’t believe me? Do some research.

    What an infantile argument.

    It seems ridiculous to have to point it out, it is so obvious, but the fact that a text does not use a term, says nothing at all about whether the text has something to say on the concept that the term refers to.

    Of course David did write Psalm 51, though I have little doubt that you will find many a Bible ‘scholar’ willing to gas off to the contrary.

    But the fact of who wrote it has nothing at all to do with what it means…which is that the Psalmist was claiming to already been infected with sin in the womb.

    “you will continue to swim in the stream of Sin and Redemption, finding no sign of the grace of God anywhere.”

    Good Lord! You might as well have said that I’ll find no sign of Redemption in those waters. Grace and redemption are the same thing.

  • Nathan D’Souza

    Well in India people aren’t exactly leaving in droves. It’s more likely to be the other way around. I think as a society gets blessed by God they start enjoying the gifts and cant’ see the giver. Their souls begin to collect fat. The glamour of the gifts block them from understanding the cross. But this happened to the Israelites too. So it’s just history repeating itself I suppose.

  • Benjamin Atkinson

    Hi Wisdom Lover,

    I have read lots of your comments. I was once where you are. I sympathise. Can I suggest that you read Julian of Norwich? She was the first of the mystics to lead me to a different perspective from the one you seem to hold. Of course, you are educated, so perhaps you have read her already, in which case you can take my advice as void. She was an anchoress in a monastery in England. She had several experiences of God, including one particularly profound one. They might be of interest to this particular discussion.

    Aside from that…

    Speaking from my personal experience as someone who studied the bible from a historical perspective, I have to say it is not the Word of God. It is the collected words of people who encountered God, and recorded their experiences as they saw them. As such it is flawed, limited by human perspective. Useful, but not the be all and end all. The real Word of God lives on in Christ, whose body is us, the Church (a mystical communion of people, bound together not by rules, or even shared doctrine, but by the life of the Spirit). To claim to know anything for sure is hubris, beyond that God loves us.

    This is where I am at, and I will not be diminished by buying back into substitutionary atonement, which is a latter tradition, not at all in keeping with the original church as it existed in the first century, before the bible had been put together.

    All of the above was written gently, with the intention to share, not to argue. I hope it can add something.

  • Benjamin Atkinson

    Cynthia, thank you for sharing you story. I am so glad that you had such good teachers. Bless you for trying to keep the peace.

  • Benjamin Atkinson

    I love the way you are thinking about the bible here. I agree with you about the two strands. Sadly many people hold the bible up to be perfect (which is in itself heretical in my view, after all, isn’t God the only perfect thing?).

  • Chad Hoelzel

    You are asking/expecting us to unsee, unlearn, unexperince the experiences of the Divine we’ve had and how the Divine has worked in our lives…. back to believing in a Thor like God. That will be a hard sell. Kind of like Paul going back to becoming Saul.

  • otrotierra

    Thor is about right. Also popular among Evangelical Fundamentalists is Mars, the Roman god of war.

  • cgosling

    Wisdom Lover – Humans including children and our primate cousins have a sense of inborn fairness demonstrated by numerous scientific research. We humans are well equipped to make judgements otherwise we would be long extinct. Wisdom Lover, you are well equipped to make judgements but afraid to make a judgement about the wisdom and fairness of you god. If a deity has the power to insure innocent children are not treated unfairly and he does nothing, then he is guilty of unfairness and cruelty and not the kind of god anyone should adore and follow. Your concept of god is based upon centuries of biblical rewritings, scribe errors, twisted legends passed down by iron aged science, and ignorant supernatural believers who borrowed from previous religions. I know it is difficult to give up superstitious beliefs that are the result of adult emotional grief and childhood brain-washing, but humans are gifted through evolution to make judgements based upon personal and social survival experiences. The unique human brain can easily be mislead by emotion and false promises, but it also has the ability to reject nonsense such as original sin.

  • WisdomLover

    Thor is limited in power and knowledge. Thor is doomed to die with no resurrection. Thor is more like me than he is like God. Heck, even I will be resurrected…though not through my own power.

    Your claim that the God who is Omnipotent and Omniscient is a Thor-like God is a logical absurdity.

    But if God is both Omnipotent and Omniscient, as all orthodox Christians claim, then He is responsible for everything that happens.

    You can have it both ways, no matter what limited experiences you might have.

  • WisdomLover

    Boy, that comment is all over the place.

    Could you, just possibly, focus on the questions I asked. I have neither time nor inclination to respond to an atheist manifesto.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover, I really did not expect you to answer me sensibly. I fully understand your commitment to your faith because once, I too believed in supernatural events due to brain washing at an early age. It is not too late for you to rethink blind faith and base your life on reason and science. Humans have an innate sense of fairness, justice, love and empathy without supernatural help. Unfortunately, some humans are unable to draw upon this inborn sense without encouragement from religion. You, apparently need religion to live a virtuous life, but many of us do not. Your non-reply to me is typical of other hard line believers who deep down realize that their beliefs are suspect to reason and fact. I am truly sorry about that. A good life does not need to be based upon superstition. Surely, you must realize that.

  • WisdomLover

    Thanks for Manifesto 2, but can you tell me exatctly why you would expect the answer to the human condition to be like civil law? Science tell you that?

  • Chad Hoelzel

    And yet here we are…. God is all powerful and isn’t strong enough to save all. God has all the knowledge and yet can’t figure out how to save all.

    So is he strong enough to overcome Satan and save us all? Is he smart enough to find a way to save us all (does he desire to)?

  • WisdomLover

    “And yet here we are…”

    And yet not. God does not save all not because He cannot over power the choice of the lost to go to Hell rather than be in His presence. Nor is it because He does not know how to overpower their choice.

    He does not overpower the choice of the lost to go to Hell rather than live in His presence because, at least in some cases, it would be morally wrong for Him to do so.

    His problem was never with overpowering Satan. If that’s what you think, you can forget about that. If it were just a matter of rescuing us from Satan’s clutches, Satan would have been vaporized in a nanosecond.

    The problem was always what He would do to satisfy His own Justice. Satisfaction/Substitution is really the only view that’s possible when you are dealing with an Omnipotent and Omniscient God.

  • cgosling

    Dear Wisdom lover, You asked, why would I expect the answer to the human condition to be like human law. My friend, all law is human law but it often lies disguised under what some claim is God’s law. I fully understand your refusal to believe that religious law has done more harm than good. I suggest you read the infamous parts of the Christian, Muslim and Hebrew holy books again instead of conveniently ignoring them. Many of the laws originated in the minds of superstitious men who had no idea about science and acted to promote their own misguided and unscientific religious agendas. In actuality, I cannot blame a deity for the cruelty and ignorance found in holy books throughout the ages of mankind because, in reality, there are no deities except those that were conjured up in the minds of ignorant Iron Age men. Sometimes they got it right but, too often, they used religion to insure and enhance their own power. Religious wars and Catholic and Protestant persecutions were the result. As you well know, religious wars still are fought to this day and justified by ancient scriptures. Is it not better to use history, logic, and educated understanding to live our lives successfully and to treat our fellow humans and our earth with respect. Some religions already attempt to do this, good for them. But radical religions and radical religious leaders too often screw up this world of ours. I am not saying you are in the forefront of radical religion but you must realize that religion often does more harm than good and the “religion is always right” philosophy is threatening humankind. Too many call upon a imaginary Almighty to justify their politics and policy. Surely you must agree.

  • WisdomLover

    Disqus’s spam filter has gone nuts again…breaking this comment up to sneak past it:

    Part 2:

    all law is human law but it often lies disguised under what some claim is God’s law.

    Very little law is human law.

    Is the law of gravity human law?

    What about Ohm’s law?

    Is Gresham’s law human law? It is a law about humans, yes, but it is not the invention of human’s anymore than Ohm’s law is.

    Most laws are laws of nature and are not human inventions.

    I might also ask whether fairness applies in any of those cases? Is it unfair to lighter masses that they get pulled in to heavier masses? Is it unfair to more resistant conductors that they get less current than less resistant conductors. Is it unfair to good money that it gets driven out by bad money?

    Fairness doesn’t even seem to be a well-defined concept in those cases. Why should it be for the case of original sin? And even if fairness is defined in that case, why should it be defined as it is for civil law?

  • WisdomLover

    Disqus’s spam filter has gone nuts again…breaking this comment up to sneak past it:

    Now even Part 1 is being detected as spam.

    Breaking it down even more.

  • WisdomLover

    This is Part One

    Thanks for atheist manifesto 3. You do like them don’t you?

    I actually asked why you would expect the human condition to be like civil law. Why should we expect the notion of fairness that applies to civil law to apply to the human condition? Why should we expect fairness to even be a well-defined concept in that context?

    The reason I asked that is that your original claim was this

    In civil law why would you condemn a child to a life of suffering if its father committed a crime. It is nonsensical and totally unfair.

    Of course, even here you are a bit confused, since civil law doesn’t deal with crimes, criminal law has that scope.

  • cgosling

    Wisdom Lover: there are two sets of laws, man made and natural. Religious laws are proported to be god made, but you and I know they come from the minds of men,the pens of scribes and the votes of Church Councils. This seems to confusing to you and you have not said why. Ask and it shall be given my friend. I am always happy to clear the fog of religious superstition.

  • WisdomLover

    So, for example, there’s no actual, you know, reality to the fact that it is wrong to, say, kill and eat my neighbor.

    That’s just something someone made up and wrote down.

    I don’t think it is me that is confused.

  • jekylldoc

    We do need a healthy level of law and judgment. But that should not be the main focus of the People of the Way. It must come in a context of a relationship of love and caring, or else it will turn into something we try to use against other people. The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.

  • Obscurely

    I think Pope Francis has a similar agenda? — emphasizing the life-giving Spirit of the law over its deadening letter …

  • Obscurely

    This is one of the best (and most respectful:) debates I’ve seen on the angry/wrathful vs loving God I’ve seen …

  • Chad Hoelzel

    I find it strange that you find it morally wrong for God to not convince us of his love for us yet it isn’t morally wrong for that same God to burn us in hell.

    Unfortunately, the conscience God gave me can not accept the “Bad News” you are sharing. I will have to continue my journey as a Jesus follower and continue to live his “good news”… that we are made in the image of the Divine and that we are loved no matter what.

    On that day, when I am judged. If God says that I shared a God of love to much…. that I chose to live and teach a theology that had to much inclusivity, love, acceptance and no strings attached forgiveness.
    I will know in my heart that I have lived my life to the fullest and will be at peace.

    Peace to you on your journey WisdomLover

  • WisdomLover

    Who said anything about it being morally wrong for God to convince us of anything?

    But, by definition, convincing cannot be compulsion.

    What if someone will not be convinced? Satan wasn’t.

    Then it’s either force, or let them be isn’t it?

    God’s morality precludes His forcing the will of His free creatures, at least in some cases.

    Thus He let’s them be.

    Thus Hell.


    I rather expect that the number of people that won’t be convinced is a bit higher than we would like to think.

    Suppose that I am right, just for a moment.

    Didn’t you just indicate your unwillingness to be convinced. Even at the final judgement you say that you will be at peace if God condemns you for your theology.

    Isn’t an unwillingness to be convinced evident in Matthew’s own remark to me after my initial comment? “You can keep your angry God”.

    Oddly enough Matthew, who is sooo careful to mock people who call him a Heretic, effectively called me a worshiper of a different God than Him, that is, a heretic.

    If you and Matthew aren’t willing to be convinced, then very few will be willing.

    In fact, I rather imagine that virtually everyone is unwilling to be convinced unless God makes them willing.

    That’s why I said that God’s morality precludes His forcing the will of His free creatures, at least in some cases.

    In some cases, God’s morality does not preclude His forcing some of His free creatures to be willing to be convinced.

    Thus Heaven.


    I wouldn’t identify the God of Love as a distinctive of your theology. My God is also a God of Love. In fact, contrary to your belief, I think they are the same God…you just mistakenly say things about Him that would preclude His Omnipotence and Omniscience (that is to say that would preclude His being God).

    But Christ died for bad theology too.

    In the end, if God shows you that your theology was wrong, I don’t think that you will be content knowing in your heart that you have lived your life to the fullest. Nor do I think that Matthew will say “Meh, you can keep your anger”.

    I think you will just fall to your knees and be grateful knowing that your full life was all filthy rags. And Matthew will also fall to His knees and see that His sense of moral superiority over ‘my’ angry God was also just filthy rags. But if you both trusted Christ, those filthy rags won’t matter at all.

    Betcha that’s what happens with me too, even if my theology is right, it’s still just prideful filthy rags that Christ dealt with.

  • WisdomLover

    Thanks for this, I caught Zahnd’s opening, and I’m about halfway through Brown’s opening. It looks really good.

    I’ll have to finish it up tonight.

  • Michael

    Matthew, your post makes some extraordinarily sweeping claims about Christianity, and they feel like claims made by someone who only understands a segment of American Christianity. But our faith is global and diachronic, and exposure to the wider church reveals far more complexity than your article can really do justice to. I’m a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and I have experienced almost none of the vices you describe here. I think you’ve spent too much time focusing on American Evangelicalism. Go live with the Eastern Orthodox for a bit, or read the writings of William Temple, or commune with the Taize community. I’ve been to a lot of charismatic communities (e.g., Bethel in Redding, CA) that are alive with the Spirit and fire and love. I don’t think “Christianity” is a tired religion, or as hateful as you think it is. I do think that some American fundamentalists make a lot of noise. But why are you letting them define our faith?

    Moreover, you fall back on an abstraction as the solution. “Love” is an abstract term, a lifeless, bloodless politically correct term that remains as saccharine as the Beatles’ song worshiping it. God is not an abstraction, and God’s love is not found in empty platitudes. God is the concrete graciousness that was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself. The biblical faith tells stories, not abstractions, and it finds room for a depth of theology that does not need to oppose love to sin or judgment. As Rowan Williams has argued for some time, anyone who thinks you can have a theology of love without a theology of sin or judgment hasn’t really entered into the deeper things of God’s grace. I’m all for rejecting the superficial conception of hell that plagues fundamentalist churches. But perhaps the most radical position isn’t adopting some hell-free, sin-free, judgment-free liberalism (which is both not radical and not new), but instead plunging the depths of scripture, tradition and philosophy to discover how these dry bones can live again.

  • Chad Hoelzel

    I guess we are on a different journey. I see the essence of the Divine in everyone (made in God’s image). I see the concept of original sin as something made up by St. Augustine. From my research the idea of “a satan” is anthropological construct and was adopted from Zoroastrianism which predates any biblical writings we have. I see hell as a concept stolen from other cultures and adopted as a form of control by fear as used by the church for the last 1300-1700 years.

    The Christian faith is much like a freight train, throughout earth’s history, it has picked up a lot of baggage that isn’t healthy or helpful.

    I’d encourage you to work backwards through Christian history to the first century. You will be surprised how much was add along the way and how much was lost. Biblical historians say that Christianity before and after Constantine looked like two different religions.

  • Fearless Feline

    This has been my experience as well with some Christians and churches. Many seemed more concerned about orthodoxy (correct belief) than orthopraxy (correct action) thus the focus on doctrine, belief, holiness codes, turning the New Testament into a second law when Jesus emphasizes loving God and others, particularly the least of these. A sabbatical from church attendance has been refreshing for me. And reading Richard Rohr and becoming more non-dualistic in my thinking. I don’t like using the term Christian anymore but prefer to say that I follow Jesus.

  • WisdomLover

    The devil and devils, hell and original sin are all clearly present in Biblical teaching. The fact that other religions have devils, or hell, or whatever, also is irrelevant. Guess what else other religions have: God. Is God imported from Zoroastrianism too? Or is it only concepts that you don’t like that get the heave ho?

    Nothing was added to Christianity. What happened is this, there were some issues about which there was no controversy in the church. While there remained no controversy, there was no clear teaching. But if you look, the view that the church settled upon was in the Bible.For example, the seven propositions that comprise the doctrine of the Trinity are all supported by Biblical language. For all that, you don’t see trinitarianism directly in Scripture.

  • cgosling

    Of course it is wrong to kill and eat your neighbor, but I don’t need an all powerful, wise and loving god to tell me that, do you?

  • Chad Hoelzel

    Sorry… life is to short to continue a conversation like this. I have gotten to what Father Richard Rohr calls second half of my life. I cant go back to being dishonest with my understanding of my faith…. which is what this conversation is, blatantly ignoring Christian history and a lot of it’s follies.

    I’m sharing where I’m at in my journey and you are sharing how I’m wrong…. that isn’t healthy for you (Ego) and it isn’t healthy for me (regression in faith)

  • WisdomLover

    I wasn’t asking how you know. I was asking what it is.

    This law against killing and eating my neighbor is apparently one of those made up human things. Or are you claiming that it is a law of nature, like the law of gravity? According to you those are the only two possibilities.

  • Just to note from an outsider’s perspective that it’s not helping you that these (Evangelical) people, this being a Catholic country where laicism is on the rise and not just due to the scandals surrounding said church, or at the very least the most vocal ones, are of the fundie variety:

    – Being told if you’re not interested either that you’ll burn in Hell, attempting to scare you with what will happen to not believers the day Jesus comes back, or that “Christianism is not a religion” -stuff also present below-.

    – Radio stations that bring the best of the worst (Creationists totally clueless in science despite claiming to love it, people as John MacArthur and his calvinism and dispensionalism, someone with gems as that “women cannot rule due to Jezebel’s history (and a book, the Two Babylons, now considered BS)”, “far-left parties practice occultism and are Satanic”, and NWO/Illuminati BS, “hellers” in general including someone who was taking as real the “Well to Hell” hoax (ie: Hell as a physical place), and Pentecostalists who practice the “Prosperity gospel”).

  • WisdomLover

    Well, good luck to you.

    FTR, I wasn’t sharing that you were wrong any more than you were sharing that I am. We obviously disagree with each other, so at least one of us actually is wrong. And we both obviously think the other guy is wrong.

    I did ask you to entertain the possibility that you were wrong. For a moment it looked like you were saying that you if you were wrong, you would sooner accept God’s judgement knowing about the fullness of your life than to believe that God demanded moral satisfaction for the sins of men.

    You never responded to that, but began to focus on the early church and its teachings.

    You should realize that that argument doesn’t really work. The broad consensus of the church has rejected the view you are espousing based on all the evidence of the Bible, the traditions of the church and reason. That freight train of ‘baggage’ that you denigrate is a train filled with a treasure trove of two millennia of careful thought by people far smarter than us. The arrogance it takes to call it folly is breathtaking.

  • WisdomLover

    Well…that’s incomprehensible.

  • Sadly it’s true. While there’s harmless stuff there as reading the Bible, comments about God/Jesus’ love, and people who calls looking for prayers that is present (and I forgot to mention the typical anti-evolution/Big Bang position, hating of gays even wanting God to get rid of them, and waiting for the Rapture).

  • WisdomLover

    I was actually referring to your initial remark.

  • Of course people are losing patience with the church.
    The reason is they do what’s right in their own eyes so they need and want another Gospel.
    But this is a major sign of the times- everything’s on track.

  • The fact of the matter is Christianity was founded on the supernatural, if you don’t like it find something else.
    If people attend Church for social and personal reasons they’re in the wrong place and its prudent for them to leave.

  • I see, sorry. I should notice here that these people are inmigrants who (usually) target other inmigrants and in the case of that one she was inviting to convert everyone, migrant or not, while preaching the typical subjects. When she targeted me and told me I was not intersted at all she told me with the most contempt you can imagine I’d burn in Hell.

    The “Christianity is not a religion”, etc. when I remarked she (other woman) was wrong was replied with anger. That’s not going to go very well.

  • cgosling

    True, some natural laws are those established by physics. Also, some are established by evolution to enhance survival of a species. Often, these natural laws seen cruel to us, but we humans have invented our own cruel and insane laws, too often justified by belief in supernatural powers. We humans often embark upon suicidal and savage behavior because we imagine it is sanctioned by an all wise deity that can do no wrong. All I ask is that we humans use our intellect, not our god dreams, to decide what is best for our survival in this indifferent universe. By the way, there have been many verified incidences where human lives have been sacrificed to gain the favor of the gods. History tell us that canniblism was not uncommon in societies needing protein. Such survival behavior has always been conveniently sanctioned by tribal religious law.

  • summers-lad

    It is not Christian to hold children responsible for their fathers’ sin. True, there is Exodus 20:5, and other similar verses in the Pentateuch, but “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children” is a puzzling phrase, both for the words and the content. Many translations say “punishing” for “visiting” but (not knowing Hebrew) this seems problematic to me. I have a friend who, as a social worker, saw the effects of various sins, especially sexual abuse, affecting subsequent generations, and he tended to see these verses as stating consequences rather than God’s active punishment. As for “going back to Adam”, we all do wrong (whether you call it sin or not) in some ways, by our own decision.
    Ezekiel 18 is a strong statement of individual, and not inherited or transferred, responsibility for sin. And the New Testament is pretty clear that we are judged on what we have done, not on what our ancestors have done. This is why I started my comment as I did.

  • WisdomLover

    All of which pale in comparison to the body count of atheism in the 20th century.

    But that is neither here nor there.

    It looks like humans made up the bit about not killing and eating our neighbor being wrong, but it’s actually a natural law because evolution.

    Which suggests that in a pinch I might recognize that it really is just a made up rule kill and eat my neighbor, and it would be OK. You know, if it helps me to survive to proceed that way.

  • cgosling

    Dear WisdomLover – You apparently do not know the definition of atheist. Atheists, like agnostics, do not believe in god(s). The definition does not make any reference to morality or behavior. Atheists come in all colors and sizes. . It is true there have been canablistic societies who, most likely had their gods, as all societies do. Don’t blame that on atheism. God believing Societies are responsible for the vast majority of atrocities simply because their have been few, if any, atheist societies. Stalin led god believing Russians as did Hitler. I never claimed atheists are naturally more moral than God believers. Ancient societies, including those of early Hebrews, Christians and Muslims fashioned and invented religious law that favored their own survival. Some of the laws, you must admit, were and are ridiculous and savage to this day.

  • cgosling

    Summers-lad – You make an interesting observation. Are you familiar with the concept of epigenitics? Epigenetics is a relatively new concept that allows the passing of some mental and physical characteristics from mother to offspring without changing an organism’s DNA. If a pregnant mouse is nearly starved, it’s offspring will hoard food for several generations thereafter. I’m sure you can see that certain social atrocities causing a feeling of guilt or fear might be long lasting from generation to generation. That might have some bearing on the concept of original sin.

  • cgosling

    Dear blogcom – Thanks for the good advice. But, if non-sincere church goers leave the church, which they are in droves, churches would suffer without government support.

  • summers-lad

    That’s a new concept to me – very interesting. Thank you.
    By the way, I don’t hold to the traditional (inherited) concept of original sin. I believe we have all sinned, but tend to see the condition as cultural or environmental. From what you say, epigenetics could indeed have some bearing on this.

  • Dear cgosling
    Perhaps its time for the chips to fall where they may.
    In a post Christian society the Benedict Option is the best bet.

  • WisdomLover

    The cancer started in the head. It started with the atheist dictators of the twentieth century.

    But that’s a side show, as is your definition of atheism…which apparently cannot distinguish an atheist from an agnostic.

    The main point is that you and I apparently are only restrained from killing and eating our neighbors by one of those made up laws men write.

  • cgosling

    I find it hard to believe that you do not understand that atheists and agnostics do not believe in god. Please check with your dictionary’s definitions. How can agnostics believe in a god when they don’t know if he exists? Please explain. For your edification, atheists, including me, say a deity might exist, but until there is good scientific evidence concerning his existence, they cannot believe. Agnostics say something very similar, but are not usually as vocal as atheists, who are more alarmed about religion’s inroads into personal freedoms and government. Concerning your continued claims that atheists are responsible for what is wrong with the world, I can only repeat that world history is repleat with overwhelming evidence that most wars, suffering and human conflict has been sponsored and/or supported by “god fearing” people. The poor populations of Africa, Asia and South America continue to suffer because charitable assistance from wealthy nations and organizations do not begin to address the ongoing calamity of overpopulation, and the absence of birth control. I applaud the charitable efforts of religion and recognize their concerns about serving the poor. But then, I get distracted by flamboyant TV pastors who take advantage of gullible believers and take what little they have. Too often, Christianity ignores the dishonesty within its ranks and tries to shift the blame to atheists and agnostics.

  • WisdomLover

    You are drifting back into manifesto writing.

    Did you care to address the evident problem with your view that the reason we don’t kill and eat our neighbors is that some guys scribbled down a rule against that sort of stuff?

  • cgosling

    Thanks, I’m glad you like my writings. Humans, with or without their religious convictions, are capable of atrocities, such is human nature. I can see certain disadvantages when one has stronge religious beliefs. Those who tend to be intolerant believe it is their god directed duty to evangelize or “kill and eat” those who feel different. Frustrated friendly persuasion often morphs to violent persuasion, thus there are many wars with religious overtones and justifications. Religious laws are often the result of failed social compromises. Peaceful discussions turn violent when one party refuses to believe something contrary to their own well established beliefs. Christianity, Hebrewism and Islam are the worst offenders currently. Strong beliefs make them intolerant of others.

  • cgosling

    Please enlighten me concerning the Benedict
    Option. I have a feeling that the chips are already falling where they may.

  • cgosling

    Dear WisdomLover, Why is it that you do not reply to my factual statements concerning science and evolution? I suspect readers of these correspondents between us, also wonder why you do not respond. It seems you may be ill informed about human evolution and science so you avoid getting into details. I am simply offering you, and other readers, a chance to understand the history of human supernatural beliefs. Yes, it is uncomfortable to find yourself in deep scientific waters, but more and more religious people are taking the plunge, asking questions and learning new things… and I might add, revising and rejecting ancient supernatural beliefs. I advise both you, and readers of our exchanges, to question ancient beliefs, question everything that does not have a good explanation and evidence. Base your ethics and moral judgements on social and physical science, and above all, on reason.

  • WisdomLover

    I don’t think the readers should be wondering why I don’t respond to your atheist manifestos that attempt to tell us everything that is wrong with Christianity.

    I said in my first reply to you: “I have neither time nor inclination to respond to an atheist manifesto.”

    I was wondering about the claim you made that every law is a natural law or made up by men. That was it. You seem to be saying that the law that we should not kill and eat our neighbors is a law made up by men. The best you’ve been able to do to further clarify this is that somehow evolution made us make up the law.

    Is that your position?

    Because if it is then just about any other view beats it.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover, In as much as atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secular humanists and other non believers in your god, do not believe in supernatural gods, how could they possibly believe that laws came from a supernatural deity, as you do? As I tried to explain to you, nature (evolution) has a set of survival laws that occasionally enhance the survival of all life. Rapid climate and environmental changes often change the rules and life faces mass extinctions, as it has in the past. Through evolution, some species will find other ways to survive the obstacles they encounter. For convenience sake, I call the variable natural parameters, within which life lives, natural laws. Human and other primate societies can be very savage but have the ability to add their own behavior guidelines (laws) that help them survive some of the natural laws, such as over population. Unfortunately, human societies also concoct laws that justify slavery, war, genocide and inquisition.
    As far as I know there have been very few human societies that have justified killing and eating ones enemies, but there have been some, as documented by early European exploration in the South Pacific. Scientists have explained this behavior by suggesting it was the result of over population and need for additional protein. Any other things you need me to clarify? Please ask.

  • WisdomLover

    I see.

    Evolution can only, at best, describe the situation in which a moral law is followed in fact.

    It says not a word about why it should be followed.

    And the answer is not that we should do it because it helps us find mates and food before dying. I mean, why should we do that?

    I’m afraid you’ve got no answers.

  • cgosling

    Wisdom Lover, Finally you are catching on. Congratulations! Science (evolution and especially me) does not have all the answers. For example, why does matter and energy exist in the universe, and even, why does the universe exist?Science does not know and probably never will know the answers to these questions. True, now we know more than we did when the Bible was written and you and I have benefited from the advance of science and free inquiry. I have no doubt that you have more answers about the cosmos and why we are here than I do. It is comforting to believe that god(s) are in control. That is why so many people believe in god without scientific proof. Personally, I much rather make good use of my life understanding that my days are numbered. Knowing that, makes my short time on this earth more valuable and satisfying and continually urges me to make full use of my remaining time. Heaven may be your goal, but my goal has always been to make some small contribution to life on this rare planet, and do it without a bribe of an after life existance and a threat of everlasting hell.

  • WisdomLover

    If, as you say, science does not have all the answers, why should you expect there to be scientific proof of God or a host of other things?

    There is no scientific proof that arithmetic is true. Would you ‘much rather make good use of your life’ than to take comfort in a belief in the truth of arithmetic?

    Even though they cannot be scientifically proven, it is rational to believe that arithmetic truths are true. One reason for this, but certainly not the only reason nor even the most powerful reason is that scientific proofs often, if not always, make use of arithmetical and other mathematical operations to proceed. They do so even though science can have no proof of the truth, reliability or even the mere plausibility of these operations. To put it another way, there is no scientific proof of arithmetic, but there is no scientific proof without arithmetic.

    The same is true of God. There is no scientific proof of God…how could there be, how could science, for example, ever prove by repeated observation that a being is omnipotent? It is actually irrational to suppose that one has, to expect or to require scientific proof for the existence of God.

    Note that that is not the same as saying that there is no proof for the existence of God. But such proof as there is is not, and could not be, scientific.

    One reason to believe that God exists, though certainly not the only reason or even the most powerful reason, is that science makes use of any number of axioms, e.g. Occam’s Razor, the Uniformity of Nature, the Principle of Sufficient Reason, etc., that are plausible if God exists but exceedingly far-fetched if not. That is to say that like arithmetic, there is no scientific proof of God, but there is no scientific proof without God.

    Another thing that’s not scientifically provable is that there is not a good reason to kill and eat your neighbor. What do you say to a fellow who would ‘much rather make good use of his life’ enjoying the taste of grilled neighbor to taking comfort in belief in god(s) or scientifically unprovable rules of ethics?

  • cgosling

    We i

  • cgosling

    Arithmetic has served science well and has helped correct mistakes in our concept of the universe; thank god for arithmetic! I don’t understand why you say there is no proof that it works. It has and does work.
    It should be obvious that there can be no scientific proof that something exists if it does not exist. I’m glad even you admit “There is no scientific proof of god…”. Exactly my point. Non scientific proof is not reliable, and even scientific proof can be corrected and updated as we find out more about the universe. That is the nature of science and why it is our most reliable source of information.
    Your theology “ there is no scientific proof without god.” Is beyond my understanding. No comment.
    I addressed you comment about canniblism in a previous letter. A summary: the kill and eat philosophy you refer to, has been documented in the South Pacific by early European explorers. Scientists suppose it was due to overpopulation and a need for protein. The kill and eat behavior was a survivor behavior. The Old Testament is replete with human survivor atrocities sanctioned by an imaginary god. Humans have been long deceived by their religious and political leaders. When will we learn?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Evolution tells us how and why organisms change. As you say, it helps us find mates and food before we die, but mainly it provides us a way to continue our genetic line. You ask, why should we follow evolution? Answer: We do not follow evolution, it just happens in all life.

  • WisdomLover

    “I don’t understand why you say there is no proof that it [arithmetic] works.”

    First, I was talking about the truth of arithmetic, not the fact that it works (whatever that means).

    Second, I did not say that there is no proof for the truth of arithmetic.

    I said that there is (and can be) no scientific proof of the truth of arithmetic.

    About that I am certainly right because science presupposes arithmetic. You can’t even get started doing science unless you assume the truth of arithmetic. As such, any scientific proof of arithmetic would ipso facto be viciously circular.


    “Non scientific proof is not reliable”

    Nonsense. The proofs that Russell and Whitehead developed for the truth of arithmetic are rigorous, reliable and thoroughly non-scientific.

    If as you have admitted, science cannot answer every question, then it is foolish and irrational to limit yourself to scientific proof.


    As for why there is no scientific proof without God, I think I mentioned the basis of that.

    Scientific proof relies for example, on Occam’s Razor, which says, roughly, that the simpler explanation is the truer.

    But there is no reason at all to think that the simplest explanation is the truer. Unless some intelligence ordered the world such that it is that way.

    Scientific proof relies on the uniformity of nature. It assumes that the laws of nature in remote sections of the universe are the same as they are here.

    There is no reason at all to think that this is so. There is no reason to think that the laws of nature are the same on the other side of my kitchen, or between the top and bottom of the test tube. The assumption that it is so makes sense only if you assume that some intelligence arranged things so that it is so.


    Science is impossible unless God exists.


    Finally, nice try at dodging the question on killing and eating your neighbor.

    I was, quite clearly, not talking about a kill-or-die scenario.

    I was asking about a “fellow who would ‘much rather make good use of his life’ enjoying the taste of grilled neighbor to taking comfort in belief in god(s) or scientifically unprovable rules of ethics.”

  • WisdomLover

    You thou?

    They he/she/it?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover, I must admit I have difficulty in fowowing your theology, as I am sure, other readers of your comments, do. Your theology seems contorted and confusing to my simple intellect. I hope other readers follow your reasoning better than I, but I have my doubts. I suggest you untie your contorted theology so we simpletons can better understand it. Or, perhaps contorted theology is the only theology that can logically exist.

  • WisdomLover

    The fact that the word “God” appears in a bit of text does not make it theology.

    As far as I can tell, my last remark contains no theology at all. It’s mostly metaphysics…though there is a snippet or two of metalogic and metaethics.

    Your last comment could be summarized as

    “I don’t get it…please explain.”

    Would you care to point to the specific remarks that you don’t get?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover, Your theological explanations are too complex for simple minds, but thank you for trying so hard to explain.
    Another subject: I have been wondering about your beliefs concerning creation. Are you a Creationist or are you an Intelligent Design believer? Or, something else? Please explain why you believe in either. Many thanks.

  • WisdomLover

    It seems to me that the only interpretation of Scripture that really works is one in which a specific man, Adam, was created and fell, and another specific man, Jesus Christ, came into the world to set things right. That makes me a Creationist I suppose.

    But I’m not going too get wrapped around the axle about the age of the earth.

    I’m also not going to get too worried about evolution.

    I worry more about physics and cosmology. This is because before the fall, there was no death and decay. But the world our science tells us about includes an expanding, and possibly re-contracting, universe. That’s a universal death sentence, whether by heat death or a big crunch. If the Bible is right, then, those physical realities could not come into play until after Adam was created and fell.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Thanks for the straight forward answer. A breath of fresh air. You say the age of the earth is something you rather not deal with. I wonder why not. Is it because the scientific estimate directly contradicts the bible’s version?

    Also, you said you are not to worried about evolution. That is another important scientific theory you won’t touch. Again, I wonder why not?

    Concerning the present scientific prediction that the earth will end as our sun burns out. It seems like an accurate scientific likely-hood, which you don’t deny.

    Do you believe in bible miracles such as when the dead left their graves and walked about and were seen by many?
    How about the wives of Adam’s sons. Where did they come from? Why are there two versions of Jesus’s ancestry?
    I could go on and on to ask you opinion about bible miracles and the many contradictions found in the holy book. But as is apparent, and in my personal experience, there are some things creationists rather not talk about. I guess my main question is, How can someone can be selective in their religious beliefs? Don’t you have to believe everything as written? I do know bible scholars have and are addressing the task of verifying and explaining the contradictions found in the bible since it was written. So how do these uncertainties effect a believers faith, your faith if at all? I can answer that from personal experience as well as from many surveys. The more I learned about science, the less I believed in miracles, magic and superstition. This is true for many ex Christians. I wonder why it is not true for you? I know you have thought about this and I await your wisdom. No rush.

  • WisdomLover

    I had a long reply for you that got gobbled up by the spam filter.

    I break it up here into several shorter comments. That usually lets me get past the filter.

    Because Disqus is such an epic failure, they may occur in reverse order with this comment coming last.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Two

    Now if you are asking whether I think I can reconcile Biblical teaching with what empirical science says about, say, the age of the earth or evolution. Then the answer is, of course, and rather easily.

    But I won’t say that the account I give to reconcile the two is true. I am not a prophet of God…I can’t write Bible passages. I can (though I won’t in this already overlong comment) propose a hypothetical consistent with both the Bible and, as far as I know, all our theories of the age of the earth. And it would also be the case that if that hypothetical were true, then both the Bible and all of our theories about the age of the earth would fit into one logically coherent account.

    That hypothetical may be true, or it may be a fantasy. What the hypothetical would do is allow one to assert that the Bible is true at the same time that one accepts all the claims of empirical science. That assertion of consistency would then be proven true, even if the hypothetical is not true or even likely.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Three

    I’ll answer the objections you raise against Christianity for the moment. I make no promise to allow indefinite ‘scope creep’ in this discussion. I’m not planning to respond to every charge you make against Christianity.

    For one thing, as I said before, I’m not interested in replying to an atheist manifesto. But anyway, I imagine you are leading with what you consider to be the toughest problems.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Four

    Yes, I believe in the possibility of miracles. Miracles are not momentary suspensions of the laws of nature…at least they need not be.

    Miracles might occur simply because, contrary to popular, though unprovable, opinion, the universe is not a closed system. Something outside may add, or take away something from the system thereby causing a completely unpredictable event…a miracle.

    For all that, once that interference occurs the system continues according to the laws of nature that are in place.

    God may, for example, create a son in the womb of a virgin, perhaps by creating, ex nihilo, the other side of every chromosome in the virgin’s ovum. But once that is done, the son develops over a 40 week period the same as every other baby.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Five

    Yes, I believe that when Jesus was raised, there was a sympathetic effect that caused other recently dead individuals to also rise. Christianity is based on a particular resurrection story. It always surprises me that atheists somehow think that stories of other resurrections would be in some way troubling or embarrassing.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Six

    Adam’s sons married their sisters. Why is that one a problem? Did you imagine that every child of Adam’s 900+ year lifespan was mentioned in the Bible?

  • WisdomLover

    Part Eight

    The so-called contradictions found in the Bible generally turn out like that last one (of Jesus’ genealogy). Pretty weak. They don’t really vex me.

    The way these things affect my faith is to massively bolster it.

    The more I see these lame efforts to discredit the Bible proceed the greater my confidence becomes. I’m left asking “Is that all you’ve got?”

    In contrast, the more I have learned about science, the more incomplete I have realized that it is. And because it is incomplete, as I said before, it is both irrational and foolish to limit what one believes to the scientifically provable.

    For one thing there are things that are provable, but not by science, without which scientific proof would not even be possible: Logic, Mathematics, the truth of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and the Uniformity of Nature, the existence of Causation, of the External World, of Other Minds, of the Self, of God.

  • WisdomLover

    I had a long reply for you that got gobbled up by the spam filter.

    I broke it up here into several shorter comments. That usually lets me get past the filter.

    Because Disqus is such an epic failure, they may occur in reverse order.

    I add this end comment to allow you to see what happened first.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Thanks for the effort. I too have had trouble with whatever disrupts our communications. I look forward to reading your thoughtful insights and replying at my first opportunity.

  • WisdomLover

    Disqus has now eaten part seven of my reply to you. Here it is broken in two.

    Part Seven-A

    The idea that the two ‘versions’ of Jesus’ ancestry somehow contradict is actually a rather prosaic misunderstanding. One genealogy traces Jesus line (back to Abraham) through his legal father Joseph. The other traces His line (back to Adam) through His maternal grandfather Heli. The two lines meet in David and Bathsheba.

    We know that Luke was tracing Jesus’ line from His maternal grandfather because he specifically excludes Joseph from the genealogy. He says Jesus was the son of (as was supposed) of Joseph, of Heli etc.

    What are we to make of that?

    Was Luke giving the name of Jesus supposed, but not actual, bio-dad and giving the lineage of that guy (who is not biologically related to Jesus at all)?


  • WisdomLover

    Disqus has now eaten part seven of my reply to you. Here it is broken in two.

    Part Seven-B

    Luke intends us to think that he is giving a genealogy of Jesus not of the unrelated guy Joseph. As such, the next guy, Heli, actually is an ancestor of Jesus, but not of Joseph. There are three possibilities.

    1. He is Mary’s lover who cuckolded Joseph.
    2. He is Mary’s biological father.
    3. He is some biological ancestor of Mary’s father.

    Luke, unlike Matthew, seemed intent on not skipping generations in his account, so it’s unlikely that Luke meant to be suggesting option 3 (though the language certainly would allow that).

    It is also unlikely that Luke intended to be outing Mary for adultery. Luke has one of the richest accounts of the Virgin Birth including the greatest Song of Praise in all the Bible (Mary’s Magnificat). So option 1 is out.

    Thus Heli was Mary’s biological father. He traced his line back to David through a different path than his son-in-law Joseph used to trace his line back to David. Mystery solved.

    Why is Joseph’s line so important that Matthew traced Jesus back to David through Joseph?

    Because Joseph is Jesus’ legal father. Jesus was, by law, Joseph’s firstborn. Matthew was establishing Christ as the legal successor of King David. Biological legitimacy was not necessary for that. Legal acknowledgement by the father was necessary.

  • WisdomLover

    Disqus has now eaten part one of my reply to you. Here it is broken in two.

    Part One-A

    I didn’t say I’d rather not deal with the age of the earth.

    I think I said that it would probably be impossible to deal with it.

    The age of the earth is figured by using the laws of nature together with what they have to say about a given process and basically pushing rewind.

    The laws of nature applied to most processes observed today, when we project backward into the past, describe an old earth.

    For a few processes, you get a younger earth.

    For the laws applied to some processes you get nothing. The equations blow up…rather quickly so that you can’t even project back for more than a few seconds. This is sometimes thought to indicate time’s arrow, but I find that thinking simplistic. It seems instead to indicate that the universe is currently in a phase of expansion.

  • WisdomLover

    Disqus has now eaten part one of my reply to you. Here it is broken in two.

    Part One-B

    The overall message one could draw (from what we saw in part one-a of my remark) is that the world is ancient, and for a few processes some outside influence has caused a false appearance of youth. It could go the other way of course. It seems, though, that ancient is the best bet.

    But if you hit a point where the laws of nature change, then the rewind function is broken, and all bets are off. You are left in the position of someone looking at the math that describes the motion of a piano string who then starts looking for the travelling wave coming in from infinity from outside the piano case.

    Whatever happened in the Garden of Eden had to have happened under entirely different laws of nature (where death and decay…impossible to escape under the current laws…were non-existent). If the Garden of Eden account is true, then the continuity of the laws of nature, so important to calculations of the universe’s age, is broken.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You asked if these questions were my toughest problems concerning bible contradictions? No, absolutely not. These questions were just are a few that popped into my head. You must be aware that volumes have been written on that very subject: contradictions, false claims, bogus archaeology, impossible events, stolen stories from other religions, inhuman sadistic behavior etc. are all found spread generously throughout the scriptures. I could go on. I do not have the time, and neither do you, to discus everything. I wonder how familiar you are with the plethora of scholary bible criticism. As you know, on many issues Christians don’t agree with Jews or Muslims; protestants don’t agree with Catholics and other protestants and so on. Some where and somehow, someone has got to be in error.They can’t all be right in their understanding of the bible. Or is it possible that your personal interpretation of bible events and theology is the only correct one? I suppose it is possible only you have the true word from the almighty, and the only true interpretation of biblical events.
    I am sure you can guess my personal beliefs about the authenticity of the many versions of the bible. Most of the different versions of the scriptures have been edited, rewritten, corrected, voted upon and stolen from other sources. There may be some truth, but that is extremely difficult to dig out. Humans are prone to error, exaggeration, and emotional fantasy. I have read the bible while trying to find its moral and actual value. There are many wise and moral truths no doubt, but most of the scriptures are unsubstantiated legends written by ignorant Iron age tribes.

    Thank you once again for your great effort to make sense out of bible contradictions, exaggerations and errors. In spite of rereading your writings several times and taking notes, I had great difficulty in understanding your explanations. I’ll give it another try tomorrow. Do you seriously expect the average person will be able to follow your theology?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover, I just reread your explanations again. I am impressed with your flexible mind and extensive knowledge. And, I will continue to try to understand your bible theories. I truly enjoy exchanging thoughts with you and exploring your theology. Thanks for your sincere efforts to convince me that I am wrong and you are right. Our exchanges have been stimulating.

  • cgosling

    I do not believe humans have lived over 900 years. Also, I believe it is incestuous to marry ones sister and close relations.

  • cgosling

    There is no evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead and I never heard of a sympathetic effect that caused dead and buried corpses to dig themselves out of graves and visit their relatives and friends. You can’t possibly expect rational people to believe that. Some if not most Unitarians are Christians without miracles. They are good people living in fellowship with fellow humans, again without the walking dead.

  • cgosling

    Theories about the age of the earth and the evolution of humans are proven theories substantiated by numerous studies. They are in direct contradiction with bible scriptures, and the claims of literal believers of the bible.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Miracles are not improbable events, they are impossible events. Because some events are beyond our comprehension, it does not mean we will not be able to explain them in the future. To iron age people, a moon landing would appear to be a miracle, but now we know better. On the probability of virgin birth or an unfertilized egg giving rise to offspring, it is found in some simple animals but is not considered to be a miracle by anyone.

  • WisdomLover

    “You asked if these questions were my toughest problems concerning bible contradictions? No, absolutely not.”

    OK fine. I think you can see that those problems you raised were fairly easily fielded.

    I can’t reply in general to the claim that “volumes have been written on that very subject: contradictions, false claims, bogus archaeology, impossible events, stolen stories from other religions, inhuman sadistic behavior etc. are all found spread generously throughout the scriptures.”

    I have little doubt that such volumes have been written. But the vast bulk of the problems end up being more or less like the ones you raise…fairly easily handled.

    If you don’t think that the items you led with were the toughest problems, what, specifically, do you think are the toughest problems? Let’s say the top three.

  • WisdomLover

    Of course it is incestuous to marry one’s sisters. It probably leads to all sorts of genetic problems in the offspring. Over time, it might even lead to the shortening of the lifespan of the species from 900+ to, say, six score and ten.

    Your objection was the question: “How about the wives of Adam’s sons. Where did they come from?”

    Presumably the answer “from their father and mother” would not have served. Why not? Because, apparently, you thought that the Bible spoke against their having a father and mother.

    You were alleging a contradiction in the Biblical narrative.

    My answer makes that perfectly clear that there is no such contradiction.

    But now you don’t believe that people lived to be 900+

    Is that the new objection?

    Well, if the standard is simply what you don’t believe, why not just say “I don’t believe there was anyone named Adam who is the ancestor of all men.”

    Or even more simply “I don’t believe the Bible is true.”

    The reason you don’t propose those objections to the text is that they are 100% unconvincing to anyone who does accept the Bible for any reason at all.

    The same goes for the fact that you don’t believe that people lived 900 years.

    BTW, the fact that people lived 900+ years isn’t even essential to the specific answer of where the wives came from who married Adam’s sons.

    That answer only narrowly requires that we say that Adam had at least five children: Cain, Abel, Seth, Sister-1 (married to Cain), Sister-2 (married to Seth). Something he could pull off even if he did not live to be 900+.

  • WisdomLover

    Of course there is evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead.

    As for the people that also rose when Jesus rose, I was saying that when the one miracle occurred, the others also occurred. Every one of the resurrections was a miracle. The only reason I can give for those, or any other miracle, is that God thought it would be cool for them to happen.

    Did you suppose that I was proposing some law of nature?

    Unitarians, who reject the Apostle, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds are not Christians. Though I’m sure that many of them are very nice people.

  • WisdomLover

    I never said that miracles are improbable events.

    I said they were unpredictable events…they are not implied by the prior conditions of the universe plus the laws of physics.

    They are not necessarily the only unpredictable events.

    What do you mean when you say a miracle is impossible?

    That it violates the laws of physics?

    My friend, why on earth should a violation of the laws of physics be considered impossible? The fact that the laws of physics are the same today as they were yesterday is what requires explanation. The fact that the laws of physics are they same as they were when you started reading this sentence is what requires explanation.

    Reason does not tell us that it should be so.

    But in any case, miracles need not violate any law of physics. A miraculous event can occur just because the universe is not a closed system.

    A virgin birth that gives rise to a male would still be considered a miracle by anyone.

  • cgosling

    Wisdom Lover – You have well thought out answers to all my comments. I wonder if you can help me understand the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. Did Saul voluntarily choose to be converted, or was he forcibly converted by Jesus. This has always bothered me because I was told choosing Christ was an act of volition by the one who was converting. Saul’s conversion, by all biblical accounts, was forced upon him. Why? Are there other instances of forced and violent conversion? I expect you have already dealt with this subject and know the answer. Thanks.
    Your explanation of the two genealogies is the standard one as is your defense of miracles. Just testing you. Also, apparently it is not sinful or incestuous to marry and bear offspring with ones siblings and close relatives if god gives his blessing. OK, I did not know that.

  • WisdomLover

    Part One

    All science is provisional. We could find out tomorrow that we got everything completely wrong.

    I’m not banking on that, but I am supremely unimpressed by the fact that any theory is ‘proven’ true.

    The age of the earth, as I said before certainly cannot be proven to be anything if there has been a discontinuity in the laws of physics that prevail. And there is no reason at all to suppose that there has not been such a discontinuity. As I noted before, what requires explanation is that there is any continuity in the laws of nature at all.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Two

    But let’s suppose that I stipulate that the universe is a bit or two under 14 billion years old, the sun, earth and moon are all about 4 and a half million years old (with the sun being a tad older than the earth and moon).

    OK, so what?

    This claim, that the age of the earth is in direct contradiction with the Bible. Where do you get that idea?

    If we make certain assumptions that are not made in the text of the Bible, for example, that nothing about the world changed when Man was expelled from Eden, then yes.

    Of course, if we make different assumptions, that everything was changed, then no.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Three

    What in the Biblical text is to prevent a great deal of time passing between the eating of the fruit and the expulsion from Eden? Nearly 14 billion years to choose an example entirely at random. During that time Adam and Eve are frozen, and a home fit for fallen creatures doomed to death is prepared for Adam and Eve. They are then clothed in the skin of animals…not in their hides but in their living physical bodies that had been evolving for them for nearly 4 billion years.

    Am I claiming that’s how it went?

    NO. NO. NO,

    What I am doing is meeting a charge of incompatibility with empirical science. Maybe the two accounts are both true in some other way, or maybe after all the fuss, the empirical account is just wrong.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Four

    Bear in mind that I do not believe the Genesis account because of the great empirical evidence there is for it.

    I doubt that any of the OT Israelites believed the Genesis story because of the fantastic empirical evidence they had for the creation account.

    They believed it because they had good reason to believe Moses who wrote it. They believed Moses because of the Exodus.

    I doubt that Moses himself believed the Genesis story because of any empirical evidence he had for it. He believed because He believed God who guided Him throughout the Exodus.

  • WisdomLover

    Part Five

    Christians today believe the OT, Genesis included, because it’s pretty clear that Christ and the Apostles to whom He gave authority did. And we believe Christ because of the resurrection.

    As long as the Genesis story is logically compatible with what empirical science has to say, then the findings of science are really of very little concern. And that is the position we find ourselves in.

  • WisdomLover

    I decided to proactively beat the spam filter and broke my reply up into five. Once again, they appear in reverse order if you’ve got a “newest first” sorting.

  • WisdomLover

    What exactly was violent or forced about Paul’s conversion? He saw Jesus. And then converted.

    Is it too flip to say that the apparition convinced him that he had been wrong?

    I see Jesus giving a command “get up and go into Damascus where you will be told what to do” and Paul obeying it. But there’s no force in that is there? Paul might just as easily have gone back the other way for all we’re told.

    As for Adam’s sons marrying their sisters, I don’t think the Bible approves that. I think it does imply that it happened. I don’t think we have to assume God gave any blessing at that time. In fact, the only thing I know about is that God cursed man for his sin. Maybe that was part of the curse.

  • cgosling

    Every bible verse I have read about Saul was that he was knocked to the ground and was blinded for several days. He had to be led to Damascus and finally was healed. I could find no trace of Jesus appearing to him, but he claimed to have heard his voice. In no way do the varied bible accounts indicate he voluntarily converted. The poor guy was terrified. He probably felt that he was in for worse if he did not convert.

    As for Adam’s sons marrying their sisters… It appears to me god gave them no choice but to marry their sisters. If a god allows or arranges for something to happen, I would say he is responsible, wouldn’t you?

    Please explain to me why god killed innocent children and pregnant mothers during the time of Noah’s flood. Were the children and fetuses guilty of some kind of sin or did the sins of their parents condemn them? I never could figure that one out, but I am sure you can explain it.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Thanks for dealing with the spam filter. It is a pain for me too.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Lets not get carried away about ‘all science is provisional’. If so, we would not have landed on the moon or have cures for disease. As I explained before, science is not static but builds upon itself and is self correcting. What more can we ask of anything?

  • WisdomLover

    Paul’s Conversion

    Acts 9:

    As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

    It looks to me like Saul fell to the ground on his own…nothing about throwing.

    Although he was blinded, there is no suggestion there that if he would but convert his sight would be returned. As far as Saul would have known at the time, he was blinded permanently in punishment for his persecution of Christians (poor guy). That may be violent (though that’s also a bit strained), but there’s nothing in it to suggest that he was converted violently.

    He was indeed commanded to go on to Damascus, but there is nothing in the passage that suggests he could not disobey.

    1 Corinthians 15:

    He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

    Seeing a lot of appearing going on there, but not much by way of a forced violent conversion.

    Galatians 1:

    For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Again, nothing about a forced conversion here.

  • WisdomLover

    Cain and Seth’s Wives Redux

    “If a god allows or arranges for something to happen, I would say he is responsible, wouldn’t you?”

    God is responsible for everything. What’s your point?

    The fact that God is responsible for the fact that A does X does not imply that God blesses A in his doing of X.

  • WisdomLover

    Children Killed in the Flood

    God kills everyone. Did He kill the children in the flood any less than the children who die of cancer, or in automobile accidents every day?

    What’s your point? This is the problem of evil.

    There are adequate answers to the problem of evil.

  • cgosling

    The Genesis story is an Iron Age fairly tale. The sequence of events is laughable and in total disorder according to logic and science, unless of course you, once again, suspend science to fit your theology. My Grandmother first read the Genesis story to me when I was seven years old. Twenty years ago I honored her by writing the following poem, which I doubt you have the time to read, but I will include it herein.

    Sitting Next to Grandma

    While sitting next to Grandma as she read to me

    I could tell she loved me, it was plain to see.

    I watched her dear old face as she told me how

    God made the earth for us, it was her solemn vow.

    It all began as a void with waters vast and deep.

    Then light was made before the sun; the Lord was really neat.

    I never quite could understand how this event could be,

    but Grandma read it from the bible that very night to me.

    And then God made the heavens but that confused me so,

    for where had He been before He had a place to go?

    Next came land, then plants according to their kind,

    such wonders of creation really blew my mind.

    But, I will never understand, no matter what they say,

    how plants could grow as they do, without a sunny day.

    But that’s exactly what Grandma read to me from the holy book,

    it was plainly there to read if I would only look.

    Then God made the stars and the planets in the sky.

    The sun and moon soon followed, again up very high.

    I wondered just how God made the light several days ago

    before the sun existed, there was much I did not know.

    All kinds of birds were next and every fish with fin;

    even a few sea monsters He claimed to have thrown in.

    The Lord saw that all was good and was so very proud

    that He created the animals next from His heavenly cloud.

    Grandma said He made all life, so He must have made bacteria,

    those nasty tiny killers that live in my cafeteria.

    Then Grandma read a verse that really made me wonder,

    “Let us make a man to live on the earth down under.”

    Who was this us? I asked Grandma, surely she would know.

    Are there other Gods, as some do claim? I really want to know.

    Grandma said He had some help from angels with great wings.

    Why, I asked, did He need aid from such outlandish things?

    I then asked Grandma if God looked just like me,

    and did He have an organ that He used to pee?

    Or was God a lady and did She have to sit

    whenever She began to feel that it was time for it?

    Grandma stopped her reading; she turned a shade of red.

    I thought for sure that she would decide to send me off to bed.

    She thought a while and then proclaimed, “Of that I have no opinion!”

    She soon went on and read some more, all about dominion.

    We rule the beasts upon this earth and in the sky and sea.

    He commands us, she did say, to subdue all we see;

    to be masters of all creatures and use them as we wish;

    to cook them up for all our meals, they make a tasty dish.

    But when the Lord had worked six days, he was so very tired.

    He had done, with winged help, all that was required.

    So, He blessed the seventh day and took a well-earned rest,

    satisfied, no doubt, that He had done his best.

    Grandma put her bible down and looked at my young face.

    She believed in all that she had read, of doubt there was no trace.

    But in my mind at that early age I just could not conceive

    how the stories that my Grandma read could really be believed.

    I went to bed that very night and thought about creation

    and wondered if they believed that story in every other nation.

    Do all good folk believe the book she read with such conviction,

    or do they read from their own books of faith and superstition?

    Now that many years have passed and I have learned so much,

    I look back upon my youth and Grandma’s loving touch.

    Although she believed with all her heart, she really did not know

    the truth about how life began and how it still does grow.

    She thought that God had a chosen few and that the end was near.

    She did her best to instill in me that belief she held so dear.

    She tried to teach me to fear God and of the sin I bear,

    Adam’s sin passed down to me and all of us to share.

    What Adam did with Eve that day they falsely had been blamed,

    for if God had made them what they were, they did as He ordained.

    So now when I think of Grandma’s God and His threat of hell,

    I know it’s just a fairy tale that works, as does a spell.

    When I have kids like Mom and Dad, I’ll make sure they have

    a true idea about their lives, both the good and bad.

    Thank you Grandma for being you, and for loving me.

    You made me think about this world and who I soon would be.

  • WisdomLover

    I’m not saying that science is bad or unuseful. But the phrase “scientifically proven” has no great allure to me. There are all sorts of proofs many much more reliable than scientific ones.

    I note that you have studiously avoided the issues I have raised to which science can have no answers.

    I’ve answered a lot of your questions about the Bible now. Why don’t you return the courtesy and just answer this one:

    Why are the laws of nature the same on the other side of my kitchen?

    I mean, if the laws are the product of an intelligent God who made us and wants the laws to be discoverable by us, then I understand why that should be so.

    Barring that, it seems to be a remarkable fact that makes science possible but there is not a blessed reason to believe it must be so.

  • WisdomLover

    Thanks for the poem. An atheist manifesto in verse.

    I could, of course, answer its disingenuous charges, but I think I’ve already indulged you quite enough on that front.

    Why don’t you, instead, do me the courtesy of answering one of my questions:

    Why are the laws of nature the same on the other side of my kitchen?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – I have a published book of secular poems I promise not to send to you.
    My poem simply points out the incorrect SEQUENCE of events as written in the bible. I know you think the All Mighty can alter science as he wishes so I won’t debate the point.

    Now, on to your last question: Why are both sides of your kitchen in compliance with the laws of nature? I really don’t know for sure if they are, but I would guess they are, as would everyone else. Here is my answer… If both sides of your kitchen are on the planet earth, the laws of nature are valid for both sides. I know this is a trick question, so I eagerly await your answer.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Science works for me, and I expect it works for you exactly the way it does for me. Perhaps I should define what I mean by science: “Science is knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation which must be confirmed by all research on a particular subject.” Again, science can be wrong and have to be corrected as new evidence is discovered. Science is not infallible or perfect by any means, but it is the best standard we have for knowing the truth about the world we live in. I remain ready to admit I have had to change certain beliefs I thought were true but have since been updated and/or corrected. I have often been wrong in my judgements and have endeavored to correct them as needed. It is something we all must do.

  • WisdomLover

    I did not ask whether the laws of physics are the same on both sides of my kitchen.

    I asked why?

  • WisdomLover

    “it (science) is the best standard we have for knowing the truth about the world we live in.”

    That’s an interesting claim.

    How do you know it is true?

    Why is it true?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Of course I do not believe the bible is true. I thought you knew I am a skeptic and only believe if I have good evidence. My correspondence with you confirms my past experience with other literal bible believers. Only, you are by far the most creative. You are able to answer questions that other believers have stumbled on. You have replied to my questions in unique ways which have totally surprised me. Fascinating! I appreciate your efforts to explain and justify your beliefs.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Interesting. If you believe in one miracle, why not believe in two, or three or a million? It is good logic.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Moses is a fictional character and the Exodus never occurred. There is no evidence so I cannot believe. Speaking of Moses and the early Israelis, can you explain why circumcision was commanded by god? I always wondered about that.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Maybe, Maybe, Maybe. By the way, I have ben told by every Evangelical I have ever talked or written to that the earth is a young earth, around 6 thousand years old, as verified by the bible. Set me straight on the age of the earth. How old is it?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Great answer about the age of the earth. I never would have thought of that. You are an original thinker.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – As I explained many times before, Science is provisional and self correcting and the reason why we reached the moon and have cured many diseases and why we are able to communicate on the internet. That is pretty good evidence that science is the best way to understand our world and universe and ourselves.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – What are the proofs that are more reliable than scientific proofs? And,why do you think they are proofs?

  • WisdomLover

    Not what I said. It is true that the fact of one miracle settles the question of the possibility of miracles.

  • WisdomLover

    Mathematical and logical proofs, just to name two examples.

  • WisdomLover

    So a thing is true just in case belief in it can be used to do things?

  • WisdomLover

    Hardly. Lots of people have thought of that. I imagine that anyone who has understood and reflected on the continuity of natural law eventually gets around to that.

  • WisdomLover

    I should have thought that you would know my answer by now.

    The Bible itself does not require that the earth be any particular age. It cannot be younger than 6000 years (give or take). But it could be older. There are lots of places where the passage of time is not so precisely specified. For example, how long were Adam and Eve in Eden before the Fall? We don’t actually know that. I’ve gotten into arguments about it, of course. But as usual, the arguers don’t take into account that everything changed after the Fall.

    As for the science, again, the continuity of natural law is needed to calculate the age of the earth. But the continuity of natural law is precisely what is rejected in what the Bible has to say about the Fall.

    Now why don’t we get back to that question. Why are the laws of nature continuous. Why are they the same at the other side of my kitchen?

  • WisdomLover

    I did not ask you to believe on the basis of Moses and the Exodus. I said that the ancient Israelites, who lived thousands of years closer to the event than you, believed on the basis of Moses.

    I’d be glad to explain circumcision, but why not first answer my question?

    Why are the laws of physics the same on the other side of my kitchen?

  • Delon Duvenage

    being a true Christian means you walk a knifes edge , I agree with you that the church has become a monster but the moment you try and say an abomination is actually ok ….
    sorry there I cannot agree, let us be careful when trying to find balance not to tip the scale to the complete other end , the law is still the law and for good reason

  • WisdomLover

    I knew you were a skeptic from post one.

    My point was that you were making a claim about the coherency of the Biblical narrative. I answered that by pointing out other aspects of that narrative that relieved the tension you thought you had found.

    You then objected that you don’t believe in those aspects of the narrative that I used to relieve the incoherency you thought you’d spotted.

    It is as if someone were criticizing Hamlet because the so-called hero kills His poor uncle Claudius for no reason at all.

    A Shakespeare lover could easily answer this by pointing out that the ghost of Hamlet’s father told Hamlet how Claudius had killed him by pouring poison in his ear as he slept. Hamlet then staged a play for his uncle that re-enacted the murder (with the names changed) exactly as the ghost had described it. Claudius was clearly frightened and vexed by the play thereby confirming the ghost’s story to Hamlet. Acting upon his vexation Claudius later confessed the crime aloud during a prayer. He was observed by Hamlet doing this.

    Now, instead of saying “Oh I see, OK I can understand why Hamlet killed his uncle” the Shakespeare objector says “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

    What kind of response would that be?

    One that misses the point both of the answer and of the original objection in the most ham-fisted way imaginable.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You claim one miracle settles the question of miracles? Hah! I am still waiting for that first miracle. All claims of miracles have to be individually and fairly evaluated. Just because a so called miracle appears in a religious book of legends, it does not mean that a miracle is or was a real event. I need proof, as do most reasonable people. So far, no miracles have ever been documented by scientific inquiry, which is the standard of proof for all but a few religious radicals like yourself. For example, although there have been numerous studies about the efficacy of miraculous healing prayer over the years, not a single study has found a prayer caused miracle cure. Either god is not listening or bothering to answer, or he/ she/it/they do not exist . The he/she/it/they reference refers to the many pronouns used for god(s) in the past and present.

  • cgosling

    Unitarians do not have an impossible dogma they must believe, and some even do not believe in a personal deity but rather a spirit of nature. They are not only nice people, they are usually educated and non superstitious. For those who have difficulties with bible atrocities and contradictions, and requirements that members believe in supernatural events, the Unitarian church is the answer.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You say your god kills little children in their mother’s womb. This god of yours is certainly a cruel and heartless deity, and not one I could believe in.

  • cgosling

    Dear WisdomLover – I hope you can answer these two questions I have about the Hebrew’s Exodus. Why did the jews decide to circumcise their baby boys. and Why is there a rule about not eating pork. Were those rules from god or human sources and what good did the laws do.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Your references about the great bard left me confused, but thanks for the effort.
    The contradictory stories concerning the Christ’s missing body from his tomb have always bothered me. If one miracle allows for other miracles, likewise does one contradiction allow for more contradictions? These different stories can’t possibly all be true. In your estimation, which is the true story?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Congratulations! Your are correct, the earth is ancient. But then, alas, you say it could go the other way. I guess you are not sure about earth science and the age of the earth after all. As my poem indicates the bible creation sequence is totally crazy and reflects the ignorance of Iron Age science.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – If an all powerful god allows an atrocity, such as killing fetuses and newborns during the great flood, then he is responsible for that atrocity. That is simple logic. Unless, of course, this is another instance where a non empathetic deity suspends logic and his responsibility to his innocent children. In your view, god can do any atrocity and never accept the blame. The great flood devastation of innocents was one of the many reasons I rejected belief in a heartless deity.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – accepting Saul’s revelation is like accepting the word of criminal who swears he is not a criminal. And, after receiving a blinding flash of light Saul fell to the ground. Don’t you suspect the blinding flash of light had something to do with his falling, or did he fall for no reason, maybe he just liked falling as he traveled. Being blinded by a god sent flash is violent, is it not?

  • WisdomLover

    Gee, I don’t know what made him fall to the ground. The text doesn’t actually say. How do you know (seeing as the text doesn’t say)?

    And the question isn’t whether there was violence.

    The question was whether he was forcibly converted by violence. A claim for which there is zero support.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You asked Why are the laws of physics the same on both sides of your kitchen. This is a crazy question that I already answered but here goes again. The laws of physics are the same because both sides of your kitchen are located on the planet earth and subject to the same natural laws. Perhaps the laws of Physics differ in space or in other universes, but I’ll bet that both sides of your kitchen are in this universe and subject to its laws.
    Here is another question for you: Why did god order the Israelites to circumcise their male babies? I am sure you have an answer.

  • WisdomLover

    I believe I began my remark with “God kills everyone”.

    What exactly is your point here?

    That the world contains evil?

    God created the world and all the evil in it.

    That is the problem of evil, a problem that has been raised, of course, but for which there are multiple adequate answers that I won’t go into here.

  • WisdomLover

    Your poem raised no cogent objection to the most boneheaded Creationist imaginable.


    Did I once claim to be certain about the age of the earth?

    No, in fact I think I’ve largely said “Don’t know, don’t care?”

    I’ve also noted that I don’t actually think it is possible to calculate the age of the earth without assuming the continuity of natural law…a point you’ve repeatedly failed to address.

    The continuity of natural law is a thesis that no atheist has the intellectual right to assume.

    Theists do have the right to assume it. But if they have reason to think that there was at some point a discontinuity, then all projection into the past becomes questionable at that point of discontinuity.

  • WisdomLover

    Yes of course, the Hamlet analogy was sooo confusing.

    And no, I’m not going to start answering objections about so-called contradictions about the resurrection narrative (thought they are childishly easy to answer) in response to a post about Adam’s children.

    Especially if that Hamlet story confuses you. I’d probably clear up all the contradictions just to have you respond “Jesus is a legend”.

  • WisdomLover

    God is too mean to exist?

    Did you really just write that?

  • WisdomLover

    More reason to agree with me that they are not Christians…though they are, I am sure, nice enough people.

  • WisdomLover

    The first miracle is the mere fact that anything happens at all.

    You see, the laws of nature do not imply the existence of anything for them to govern.

    The stuff for the laws to govern had to come from outside the system.

    Interference with the system of nature is what a miracle is.

    Miracles are manifestly possible.

  • cgosling

    WisdomeLover – humans can accomplish things and offer proofs by using accumulated science, inspiration and creativity.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Mathematics and logic are inherent in scientific proofs. No argument here. The scientific process includes testing, peer review, more testing and more peer review, etc. Some of our cherished scientific truths have had to be revised and even rejected. Most science is provisional. That is the reason it (the scientific process) is the most reliable source of new knowledge.

  • cgosling

    The resurrection narrative contains several contradicting stories which cannot all be true. If one is correct, then the rest are not true. Is this why you refuse to discus them? I suggest Christians compare the accounts concerning this issue for themselves. May common sense and logic rule.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – I lost you on your comment, “Stuff outside the system”. What stuff and what system are you refering to?

  • cgosling

    I have no idea what you mean by stuff from outside the system.

  • WisdomLover

    I refuse to discuss them because this cannot be a one way interrogation.

  • WisdomLover

    “The laws of physics are the same because both sides of your kitchen are located on the planet earth and subject to the same natural laws.”


    Don’t you realize that you just said that the laws are the same because they are?

  • WisdomLover

    Of course not. If you did, you’d have to abandon your cherished beliefs.

  • WisdomLover

    The system is the universe. Which is a system of matter governed by natural law (at least according to you).

    The trouble is that those laws have nothing to say about how much mattee exists, if any.

    Something else had to determine that.

  • WisdomLover

    As I said before in one of the other comment threads attached to this blog Post by Matthew, I am not interested in our conversation becoming an endless one-way interrogation of me by you. But I do recall saying, after answering some of your challenges, that since those are the one’s you led with they must be what you considered the toughest.

    At that point you said, no, they’re just the ones you came up with off the top of your head.

    OK, fine.

    Then I asked you about the top three that you really did consider toughest.

    Is that what these two are? Two of your actual top three challenges? Male circumcision and the proscription of pork?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – If you are not interested in the reason why circumcision was adopted and why Jews don’t eat pork, I won’t burden you with the information. I thought your inquisitive mind would like to know the real reason rather than accepting the biblical explanation. I am disappointed and surprised at your lack of interest. Oh Well! I have encountered other closed minds who rather not be confronted with anything that disagrees with their entrenched beliefs. May I suggest that new knowledge is good in that it challenges old beliefs and gives us a chance to alter and add to our knowledge.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Thanks for the corrention concerning the Bronze and Iron Ages. Actually, they originated in different parts of the world at different times by different cultures totally separated from each other. The Iron Age brought advances and knowledge unknown to the tribes of the Bronze Age. Much changed in time, except supernatural beliefs which remain the same now as they were then. I wonder why everything changes except belief in the supernatural.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You are correct, science does not have all the answers about the universe, and never will. For example, science cannot answer why the universe /matter/time exist. These questions are not pertinent to science.

    As for abandoning cherished beliefs: I have done that as a youth as I gradually learned about evolution and other aspects of science. It was tough, it confused and distressed me that trusted parents and family and friends had misinformed me.They meant well but had been indoctrinated in their youth and did not have the opportunity or inclination to doubt and question parents and other adults. They meant well, as you do, but they were unaware of scientific facts, and refused to compromise their faith.

  • cgosling

    WisdomeLover – Apparently, both sides of your kitchen are in perfect sync with the laws of nature, at least on the planet earth. (You have already tried to explain it all to me.) I have no problem with that and further theological musings are of no interest to me.

  • cgosling

    WisdomeLover – In my youth, I abandoned my cherished beliefs in the light of new and compelling scientific evidence. I stand ready to do the same again when and if I get new evidence. May I suggest you consider doing the same?

  • WisdomLover

    It’s not that I lack interest. I’ve answered a lot of your questions. But I want to know that there’s a point.

    Are your interests in pork and circumcision really two of your top three objections to the Bible, or will I answer, then in turn be given more backhanded compliments on my mental agility only to be peppered with more concerns?

    (All the while with your best answer to my question about why the laws of nature are the same on both sides of my kitchen hanging out there as “because they are”.)

  • WisdomLover

    Based on your poem, my friend, no you didn’t abandon any cherished beliefs. You had the cherished beliefs you still have. They just weren’t the same as Grandma’s.

  • WisdomLover

    “For example, science cannot answer why the universe /matter/time exist. These questions are not pertinent to science.”

    Again. This response is a joke. Of course those questions are pertinent to science.

    What could be more pertinent than the basis for believing in the very thing that science claims to be talking about and needs to assume to proceed for even one second in its methods?

    Science cannot answer the questions, but it is foolish and irrational to suppose that answers are not needed…especially by scientists.

    I’m sorry, but if you don’t think that you need answers to these questions, then it is you, my friend, who works from ignorance and superstition.

  • cgosling

    OK WisdomeLover – I’m sorry but you have confirmed what I always suspected…The only explanations you accept about anything must be in accordance with your personal interpretation of your chosen sciptures. All things in science and world knowledge including other faiths must conform or agree with your personal interpretation of Bronze-Age superstition. WOW! Do you have any doubts at all? Are you open to new revelations, and how would you know they are true or false.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Interesting comment. In my youth I believed; I prayed sincerely to the point of tears on occasion; I asked to be forgiven of my sins; and I loved Jesus, as I was thought in church and by my Grandmother. But gradually, as I grew up and learned about biology, I began to have my doubts about some bible claims. Biology courses in high-school finally convinced me that the bible was not literally true, although I recognized there were some common and good moral values in it, not unlike other religions and secular organizations. My thesis is to accept what makes sense and works to better society, and myself, whether it comes from Christianity, philosophy, or any other religion. I try to keep my mind open to new ideas and evaluate them. I have learned much just by conversing with you and considering your theology. I hope some of my explanations and criticisms will do you some good in the future, but by now, I expect you are cemented into your faith and will not be able to alter it. Closing the door on science is a grave mistake.

  • WisdomLover

    WL: I’m not terribly vexed about the OT command of circumcision or prohibition of pork. (There’s just not much that needs explaining there. Obviously both are important in Hebrew religious observances and later Christian theology, but if you want to know why those rules and not others, there’s not much to explain.)

    CG: I’m not terribly vexed about the uniformity of nature (In spite of the fact that it is a presupposition of all scientific thought and I think science is the only source of knowledge.)

    One of us is working off superstition. And it ain’t me.

  • WisdomLover

    After all that build-up on pork and circumcision you’ve said nothing about it? Did you really ever have anything to say? Or was it just more shifting of goalposts?

  • cgosling

    I know the reasons societies practiced circumcism and why there were pork restrictions but you said you were not interested, so forget it. I agree that religious laws are often reflective of real social problems. In order to solve a problem it is sometimes more effective to say the solution was a godly commandment rather than give the real reason. Actually this approach was often the best way to solve a problem in ancient societies. But today, I’d rather base my behavior on physical and social science instead of stoning people to death on the say of a religious leader.

  • cgosling

    The Hebrew laws concerning not consuming pork and practicing circumcision had actual social, health and migration origins, of which you don’t seem to be interested, other than god commanded it. The Hebrew leaders realized there were problems and took action. Claiming laws are passed down from gods is more effective than saying they are from man alone. Don’t get me wrong, not all religious laws and practices make sense.

  • WisdomLover

    Circumcision, even today in modern hospitals, is a bit iffy on the health benefits. Apparently penile cancer starts in the foreskin, so you avoid that. But that form of cancer is incredibly rare anyway. Infection is not. And infection is a much bigger problem in a bronze age society.

    As for pork, did you think it was some sort of revelation that pork carries some diseases (notably trichinosis)? Would a command to cook the pork well solve the problem.

    It is true that in a nomadic society, pork is a poor choice for livestock. But it seems no law against pork consumption would be needed…no one would be raising pork, so there would be no way to eat it.

    Of course, I’ve heard the health arguments before from people who think it shows God’s wisdom that He commanded circumcision and no pork.

    I’m as unimpressed by that as I am by the idea that the priests did it for the supposed health benefits and attributed it to God…especially when it comes to circumcision which probably has no health benefit.

    These were sacramental practices of the Hebrews…that’s it.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – As often happens in history, national policy and religious law are not always guided by logic or scientific proof. (Clue to the answer about circumcision and pork questions). We would be better off if all our beliefs and practices made good sense and had good foundation. I’m glad you are actively thinking about, and hopefully researching, why and how religious and civil laws have come to be. It is easy to claim a law or policy came in a flash of lighting, so it must not be questioned. I prefer to question everything and be selective in my resulting beliefs. It makes no sense to believe in something without at least trying to verify its accuracy. You have certain beliefs which you believe to be devinely inspired, but so does every other religion that ever existed upon this earth. Of course each religion believes it is right and the others are wrong. Unfortunately, blind faith resolves any contradictions.

  • WisdomLover

    There is no comprehensive set of beliefs for which every claim is verified, many might not even be verifiable.

    One accepts all the beliefs, though, because they form a coherent whole and one does have verification for many and the most important of the beliefs.

    Christianity is no exception to this rule.

    I don’t expect to get proof that God commanded the rules on pork and circumcision. I accept those rules were commanded as a sacramental practice because I accept a Biblical worldview for other reasons (e.g. the resurrection of Christ).

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover- You wrote… One accepts all beliefs because “ they form a coherent whole.” (Confusing) You also claim there is “verification for many and the most important of the beliefs” (meaning Your religion?) In fact, all religions contradict each other. Because we find some truths and falsehoods in all religions that does not mean they, or any single one, is always true or false. I personally believe there are truths and good values present in all religions, but, this does this mean any one is truer or better than the rest. Can you give me a listing of religions from the truest to the least truest? Our personal biases, by birth or conversion, solidify our current beliefs and make contrary beliefs seem wrong. But who is going to judge? You?

  • WisdomLover

    Who is going to judge?
    Part Four

    “Who is going to judge?” is really a stupid question.

    Obviously, each person has to judge for themselves, and each person has to accept the fact that they might get it wrong.

    And as for settling disputes, unless we are under some imminent threat, the only answer is that we just have to keep arguing until we get tired or come to agreement.

    BTW…On a different though related matter, I’m sorry that you find it difficult to understand how one comes to accept a theory.

    It seems to me that you find an awful lot of things confusing.

  • WisdomLover

    Who is going to judge?
    Part Three

    “Well, you might say, Eratosthenes did these measurements of shadows…”

    Oh yeah, who died and made Eratosthenes God? Why should he be the one ‘who is going to judge’?

    For that matter, ‘who is going to judge’ just exactly ‘who is going to judge’?

    And ‘who is going to judge’ by what methodology anyone ‘is going to judge’?

  • WisdomLover

    Who is going to judge?
    Part Two

    You know, there are at least two incompatible views about the shape of the earth.

    Does that make all views about the shape of the earth false?

    No, obviously the earth is round. The learned have known this since well before Christ (and have even had a pretty good idea how big around it is).

    Still the disagreement exists between flat-earthers and round-earthers.

    ‘Who is going to judge’ between the views?

  • WisdomLover

    Who is going to judge?
    Part One

    Well, that’s pretty sophomoric.

    The fact that two views contradict doesn’t make them both false.

    The fact that two views contradict and I cannot point to an arbiter ‘who is going to judge’ doesn’t make them both false.

    It doesn’t even make the judgement difficult.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You are right, I am confused about many things and that is why I continue to learn as much as I can and approach new evidence with an open mind. I don’t judge unless I have evidence, and even then, I am always ready to alter my most cherishd beliefs when and if I have to. (I explained all of this to you before.) As for disputes, I consider it a waste of time to keep arguing until I get tired. I am always prepared to admit I am wrong, unlike those whose beliefs are based solely upon faith.
    Concerning theories: Some are wrong and some are eventually proven to be true, like the biological evolution of life. I recall that you do not believe in evolution and consider yourself a Creationist. That is amazing to me. You seem to be an intelligent and inquisitive person. A person who is unable to analyze new information and reject outdated information is destined to live in the past.
    I wonder, which is more important to you, religious faith or basic science? Which of the two could humanity best do without? People cannot be Creationists and accept basic science, unless they are fooling themselves.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Two contradictory views do not absolutely mean both are false, but they do mean at least one is definately false, (Creationism and biological evolution.)

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You are wrong about the shape of the earth. The earth is not round, it is closer to being ellipsoid and even then its ellipsoid shape bulges at the equator and constantly changes its shape. As I have said many times before, we must be able to accept new knowledge and reject old beliefs when necessary. Science is amazing, is it not?

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Who is going to judge, and by what methodology? That’s an easy question. Judgements are made routinely by juries and judges based upon verifiable facts, but not faith.

  • WisdomLover

    Judges should decide on the shape of the earth?

    That sounds anything but easy my friend.

    I think you have lost your way.

  • WisdomLover

    Very nice pedantic correction.

    Yes, of course it’s closer to ellipsoid than spherical. It’s not ellipsoid either of course, what with all those bumps and divots in it, like Mt. Everest and the Marianas Trench and what not. Still…closer to ellipsoid.

    Tell me though, is it closer to round than flat?

  • WisdomLover

    Then why do you assume that the fact that religions make conflicting claims that they are all false? The fact that there are conflicting religions is not even relevant to the question of whether there is a true religion.

  • WisdomLover

    I’m sorry, when did I ever say that I disbelieve in the evolution of life? Perhaps the most critical thing you’ve heard me say about evolution is “I don’t care”. As truly I don’t. Nothing in my life is altered in the slightest by its truth or falsehood.

    Why not turn your vaunted desire for learning to the words I’ve actually written rather than using the word “Creationist” as a shibboleth?

    I think I spent considerable effort (and succeeded) arguing that evolution and an old earth is logically compatible with the Bible. There endeth my interest in the question. I don’t have to give up the current most likely verdict of my senses and those of my fellow creatures to believe in the Bible. And I don’t have to give up the best extant account of the Necessary Being in order to believe in the possibility of evolution..

    Religion or science is a false dichotomy.

    My friend, your every passing word makes it clearer and clearer that you have a religion complete with sacred mysteries. That’s because people have religions…whether they like it or not.

    And people have always done science. That’s because science is nothing more than the careful application of experience, testimony, guesswork and reason. These have been with us from the start.

    What is more, the two are linked. There are assumptions made by scientific methodologies that are religious in nature.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – Perhaps I did not make myself clear, I’m sorry I misunderstood. I was under the impression that you believed god created everything, matter, time, and life from a void according to a schedule plainly set out in the Bible called the Creation story. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures claim the earth is young, about eight thousand years young and god created humans as the first life and then followed with the rest of animals and plants. However, the sequence of events in the creation story makes no sense and is contrary to established science and common sense, as I already pointed out. Yet, you will not admit the literal creation story is false, the result of superstition and ignorance. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, you try to play your cards so as not to offend Creationists. You say the evolution of an old earth is compatible with the Bible. Creationists vehemently dispute that claim. Be brave, come on out and say evolution proves the creation story is utterly misconceived and wrong. Creationists are convinced that you are totally wrong and evolution is not true. Perhaps you are a believer in intelligent design. If so, you are still contradicting the literal creation story and what creationists sincerely believe.
    Science is much more than the careful application of experience, testimony, guesswork and reason as you wrote. Science is the fair consideration of all facts and theories; the effort to vigorously prove and/or disprove all the facts and theories; the effort to test and retest before believing anything is true; and then, once proven, science means that persons will give up their most cherished beliefs in the light of new and better facts and theory. You want your cake and eat it too. I have met many perssons such as you, who are torn between blind acceptance of the bible and the truth found by the scientific method. I respect the fact that you are an intelligent person doing your best to reconcile superstition and science. I suspect most Christians and Jews endeavor to do that. The ones who cannot, end up being nominal believers or actually leave their religion.

  • cgosling

    WisdomeLover – Scientists are better judges on scientific matters than you or I, but they do make our own judgements concerning science anf fable easier.

  • WisdomLover

    Of course I believe that God created the world per Genesis.

    I also believe that the Eden-world described there followed an entirely different set o f natural laws. So any effort to discover what the Eden-world was like by empirical science is bound to failure.

    New laws that include things like the second law of thermodynamics began to prevail after Adam’s sin. These laws all imply the death of man and the ultimate destruction of the universe.

    There are several hiatuses in the Biblical narrative such that the world could be virtually any age you like. The Biblical account implies that the world is no younger than several thousand years. It could be as much older as you like.

    It so happens that one of those hiatuses in the Biblical narrative occurs between the Fall and the arrival of Man in the world beyond Eden.

    I am now going to identify a particular claim:

    The entire saga of the big bang and cosmological development including the evolutionary development of life on this world occurred in between the time when Adam fell and the time when he was expelled from Eden. After Adam was expelled from Eden, God clothed him in the flesh of an evolved animal in this world ruled by laws that imply the death and destruction of the universe and everything in it.

    For simplicity, let’s call this claim X.

    I do not claim that X is true.

    Still, if X were true, then every word of Genesis would be true and everything we think we know about the universe and mankind by empirical science would also be true.

    But do we know that X is true?

    No, of course not. But that is not what I am arguing for.

    I am arguing for the much less ambitious claim that the Biblical narrative is compatible with empirical science. If the two are compatible, then no one is rationally compelled to give up one in favor of the other.

    That is to say, that I am arguing for the claim that it is logically possible for empirical science to be correct in all its claims and for the words of Genesis to be true in its claims.

    All that’s needed for that much less ambitious effort if for the claim-X to be logically possible. Claim-X does not need to be true or even likely to support what I am arguing for…mere logical possibility will do.

    But it is quite clearly the case that X is logically possible.

    As such the claims of Genesis and the claims of empirical science are quite compatible with one another. There’s no reason for a person who accepts one to give up the other.

  • WisdomLover

    So now scientists are going to judge?

    Which is it? Judges and juries or scientists?

    You’re all over the map here.

    But just to let you know, scientists do not determine what the methodology of science is using the methodology of science.

    (And if they did, their judgement would be based on circular reasoning.)

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – In leagle matters, Judges and juries are usually selected after careful consideration of applicants. Some are dismisssed and some are chosen. it is far from a perfect method, but so far it is the best we have. in scientific matters, scientists judge themselves, their theories and their facts. It is called peer review and It works pretty well. Scientists usually are their own hardest critics. In public matters it is the voters who do the judging of the candidates and new policies. Unfortunately, this does not work all the time. I thought you would know all of this.

  • cgosling

    WisdomeLover – Thanks again for your effort to explain your methodology, but I remain humbly confused. It seems to me that logical possibility is far from actual scientific proof.

  • WisdomLover

    And who decided all this? Who are any of these people to judge?

  • WisdomLover

    Yes. Whenever a point is proven, I note that you become very confused.

  • WisdomLover

    All I know is that you fielded the silly question “Who is to judge between religions”

    I noted that that’s silly when applied to anything at all, including religions.

    You then answer that judges and juries judge.

    When I pointed out that that’s silly, you then said that scientists judge.

    When I pointed out that that’s also silly, you now suggest judges and juries judge on legal matters, scientists on scientific matters and voters on public[?] matters.

    But the basic problems remain.

    We call scientists because they do judge in scientific matters using a certain methodology. But I took your question “who is to judge?” to mean “who should judge?” not “who does judge?”

    Why should the people who we call scientists make the judgments using the methodology that they use?

    Ditto for judges and juries. Ditto for voters.

    And ditto for the fact that we can’t justify the use of the scientific method, the adversarial judicial system or democratic voting to judge whether those methods are the right methods to use by those very methods. The scientific method is not justified by the scientific method, but by some extra-scientific argument. No judge and jury judged for us that we would use judges and juries. Majority rule is not justified by the vote of the majority. And to speak of religion. No Papal declaration gives the Bible or the Pope, or any religious tome or leader authority.

    All that any of us can do is argue with each other until we come to agreement. And if we don’t come to agreement, then we won’t be able to do those things, science, law, government, religion (or whatever), together.

  • cgosling

    WisdomLover – You wrote, “All that any of us can do is argue with each other until we come to some kind of agreement. And if we don’t come to agreement, then we won’t be able to do things, science, law, government, religion (or whatever), together.” Yours is a harsh statement that dooms us to continued argument , conflict and war. I am more optimistic than you are. I believe through patience, understanding and documented evidence, we can resolve most human disagreements and eventually arrive at agreements, or at least compromises, even though they may be temporary and not totally satisfactory. It is true, we cannot have everything our way but patience and resolution have their rewards.
    However, if we believe by faith alone, chances are we may not be open to revision of our beliefs. Are you ready to reject your most cherished beliefs in the light of new and convincing evidence? I doubt it. If, on the other hand, we base our beliefs upon scientific discovery and established evidence, we can alter our views as new and better evidence becomes available. That is the essence of scientific inquiry and reason. Change must be inevitable and welcome. Dogmatic righteousness is what causes conflict because there are some people who will never admit they are or have been wrong. How sad.

  • cgosling

    You may be right about my confusion to what you write, but on the other hand my confusion may be due to your incomprehensible mutterings.

  • WisdomLover

    “I believe through patience, understanding and documented evidence, we can resolve most human disagreements and eventually arrive at agreements, or at least compromises, even though they may be temporary and not totally satisfactory.”

    Ummm…how is that different from arguing until you come to an agreement?

    “However, if we believe by faith alone, chances are we may not be open to revision of our beliefs. Are you ready to reject your most cherished beliefs in the light of new and convincing evidence? I doubt it.”

    What is the basis of that doubt?

    My guess is that it’s based on nothing but prejudice.

    Over my life I’ve changed all sorts of cherished beliefs.

    Some I haven’t.

    Whether I will change my belief depends on the presentation of relevant argument. The whole religion=superstition riff you’ve got going in your remarks here, of course, is not anything like a relevant argument.

    “If, on the other hand, we base our beliefs upon scientific discovery and established evidence, we can alter our views as new and better evidence becomes available. That is the essence of scientific inquiry and reason.”

    Uh huh…it is too bad, though, that there are all sorts of things that aren’t discovered that way. Things without which scientific discovery and the (empirical) establishment of evidence are utterly impossible.

  • WisdomLover

    Ah…at last the mask lifts. Thanks.

    But I’ll stick with my theory.