Eternal Moments

Without an eternal soul our existence is truly meaningless in the long run which is all that matters. Eventually your effect on others, nations and the world subsides, even if you are Alexander the Great. The earth will cease to exist, the universe will eventually cease to support any life. It will be as if we never existed. There will be absolutely no trace.

In the above excerpt from a feedback e-mail, a Christian visitor attempted to persuade me that I should view life as meaningless because I am an atheist. If we don’t believe in an eternal soul, he argued, and if life ends forever at death, then all our endeavors are pointless because they are doomed to return to nothingness in the long run. Eventually, the universe will be the same as it would have been if we had never come into existence.

Quite aside from any other considerations, this argument is fallacious on its face. Meaning and accomplishment need not last forever to be significant. When we act now, in the present, we can make a difference in others’ lives here and now, and as far as I’m concerned, that is more than enough. It’s nothing but arrogant vanity to think that our acts must be remembered and praised for all time to be meaningful. This correspondent felt that “the long run”, meaning thousands or millions of years hence, is all that matters, but in fact it seems to me that the exact opposite is true: the present is what truly matters. The future can see to itself.

However, there’s another reason why this argument misses the mark. In my recent post “The Moving Light of Time“, I presented evidence from physics that the common-sense notion of time as a moving spotlight, illuminating moments in succession so that each one briefly becomes the present, is false. One of the most startling consequences of the theory of special relativity is that past, present and future are relative terms, dependent on the motion of the observer. Which one of those three categories a moment is classified as depends on who is doing the classifying, just as a particular place can be nearby or far off, depending on where one is viewing it from. The place itself does not change, only the observer’s perspective.

But the fact that the same principle holds true for time leads us to a profound and awe-inspiring conclusion. Past, present and future are matters of perspective: it is the moments themselves that are real. In a very real sense, each moment exists eternally. Our imperfect senses, deceived by the arrow of memory that creates an illusion of time’s steady flow, do not perceive this, but it is no less true for our inability to grasp it.

In this sense, it is not true, as my correspondent suggested, that all will eventually return to nothingness without a trace. Quite the contrary, the moments in which we are alive will always exist. There may be later moments in which the universe becomes barren, but those earlier moments will not cease to be. Thus, a universe that is empty and dead from the beginning does differ from a universe that later becomes so. The set of moments which comprise the totality of spacetime in these two universes are not the same. One contains life and happiness, and the other does not – and the more happiness that is contained in the former, then the better that universe was a place to be.

There is another profound implication for freethinkers. If Heaven is defined as eternal happiness, then we do not have to die to get there. We are already there. Any moment when you are happy, any moment when you feel joy – that moment exists forever. No blind faith in this conclusion is required, no miracles or magic need be invoked; this is the position to which the ordinary, evidence-backed natural laws of the cosmos inevitably lead.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • bobingersoll

    In the above excerpt from a feedback e-mail, a Christian visitor attempted to persuade me that I should view life as meaningless because I am an atheist. If we don’t believe in an eternal soul, he argued, and if life ends forever at death, then all our endeavors are pointless because they are doomed to return to nothingness in the long run.
    The Christian doesn’t really believe that. I mean, if he did he would apply it across the spectrum of our lives: Why would an atheist go on vacation if it is just going to end in a week? Why would an atheist start reading a book if he will eventually finish it. Why even begin a meal if in 15 minutes all the food will be gone?
    Pointing out that this supposed after-life is all that makes this present life meaningful, yet ignoring all of the mundane repetitious events in the lives of believers and non believers is telling. I mean, he would have to admit that, for the believer, a bowel movement is far more meaningful than it is to the unbeliever. (I have news for him, I was a believer for a long time, and now am not. The bowel movement is about the same.)

  • bobingersoll

    In the above excerpt from a feedback e-mail, a Christian visitor attempted to persuade me that I should view life as meaningless because I am an atheist. If we don’t believe in an eternal soul, he argued, and if life ends forever at death, then all our endeavors are pointless because they are doomed to return to nothingness in the long run.
    The Christian doesn’t really believe that. I mean, if he did he would apply it across the spectrum of our lives: Why would an atheist go on vacation if it is just going to end in a week? Why would an atheist start reading a book if he will eventually finish it. Why even begin a meal if in 15 minutes all the food will be gone?
    Pointing out that this supposed after-life is all that makes this present life meaningful, yet ignoring all of the mundane repetitious events in the lives of believers and non believers is telling. I mean, he would have to admit that, for the believer, a bowel movement is far more meaningful than it is to the unbeliever. (I have news for him, I was a believer for a long time, and now am not. The bowel movement is about the same.)

  • terence

    Or as the great man once said, “Millions of people are concerned about eternal life who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

  • SteveC

    I think you may have missed the biggest fallacy in this Christian’s argument.
    (Though you did say “Quite aside from any other considerations…” so perhaps it was deliberate.)

    Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that this assertion is 100% correct and true:

    > Without an eternal soul our existence is truly meaningless
    > in the long run which is all that matters.

    Notice that this is in no way an argument for the _truth_ of the existence of an eternal soul. It is an “argument from consequences”, which is a logical fallacy. The author of that sentence does not like the implication that life is meaningless without an eternal soul, and so asserts the soul is eternal, so that they may continue to imagine their life has meaning.

    That’s a bit like someone taking a look at their bank statement, seeing a balance of only $1.50, and not liking the size of this number, asserting that they are in fact a millionaire and tossing the bank statement into the trash, since it is clearly in error, when it is quite obvious to everyone else that they are not a millionaire, and never have been.

    It is precisely the same form of argument being made in both cases.

    If lack of an eternal soul means life is meaningless, then so what? That’s not an argument, that’s just complaining. Complaining about it won’t change it. Asserting that it isn’t so won’t change it.

    Notice also that many Christians use “meaning of life” in a way that may not line up with other uses of those words. Often they mean that they think that God has caused them to exist to fulfill some purpose, however ordinary, which He wants carried out. Not that they necessarily have some specific idea about what that is, but may imagine their presence in the world having divinely ordained “butterfly-effect” like consequences which ripple out into the world, of which they admit they may be entirely unaware.

    THAT sort of “meaning of life” definitely does not exist if atheists are correct (as I think they are.)

  • SteveC

    I think you may have missed the biggest fallacy in this Christian’s argument.
    (Though you did say “Quite aside from any other considerations…” so perhaps it was deliberate.)

    Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that this assertion is 100% correct and true:

    > Without an eternal soul our existence is truly meaningless
    > in the long run which is all that matters.

    Notice that this is in no way an argument for the _truth_ of the existence of an eternal soul. It is an “argument from consequences”, which is a logical fallacy. The author of that sentence does not like the implication that life is meaningless without an eternal soul, and so asserts the soul is eternal, so that they may continue to imagine their life has meaning.

    That’s a bit like someone taking a look at their bank statement, seeing a balance of only $1.50, and not liking the size of this number, asserting that they are in fact a millionaire and tossing the bank statement into the trash, since it is clearly in error, when it is quite obvious to everyone else that they are not a millionaire, and never have been.

    It is precisely the same form of argument being made in both cases.

    If lack of an eternal soul means life is meaningless, then so what? That’s not an argument, that’s just complaining. Complaining about it won’t change it. Asserting that it isn’t so won’t change it.

    Notice also that many Christians use “meaning of life” in a way that may not line up with other uses of those words. Often they mean that they think that God has caused them to exist to fulfill some purpose, however ordinary, which He wants carried out. Not that they necessarily have some specific idea about what that is, but may imagine their presence in the world having divinely ordained “butterfly-effect” like consequences which ripple out into the world, of which they admit they may be entirely unaware.

    THAT sort of “meaning of life” definitely does not exist if atheists are correct (as I think they are.)

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Steve:

    Nor is that the only logical fallacy. It is assumed that the death of a person means the death of his or her works. While this is generally true, it need not be so. For instance, the works of those enigineers who’ve built the space probes which were slung out of our system project a billion-year existence for those probes. While not eternal, I’m sure it’s beyond any “second coming” in time.

    This insistence on finding meaning in an afterlife is disgustingly dehumanizing — and a control lever upon the masses of believers.

  • TEP

    >>Why would an atheist go on vacation if it is just going to end in a week?

    But what if upon the end of the vacation, the atheist loses all memory of it? That would be a closer analogy.

  • Herb

    I have really enjoyed these discussions of relativity. Even with an understanding of physics, the popular conception of time is so ingrained that I didn’t realize I was still clinging to it in philosophical discussions.

  • Mrnaglfar

    When will people realize that just because they don’t like the implications of a theory, that in no way effects it validity. Just because someone doesn’t like the idea of dying and life only having what meaning we ascribe to it does not mean that there must exist something to fill that void in them. Same way that just because the people who don’t like the idea of evolution have absolutely no effect on the fact that it has/is happening.

  • OhioAtheist

    SteveC, neither the quoted portion of the correspondence, nor Ebonmuse’s other remarks, imply or even hint that the Christian correspondent considered this an argument against the truth of atheism–only its desirability. He may well have (naively, of course) intended it to convert Ebonmuse, but it’s a bit premature to call it an argument from consequences.

  • SteveC

    OhioAtheist,

    You’re right of course. However, having seen the same complaint leveled at atheists by Christians what seems like at least a hundred times online, and tens of times in real life, at this point I don’t really need a hint to make an educated guess, but a guess it is.

    I suppose if one holds the notion that in order to believe in Jesus, you have to _want_ to believe first, which seems to be fairly commonly held from what I’ve seen, then making the belief desirable (or the lack of it undesirable) may seem to be a sensible course.

  • hereigns

    I find this topic very compelling on many levels. In regards to the comment, “It’s nothing but arrogant vanity to think that our acts must be remembered and praised for all time to be meaningful.”, astounds me. Our “acts” will certainly be remembered; both good and bad; whether you are an atheist, Christian, Buddhist, or Islamist.

    “When we act now, in the present, we can make a difference in others’ lives here and now, and as far as I’m concerned, that is more than enough.” I agree, too many people in many walks of life look to the future instead of how they can help RIGHT NOW.

    “If Heaven is defined as eternal happiness, then we do not have to die to get there. We are already there. Any moment when you are happy, any moment when you feel joy – that moment exists forever.” If the only definition of Heaven was “eternal happiness” then I could see your point. But thank God that is not the only definition:

    Miriam-Websters Dictionary:
    1 : the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome : FIRMAMENT — usually used in plural.

    2 a often capitalized : the dwelling place of the Deity and the blessed dead. A spiritual state of everlasting communion with God.

    Bible:
    Jesus tells us it is a place of citzenship, rulership, and most importantly worship. Those who believe or put their faith in Him have a new home and the part that makes my spirit jump, a hope.

    I absolutely agree that our acts have eternal impact but I’m not concerned when I help a friend or a stranger on whether or not my helping hand will have eternal consequences. All I know is when we lend a helping hand or an encouraging word to someone who is hurting we don’t need to wait for eternal gratification, in most cases it is immediate. I believe our kind acts are the very heart of God no matter what religious denomination you affilate yourself with.

    May the Lord bless you and yours!
    Rob

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    If, when we die, we cease to exist, then it is really a very moot point whether our legacy lives on or dies. Also, it is important to consider what “meaningful living” would be. It is possible for someone to feel very fulfilled simply mucking around in a boat for his whole life and being very content, while contributing virtually nothing to future generations. I agree with the author of Ecclesiastes when he says

    “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

    Cheers,
    Matt

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    >>Why would an atheist go on vacation if it is just going to end in a week?

    But what if upon the end of the vacation, the atheist loses all memory of it? That would be a closer analogy.

    Interesting thought. I think if I knew that at some point I’d forget everything that had ever happened to me, I’d treat it as sort of like dying and get in as much as I could — but if it was a choice between doing something I’d remember and doing something that I’d forget, I’d probably go for the former, even if it wasn’t as good, as long as it wasn’t painful. So you’re right, the memory has noticeable value as compared to the act, and could potentially change the equation significantly.

  • SteveC

    Ooh, here’s another one I just spied…

    http://iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=220330

    If human life is meaningless without God to give us purpose… I guess that means God’s life is meaningless since he’s got nobody to give Him purpose…

    Ah, but he’s the exception to every rule, right? Just as something can’t come from nothing — unless that something is God?

  • Mrnaglfar

    So what kind of ‘purpose’ or ‘meaning’ does God give that people can’t make for themselves? Or is this one of those questions that gets answered in the typical “god works in mysterious ways”(read: I have no answer for you and am just talking straight out of my ass) fashion?

  • Mrnaglfar

    @ TED,

    But what if upon the end of the vacation, the atheist loses all memory of it? That would be a closer analogy.

    In terms of everlasting life, the same conclusion gets reached, and I can explain using simple math. Given a long enough time span, everyone’s life gets reduced to a fraction of that time that is, in essence, zero. Living forever would create situation much like now, in that there would be far too much past (an infinite amount given an eternity) to remember, and so much of a future (another infinite amount) that the entire span of the past, no matter how long, would also be proportionately nothing. How much of our lives do we really remember anyway? How many moments (since we only remember moments) of the past year can you rattle off the top of your head? You’ll find that there is an amount of unremembered time that vastly exceeds the remembered moments. Yet we manage to function pretty ok regardless of all that ‘lose of memory’.

  • bassmanpete

    But what if upon the end of the vacation, the atheist loses all memory of it?.

    There’s a condition known as anterograde amnesia or short-term memory loss that causes exactly this to happen. It’s covered extremely well in the movie Memento with Guy Pearce & Carrie-Anne Moss. You may have to watch it 2 or 3 times to “get it” completely.

  • windy

    “But what if upon the end of the vacation, the atheist loses all memory of it?”

    Haven’t you ever heard people say “What a great party last night, I don’t remember a damn thing!”? ;)

  • severalspeciesof

    I’ve always had a hard time trying to figure out why having an eternal soul would necessarily mean that life would then have meaning. It’s obvious (if eternal souls are true) that this life here and now would be different than the eternal soul life, rendering the here and now virtually moot.

  • hereigns

    Matt R,
    As you know, the single most important word in your comment is the word “If”. “If, when we die, we cease to exist…” If this life is nothing more than here and now and has no real purpose then surely we can all eat, drink, for tomorrow we die and my faith in Christ is meaningless except for some random acts of kindness that I may have extended to others. But I’m afraid you have seriously miscalculated the power of the love! The cross goes beyond today, beyond the hear and now, it is a reminder each and everyday of your life of just how much the Father loves you! He sacrificed (willingly surrendered) His Son so that you might have LIFE and have it more abundantly!

    You quoted Ecclesiates 8:15, which the writer, most likely King Solomon, acknowledges the existence of God, “…all days of the life God has given him…” which seems to be a contradiction to your initial comment.

    In Love,
    Rob

  • hereigns

    Mrnaglfar,
    In regards to your comment about, what purpose can God give us that we cannot give ourselves. I’m sure this is not the case for you but in my life I searched hard for a reason to this life; I looked in alcohol, drugs, family and friends, women, sports, and books for a reason and found nothing! As the writer in Ecclesiates states so eloquently I “toiled under the sun” for meaning and purpose and came up empty every time! When I finally finished searching I heard the Lord call my name.

    April 2003, I had just finished taking a shower and was drying off and heard the Lord say, Ecclesiates 2:17. I couldn’t belive what I heard. I hadn’t opened a Bible in over 20 years, at the time I had no idea what was in that verse. It reads, “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” This verse really spoke to me, that was exactly where I was at in my life. I had tried everything but found nothing meaningful. I read the whole book Ecclesiates that night and was amazed at what I had read and my life has never been the same since.

    I no longer live for myself. I can honestly say I enjoy life now, this life does have a meaning and purpose. I look forward to each and everyday. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I do know the One who does. I’m not perfect by any stetch of the imagination but I know the One who is. I realize how this may sound but I don’t live this life in my strength anymore.

    Rob

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I looked in alcohol, drugs…

    Probably not the best place to be looking for meaning or purpose ;)

    Just out of curiosity, why does your life need a meaning or purpose? What do you mean by that? I must be dysfunctional or something, as I’ve never (so far as I can remember) felt the need for either. But then, maybe I’m just misunderstanding what people mean when they talk about it, which is why I ask.

  • hereigns

    Nes,
    You’re right, I’ll admit none of the places I looked for meaning/purpose in life were good especially alcohol, drugs, and sex.

    Anyone I’ve ever discussed “life” with has freely admitted they have on atleast one occassion asked his/herself, “why am I here”? In regards to your question why does your life need a meaning or purpose, for me, so I can rest. The Holy Spirit was wooing me to the cross my whole life but I did everything I could to resist. I finally surrended and am so glad I did. Never underestimate the power of rest :?)

    HTH,
    Rob

  • Mrnaglfar

    Hereigns,

    A story about personal conversion does little to impress upon me the idea that those beliefs are true. But the question was still never answered; you opened up like you were going to answer the question:

    In regards to your comment about, what purpose can God give us that we cannot give ourselves


    But nothing following that was an answer. A passage in the bible related to a point you were in your life about how someone else found life meaningless.

    this life does have a meaning and purpose.

    Which would be, in your mind, what?

    I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I do know the One who does. I’m not perfect by any stetch of the imagination but I know the One who is.

    That amounts to an answer of “Life has purpose for me but I don’t know what it is”. Which is, in essence, not an answer at all. Is that one of those answers you don’t have?

    I realize how this may sound but I don’t live this life in my strength anymore.

  • hereigns

    Mrnaglfar,
    Easy on the taco sauce, :?)

    A story about personal conversion does little to impress upon me the idea that those beliefs are true. But the question was still never answered; you opened up like you were going to answer the question:

    In regards to your comment about, what purpose can God give us that we cannot give ourselves…but nothing following that was an answer. A passage in the bible related to a point you were in your life about how someone else found life meaningless. This life does have a meaning and purpose. Which would be, in your mind, what?

    I see where you’re coming from and I agree with you, I didn’t really directly answer the question. The purpose for this life is…are you ready for my answer…to love. I couldn’t love myself therefore I couldn’t love others. I was angry with myself and others who had hurt me but then I met forgiveness. I forgave myself and others which has opened the door and allowed me to love. This may not be the answer you were looking for but it absolutely is my purpose in life. To love God, love myself, and love others.

    Rob

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Anyone I’ve ever discussed “life” with has freely admitted they have on atleast one occassion asked his/herself, “why am I here”? [sic]

    …which presupposes that there is a reason. If you don’t presume that there’s a purpose to/for life, the question is meaningless, much like asking a bachelor if he loves his wife. To me, the more interesting (and relevant) question is: “Is there any purpose to/for life?” My current answer to that question is “No.”

    Also, I didn’t mean to ask specifically what your purpose in life was; I meant the more general “Why does life need a meaning or purpose?” My bad :)

    (Note that I mean, in all of this, a “higher” purpose (for example, one is born to do something in particular, they just need to figure out what), which is what most people seem to mean. If one wants to give their life a purpose, such as finding a cure for AIDS, helping the poor, raising a family, or whatever, that’s not what I’m arguing against.)

    And I have spent way too long editing this and can’t get the other part of it to come out right, so I think it’s time to just post it as is.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Hi Rob,

    I’m a Christian. That’s why I used the “if” word. I was speaking hypothetically. I have the same hope as you that there is life eternal. In my opinion, if there is no God, then the source of meaning for life changes. Without God, then I determine the worth and meaning of my life. With God, then God is able to provide meaning to life, however, I still have the ability to choose my own meaning and I may choose to make God’s meaning my meaning, or to choose another meaning of my own invention. If God exists, as I think God does, then it is far more practical to choose God’s meaning. If God doesn’t, then it does not matter.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Andrew A

    In all these discussions about meaningfulness of what we do, where that meaning comes from, etc, I’ve heard many viewpoints. But as of yet, there is one I have never heard of and only just now considered.

    If God provides all meaning in life, then what is the purpose of God’s life?

    If this has been brought up in the previous ten or so comments, I apologize, for I am tired and have just enough time left to write this comment.

  • andrea

    all of these comments by the Christians here reduce down into Pascal’s wager i.e. what do you have to lose by believing in God (and briefly, what I have to lose is time, freedom, knowledge, etc). However, here it’s modified a little by vague words about love, and the good ol’ “god works in mysterious ways, and I’m following blindly” arguments.

    Love isn’t God. We can see that over and over again in the Bible. Love isn’t condemning people who simply aren’t born in the right place/time to know about you to eternal torture. Love isn’t saying that those who don’t believe in God should be brought before him and killed(don’t believe me, see the parable of the ten minas). I know what love is, and again, this ain’t it.

    I don’t believe in God at all, other than as yet another Bronze Age anthrocentric myth. From what I can see of what the Bible says, the only meaning in life and afterlife is praising some lunatic deity.

  • http://www.socialrank.com caroline

    Hey there,

    This is Caroline from SocialRank.

    I am trying to get in touch with you but couldn’t find your email address.

    We’re launching a new Web 2.0 site dedicated to Atheism and we have started indexing your blog posts as part of our

    content filter.

    I’d like to send you an invite to a beta preview. Can you get back to me with your email address.

    Mine is caroline@challengereligion.com

    Kind regards,

    Caroline

    http://www.SocialRank.com

  • Brock

    So Rob finally comes up with his meaning in life, even if in very vague terms. Like “godtalk,” the word “love ” is one that means whatever you want it to mean. But assuming that I mean what Rob means, why do I need a supernatural helper to love others? Why do I need his/her forgiveness, when even Rob says “I forgave myself.”
    And if it’s so all fired important to have a purpose in life, what’s wrong with going out and getting one. Isn’t that after all what you did do? I fail to see the difference between a virtuos Christian and a virtuous pagan, except that the virtuous pagan is less likely to burn his neighbor at the stake for his beliefs. The hospital where I work ( a Catholic one)has in its mission statement “dedication to Christian ideals.” I personally, feel that I can do better than that. By the way, Rob, I would love to see you tell our nuns that they are not christians. I’m not sure what woiuld happen, but I think I would enjoy it!

  • Brock

    Oh by the way. When did Merriam Webster become the final word on spiritual matters?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “I couldn’t love myself therefore I couldn’t love others. I was angry with myself and others who had hurt me but then I met forgiveness. I forgave myself and others which has opened the door and allowed me to love.” — Rob

    None of this requires a soul or a deity. I too have found my peace through forgiveness (extending it when asked, asking it when I screw up, which is often) and love. I do my best to love the others sharing this world. Note that I am thoroughly atheist.

    However, notable in its absence from your list is the quality of honesty, which is, in my mind, the sine qua non of happiness; for if one is dishonest, particularly with onesself, how can one be sure one’s peace is real?

  • hereigns

    Due to the number of people who have responded to my postings I have decided to lump them all into one response, hope that is okay.

    Nes,

    If I’m understanding you correctly, the questions are very similar one is personal, “why am I here?” and the other more global, “what is the purpose to life?”. The fact that you said your “current answer” is “No” almost slipped by me. Let me preface the following comments with, I realize I’m opening up pandora’s box. Because you said “your current answer” makes me believe you’re a fairly open minded person, which is a good thing. My answer is a resounding “Yes”, when I see the earth and all it’s fullness I see a creator, a designer if you will. I mean I’m simply amazed at all of creation, it astounds the mind. The way every plant, insect, animal, sun, oxygen, moon, and stars fit so perfectly together screams of a Creator. Did you know the average person has over 100 billion neurons in the brain alone? Call me simple or stupid but this fact alone assures me someone or something is at work here. To believe this fact could’ve occured by happen stance or by the “Big Bang” theory simply doesn’t exlain this fact to me. Because God created you and me then He must have a plan for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…plans to give you a hope and a future”.

    Andrew,

    If God provides all meaning in life, then what is the purpose of God’s life?

    Some of you are going to chomp hard on these verses but nonetheless…Romans 11:33 “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

    Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    Andrea,

    all of these comments by the Christians here reduce down into Pascal’s wager i.e. what do you have to lose by believing in God (and briefly, what I have to lose is time, freedom, knowledge, etc). However, here it’s modified a little by vague words about love, and the good ol’ “god works in mysterious ways, and I’m following blindly” arguments.

    What time will you lose? I’ve not lost any time.

    Freedom – I’m more free than I’ve ever been! Satan had me shackled down with stuff I could not carry. I was chasing after so many lies like; if only I had more money, if only I was better looking, if only I was smarter. Maybe you’ve never experienced or heard or chased after some or any of those lies but I say to you, many people in America have or will have taken a big bite. Satan wants only three things; to kill, steal, or destroy, don’t believe me, watch American TV for 30 minutes. He’s trying to sell you all kinds of garbage usually which is usually one of three main categories, sex, alcohol, or how to make more money.

    Please explain how you lose knowledge by coming to Christ? I’ve only gained knowledge and not just spirtually. I’m better off with my finances then I have ever been. Most importantly I’ve learned how to love my wife and son unconditionally.

    Love isn’t God. We can see that over and over again in the Bible. Love isn’t condemning people who simply aren’t born in the right place/time to know about you to eternal torture.

    We see two very different messages in the Bible then, cause all I see is love. Who do you know that has been condemned to eternal torture for not being born in the right place/time?

    Love isn’t saying that those who don’t believe in God should be brought before him and killed(don’t believe me, see the parable of the ten minas). I know what love is, and again, this ain’t it.

    I don’t believe in God at all, other than as yet another Bronze Age anthrocentric myth. From what I can see of what the Bible says, the only meaning in life and afterlife is praising some lunatic deity.

    All I can say is, wow! Even the U.S. court system believes in justice. He is a just God and I’m thankful for it! If He wasn’t then I would know it was a lie and man-made. If someone harmed you or someone you loved you’d probably want to see the offending party brought to justice, God’s no different. Calvary is a free gift, you can either receive it or reject it but either way you must choose.

    Brock,

    So Rob finally comes up with his meaning in life, even if in very vague terms. Like “godtalk,” the word “love ” is one that means whatever you want it to mean. But assuming that I mean what Rob means, why do I need a supernatural helper to love others? Why do I need his/her forgiveness, when even Rob says “I forgave myself.”

    For over 30 years I lived without Christ in my life but I’ve never known love like I know it now with Christ. I thought I knew what love was before Christ but I can tell you I didn’t have clue. Have you ever had someone curse at you or threaten you or your family? Have you ever had a co-worker stab you in the back with lies? I have and most likely you have also had someone “sin” against you in your own life which caused you grief and quite possibly hate in your heart for that person(s). I have had occassions without Christ had people sin against me and I would normally react in anger with hate in my heart for the unprovoked hate thrown at me. With Yeshua, when a person sins against me I can forgive them, pray for them, and bless them. I have compassion for those who are hurting around me which I never had before.

    I fail to see the difference between a virtuos Christian and a virtuous pagan, except that the virtuous pagan is less likely to burn his neighbor at the stake for his beliefs.

    I can’t stop you from lumping all “Christians” into one bag but I wished you wouldn’t. And I’m not saying this out of convience; not everyone who annonces to the world they are Christian really have a heart for God. We are not to judge but if you must look at their fruit of someone’s life. Burning someone at the stake is definetly not loving your neighbor which should be the calling or marching orders of anyone claiming to be a Christian.

    Rob, I would love to see you tell our nuns that they are not christians. I’m not sure what woiuld happen, but I think I would enjoy it!

    I was speaking in relative terms. Because of past and present actions some people have a negative persona of the Catholic Church which causes some people to think, “this is what Christianity is all about?”. The answer ofcourse is a resounding NO! I’m not God and I can’t be sure of anyone’s salvation except my own but I’m quite sure there are many Catholics who have given their heart to God.

    Rob

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Because God created you and me then He must have a plan for our lives.

    Because there’s a creator (or so you claim), that means we must have a purpose? What if the creator just made us to look at? What if we’re just “Sims” running around some greater being’s copy of SimEarth X? Having a creator doesn’t necessarily equal having a purpose (and no, that Bible quote (nor, for that matter, any Bible quote) is not very convincing). I know that I’ve created things that didn’t have any particular purpose. I made them because I could, or to hone my skills.

    when I see the earth and all it’s fullness I see a creator…

    Even if there was a creator (and I’m only granting this for the sake of argument; I certainly believe nothing of the sort with the evidence available to me, and it would take a small book to explain why, not to mention completely derailing the thread. I suggest just browsing talk.origins)… how would you know which one it is? Humans have posited many creators throughout history including, though by no means limited to:

    Because you said “your current answer” makes me believe you’re a fairly open minded person, which is a good thing.

    But of course. I think I’ll let John Maynard Keynes explain:

    When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The way every plant, insect, animal, sun, oxygen, moon, and stars fit so perfectly together screams of a Creator.

    I think Douglas Adams pointed out the fallacy in this argument the best:

    Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

    The reason our environment “fits” us so perfectly is not because it was made for us, but because we evolved to fit into it. The same is true of other living species. That said, there are a huge number of species that once lived and are now extinct. (By most estimates, the number of species currently living may be as small as 1% of all the species that have ever lived.) This does not speak to me of a world that “fits so perfectly together”. Nor does the fact that every planet, including the Earth, is pockmarked with craters from massive cosmic impacts.

    Who do you know that has been condemned to eternal torture for not being born in the right place/time?

    Well, if you believe the Bible, the Ammonites and Moabites:

    “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever.”

    We see two very different messages in the Bible then, cause all I see is love.

    Then perhaps you haven’t read passages like this one:

    “Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish….

    Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long; and there shall be no might in thine hand. The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway: So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see…. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity…. Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee…. And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters… Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”

    In truth, the biblical verses that depict God as loving, kind, or merciful are mere islands in a sea of divinely commanded bloodshed, wrath and misery. I recommend you read my essay “A Book of Blood“.

    Burning someone at the stake is definetly not loving your neighbor which should be the calling or marching orders of anyone claiming to be a Christian.

    But what if burning someone at the stake now saves their soul for burning forever in Hell? That, in fact, was the explicit logic used by the medieval inquisitors.

    More generally, your argument here commits a fallacy known as “No True Scotsman”: arbitrarily redefining the term “Christian” to exclude everyone whose actions you disagree with. By this maneuver, you hope to claim credit for all the good that self-professed Christians have ever done, while disclaiming responsibility for all the evil that self-professed Christians have ever done. I hope you realize this sort of thing isn’t going to find much favor among atheists, especially when many of these evil and violent actions are explicitly commanded by numerous verses in the Bible.

  • Brock

    Ebonmuse speaks for me. I am not lumping all Christians together, except to point out that those who profess Christianity are much more likely to use violence and chicanery to spread their beliefs (or powerbase)than those who identify as agnostic, atheist or even just pagan. Your latest post does nothing except reiterate what you have already said. As an escapee from evangelical, charismatic Christianity, you have nothing to say to me that can convince me. I have seen it from the inside, said things similar to what you are saying, and have gone beyond. I welcome you to join us.
    You talk about people “sinning” against you (There’s a meaningless word) and how much more forgiving you are now that you have Jesus. If you only understand that all people have their own agenda, and that it isn’t all about you, then you will have a better understanding of their actions, and I have found that allowing for this differing agenda, allows me to work much better with others, perhaps even to love them when appropriate. you talk about praying for them, blessing them and having compassion for them. That’s all stuff you do for Rob, and to let yourself feel superior to them because of your faith. Ask yourswelf what they really need from you, and maybe you will be able to give it to them.
    Reading over that last, I see that I am interpreting your words perhaps unfairly. Let me say in my defense that I am interpreting your words in light of my own experience as a Christian, and hoping to get through to you.

  • OMGF

    Satan wants only three things; to kill, steal, or destroy, don’t believe me, watch American TV for 30 minutes. He’s trying to sell you all kinds of garbage usually which is usually one of three main categories, sex, alcohol, or how to make more money.

    Why are sex, alcohol, and money bad? I confess that I don’t drink, but I don’t see why it is bad if someone does, same with money, and sex is definitely good. I think what you mean to say is over-indulgence of these things is bad, or irresponsible use? But, that’s true about many things, so why single out these three?

    Even the U.S. court system believes in justice. He is a just God and I’m thankful for it! If He wasn’t then I would know it was a lie and man-made.

    Then, I suppose you should reconsider your allegiance to god. If god sends just one soul to hell for eternity, then god is unjust. There is no way around that. That god commits genocide a few times in the Bible is pretty unjust as well. That god condemned all of us for the “sins” of Adam and Eve is also unjust, not to mention the fact that he condemns them at all since they had no knowledge of good or evil so they could not make an informed decision. god is anything but just.

  • Brock

    “Have you ever had someone curse at you or threaten you or your family? Have you ever had a co-worker stab you in the back with lies? I have and most likely you have also had someone “sin” against you in your own life which caused you grief and quite possibly hate in your heart for that person(s). I have had occassions without Christ had people sin against me and I would normally react in anger with hate in my heart for the unprovoked hate thrown at me. With Yeshua, when a person sins against me I can forgive them, pray for them, and bless them. I have compassion for those who are hurting around me which I never had before.”

    People have a personal agenda based on their personal needs and desires. usually the people I deal with have needs and desires that differ from mine, so that if I don’t allow for this I find their actions unreasonable and hurtful, because they are acting in accordance with their own agenda, not mine. Consequently, I feel “sinned” against. If I understand that everybody has their own agenda, I can adjust my actions to account for this, and if I help others meet their needs and desires, they tend to reciprocate. I feel this is probably a better basis for “love” than if I were to forgive them, bless them and pray for them, which helps them not at all, but merely makes me feel superior and “loving.” The flip side of this is that if someone is angry at me, it’s because I failed to consider their agenda in my actions. I therefore need to look at my own actions, rather than putting the entire blame on them.
    If this seems simplistic, it’s because it’s a simple concept…at least it is if my mind isn’t all cluttered up with prescientific notions of psychology.

  • John

    I read this post the other day and it reminded me of some thoughts I’d had some time ago, but wasn’t sure if it was on topic or not, but it seems the thread is pretty wide open now, so here goes.

    Eternity or forever is a difficult concept in that I think it can be defined in several ways. If it is considered to be the totality of all time, then I’ve never understood why people think it is so important that they continue to exist after they are dead, when it is never considered very important whether we exist before we become alive. Maybe some religious traditions consider it and consider it an important period of time, but I grew up Christian and I never remember it being given much thought at all. It would seem to me that the most important time while I’m alive is just that particularly short period. And as you say that moment is eternal in some sense.

    I find it a comforting way to frame existence, then again, so far my life has generally been pretty good. Definitely there’s been some rough patches, but overall I’m satisfied so far. But when I consider some of the more horrible things that can happen to a person: being murdered, having a child murdered, being gang-raped, being pregnant from such a rape, etc. Other than being the murdered person, people often talk of letting it go, moving on with the passage of time. A perception of linear progression of time then seems like it would be much more comforting than thinking of the event as an “eternal moment”, even if one knows it (as much as they know anything) to be true.

    But that leads to the question of whether it better for a person to let themselves believe a lie, just because it comforting. I know Christians who have had some of these horrible things happen to them, and I really don’t think it is possible to deprogram someone after such an event. I never really try very hard at convincing theists against the idea of God. There is the hope of meeting the lost love one again and/or the divine justice. But I have said before that if their beliefs are correct, then I’m the one who will be in hell and the murderer/rapist is very likely going to be in heaven according to their own beliefs. I mean God doesn’t really care about rape and murder as long as you believe in him and make your best attempt, even if you are a sinner, right?

    But I digress. I guess I’m not completely sure how the “eternity of the moment” adds to the meaning of life. But I’m glad I’m here.

  • hereigns

    Hello all, I’ve now entered the land of plentiful, smile. Seems I’ve stirred the pot here and have way too many fans, lol. Because I have so many fans I can no longer keep up with the questions on a one-on-one basis so for now I’ll just do a broadcast response. Thanks fans, lol!

    In regards to whether or not God is just…on the surface the Old Testament seems to show many aspects of Gods personality; cruel, unjust, kind, loving, etc. But let’s dig a little deeper and see what we come up with.

    Because God is perfect, Holy, and Just His love requires justice, 100% of the time (unlike man) and He’s not moved by things that move us. Because of man’s sin God would be just in wiping out man-kind because of our disobedience to Him. But because of His amazing love and wonderful grace we have been offered a free gift, His loving, obedient, even to death, Son.

    Question: How could a loving God kill “innocent” people?

    Deuteronomy 9:5 “…it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you…”

    God said the people He was driving out were wicked, guess the “innocent” weren’t so innocent. Which begs the question, ‘What kind of wickedness could they be doing that would cause God to drive them out’?

    Deuteronomy 12:31 You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

    It becomes painfully clear the people were wicked. God, who is Holy and Perfect, therefore anything that is not, if He is Just, MUST be corrected. God’s righteousness requires the judgment of all sin. Please keep in mind too that God is long-suffering and mericiful, much more than you and I. The covenant He made with Abraham He kept (every promise), in spite of the rebellious house of Israel. How many times did He warn the Kings of Israel to stop their wickedness before He was forced to act and correct them? Men and women killed, women raped, villages destoryed, taken captive, because of their own wickedness; they broke the Lord’s covenant made with Abraham and God kept His promise to correct them as well.

    If God loves us why did He flood the earth?

    Gensis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

    Notice God used two very important words in this verse that should not be overlooked, “every” and “only”, when describing the intent and thought of mans heart. I can’t even begin to phathom or imagine what the world must have looked like during this time. This is some crazy stuff going on here…talk about total chaos. Probably the closest thing we’ve seen in our lifetime is Darfur or Rwhanda, South Africa.

    2 Peter 2:5 Seems God even called Noah to be a preacher of righteousness, yet the people still refused to listen and continued in their wickedness. God even went so far as to offer a way of salvation! He provided an Ark through Noah and his family and yet no one else followed. The means of salvation, preaching of righteousness, and God’s patience were there, yet everyone else refused them and received their judgment.

    Fast forward a couple millenium later and we can clearly see we are now back in the times of Noah; as the ark was a shadow of things to come. Today the ark is being built and scoffers are all around. Believers are sharing the Good News of Jesus throughout the world, even unto death.

    So what about Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 18-19. The Lord revealed to Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah have sinned exceedingly. The fullness of their wickedness was revealed in Ezekiel 16:49-50 “…She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.”

    Abraham asked if God would sweep away the righteous with the wicked. He asked the Lord if there were 50 righteous, would the Lord spare it; He said yes. He asked the Lord if there were 40 righteous, would the Lord spare it; He said yes. He asked the Lord if there were 30 righteous, would the Lord spare it; He said yes. He asked the Lord if there were 20 righteous, would the Lord spare it; He said yes. He asked the Lord if there were 10 righteous, would the Lord spare it; He said yes. This reveals how wicked and sinful the people were. They were without excuse and judgment was finally coming.

    Lot and his family numbered less than 10 in Sodom and Gomorrah (Lot, his wife, his two daughters, his two sons-in-law, and two angels only made 8, the same as the Flood). Yet, God provided a means of salvation for them. The angels came and helped them get to safety.

    God is nothing if He is not just! He has always and will always punish/correctunrighteousness. Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Interestingly enough, people who say God is cruel or unjust are the same ones who want justice when they are attacked, which is a double-standard. In both the Old Testament and New Testament God judges sin people had or have the opportunity to get back to a right relationship with Him. Mercy and patience were to be found through God’s vessels Noah, with his preaching for years. Abraham, with his pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah. His mercy and patience are still available today (2 Peter 3:9). And God has provided a means of salvation, a new ark if you will, in Jesus.

    2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    So, the lesson, we should hate sin (Romans 12:9) and love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) who acts justly against sin (2 Thessalonians 1:5–10). Yet he offers abundant mercy to those who love Him (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 7:9; Ephesians 2:4). I pray this helps.

    Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

    Mercy and Justice are the foundations of His throne.

    Rob

  • Mrnaglfar

    Hereigns,

    Quoting the bible (the book claimed to have been written, or at least inspired by god,) to justify that deity as being just and loving is kind of strange, and here’s why. You can be sure of what god is because you’re sure he meant what he himself wrote. I could write a book about how loving and just I am, but that doesn’t automatically make it so. If a human did any of the things god did, even to a lesser extent, they would be branded as a genocidal, incompetent fuckhead to say the least.

    Some examples from the bible, since we’re taking ideas from that: If god wanted people to obey him, why not just make them obey him; counter to that, if he wants people to have free will why then command them to do things and punish them eternally for exercising that free will in a manner that displeases him (seems cruel, or at the very least, incompetent). If I felt that people in the middle east aren’t treating each other right, would it be acceptable for me to go over there and kill every man, woman, child, and animal because of that? Likewise, if we are supposedly all ‘wicked’ creatures, it’s only because god made us this way (according to your logic), in which case we’re being punished for his screw ups. If sin is so terrible, why a) did god create sin and b) why does god sin himself (look at the 10 commandments, which of them does god himself break in the bible? or the 7 deadly sins, which are displayed in his actions; sloth [resting on the 7th day], anger [killing everything that displeases him], jealously [commanding that all who worship anything else be killed], etc).

    How about the story of Job, where god punishes the best (supposedly) person who worships him in terrible ways just to prove a point to the devil (who is supposed to tempt people to sin, who is also someone god created). Where’s the justice there?

    Or how about the whole Jesus story; if god wanted to forgive people why couldn’t he just forgive them? why does he need to send himself down to earth into a virgin to be tortured and killed by the people he’s trying to save so he can die in order to forgive people? Can’t he just forgive them without having to go through all that? It’s just a giant courtroom where god is at once judge, defendant, prosecutor, and jury.

    Or how about all the parts of the bible that contradict each other? Since the bible has obvious errors it can’t be the absolute truth (if you can’t find any start right at the beginning and read about how a man and woman where created at the same time, then about how a man was created first and then a woman from his rib).

    The point of all this is, quoting the bible means nothing without evidence. It’s no more legitimate then the flying spaghetti monster, or the koran, or wicca, or listing greek or roman gods as answers.

  • windy

    How much of our lives do we really remember anyway? How many moments (since we only remember moments) of the past year can you rattle off the top of your head? You’ll find that there is an amount of unremembered time that vastly exceeds the remembered moments. Yet we manage to function pretty ok regardless of all that ‘lose of memory’.

    Good point. Another thing that I think hasn’t been mentioned yet is that most of us remember one period of our lives especially poorly: our childhood. Is childhood therefore meaningless? Or do we have to assume that the memories of our childhood will be restored in the afterlife to make them meaningful? How would that work?

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Mrnaglfar,

    Quoting the bible (the book claimed to have been written, or at least inspired by god,) to justify that deity as being just and loving is kind of strange, and here’s why. You can be sure of what god is because you’re sure he meant what he himself wrote. I could write a book about how loving and just I am, but that doesn’t automatically make it so. If a human did any of the things god did, even to a lesser extent, they would be branded as a genocidal, incompetent fuckhead to say the least.

    In his post, Rob seems to be addressing the question of how a loving God could kill innocent people. Oftentimes, such questions are framed by the context of the Bible because the Bible records instances of God killing people who seem to be innocent.

    Because the question is framed in the context of God’s (hypothetical) existence and based on claims made in the Bible, it is perfectly reasonable for Rob to answer in kind by explaining the Bible.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    I’m sure that the newborns in Soddom and Gomorrah were wicked to the bone. I just wonder if they were more unrighteous or less than the newborns that were killed in the flood, or slain in one of the many genocides. The “wickedness” is not that they were all killing each other and raping indiscriminately. No, the “wickedness” was not believing in god. Is this really a capital crime, worthy of death? If god wants to be loving, why does he not just show himself to those who don’t believe and erase all doubt?

    Also, as I pointed out, sending anyone to hell for eternity is simply unjust. You can not assert that god is just if he does something that is definitionally unjust. Squares can not be circles, and sending people to hell can not be just.

    Oh, and BTW hereigns, Rwanda is a country, not a part of South Africa.

  • OMGF

    No Matt, that is incorrect. He is presenting god’s word as being proof that god’s word is just and correct. This is circular reasoning and was quite rightly pointed out by Mrnaglfar. IOW, his defense is that god didn’t kill innocent people because god says he didn’t.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    This thread is getting seriously off topic. Please be advised that religious preaching, particularly when irrelevant to the topic of the post, is against the comment policy here.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    OMGF,

    That really is not how the post came across to me. It seemed like a question framed in a Biblical-Christian context.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    OMGF, Mrnaglfar, Rob

    I just read Ebonmuse’s remark and I do not want to contribute to further derailing. I’m punching out.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • hereigns

    Ebonmuse, Please accept my sincere apology for my part in derailing the topic. I will try to be more mindful of the site poicy prior to posting my comments in the future.

    OMGF, Mrnaglfar, Matt, and Brock
    I sincerely enjoyed our lively discussions.