Revelation

I’m trying to think through some of my newfound beliefs and am pondering some of the “hows” and “whys” behind the Christian story of how God revealed himself to man. Sometimes I think it makes a lot of sense, other times it seems implausible.

That’s from Jennifer. She used to be an atheist. Now, she’s on the way to becoming a Catholic. Before the rips on Catholicism begin, and people start saying, “It’s implausible,” let’s get this straight: That’s not the point.

The point is this question she poses to readers:

… pretend that you’re God for a minute. You created everything in the
universe, including humans. You love humans, you want them to know you and your guidelines for how they should live, and you also want them to have free will.

Given these parameters, how do you go about revealing yourself and your plan to them?

Would Christians have answers different from the biblical story?

What would atheists answer even if it is just a hypothetical?


[tags]atheist, Christian, Catholicism, Catholic, revelation, Bible[/tags]

  • http://glork.wordpress.com David

    I’ve thought about this very question a few times. I came up with a bit different story line that didn’t involve a 4000 year wait for intercession by God’s Son (it just seemed like quite a wait to me).

    In any case, I can’t seem to find Jen’s post on her original blog. Mind providing a link Hemant? Her blog looks interesting. I’ll have to comb through some of the older posts..

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    … pretend that you’re God for a minute. You created everything in the
    universe, including humans. You love humans, you want them to know you and your guidelines for how they should live, and you also want them to have free will.

    Given these parameters, how do you go about revealing yourself and your plan to them?

    Gently…

    If you really love your creation and you want them maintain free will, then you’d have to do whatever you could not to just overwhelm them with your power and glory. Love is about self-giving, not about domination and coercion. I would think that unless God used a light touch, perhaps were even a little hidden and evasive, he would risk overpowering our wills and thwarting our ability to freely choose to love him.

    That’s the only reason I can think of for why God doesn’t make himself and his will more obvious to us. (Speaking as a believer of course.)

    Just my perspective…

  • http://www.friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    David– The question was a separate one Jennifer posed to me. It’s not on her blog.

    – Hemant

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com decrepitoldfool

    I might create an iterative system of reincarnation, and I wouldn’t sweat if they believed in me or not. It would be interesting to see if they live an ethical life in spite of not believing in me. Equally interesting would be the ones who live self-serving, hypocritical lives while loudly proclaiming belief in me.

    And as for reaching them, I’d send comedians, not prophets. Somewhere down the line my universe would have a real punch line where it turned out that cows were the highest form of life or something. Sort of a Far Side universe. That’s it! Gary Larson would be the chosen one.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    It would involve a more creative solution to the problems of the world than getting some guy nailed to something.

  • Paul

    Her question makes two assumptions, which in turn weakens the question. The first is that god wants to prove that he exists. If he wanted to do that he would have done it a long time ago in no uncertain terms that leads to vague conclusions. The second assumption is that god wants humans to have free will. The idea of free will is a rather modern idea in church history. It is something humans developed in order to allow discrepancies in religious teaching and how humans actually live their lives.

    My question back to her would be why would a omnipotent and omniscient god what humans to have free will?

    You’re making the assumption that he wants us to have free will because we want to think that we control our own lives and actions. If not then catholics would have to do everything the Pope said and believe everything the Pope said and with other religions as well followers would have to follow the letter of the religious law.

    And the idea that a all powerful god would want any part of his creation to have free will really reveals that humans are really self involved and consider ourselves above religious teachings. Why don’t dogs or cats or lions have free will? I don’t remember many priests speak out about that?

    After reading over her blog it seems to me that she wants to fit in more in the community that she lives in more so than actually developing a faith in God and the Catholic Church. Being a Catholic has some strict tenants, most of which American Catholics don’t like to follow because of our social and political upbringing. We value individual rights and the ability to make out own decisions. We find it hard to follow the edicts of a person over in Rome.

  • Professor Chaos

    Define ‘free will.’ Is she implying that God wants humans to have the free will to worship him without evidence of his existence? If that’s one of the parameters, this is a null-game. If I’m pretending that I’m God, I’d say that this is not a parameter I would set. It’s simply cruel.

  • HappyNat

    Lotta problems with that question as pointed out above. But if I were god I would start by giving people a book with actual historical accuracy and without all the contradictions. If I’m all powerful/knowing the least I can do is put out a book that makes sense.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com Mike C

    The idea of free will is a rather modern idea in church history.

    Well, except for this book, by this Augustine guy back in the 4th Century… but I’m sure he’s not anyone of consequence in church history. ;)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com Mike C

    And as for reaching them, I’d send comedians, not prophets.

    Great idea!

    Actually, that’s kind of what God does (according to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures). Most of the OT prophets were kind of like performance artists/comedians. They did some pretty wacky things to get their point across. Jeremiah, for example, walked around wearing a wooden yoke about his neck, and once served wine to a family with a vow of temperance. Isaiah walked around buck-naked for three years, and Ezekiel baked cakes out of cow dung to communicate his message to the people.

  • Siamang

    Hmmm… you want them to know your guide for living, AND you want them to have free will.

    Those are the two goalposts of Christianity in a nutshell, aren’t they? They widen as necessary to accomodate whoever’s making the argument for God, but conveinently narrow (upon command of the theist) when the atheist makes a penalty kick.

    In order for a human to know that any particular guide for living comes from God, and not just other people, there is the requirement of authentication. The problem of authentication is the one there is no solution for. Without authentication all theological claims are equally valid.

    But free will gets the arguer for theism off the hook for this requirement. Or allows for some loophole (universe-sized loopholes in the case of our particular universe) for the sake of free will. And with the authentication question off the table, God’s nature always seems to jibe (conveinently) with the theist’s own previously-held faith.

    The goalposts are wide when we talk about people in History who had eyewitness accounts of miracles (and apparantly no free-will for miles and miles), but narrow to the width of a quark when challenged, and when evidence is demanded for authentication. Oh how the demand for “free will” closes any gap between the available evidence and the need for authentication.

    I’d take it to a different level: Who says we have free will anyway?

    Prove we have free will first, and then we can go to the next step and use it for an argument for or against God.

    But no, the questioner not only asks us to assume God as a hypothetical, and assume God’s will as being pro-free-will, which assumes the existence of human free-will, which in itself is an escape clause designed to deal with the pesky question of authentication in the first place.

    The problem is and always has been authentication, not free-will. Free will is merely the misdirection applied by the mountebanks so that we don’t realize that none of the shells has a pea under it.

    I should clarify that when talking about Christian apologetics, the term “free will” doesn’t mean the same thing that I would say is free will. I call “free will” the ability to make your own decisions, unfettered by predestination.

    When an apologist uses “free will”, it’s to mean “God likes to be hidden or very very subtle in His interactions with man so as to give man the freedom of choice as to whether or not to come to the conclusion that He even exists.” This is used interchangably between that meaning and the meaning “freedom of choice to do obey or disobey God”. Those are two distinct propositions, but in the shell game of apologetics the actual meaning can slide between the two so quickly that even the arguer is unaware of it.(correct me if I’m wrong here).

    There’s “free-will 1″: God hides to let man decide freely if He exists.

    Then there’s “free-will2″: Man is free to choose to follow or not follow God’s laws.

    In order for “Free-will2″ to exist, we must have authentication of what God’s laws are. I only follow the laws of men. Perhaps some of those laws are God’s, and I’m following them just by lucky chance. But I could just as easily be breaking God’s laws without knowing it. There could be laws of God that I do not know about. Presuming any one set of laws presumes the truth of a particular religion, and seperate from authentication (which violates free-will1) we do not have any established truth.

    So in order to have “Free Will2″ we cannot have “free-will1″. They contradict. I cannot be free to choose to follow God’s laws if I do not know of God’s laws.

    The formulation begs the questions “Did Adam have free will?” If he knew of God’s existence, then no, he didn’t have free will-1. If he did have free will2, but knew God existed, then free will cannot mean “God hides to give man an out”. I hear the shells being shuffled, but there’s no pea underneath them.

    Either “free will 1″ is false or “free-will 2″ is false.

    Or they could both be false.

  • http://et-tu.blogspot.com/ Jennifer F.

    Paul –

    Yeah, I figured some would take issue with me confining the question to assume that God loves us, wants us to have free will, etc. My reason for doing that was to confine the debate. It just gets too bogged down to tackle all those topics on top of why God revealed himself the way he did. Those debates are good and can be had another day, I’m just trying to see if there are inherent flaws to the story of revelation even if you assume that basic teachings about what type of god he is are true.

    After reading over her blog it seems to me that she wants to fit in more in the community that she lives in more so than actually developing a faith in God and the Catholic Church. Being a Catholic has some strict tenants, most of which American Catholics don’t like to follow because of our social and political upbringing.

    I encourage you to more thoroughly peruse my archives. You must have come across an odd selection of posts to get that idea. I live according to Church teaching, and am constantly striving to improve my faith in God. It’s the main purpose of my life now.

  • Pingback: Response to FriendlyAtheist Post: “Revelation” « glork!

  • Logos

    Now exactly did she convert? Can someone give me the cliftnotes version?

  • Logos

    I meant How not now , sorry!

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Sorry Siamang, you lost me there… could you repeat that?
    j/k ;)

  • Siamang

    Yeah, sorry about that Mike. I do apologize for it being tangled. But you’ve heard that whole saw from me before, so I suspect you recognized some of my old arguments, even in this messy form.

    In other words, no new ideas from me, and not terribly cleverly stated. Well, I take stabs and sometimes I assemble an argument with clarity.

  • tcc

    Hmmm…

    How would I go about revealing myself to my creation?

    I’d show up, skip the party trick, and I’d cut out the middle men.

  • http://et-tu.blogspot.com/ Jennifer F.

    Logos – Wow, tough question. There’s really no short answer. I just found that atheism left too many things unexplained. Also, I saw astounding results once I started giving God the benefit of the doubt. Nothing that would “prove” it to you or anyone else here, but more than enough to convince me that I was on the right path. This post is a weak attempt at summarizing it.

  • Professor Chaos

    Well of course ‘atheism’ would “leave too many things unexplained.” Atheism doesn’t purport to explain ANYTHING, let alone the unexplainable.

    So you’re not content with reality, a.k.a. science, not being able to explain the unknown to you, so you allowed a made-up source to do so because your uncomfortable with “I don’t know” as an answer?

    Seems like a good reason to throw your intellectual integrity down the toilet.

  • Logos

    Jennifer F. Thanx for your polite and prompt responce to my question. It is respcetful dialog like this that keeps this blog a pleasent place to visit.

  • tcc

    Professor Chaos…while I’m not an atheist, I do appreciate you bringing up that distinction.

    The other problem with Christianity as “The Answer” is that not all of us are interested in “The Answer”. Some of us are okay with just muddling along without one and without assuming there has to be one. :-)

  • Logos

    Jennifer F in the same polite spirit could you please elaborate a bit more on which puzzle pieces you think fit best into a Catholic Christian frame work and why

  • SteveK

    Professor Chaos [a.k.a Militant Atheist] ha! ;)

    Well of course ‘atheism’ would “leave too many things unexplained.” Atheism doesn’t purport to explain ANYTHING, let alone the unexplainable.

    True. Which is why it’s so unappealing to so many. Most would rather live their lives forever testing out a working hypothesis (the God hypothesis) than live without one. Most seem to be comfortable with the results they have gotten so far.

    so you allowed a made-up source to do so because your uncomfortable with “I don’t know” as an answer?

    Surely people testify to this day that they have experienced God. Did they all make it up?

  • Siamang

    If they didn’t, God must have quite the multiple-personality disorder.

    The Jews are the chosen people.
    The Jews are the infidels.
    Mother Nature is our God.
    The Goddess of nature is a pagan belief, thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!
    Islam is a religion of peace, except for the holy wars.
    Christianity is a religion of peace, except for the holy wars.
    Judaism is a religion of peace, except for the holy wars.

    Etc. etc. etc.

    Amazingly, God always tells people things in line with their own cultural biases, their own fears, their own hatreds. God’s views are always 100% in line with the opinions of whoever’s doing the preaching.

    I don’t know for a fact that anyone is “making God up”. All I can say is that if not, I’m unimpressed with the results all these messages from God have had on human behavior here in the 21st century.

  • Faith

    Siamang, the only point I see you have proven is that humankind is sinful. What would we be without these messages from God? Maybe we could be like Mao; how many people did his atheistic regime murder? Or maybe Stalin, how many people did he slaughter, imprison, torture? That is what we are without God. The 20th century was a godless century and we killed more than ever. With God, there is a tiny ray of hope. There are some few who will actually believe that thou shalt not kill. Without God there is no reason to believe it. Has atheism ever produced a Mother Teresa?

    God does not have a multi-personality disorder, but he must work through our fractured and dismally limited understanding. Which is why he entered time and became a tiny, poor babe. Because we can only understand what we know.

  • txatheist

    Has atheism ever produced a Mother Teresa?

    Susan B Anthony, Abe Lincoln, Lance Armstrong, Albert Einstein, Janeane Garafalo(Air America star), Pat Tillman, Ronald Reagan Jr., Bertrand Russell, and many others.
    According to Nature magazine 93% of the prominent scientists do not believe in a god. All of their devotion to fighting cancer, understanding DNA, and many other discoveries to make humans better without any belief in god. Keep in mind that most atheists couldn’t profess their atheism and most still keep quiet. Heretics were tortured and sometimes killed. Also, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao were atheists but that was not their means for being cruel dictators.

  • SteveK

    txatheist,
    For the mostpart I dislike the whole fingerpointing debate, because every group is guilty of something. Why can’t we all just admit that?

    Anyway, I noticed the spin you put on everything: Atheism helped contribute to the advances in medicine and biology, but it played no part in the cruelty done to other humans. Nice try.

  • txatheist

    Steve,
    I definitely agree and am not discounting there have been bad atheists. However, there is no spin on saying that the good science has done is prominently done by some top people in the field, 93% of them being atheist. However, Faith was under a presumption or chose not to establish that many posiitive things are brought about by atheists and many are comparable to Mother Theresa.

  • Logos

    According to Christopher Hitchens Mother Theresa was not all that great.

  • Professor Chaos

    Wait, did someone just compare Janeane Garafalo with Mother Teresa?

  • tcc

    Questions like “has atheism ever produced a Mother Teresa” don’t really work.

    Atheism isn’t an organized institution.

    Have there been atheists who are as self-giving and compassionate as some of the better Christians? Certainly. But there isn’t a governing body that’s going to draw the public’s attention to them.

    Personally, I have a friend who is with Doctors Without Borders, who is one of the kindest, most caring and compassionate, most giving people I know, and he’s an atheist. And he’s happy to do it without getting his name plastered in the newspapers and on the cover of People magazine. Maybe that makes him even more of a “saint” than Mother Teresa who rather enjoyed the spotlight.

    It’s not a one-up-manship game. Christianity doesn’t “win” because they can pull a name like Mother Teresa out of the hat.

  • Faith

    Well, my point was that humans are sinful, whether athiests or believers. Siamang was listing all the flaws he saw in different religions. My counter was to point out that religion does not have a monopoly on evil! Athiests can be evil too! In fact, I think that athiests (and I used to be one) can’t point to a universal truth that would divide moral from immoral behavior. Like thou shalt not kill or any of the moral precepts that religions have at their core. So in a world without God things devolve to the lowest common denominator but with God, even though we are dealing with sinful humans, there is some hope of goodness.

    I am sure there are good atheists. But I don’t understand why they are good. I think it is nobility that reflects their being made in the image of God. They don’t even understand how they reflect it. I think it might also be the vestages of moral understanding that springs from a heritage of belief, even now, when the belief is gone. The feast has been eaten but the scent hangs in the air.

    I don’t think it is accurate to say Einstein and Lincoln were atheists. At least I have not gathered that from what I have read/heard. But I am not an expert.

    I used Mother Teresa as an example of what belief in God can do. I do believe that Mother Teresa had the spotlight thrust upon her and chose to use it to further her goal of helping the poorest of the poor. Also, I think it is amazing that someone so obscure should be able to accomplish so much, so incredibly selflessly. Of course, she was not perfect, no one is, but her life was still an example of great selflessness and devotion. But I could have used others, Martin Luther King, Jr. for example, another imperfect hero who accomplished much.

    I happen to be reading a biography of Mother Teresa right now and I can say with some confidence she would have laughed right alongside Professor Chaos at the absurdity of comparing her to Janeane Garafalo, not because she is ‘better’ but just because the whole thing is so incongruous!

    There have been many advancements in science made by believers too. In fact the list would be very, very long!

    Anyway, because I am now a believer, I still say that in spite of it all, those who believe in God have a greater reason to strive for good. And if you knew what you were talking about when speaking of religion (instead of, as Siamang did, confusing the one who sent the message with the inept messenger) you could very well come to that conclusion too.

  • SteveK

    txatheist,
    “However, there is no spin on saying that the good science has done is prominently done by some top people in the field, 93% of them being atheist”

    I think you’re making a connection where there is none and taking credit where there is no credit to be had. What you are saying is this: a lack of belief in god leads to a desire to act in a particular way, in this case it leads to doing good science. I don’t see the connection.

    Perhaps you are right though. As an atheist, perhaps you know something that I do not know. Maybe atheism does lead to a desire to act in a particular way (do good science or commit acts of cruelty) . But then you’d have to admit that atheism is a philosophy that can cause people to act in a particular way.

    Which is it?

  • txatheist

    Faith,
    All humans are capable of evil, no one denies that. I am curious as to how you became a believer if you were an atheist. Religions may have “thou shall not kill/murder” at their core but you all aren’t very good at listening to it. The Iraq war is about killing. God drown the entire world and killed them for false worship. Evil things happen, we agree on that. Have you ever heard of the Humanist Manifesto? I am good because it’s the way I was raised. I’m also a father. Do I want my kid to be rebelious and disrespectful? No, I set guidelines that helps him be civilized. tcc has a good point about Doctors without Borders. Those people are selfless too. Let’s just disagree then. The information I get from Janeane Garafalo on Air America is much more important than anything Mother Theresa preached, you are free to disagree. We will have to agree to disagree on you having a greater reason to be good. I perceive you expect something for your good deeds. I think it’s selfish that Christians want heaven and think they are in God’s graces for doing good works. I do them because it helps humanity and I don’t expect to be rewarded for all eternity. Anyway, I’d like to hear how you left atheism.

  • txatheist

    I wasn’t looking for you to give credit or pretend you can not give credit when credit is due. I’m saying there is no motivation of god behind their devotion to cure people or find out scientific discoveries. Atheism is not a moral code, it’s a lack of belief in any of the gods we have heard about.

  • SteveK

    Atheism is not a moral code, it’s a lack of belief in any of the gods we have heard about.

    That’s fine, but does atheism cause people to act in a particular way? I think that was the question.

    It’s an all-or-nothing situation I’m afraid. If atheism can cause people to act in a particular way then you can take credit for some wonderful science work and you can take blame for some unspeakable moral attrocities. On the other hand, if atheism doesn’t cause people to act in a particular way then atheism has done nothing to help advance science or harm society.

    Once again…which is it?

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com decrepitoldfool

    Atheism itself won’t dictate any particular action; it is only lack of belief in God or gods. Humanism, on the other hand, is a philosophy that values the one life we have, and the value of a society in which everyone’s life is respected. Many humanists are also atheists.

  • txatheist

    It is not an all or nothing situation as you request. Scientists who don’t believe in unicorns continue to provide us with their discoveries while never giving credit nor denying credit to unicorns. The remain non-believers and their lack of belief is not a factor on them continuing to do such work.

  • SteveK

    Atheism itself won’t dictate any particular action

    So we agree – atheism has done nothing to help humanity and it has done nothing to harm it.

    Humanism, on the other hand, is a philosophy that values the one life we have, and the value of a society in which everyone’s life is respected.

    Humanism has several good philosophical concepts. But it certainly isn’t an original philosophy. It’s nothing more than a compilation of previously held beliefs from long, long ago.

  • txatheist

    atheism has done nothing to help humanity and it has done nothing to harm it.

    Neither has believing in unicorns helped or hurt humans. Though it could be said that it was harmful intellectual if someone truly believed unicorns were the root source of inspiring them to create cures. There would be no such correlation other than a false belief in someone thinking unicorns inspired them.

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com decrepitoldfool

    Humanism has several good philosophical concepts. But it certainly isn’t an original philosophy. It’s nothing more than a compilation of previously held beliefs from long, long ago.

    Never said it was original, but it does provide a basis for ethics without the concept of an afterlife. We have one life, none to spare and no second chance. The same is true of others, and the world we live in depends very much on how people respect the one life others have. Call it an updated Golden Rule if you like, only no heaven.

    “Afterlife” makes people do funny things. Some not so funny.

  • Professor Chaos

    Au contraire, Faith. It is the believers who have no reason to do good.

    Believers believe that they will be forgiven for their sins. Believers posit that Jesus Christ will return to Earth, therefore have no vested interest in the positive development of humankind and society.

  • SteveK

    “Afterlife” makes people do funny things. Some not so funny.

    Agreed. Some of those not-so-funny things are downright horrible too. But the reverse is also true: it also makes them do some great and wonderful things that we all love and appreciate. Atheism can’t make that claim, or any claim for that matter. Which, as I said before, is why it’s so unappealing to so many.

  • Siamang

    Steve K,

    My comment wasn’t specifically to compare who’s nicer, atheists or believers, but merely in response to this quote of yours:

    Surely people testify to this day that they have experienced God. Did they all make it up?

    The fact that God tells different people wildly conflicting things is what points me in the affirmative direction. My list of who to kill and why is just by way of example. If God exists, it’s His perogative I guess to order us to kill people. But the simple fact that he has a different hit list depending on who’s doing the preaching points me to the conclusion that God is a voice in the head of believers.

    But we don’t have to take calls to violence as the only conflicting thing God tells to different groups. God tells Pat Robertson one thing, and He tells Carlton Pearson the almost exact opposite…. and they’re both Christians!

  • HappyNat

    “Humanism has several good philosophical concepts. But it certainly isn’t an original philosophy. It’s nothing more than a compilation of previously held beliefs from long, long ago. “

    Of course the same could be said of christainity. You think the bible was the first place to come up with thou shalt no kill? The Golden Rule had been around hundreds of years before Jesus. These are basic ideas that help society to thrive, if a 2000 year old book is the only thing to keep you from killing people, then keep believing brother!

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com decrepitoldfool

    Some relevant quotes from my file:

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.”
    - Thomas Jefferson (ref. Bartlett’s 16th Ed., p.343)

    “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
    . . . Anne Lamott, author

    “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
    . . . Susan B. Anthony

    “I will not rest…until every Christian family spends December 25th at Osama’s homo-bortion pot and commie jizzporium.”
    - Jon Stewart

    I have asked many Christians: if it could be proved to their satisfaction that there were no God and no afterlife, would they go about lying, stealing, looting, killing their personal enemies, and callously seducing whomever took their fancy? A compilation of their answers adds up to: “Of course not.” And why? “Because I wouldn’t want to live in a world where everyone did things like that.”

    In other words, they were good people to begin with, despite the doctrine of original sin. And they recognize the purpose of ethics regardless of the explanation we tack onto it.

  • tcc

    True. Even the son of a god dying and rising again was a pretty unoriginal idea by the time Christians claim Jesus did it.

    And if you knew what you were talking about when speaking of religion (instead of, as Siamang did, confusing the one who sent the message with the inept messenger) you could very well come to that conclusion too.

    Hmmm…and how do I not know what I’m talking about? I haven’t confused the messenger with the message, and I’m not an atheist, which I’ve already stated.

    My point is that Christians come back with “proof” of their God by enumerating all the good people or good things that have been done in the name of Christianity, but at the same time they cry “unfair!” when a non-believer points out all the really rotten people and all the really rotten things that have been done in the name of Christianity (or a variety of other organized religions).

    You can’t have it both ways.

    Atheists and Christians do not disagree on the notion that some people, regardless of what they claim to believe, are actually pretty nasty customers. If anything, that’s a point for the atheists. If you’re the sort who likes to keep score, anyway.

    The “message” (depending on whose interpretation of which version you’re getting) is fine. The trouble (for me, anyway) begins when human beings start to organize and institutionalize the message. When unelected human hierarchies of power are handing down “the message” (along with a whole lotta additions that were never included with the original message) you’re bound to get a corrupted version of the message, and you’re bound to get power-hungry people who are into the orgaized/institutionalized part of religion for all the wrong reasons. Which is why I’ve pretty much transcended organized religion, declared free agency, and decided to deal directly with God.

    For the record, I was raised in an extremely conservative Catholic household in a solid, conservative Catholic neighborhood, and the evil I both experienced and witnessed are what led me to that conclusion Which you might reach, too, had you been raised under the same circumstances.

    Perspective is everything…

  • tcc

    You forgot this one:

    The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. — Brennan Manning

    And who didn’t close their tags? ;)

  • Professor Chaos

    SteveK wrote: Surely people testify to this day that they have experienced God. Did they all make it up?

    Howdy, Steve! The answer? Why, Yes, of course.

  • SteveK

    My attempt to close the italics …..

    I’m not SteveG, Professor although I’ve been known to Lurk with him here and there. ;)

    [MODERATOR COMMENT: Steve-- I went back and fixed previous posts. Thanks, though!-- Hemant]

  • Professor Chaos

    Ah, good to see you, man! Hope all has been well with you. I’m not sure if you still check out TRA anymore, but he hasn’t posted in weeks, so I found myself scoping out some other blogs as well.

  • SteveK

    I’m a Lurker at the TRA forum quite often. But alas, I’ve promised myself to not post there anymore.

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com decrepitoldfool

    The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians,…

    I can’t speak for anyone else but the “cause” of my atheism is that I did a lot of study and thinking about it, and finally decided there probably isn’t a god. The behavior of Christians or atheists had nothing to do with it.

    We should do a better job of distinguishing atheism from humanism. Atheism is a narrow belief; Humanism is a philosophy that often (but not always) contains atheism.

  • Professor Chaos

    What most Christians fail to realize is that atheism does not even exist, per se.

    Atheism does not cause anything, is not caused by anything, does not answer any questions, does not pose any questions.

    Atheism is absence. Absence of belief in god. Much like darkness is the absence of light. Atheism has no attributes. “Atheism” is just a word, not a worldview.

  • SteveK

    Professor:
    Atheism has no attributes. “Atheism” is just a word, not a worldview.

    decrepitoldfool:
    Atheism is a narrow belief

    You all need to get your stories straight. I’m inclined to agree with the Professor because…well…he’s a professor and the other guy is a decrepit old fool. :)

  • miller

    If I were this God, I would drop the “reveal myself” agenda and stick with maintaining the good, which should be the top priority. If it weren’t my top priority, it seems that my priorities are at odds with humanity’s.

    But to answer the original question, assuming I did want to reveal myself, for whatever reason…

    From the Catholic viewpoint (I know it well), God sent his Son (who is really just another aspect of God) to die a horrible death so that everyone’s sins may be forgiven. God is showing his love by showing us how far he is willing to go for us. I suppose God is always suffering for our sins, and decided just this once to show it to us.

    Now, I have at least a few small complaints with the above.
    Couldn’t God have thought a way of doing it without envolving a torturous death (which seems only symbolically related to the forgiveness of sins)? Even if you didn’t think something’s intrinsically wrong with this, don’t you think God is just asking to be misinterpreted in deadly ways?
    Couldn’t God have given us (in 2000 AD) better evidence than hearsay and the inconsistent New Testament, which was written decades after the fact? Catholics believe that God inspired the authors, which leads to sometimes inaccurate accounts; why couldn’t Jesus write something?

    There are more questions, but I don’t want to give too many at a time. Ultimately, the biggest objection is my first: that God as you’ve defined him, is not all good.

  • tcc

    Well, that’s what I was getting at with my short, flip response to the original question. The middle men being the biggest stumbling block for so many people, of course, and the Bible being written as an as-told-to being another.

    All religion is story, and the crucifixion story worked in the time and place it was written in (sacrifice of living creatures being a pretty everyday thing back then, and all…). Unless you find something about the story that resonates with modern, western cultures, it’s just baffling to many people. I think there are other ways to look at the story, but Christians are clinging to an interpretation that doesn’t translate to the world we live in now, and are then trying to fit everything else around that interpretation.

    Anyway, personally, I think God reveals himself quite clearly all the time, but I think what Christians really mean by this question is ‘what story can we tell you to get you to buy into our very limited version of God?’. It’s not really about what God can do, it’s about what they can do.

    God’s doing fine. He’s not nearly as hung up on this membership in the right club and belief in the right stories as people are. Personally, I don’t think he cares if you believe in him or not. I don’t think atheists bother God one bit.

  • Professor Chaos

    tcc: How, pray tell, does God reveal himself clearly all the time?

  • SteveK

    love, grace, mercy, transformation of lives, history, reason, logic, the existance of something rather than nothing, laws of physics, ability of material/energy to contain information, free will, ability of material/energy to form independent/free telic thoughts, consciousness.

    That’s a start.

  • Professor Chaos

    SteveK wrote: love, grace, mercy, transformation of lives, history, reason, logic, the existance of something rather than nothing, laws of physics, ability of material/energy to contain information, free will, ability of material/energy to form independent/free telic thoughts, consciousness.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! (Sorry, not sure if there’s an “lol” smiley)

    Classic Lurker! Good stuff! I especially like the “history” one!

    1.) Things happened.
    2.) Someone wrote it down.
    3.) Therefore God exists.

    Brilliant!

  • txatheist

    SteveK,
    You giving credit to God for these things does not prove God. That type of proof is exactly why the flying spagetti monster became so relevant when ID was being pushed as science.

  • SteveK

    You giving credit to God for these things does not prove God.
    Exactly. That’s why they call it faith. But it doesn’t disprove god (small ‘g’) either.

    LOL right back at you Professor. My list is in the same vein as Quaker’s final posts on the love for his child. I guess it had no impact on you and that’s fine. Believe what you must.

    If you think my short comment is exhautive in any way then perhaps the good Professor needs a bit more skooing.

  • SteveK

    One more thing Professor. Your list should look like this:

    1.) Observations are made
    2.) Conclusions are reached
    3.) Therefore belief in god (small ‘g’) is reasonable

  • Professor Chaos

    1.) Science can’t explain certain things (yet.)
    2.) ??????????????????????????
    3.) Therefore God exists.

    Na na na na – na na na na (god of the) GAPS MAN!
    Na na na na – na na na na (god of the) GAPS MAN!

  • SteveK

    That type of proof is exactly why the flying spagetti monster became so relevant when ID was being pushed as science.

    Who said anything about proof – rigorous or otherwise? The question was “How, pray tell, does God reveal himself clearly all the time?” If I asked you “How do you know you love [insert person's name here]?” I suspect your answer would not include a proof. And yet you still believe it’s true.

  • SteveK

    1.) Science can’t explain certain things (yet.)
    2.) ??????????????????????????
    3.) Therefore naturalism (God doesn’t exists).

    Na na na na – na na na na (science of the) GAPS MAN!
    Na na na na – na na na na (science of the) GAPS MAN!

  • Professor Chaos

    Could you look up the word, “reveal,” when you get a moment?

  • Professor Chaos

    1.) Science can’t explain certain things (yet.)
    2.) ??????????????????????????
    3.) Therefore…………..??????????????????????

  • Professor Chaos

    Dismissing your Christian God involves more common sense and history than science.

  • SteveK

    1.) Science can’t explain certain things (yet.)
    2.) ??????????????????????????
    3.) Therefore…………..??????????????????????

    But nobody stops with ?????? – not even you. Everyone proposes a Step 4 hypothesis and tries to work it out by testing their worldview. Your Step 4 hypothesis is limited to materialistic answers because your ‘toolkit’ only contains scientism as a way to gain knowledge about the universe. God (little ‘g’) doesn’t exist before you get started because you’ve straightjacketed yourself.

  • SteveK

    re?veal? /r??vil/
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to make known; disclose; divulge:

  • tcc

    tcc: How, pray tell, does God reveal himself clearly all the time?

    Dunno. It’s not always the same. But I just know. It’s all those weird-cool moments that sort of jump out at you in sharp relief and you see ten thousand things all at once, but it’s literally just a moment.

    You just have to relax and pay attention.

  • http://www.catholicpillowfight.com Tony

    why couldn’t Jesus write something?

    That is actually a very good question. Why didn’t He?

    Actually, a better question would be: “If Jesus did write it down, and you aquired the ‘God book’, how would you know it was correct, that those were actually Jesus’ words and not a forgery?”

    I believe I know the answer to that. :)

  • miller

    Tony, you’re right; we wouldn’t know that it wasn’t a forgery. But it would be slightly more convincing, if such a book existed, don’t you think?

    I often see such questions, trying to make the point that no amount of evidence will suffice for atheists. Well, yes, it would require a lot of evidence, but I think if God, for example, wrote something on the moon, that would do the job well.

    At the same time, some would never be convinced, because of perceived logical self-consistency problems with God as commonly defined. For example, I think it’s ridiculous to want people to be certain of one’s existence, and furthermore, provide little evidence.

  • Bobby

    Tcc wrote:

    Atheists and Christians do not disagree on the notion that some people, regardless of what they claim to believe, are actually pretty nasty customers. If anything, that’s a point for the atheists. If you’re the sort who likes to keep score, anyway.

    How does this provide evidence that there is no God? Do those who believe in God somehow achieve magical perfect person status?
    I totally agree that perspective has a lot to do with how one would answer these questions. I would argue that our negative attitudes and behaviors would provide evidence of a need for some kind of help. I suppose we could try self-improvement and still achieve somewhat similar results as a believer depending on God for help, but I don’t see how this is a mark for either side. We all need help sometimes. It’s human nature. J
    Miller wrote:

    don’t you think God is just asking to be misinterpreted in deadly ways?

    Should God be held responsible for our misconceptions?

    God as you’ve defined him, is not all good.

    Since we are all pretty nasty customers at times, can and should we fully trust one another’s definition of who God is?

    Couldn’t God have thought a way of doing it without envolving a torturous death (which seems only symbolically related to the forgiveness of sins)?

    Is there a better way to demonstrate love for someone than to be willing to suffer in their place?

  • tcc

    It doesn’t provide evidence that there is no God. But it’s a point in the atheists’ favor more than the Christians’ favor.

    This goes back to the biggest problem with Christianity being Christians.

    If you’re going to go around telling people how you’ve got this One True Way and how it’s been soooooo amazing in your life, it had better show.

    If you’re going to claim that this unprovable thing exists, and that you’re doomed if you don’t take this thing on faith and live accordingly, then you damned well better do the “live accordingly” part.

    If Christians themselves don’t live as if they believe what they claim is The Truth, why would anyone else?

    There’s something bizarrely wrong with people who claim that eternal life is at stake, and then live like they don’t give a damn about eternal life.

    So what’s a non-Christian to think, eh? That the fact that so many Christians are such terrible people who, at best, don’t really live what they claim is this be-all and end-all One True Way, or, at worst, use membership in the One True Way Club to rip other people apart, murder their spirit, and promote themselves as superior people proves there’s a God?

    Yes, we’re none of us perfect. And, since I’m not an atheist, I do believe that listening to what God is telling us (and, believe me, God has a lot to say if you can turn off your own ego and listen for a minute and a half) is necessary.

    I just haven’t confused God with an institution, is all, nor do I bother with middlemen when I can go directly to God.

  • miller

    Bobby wrote:

    Should God be held responsible for our misconceptions?

    Not necessarily, but we are talking about things God could have done better, and alternate actions might have been preferable.

    Since we are all pretty nasty customers at times, can and should we fully trust one another’s definition of who God is?

    Nope. But it’s hard to cover the full spectrum of definitions of God–right now I’ll focus on my distrust of this particular definition.

    Is there a better way to demonstrate love for someone than to be willing to suffer in their place?

    Perhaps not. But I would think of this like someone paying extra money for my Christmas gift, when it could have been bought on sale. I respond, “Thank you, but you shouldn’t have.” Sure, it’s still a display of love, I’ll give you that.

  • tcc

    Is there a better way to demonstrate love for someone than to be willing to suffer in their place?

    As miller said, perhaps not. But did Christ suffer in our place? People are still suffering. And his suffering was completely avoidable. So was it even real suffering?

    The result of this story is that we now have Catholicism, which glorifies and worships suffering, and believes it has the right to impose it upon others, and we have people who can alleviate other people’s suffering, but don’t, because they think suffering is good.

    We’ve also got the ascetic notion that if suffering is involved, the thing must be good, which is really twisted.

    We’ve got cults (Opus Dei, for example) that play at suffering to try to prove to God that they’re better than other people – suffering that’s completely within their control, and happens on schedule, which, again, isn’t really true suffering.

    We’ve got people who think if they give up the blue M&Ms for Lent, they’re not only joining Christ’s suffering on the cross, but that their “sacrifice” takes the place of things like feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.

    We’ve got people who think that God loves them more if they suffer more – that he imposes suffering on them because he loves them. Even when that “suffering” is really just the consequences of their own dumb actions or choices.

    The whole suffering on the cross story has been a disaster from the beginning. Very little good has come of it at all. In fact, I think more harm has resulted in the long run.

  • Bobby

    Miller wrote:

    It’s hard to cover the full spectrum of definitions of God–right now I’ll focus on my distrust of this particular definition.

    It can all be very confusing, I understand. I have some definitions of God I am struggling with myself. He has so many wonderful characteristics. The more I learn about Him the more I enjoy knowing Him. This makes the process all worth it.
    Tcc wrote:

    And his suffering was completely avoidable. So was it even real suffering?

    Yes I believe He really suffered and that it was completely avoidable. He chose to suffer because He knew that the rewards were great. We are His reward.

    The whole suffering on the cross story has been a disaster from the beginning. Very little good has come of it at all. In fact, I think more harm has resulted in the long run.

    All of these examples of suffering you have given are disturbing and yes I agree that they are misinterpretations of truth. Perhaps the harmful actions do outweigh the helpful. The evidence definitely agrees with this conclusion.
    We seem to misunderstand just how much God is still suffering because of our suffering. He always hurts when we hurt, is upset when we are upset, and cares for us when we are sick. He truly loves us and His suffering for us should not be confused with another man or woman’s religious, pious, and phony attempts to “suffer” like Him. Suffering should be action that comes only from an outpouring of internal suffering. I’m not sure that make sense. In other words if we are really suffering, it should start on the inside, in the depths of our emotion and when it gets to be too much to contain it becomes action. If this is a better definition for suffering, then it puts God’s suffering into perspective, internal overflowing to external.
    I have never really thought about these things in this way before, so bear with me as I try to understand what it is I believe and why. And thanx for all the sharpening.

  • tcc

    We seem to misunderstand just how much God is still suffering because of our suffering. He always hurts when we hurt, is upset when we are upset, and cares for us when we are sick. He truly loves us and His suffering for us should not be confused with another man or woman’s religious, pious, and phony attempts to “suffer” like Him. Suffering should be action that comes only from an outpouring of internal suffering. I’m not sure that make sense. In other words if we are really suffering, it should start on the inside, in the depths of our emotion and when it gets to be too much to contain it becomes action.

    Oh…absolutely! And it’s a great definition, as long as the action is real, is meaningful, and serves to alleviate the suffering of those around us. It’s when the action amounts to nothing but cheap mimicry for attention-garnering purposes that the whole thing gets out of hand.

    To me, the purpose of the Christian story is that everything boils down to encounter, and especially our interaction with those who are suffering and are in need. The rest – the trappings, the ritual, the dogma – that’s people-stuff that serves very earth-bound, ego-driven needs.

    It’s about encounter, service to others, not misery and one-up-manship in the suffering department. It’s never about us even when it is about us, ya know?

  • Bobby

    It’s never about us even when it is about us, ya know?

    I know exactly what you mean, but how to break the viscious cycle we are unwillingly affiliated with? I want to be as much like Christ as I can and it is strange how I am becoming less like my fellow Christian contemporaries as I grow closer to Him. Not that being with others who share my beliefs is hurtful, but it does gives us a closed perspective on truth until we begin to turn away from everything unfamiliar leading us to a worldview of beliefs that are far from the truth.

    When talking about God revealing Himself, I like to think that He reveals Himself when He chooses, in ways that He knows are relevant to the person He is revealing Himself to, therefore it is accomplished in many ways. I think this is a biblical understanding although I’m sure it is not worded precisely this way.

  • tcc

    The story of Christ’s life shows us that God chooses his moments and his methods specifically with the individual or group he’s trying to impress in mind. So, yes, that’s very Biblical. But the Catholics don’t allow for personal revelation. Frankly, they don’t allow for God doing much according to his will, either. It’s all to be done according to one group of men’s collective will. God isn’t allowed to break the mold they’ve set for him.

    Which is so prideful, of course…pride being the ultimate sin…to think you know better than God…because it leads to you creating a wall between God and someone else.

    I sometimes wonder why religious types get into these us v. atheists deals…who does this serve? More often than not, it’s an exercise in monumental pride…they’re essentially showing off, trying to “prove” how superior they are, congratulating themselves on their own cleverness (not that atheists don’t do this, too, but they’re usually the ones being put in the position of proving a negative, which tends to get people’s backs up).

    I’m a big believer in “by their fruits you will know them”. If you stay quiet and pay attention, you can pretty much sort out what’s of God and what isn’t. A sure-fire sign that something isn’t is how ego-driven and ego-serving something is. If you’ve set out to oh-so-innocently (ha) enter an atheists’ forum and start poking them so you can then congratulate yourself on knowning better than they do, on being better than they are, and on how bloody brilliant you are, then that’s not of God. That’s pure pride and ego.

    Isn’t denying the Holy Spirit supposedly the unforgiveable sin? And yet this is what the religious types who are out to convince, out to convert the rest of the world do all the time. They just can’t stop shouting down God in other people’s lives because God doesn’t look the way they want him to look, or the way they’ve created him in their own image.

  • AnonyMouse

    Is it too late to answer the question?

    Firstly, I don’t have a problem at all with the parameters established. These are the parameters applied to the God she is learning about, after all. There’s no reason to criticise her for asking what we would do in the same situation.

    And it is indeed a very good question. If you were God, how would you ensure that your followers knew where your rules came from (without overwhelming them with your presence, as some have pointed out)?

    I’ve got a couple of ideas on the subject, but this is the one that appeals to me the most:

    I would choose a percentage of my people (say, about ten percent) to deliver my message. One night while these people slept, I would visit them all in their dreams and deliver my message (and any subsequent commandments). I would do this to each person at the exact same time, and I would choose these people from a wide variety of social classes and locations for maximum believability. After the initial reveal, I would “come out of the closet” in a manner of speaking, performing some great inexplicable task in a location easily accessible by several eyewitnesses (preferably hundreds). I would continue doing this sort of thing on a frequent basis (at least a couple of times per generation) to remind my people that I am indeed present and watching.

    If anyone asked for my help (through prayer or whathaveyou), I would give them immediate assistance, no questions asked. I would follow through on my promise to provide adequate survival to anyone who believed in me, preferably by dropping food from the sky or some other obvious method. If someone chose not to believe in me, I would retract assistance and allow them to sink or swim based on their own ability; I would also not intervene in any affairs unless I was directly asked (or, as above, had promised in advance). (That means you name the person you want healed. Don’t give me a general statement like “heal the sick” or “end hunger for all.”) Most importantly, if someone asked me for a sign that I existed, I would give it to them following the same procedures as for prayer. No one who sought me would be ignored.

    Ironically, this performs somewhat of a double function: it answers the age-old question, “What would it take for you to believe in God?” If I got even one direct response to a prayer, that would pretty much do it for me.


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