A Christian Pastor Responds (Part 6)

Pastor Mike Clawson responds to your questions. This is the last of the series, so thanks to Pastor Mike for offering to answer so many of the questions (and thank you for asking them)! I wonder what else we can do like this…

You can also read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Okay, this is my last post. These have turned out to be a lot tiring and time consuming than I expected, but I appreciate all of you who have contributed to the conversation.

Pedro said:

You don’t demonize atheists. You don’t believe in biblical inerrancy, nor in passing laws just because “the Bible says so.” You really seem to want to make the world a better place, instead of, as many Christians do, simply “save as many souls as possible”, because the world is the devil’s, it doesn’t matter, and Jesus is coming to end this “experiment” in a decade or so anyway.

My question, then — and please treat it not as criticism of any kind, but simply as honest curiosity –, is this: why still believe? What reasons do you have to believe, when neither most Christians nor the Bible itself seem to agree with you, and you end up having to reject a lot from both? And have you never wondered if, somehow, the world doesn’t make more sense from a naturalistic point of view?

Excellent question! I wonder myself sometime. ;) But when it comes right down to it there is still something about God that I can’t let go of (or maybe it’s that he won’t let go of me :) ). There are so many reasons – both philosophical and experiential – for why I still believe and I really can’t go into all of them in detail here (Hemant asked me to keep these replies to just a few paragraphs!) Let me see if instead I can just paint with a broad brush some of the big reasons that keep me coming back to God.

On a philosophical level when I look at the world around me, with it’s beauty and complexity and appearance of having been designed, it still just makes sense to me to think that it was in fact designed by someone. Naturalism (i.e. the belief that there was no designer, no creative force behind existence) is indeed a possibility, but it seems less likely to me than belief in a Creator. On another level I look at life and human history and it seems as if things do work together for some kind of larger purpose – that there is some bigger story at work, a story about love and justice and ultimate joy. Again, this could all be illusion or wishful thinking, but it seems to me that another possible explanation is that there really is a larger purpose to existence.

On a more personal level, there are just too many “spiritual” experiences that I’ve had throughout my entire life to just suddenly explain them away by some other means – whether answers to prayer, experiences of transcendence in response to nature or relationships or times of worship, or just those times when I’ve sensed the immediate presence of God and been overwhelmed by his reality. As I said in a comment on another of my replies – theism provides me a bigger tent that allows me to affirm the authenticity of spiritual experiences like these while also appreciating things like science as well. In atheism by contrast I’m forced to reject the one in order to embrace the other. Just speaking personally, I prefer a philosophy that allows me to keep my options open and doesn’t require me to reinterpret all my former experiences to mean something other than what they appeared to mean at the time.

Ultimately I’d echo the words of C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Christianity is the lens through which I make sense of the world – and it does make sense to me. Things about life, my daily experienes and big events, as well as the experiences of people around me start to make sense in a new way when viewed through this lens. I’m not saying that I couldn’t trade in this set of lenses for a different one, but so far I haven’t found another set that works as well for me.

As for why Christianity specifically – there is just something about the person of Jesus Christ and his way of justice, mercy and self-sacrificial love that appeals to me. The more I study his message and way of life, the more I’m challenged by it, and the more I become convinced that it is not only the best possible way to live personally but is also ultimately the only hope for our self-destructive race.

BTW, I know all this is very vague. Again, these aren’t intended as throroughgoing arguments for why any of you should believe in God. I’m mainly just explaining my personal, “existential” reasons for continuing in my beliefs.

I do want to explain however that I don’t feel as if I have to “reject” a lot from the Bible or Christianity to maintain my faith. My journey has not really been about throwing out the parts of either that I don’t like. Rather, it has been a re-discovery of what I think was there all along and just got buried by our theological systems. For instance, I resist the suggestion that fundamentalists are the ones who really get the Bible right and the rest of us have to reinterpret everything to make it fit our own preferences. What if this other approach has been the right one all along and it is the fundamentalists who have been misunderstanding and re-interpreting what the Bible is really about? The truth is that the more I study historic Christian theology, the more I find that my views are really not that uncommon among Christians throughout the centuries (only somewhat uncommon among one particular conservative wing of the church in the past century or two). My experience has been similar to that of G.K. Chesterton, who said:

“I did try to found a heresy of my own, and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered it was orthodoxy…”

Anyhow, thanks again for the great questions!


[tags]atheist, atheism, Pastor, Mike Clawson, Christian, God, Naturalism, C.S. Lewis, Bible, G.K. Chesterton[/tags]

  • Logos

    Much as I hate to say it MikeC, you are a decent guy. This board is richer for your presence.

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

    Thanks Logos… but why exactly do you hate to say it? :)

  • Nina

    I don’t hate to say it at all. So, for the record, Mike rules!

    Actually, you sound like most ordinary Christians, perfectly reasonable people who have worked out a way of seeing the world that works for them. We atheists only hyperventilate–correction. reasonable atheists only hperventilate–when the suggestion comes up that these are the only lens and that we are grieviously injuring the rest of humanity by not espousing them. Otherwise it is a rather wonderful free-thought world, where what works in the particular for person X is just as valid as what works in the particular for person Y.

    I can see how this would present a not-quite-so-easy conundrum for scientists, and those who feel the urge to convert others, or to arrange the world according to their version/vision, on the other hand, but for the rest of us, it really should remain something that has to do with very basic freedom of thought. I can also see that for fundamentalism, the particular instance of what should be taught strikes at the very heart of freedom to believe (in creationism, for example, or in assorted miracles) and that it seems to them that the scientists are looking to brainwash them and their children. I don’t really have an answer to that, except to say that science seems to be an area in which people of various beliefs and non beliefs can work together, so that is becomes quite weird to talk about Hindu physics, or Muslim biology or Christian mathematics. I think atheists have become worked up at the threat to the neutrality of science. Of course, we think it IS neutral. If one doesn’t agree, then we’re back to square one about who gets to be the Prefered Thought authority.

  • Mriana

    The more I study his message and way of life, the more I’m challenged by it, and the more I become convinced that it is not only the best possible way to live personally but is also ultimately the only hope for our self-destructive race.

    OK where do I start with my questions over this without sounding negetive and/or hatefully aggressive. :( I guess I’ll just ask and hope you don’t take offense.

    1. Mt 10:34 RSV says: “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” This and many other sayings in the Bible, some said by JC and some from the OT, has started many a Crusade, Inquisition, and other wars and cruelity to people. Yes, at one point JC does say “Put away your sword” to his disciples, but those who follow the first statement, and others like it, live by the sword and sometimes die by it.

    Now, IMHO, there is nothing wrong with holy texts, but rather it is what people do with these texts that makes them good or bad, be the texts from the Torah, the Bible or the Qu’ran etc. How can you say that JC’s teachings are “ultimately the only hope for our self-destructive race”? Isn’t that a bit bias and prejudice? Couldn’t the Upanishads, the Tao, the Analects, the Theravada, or even the Humanists’ Manifesto be just as much of value as JC’s teachings?

    2. “the more I become convinced that it is not only the best possible way to live personally…”

    OK that is you personally, I understand that, but we have that word “only” again. I’m wondering, would you feel that a person who follows a different path is not living the best possible way? Jains practice non-violence and vegetarianism, which I will once again say is very commendable. Gandhi (and I can’t seem to spell his name today), a Hindu, and MLK Jr., an admirable Christian who learned from Gandhi’s ways, both practiced non-violence. Humanists, albeit human, try to practice non-violence also. MLK Jr. learned a lot from that infamous Hindu. People have learned a lot from Buddha too.

    Meanwhile… Back in the Darkages and other time periods, Christians and Islamics alike were having Holy Wars (or Ji’hads for the Islamics). Christians had witch hunts (based on a quote in the OT) and Holy Inquisitions. Oh, we’re not done yet… Christians, except the Abolistionist Christians (like Episcopalians), used the Bible to condone slavery. Then they turned around after slavery ended and use the Bible for segregation. Now, they are using Biblical text meant for another time period to deny human dignity from Gays. Nice! :roll:

    Some Islamics believe Christians are infidels, based on the Qu’ran scriptures, and therefore Christians are going to hell. Evangelical Christians come up with a virtual training video game (Left Behind video game) in which Christian youth are trained to kill non-Christians. Wonderful! :roll:

    You see where I’m going with this. What some people do with holy texts is abhorrent, horrifying, and an abomination to society. Yes, yes. the Hindus had that caste thing going on before Gandhi, in which a lot of the Outcastes/Untouchables converted to Islam, which they saw as more equitable. I’m sure someone can find something in other religions and philosphies that is almost as bad. That’s not the point.

    How can you say with such certainty that JC’s message is the “only” best possible way to live? The other messages are not? Just what if the Hindus/Jains are right and you don’t gain enough karma to end the cycle and become one with Brahman? What if the Buddhists’ Noble Eightfold Path is the way to enlightenment and spirituality AKA attaining Nirvana? What if the Humanists idea of reason and compassion as we strive to better ourselves and society is right? What if all schools of thoughts are right? What if none of them are correct, but only just a way of life?

    To me, and no insult intended, your statement sounds biased and prejudiced. Which I find very sad. This does not mean that I think less of you, but it does mean I feel you may have some things to think about and consider. At the very least contemplate a different way of expressing this thought. Maybe say, “I become convinced that for me it is the best possible way to live…” Where you have the word personally makes it sound like a statement that is across the board for everyone, which I know you surely did not mean that. I would hate to think that you did mean it that way.

    I have a friend who says, “There are many paths and they all lead to center.” I truly believe, just as Karen Armstrong has said she does, we can gain a little good out of all the philosophies. None of them are right and none of them are wrong. They are just human concepts on how to live life and we gain some good from each one of them.

  • CHR

    I have to say, I really enjoyed your responses/posts, as far as I can say, that I understood them. Since I´m not a native speaker I may sometimes have been wrong to fully get what you were writing about. But there´s a certain thing, that really bothers me and it´s your remarks on atheism as a belief.
    I´m sure you know what will come next and may have heard/read many times before, but I have to write it anyway.
    To some extent I think I understand why you tend to think of atheism as a belief system similar to religious beliefs. But this allegedly suppressed belief that for many religious people seems to shine through all these rational and more or less reasonablec scientific studies is headed towards a totally different goal or target. It may be a belief but – for lack of words – let´s say it may be a belief of a different quality than those beliefs of religion or spirituality. A quality of probability to more precise.

    Scientific belief means to trust on the data, information and knowledge that has been gathered all around the world to produce even more precise assumptions of what the world is or may be about. This, from my point of view, hints on why scientific belief, if one has to call it so, promises and in many cases is more accurate than any other model or assumption of the world.
    To think that science will certainly provide universal truths is premature, or at least highly improbable. Universal truth possibly goes beyond the borders of human imagination, cognition and perception of the universe and everything that´s in it. But at least science has developed much better methods of explanation how and why human beings feel, experience and interact with their surrounding world. These methods, of course, won´t be universally consistent, but still they will evolve to even more sophisticated ones. There will be dead-ends, misinterpretations and even manipulations, that´s human nature. Nevertheless, I think, one can say that scientific belief can hardly be described as a belief at all. Scientific belief is based on tested methods, complex rules of argumentation and – as far as possible for human beings – on proof.

    Scientific belief is an expectation of what scientific work may provide in the future. It´s a belief so stripped down to assumptions of what might possibly known in the future, that it hardly is a belief anymore. It´s more or less knowledge- and experience-based expactations. Not universally true. But probably more accurate than anything else before.

    All the best and thanks for your posts

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The Bible tells of the perfect family. Jesus is the Father of the House. He isn’t here right now, but we know what He said to do. It is His Holy Spirit that brings us to His Redemption. It works inside of us. The Holy Spirit does not convict me of the sins of the world. It convicts me of my sins against the world. My personal relationship with the Father. My Father treated all of us the same. My Father was a hero. I can show you His Bronze Medal. He is your Father, too. Mother said He was coming back. She has never lied to me either.

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

    science seems to be an area in which people of various beliefs and non beliefs can work together, so that is becomes quite weird to talk about Hindu physics, or Muslim biology or Christian mathematics. I think atheists have become worked up at the threat to the neutrality of science. Of course, we think it IS neutral.

    Although that might not strictly be true… you might find this book interesting.

  • Darryl

    All I ask of any believer is that they keep their faith for themselves and do not try to restrict my liberty with their beliefs. Mike seems to do this. That’s great, and more power to him and those like him.

    But, Mriana is touching upon a concern that I also share: whenever religious humans coordinate their beliefs and form popular majorities, they may put pressure on minority non-believers to conform, and may slip into a mode of intolerance. Also, such majorities always have the potential to radicalize and turn nasty, and this is especially the case if the origins of their faiths, and their holy writings, have a violent component.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    In Mriana’s message it says

    1. Mt 10:34 RSV says: “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” This and many other sayings in the Bible, some said by JC and some from the OT, has started many a Crusade, Inquisition, and other wars and cruelity to people. Yes, at one point JC does say “Put away your sword” to his disciples, but those who follow the first statement, and others like it, live by the sword and sometimes die by it.

    I come not to bring peace, but a sword, means that the truth comes inside of me to help me cut away the lies I have hidden there. Put away your sword meant that is was not the time to fight back. It was time to let Him do His redemptive work. The Spirit deals with our hearts. Not someone else’s.

  • Mriana

    Even so, Tommy, it has been twisted, by some Christians- past and present, to use violence to force “God’s Word” on others.

  • Steven Carr

    Jesus allegedly called people broods of vipers, hypocrites, blind fools.

    Mike simply refuses to have any dealings with people who use language one hundredth as strong.

    ‘Steven, given the tone & spirit of your comments both here and at Hemant’s site, I have no interest in discussing any of these questions with you at either blog. Feel free to go on talking to yourself if you like but you’ll get no debate out of me.’

    Can Mike find anything I ever said, which was one hundredth as bile-filled as the words that come from the person he adores?

    Why does Mike have one rule for Jesus and another rule for everybody else?

    Take these phrases , allegedly uttered by the Son of God, in Revelation –

    ‘I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan’

    ‘I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.’

    And let us not forgot that Jesus used a parable to compare himself to a king who wanted his enemies fetched and killed in front of him…

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/ C. L. Hanson

    Mike, I’ve been following this series, and I’d like to thank you for presenting a new perspective on Christianity. Sorry I didn’t submit any questions, but it’s only now that I’ve read more about your position that I’m starting to have ideas of what questions I might have asked! ;)

    Anyway, I’m adding your blog to my personal reader, and I might post questions on your blog if I think of any that are relevant to your topics discussed….

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

    Sorry Mriana, I can see that I was unclear with that statement. Let me address your concerns:

    Mt 10:34 RSV says: “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” This and many other sayings in the Bible, some said by JC and some from the OT, has started many a Crusade, Inquisition, and other wars and cruelity to people. Yes, at one point JC does say “Put away your sword” to his disciples, but those who follow the first statement, and others like it, live by the sword and sometimes die by it.

    I think I already addressed this exact same question in another thread, but perhaps you missed it. The short answer is that very often pursuing a way of justice, peace and radical inclusion very often will lead to division and even violence from those whose power and wealth depends on maintaining injustice and exclusion. What Jesus is saying is that we must pursue the way of justice and peace regardless even though we know it will lead to persecution and conflict. But those who take his words to justify violence and oppression are actually turning his entire message on its head.

    Now, IMHO, there is nothing wrong with holy texts, but rather it is what people do with these texts that makes them good or bad, be the texts from the Torah, the Bible or the Qu’ran etc. How can you say that JC’s teachings are “ultimately the only hope for our self-destructive race”? Isn’t that a bit bias and prejudice? Couldn’t the Upanishads, the Tao, the Analects, the Theravada, or even the Humanists’ Manifesto be just as much of value as JC’s teachings?

    This comes back to what I’ve said in several threads about believing that God is speaking to us in all cultures and religious traditions. If those other traditions and teachings have things that are true and valuable then they are as much a part of the “way of Christ” as anything Jesus himself said. It’s not an either/or, if these teaching are in agreement or if they complement each other (i.e. expand or fill in the gaps others leave out) then the are not in competition but actually each pointing to the same thing.

    But I’m afraid that you’ve misunderstand the thrust of my comment in the first place (which is totally my fault for not being clear). When I said that the way of Jesus is our “only hope” I was never intending to contrast it with other religions (like I said, I think many of them are likewise contributing to our understanding of this same Way) – rather, I was contrasting it to the greed and violence and exploitation and prejudices and oppression that so often characterizes humanity. And so often in human history we think that the solution to these problems is simply more of the same – we fight violence with violence (cf. our current War in Iraq for example), hatred with hatred, oppression with more oppression (cf. the way nearly every liberation movement in history has ended up simply turning the oppressed into a new batch of oppressors), and greed by increasing our consumption. I think if we continue down this path humanity is likely to destroy both ourselves and this planet, or at least our current civilization.

    It is in contrast to these ways of life that I think Jesus’ way of inclusive love, restorative justice, generosity & simplicity, and non-violent but active peacemaking is truly the only hope for things to ever change – these are the only things powerful enough to overcome evil and not simply replace it with more evil. And truthfully, I don’t care if people put Jesus’ name on it or not (though it is interesting that while MLK learned his tactics from Gandhi, Gandhi said that he learned his tactics from Jesus), what is important is not who gets the credit but that the way of love and justice and peace is actually practiced. If other traditions teach these same principles then fantastic! So much the better.

    I hope that clarifies the point I wanted to make. Thanks for pushing me on the issue! :)

    -Mike

    P.S. How do you make the eye-rolling emoticon? There have been so many times I’ve wanted to use that lately. I don’t know of any other way to clearly communicate sarcasm online. ;)

  • EnoNomi

    I’ve really appreciate Pastor Mike’s willingness to answer our questions and continue the dialogue between Brights and Supers. That said, of course, I’m going to follow with a big “but”. I’m rather unsatisfied with his response regarding the Bible…

    What if this other approach has been the right one all along and it is the fundamentalists who have been misunderstanding and re-interpreting what the Bible is really about?

    If not ‘most’ then certainly ‘many’ of us non-believers have read the bible and found much in there to concern if not horrify us. I feel that when confronted by this, Pastor Mike has taken the dodge that many Christians do. That suddenly, to hear them tell it, the bible is all about Jesus and the wonderful teachings of Jesus. Anything else is just a misunderstanding of what the scripture is ‘really’ saying. Or ‘that’s just the Old Testament, we don’t pay attention to that because Jesus brought us a New Testament’.

    It’s not a misunderstanding when things are very plainly written. Leviticus is a treasure trove of hate, violance and intollerance – a complete anithesis of what Jesus is supposed to stand for. Why keep it?

    It seems to me if the only important thing is Jesus and his philosophy, than that is the only thing the “official” bible should consist of. Everthing else should be strickly looked at as historical myths – not inspired, and especially not inerrent, words of a god.

  • HappyNat

    The Bible tells of the perfect family. Jesus is the Father of the House. He isn’t here right now, but we know what He said to do. It is His Holy Spirit that brings us to His Redemption. It works inside of us. The Holy Spirit does not convict me of the sins of the world. It convicts me of my sins against the world. My personal relationship with the Father. My Father treated all of us the same. My Father was a hero. I can show you His Bronze Medal. He is your Father, too. Mother said He was coming back. She has never lied to me either.

    The perfect family is Jesus as the father? Who is the Mother? Bronze medal, is that for 3rd place in the long jump at the olympics? And where are Marsha, Jan, and Cindy? Sorry, Tommy, you lost me on this post. :)

  • Logos

    Mike C said,

    May 22, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Thanks Logos… but why exactly do you hate to say it?

    Cause I’m evil

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

    I feel that when confronted by this, Pastor Mike has taken the dodge that many Christians do.

    EnoNomi, you are welcome to disagree with my method of interpretation, but please don’t do me the discourtesy of implying that my views are simply some rhetorical dodge intended to win arguments or to artificially make my beliefs seem more palatable (to myself or to others). These are my actual beliefs based on a lifetime study of scripture and how I think it is best interpreted. I don’t hold these beliefs simply to win debates in online forums.

  • Mriana

    The rolling smilie is simple. You type the colon symbol, the word roll, and then colon symbol again. No spaces of course between the colons and the word roll.

    I hope that clarifies the point I wanted to make. Thanks for pushing me on the issue!

    You’re welcome. BTW, what is your opinion on JC’s temper tantrum in the temple when people were selling things, along with the money changers, in it? Wasn’t that rather violent and a loss of self-control?

    though it is interesting that while MLK learned his tactics from Gandhi, Gandhi said that he learned his tactics from Jesus

    Is it possible that JC learned his tactics from Krishna or Buddha? Or even others? Humm… Sort of brings new meaning to killing the Buddha.

  • monkeymind

    Steven, are you the same Steven Carr who is the author of “The UK’s Leading Atheist Page”? I see there you have conducted several online debates with Anglican clerics and apologists. I think your efforts to shoehorn this multi-voice conversation into a one-on-one debate format have been completely inappropriate. I do think it is possible to ask difficult questions in this type of conversation, but you might want to reflect on what level of discourse is best suited to this particular communicative act.

    Dropping your attempt to write the script of your imaginary debate is a good start, though.

  • Kim G

    Hi Mike C, I’d like to politely disagree with something you wrote that I find particularly interesting.

    “In atheism by contrast I’m forced to reject the one in order to embrace the other. Just speaking personally, I prefer a philosophy that allows me to keep my options open and doesn’t require me to reinterpret all my former experiences to mean something other than what they appeared to mean at the time.”

    Very interesting indeed. I’m trying to put myself in your shoes but admit that I’m having a hard time seeing the choice of Christianity as anything but limiting. The way I see it, as a Naturalist, is that you’ve limited yourself to Christianity and completely ruled out all other non-Christianity choices. I think most Naturalists want the answers to the Universe just as bad as Christians (etc…), we just want evidence. We don’t think that simply feeling something is enough for it to be true. It may be a reason to investigate, but not to believe. And so far, no religion has offered enough evidence.

    Most of the times I followed my feelings instead of paying more attention to factual evidence, I’ve gotten it wrong. I’m speaking mostly of dating. But, the same can be said of other situations. The hope was that some day I’d pay attention to evidence and my feelings and find someone that I could live with and love for the rest of my life. Luckily, this happened. But, had I followed only my feelings, I don’t think this would be the case right now.

    I think that Naturalists try to balance feelings and facts, and are careful not to be overcome by feelings alone. This can sometimes be difficult. I admit that the sense of awe I get when I think about the vastness of the Universe feels spiritual in a sense. But, without evidence of some super-natural power, I’m fine not having all the answers right now. I’m excited that we have so much more to learn. I think that religion tries to answer that sense of awe. I think that some people aren’t ok with not knowing, it’s too vulnerable for them.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    Thanks Mike C for giving us insight into your thinking. You really do add a lot to these discussions.

  • Miko

    This is the last of the series, so thanks to Pastor Mike for offering to answer so many of the questions

    *A round of applause* Thanks for taking a position in our spotlight for a week, Mike.

    On a philosophical level when I look at the world around me, with it’s beauty and complexity and appearance of having been designed, it still just makes sense to me to think that it was in fact designed by someone.

    I’m afraid you’re falling in the “how well my glove fits” trap there: our world appears beautiful to us because we evolved to live in it. In a way, I have to think this is better in some aesthetic sense, because it suggests that wherever life evolves to an extent of being capable of appreciating beauty, it will also have evolved to be happiest where it is. (Also, don’t forget that “Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies,” as Emerson says.)

    I’ll have to admit I’ve never understood the whole “appearance of having been designed” idea. I look at a mesa and see erosion over millions of years or at a mountain range and see two plates along a boundary pushing together. From this, I have to conclude that we live in a universe where everything happens for a reason rather than being the whim of a deity.

    On a more personal level, there are just too many “spiritual” experiences that I’ve had throughout my entire life to just suddenly explain them away by some other means

    Fair enough. I once had a dream in which I was called by a god to come to it and it never shook my atheism, so as I’m content to explain my “spiritual experiences” by phenomena in this universe, I can’t complain if you’re content to do so the same by phenomena outside of it.

    However, I’m not sure about the “bigger tent” metaphor: as I see it, science goes far beyond the results it produces to the methods used to produce them. And NOMA aside, these results really don’t lead to a belief in god, so I can’t help wondering whether you’ve given up the best parts of science in order to keep god, in which case I’d say you’ve traded away a bigger tent in favor of two smaller tents. Of course, since I doubt anything said here is going to make you decide to renounce Christianity and pastorhood (or that that’s even the point of any of this), I suppose that agreeing not to torch each others’ tents is probably a fair compromise.

    This is the last of the series, so thanks to Pastor Mike for offering to answer so many of the questions

    *A second round of applause* It’s been interesting.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    But those who take his words to justify violence and oppression are actually turning his entire message on its head.

    CARR
    So when Jesus said he came not to bring peace, he was saying that he came to bring peace?

    The passage continues with the theme of reconciliation, love and forgiveness ‘From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    This was the man who said ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!’, and ‘But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.’

    Jesus preached a Gospel of fear.

  • http://reasonableatheist.blogspot.com Bart

    Douglas Adams wrote:

    . . . 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!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

    Mike, I used to think like you about how things looked designed, and then I started reading about evolution and natural selection and that pretty much put the nail in the coffin on design. I found myself arguing that well “Perhaps God just set everything up so that humans eventually evolved”, but the problem with that is that humans are not the end product of evolution. Evolution does not an an “end”. Every species alive on earth right now is the same age, they are all just as evolved as we are. It’s an extraordinary coincidence that we happened to evolve at all.

    In my journey to atheism, I went from Methodist, to liberal Christian, to Deism to Atheism. My suggestion to you is to take a class on biological evolution. It would probably make you rethink the idea you have of “design” needing a designer.

  • Miko

    Is it possible that JC learned his tactics from Krishna or Buddha? Or even others? Humm… Sort of brings new meaning to killing the Buddha.

    Well, Therevadan Buddhism was big in Egypt at that time, so it’s definitely possible, if you think that there actually was a Jesus who actually went to Egypt. Since IIRC only Matthew mentions it and seems to intend it as a Moses allegory, I’m not overly convinced by this, however.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/ C. L. Hanson

    Actually, my main question is very similar to EnoNomi’s, even if the particular phrasing came off as if accusing you of rhetorical trickery. The question I would ask is the following:

    The Old Testament really is full of terrible things — God ordering horrible voilence and genocide, cruelty, slavery etc. If you disagree with these valuesand belive God would not behave that way, why continue printing, distributing, and revering it as a holy book? Why not print just the New Testament or just the gospels (maybe with Ecclesiastes) so that you don’t encourage people to apply the bad stuff in their lives and laws?

  • Steven Carr

    MONKEYMIND
    Dropping your attempt to write the script of your imaginary debate is a good start, though.

    CARR
    I think this means he wants me to stop quoting Jesus, and start praising him.

  • monkeymind

    No, I mean rewriting everything as if it were the transcript of a one-on-one debate as you did above.

  • monkeymind

    CARR
    I think this means he wants me to stop quoting Jesus, and start praising him.

    Can you say “projection”?

    No, I mean rewriting everything as if it were the transcript of a one-on-one debate as you did above.

  • Steven Carr

    HANSON
    The Old Testament really is full of terrible things — God ordering horrible voilence and genocide, cruelty, slavery etc.

    CARR
    All allegedly endoresed by Jesus.

    Indeed , Jesus went out of his way to assure people in Matthew 15:3 that the commandment was truly from God that – ‘He who curses his mother or father must be put to death.’

    Jesus even compares God to the cruellest of masters, who torture their slaves. Matthew 18:34 ‘And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my Heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

    A striking metaphor of Jesus , comparing God to the sort of person Mike hates.

  • monkeymind

    Miko said,

    Well, Therevadan Buddhism was big in Egypt at that time,

    Wha??

  • Miko

    Why not print just the New Testament or just the gospels (maybe with Ecclesiastes) so that you don’t encourage people to apply the bad stuff in their lives and laws?

    The Bibles that the Gideons distribute at schools take this approach: just New Testament+Psalms+Proverbs. Although I have to doubt that they’re intending the censor the OT–probably just a cost issue.

    In any case, I think it’d be far better to just encourage people to read critically; the mere fact that it is written doesn’t have to be enough to get people to apply it in life and law. Putting footnotes in a Bible that say “Wow, this is a really bad passage. Please don’t take it literally.” is probably a bad idea, but only just barely. (On contrast, the first Bible I ever read had a footnote at Jesus’ crucifixion explaining that that was why god had caused the Holocaust. Yes, seriously. It really did.)

    The best advice I’ve ever heard for reading books like these is to reflect after reading a passage whether you think it was good, bad, or irrelevant. And if you answer with one of the first two options, the passage is worth marking to read again later. For one thing, you may find some good in what you saw as bad earlier. And if not, at least you’ll understand why it’s bad, which can be just as useful as understanding why something is good.

  • Steven Carr

    All Mike has to do is abjure the bad things Jesus did, to earn my immediate respect.

    Simply react as a human being would react to someone who allegedly declared to a crowd of people that they were faithless and perverse , and asked ‘How much longer must I put up with you?’

    And then Mike would show himself to be a true Christian.

  • Miko

    Wha??

    I’m not sure if there’s a question there, but if there is, check out:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edicts_of_Ashoka#Proselytism_beyond_India

    for a history of Buddhist expansion into Egypt a few hundred years earlier. As Egypt was basically the cosmopolitan center of the world under the Ptolemys, no one religion could really be said to be dominant, but Buddhism definitely established as firm a foothold as anything else. While there’s some mystery about the formation of the pre-Christian Therapeutae sect, for example, there are some very marked similarities to Therevadan Buddhism and “Therapeutae” could very well have even been derived etymologically from “Therevada.”

    (Since we’ve all seemingly decided that Wiki is worth citing.)

  • monkeymind

    Miko: Cool! Thx.

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

    BTW, what is your opinion on JC’s temper tantrum in the temple when people were selling things, along with the money changers, in it? Wasn’t that rather violent and a loss of self-control?

    Indeed, it was. Being a peacemaking doesn’t mean simply being passive in the face of injustice. A God who doesn’t get a little upset when the poor are being exploited and oppressed is not a very good God IMHO.

    You have to understand that when Jesus walked into the Temple what he saw was not simply an ordinary marketplace. In the historical context of that time period there were two things going on that would have rightfully made any just person very angry:
    1) The poor were being exploited – the Temple leaders who profited off this religious system were living in luxury (archaeologists have found $5000 bottles of wine in some of the villas where these 1st century Temple leaders lived!), while the vast majority of Jews lived in abject poverty – on the level that most people in the Third World live today. So Jesus, by getting angry, takes a stand against oppression in the name of religion.
    2) Outsiders were being excluded – the part of the Temple where this money changing was going on was known as the “Court of the Gentiles” and was intended to be the place where people from all nation, Jews and non-Jews, could pray and worship God. It was a place of inclusion. But by setting up this market in that space instead, the Temple leaders were excluding people of other races from their religion. This is why Jesus exclaims: “This was meant to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have made it into a den of thieves!” In this statement Jesus is standing against both economic, racial and religious exclusion.

    So yes, Jesus got angry and a little violent (though in a very mild way comparatively speaking), but he did so in reaction to gross injustice, which again, is what I think the Way of Jesus is all about and is why I follow him.

    BTW, if you’re interested, my Palm Sunday sermon is online and addresses this scene and what led up to it.

    Is it possible that JC learned his tactics from Krishna or Buddha? Or even others? Humm… Sort of brings new meaning to killing the Buddha.

    There’s no direct indication in the sources but I suppose anything is possible. Jesus did grow up in Galilee which was a major cultural crossroads during that time period. He very well could have been exposed to some of these other philosophies. Though I’m still personally convinced that the heart of his message is quintessentially Jewish.

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

    (On contrast, the first Bible I ever read had a footnote at Jesus’ crucifixion explaining that that was why god had caused the Holocaust. Yes, seriously. It really did.)

    Wow, that’s just sick!

    The best advice I’ve ever heard for reading books like these is to reflect after reading a passage whether you think it was good, bad, or irrelevant. And if you answer with one of the first two options, the passage is worth marking to read again later. For one thing, you may find some good in what you saw as bad earlier. And if not, at least you’ll understand why it’s bad, which can be just as useful as understanding why something is good.

    Excellent advice!

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    Mike: thanks for answering my question at last. :) I may address your reply a bit later, but, for now, let me just say that it was a great answer, and that I really, really wish more (or all) Christians were like you.

    Pedro

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

    The Old Testament really is full of terrible things — God ordering horrible voilence and genocide, cruelty, slavery etc. If you disagree with these valuesand belive God would not behave that way, why continue printing, distributing, and revering it as a holy book? Why not print just the New Testament or just the gospels (maybe with Ecclesiastes) so that you don’t encourage people to apply the bad stuff in their lives and laws?

    Hey C.L.,

    I tried to address this question in my third reply and some of the subsequent comments. Was there something about my answer there that requires further clarification?

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    In atheism by contrast I’m forced to reject the one in order to embrace the other.

    I beg to differ. It is certainly possible to live a spiritual and purposeful life — and to have spiritual experiences — without believing in the supernatural or being a theist.

  • Mriana

    Miko said,

    May 22, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Mriana said,
    Is it possible that JC learned his tactics from Krishna or Buddha? Or even others? Humm… Sort of brings new meaning to killing the Buddha.

    Well, Therevadan Buddhism was big in Egypt at that time, so it’s definitely possible, if you think that there actually was a Jesus who actually went to Egypt. Since IIRC only Matthew mentions it and seems to intend it as a Moses allegory, I’m not overly convinced by this, however.

    Well, it came from somewhere Miko and I don’t believe it was all divine providence.

    Sorry, Pastor Mike. No insult intended.

    Mike said,
    1) The poor were being exploited – the Temple leaders who profited off this religious system were living in luxury (archaeologists have found $5000 bottles of wine in some of the villas where these 1st century Temple leaders lived!), while the vast majority of Jews lived in abject poverty – on the level that most people in the Third World live today. So Jesus, by getting angry, takes a stand against oppression in the name of religion.

    So, what else is new. Have you looked at the Religious Reich lately? They aren’t much different.

    Mike said,
    2) Outsiders were being excluded

    This still exists today in some churches.

    Mike said,
    There’s no direct indication in the sources but I suppose anything is possible. Jesus did grow up in Galilee which was a major cultural crossroads during that time period. He very well could have been exposed to some of these other philosophies. Though I’m still personally convinced that the heart of his message is quintessentially Jewish.

    Let’s not forget the authors of the Gospels had a variety of influences. Early Jews, esp as slaves, were exposed to Babylonian, Assyrian, and Egyptian beliefs to name a few. So, none of it is entirely without surrounding influences.

    Not sure who said :lol: ,
    On contrast, the first Bible I ever read had a footnote at Jesus’ crucifixion explaining that that was why god had caused the Holocaust. Yes, seriously. It really did.

    GIVE ME A BREAK! God did not do that! Humans did it! :mad:

  • Mriana

    writerdd said,

    May 22, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    In atheism by contrast I’m forced to reject the one in order to embrace the other.

    I beg to differ. It is certainly possible to live a spiritual and purposeful life — and to have spiritual experiences — without believing in the supernatural or being a theist.

    As a Spiritual Humanist, I agree 100%. :D

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/ C. L. Hanson

    Yes, you talked about how the OT was for them at that time and not necessarily for us now, but are you saying that you believe your God actually ordered such things as slavery and genocide, stonings for various offenses, etc.? To me it is hard to imagine any circumstances under which such behavior would be appropriate for an all-powerful all-loving God. Either the book is describing God correctly and I would question the morality of such a God or the book is describing Him wrong, and I would question the accuracy of the book — either way I would stop reading, printing, distributing, and especially revering it.

    If this point is covered among the 57 responses of that post, please say so, and I’ll go back and read more carefully.

  • Miko

    I beg to differ. It is certainly possible to live a spiritual and purposeful life — and to have spiritual experiences — without believing in the supernatural or being a theist.

    I think I probably agree as well, but how are you defining the word ‘spiritual?’

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Miko, I define spiritual as “feeling of transcendence” or “awe” or “I get goosebumps when I look at a sunset or listen to certain music” (fill in whatever gives you goosebumps), or sometimes I just feel so damned good I think I am going to leap out of my body even though I really think there is no “me” to leap out of my body, or when I meditate and am present, I feel like I am on some kind of higher mental plane than I am when I am worrying or thinking about work… and so forth.

    I don’t really define it any differently now that I’m an atheist than I did when I was a Christian. I just explain it differently now.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    This was meant to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have made it into a den of thieves!”

    CARR
    Yes, according to Acts, some of the religous leaders who met regularly in the Temple would demand that followers would hand over the entire proceeds of property sales, and people would be struck dead if they did not hand over all the money.

    Where exactly does Mike expect the market to be where people like Mary could buy a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons? (see Luke 2:24)

    Certainly priests prospered through the offerings of people like the mother of Jesus, but it was God himself who had decreed that priests should recieve tithes.

    Was Jesus angry at the injustice caused by people obeying the word of God in the Old Testament?

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The Old Testament tells about the INNER struggles of man to find peace in his heart. It is told from the viewpoint of a family.
    It starts out with the father coming to the son and asking “What have you done?”. The child quickly responds by saying “It was her fault, and you gave her to me, so it’s your fault”. The father says to the child, “Go outside and pick up the sticks and rake the leaves until you know what you did.
    The child goes outside and argues with himself about who’s fault it is. He puts his heart in prison. He destroys all the things he can. He becomes a slave to the wrong he did his father. He wants a warrior to come save him from his fathers punishment. Finally he realizes that he was wrong.
    He realizes he ate the fruit because he wanted to taste it. He wanted to be wise as his father was wise and thought he could do things his own way. He goes into the house to tell his father how sorry he is for his wrong. When he gets inside his father has died. He died to protect him and help him find the peace he needed.
    Many do not know why they believe in God. Is that different than not knowing what it is that you do not believe in?

  • Tommy Huntsman

    People have “twisted” the word to force THEIR word on others. The Bible says to look inside of ourselves at the “spirit” of the words we say. God wants us to look at our life and honestly answer the question “What have YOU done?” It is the worship of the True Spirit of the word. It is the worship of the Creator of all things. It is the worship of Truth.

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

    Miko, I define spiritual as “feeling of transcendence” or “awe” or “I get goosebumps when I look at a sunset or listen to certain music” (fill in whatever gives you goosebumps), or sometimes I just feel so damned good I think I am going to leap out of my body even though I really think there is no “me” to leap out of my body, or when I meditate and am present, I feel like I am on some kind of higher mental plane than I am when I am worrying or thinking about work… and so forth.

    I don’t really define it any differently now that I’m an atheist than I did when I was a Christian. I just explain it differently now.

    BTW, writerdd, I was going to ask you to explain what “spiritual” meant to you, but Miko beat me to it. Thanks for the description.

    It seems we’re pretty much saying the same thing. Of course I totally agree that non-religious people can have such experiences. The difference, as you say, is in what we think those experiences mean.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    Mike said,
    1) The poor were being exploited – the Temple leaders who profited off this religious system were living in luxury (archaeologists have found $5000 bottles of wine in some of the villas where these 1st century Temple leaders lived!), while the vast majority of Jews lived in abject poverty – on the level that most people in the Third World live today. So Jesus, by getting angry, takes a stand against oppression in the name of religion.

    So, what else is new. Have you looked at the Religious Reich lately? They aren’t much different.

    Mike said,
    2) Outsiders were being excluded

    This still exists today in some churches.

    Oh absolutely! Jesus didn’t come to establish another “religion”. He criticized the religious more than anyone else during his ministry. In the words of Rob Bell, “Jesus wants to save Christians” – we need to figure out how to start living the way of Christ more than anyone these days.

    If you’ve ever read my blog or my other comments I hope you’ll notice that I try to follow Jesus’ example of challenging the religious as well. I’m more disillusioned with the contemporary Church these days than most of the atheists here!

  • Darryl

    EnoNomi, you are welcome to disagree with my method of interpretation, but please don’t do me the discourtesy of implying that my views are simply some rhetorical dodge intended to win arguments or to artificially make my beliefs seem more palatable (to myself or to others). These are my actual beliefs based on a lifetime study of scripture and how I think it is best interpreted. I don’t hold these beliefs simply to win debates in online forums.

    Most commentators here seem not to doubt your sincerity, as I do not. But, I do think that you’re fooling yourself about what the Bible says. It is what it is: the fundamentalists accept this, and the liberals simply deny it and rationalize the denial with talk about interpretation. The problem with the fundamentalists is that they actually believe the teachings of this primitive tome; the problem with the liberals is that by picking and choosing and reinterpreting the Bible’s language they avoid doing the right thing and repudiating Christianity.

  • Miko

    The problem with the fundamentalists is that they actually believe the teachings of this primitive tome; the problem with the liberals is that by picking and choosing and reinterpreting the Bible’s language they avoid doing the right thing and repudiating Christianity.

    Many fundamentalists would claim that the liberals are repudiating ‘true’ Christianity.

  • Darryl

    Many fundamentalists would claim that the liberals are repudiating ‘true’ Christianity.

    I’m referring to a repudiation before the rational world, not before the fundies–nothing ever pleases them.

  • Steven Carr

    DARRYL
    It is what it is: the fundamentalists accept this, and the liberals simply deny it and rationalize the denial with talk about interpretation.

    CARR
    Yes, you will have noticed that nothing annoys liberals more than quotes from the Bible.

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

    But, I do think that you’re fooling yourself about what the Bible says. It is what it is: the fundamentalists accept this, and the liberals simply deny it and rationalize the denial with talk about interpretation. The problem with the fundamentalists is that they actually believe the teachings of this primitive tome; the problem with the liberals is that by picking and choosing and reinterpreting the Bible’s language they avoid doing the right thing and repudiating Christianity.

    Darryl, surely you realize that both sides “interpret” the Bible? It’s impossible to read any text, the Bible included, without interpreting it through some lens or another. The difference is not between those who interpret the Bible and those who “just read it”. The difference is between those who realize that they are interpreting and those who don’t. As soon as you realize that you do intepret, you are you are free to wonder whether your interpretation is the right one or not. In my case, I came to believe that my former, “fundamentalist” interpretation was not the right one, so I traded it for a different one that I believe is truer to the actual nature of the text.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Of course I totally agree that non-religious people can have such experiences. The difference, as you say, is in what we think those experiences mean.

    You know, a major turning point for me on the path from believer to doubter was when I realized that virtually every time I cried in church was when I had my period. Uhoh. You mean, maybe I’m not being moved by the spirit? Maybe I’m just having a hormone surge? Huge eye opener for me.

    The thing is, I can still bring about the same feelings I had in church by reading familiar scripture passages or singing worship songs. However, I can also bring up the same feelings in many other ways: by listening to other music that I love, by takikng a walk on the beach, by drinking wine outside on a warm summer night.

    I don’t know what makes some people think these feelings have a supernatural origin while others are content to understand them as a reaction of our bodies to various stimuli. At some point along my journey, I just stopped having a need to look outside myself and outside of the physical universe to look for meaning or joy.

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

    You know, a major turning point for me on the path from believer to doubter was when I realized that virtually every time I cried in church was when I had my period. Uhoh. You mean, maybe I’m not being moved by the spirit? Maybe I’m just having a hormone surge? Huge eye opener for me.

    Yeah, but I’m a dude, so that explanation doesn’t apply to me. ;)

    Just kidding! ::ducks::

    I do know what you mean. I actually wrote my senior philosophy thesis on that issue. It was 20 pages long though so I won’t bore you with the details. :)

  • Darryl

    Darryl, surely you realize that both sides “interpret” the Bible? . . . In my case, I came to believe that my former, “fundamentalist” interpretation was not the right one, so I traded it for a different one that I believe is truer to the actual nature of the text.

    Yes, Mike, I realize this. I also realize that your response makes my previous point.

  • monkeymind

    I don’t know what makes some people think these feelings have a supernatural origin while others are content to understand them as a reaction of our bodies to various stimuli

    Do my ESP powers sense a forthcoming “both/and” type of response from Mike C.? :) Yes, yes, I’m getting a clear signal…

    I laughed at the part about crying in church when you had your period. As I tell my husband, just because I tend to complain about your annoying habits most when it’s “that time of the month”, it doesn’t mean that those annoying habits aren’t really annoying.

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

    Do my ESP powers sense a forthcoming “both/and” type of response from Mike C.? :) Yes, yes, I’m getting a clear signal…

    Well, I wasn’t actually going to say it, but yes, that was the basic thrust of my senior thesis. :)

  • monkeymind

    Darryl said: Yes, Mike, I realize this. I also realize that your response makes my previous point.

    In what way?

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    In my case, I came to believe that my former, “fundamentalist” interpretation was not the right one, so I traded it for a different one that I believe is truer to the actual nature of the text.

    CARR
    And how did you intepret Matthew 18:34-35 where Jesus likens God to a cruel master who tortures his slaves?

  • Karen

    Anyhow, thanks again for the great questions!

    Thanks to you, Mike C., for all the time and effort you put into the series! Excellent job. :-)

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Carr, we get the idea. You don’t like Jesus. How do you get up in the morning?

  • Miko

    You don’t like Jesus. How do you get up in the morning?

    My non sequitur alert is going off.

  • Darryl

    Miko, I’m with you–I can’t understand a thing izzy says.

  • Steelman

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist said: Carr, we get the idea. You don’t like Jesus. How do you get up in the morning?

    On the wrong side of the bed, every morning. :)

    To Steven Carr: I think it’s pretty clear by now how Mike C. justifies his position on biblical interpretation. You’re certainly not out of line to question his method, as often as you like I suppose, but have you considered that this particular horse may indeed be dead?

    John Cleese once said to a pet shop owner: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

  • monkeymind

    I think the most appropriate Python sketch here is The Argument Sketch, wouldn’t you say?:

    Michael Palin: Oh, this is futile!
    John Cleese: No it isn’t.
    MP: I came here for a good argument.
    JC: No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.
    MP: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
    JC: It can be.
    MP: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    JC: No it isn’t.
    MP: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
    JC: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
    MP: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
    JC: Yes it is!
    MP: No it isn’t!
    JC: Yes it is!
    MP: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
    (short pause)
    JC: No it isn’t.
    MP: It is.
    JC: Not at all.
    MP: Now look.
    JC: (Rings bell) Good Morning.
    MP: What?
    JC: That’s it. Good morning.
    MP: I was just getting interested.
    JC: Sorry, the five minutes is up.
    MP: That was never five minutes!
    JC: I’m afraid it was.
    MP: It wasn’t.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    My non sequitur alert is going off.

    I should have said “how do you get up mornings?” I love non sequiturs.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    Mriana
    The treatment of women in the bible is the symbol of what men do to their emotional feelings. It is not a reference to how women should be treated outwardly. It’s just a book on how to control our feelings and to recognize the ones that lead us to trouble. Women are emotional creatures incapable of rational thought (that’s a joke, but the men understand it). The Holy spirit leads us to understand our feelings. We learn that we can look for the truth in the storms, the earthquakes, or in the fire. But to find the truth, we have to listen for that small voice inside of us.

    I am not as smart as most of you appear to be. I hope that my simple language has not offended anyone. You can have one of my bananas.

  • Mriana

    writerdd said,

    May 22, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Miko, I define spiritual as “feeling of transcendence” or “awe” or “I get goosebumps when I look at a sunset or listen to certain music” (fill in whatever gives you goosebumps), or sometimes I just feel so damned good I think I am going to leap out of my body even though I really think there is no “me” to leap out of my body, or when I meditate and am present, I feel like I am on some kind of higher mental plane than I am when I am worrying or thinking about work… and so forth.

    That’s basically how I define it too.

  • http://sweetjazzycat.blogspot.com Jazzy Cat

    Darryl,
    I am what I guess you are calling a Fundie. After skimming these comments on these threads, I think you have discerned the truth about Pastor Mike better than anyone when you said:

    But, I do think that you’re fooling yourself about what the Bible says. It is what it is: the fundamentalists accept this, and the liberals simply deny it and rationalize the denial with talk about interpretation.

    When you can explain why there is something instead of nothing, please come over to my blog and let me know. I believe a supernatural intelligent explanation is certainly more rational than believing that uninteligent matter/energy has the power of self-existence. Something obviously has to or their would be nothing.

  • Miko

    When you can explain why there is something instead of nothing

    What makes you think there is something? Last time I checked it looked like the universe consisted of about equal parts matter and anti-matter. Add it all together and you end up with nothing.

    In any case, supposing that there is something which is also supernaturally intelligent is a much stronger claim that just supposing that there is something.

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

    Dear God… we’ve degenerated into Monty Python references :roll: ;)

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

    Steven, are you the same Steven Carr who is the author of “The UK’s Leading Atheist Page”?

    Seems a rather pretentious title for a website…

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

    Miko said:

    I’ll have to admit I’ve never understood the whole “appearance of having been designed” idea. I look at a mesa and see erosion over millions of years or at a mountain range and see two plates along a boundary pushing together. From this, I have to conclude that we live in a universe where everything happens for a reason rather than being the whim of a deity.

    Ironically Miko, that is exactly the kind of thing I mean when I say that the universe has the appearance of design – things happen for a reason. Everything is apparently well-ordered according to all these “natural laws” that are somehow also comprehensible and discoverable by the human mind. That fact, far from making me think that belief in God is not necessary, is precisely what makes me think that the existence of Creator God is a likely possibility.

    In a similar vein, Bart said:

    Mike, I used to think like you about how things looked designed, and then I started reading about evolution and natural selection and that pretty much put the nail in the coffin on design. I found myself arguing that well “Perhaps God just set everything up so that humans eventually evolved”, but the problem with that is that humans are not the end product of evolution. Evolution does not an an “end”. Every species alive on earth right now is the same age, they are all just as evolved as we are. It’s an extraordinary coincidence that we happened to evolve at all.

    But that’s exactly the kind of thing I mean. Evolution itself leads me to wonder whether someone designed this universe so that a process like evolution could work in the first place and lead to these “extraordinary coincidences”. And even if humanity isn’t the “end” of evolution, so what? The process itself is still pretty amazing. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the evolutionary chute next! Evolution actually reinforces my belief in a designer who set up the process as his means of creating.

  • Miko

    Ironically Miko, that is exactly the kind of thing I mean when I say that the universe has the appearance of design – things happen for a reason. Everything is apparently well-ordered according to all these “natural laws” that are somehow also comprehensible and discoverable by the human mind. That fact, far from making me think that belief in God is not necessary, is precisely what makes me think that the existence of Creator God is a likely possibility.

    I have to admit I was aware of that possibility when I chose the word ‘reason.’ The one thing I’ve learned from the Republicans is that it pays to be the first person to choose a good word. ;-)

    In any case, I don’t think that the apparant existence of natural laws makes god more likely, but I don’t think that it makes god less likely either. (Although, at the risk of sounding like a quack, the fact that current research suggests that space may be digital on the scale of Planck length makes the hypothesis that the universe is a computer simulation more likely than the god hypothesis. Not that I think it is the case, of course.) However, a universe truly ruled by natural principles limits what sort of god you can have. For example, if you accept (as I do) that there are underlying principles that cannot be broken, prayers and miracles have to go away.

    By any chance, have you read Carl Sagan’s Contact? There’s a great bit at the end (which was cut from the film version) where Ellie uses the software designed to detect extraterrestrial messages on the digits of the number pi and discovers a statistically significant anomaly interpretted as a message from god. I see nothing in our universe to indicate that such an entity exists and much that suggests it doesn’t, but that’s hypothetically a god that I could get behind. And if such a god did exist, it would have to do so on a scale that would dwarf all claims of miracles, answered prayers, resurrection, heaven, hell, revelation, or any other claim made by any of our terrestrial religions or their books.

    Evolution itself leads me to wonder whether someone designed this universe so that a process like evolution could work in the first place and lead to these “extraordinary coincidences”.

    One hundred billion galaxies, four hundred billion stars per galaxy, (theoretically) two planets per star in a ‘habitable’ region, over fifteen billion years and counting. Is it coincidence or mathematical necessity?

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    Seems a rather pretentious title for a website…

    CARR
    MIke will not dialogiue with me, but he has no objection to cheap shots.

    I guess that’s the Christian love coming through.

    When I started the site , in 1996, UK’s Leading Atheist Web Page was very accurate.

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

    However, a universe truly ruled by natural principles limits what sort of god you can have. For example, if you accept (as I do) that there are underlying principles that cannot be broken, prayers and miracles have to go away.

    Not necessarily. As I understand it (though I’m no expert) quantum mechanics leave a lot more room for improbable (yet still statistically possible) events than the old Newtonian mechanistic view did. Miracles could just be an example of God choosing to actualize one of these improbable possibilities.

  • Darryl

    When you can explain why there is something instead of nothing, please come over to my blog and let me know. I believe a supernatural intelligent explanation is certainly more rational than believing that uninteligent matter/energy has the power of self-existence. Something obviously has to or their would be nothing.

    Jazzy, I am not smart enough, and I do not know enough to explain why there is something rather than nothing. This is a riddle that we are trying to understand.

    What I can say is that what we know today versus what we knew when our species began to explore our universe indicates that we have a wonderful capacity to uncover the workings of the cosmos. Our successes are remarkable, and they reinforce our confidence in the methods we are using. There was a time in our history when we thought the universe was much different than we know it to be today. We preached from our pulpits that the Earth was only a few thousand years old. Thanks to our inquisitiveness, that error was corrected. I don’t have to generate a list of all the incorrect beliefs that we have discarded over the centuries in order to make this point. We see now in hindsight that what we thought were truths about our universe were combinations of ignorance, superstition, and imagination.

    If our methods of inquiry have shown themselves so powerful and fruitful to the enhancement of our lives, and if the beliefs we once held, rooted in holy books, have been shown to be relics of a more naive past, isn’t it reasonable to keep on this path? In view of all this, isn’t it more likely that our methods of investigation will yield answers to important questions about cosmology than all our holy books?

    Jazzy, I doubt that it was solely the contemplation of the riddle of our past that led you to believe in God. It is more likely that you were already a believer and that this argument came after as an answer to people like me–people who threaten your faith. It is even more likely that you were born and raised in a culture that believed in God (maybe your parents were believers), whose people were mostly ignorant of science, and who, to this day, are skeptical of any theory that seems to challenge their beliefs. This is how these ideas are spread. Many of the believers who argue here spend much of their time suppressing doubts, avoiding uncomfortable problems, anguishing over their fears, justifying their faith, rationalizing it, and looking for better arguments to fend off people like me. Once people are ready to admit to themselves that this is what they have been doing–lying to themselves–and when they are tired of it, and especially when they realize how much of their lives they have wasted on religion, then they are ready to take off the blinders.

  • Miko

    Not necessarily. As I understand it (though I’m no expert) quantum mechanics leave a lot more room for improbable (yet still statistically possible) events than the old Newtonian mechanistic view did. Miracles could just be an example of God choosing to actualize one of these improbable possibilities.

    Quantum mechanics involves a lot of interpretation if you want to go from the “what” to the “how” stage. Personally, I’d suggest that you stay clear of it when making theological arguments unless you want to look like the interviewees in What the Bleep, because it really doesn’t support the ideas that it sounds like it supports. I’m a mathematician, so I’m not an expert on the physics side of it either, but I do have a decent grasp of the math behind it.

    It is true that quantum mechanics assigns probabilities to every path in the universe for every particle in the universe, which is why things like walking through walls is theoretically possible. However, it’s important to remember that this is all happening on the subatomic scale. Even a minor miracle would involve sending billions upon billions of these particles simultaneously on extremely low probability paths. Since each particle’s path is viewed as independent event, the probabilities are going to multiply together to arrive at something right on the border of impossible. Is it possible? Perhaps, but the probability you end up with will be thousands if not millions of orders of magnitude more unlikely than the probability that quantum theory is wrong in the first place.

  • Richard Wade

    Evolution itself leads me to wonder whether someone designed this universe so that a process like evolution could work in the first place and lead to these “extraordinary coincidences”. And even if humanity isn’t the “end” of evolution, so what? The process itself is still pretty amazing. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the evolutionary chute next! Evolution actually reinforces my belief in a designer who set up the process as his means of creating.

    Be careful what you wish for, Mike. For the evolutionary process to change things requires wholesale death. It’s not the slow, steady pressure of classical natural selection. The more recent model of evolution, catastrophism explains the long periods in the fossil record where things don’t change much, punctuated by massive extinction events that are followed by a surge of mutations by the stressed survivors. There have been many mass extinctions and at least three super massive ones: End Permian, Cretaceous-Tertiary, and Mankind. We are the third great extinction. Species are disappearing at a rate many times faster than the background average. The only forms of life that are increasing in population are humans, vermin and disease microbes.

    As for the universe being designed for life, well, if you grow up in a nice neighborhood don’t assume the rest of the world is as nice, or that your neighborhood will always be as nice as it is.

    We live on an eight thousand mile diameter ball of magma covered by a thin, cracked, unstable candy coating of rock, thinner to the earth than an eggshell is to an egg, with a failing protective magnetic field, bathed in deadly radiation, revolving around a variable star in a shooting gallery of asteroids and comets. In the last five years three asteroids big enough to wipe out a major city passed within the orbit of the moon. They were all discovered after they had gone past. It gets nastier the further out you look. So it could also be argued that the universe was designed for death.

    We need to stop squandering our time and intelligence arguing amongst ourselves about whether it’s the best or worst of all possible worlds and tend to the garden. We need to stop using that malignant growth in the front of our heads for inventing reasons to hate each other and clever ways to annihilate each other, and use it to be the first species ever, ever to not go the same way of the trilobite, the dinosaur and the dodo.

    We can argue that it’s Gods grace or dumb luck that we’ve survived so far until we’re all blue in the face, but we’d better wise up to the reality that this planet and this universe is one dangerous place. The thing I like about your version of religion, Mike is that it inspires you to do actual things for other people in need, and to argue for tending instead of fouling the garden. And you know I love you for it. What I don’t like about slightly different versions of the same religion is that it lulls people into a stupor, thinking that God is going to save them from the catastrophe that we could have seen coming, or that he’ll save them in heaven instead.

    Now that I’ve cheered everybody up, hi, I’m back!

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Not necessarily. As I understand it (though I’m no expert) quantum mechanics leave a lot more room for improbable (yet still statistically possible) events than the old Newtonian mechanistic view did. Miracles could just be an example of God choosing to actualize one of these improbable possibilities.

    Why do people always cop out to quantum mechanics on stuff like this? You sound like that movie “What the bleep do we know?” I don’t claim to understand quantum mechanics either, but it is a natural part of a natural universe, not a mysterious door to the supernatural. It is the most abused scientific concept around today, probably because it’s counter intuitive when compared to our experience in the “middle sized” part of the universe that we perceive with our senses. But, really, I’ve been following you for most of your conversation but you’ve gone off the deep end here.

  • Keith

    Most commentators here seem not to doubt your sincerity, as I do not. But, I do think that you’re fooling yourself about what the Bible says. It is what it is: the fundamentalists accept this, and the liberals simply deny it and rationalize the denial with talk about interpretation. The problem with the fundamentalists is that they actually believe the teachings of this primitive tome; the problem with the liberals is that by picking and choosing and reinterpreting the Bible’s language they avoid doing the right thing and repudiating Christianity.

    Darryl, I have heard this argument from more than one person, so some of this post may apply more to others than to you personally. I do not presume to know all that makes you tick. Here goes …

    As a Christian more conservative than Mike C., I fully acknowledge that each person who reads the Bible interprets … whether they fall on the very liberal end of the spectrum, the very conservative, or somewhere in between. To speak against interpreting is to speak against knowledge itself, not Christianity.

    During my conversations with atheists, this is one of the arguments that has caused me to grow significantly more confident in my faith. As a young man, the fundamentalist Christians I knew would argue with someone until they professed fundamentalist positions. They would then declare them saved. In some encounters with atheists, the atheist tries to force the Christian to profess fundamentalist positions. They then declare the Christian to be in error/delusion.

    Christians who are not fundamentalist are more similiar to Jesus, not less. Please stop insinuating – however vaguely – that Mike C. and other non-fundamentalits are not true Christians. This is the ugliest of all arguments. Karen hates qualifiers, and so do others on both sides of the line. Atheists would do well to stop dismissing Christians who will not assume the fundamentalist straw man position.

  • Mriana

    We are the third great extinction. Species are disappearing at a rate many times faster than the background average. The only forms of life that are increasing in population are humans, vermin and disease microbes.

    You think humans will turn out more advance? Actually, IF a pandemic illness were to happen, that could wipe out a lot of us. My grandmother who lived from 1913-this year, saw three pandemic flu viruses, polio, and at least one other, in which millions died around the globe and others were affected by the illness in way or another. She had an older sis who died a couple years before at 98.

    Not that I put stock in heredity under such extreme cases, but it does help. Thing is one serious pandemic illness (like the Boubonbic Plague) and the human numbers will dwindle significately. Roaches survived the ice age as well as an atomic bomb and rats survived the plague only to be the cause of it. IMHO, that is a lot to think about. Smallpox wiped out millions of Native Americans and Syphillis wiped out a lot of Europeans. Fair exchange I guess (sarcasm). The point is, the vermin and microbes could wipe us out significantly and our numbers dwindle to half or less than half. Heck the roaches carry diseases, so they could possibly be the carriers.

    Of course, as you say, an astroid could wipe a lot of us out too.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    To speak against interpreting is to speak against knowledge itself, not Christianity. Keith

    As I recall it, interpreting the Bible as opposed to accepting some other authority is just about a requirement of Christianity. The law leads to death but it is the sprirt gives life, God is spirit and must be known in spirit, etc. It’s not the fault of Jesus that things got tacked on by other people to what was a quite liberating view of things. I blame the neo-Platonists, the Romans, the other Europeans etc. who essentially grafted on their biases onto a rather good system. Jefferson, the one that atheists like to talk about, said that the moral system of Jesus was superior to the rest of the ancients. If I could find the book where Molly Ivins points it out I’d type out the entire passage. You’ll just have to believe me that it’s there until then.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    CARR
    MIke will not dialogiue with me, but he has no objection to cheap shots.

    As one who is probably the guiltiest here of doing this, if you’d stop painting targets on yourself it wouldn’t be such a temptation.

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

    In some encounters with atheists, the atheist tries to force the Christian to profess fundamentalist positions. They then declare the Christian to be in error/delusion.

    I’ve noticed this tactic too. My wife and I were just talking/laughing about it last night actually. Oh and she was ranting about it at her blog. :)

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

    Why do people always cop out to quantum mechanics on stuff like this? You sound like that movie “What the bleep do we know?” I don’t claim to understand quantum mechanics either, but it is a natural part of a natural universe, not a mysterious door to the supernatural.

    I actually try not to make much of a distinction between the natural and the supernatural. My point was not that quantum mechanics was some kind of supernatural process. My point was that quantum mechanics, by describing a more “flexible” and less mechanistic/deterministic universe, allows for one potential way that God could work through natural processes.

    I’ve written about this elsewhere, but basically I think most miracles are actually instances of God guiding natural processes rather than “breaking” natural laws with supernatural power (though that could happen sometimes too). Thus if you see one of these miracles you should actually expect to find some natural explanation (since God is the Lord of nature).

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, it could be that the universe was constructed for more than one purpose. It’s only if someone claims that the evolution of life, including human life is the exclusive end of the creation of the universe that this is far fetched (though even that position isn’t impossible). It could be that that is true and only one of many motives in the creation of the universe. It strikes me as being entirely possible that the “personal God” that is the favorite target of some atheists, especially of the fundametalist variety, could be valid but since the God in question is defined as infinte in all ways that even that view of God would have to be an incomplete description.

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    May 23, 2007 at 9:42 am

    In some encounters with atheists, the atheist tries to force the Christian to profess fundamentalist positions. They then declare the Christian to be in error/delusion.

    I’ve noticed this tactic too. My wife and I were just talking/laughing about it last night actually. Oh and she was ranting about it at her blog.

    I really can’t blame her. I don’t agree on the science thing, but that’s OK. I do agree that some behaviours are just wrong, but you knew that already. ;)

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The people of Israel were looking for an earthly king to free them from their bondage. Jesus came to free their hearts. We today are looking for God to come and right the world. To explain why we have hurt our children. To explain why we have war. To explain why we have disease in our lives. To explain why others treat us unfairly. But it is still Jesus (truth) that will free our hearts.

  • Steven Carr

    STEELMAN
    To Steven Carr: I think it’s pretty clear by now how Mike C. justifies his position on biblical interpretation.

    CARR
    It is not clear at all.

    How does Mike intepret Matthew 18:34-35 where Jesus compares God to a cruel master who tortures his slaves (after forgiving them!)?

    Please post the ‘pretty clear’ interpretation.

    All Mike has to do to earn my respect is say that Jesus allegedly said some wicked things.

    Is Mike human enough to have his stomach turned by Jesus using a parable to compare himself to a king who wants his enemies killed in front of him?

  • Steven Carr

    KEITH
    Atheists would do well to stop dismissing Christians who will not assume the fundamentalist straw man position.

    CARR
    I’m not.

    I dismiss Christians who refuse to discuss the historical facts of their belief, such as the undoubted fact that early converts to Christianity just did not believe God would choose to raise corpses.

    I also dismiss Christians who do not react as any feeling human being would to the threats of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament.

    For example, who could love a man who tells a crowd of people that they are faithless and perverse, and regrets that he has to put up with them.

    Mike cited Matthew 25:31-46 as exemplifying all he adores about Jesus.

    These verses include the chilling ‘You that are accursed , depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

    Mike adores the guy who said that.

    I think Mike should love people who do not threaten others with eternal fire.

  • Steven Carr

    TOMMY
    The people of Israel were looking for an earthly king to free them from their bondage. Jesus came to free their hearts.

    CARR
    Jesus looked at the opppressed and subjugated and decided not to free them from their oppression and subjugation?

  • Mriana

    These verses include the chilling ‘You that are accursed , depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

    Mike adores the guy who said that.

    I think Mike should love people who do not threaten others with eternal fire.

    You know Carr, your insistant behaviours and concern about all of this shows your insecurity about your own beliefs. If you’re not insecure, why worry about it, unless he says or does something to act upon what he reads in the Bible?

    CARR
    Jesus looked at the opppressed and subjugated and decided not to free them from their oppression and subjugation?

    Well, yes. Read the Beatitudes Matt 5:2-12. He makes promises by saying blessed is that or that group of people for they will receive this. One man alone cannot free people though.

    If Mike follows Matthew literally then he MIGHT see 5:11-12 being applicable right about now and see himself as blessed for his reward will be great in heaven. This might be a good reason to stop harassing and nailing him, esp if you are so opposed to him.

  • Mriana

    Luke 6:20-23 says basically the same thing and is to be leaping for joy right about now because of your pursecution for his reward will be great in heaven (22-23). In 6:27-28, he’s suppose to love you and bless you for cursing him too. I don’t think I’d want to be blessed for that. I’d rather avoid all that junk and be appreciated for good actions.

  • monkeymind

    Carr, you accuse Mike C. of being unwilling to engage in dialogue with you.

    You also clearly spell out what would be the only acceptable utterances Mike C. could make in this proposed “dialogue”.

    Can you appreciate that this particular communicative strategy lies well outside the normative definition of dialogue?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Carr, I’ll point out to you that recently I’ve had to deal with not one, but two, atheists who read a post I did which doesn’t contain the word “atheist”, which specifically targeted professional pseudo-skeptics and who in several places over a number of days said that it was an anti-atheist post. And that’s after I pointed out both of those two facts. And at least one of them is repeating a similar lie still.

    I hold with the scholars of the text of the bible who say that the Gospels contain large numbers of sayings attributed to Jesus which were almost certainly never said by him. Maybe he’s got the same problem that people here think Dawkins and Harris have. Maybe Jesus was the victum of cheap gossip.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    You also clearly spell out what would be the only acceptable utterances Mike C. could make in this proposed “dialogue”.

    Perhaps “uncle”?

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

    You also clearly spell out what would be the only acceptable utterances Mike C. could make in this proposed “dialogue”.

    Perhaps “uncle”?

    No, I already tried that over at my blog and he still won’t stop the stalking and heckling.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana, you quoted me,

    We are the third great extinction. Species are disappearing at a rate many times faster than the background average. The only forms of life that are increasing in population are humans, vermin and disease microbes.

    Then you asked, “You think humans will turn out more advanced?” I’m not sure if your question is addressed to me because I was not implying that at all. Just to clarify, increasing our population does not insure our survival as a species; in fact it seriously threatens it. Our reducing the world’s biodiversity is like sitting on a tree branch while sawing it off.

    I agree with you that our numbers will drop dramatically (soon, I fear) and it will be either because we choose it or because nature will do it for us. Six and a half billion people cannot be sustained on this planet without a constant use of dwindling, non-renewable and highly polluting resources such as oil, as well as a constant influx of ever more complex and ever more fragile technology.

    We should avoid using the word “advanced” when talking about evolution. As someone here pointed out there is no ultimate end or goal to evolution. Because we’re “top dog” around here lately it’s our vanity to call our species the most advanced. We, along with all other present life forms are simply the latest. As I’ve said elsewhere, big brains are not necessarily a good idea evolutionarily speaking. Of the handful of big-brained primate species that we find in the fossil record only we still survive. The latest results are not promising. Small-brained animals exhibit small-brained stupidity. We exhibit big-brained stupidity. There’s a good example of it in a troll-like commentor on this posting.

    Whoever, if anyone survives the next catastrophe be it plague, climate upheaval, volcanism, impact or whatever, and its aftermath may survive because of inherited traits or just dumb luck. It all depends on the nature and duration of the stressors.

    All this may be off topic since we’re discussing Mike’s beliefs and views, or it may be the essential underlying root of everything being said here: survival.

  • Steven Carr

    OLZVL
    I hold with the scholars of the text of the bible who say that the Gospels contain large numbers of sayings attributed to Jesus which were almost certainly never said by him.

    CARR
    Well, of course. Who doubts that? (Apart from Mike, who claims amazing accuracy for the Gospels)

    With your sharp acumen, you will have undoubtedly noticed that I often put ‘allegedy’ before I quoted what the ‘Son of God’ was alleged to have said?

    How do you tell what Jesus really did say, and what he didn’t say?

    Did he really say what he is alleged to have said to Satan for example?

    The earliest manuscripts of Luke do not have ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’

    Should we assume that he said that (despite Mike’s table of how amazingly close to the events the earliest manuscripts are?)

  • Steven Carr

    Mike C. simply refuses to engage in dialogue with people who quote the words of his Saviour.

  • Steelman

    I said to Steven Carr: I think it’s pretty clear by now how Mike C. justifies his position on biblical interpretation.

    To which he replied: It is not clear at all.
    How does Mike intepret Matthew 18:34-35 where Jesus compares God to a cruel master who tortures his slaves (after forgiving them!)?
    Please post the ‘pretty clear’ interpretation.

    There are plenty of rough edges in the words of Jesus, and the Bible in general, that Mike seeks to dull in two ways. The first, and one I find quite acceptable, is to insist that any given quotation is put fully in context with the following: the rest of the chapter and book, the culture involved, the audience being addressed, and the motivation of the speaker or writer.

    The second method Mike uses to soften the negative impact of some verses and concepts can best be shown with a couple of examples:

    Mike C. from part 6: “I do want to explain however that I don’t feel as if I have to “reject” a lot from the Bible or Christianity to maintain my faith. My journey has not really been about throwing out the parts of either that I don’t like. Rather, it has been a re-discovery of what I think was there all along and just got buried by our theological systems.”

    Mike C. from part 4: “I guess I should start by explaining that I don’t believe in the “traditional” (i.e. fundamentalist) conceptions of Hell in the first place, nor do I believe in their particular brand of theology that makes “salvation” all about getting into Heaven and avoiding Hell after we die.” Note: the rest of that paragraph is also very informative of Mike’s views.

    I take the “re-discovery” that Mike mentions in part 6 to mean the lens of his particular mode of overwhelmingly positive, “postmodern”, as he puts it, biblical interpretation. I find that interpretation pleasant compared to the fundamentalist, and certainly the dominionist, perspective. In light of the vast number of Protestant denominations extant, it’s obvious that Christians have a penchant for concocting their own favorite flavors of religion. Looking at the two examples above I’d say that Mike and those he influences, and is influenced by, have mixed up a batch they like best.

    In summary: Mike will always find a positive angle from which to interpret any given scripture. He subscribes to a theology that blunts even the horrors of eternal damnation. Mike’s beliefs demonstrate religion’s malleability in that it can be formed to the underlying ethical beliefs of modern western culture (or any culture). Now, I don’t buy the metaphysics of even Mike’s more positive version of Christianity. However, considering that I doubt religion will ever go away, at least his version is a move in a more ethical and intelligent direction. Acceptance of the right of other world views, which may or may not contain a faith element, to exist, and an acceptance of modern science are both good attributes. This is pragmatically laudable, even if we think Mike makes certain mistakes of fact in forming his religious views (or in holding religious views at all).

    The point I was making to you, Steven, is that I think it has been continually demonstrated, over the course of this six part series, that your sword of inquiry, finely sharpened though it may be by scriptural and philosophical conviction, shall forever be deflected by the interpretational flexibility of Mike’s theological rapier.
    So, now what?

  • Steven Carr

    STEELMAN
    In summary: Mike will always find a positive angle from which to interpret any given scripture. He subscribes to a theology that blunts even the horrors of eternal damnation. Mike’s beliefs demonstrate religion’s malleability in that it can be formed to the underlying ethical beliefs of modern western culture (or any culture).

    CARR
    This is all very true, but how exactly do you actually *be* such a Christian?

    Apart from professing a faith in a god, you behave just like other people, getting on with your life, trying to do the right thing, trying to avoid doing the wrong things, and not always succeeding at either.

    Even if I ever wanted to convert to such a form of Christianity, I wouldn’t know how to go about doing it.

  • Mriana

    How do you tell what Jesus really did say, and what he didn’t say?

    Did he really say what he is alleged to have said to Satan for example?

    Oh can I answer this one?! :lol: Let’s see, the red chip/marker means he said it and the black one means he didn’t. 80% of it he did not say according to the Jesus Seminar. So, let’s see… Did the Satan conversation get a black or a red? My guess is, it got a black, but…

    If you want seriousness, I’ll let Mike speak.

    Seriously, though, Carr, I’ve quoted a little scripture and Mike still engages in dialogue with me. I really don’t know what your attitude problem is. Just because two people don’t view things the same way, doesn’t mean they cannot have a civilized discussion about it.

    Richard Wade said,

    May 23, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Then you asked, “You think humans will turn out more advanced?” I’m not sure if your question is addressed to me because I was not implying that at all. Just to clarify, increasing our population does not insure our survival as a species; in fact it seriously threatens it. Our reducing the world’s biodiversity is like sitting on a tree branch while sawing it off.

    I completely agree with you, Richard.

  • Steven Carr

    MRIANA
    Just because two people don’t view things the same way, doesn’t mean they cannot have a civilized discussion about it.

    CARR
    Sadly it takes two people to discuss things. Mike claimed he was not interested in discussing Biblical exegesis on an atheist website, and he has been true to his word ever since.

    He will not have a civilised discussion with me.

    What can I do? I can forgive him and forgive him, and explain that the door is always open.

    More can I not do.

  • monkeymind

    CARR: Nobody is trying to convert you or say that you are not a good person becaiuse you don’t believe a dead man came back to life.

    -bowing-

    May you be happy and free from suffering.

  • monkeymind

    CARR: I don’t think anybody here is trying to convert you or saying that you are not a good person becaiuse you don’t believe a dead man came back to life.

    -bowing-

    May you be happy and free from suffering.

  • Steelman

    Steven Carr accepted my explanation of Mike’s theological MO, but wondered: This is all very true, but how exactly do you actually *be* such a Christian?

    You’re asking the wrong person…

    SC: Apart from professing a faith in a god, you behave just like other people, getting on with your life, trying to do the right thing, trying to avoid doing the wrong things, and not always succeeding at either.

    Right. And also, according to Mike C., don a pair of Jesus tinted shades: ” Christianity is the lens through which I make sense of the world – and it does make sense to me. Things about life, my daily experienes and big events, as well as the experiences of people around me start to make sense in a new way when viewed through this lens. I’m not saying that I couldn’t trade in this set of lenses for a different one, but so far I haven’t found another set that works as well for me.”

    SC: Even if I ever wanted to convert to such a form of Christianity, I wouldn’t know how to go about doing it.

    You could try the last part of Pascal’s Wager, which encourages non-believers to just fake it. ;)

  • miller

    I always see skeptics criticizing post-modernism, but when you describe it, Mike, I think there is a lot of common ground between skepticism and post-modernism. Both involve doubting everything. The differences are just a matter of emphasis.

  • Richard Wade

    miller,
    You really see skeptics criticizing post modernism? Could you steer me toward some examples? I’m not doubting you, I’m just a little confused. Like you I see them as very closely related. The only person I’ve encountered so far who eschewed post modernism per se was a Christian fundamentalist posting elsewhere on this website.
    I consider myself a skeptic more than any other label and when I first started dialoguing with Mike he said my views were very post-modern. I could tell it was a compliment but I didn’t really understand what he was talking about. Then I read an article he wrote on his website about it and it made sense.

  • Steven Carr

    STEELMAN
    You could try the last part of Pascal’s Wager, which encourages non-believers to just fake it.

    CARR
    That is a bit unfair on Pascal, who knew that training yourself to ‘fake it’ would lead to genuine belief after a while. Training yourself to think in certain patterns leads you to think in those patterns.

    Pascal knew that if you started to explain what you see around you in a Christian world-view, 9 times out of 10 your explanations would start to make sense to yourself, and you would become a true believer.

    So Pascal’s wager is not as cynical as is often made out to be.

  • monkeymind

    CARR, who here is saying that you have to fake anything or believe anything?

  • monkeymind

    CARR, who here is saying that you have to fake anything or believe anything?

  • monkeymind

    But I repeat myself. Sorry, everyone!

  • Steven Carr

    MONKEYMIND
    CARR, who here is saying that you have to fake anything or believe anything?

    CARR
    Pascal, but he is dead…

  • Miko

    My point was that quantum mechanics, by describing a more “flexible” and less mechanistic/deterministic universe, allows for one potential way that God could work through natural processes.

    I’ve written about this elsewhere, but basically I think most miracles are actually instances of God guiding natural processes rather than “breaking” natural laws with supernatural power (though that could happen sometimes too). Thus if you see one of these miracles you should actually expect to find some natural explanation (since God is the Lord of nature).

    I’ll agree that if there is a god, I would expect its ‘miracles’ to be completely natural in nature (although I wonder if this might dilute the concept of miracle to the point where everything is a miracle and hence nothing). The main problem with this sort of thing, of course, is that it becomes impossible to tell when something is a miracle: if you pray for rain and get it, how is that any more of a miracle than when you pray for rain and don’t get it?

    But there are indeed some gaps in our understanding of science where a god could be hiding (although, I would argue not the Christian God): there’s no evidence for it; but god could have set things up so that evolution could occur. There’s a bit of evidence against it, but god still could have done something to cause the Big Bang. Not quantum mechanics, however: probability and possibility are very different concepts, as probability is quantifiable. Turning a small glass of water into wine is so improbable that it could perhaps have happened once since the universe began. Resurrection is so improbable that it makes more sense to say that quantum mechanics is wrong that to say that god could have used quantum mechanics to do it. (Although, to be fair, quantum mechanics almost certainly is wrong. We just use it because it gives the correct answers.)

  • monkeymind

    I hope you are not expecting a response then.

  • Keith

    KEITH
    Atheists would do well to stop dismissing Christians who will not assume the fundamentalist straw man position.

    CARR
    I’m not.

    I dismiss Christians who refuse to discuss the historical facts of their belief, such as the undoubted fact that early converts to Christianity just did not believe God would choose to raise corpses.

    I also dismiss Christians who do not react as any feeling human being would to the threats of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament.

    For example, who could love a man who tells a crowd of people that they are faithless and perverse, and regrets that he has to put up with them.

    Mike cited Matthew 25:31-46 as exemplifying all he adores about Jesus.

    These verses include the chilling ‘You that are accursed , depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

    Mike adores the guy who said that.

    I think Mike should love people who do not threaten others with eternal fire.

    Carr,

    You seem to be frustrated that Mike will not engage you in the kind of debate you want. I want to see you happy, bro … so I’m game for your kind of debate – please know that I’m a lot dumber than Mike and less educated than most. Please lay out the ground rules you desire … as well as the definition of victory. Is the goal to convert? Is the goal to establish positive dialogue? Is the goal to win a poll of observers? Is the goal to force the other to quit first? What kind of debate do you want? My only pledge to you is that I will be as polite as possible. My only request is that when I say I’m done, you leave me alone and limit yourself to a single gloat-post. What do you want?

  • Stephan

    Keith and Carr, don’t make us ask you boys to take it outside.

    Carr, I can’t speak for Mike, but here is my reason for not engaging you on an on-going basis. Many of us are here for interesting discussion and to learn from people different from us. Others are here to try to argue and prove others wrong. You seem to be the latter, while I am the former. As such I don’t think there could be much productive dialog, since our goals are so different. I suspect Mike’s reasons are similar.

    If I’ve got you wrong, please correct me, but you might also want to change the tone of your posts, as I bet most people here see you the same way I do.

  • Steelman

    Richard Wade said to Miller: “You really see skeptics criticizing post modernism? Could you steer me toward some examples?”

    Here I am!
    I read Mike’s explanation of postmodernism, at the link you posted. It sounds like Mike prefers his postmodernism like his Christianity: lite (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I don’t mind the skeptical aspect of it that Mike highlights. We should question the validity of our meta-narratives. The problem is that postmodernism can, and does, easily become a radical skepticism about any sense of “truth”, even objective scientific truths.

    Postmodernism declares that meta-narratives justify oppression, and so are not to be trusted as valid. Postmodernism is itself a meta-narrative, and therefore self-repudiating. It would seem that those who believe postmodernism is true have no right to criticize the “truth” of those who don’t.

    Postmodernism says that we Westerners have no right to oppress other cultures with our cultural and ethical “truths,” and what we may call “wrong” in another culture is really “right” for them; that other culture has a right to their truth. What about cultures that practice Female Genital Mutilation? Is it wrong for me, a U.S. citizen, to criticize that culture and call FGM wrong? Yes, I’m wrong, according to postmodern thought; I’m oppressing the people of that culture. But what about the women living in that culture who want to put a stop to the practice of FGM, because it oppresses them? Should postmodernists come down on the side of the culture, thereby agreeing to the oppression of those women unwilling to undergo FGM, or should they side with the women, thereby oppressing the culture and denying those who promote FGM their right to their cultural truth? Or maybe they should start acting like vertebrates and take a stand for something other than moral nihilism? :roll:

    My own views, ethical and otherwise, are open to criticism and review, with the self-conscious knowledge that I could be wrong about this or that stand I’ve taken on an issue. That doesn’t mean that I must kowtow to the extremes of postmodernism and declare that all views are equally valid; something that is demonstrably untrue.

  • Steven Carr

    Do you think Jesus was an admirable person when he compared God to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured when he is angry with them?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, on the “skeptics” going after post modernism, I’ll have to wait till I get my next come on from one of Paul Kurtz’ empire of magazines and “Skeptics” organizations. I’ve got a feeling it depends on what he feels like that day. He’s quite suprisingly wide ranging in his dislikes and he seems to still be setting the trends. At least his empire does.

    It’s interesting that Christopher Hitchens seems to be hitching up with his outfit. Only reason I can imagine is like the last days of Westbrook Pegler, he expects that he can get paid there.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    You do know that Pascal was a Jansenist. I think it was declared a heresy of the Catholic church. I’d say that only other Jansenists have to answer for that ideology. I don’t think many people took it seriously.

  • Darryl

    Richard, good post about our dangerous neighborhood.

  • EnoNomi

    EnoNomi, you are welcome to disagree with my method of interpretation, but please don’t do me the discourtesy of implying that my views are simply some rhetorical dodge intended to win arguments or to artificially make my beliefs seem more palatable (to myself or to others). These are my actual beliefs based on a lifetime study of scripture and how I think it is best interpreted. I don’t hold these beliefs simply to win debates in online forums.

    My bad. I TOTALLY missed Part 3 of your response. So I appologise for using the word “dodge”. I will go read part 3 now.

  • Keith

    Stephan said, “Keith and Carr, don’t make us ask you boys to take it outside.” :-) Is it okay if we keep it polite? I’m seriously not interested in flame-throwing.

    Carr – you said, “Do you think Jesus was an admirable person when he compared God to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured when he is angry with them? ”

    If you will answer my questions regarding the ground rules and goal of this dialogue/debate, as well as my request to let me out when I want out, I will respond to this question. Thank you. Hope we can keep this polite … my statement, “What do you want?” was intended as a legitimate inquiry, not as a chest-thumping challenge.

    To whom it may concern: If this is not the kind of conversation appropriate for FriendlyAtheist please let me know. I do not want to lead away from Hemant’s goal for this site. My intention is simply to engage Carr in his preferred style. Thank you.

  • Steven Carr

    The ground rules are that Keith must give his honest opinion about what Jesus is alleged to have said.

    The goal is to see if Keith is a compassionate human being who is horrified by God being compared to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured.

    Now that I have laid down the ground rules and goal of this ‘dialogue/debate’, I look forward to it.

    Stephan does not. If he wishes, he may ignore all posts about God having people tortured.

  • Darryl

    Please stop insinuating – however vaguely – that Mike C. and other non-fundamentalits are not true Christians. This is the ugliest of all arguments. . . . Atheists would do well to stop dismissing Christians who will not assume the fundamentalist straw man position.

    I did not insinuate that Mike or anyone else was not a ‘true Christian.’ As I have stated elsewhere, Christians come in many different varieties–anyone that thinks they are a Christian is a Christian. Their theology doesn’t matter to me. Why? Because it’s all fantasy no matter what the particulars. Nevertheless, it is sometimes valuable to point out the distinctions among Christians. That is what I have done.

  • http://sweetjazzycat.blogspot.com Jazzy Cat

    Darryl,
    Actually, I am an engineer by education and a former Air Force pilot and my college roommate who has a PhD in engineering led me to Christ when I was past 50. I was an agnostic before then. I am all for science as are most Christians. If you’ve never noticed, higher education in the United States was started by Christians. (Yale, Harvard, Princton, etc.). It seems that in the advance of science a lot of the new discoveries through the centuries corrected prior scientific error rather than correcting religion.

    I will take your I don’t know on my question as your way of saying you can’t prove atheism. However, your position needs to do more than deny a God. You need to prove there is not a God (supreme being if you like). Until you do that, the game is tied and we are in overtime.

  • Richard Wade

    Great idea Keith!
    Maybe Hemant could create a separate posting just for the two of you, with everybody else blocked. Then you could keep him occupied while the rest of us can ignore the whole thing and go on with more productive discussions. If we really have absolutely nothing better to do we can peek in and lurk once in a while. I really appreciate your willingness to do this for us. Good luck!

  • Steven Carr

    To be honest, I am rather curious about whether Keith is a compassionate human being.

    My money is on ‘Yes, he is.’

    I do not expect to be proved wrong, as I am sure that he is really a great guy, who disapproves of slaves being tortured.

  • Miko

    Postmodernism says that we Westerners have no right to oppress other cultures with our cultural and ethical “truths,” and what we may call “wrong” in another culture is really “right” for them; that other culture has a right to their truth.

    Asserting that the other culture has such a right, of course, demonstrates that Postmodernism is incorrect (for, shouldn’t the other culture be able to form their own cultural view of whether they have such a right?).

    But what about the women living in that culture who want to put a stop to the practice of FGM, because it oppresses them?

    Or to be slightly more controversial, what about the women living in that culture who don’t want to stop the practice? Should we be able to stop them anyway? I’d argue yes: not by tanks and troops, but perhaps by rhetoric or international pressure. When force isn’t involved, ideas typically die only when everyone wants them to.

    I can’t see how one could argue that there are moral absolutes (without invoking a deity, at least), but we can all certainly argue about whether our ideas are better or not and try to persuade others to accept our way of thinking. Sure, this opens the door for the Middle East to persuade the US to force women to wear niqab, but I somehow doubt they’d be able to offer a good argument in favor of it.

    The same thing goes within a nation as well: when a WalMart forces out a “ma and pa” store, are we losing our cultural heritage, or are we allowing consumers to decide that they would prefer the lower prices and superior selection over the ambiance? Should we allow the Amish to deny their children a modern education, when we know that almost no one with such an education would choose to be Amish? Is preserving cultural diversity worth forcing people to live in a backward culture? As a liberal, I’m well aware that these ideas are unpopular among liberals (as well as some conservatives), but the fact is you can’t fight change except by censorship and I’m not sure why you’d want to anyway.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    You really see skeptics criticizing post modernism? Could you steer me toward some examples? I’m not doubting you, I’m just a little confused. Like you I see them as very closely related. The only person I’ve encountered so far who eschewed post modernism per se was a Christian fundamentalist posting elsewhere on this website.

    I would like to formally eschew post modernism as a skeptic and atheist. I think it is a pile of crap. There, I said it.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go into the details of why, but basically I think postmondernist theory is all hot air and no subtance. Plus, I certainly am not a multiculturalist, which seems to be one major requirement for being postmodernist. I in no way believe that the mysoginist theocratic fascism of, say Saudi Arabia, is equal in moral standing with the free democracy of the West, even though we are not always perfect in practice.

  • Steven Carr

    I’m sure Stephan is also a great person.

    Can you imagine Jesus saying to him – “O unbelieving and perverse generation, – how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?

    Jesus reserved such comments for people who came to him,desperately pleading for help with their son, who had seizures and was suffering greatly, and often fell into fire or water. They truly deserved such words.

    But Jesus would never say such things to people on this blog, who are great people , not perverse or faithless at all.

    (I hope that was polite enough to people on this blog)

  • Darryl

    Steelman,

    I agree with you about hard post-modernism. This kind of thing is sinking western Europe.

  • Miko

    However, your position needs to do more than deny a God. You need to prove there is not a God (supreme being if you like).

    Sometimes people tell me they think that George Washington really cut down a cherry tree and gave his “I cannot tell a lie” speech to his father. I then tell them about how we’ve tracked the story down to Parson Mason Weems, who made it up.

    I’ve yet to hear anyone respond “well, you’ve just proven that all accounts of the story are false. You don’t know that Washington didn’t coincidentally happen to do exactly that anyway.” And why not? Because we live in a world where it’s conventional to assume that things don’t happen unless we can demonstrate that they did: out of all the things Washington could have said or done, it’s unlikely that he would have done exactly that unless you have some reason to think he did. “Innocent until proven guilty,” to use the legal metaphor.

    Atheism doesn’t have to prove there is no god for the simple reason that there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that there is one. (Also, it would be impossible because the word “god” is inherently meaningless and defined in different and contradictory ways by the three billion or so god-believers on Earth. Surely you can’t think it’s fair to ask atheists to prove that three billion different claims are all wrong when there’s no reason to think that any of them is right?)

  • Keith

    Carr said, “The ground rules are that Keith must give his honest opinion about what Jesus is alleged to have said.

    The goal is to see if Keith is a compassionate human being who is horrified by God being compared to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured.

    Now that I have laid down the ground rules and goal of this ‘dialogue/debate’, I look forward to it.

    Stephan does not. If he wishes, he may ignore all posts about God having people tortured. ”

    Carr, your ground rules and goal seem to be distinctly one-sided :-). I am not confident that our discussion will be anything other than similiarly one-sided. Through your responses, please convince me that I am wrong to worry so.

    You asked, “Do you think Jesus was an admirable person when he compared God to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured when he is angry with them? ”

    The passage in Matthew you cite is a parable. Jesus concludes the parable by “allegedly” saying, “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

    In your opinion, does each character in each parable have a corresponding person whom they represent? Is it acceptable to attribute each action of a character in a parable to the corresponding person whom they may represent? Are all parables a direct comparison, or might a parable incorporate elements of contrast?

    These questions directly relate to our goal of seeing whether I am a compassionate human being who is horrified by God being compared to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured.

  • Miko

    Maybe Hemant could create a separate posting just for the two of you, with everybody else blocked.

    Seconded.

    Can you imagine Jesus saying to him – “O unbelieving and perverse generation, – how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?

    Seriously, if there’s some point you’re trying to make with this, I think that you made it after about the fifteenth times you said this. Perhaps not the fourteenth, so I’ll commend you on having the constitution to keep it going up to fifteen just in case. That said, you killed the horse, beat it into dust, molded the dust into the form of a horse, and seem content to go on pulverizing it all over again.

    Have you gotten a response worthy of your question? Maybe, maybe not. Are you going to get anything better? The pattern suggests “no.”

  • Darryl

    If you’ve never noticed, higher education in the United States was started by Christians. (Yale, Harvard, Princton, etc.).

    Except for the University of Virginia–Jefferson was no Christian.

    It seems that in the advance of science a lot of the new discoveries through the centuries corrected prior scientific error rather than correcting religion.

    Science corrects both–itself and religious error.

    I will take your I don’t know on my question as your way of saying you can’t prove atheism. However, your position needs to do more than deny a God. You need to prove there is not a God (supreme being if you like). Until you do that, the game is tied and we are in overtime.

    I don’t need to do anything. Since I can’t prove a negative, I can’t prove there is not a god. But, I don’t need to prove it. I am comfortable with my view on these matters, and I doubt that true believers would even accept a proof if it was possible. Look at how most Americans don’t believe the theory of evolution–should I expect them to believe something that threatens their beliefs about God?

  • Karen

    You really see skeptics criticizing post modernism? Could you steer me toward some examples?

    For some reason, I haven’t been able to post links here recently. But Richard Wade, if you look at Richard Dawkins’ site, you’ll see that on April 1 he reposted an article he wrote for the journal “Nature” called Postmodernism Disrobed.

    I think he’s specifically taking postmodern science writing to task in that article, but if you read the comments that follow, you’ll see a lot of skeptical criticism of the movement/idea in general.

  • Keith

    Maybe Hemant could create a separate posting just for the two of you, with everybody else blocked.

    That might be most appropriate. We could have a debate-with-Carr area, much like the try-to-convert-Hemant thread. What do you think, Carr? Richard, I appreciate the wish of good luck.

  • Steven Carr

    Keith makes interesting points about what Jesus (allegedly) said.

    Matthew 18:34-35 ‘In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.’

    Keith asks the following incisive questions about this passage ‘In your opinion, does each character in each parable have a corresponding person whom they represent? Is it acceptable to attribute each action of a character in a parable to the corresponding person whom they may represent? Are all parables a direct comparison, or might a parable incorporate elements of contrast?’

    ‘A direct comparison’? Jesus says ‘This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you…..’

    So there is a direct comparison.

    ‘incorporate elements of contrast’??

    Here is one which springs to mind straight away.

    The cruel master had forgiven the debt of his slaves. God hadn’t. Of course, I admit that might be wrong on that. I’m sure Keith will correct me if I am wrong, and I will be humble enough to admit my mistake.

    ‘…does each character in each parable have a corresponding person whom they represent’??

    God corresponds to the cruel master who has his slaves tortured.

    The slaves correspond to us, who do not always forgive people they dislike. (That does not apply to people on this blog, who I have found forgiving in the extreme, to an extent which simply shames normal Christians)

    I thank Keith for his incisive questions, and only hope my answers are satisfactory for him.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    What everyone doesn’t seem to understand is the bible is talking about man’s inner struggle with his emotions. All the things that take place in the bible are those things between our rational mind and our feelings. What?, you don’t have feelings? Your feelings are refered to as the woman. The bondage is talking about controlling those feelings. The poor are those feelings that make a man feel worthless. This is what I mean about the earthly king. Jesus is INSIDE of us, not coming on a big horse to defeat your enemies. If monkies wrote it, why is it that we can’t seem to figure it out. IT IS SPIRITUAL. The words we say have a spirit to them. They make people feel things. The early man felt this spirit in the first words they learned. They began to worship this spirit. You can say that there is no God, but why be mixed up about the ONE God? It is the spirit of the word. It is God’s Holy Word. It is the Holy Spirit of God.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Dawkins is a CSICOP, so maybe it wasn’t such a far fetched idea. You ever seen if the grand mugwamp Kurtz ever held forth on it? I wish Dawkins would push his point about Randi paying up on his phony challenge, then we’d find out if he was lying about the money being readily available. It would be quite a show, the fireworks, that is.

  • Richard Wade

    Steelman, olvlzl, Miko, writerdd, and Darryl,
    Thanks for all the responses to this issue of post-modernism. Since I feel like a pencil neck among philosophical WWF Smackdown wrestlers, I’ll mainly just listen, but I will venture one question:

    From what you say it would seem that just like most other ideas there are various ways and degrees to which it can be applied, and that thinkers who would fall under it’s broadest definition can be diametrically opposed on details.

    I’m certainly no moral nihilist. I have my ethical/moral framework and of course like everyone else who has one I think it is valid. I’m open to the viewpoints of other cultures, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to accept everything there that is repugnant or abhorrent to me.

    Does post-modernism have to be portrayed as one side of a conflict between the two extremes of “my way or the highway” vs. “anything goes”? Maybe “lite” post-modernism as Steelman described Mike’s version can be pragmatically useful in preventing cultural and ideological blind spots.

    Okay musclemen, please don’t pound me into the mat too hard.

  • Keith

    I thank Keith for his incisive questions, and only hope my answers are satisfactory for him.

    Carr, thank you for your response. Specifically you said, “God corresponds to the cruel master who has his slaves tortured. The slaves correspond to us, who do not always forgive people they dislike.”

    You see a direct comparison between characters in the parable and corresponding persons. I will argue from this approach. If God corresponds to the master, and the master tortures, that would be cruel. However, these alleged sayings of Jesus are written in an English translation from the Greek. Sometimes – especially in a dynamic equivalent translation like the NIV – the translators will turn a noun into a verb to make the sentences flow better in English. The Greek word the NIV translates as “jailers – tortured” is actualy a noun. Thus a more accurate translation is “torturers.” If you look in a literal translation like the New American Standard, you will find they state the verse as follows: “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.”

    Since you suggest that the best way to understand a parable is to directly compare character to corresponding person, the torturers could not possibly refer to God since he is represented by the master. Thus, if you choose this method of interpretation, you must deduce that the one doing the torturing is Satan, demons, etc. Thus the master is not the one torturing the slaves, he is simply removing the grace he had given which was preventing the slave from being punished for his unpaid debt. If this parable corresponds directly, then God cannot be accused of torturing anyone.

    As stated previously, “The goal is to see if Keith is a compassionate human being who is horrified by God being compared to a cruel master who has his slaves tortured.” I am horrified by the idea of God being compared to cruel master who has his slaves tortured. Please stop it. Stop comparing him to a someone who loves to torture. He is not the torturer.

    In my request for you to stop this horrific comparison, I have met the goal of this debate. Thank you. I hope this has been satisfactory.

  • Richard Wade

    Oh Karen, thanks for your response and references too. You posted while I was writing my foolhardy question. :)

  • Keith

    Carr, thank you for the debate. So you know, I hate using the Scriptures or this debate board to argue like this, and I gain little pleasure from any real or imagined success. This debate has been unsatisfactory to me, but I hope it has scratched an itch for you, Carr. Perhaps now that we have debated in your chosen style, we can pursue productive dialogue with the others at this site. While we may never persuade one another to change beliefs, perhaps we can help one another be more friendly.

  • Miko

    I’m certainly no moral nihilist. I have my ethical/moral framework and of course like everyone else who has one I think it is valid. I’m open to the viewpoints of other cultures, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to accept everything there that is repugnant or abhorrent to me.

    I’d say this is a good way to view the world. Leaving postmodernism for a bit, I see some similarity to Thoreau’s ideas in Civil Disobedience:

    But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? — in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then?

    Unfortunately, Thoreau’s ideas can easily be subverted by groups like Moral Majority that operate under the misapprehension that they have a conscience. By arguing that “any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one,” Thoreau basically suggests we need not respect the views of those we disagree with, without explaining how we can determine whether our views are more right than our neighbors. I like to keep the expediency test in mind: if, say, another nation does something we don’t like, is it a matter of expediency in which both ways are equally valid, or a matter of morality in which we have a duty to try to convert them to our way of thinking?

    Does post-modernism have to be portrayed as one side of a conflict between the two extremes of “my way or the highway” vs. “anything goes”?

    I would cast it more in the light of “objective” vs. “subjective” or of “universal” vs. “local” although some would undoubtably disagree with one or both of those characterizations. It may not have to be portrayed as an extreme, although I think quite a few of its adherents would (ironically) choose to portray it as one. Perhaps it’s best that it is: defining the extremes makes it easier to find a position in the middle.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The man owed the king a large amount of money. The king forgave the man his large debt. The man was owed a small amount of money by another man. He took the man to court to make him pay. He would not forgive the other man. The king became angry and threw the first man into prison. This means we sometimes feel others should forgive us of the big things we do, but we want satisfaction when we are wronged in some slight way. These feelings should be cast into prison. They should be put away from us so we treat others fairly. The bible is correct in its teachings. You just need to be taught. It is not saying to be cruel and torture others. The people are just examples of our feelings.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Does post-modernism have to be portrayed as one side of a conflict between the two extremes of “my way or the highway” vs. “anything goes”?

    Richard W, I’m no philosopher, but the way I understand it, postmodernism basically says that there can be no objective viewpoint, that nothing is “really real” so to speak. In postmodern literary criticism, for example, the idea is that the text has no inherent meaning, regardless of what the author intended to say, it only has the subjective meaning assigned to it by each reader.

    In essence, postmodernism embraces both “my way or the highway” AND “anything goes.” How’s that for a pile of kaka for thinking?

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

    In summary: Mike will always find a positive angle from which to interpret any given scripture. He subscribes to a theology that blunts even the horrors of eternal damnation. Mike’s beliefs demonstrate religion’s malleability in that it can be formed to the underlying ethical beliefs of modern western culture (or any culture).

    You more or less did a good job of summarizing my approach Steelman. Thank you for that – though I will continue to assert that (from my vantage point at least) it doesn’t seem like I’m deliberately trying to form my faith to fit the “underlying ethical beliefs of modern western culture”. In truth, for most of my life I was a pretty conservative (both theologically and politically) person who didn’t really value things like social justice, peace, serving the poor, environmentalism, etc. (I was a huge Rush Limbaugh fan back in the day truth be told.) The thing is, I didn’t come to the more progressive beliefs I currently hold through being exposed to more “liberal” culture. I was a hardcore conservative in high school, I went to a very conservative Christian college, and entered the employment of a conservative Baptist church immediately after finishing grad school there.

    No, my transformation to care about these progressive ethics came not from outside my faith, but from within it. In fact, it came directly from the Bible. It was in the Bible that I started noticing things that shook my conservative values to the core – like the fact that God actually cares about the poor and about justice and about peacemaking. (Did you know that there are over 3000 verses that refer to poverty and justice issues in the Bible? By contrast, there’s only about 100 or so that refer to sexual ethics.)

    In other words, in my life it wasn’t a matter of forming my faith to match my ethics, but rather exactly the reverse.

    The same is true of most of my current theological beliefs and interpretive approaches. I was plenty content with my conservative evangelical theology, and likely would have stayed there, except that I was gradually persuaded that both my hermeneutics (i.e. how I interpret) and systematic theology were wrong. In other words, it was because I became convinced that there was a better way to read the Bible that my views started to change, not because I wanted them to change and therefore invented a new way to read the Bible.

    This is why I cite NT Wright so often. He’s one of the ones (via Brian McLaren originally) that has presented me with this “new” reading of the Bible that has begun to challenge my old assumptions. Every time I read his stuff I’m left saying “Wow, if he’s right, then everything about my faith has to be rethought.” And yet at the same time I’m also left with the sense of “His interpretations seems so faithful to the original history and context of the text itself.” In other words, I don’t get any sense that Wright is deliberately trying to re-interpret scripture to fit Modern (or postmodern) ethics either.

    One more thing I should clarify: You all would be wrong to assume that I’ve simply tamed Jesus to be universally nice and non-threatening. There are still plenty of things that Jesus says that I find immensely challenging. If anyone thinks that it is actually easy to follow Christ’s way of justice, peace and self-sacrifice then they aren’t paying close enough attention to Christ’s call to sell all of our possessions or to leave behind homes and families or to willingly “take up our cross” (i.e. suffer oppression) or to respond to enemies with kindness. In fact, it’s so difficult that I very often fail to really live up to it. It goes far beyond simply being your average good person. The people I look up to who are really following the way of Christ (IMHO) are former suburban kids living in intentional communities among the urban poor; or Christian Peacemaker Teams who go to Iraq where they are threatened both by terrorist kidnappings and US bombs; or doctors who give up their lucrative salaries to go work with AIDS patients in Africa; or people who do church among the homeless in Austin, TX or street kids in Portland, OR. Compared to these friends of mine, I don’t even come close to following the radical call of Jesus. It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all.

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

    Postmodernism doesn’t need to be taken to extremes – and very few do take it so far as some of you are suggesting (with the exception of perhaps a few philosophy students late at night after smoking too much weed :) ).

    While there is, admittedly, the tension between the universal and the local (what I call the “King & I” dilemma – how do you simultaneously respect a differing culture while also challenging the injustices you see in that culture?) postmodernism, in actuality, is supremely concerned with questions of justice. Derrida, the father of postmodern theory, has said that “justice is unable to be deconstructed” insofar as it is itself the basis for deconstruction; and Levinas, another postmodern philosopher, has suggested that ethics is the foundation for all other philosophy (including epistemology) because our experience of the Other precedes all of our attempts to explain, objectify and control the world.

    In other words, postmodernism is not so much a relativization of ethics as it is a relativization of epistemology in light of ethics. We hold our ideas about “Truth” more lightly because the history of Western civilization over the past 400 years demonstrates that “Truth” often gets in the way of extending justice towards the Other.

  • Karen

    The thing is, I didn’t come to the more progressive beliefs I currently hold through being exposed to more “liberal” culture. I was a hardcore conservative in high school, I went to a very conservative Christian college, and entered the employment of a conservative Baptist church immediately after finishing grad school there.

    Mike, you attended Wheaton College, right? Did you also attend Wheaton Seminary? Have you ever worked outside of a religious/church setting – i.e., in a secular job? Just curious.

  • miller

    Richard Wade,
    I often see skeptics characterizing postmodernism as being the view that everything is equally uncertain, as opposed to skepticism, which views everything as unequally uncertain. Postmodernism cannot even probabilistically discern truth (as can science), so it is useless. There is actually a paper about this that is often cited. Also criticized, are the concepts of “other ways of knowing” or other kinds of truths (yeah, but you only know if they’re really true by comparing them to the accepted ways of knowing). I think these are all valid criticisms.

    However, if Mike is representative of postmodernists, then it is only a criticism of a mischaracterization. The saddest thing about strawmen is that they divide people who actually agree.

    On the flip side, I think some skeptics could learn a thing or two from postmodernism. Debating about the truth can be important, but sometimes, civility is more important.

    BTW, if you want me to respond to or read any replies, please put my name in the text, so I can find it.

  • Miko

    We hold our ideas about “Truth” more lightly because the history of Western civilization over the past 400 years demonstrates that “Truth” often gets in the way of extending justice towards the Other.

    I’d agree with that, but on the flip side, how can you have justice without truth? Before you can have justice, you need to have a group of people agree on what is just. If a law and its opposite can both be seen as equally true, doesn’t justice just become a nicer-sounding word for tyrany?

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

    Mike, you attended Wheaton College, right? Did you also attend Wheaton Seminary? Have you ever worked outside of a religious/church setting – i.e., in a secular job? Just curious.

    Wheaton College (B.A. Philosophy) and then Wheaton Grad School (M.A. Intercultural Studies). Wheaton doesn’t have a Seminary.

    And truthfully the only “secular” job I’ve ever had have been the two coffee shops I’ve worked at the last few years while we’ve been getting this new church off the ground. Sadly I’ve been far too much within the Christian bubble my entire life (except for public high school). As one of my friends exclaimed (as he was helping me move and in the process of carrying in my fifth big box of theology books) “Mike, you need to get another hobby besides God!” :D

    That’s why sites like this are good for me. I need someplace where I can engage with differing viewpoints. :)

  • Mriana

    As one of my friends exclaimed (as he was helping me move and in the process of carrying in my fifth big box of theology books) “Mike, you need to get another hobby besides God!”

    You should see my bookcase. Overflowing with Star Trek and B5 books, Psych books, Spong, Price, Acharya, Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, Harris, Stenger, Humanism, Gnostic, other religious and non-religious books. Oh I have Jackie Collins, html, writing, and sign language books too. I don’t constantly have my head in Trek, religion, myth, Humanism, and Gnosticism. :lol: It is overflowing though. I need to find room for another bookcase.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, I’m just a plodder. You’ll notice there isn’t much out of the ordinary in what I’ve written, it’s just that I don’t skip as many steps. One of my favorite composers, Kenneth Gaburo once said that the forms he liked were the exhaustive ones. I’ve got to settle for the merely exhausting and exhausted. But you can find a few interesting things that way. Like freedom of belief.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    I know why the bible is so hard to understand. You need the spirit to help you understand. That is so easy to fix. Just say “Lord i know i am a sinner. i have sinned against You. i believe that You sent Your only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sin. i ask for Your Holy Spirit to touch my heart and make Jesus the Lord of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.” If you can read this prayer with just a little truth in your heart, you will feel His Spirit touch you. The Spirit is calling. If you don’t answer He may go away. He may just keep pushing on your heart until it makes you feel sick to your stomach. Just say YES LORD! He wants you to be His child. He is your Father. He loves YOU. Now go read the Book of John.

  • Mriana

    Tommy, you don’t need anything to understand the Bible. It was written by man, and even Spong has said it’s not the word of God, but of man and is errant. I understand it very well and I don’t need any supernatural being to help me understand it.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    I advise people to read everything they can and to decide for themselves. One thing to remember about the bible is that there are all different kinds of writings in it. If you find something there that leads you to believe something you should believe it, if you don’t you shouldn’t. It’s your mind, afterall. The only thing anyone else has any right to expect from you is that you respect their rights, that you act in ways that take their rights into account and, if you can, help them. If you want to understand it in any way you have to realize that the cultural background of the writers was a lot different than ours and even different in the different writers. If you want to find out what they meant you can’t do it from your own culture, you’ve got to try to find out what theirs was.

    I think Genesis especially is fun to read and I certainly don’t believe it’s history.

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

    Tommy, I can’t for the life of me figure out if you’re serious or not… Do you really believe what you’re writing or are you just trying to mock Christians?

  • Miko

    Tommy, I can’t for the life of me figure out if you’re serious or not… Do you really believe what you’re writing or are you just trying to mock Christians?

    It sounds like some of the standard Christian fare I’ve had thrown at me in the past. Of course, I gave up trying to figure out whether people were serious after I realized that Comfort and Cameron weren’t a parody.

  • Richard Wade

    From the way too bitter to the way too sweet…

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

    I’d agree with that, but on the flip side, how can you have justice without truth? Before you can have justice, you need to have a group of people agree on what is just. If a law and its opposite can both be seen as equally true, doesn’t justice just become a nicer-sounding word for tyrany?

    I think Levinas would say that you can’t have truth without justice. He argues that our experience of responsibility towards the Other (to treat them as truly Other and not simply a part of ourselves) is primary and irreducible and is the starting point for all further discussion about what is just. Arguments about whether certain laws are just or not are fine, but they have to first be premised on our primordial experience of having a duty to the Other – otherwise why even bother talking about justice in the first place?

    (Obviously I’m speaking of justice in a very basic and broad sense, not in terms of whether any particular law is just or unjust.)

    Of course, Derrida points out that any “law” is inherently unjust because justice can never be codified. As soon as you’ve defined justice within a law, you’ve created the circumstances for a law to be applied in an unjust way, because no law can ever be specific enough to cover the nuances of real life circumstances. (I’m sure we can all imagine plenty of instances when even good laws could be applied in such a way as to actually thwart justice.) Again, our responsibility to the Other is more basic than our attempts to codify justice.

    So to answer your concern, to say that justice precedes truth is not to say that justice can just be whatever we want it to be. Instead, justice (i.e. our irreducible responsibility to the Other) becomes the standard by which we measure truth. If something is not just then it is not true.

    As a Christian I think this ties in very well with the Christian doctrine of Love. Love, as I understand it, is actually the foundation for justice. In Levinasian terms, our responsibility to the Other is the responsibility to love – and as Jesus put it, the whole of the Law really came down to two things: Love God and Love Others. (Which of course are really two ways of saying the same thing.) So again, to respond to your concern, I think the plumbline that prevents us from defining justice any which way we want to is love. Without love there is no justice and no truth.

    Or as Jim Henderson put it: “It’s more important to be kind than to be right.”

    And as Brian McLaren responded: “I don’t know if it’s more important to be kind than right (it’s at least as important); but I know this – if you aren’t kind you aren’t right.

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    May 23, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    Tommy, I can’t for the life of me figure out if you’re serious or not… Do you really believe what you’re writing or are you just trying to mock Christians?

    He makes no sense most of the time and sometimes I wondered if it was just me. Apparently, it’s not just me. I’ve even told him once that he makes no sense.

  • Steven Carr

    KEITH
    “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.”

    …Since you suggest that the best way to understand a parable is to directly compare character to corresponding person, the torturers could not possibly refer to God since he is represented by the master. Thus, if you choose this method of interpretation, you must deduce that the one doing the torturing is Satan, demons, etc.

    CARR
    Keith is right. I was wrong.

    God was simply handing over people to Satan to be tortured.

    I’m glad that is sorted out.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    This is why I cite NT Wright so often. He’s one of the ones (via Brian McLaren originally) that has presented me with this “new” reading of the Bible that has begun to challenge my old assumptions. Every time I read his stuff I’m left saying “Wow, if he’s right, then everything about my faith has to be rethought.”

    CARR
    Relax, the Bishop of Durham is wrong on the important points, although he is not wrong on everything.

    Although I know you don’t like people disputing what he says.

    When I did, you immediately ceased communication…..

    MIKE
    You all would be wrong to assume that I’ve simply tamed Jesus to be universally nice and non-threatening. There are still plenty of things that Jesus says that I find immensely challenging

    CARR
    Yes, Jesus reaction when somebody came to him pleading for help with their son challenges us all.

    The son had fits and would often fell into fire and water.

    Who can forget the words of Jesus when somebody pleaded for Jesus to help them with their son? ‘You faithless and perverse generation , how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?’ (Matthew 17:17)

    Compare these words of Jesus with the reaction of , say, Benny Hinn , when somebody comes to him to be healed.

    People think of Jesus , and when they see Hinn, they know that that is not real Christianity.

    Jesus, of course, had no hesitation in curing the boy of epilepsy by driving a demon out of him.

    (Modern medical science scoffs at the idea that epilepsy is caused by demon-possession. Sometimes I wonder if modern medical science is all it is cracked up to be)

  • Miko

    He argues that our experience of responsibility towards the Other (to treat them as truly Other and not simply a part of ourselves) is primary and irreducible and is the starting point for all further discussion about what is just.

    Can you clarify what you mean by this? Because the way I’m interpretting it can’t possibly be what you mean.

    I would think conversely that treating the Other as part of ourselves is the underlying foundation for the existence of justice. Isn’t that the basic premise of, say, the Golden Rule?

    Love God and Love Others. (Which of course are really two ways of saying the same thing.)

    That could only possibly be the case if you assert that atheists are incapable of love.

    I think the plumbline that prevents us from defining justice any which way we want to is love. Without love there is no justice and no truth.

    If you ask Islamic “mercy killers” why they did it, they’ll tell you it was for love of their victims, in order to protect the victims from “shame.” Love sounds good in the abstract, but in practice it can be used to justify just about anything.

  • Darryl

    Atheism doesn’t have to prove there is no god for the simple reason that there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that there is one.

    Imagine that the god-idea had never been conceived by our predecessors, and today someone made the claim that there is such a being as god, how many people would believe it? We find it difficult to imagine a world without the god-idea; but not because it is such a compelling idea in itself, but because it is so imbedded in our cultures. If anyone doubts this, let them ask themselves, if someone were to invent some other entity similar to god and claim that it exists, how many people would believe it? As many as believe in the god-idea? Wouldn’t there be at least a bit more incredulity? I doubt that it is only non-believers that scoff at Scientology. Why do Christians not believe the stories of L. Ron Hubbard?

  • Miko

    I doubt that it is only non-believers that scoff at Scientology. Why do Christians not believe the stories of L. Ron Hubbard?

    I like the path Julia Sweeney takes in “Letting Go of God.” She starts by talking about Santa Claus and how her parents lied to her about her birthday (so she could go to school a year earlier), moves into how the astrological predictions of both birthdays were “so her,” moves into the story the Mormon door-to-doors told her, before finally landing at Catholicism. It works so well because it’s really hard to pick a point in there were the beliefs suddenly stop being silly.

  • Darryl

    Maybe “lite” post-modernism as Steelman described Mike’s version can be pragmatically useful in preventing cultural and ideological blind spots.

    It’s possible.

    Levinas, another postmodern philosopher, has suggested that ethics is the foundation for all other philosophy (including epistemology) because our experience of the Other precedes all of our attempts to explain, objectify and control the world.

    In other words, postmodernism is not so much a relativization of ethics as it is a relativization of epistemology in light of ethics. We hold our ideas about “Truth” more lightly because the history of Western civilization over the past 400 years demonstrates that “Truth” often gets in the way of extending justice towards the Other.

    These ideas make alarms go off and red lights flash for me. They are too easy to misuse. It should be our goal to separate epistemology as much as we can from ethics. It’s like the separation of church and state–you mix them, you get trouble.

  • Darryl

    Kenneth Gaburo–there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. Izzy, I’m impressed.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I like the path Julia Sweeney takes in “Letting Go of God.” She starts by talking about Santa Claus

    I was born again the same year I stopped believing in Santa. Something I just remembered a couple of weeks ago.

    Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” is great. Something everyone could listen to and enjoy. It’s about her spiritual journey, which just happened to end in atheism. A great example of how you can be spiritual without faith.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    You are finding things to be way to hard. The feelings we get from the sunset, or the puppy. The happiness you feel inside when you don’t really know why. These feelings are gifts from God. We feel the spirit of things because God made us that way. We feel the spirit of God from His Word. We are expriencing God touching our heart. The book was written by man, but God put His Spirit into His Book. It was His Word, in the beginning was the Word. It is from this Book, and because of the way it is written, that we come to feel His touch on our Heart. He is always inside you wanting to touch your heart. His presence being felt from His Word PROVES that HE IS ALIVE! So let’s tally up the score:

    God 1
    Atheists 0

    The game has already been played. The Victory goes to Jesus.

  • Keith

    Atheism doesn’t have to prove there is no god for the simple reason that there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that there is one.

    Imagine that the god-idea had never been conceived by our predecessors, and today someone made the claim that there is such a being as god, how many people would believe it? We find it difficult to imagine a world without the god-idea; but not because it is such a compelling idea in itself, but because it is so imbedded in our cultures. If anyone doubts this, let them ask themselves, if someone were to invent some other entity similar to god and claim that it exists, how many people would believe it? As many as believe in the god-idea? Wouldn’t there be at least a bit more incredulity? I doubt that it is only non-believers that scoff at Scientology. Why do Christians not believe the stories of L. Ron Hubbard?

    Darryl,

    Good points. Do you feel that the god-idea being conceived by our predecessors provides a reason to suspect that there is one? I agree with your post – if the god-idea was proposed for the first time in the present, more incredulity would exist. Therefore, the beliefs of predecessors must have a role in decreasing that same incredulity. Please help me understand in what way the beliefs of predecessors are not a valid reason to suspect that God could exist. Thank you as always.

    By the way, I have no counter-point coming … I am more interested in learning to be kind than right. Hope my debate with Carr has not hindered the trust afforded me when I began posting here. I appreciate that trust. Thanks.

  • Keith

    Tommy,

    I noticed that you attributed happiness to coming from the sunset and from “THE puppy” (emphasis mine). Who is this singular puppy from whom we can derive happiness? I used to have a puppy, but he is now a dog. Where can I find this happiness-giver of eternal youth you call “the puppy”? :-) Just jerkin’ your chain, bro :-)

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The puppy is just an example of things we feel. I don’t make a lot of sense. If I made sense to anyone and they said “Oh I see God now” then it would be me that gave the understanding. That would say there is no God. But when God gives the understanding you WILL know eternal life. You will know love. You will know happiness. You will know peace in your heart. The confusion over what I say is caused by the Holy Spirit. The understanding comes from Jesus. You just have to listen to Him. Let me introduce you. Close your eyes really tight. Really, really tight. You see that little light. Just keep looking at it. It will grow until you recognize it. I don’t know how to make all those faces so put them in where you see fit.

  • Keith

    Tommy,

    The smiley face is simply colon, hyphen, right parentheses. :-)

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    I’ve got no problem with people “letting go of God” if that’s what they conclude their experience to be. I think atheists are fully able to do what’s good, what I might conclude is the “will of God” even while they are full fledged atheists. That’s only my opinion of their actions, it’s not something I have any right to assert publicly. People are the only ones who are able to give us an explaination of their actions. I know atheists who fully hold that all these matters are individual and essentially private matters and they have no problem with religious people being religious, as long as they don’t try to push it on the unwilling.

    I first came here researching the presence of fundmentalist atheism on the leftist blogs, finding that the “liberal atheists” I’ve known in real life were almost non-existent on the blogs. And the few times they reared their heads the fundamentalist-atheists, yeah, PZ, I’m talking about you, would shoot them down as “Neville Chamberlain Atheists”. I mentioned on another thread here that I wrote a while back advising atheists that someone like John Mortimer, the guy who wrote the Rumpole stories, would be a much better public face of atheism than Dawkins or Kurtz or the other fundamentalists who grab all the attention.

    I mention this now because I’m going to be here a lot less often, from now on. Though I’ve enjoyed this place more than any of the other atheist blogs I’ve looked at. I just hope that the liberal atheists here can resist the pressures to conform to fundamentalist orthodoxy.

    I will be looking in to see if the question I posed gets answered but my time is limited.

    Thanks for the fun.
    olvlzl

  • Stephan

    I just wanted to chime in on Carr and Keith’s debate, which I found to be very unsatisfying (as I’m sure we all did).

    If you try to interpret a parable this literally you are always going to get it wrong. Really, if you want to get down to it, it is a story about somebody owing money. Do we really owe God money? I mean, if we’re going to be literal, let’s be totally literal.

    You also have to look at who his audience was for this particular story. It was the disciples. It would make sense that more would be expected of them since they were in His presence and were taught directly by Jesus. When Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you,” maybe he was really just talking to the disciples, and not to everyone who reads the Bible (or doesn’t, for that matter).

    The point of the story is that God has shown us mercy and He expects us to show mercy to others. Jesus was using characters and hyperbole to make this point. This is what I am talking about when I say you need to read the Bible in context. Sure, you can pull quotes out that make anything look good or bad (Christians are excellent at this), but when you read it in the style in which it was written, considering the audience, the context and other factors it makes more sense.

  • Steven Carr

    STEPHAN
    The point of the story is that God has shown us mercy and He expects us to show mercy to others.

    CARR
    Jesus parable is comparing God to a cruel master who forgives his slaves, and then hands them over to be tortured when he is angry with them.

    I didn’t choose the mataphor. Jesus did.

    And he certainly made his point, using hyperbole.

    Jesus must have thought to himself. ‘Let me use hyperbole and compare God to the most extreme example of unjust cruelty.’

    Jesus could have compared God to somebody who only got mildly annoyed with people, but where was the hyperbole in that?

    I have to admit that Keith really rubbed my nose in it, when he pointed out that it meant that God would allow Satan and his angels to torture people.

    It was a very good job that God had shown great mercy to the people he was angry with.

    Or else who knows what he would have done?

  • Tommy Huntsman

    ;-) Ok I typed that. Kinda looks like a guy winking. I never had a Bro before. Thanks for being mine.

    Have you ever watched those professional fishermen on TV. They sure know how to set a hook when they get a fish to bite. God knows how to set a hook real good, too. He doesn’t set it into your lips though. He sets it in your stomach. He will yank it so hard He will pull your guts out. He can make you go blind for 3 days or so. It is hard to kick against the pricks. His name is Jesus and He won’t let go. You are His fish and you are going to be in the boat. He will take your picture and smile real big. He’ll write it down in His logbook. Then He’ll let you back in the water and you’ll swim to the other fish and say. “I was in the boat. He held me up and even kissed me on the lips. There really is a Fisherman!”

  • Steelman

    To Mike C.
    I said:

    “In summary: Mike will always find a positive angle from which to interpret any given scripture. He subscribes to a theology that blunts even the horrors of eternal damnation. Mike’s beliefs demonstrate religion’s malleability in that it can be formed to the underlying ethical beliefs of modern western culture (or any culture).”

    To which you responded:

    “You more or less did a good job of summarizing my approach Steelman. Thank you for that – though I will continue to assert that (from my vantage point at least) it doesn’t seem like I’m deliberately trying to form my faith to fit the “underlying ethical beliefs of modern western culture”. In truth, for most of my life I was a pretty conservative…”

    Mike, I think it’s true that the formation of, and changes in, any theology can be traced backward to reveal the cultural and ideological influences involved in its formulation. You gave a summary of your own theological journey, in the rest of the post that I cited above, that detailed your move from a more conservative to a more liberal stance. Since the U.S. is, and has been, an environment that allows a proliferation of Christian ideologies and cultural influences, there are many factors present to allow a seeker to move in either direction. Regardless of which way a person moves, liberal or conservative, they move in a direction that represents their perception of truth according to their surrounding influences and (I hope!) serious thought about the issues involved.

    You say you aren’t “deliberately trying to form my faith to fit…”, but you’re saying that while living in a cultural situation that allows an individual to “try on” literally hundreds of different Christian ideologies, as well as, as you’ve said, finding truth from other places. Yes, I know you say you’ve gone back to a more “original” Christianity (i.e., early church). I accept that claim to a degree. Nonetheless, the Emerging Church seems, like any other modern religious ideology, to be syncretistic; especially in light of what you’ve said about other “lenses” being valid, but not the best fit for you. In a marketplace of ideas, there’s plenty to choose from in order to assemble what makes the best sense to you. I think you’ve done this, and continue to do so.

    However, I want to make clear that I’m not denigrating the process you’ve used to arrive at your faith, so I need to address something I said earlier:

    In light of the vast number of Protestant denominations extant, it’s obvious that Christians have a penchant for concocting their own favorite flavors of religion. Looking at the two examples above I’d say that Mike and those he influences, and is influenced by, have mixed up a batch they like best.

    I stand by what I said in the paragraph I quoted at the top of this post, and the first sentence quoted just above. Yes, there are several reasons why different denominations form, but ideological differences are a prominent one. However, the way I characterized your own process infers that your beliefs are contrived or dishonest in some way. I don’t believe that. I think your conclusions are wrong, of course, but I think we’ve both arrived at our current understandings of the God question in a way that was contemplative and rational. Anyway, mea culpa for making it sound like I thought your process was trivial.

    Mike C. said: “One more thing I should clarify: You all would be wrong to assume that I’ve simply tamed Jesus to be universally nice and non-threatening. There are still plenty of things that Jesus says that I find immensely challenging.”

    I don’t think the objections here are about your theology prescribing an easy way of life. They are about what I quoted at the top of the post about your “…theology that blunts even the horrors of eternal damnation.” See, damned if you’re a fundamentalist, damned if you’re not. ;)
    Although, the points that follow your quote above regarding sacrifice, and the difficulty of living up to high ethical standards, are well taken.

  • Mriana

    Tommy Huntsman said,

    May 24, 2007 at 7:19 am

    You are finding things to be way to hard. The feelings we get from the sunset, or the puppy. The happiness you feel inside when you don’t really know why. These feelings are gifts from God. We feel the spirit of things because God made us that way…

    Ah! I gotcha. You are talking about transendence. That numinous feeling you get from within. Nah, that is not from God, but god in us; Ground of Being, Source of All Life. Life is the gift and everything we experience comes with that gift.

    Of course, if you take it from the neuro-psych POV there is no supernatural being causing this, but rather an external stimuli, such as your newborn baby, triggers various parts of your brain to release a chemical(s), much like opates. These chemical(s) cause you to have that feeling of transendence on various levels (from mild to very strong). We, as humans not able to comprehend the awesome wonders of life, attribute this bodily reaction to stimuli as being God (via the Holy Spirit if you’re Christian, Brahman if Hindu, etc). I’ve talked about this before here.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    OK, just keep believing that it doesn’t come from God. You can see the external stimuli. Sit in your room. Turn out all the lights and say “Jesus I Love You, What would you have me do?” You think it is god in us. You will find that it is God in us. Helping us learn by the feelings He gives. You will know He is real when He won’t let go. You can only find peace when you answer His call. He is the potter, we are just clay. The potter will cut into the clay to make a design that he wants everyone to see. It is very painful.
    You got me? Maybe God got you.

    : colon ; semi colon : colon ; semi colon : colon ; semi colon. Maybe I’ll get that right next time. These computers confuse me. I don’t think they really exist. :-)

  • Mriana

    Tommy, you don’t understand. This happens to people of all religions and all philosophies. In other words ALL humans. If you are human, it can happen because it is part of you as a human. It is not exclusive to Christ followers.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    Guy who bought soul

    Look at the soul I bought!

    Friend of guy

    Looks OK, but it seems a little skeptical. You’ll have to do some work on it.

    Guy who bought soul

    I know, but I think I can fix it if I take it to church.

    Friend of guy

    Only Jesus can fix that. Do you have Jesus at your church?

    Guy who bought soul

    I hope so. If He isn’t, I just wasted 500 bucks!

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

  • Karen

    That’s why sites like this are good for me. I need someplace where I can engage with differing viewpoints. :)

    Good on you for recognizing that and being open to engaging other viewpoints honestly! Too few people in your situation really do that, I think.

    I was raised in a very insular Christian tradition, but I think attending a secular university and forging an identity for myself in a career outside of religious circles was key to my ultimate personal development. Granted, I did some work for Christian organizations also over the years, but I primarily considered myself part of secular society in terms of my profession.

  • Mriana

    Tommy, you’re not making sense again. Reality check: No one actually bought anyone’s soul. Souls cannot be bought. Even my Church of Christ friend got the joke right off the bat and said no one can buy a soul.

  • Siamang

    I sold my soul to Rock and Roll.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I just hope that the liberal atheists here can resist the pressures to conform to fundamentalist orthodoxy.

    Sigh. Why can’t people understand that there is no such thing as atheist orthodoxy or fundamentalism, because there is no frakking atheist holy book to provide orthodox or fundamentalist dogma.

  • Miko

    Please help me understand in what way the beliefs of predecessors are not a valid reason to suspect that God could exist.

    In exactly the same way that their views on the shape of the Earth aren’t a good reason that we should believe it’s flat or that the Sun revolves around it.

  • Miko

    Sigh. Why can’t people understand that there is no such thing as atheist orthodoxy or fundamentalism, because there is no frakking atheist holy book to provide orthodox or fundamentalist dogma.

    Wow… now I feel silly for bowing down towards Oxford five times a day and chanting “There is one no-god, and Dawkins is his prophet.”

    Seriously though, I agree completely. And not just because of the lack of holy book(s): we also lack the Grand Inquisitioner willing and able to torture and kill in order to promote his/her view as orthodox.

  • Steven Carr

    CARR
    And if we did have a Grand Inquistor who threatened to have people tortured for not being proper atheists, we could point out that this has to be put into context.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    I know you don’t buy a soul. That was my joke. :-). Your soul is your spirit. (The way you make others feel). Words have a spirit. That is why He was named Jesus. That is why we are not called “by any other name”. It is the spirit of the word. Life is a gift. Gifts are given. We are made in an awesome and wonderful way. God made us this way so He could talk to us with His Spirit. You feel what God wants. You want God to talk to you, so you ask a question. You don’t hear any answer so you say He isn’t there. You suddenly think of something in your past. Maybe along time ago, or maybe last week. You wonder what brought it to mind. God knew you wanted an answer to the question, so He answered it before you asked it. Your feelings have been stirred by the Spirit. Like the pool of water the lame people wanted to get into. When the Spirit moves, you better jump in.
    Rock and Roll makes you feel good, but it won’t get you to heaven.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    It is not exclusive to Christ followers. Very good! It is exclusive to people that God made.

  • Mriana

    Tommy Huntsman said,

    Rock and Roll makes you feel good, but it won’t get you to heaven.

    And the Gnostic said, “I studied religious texts and soon I discovered Jesus never really lived. Heaven was among us all along and the rapture already happened. I just needed to wake up to realize it.”

    Honey, you’re already there. You just need to wake up.

  • Mriana

    Tommy Huntsman said,

    May 24, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    It is not exclusive to Christ followers. Very good! It is exclusive to people that God made.

    Which means you can be Hindu and worship Vishnu, Buddhist and worship whatever it is they worship, or Humanist and take care of the human. It doesn’t matter if you say Brahman, Nirvana, heaven or proclaim this it, humans make earth heaven and/or hell, all pathes lead to center (as a friend of mine says).

  • Richard Wade

    I just hope that the liberal atheists here can resist the pressures to conform to fundamentalist orthodoxy.

    Sigh. Why can’t people understand that there is no such thing as atheist orthodoxy or fundamentalism, because there is no frakking atheist holy book to provide orthodox or fundamentalist dogma.

    writerdd, I think olvlzl uses the term “fundamentalist atheist” to refer to atheists who are intolerant, rude, closed-minded, rabidly anti-religious, and are generally hostile jerks. The proper term for such an atheist is “poopy-headed atheist.” This term was coined by a Christian friend of Mike C’s whose name escapes me right now. Good examples of “poopy-headed atheists are Penn Jillette and Christopher Hitchens. Some scholars of atheist taxonomy would also include Harris and Dawkins, but that remains controversial.

    The rest of us, the “level-headed atheists” (I coined the term) are tolerant, polite open to considering other’s views and interested in genuine dialogue for mutual understanding.

    I’m not sure but I think olvlzl has made a similar mistake that I made in assuming that the poopy-headed atheists represent the majority of atheists in general, just as I once assumed that the worst ultra right wing, bigoted fundamentalists represented the majority of Christians in general. We tend to characterize groups by the individuals who most get our attention.

    Using a term like “fundamentalist atheist” is probably originally intended to simply get our attention because it carries a lot of emotional impact for atheists. Unfortunately it causes confusion because it’s really referring to a mind set of intolerance and hostility rather than specific views about scripture, orthodoxy or dogma, which as you point out, don’t apply very well to atheism.

    olvlzl, I’ll miss your input. May you fare well. Don’t let the poopy-heads get you down. They’re not really the majority, in case you think so.

    How do you pronounce your name?

  • Stephan

    In exactly the same way that their views on the shape of the Earth aren’t a good reason that we should believe it’s flat or that the Sun revolves around it.

    But the difference is that science has proven those old notions to be wrong, so we can change those beliefs. But science has proven nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God, so it cannot influence a change in that belief.

  • Richard Wade

    But the difference is that science has proven those old notions to be wrong, so we can change those beliefs. But science has proven nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God, so it cannot influence a change in that belief.

    Yes, science can’t prove or disprove those notions, old or new. So then what has changed the notions from old to new? One explanation for ancient people believing in gods was to explain the forces of nature that were at that time beyond their understanding in more mundane terms. Another explanation is that these god concepts were the first primitive glimpses of a true god who would reveal himself more clearly later. If the first explanation is correct, then why have most people switched from many gods to only one god to explain nature? And if the second explanation is correct, then why was it “revealed” incorrectly at first and corrected later?

  • Tommy Huntsman

    That’s what I mean. It is the same for everyone. We all live under the same gravity. That means there is only one God, one gravity, one truth to anything. It was revealed to the first man the same way it is today. Through the spirit. It is the promise of the Spirit to create a new heaven and earth. There is no afterlife. There is new life. Just as God was resurrected, so shall we all be. It is freely given to those that accept His gift. He calls everyone to join Him. When God calls, people HAVE to answer Him. You have to say Yes or No. This way when people stand at the Great White Throne Judgement they won’t be able to say, “you didn’t ask”. He will show them the blank pages of the Lamb’s Book of Life and they will see that their name is not there. There was room for it, but they said no. Don’t be standing in that line. Jesus is knocking. Don’t make Him wait.

  • Miko

    But the difference is that science has proven those old notions to be wrong, so we can change those beliefs. But science has proven nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God, so it cannot influence a change in that belief.

    The original context was “why shouldn’t we believe things just because they’re old.” And you’re correct that science is exactly the key: we don’t believe them when they said the Earth was flat because that view was based on ignorance and has now been corrected by science. We do believe them when they say that matter is made of atoms, but that’s not because the opinion is old but again because the view has now been verified by science. Regarding god, the only evidence offered was its presence in old books, which, by the same standard that all other contents of old books are judged by, should only be accepted as true when evidence is provided for it. As Mike C has pointed out, if god exists, it should be a part of the natural world and work “miracles” through natural causes. Science is pretty good at examining nature these days, so I’d say we’re getting to the point where “absence of evidence” starts to indicate “evidence of absence.” It’s not so much the case that science is trying to influencing a change in belief on god as that science (or pretty much any epistemic method other than ‘faith’) is indicating that such a belief shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

  • Miko

    We all live under the same gravity. That means there is only one God, one gravity, one truth to anything.

    Not really: every single particle in the universe is exerting gravitational force on every other. That means that there are so many gods and truths that we don’t have a named number big enough to describe them. Or it would, if the second statement followed from the first.

    There is no afterlife…This way when people stand at the Great White Throne Judgement

    Does Great White Throne Judgement exist separately from the afterlife then? I love the phrase “Great White Throne Judgement.” It almost sounds like it actually means something. :-)

  • Siamang

    “That’s what I mean. It is the same for everyone. We all live under the same gravity. That means there is only one God, one gravity, one truth to anything.”

    What the HECK does that mean?

    Hey, my body is made up of 13 elements. That must mean we live under 13 gods.

    All atoms are driven by four fundamental forces…. that must mean there are four gods!

    And gravitation is by far the weakest one!

  • Miko

    Buddhist and worship whatever it is they worship

    Nothing officially. But since the Buddha said that the question of existence of a god or gods was irrelavent to his teachings, the people in some countries Buddhist spread to felt free to insert their preexisting mythologies into Buddhism to form regional hybrid rationalist/mystic faiths, while the people in other countries elevated the Buddha to the state of godhood despite his denial that he was a god.

  • Keith

    Please help me understand in what way the beliefs of predecessors are not a valid reason to suspect that God could exist.

    In exactly the same way that their views on the shape of the Earth aren’t a good reason that we should believe it’s flat or that the Sun revolves around it.

    Agreed. We should not believe things just because our predecessors believed them. I was trying to suggest that there is worth in trying to prove that there is no god, much like there has been worth in proving that the world was not flat, etc.

    Darryl had stated, “Atheism doesn’t have to prove there is no god for the simple reason that there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that there is one.” I was positing that the belief of ancestors could be a reason to suspect that there is one … not that we should immediately believe based on that fact. I agree with you that belief of predecessors is not evidence of God’s existence. I believe we are on the same page in that regard.

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

    writerdd, I think olvlzl uses the term “fundamentalist atheist” to refer to atheists who are intolerant, rude, closed-minded, rabidly anti-religious, and are generally hostile jerks.

    I was hanging out with Jim Henderson and Helen the other day (along with a few megachurch leaders) and Jim referred to “fundamentalist atheists”. However he was real quick to clarify that by “fundamentalist” he primarily just meant “mean” – not any similarity in the content of their beliefs.

    And “mean” seems to be the way most people use the word “fundamentalist” these days, though “poopy-headed” sounds about right to me too. ;)

    (BTW, Richard, I’m not sure I know who you’re referring to. I don’t recall hearing that term before.)

  • Keith

    I sold my soul to Rock and Roll.

    LOL :-) And all Rock and Roll asked is that you attend some concerts and blog about the experience online.

    Wow… now I feel silly for bowing down towards Oxford five times a day and chanting “There is one no-god, and Dawkins is his prophet.”

    LOL, Miko :-)

  • Miko

    I was positing that the belief of ancestors could be a reason to suspect that there is one

    That would only be valid if we thought that they had some way of knowing which has been lost to us. It’s altogether much too common in human socities to suppose that there was some “Golden Age” in the past that we shall never be able to live up to (in fact, the phrase “golden age” comes from the idea in Greek mythology of an Eden-like world that the gods originally created that was later corrupted by humans’ sin-like activities), but there’s really no reason to suspect that such a time ever existed.

    There’s a steady stream of stories about miracles stretching from the earliest recorded history through the Middle Ages and ending abruptly at the point where humans developed general procedures to test claims before accepting them. Before this point, there was no media, no way of documenting evidence claims, abundant spread of hearsay, abundant superstition, and an overwhelming lack of knowledge of things that today a third-grader would find so obvious that stating them would be superfluous.

    They saw gods in lightning, in fire, in trees, in the sun, in the stars, in the planets. They saw random occurences and attributed them to fate, luck, or witchcraft. They saw the ability to swim as proof of working with the devil. They thought that all events in life could be determined by the position of the sun and planets at the moment of birth, or through the patterns of tea leaves, the entrails of an animal, or of bones cast on the ground. They believed in magic words or in the supernatural power of certain gestures.

    In any sense other than anthropological or historical, the beliefs of ancestors are worthless.

  • Darryl

    But the difference is that science has proven those old notions to be wrong, so we can change those beliefs. But science has proven nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God, so it cannot influence a change in that belief.

    Miko said,

    The original context was “why shouldn’t we believe things just because they’re old.” And you’re correct that science is exactly the key: we don’t believe them when they said the Earth was flat because that view was based on ignorance and has now been corrected by science. We do believe them when they say that matter is made of atoms, but that’s not because the opinion is old but again because the view has now been verified by science. Regarding god, the only evidence offered was its presence in old books, which, by the same standard that all other contents of old books are judged by, should only be accepted as true when evidence is provided for it. As Mike C has pointed out, if god exists, it should be a part of the natural world and work “miracles” through natural causes. Science is pretty good at examining nature these days, so I’d say we’re getting to the point where “absence of evidence” starts to indicate “evidence of absence.” It’s not so much the case that science is trying to influencing a change in belief on god as that science (or pretty much any epistemic method other than ‘faith’) is indicating that such a belief shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

    Miko, wonderful answer. I think the Greeks got lucky with the atom business, because when you compare our present understanding of the atom with, for example, Epicurus’s ideas, you see that pretty much all they had in common was that everything is made from tiny bodies that we can’t see with the naked eye. According to Epicurus, atoms are bodies that are in an eternal free fall, in parallel paths, through a void. Every once in a while, for no apparent reason, an atom will swerve and glance off another. These collisions form all the things we see.

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

    It’s not so much the case that science is trying to influencing a change in belief on god as that science (or pretty much any epistemic method other than ‘faith’) is indicating that such a belief shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

    Of course, this is premised on the assumption that explaining natural phenomena is the only (or at least the primary) reason belief in God/gods developed in the first place. It doesn’t seem patently obvious to me however that this is the case. Perhaps that’s one part of it, but I would think that our reasons to believe in God/gods much deeper than that. If people today still have experiences of transcendence and spirituality (what C.S. Lewis called Noumenal experiences) that have little or nothing to do with explaining where thunder comes from (or whatever), but which for them serves as reason to believe in God, then it doesn’t so difficult to believe that ancient people also had these Noumenal experiences and based their conceptions of God/gods on them.

    For instance, God spoke to Abraham directly, and Moses encountered God in a burning bush – both rather Noumenal experiences. You don’t get the sense in either of these accounts that they were simply inventing Yahweh in order to explain natural phenomena. Those kind of questions don’t even really enter the picture.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    “That’s what I mean. It is the same for everyone. We all live under the same gravity. That means there is only one God, one gravity, one truth to anything.”

    I’m just saying that it was all made according to one truth. All of the things in the universe work together for one purpose. All of the elements in your body and those forces have one truth associated with them. Anything else is chaos. God calls all people to Him.

  • Miko

    I think the Greeks got lucky with the atom business

    I’ll agree 99%. Their view of atoms was not so ignorant as the view of a flat Earth since Greece actually did have some philosophers aspiring to the status of scientists. They obviously didn’t have the instruments necessary to form a modern view of the atom, but they did have the sense to realize that complex things were built out of simpler pieces and to posit that this process must cease with the simplest pieces possible.

    Of course, they got unlucky with labeling the pieces as fire, earth, air, water, and quintessence. And they got really unlucky when Aristotle posed his theory or the motions of these substances. The problem was they speculated far beyond what they could justify. Scientists still do that today, of course: we’ve just learned not to share our ideas with others until we’re reasonably sure that they have a chance of being correct. ;-)

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

    In any sense other than anthropological or historical, the beliefs of ancestors are worthless.

    Wow! That’s a rather absolute statement. So you really see nothing of value in reading the great thinkers of the past beyond mere historical curiosity?

    I’m just speaking personally, but when I read Aristotle or Seneca or Confucious or whoever, I don’t just want to know what they thought, I want to know if they have anything to teach me – without automatically assuming that they don’t.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    Does Great White Throne Judgement exist separately from the afterlife then? I love the phrase “Great White Throne Judgement.” It almost sounds like it actually means something.

    There is the Judgement Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgement. The Judgement Seat of Christ is where those that have been saved stand before Jesus. They lay down their crowns and give Jesus an account for the things they did. Like telling a group of atheists they are monkies and things like that. It will be especially hard for those called to preach God’s Word. He has put a great responsibility on them. The Great White Throne Judgement is for the lost. It comes at the end of the age after the tribulation. After that there are no more lost people.

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

    Their view of atoms was not so ignorant as the view of a flat Earth since Greece actually did have some philosophers aspiring to the status of scientists.

    I’m not sure if this was what you meant to imply, but the majority of ancient Greeks (and most others who followed them) believed the world was round.

  • Darryl

    Darryl had stated, “Atheism doesn’t have to prove there is no god for the simple reason that there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that there is one.” I was positing that the belief of ancestors could be a reason to suspect that there is one … not that we should immediately believe based on that fact. I agree with you that belief of predecessors is not evidence of God’s existence. I believe we are on the same page in that regard.

    I think Miko’s 5:10 post is about as good an answer to your point as you’re likely to get. By the way, the quote above is from Miko, not from me.

    I would add this angle though: Follow me here (I’m going deep–maybe over my head): In courts of law we commonly defend ourselves by having character witnesses testify on our behalf. Juries of our peers are more inclined to believe in us when we can furnish witnesses that themselves have a good reputation–it would do me no good if my character witness were a known felon, for example. We are the jury, and god is in the dock. God is calling our ancestors as character witnesses, only instead of character being the issue, existence is the issue. And instead of the good personal reputations of the witnesses, it is their track record on factual knowledge of the cosmos that the jury is considering. I ask you: how would you judge the witnesses in this respect? Would you trust their judgment about god and its existence? I do not.

  • Mriana

    Tommy Huntsman said,

    May 24, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    That’s what I mean. It is the same for everyone. We all live under the same gravity

    You’re missing my point entirely, Tommy. You are pushing your theology. Not everyone see it as the same god, nor does their theology consider JC the saviour. Some people would be insulted to have their god associated with a supernatural anthropomorphic Trinity deity.

    Brahman is not a theistic god. Buddha is not a deity, his more like a prophet or wiseman, so to speak. Confusious was a wiseman and the Tao has no deity. On top of it all, some Islamics would get mighty ticked with you considering JC as a saviour. He is a prophet to them but not the Son of God. Some Islamic Extremists would call you an infidel and sooner have you stoned to death at dawn, as well as say you are going to hell for saying such. Humanists have no need for a supernatural being.

    Sorry, but your theology is not the only religion nor is it necessarily the right religion. Everyone has to chose their own path, whether or not you see it as right for them. For them, it is right.

  • Darryl

    For instance, God spoke to Abraham directly, and Moses encountered God in a burning bush – both rather Noumenal experiences. You don’t get the sense in either of these accounts that they were simply inventing Yahweh in order to explain natural phenomena. Those kind of questions don’t even really enter the picture.

    You’re right, but I’m not sure Miko was being exclusive about this. I think we can assume that at some point our ancestors developed those functions of the brain that give us these experiences. Everyone has them, no matter what they believe or don’t believe. Beliefs are rational responses to feelings or events. These Noumenal experiences are not rational, but they led our ancestors to conclusions.

    I’m just speaking personally, but when I read Aristotle or Seneca or Confucious or whoever, I don’t just want to know what they thought, I want to know if they have anything to teach me – without automatically assuming that they don’t.

    I agree with you about this Mike, but again I doubt Miko was referring to things beyond science knowledge. Our relatively recent ancestors, like the Greeks of the golden age, were no less intelligent than we are today (perhaps more so), and they have knowledge that we still draw from today. For example, if you want to understand political theory, you cannot do without Plato’s Republic. I never cease to be amazed at the relevance of portions of this work to our present world. You won’t find a more succinct and damning critique of democracy than Plato’s.

  • Miko

    Wow! That’s a rather absolute statement. So you really see nothing of value in reading the great thinkers of the past beyond mere historical curiosity?

    I’m just speaking personally, but when I read Aristotle or Seneca or Confucious or whoever, I don’t just want to know what they thought, I want to know if they have anything to teach me – without automatically assuming that they don’t.

    I was speaking of value in sense of physical truth. Since they lacked means of distinguishing truths of reality from appearances, their statements are about as valid today as a volume from Borges’ Library. On the other hand, Aristotle is worth reading today for his views on rhetoric or ethics and so on, just as Homer is worth reading as literature. However, Aristotle’s claim that quintessence moved in circles did nothing more than set astronomy back 500 years.

    The distinction I draw is along the lines of metaphysics: their views are valid so far as they don’t try to describe things that actually exist or are thought to exist. Ethics, rhetoric, democracy, mathematics, art, etc. are concepts with no physical existence. Gods, the four/five elements of nature, the stars, etc. are concepts with potential physical existence. The truths in the former category will exist forever; the truths in the latter will not. And it’s not entirely just an ancient phenomenon: Newton and Einstein were giants in their time, but they’re not worth reading for the sake of scientific knowledge today. In their case, that’s more because those “on their shoulders” went so much further, clarified, and expunged errors. But there are certainly modern examples of scientists making wrong claims without evidence. For example, Maxwell proposed the concept of “luminiferous aether” as a medium for waves in a vacuum to travel through without any evidence of its existence solely because he thought they needed a medium to travel through. And the idea was widely accepted until experiments demonstrated that no such medium existed. My point was that ideas like this should not have been accepted because there is no reason to think that they represented things in reality other than the fact that the person who thought of them noted that it would explain an apparent whole in understanding.

  • Miko
    Their view of atoms was not so ignorant as the view of a flat Earth since Greece actually did have some philosophers aspiring to the status of scientists.

    I’m not sure if this was what you meant to imply, but the majority of ancient Greeks (and most others who followed them) believed the world was round.

    It’s going at what I was implying. But I wouldn’t say that the Greeks believed the Earth was round so much as they knew it was. That’s the central distinction I was talking about above regarding the value of ancient texts: they knew it was round because Eratosthenes did an experiment that conclusively showed that it was. On the other hand, Aristotle asserted that it was the nature of the element Earth to move towards the center of the universe because a rock fell when he dropped it and concluded that the planet Earth was round because all of the matter was pushing inwards from all directions. Thus, Aristotle believed the Earth was round, but couldn’t be said to know it because his argument was based on a principle justified only by analogy. On the third hand, Anaximenes believed that the Earth was a rectangle or cube, seemngly for no reason whatsoever.

    It’s important to distinguish knowledge from belief: knowledge is a belief plus a good justification. Eratosthenes had a belief and a good justification. Aristotle and Anaximenes both had a belief, but neither had a good justification. I’m interested in knowledge, because it’s almost certainly right. I’m less interested in belief, because it can be either right or wrong and only coincidentally so either way.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    He argues that our experience of responsibility towards the Other (to treat them as truly Other and not simply a part of ourselves) is primary and irreducible and is the starting point for all further discussion about what is just.

    Can you clarify what you mean by this? Because the way I’m interpretting it can’t possibly be what you mean.

    I would think conversely that treating the Other as part of ourselves is the underlying foundation for the existence of justice. Isn’t that the basic premise of, say, the Golden Rule?

    Hmm, yeah, as I re-read what I wrote I can see how it might come across the wrong way. Sorry about that. Treating the Other as Other does not mean excluding them as different. Quite the opposite in fact. What Levinas means is that we respect people as unique beings in and of themselves apart from our attempts to limit and define them. When we force someone to conform to our ideas about them (e.g. our labels and definitions and rules and attempts to control) we objectify them – i.e. we basically try to make them just another object in our self-centered “universe”. What Levinas is saying is that we need to respect others as not merely being an object in our own universe, but as the centers of their own unique universe, and then treat them as such (exactly the idea of the Golden Rule in fact: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? – i.e. treat the Other as a being just like yourself, and not as just a part of your own subjective world).

    Levinas describes this in terms of both “proximity” and “distance”. In other words, when we encounter the Other we become simultaneously aware of their similarity and connection to ourselves (proximity – they are one of “us”) and yet also the fact that they are not just simply part of ourselves (distance – they are unique individuals who are not reducible to my ideas about them).

    Think of this in terms of developmental psychology. When children are young (we are told) they have no conception of the Other. To an infant, mommy and daddy are simply extensions of themselves that they control through crying. As they grow older they start to realize that mommy and daddy are not just appendages to themselves, but neither are they completely capable of realizing that other people are just like themselves – with real feelings, desires, needs, etc. (This is something my wife and I are always trying to teach our two year old daughter – that when she steals toys from her friends or knocks them down she is actually hurting them, and that she wouldn’t like it if they did the same thing to her – it’s what psychologists call “perspective taking”.) So what Levinas is saying is that the beginning of ethics is this realization that others are in fact Other – not mere appendages or lesser beings – and that they therefore demand the same level of respect and love that we desire to be shown to ourselves.

    Is that any clearer? I know the terminology can be somewhat confusing. It is French Continental philosophy after all. ;)

    Love God and Love Others. (Which of course are really two ways of saying the same thing.)

    That could only possibly be the case if you assert that atheists are incapable of love.

    Not at all. In loving others, one is expressing a love for God, even if one doesn’t recognize the existence of God, because human beings are created in God’s image (i.e. we are representatives of God to each other). When you love others, you honor that image, even if you don’t recognize it as such. For instance, in 1 John 4:16 we are told that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (Please don’t flip this verse around. It doesn’t say that only those who live in God can love. It says that anyone who loves is already in God (whether they know it or not).

    (Of course, all this is just according to my theology. If one doesn’t believe in God in the first place then all this is probably just meaningless verbiage.)

    If you ask Islamic “mercy killers” why they did it, they’ll tell you it was for love of their victims, in order to protect the victims from “shame.” Love sounds good in the abstract, but in practice it can be used to justify just about anything.

    Indeed it can, but then, so can “Truth”. What argument will you use to prove that protecting people from Shame is not a legitimate application of love? I’d suggest that you’re probably not going to be able to simply argue that your “rational scientific” (or Christian, or liberal democratic, etc.) worldview is so much superior to their Muslim one that they should therefore give up their behavior. You’re probably going to do better to appeal to the more basic phenomenological experience of the Other that Levinas talks about (though probably not in those terms) – i.e. suggest that real love would mean treating their victims as they themselves would likewise want to be treated. Of course, this is not the kind of thing that can really be “argued”. Either they get it or they don’t – either they’re aware of their responsibility to the Other or not.

    (Of course, in the short term, justice towards the victim may also require standing in the way of their oppressor and preventing them from doing her harm.)

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

    Our relatively recent ancestors, like the Greeks of the golden age, were no less intelligent than we are today (perhaps more so), and they have knowledge that we still draw from today. For example, if you want to understand political theory, you cannot do without Plato’s Republic. I never cease to be amazed at the relevance of portions of this work to our present world. You won’t find a more succinct and damning critique of democracy than Plato’s.

    I totally agree. :)

  • Miko

    Everyone has them, no matter what they believe or don’t believe. Beliefs are rational responses to feelings or events.

    And the feelings part is much more central than we would have thought, say, a decade ago. I don’t recall the details, but there was an experiment a couple of years back in which patients with a certain type of brain injury were asked to do logic puzzles. The interesting thing about it was the type of brain injury, which was one which was thought to solely affect emotional judgement. They found, however, that those with this injury had severely diminished capabilities to solve logic puzzles when compared to the control group.

    Since we don’t know why exactly this should have been the case, we have to be careful drawing conclusions. But I think that it is reasonable to conclude that logic is not total rationality as was previously thought, but rather, perhaps, the synthesis of rationality and emotionality–the midpoint between two extremes. Pure rationality reduces the Noumenal to interactions between particles. Pure emotionality reduces it to god. I find both extremes rather unsatisfying.

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

    I was speaking of value in sense of physical truth.

    Ah yes, I see. Sorry about that. I misunderstood the scope of your statement. My bad. :)

  • Miko

    So what Levinas is saying is that the beginning of ethics is this realization that others are in fact Other – not mere appendages or lesser beings – and that they therefore demand the same level of respect and love that we desire to be shown to ourselves.

    Is that any clearer? I know the terminology can be somewhat confusing. It is French Continental philosophy after all. ;)

    Much clearer, although I would describe that same argument by saying that we are realizing that others are in fact not Other, because they share a common primacy with the Self. For example, the Wiki page you linked gives Cahoone’s definition of Other as: “Other phenomena or units must be represented as foreign or ‘other’ through representing a hierarchical dualism in which the unit is ‘privileged’ or favored, and the other is devalued in some way” and goes on to describe how the concept is used to exclude those “who they [a society] want to subordinate.” Unless I’m misreading those quotations (which is possible–I’m not entirely sure what the second usage of the word ‘unit’ above refers to), they seem to be the opposite of your definition of Other.

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

    It’s important to distinguish knowledge from belief: knowledge is a belief plus a good justification. Eratosthenes had a belief and a good justification. Aristotle and Anaximenes both had a belief, but neither had a good justification. I’m interested in knowledge, because it’s almost certainly right. I’m less interested in belief, because it can be either right or wrong and only coincidentally so either way.

    Yeah, I just question whether “knowledge” is ever really possible. Given that we never have “certainty” but only degrees of probability, how good does a justification have to be before we can call it “knowledge”? Both Newton and Einstein had pretty good justification for their version of physics, and yet they were wrong. Can we still say they had “knowledge”?

  • Mriana

    Pure rationality reduces the Noumenal to interactions between particles. Pure emotionality reduces it to god.

    Yes, but the only way to experience this numinous feeling of the Other is through the human. Love from another human can be enough to trigger the numinous feelings that cause transendence.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    It is God that speaks to each person. Buddah and the others are people speaking to people. Speaking to God, and God speaking to us is completely seperate from all the teachings throughout the world. God gave early man the desire to seek Him. But it is He that decides when He will reveal Himself to us. Why keep bringing up all the other guys. They were just people that thought they had a better way. He revealed Himself to Abraham and the prophets. He became a man and suffered for us. Now His Holy Spirit reveals God to each of us in His Time. When He speaks to you just be ready to answer. Did we start off in episode 4 or did we evlove? Would it make a difference?

  • Miko

    In loving others, one is expressing a love for God, even if one doesn’t recognize the existence of God, because human beings are created in God’s image (i.e. we are representatives of God to each other).

    That would seem to make god rather trivial, to me. Plus I can’t imagine you actually believe it: if you did, how would you justify loving your wife more than the smell of napalm in the morning? ;-)

    For myself, I love others specifically because they weren’t created in God’s image or in anything’s image, because we voluntarily choose to band together against an amoral universe to create something grander than the sum of our parts.

    You’re probably going to do better to appeal to the more basic phenomenological experience of the Other that Levinas talks about (though probably not in those terms)…(Of course, in the short term, justice towards the victim may also require standing in the way of their oppressor and preventing them from doing her harm.)

    And in some ways these two are the same thing. It’s justice MLK style: if someone is beating beaten, protect them by interjecting your own body. Of course, the Buddha beat Jesus to this realization: “Others do not realize ‘We here are struggling.’ For those that realize this are quarrels therefore quelled.”

    I’d suggest that you’re probably not going to be able to simply argue that your “rational scientific” (or Christian, or liberal democratic, etc.) worldview is so much superior to their Muslim one that they should therefore give up their behavior.

    I think that the Levinas argument of the Other is a “rational scientific” one. ;-) (With the emphasis on the rational part.)

    I can’t for the life of me remember who said it right now, but it has been suggested that the best way to determine the laws of a society would be to have every member vote democratically on them before any member knew where in society they would be born. Unfortunately, we obviously can’t do this. The best we can do, then, is to approximate this by pretending we don’t know. And that, is best accomplished through rationality.

  • Miko

    Yeah, I just question whether “knowledge” is ever really possible. Given that we never have “certainty” but only degrees of probability, how good does a justification have to be before we can call it “knowledge”? Both Newton and Einstein had pretty good justification for their version of physics, and yet they were wrong. Can we still say they had “knowledge”?

    It is possible in mathematics: since we don’t have to deal with the real world, we can start by defining exactly what our terms mean (except for the most basic terms, which are pseudo-defined through axioms that relate them to each other).

    It’s not entirely possible in other sciences, since we’re starting from the other end (the complex observed phenomena rather than the basic building blocks). However, I’d sy that knowledge is certainly possible. Science is build upon quantification—and that stays the same even if the underlying theory is disproven. (A good example is the facts of evolution vs. the theory of evolution: although it’s not likely, the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection could be wrong, but you’d still be left with the facts of evolution and so would still have evolution. You’d just need to explain it differently.) Now, Newton did quantitative experiments with things not moving too fast and based his theory on it. Einstein came along and looked at experiments closer to the speed of light and modified Newton’s theory by adding an additional term that’s very close to zero at the speeds Newton was working with. We now know relativity breaks down when size is very close to zero. We don’t know how to fix it yet, but we can say that are new theory is going to have to look like Einstein’s, but with added terms that are very close to zero for objects with sufficient mass.

    So do we have knowledge? Well, we still use Newton’s equations for objects that aren’t moving too fast even though we know they’re technically wrong because they’re simpler than Einstein’s equations and they’re close enough to the truth that the differences don’t matter. So we have knowledge about objects moving at reasonable speeds. Einstein came along and added knowledge about objects moving at unreasonable speed (as long as they aren’t too small). The problem isn’t lacking knowledge: it’s being careful to realize the contexts in which our knowledge is applicable.

    As Asimov put it, “When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

  • Miko

    God gave early man the desire to seek Him. But it is He that decides when He will reveal Himself to us. Why keep bringing up all the other guys

    Because your basic premise is wrong. Until the primacy of a god is established, its opinions are no better than anyone elses. And primacy goes far beyond mere existence.

    I offer the following challenges: In each of the following, take the full scriptures of each tradition into account. Can a Jew honestly say that their teachings are better than those of Mohammad? Can a Muslim say that their teachings are better than those of Jesus? Can a Christian say that their teachings are better than those of Buddha? Can a Buddhist say that their teachings are better than those that the average person today could come up with if they took the time to comb all of the older traditions and synthesize the “good parts?”

    Did we start off in episode 4 or did we evlove?

    Well, if you’re talking Star Wars…

  • Darryl

    I would not disagree with anything that Miko said about the possibility of knowledge under the assumptions that (I think) Miko is leaving unspoken. These are the assumptions that philosophers of science describe. We might question those assumptions: Is the product of science really knowledge in some final sense? Is mathematics eternal? When we describe our universe in mathematical and human terms are we being objective? Is objectivity even possible? Does our embodiment make pure objectivity impossible? Does our brain? Could there be other methods of knowing and quantifying the universe that from the inside seem just as exclusive as our hard sciences? I think Mike has made comments that refer to questions such as these.

    I think the reality of knowledge depends upon the context in which we put ourselves. If we are being practical, we know that science has a good record of achievement; we know it ‘works,’ under the assumption that it is giving us objective knowledge. We can choose to ignore the philosophical questions about science and just do it. Personally, I am agnostic about answers to these questions. It may be that our mathematics is eternal; but we may never be able to demonstrate this. For me, this is no impediment. What I assume is that we are products of our universe, and hence fitted to it. Consequently, we can find our way around in it quite well–we’ve proven this. The universe makes sense to us (or is making sense) using the means at our disposal. We are assured of our knowledge when it seems to fit with us and everything else we know.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    Yeah star wars…biblical, except for the twist.

    I’m just trying to say that it is really a decision. I know that the world was spoken into existence. It came from the mouth of God. If he started the world from a tiny seed and grew it, if he exploded into existence, or if he just opened up the book and said go. It really doesn’t change anything about God. If He can speak a world into existence, He is quite capable of speaking into existence a book about it. His Book.
    But I will point out that is very important for you to know that it is not any man that gives you the understanding of His Book. He gives you the knowledge of what He wants you to have and use. Listen to the words with your heart and you begin to feel His presence. Then when someone trys to tell you what it means you know it right away because you will recognize the Truth in it. It is not the word of any man it is the Spirit of God’s Word that speaks to us. The God that could speak the world into existence can bring about these feelings of understanding in us. We get to know God personally as a real person.
    This is because He became a real person. He did this to reveal Himself to us. You have heard the Word of God in your heart before and there are parts of the things you’ve heard still there. These are the seeds that God has planted, so that He can bring you to understand in the time He has appointed. In the fullness of His time He will bring you to the decision.
    The Bible says that God’s Spirit will not always strive with man. This means that there will come a day when God will not be with the man. It says that we have about 80 years, give or take, and then we will die. It will be at that moment that each of us will be alone. God was not with Jesus as He died, because He carried the sin of the world. We are sinners because of the words we have said and the things we have done. We will have to make a decision. Is there a God that has been talking to me throughout my life, or not? Did He come to earth and live as a man and die for my sin? Will He be with me when I die so I won’t be alone?
    All those people can talk and say whatever they want. Those things are written about in the Bible, too. The Bible is better, because it is God’s Word, not the word of men. If you really want to spend time with God, just read it. The Word itself will let you feel His Spirit. You can look around for God, but He is only in His Word. It is His Spirit. He loves everyone because He is Love. From God we get Love, because of God we are able to share Love.
    People say and do the wrong things and they say and do the right things . We make our decisions based on the things in our life that seem rational and responsible. We all have a certain amount of moral fiber. Life is good. Life is eternal because of Jesus. Death is not something we want to face, but it will come.
    I want to make a rational decision based on the things in my life that seem rational and responsible, too. I feel God’s Spirit in the things around me. The external stimuli that comes from all things we come in contact with. I feel the spirit of the words that men say to me when they make me laugh and when they make me cry. I know that it is rational to theorize that these feelings come from God. It seems rational because something had to start it up. I think it is rational that this was the SPOKEN Truth. More rational than a bunch of suff just flying out of nowhere. It is also rational to believe that this is normal human behavior, biological and all that. But it seems more rational that the creator made it all just the way it is. My rational mind says there can be only one Truth and it came from His mouth. So there can be only one God. The God of all things. And I know in my rational mind that I will die.
    Based on this I know that my only responsible decision is to accept God’s gift of salvation. I know He is alive, because He lives in me. When I close my eyes I can see His light in my heart. He died on the Cross for my sins. He died for me so I won’t be alone. He died for everyone. He will be with each that ask Him to come in. I don’t know all about how He does it, but I know He speaks to each of us and asks us to make that decision. It is responsible to settle that decision as soon as possible. So God can soothe my heart and I can go share my bananas.
    I can joke around and laugh at the debates going on about how to prove God, but it is really just a decision that proves it. When you make the right decision you will feel it. The Spirit moves the water and we decide to jump in. Be ready to answer. Be ready with that simple prayer to ask Him to be with you.
    Admit your sin. Believe He died for you. Confess He is Lord. A, B, C. Never forget it. It may save your life. God Loves everyone.

  • Miko

    When we describe our universe in mathematical and human terms are we being objective?

    That’s a question that I try to specifically highlight when I teach, say, Calculus. Mathematics consists entirely of what Kant would probably have called a priori synthetic knowledge, so there’s no question that it’s perfect and eternal under reasonable definitions of those words (hence the common statement that mathematics is the universal language). However, when you try to inject the real world into mathematics, you can definitely run into problems unless you’re very careful. Mathematics deals with functions, with infinitely-precise numbers, etc., and these sort of things don’t really exist outside of mathematics.

    think the reality of knowledge depends upon the context in which we put ourselves. If we are being practical, we know that science has a good record of achievement; we know it ‘works,’ under the assumption that it is giving us objective knowledge.

    In a strict epistemic sense, science can’t prove that it works. However, it would be able to prove that it didn’t work if it didn’t (to the extent that that statement is meaningful). In the end, if we were to reject the scientifc method, we’d have to reject more than you might suppose at first glance: if it were false, you’d either have an experimentally verified fact that wasn’t true (in which case the concepts of true and false cease to have meaning) or you’d have a true fact not verifable experimentally (in which case the concept of knowledge as distinct from belief ceases to have meaning). George Smith goes into these issues in excrutiating depth in Atheism: The Case Against God. His reasoning differs a bit from my own, but we both reach the same conclusion that you can’t talk about these ideas (logic, scientific method, etc.) being false in a meaningful way because they form the very framework necessary to have the conversation.

    Could there be other methods of knowing and quantifying the universe that from the inside seem just as exclusive as our hard sciences?

    You could set faith up as such a method if you wanted to. There doesn’t seem to be a good way of doing this that successfully differentiates between propositions that the rational epistemology identifies as true and false, so if you set up a faith-based epistemology, it would seem necessary to exclude rationality as an epistemic method. Like rationality, while it can’t justify its own foundations in a formal sense, faith can in an informal sense (by accepting it on faith: both the rational and faith-based epistemologies suffer from circular-reasoning in doing this, although it isn’t clear that circular-reasoning need be seen as problematic in a faith-based system).

    The main problem with faith as an epistemic system is that a proposition and its converse can both be accepted on faith, which seriously undermines the impact of saying something is true. Because of this, most advocates of faith try to sneak faith in the side door by claiming that the rationalist epistemology is justified by faith. That’s absurd, of course, since accepting something on faith requires the possibility that the converse holds, which as I mentioned above is not something which can even be seriously complentated within the rational framework.

    I would not disagree with anything that Miko said about the possibility of knowledge under the assumptions that (I think) Miko is leaving unspoken.

    By the above reasoning, it’s always necessary to leave assumptions unspoken, since any justification for them would in turn need to be justified. To get anywhere, you have to choose some minimum level which seems so obvious that no one will ask you to justify it and call it axiomatic.

    In discourse, most people typically take the fact that rational epistemology is capable of producing true results and only true results as axiomatic. (Some also suggest that it’s capable of producing all true results, which is slightly more problematic, but probably true since the definition of true is tied into the system itself.) I’ll sometimes go a step lower and justify rationality as a consequence of the axiom that any statement whose converse leads to a inconsistent epistemic system is true, which has the benefit of totally eliminating faith as a possible unstated assumption of rationality but also the added drawback of having to be very careful to define ‘inconsistent’ without using basic logic (to avoid circular reasoning).

  • Miko

    I’m just trying to say that it is really a decision. I know that the world was spoken into existence. [etc.]

    Tommy’s post is a perfect example of what I referred to as a faith-based epistemology above: since truth really IS just a decision, the distinction between knowledge and belief breaks down and the above is completely consistent internally.

    The problem I see comes with:

    We will have to make a decision. Is there a God that has been talking to me throughout my life, or not? Did He come to earth and live as a man and die for my sin? Will He be with me when I die so I won’t be alone?

    Human language was developed by people who accepted a primitive version of the rationalist framework as opposed to the faith-based framework, so the above may sound weird to us. (It certainly does to me.) After all, is whether or not Jesus was a real person really a question that involves us making a decision rather than a matter of historical fact? From a perspective inside the faith-based system, it really is nothing more than a personal decision, as Tommy notes. And that is why I don’t accept faith as an epistemic method.

    (Aside: How did this conversation drift into hardcore epistemology anyway?)

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

    For example, the Wiki page you linked gives Cahoone’s definition of Other as: “Other phenomena or units must be represented as foreign or ‘other’ through representing a hierarchical dualism in which the unit is ‘privileged’ or favored, and the other is devalued in some way” and goes on to describe how the concept is used to exclude those “who they [a society] want to subordinate.” Unless I’m misreading those quotations (which is possible–I’m not entirely sure what the second usage of the word ‘unit’ above refers to), they seem to be the opposite of your definition of Other.

    Oops, I think I linked you to the wrong Wiki page. I had a number open on my screen and I must have copied the wrong one. Sorry.

  • Mriana

    Tommy Huntsman said,

    May 24, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Yeah star wars…biblical, except for the twist.

    I’m just trying to say that it is really a decision. I know that the world was spoken into existence. It came from the mouth of God.

    No Tommy, you don’t know this. Just because the Bible tells you so, doesn’t mean it is necessarily right. The Hindu version of how the world was created could be right and it is more fitting with the idea of evolution.

    God has no mouth in which to speak. There is no anthropomorphic deity, not even a reincarnated Zeus. Now IF you are talking about something that is like the wind and natural to the earth and everything on it, then that is something else, but even that is not anthropomorphic.

    Again, you are pushing YOUR theology. This is belief, not knowledge that you talking about.

    Miko said,

    (Aside: How did this conversation drift into hardcore epistemology anyway?)

    Oh Tommy was babelling on again about something that concerned his beliefs in an imposing way, and I got on him about several posts back- once I understood him. He won’t let it go and is continuing to impose his beliefs on others. At least he’s more coherant right now. Makes me wish I had not told him when he was making no sense again. :roll: I should have let him continue on being a Jabberwock.

    Even Pastor Mike seemed astonished by him once, asking him if he really believed what he was saying or if he was mocking Christians. He believes what he’s saying and trying to impose it on others. :roll: Guess he has a goal of being the next Jerry Farwell.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    In loving others, one is expressing a love for God, even if one doesn’t recognize the existence of God, because human beings are created in God’s image (i.e. we are representatives of God to each other).

    That would seem to make god rather trivial, to me. Plus I can’t imagine you actually believe it: if you did, how would you justify loving your wife more than the smell of napalm in the morning? ;-)

    Sorry? I don’t follow you.

  • Miko

    Sorry? I don’t follow you.

    I mean to say that if love of humans (and presumably everything else capable of being loved) is soley an expression of love of the god whose image we reflect, then we should love everything and everyone unconditionally without distinction, since love for each should involve the same amount of love of god. If that’s the case, as one example, you should wake up in the morning and tell your wife, “I feel exactly the same way about you that I do about Hitler.”

    If you don’t do this, I’d have to think that there must be some component to the love that is separate from love of god.

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

    Even Pastor Mike seemed astonished by him once, asking him if he really believed what he was saying or if he was mocking Christians.

    Not just once – I’m confounded by every one of his posts. I don’t recognize anything he says as corresponding to any particular Christian group I’ve ever heard of. It’s like he’s spouting a weird mix of fundamentalist Christianity and flaky New Ageism. That’s why I still really wonder whether he’s actually serious or if he’s just trying to make Christian beliefs sound as absurd as possible.

  • Miko

    Makes me wish I had not told him when he was making no sense again.

    I’ll agree that it’s a struggle to understand what he’s saying, but I think that’s more a characteristic of the English language. We speak a language in which it’s very easy to draw distinctions between things and to partition qualities into an exhaustive set of mutually exclusive possibilities (for example, true and false, up and down, left and right, the colors of the rainbow, numbers, existence and nonexistence and so on). These work perfectly for the rationalist viewpoint, which is based off of the Law of the Excluded Middle and its correlaries that guarantee that every properly formed proposition is exactly one out of true and false.

    Tommy’s argument relies, to the extent I understand it, on a system of knowledge in which these distinctions don’t exist and suffers from the fact that English isn’t really able to express it. (A language like Sanskrit, in which there’s actually a word for the concept “neither-true-nor-false” would probably do a much better job of it.). I may disagree that knowledge is dependent upon individual decision, but disturbingly I know of no way of proving that defining knowledge based upon rational argumentation leads to a superior epistemology. And I’ve really love to find such a proof, because I’ve been looking for one for years. :-)

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

    I mean to say that if love of humans (and presumably everything else capable of being loved) is soley an expression of love of the god whose image we reflect, then we should love everything and everyone unconditionally without distinction, since love for each should involve the same amount of love of god. If that’s the case, as one example, you should wake up in the morning and tell your wife, “I feel exactly the same way about you that I do about Hitler.”

    If you don’t do this, I’d have to think that there must be some component to the love that is separate from love of god.

    I don’t think most Christians assume that you need to (or even could) have the same amount or even the same kind of love for everything and everyone. We are finite creatures. Maybe God can love everyone and everything equally unconditionally, but we only reflect him. We are not him. Our abilities are more limited.

    Besides, most Christians would easily distinguish between different kinds of love. In Greek there are four words we typically translate “love”: storge (familial affection), phileo (friendship or brotherly love), eros (romantic love), and agape (self-giving love). C.S. Lewis has a fantastic little book about the differences between these Four Loves and how our experiences of the first three prepare us for but never perfectly attain to the fourth (agape) – which is the kind of love 1 John is talking about and which we are called to have for the Other.

    To put it more succinctly – my love for my wife is a different kind of love than my love for the Other.

  • Miko

    Not just once – I’m confounded by every one of his posts. I don’t recognize anything he says as corresponding to any particular Christian group I’ve ever heard of. It’s like he’s spouting a weird mix of fundamentalist Christianity and flaky New Ageism. That’s why I still really wonder whether he’s actually serious or if he’s just trying to make Christian beliefs sound as absurd as possible.

    I think he must be serious, because I couldn’t write stuff that sounded like Tommy’s no matter how hard I tried. :-)

    Either way, he is doing a good job of making Christian beliefs sound absurd. But ultimately, aren’t you making the exact same leap of faith that he is? You’re building a rational foundation first, but you have to leave it eventually since it’s impossible to know there is a god with our current scientific understanding. That involves accepting something such as revelation that lies outside of rationality (i.e., what Andrews Norton called the “unrational” as opposed to the “irrational”–that which is not rationally justified but not rationally disproven either).

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

    But ultimately, aren’t you making the exact same leap of faith that he is?

    I have no idea. I haven’t even bothered to try and follow him.

    You’re building a rational foundation first, but you have to leave it eventually since it’s impossible to know there is a god with our current scientific understanding. That involves accepting something such as revelation that lies outside of rationality (i.e., what Andrews Norton called the “unrational” as opposed to the “irrational”–that which is not rationally justified but not rationally disproven either).

    I’d agree with that. Though I wouldn’t call it a rational “foundation”. I’m a coherentist, so a “web” might be a more appropriate metaphor. :)

    And I’d also say that rationality begins with the unrational as well. As you and Darryl pointed out earlier, there are all kinds of assumptions that one has to make to even be able to begin using rationality in the first place.

    Oh, and even after we make those prior assumptions, I still wouldn’t say that it’s an entirely “rational” web either, since our beliefs are based on far more than merely rational ways of knowing. There are all kinds of other ways of knowing that contribute to our overall web as well (story, image, emotion, intuition, experience, relationality, etc.). This idea that we humans are primarily rational beings (or ever could or should be) just seems a little silly to me. (Of course, I’m speaking more descriptively than prescriptively.)

  • Miko

    I don’t think most Christians assume that you need to (or even could) have the same amount or even the same kind of love for everything and everyone. We are finite creatures. Maybe God can love everyone and everything equally unconditionally, but we only reflect him. We are not him. Our abilities are more limited.

    This is exactly what I mean when I assert that loving others and loving god are distinct concepts.

    Besides, most Christians would easily distinguish between different kinds of love. In Greek there are four words we typically translate “love”: storge (familial affection), phileo (friendship or brotherly love), eros (romantic love), and agape (self-giving love). C.S. Lewis has a fantastic little book about the differences between these Four Loves and how our experiences of the first three prepare us for but never perfectly attain to the fourth (agape) – which is the kind of love 1 John is talking about and which we are called to have for the Other.

    Based on the context of your original comment on the subject, I imagine you’re referring to agape when you say that loving god and loving others are the same concept. Then I must conclude that 1 John 4:16 (“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”) is incorrect. If God has no existence separate from that of love, it would be both simpler and clearer to assert that god does not exist and worship love instead. If God does have existence separate from that of love, then it’s certainly possible to love Other without loving God. And if god doesn’t have any existence whatsoever, it’s all just semantics.

  • Miko

    And I’d also say that rationality begins with the unrational as well. As you and Darryl pointed out earlier, there are all kinds of assumptions that one has to make to even be able to begin using rationality in the first place.

    I’d say rather that the unrational underlies the rational. We begin using primitive rationality because it’s a helpful trait and our brain evolved to support it in the same way that we possess common sense (and with the same pitfalls). We discovered the underlying unrational by using the rational method to probe the roots of our belief system, but it’s not clear that talking about the unrational even makes sense outside of the context of the rational.

    There are all kinds of other ways of knowing that contribute to our overall web as well (story, image, emotion, intuition, experience, relationality, etc.).

    I’d say that these sources of knowledge lie within rationality. Logic is an incredibly important aspect of rationality, but by no means the totality or even the basis for it. Rather, I’d say the basis for rationality is the assertion of the need of giving rational reasons for things before accepting them (where a rational reason is one which has previously been decided to be true by the system and which implies the conclusion). Different concepts can be justified using different sorts of reasons. The story of my walking to the post office will never be able to justify believing E=mc^2, but it may justify your walking the same route if you live near me and want to end up at the post office.

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    May 24, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Even Pastor Mike seemed astonished by him once, asking him if he really believed what he was saying or if he was mocking Christians.

    Not just once – I’m confounded by every one of his posts. I don’t recognize anything he says as corresponding to any particular Christian group I’ve ever heard of. It’s like he’s spouting a weird mix of fundamentalist Christianity and flaky New Ageism. That’s why I still really wonder whether he’s actually serious or if he’s just trying to make Christian beliefs sound as absurd as possible.

    :lol: Oh I think he’s serious. He just makes no sense. I don’t mean to be insulting with the jabberwock deal, but that is what he sounds like. Reminds me of my great uncle, a Free Methodist minister with some of the things he says- the more coherrent things that is.

    Miko said,

    Either way, he is doing a good job of making Christian beliefs sound absurd.

    Oh yeah.

    Mike C said,

    May 25, 2007 at 12:27 am

    But ultimately, aren’t you making the exact same leap of faith that he is?

    I have no idea. I haven’t even bothered to try and follow him.

    Don’t even try or you’ll be sitting there thinking, “What the hell is he talking about.” Then cleaning it up enough that you don’t sound offensive.

    Mike C said,

    And I’d also say that rationality begins with the unrational as well.

    Oh I don’t know. I spent my whole childhood at awe with the world, feeling numinous transendent feelings even with my pets (including a horse and a cow) when they showed affection. It was most profound when I held my first newborn son in my arms for the first time and we looked into each others eyes. That was the most awesomely transendent experience I have ever had and if you’re a parent, you may know exactly what I mean.

    As an adult I tried to find out what it was and through my psychology studies, I have a good idea of what it is. It’s a completely normal human experience though.

    Miko said,
    Then I must conclude that 1 John 4:16 (”God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”) is incorrect.

    How so? That verse makes a very good case for Anthony Freeman’s “God in us: A Case For Christian Humanism.” Not to mention what Bishop Spong said to me about it being through the human that we experience the Holy the Other. When a human shows love and compassion, it brings about good feelings to the receiver, sometimes being mildly transendent. Put in terms of psychology, it stimulates serotonin in the brain, which can easily change a bad mood into a good mood. In which case, one would experience the Ground of All Being, the source of all life.

    I could expand upon this further with in ways that would not involve any supernatural anthropomorphic being- if it weren’t 1 a.m. I needed to get some sleep.

    Sorry, Pastor Mike, but he was sort of stepping into my territory, if you know what I mean. ;)

  • Miko

    How so? …
    I could expand upon this further with in ways that would not involve any supernatural anthropomorphic being- if it weren’t 1 a.m. I needed to get some sleep.

    I think you answered your question for me. If you can expand on this without a supernatural being, then the supernatural wouldn’t seem to be necessary for it. As you say, “Put in terms of psychology [physiology?], it stimulates serotonin in the brain, which can easily change a bad mood into a good mood.” Love needs no justification beyond the fact that it’s superior to non-love. And since it’s possible to argue whether god exists but impossible (unless one is very warped) to argue that love does not exist, the concepts must be distinct.

    In which case, one would experience the Ground of All Being, the source of all life.

    I would argue that such a thing doesn’t exist.

  • Richard Wade

    Once upon a time a village idiot sat beneath an enormous tree. This tree happened to be the place that several wise men and philosophers from all across the land had agreed to meet that very day, to discuss many an important thing.

    When the wise men and philosophers arrived they found the village idiot sitting there, babbling nonsensical things. They took pity on him and offered him some of the food and drink that they had brought with them for their long journeys and for their sustenance during their discussion. The village idiot accepted their kindness gladly and blithered more of his incomprehensible absurdities.

    As they all sat together in the shade of the great tree and began to talk about many an important thing, the village idiot would occasionally make some random, ridiculous remark that would spur the wise men’s and philosophers’ conversation on, as they spun ever more elaborate arguments over many an important thing, such as what is reality, what is truth, what is knowledge, and what is love. After all, this was why the wise men and philosophers had agreed to meet, for discourse on many an important thing.

    Whenever the conversation lulled, they would give the village idiot more of their food and drink and he would say another new bizarre, incoherent inanity, and building upon what he had said the wise men and philosophers would launch into yet another esoteric debate about many an important thing, like what is madness, what is sanity, what is faith and what is God.

    Finally the day had waned and though the wise men’s and philosophers’ minds had been satiated their bellies were empty, for they had given most of their food and drink to the village idiot. So they left the village idiot under the tree to go to the village to buy food and drink before their long journeys home.

    After the wise men and philosophers had left, sitting with his abundant gifts of food and drink the village idiot didn’t say anything; he just smiled in a wise and philosophical way.

  • Miko

    Ooh! A parable!

    Richard, I’m not sure who you’re (not) making fun of, but it’s hilarious. :-)

  • Richard Wade

    Oh I never make fun of anyone unless I include myself.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The curiosity to know something comes from the Creator. The clues to find the answer comes from the Creator. The answer comes from the Creator. The curiosity is the spirit stirring the water. The clues are all around us in the natural world. When the answer hits us, or comes to mind, we have a great feeling of YES I FOUND THE ANSWER. This feeling comes from God.
    Consider the man that first began to use math. He had a thought. What is 1 plus 1? He looked around and saw some rocks, He picked up one and then he picked up another. He looked at them and said that “I have it! 1 plus 1 is 2!”. He felt so good that he ran to tell his friend the answer, too. His friend looked at him and said “Why can’t it be 3?” and so the debate was formed…

    Idiot looking for a village

  • Mriana

    Miko said,

    In which case, one would experience the Ground of All Being, the source of all life.

    I would argue that such a thing doesn’t exist.

    It’s a Spong-ism. For want of a better description, because there are no words for it, it is that numinous feeling inside you when you experience the awe and wonder of what is coming from the world or the universe. So much easier to say Ground of All Being. Less of a mouthful. Surely you can’t say you haven’t experience this awe and wonder.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The decision is not if Jesus was a real person and said and did the things written about Him. The decision is if that Jesus is God in the flesh. In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. When you make this decision, you will then experience God in your life. You will be able to talk with Him , and He with you. I had a problem just this morning.I said, “Jesus, what is 1 plus 1?” He said, “it is still 2 and it will never change”.

    And yes, I do KNOW that God spoke the world into existence. He told me. I can talk to Him anytime, about anything. He is the only one that can calm my heart and give me peace beyond understanding. This is not theology, this is TRUTH.

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

    Great parable Richard! Like all good stories it can sort of go either way can’t it? :)

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

    This is exactly what I mean when I assert that loving others and loving god are distinct concepts.

    My only real point by identifying the two was to say that if you’re not loving others then you’re not really loving God.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    I didn’t know Jerry Fallwell. I heard him say that it was because of the homosexuals and other sinners that America was having problems. This is inconsistent with God’s Word. God said “if MY people would humble THEMSELVES and pray and seek my face, then I will heal their land” It is the responsibility of the Christian to follow God. It is the responsibility of the Christian leaders to follow God. Just like it was for all the kings of Israel. Those that follwed God led the people in God’s way and were blessed. Those that did not led them to destruction.

  • monkeymind

    Richard: I loved your parable. We’ve edited the village idiot and the holy fool out of our suburban strip mall landscape so completely, it’s no wonder s/he is finding a new niche in cyberspace. Your story reminded me of the stories of the Mullah Nasrudin, are you familiar with them?

    This one seems appropriate to the discussion here:

    Nasrudin was once called to preach on the ‘Nature of Allah’ in the local mosque. Present were the many Imams and Doctors of the Islamic Law. Out of courtesy and because Nasrudin could not be counted on saying anything worthwhile, these illustrious guests explained and inspired the audience with their eloquence and wisdom.

    Finally it was Nasrudin’s turn to explain ‘the Nature of Allah’.

    “Allah . . .”, started Nasrudin impressively “is . . .”

    Nasrudin removed and held up an ovoid mauve vegetable from the folds of his turban, ” . . . an eggplant.”

    There was uproar at this blasphemy. When order was finally established, Nasrudin was reluctantly asked to explain his words.

    “I conclude that everyone has spoken of what they do not know or have not seen. We can all see this eggplant. Is there anyone who can deny that Allah is manifest in all things?”

    Nobody could.

    “Very well,” said Nasrudin, “Allah is an eggplant.”

  • Richard Wade

    Monkeymind, that’s a good story. Thank you. The Mullah Nasrudin link doesn’t work but I’ll look up the stories anyway. I had never heard of them.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, when I gave up my quest for enlightenment I concluded that enlightenment should not be thought of in metaphorical terms of light, as in “to see the light”; it should be thought of in terms of weight, as in “to lighten up.” Ever since I’ve been trying to do just that. Not to be flippant but to discern the useful wisdom in a given situation. Very often the “truths” or kernels of wisdom in life are packaged in humor. If we use our sense of humor (our real sixth sense) to sense the humor that is built into a situation then we can benefit from the wisdom in it. If we ourselves are the “butt” of the joke, if we can see our own foolishness of taking ourselves too seriously and then laugh, then that is growth, that is the gaining of wisdom.

    There are many stories about people who strived to experience the ultimate truth, the essence of reality, or the ground of being as people have mentioned here. Often when the seekers in the stories glimpse their goal they burst out into hilarious laughter.

    My attempts at levity here sometimes work and sometimes do not. Sometimes when you guys get into theology and epistemology it gets too heavy for my ability to keep up. I try hard not to try too hard, but if I sense that there is humor I’m going to go for it. My intention is not derisive but loving.

    In levitas veritas.

  • Richard Wade

    Monkeymind,
    Ah I found out the problem with the Nasruda link. The link box provides an http:// and you can inadvertantly end up with two of them in the URL. I’m ordering the book. Thanks again.

  • Miko

    What is 1 plus 1? He looked around and saw some rocks, He picked up one and then he picked up another. He looked at them and said that “I have it! 1 plus 1 is 2!”. He felt so good that he ran to tell his friend the answer, too. His friend looked at him and said “Why can’t it be 3?” and so the debate was formed…

    Like god, it’s not something we can debate except from a position of ignorance. Russell and Whitehead have about six hundred pages of solid mathematics leading up to the justification of 1+1=2 in Principia Mathematica. From a naive perspective, 2 and 3 are meaningless formal symbols that can well be defined as solutions to 1+1 and 1+2 (axiomized arithmetic does this: e.e:se and e.se:sse). From a fundamentals perspective, it’s been so justified that only an expert could stand to read the details. From any perspective, there is an answer to the question beyond debate.

    The curiosity to know something comes from the Creator. The clues to find the answer comes from the Creator. The answer comes from the Creator.

    If this were the case, all answers would cease to have value. God told me that he doesn’t exist. And he’s god, so you believe him, right?

  • Miko

    It’s a Spong-ism. For want of a better description, because there are no words for it, it is that numinous feeling inside you when you experience the awe and wonder of what is coming from the world or the universe. So much easier to say Ground of All Being. Less of a mouthful. Surely you can’t say you haven’t experience this awe and wonder.

    I’ve experienced awe and wonder, but they weren’t coming from either the world or the universe. Rather in the other direction. ;-)

  • Richard Wade

    If this were the case, all answers would cease to have value. God told me that he doesn’t exist. And he’s god, so you believe him, right?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (with applause)

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

    In levitas veritas.

    I love it! :))

  • Tommy Huntsman

    I get it. I can’t count so there is no god. Or what I say is too hard for anyone to understand. I just need to listen to all the other people’s theology and teachings to find out who and what god is. So far I’ve heard buddha is the way, hindu is the way, spongebob is the way, humanism is the way, and a host of others. All of them saying how to find some secret path. I have told you what you need to find the truth. Whenever you need it, you will remember it. God comes to everyone in His time. You won’t find Him until you bow your head.

  • Keith

    I think Miko’s 5:10 post is about as good an answer to your point as you’re likely to get. By the way, the quote above is from Miko, not from me.

    My apologies, Darryl & Miko. I really appreciate all the good discussion. Thanks as always, guys.

  • Ash

    status – newbie

    so hi there…

    Mike C. – interesting…, don’t agree with some of your views (the god thing being a blatant example), but i like the fact that you’re not trying to beat my views into submission with your holy tome…

    Tommy Huntsman – woah, down boy. god loves you (and oh boy, you should be grateful), and he listens to you – why not go talk to him instead? aw, bless…

    Miko – you hurt my head. in a good way, but damn you make me feel stoopid.

    so back to the point – Mike C., i want to know about this quote –

    “I don’t feel as if I have to “reject” a lot from the Bible or Christianity to maintain my faith. Rather, it has been a re-discovery of what I think was there all along and just got buried by our theological systems.”

    how does this affect your readings of some of the more unpalatable biblical stories (i.e. sodom + gomorrah)? what is your stance on organised religion as opposed to individual faith? can a rational tolerant christian be part of a long established church tradition given that christian church’s have been historically involved in gross human atrocities, power and wealth garnering and were not initiated or authorised by jesus himself? also, what’s your position on women in christianity – as there is no unequivocal endorsement of equality in the bible, and several quotes of womens inferiority to men.

    if you’ve covered these subjects in previous posts, please point me to them – it took me 2 hours to trawl through this one!

  • Richard Wade

    Off topic, forgive me.
    Does anyone know what has happened to MTran? I worry because I understand he has health issues. I may submit this question on one other posting here, please excuse the redundancy.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    I seem to have upset some of you. That was not my intention. I was just trying to let it be known how to find Jesus. I apologize to everyone. I believe that everyone is loved by God, even the village idiot.
    What I find oddly curious is that those that say there is no god, try to say how they think that god should be. How He should reveal Himself and solve all the problems in the world. Make everyone happy right away. If there is no god why would it matter?
    I don’t really understand how god spoke and said he didn’t exist. If he spoke doesn’t that prove he exists? But I do get the point, as most people do not think that god speaks or leads them. My only point is that there can only be one God. He has to be the same God for everyone. One correct answer for every question.
    I believe God allows us to do as we please. We can talk to Him as we please. He knows our hearts and knows all the things we will do. I believe the Holy Spirit convicts us when we get to a point in our lives that God knows we will respond. Sometimes that is as a child and sometimes it is when we are older. It took me along time to find out how God works and what He wants. How to follow His guidance. How to spend time with Him. How to forgive those those that may not do exactly what I think God’s servants should do.
    It is only because of my belief that Jesus is the only way, that I wanted to tell everyone how to find Jesus. You may not care now, but you, or someone you meet may have a need to know. I did not mean to upset anyone by the things I have said. Most of the things I say are my attempts at humor. I find most of the things written here to be contradictory and humorous.

  • Miko

    Miko – you hurt my head. in a good way, but damn you make me feel stoopid.

    It probably goes without saying, but just in case: that’s not my intention. :-)

    What I find oddly curious is that those that say there is no god, try to say how they think that god should be. How He should reveal Himself and solve all the problems in the world. If there is no god why would it matter?

    Having a theological discussion with Christians is usually rather difficult and even more unsatisfying when atheists refuse to make such concessions. One side has to do so if we’re to get anywhere, so it might as well be the side that holds up free thought and critical thinking as their aims.

  • Miko

    how does this affect your readings of some of the more unpalatable biblical stories (i.e. sodom + gomorrah)? … if you’ve covered these subjects in previous posts, please point me to them – it took me 2 hours to trawl through this one!

    I’d be interested in hearing whatever else Mike has to say on the subject as well, although I worry about wearing him out. He doesn’t address those specific questions, but part 3 and its comments sort of went in this direction.

    P.S. S&G gets my vote for the ‘most unpalatable Bible story’ award.

  • Mriana

    I can think of a whole lot more unpalitable Bible stories, I just don’t know which one I’d place at #1.

  • Julie Marie

    I”d have to put Lot throwing his daughters to the crowd to be violated, in order to protect the angels visiting his household near, if not, #1.

  • Julie Marie

    I”d have to put Lot throwing his daughters to the crowd to be violated, in order to protect the angels visiting his household near, if not, #1.

  • Miko

    I’m not overly interested in enumerating the bad things in the Bible (since that’s practically a life’s work), but I could see any of the following as worst:

    1. Sodom and Gomorrah
    2. Holy Spirit killing Egyptian firstborn males
    3. Joshua at Jericho
    4. Jephthah’s daughter
    5. Abraham and Isaac
    6. The Flood
    7. Saul and the Amalekites (at least it’s short.)
    any many more…

    If we’re judging by death count, the Flood would have to take the cake. If we’re judging by unfairness, the Holy Spirit in Egypt and Jephthah are certainly in the running. But Sodom has to be the story with the longest lasting negative influence on our society.

    I must admit it’s a bit disturbing that this list also includes some of the more popular Bible stories.

    If we were talking individual Bible verses, I can’t imagine any competition for Exodus 22:18 (“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”) under the same standard of measuring the harm it has caused.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    Having a theological discussion with Christians is usually rather difficult and even more unsatisfying when atheists refuse to make such concessions. One side has to do so if we’re to get anywhere, so it might as well be the side that holds up free thought and critical thinking as their aims.

    And then reject any concept of god or what he might have really said. Then decide what you think is wrong with the bible. Free thinking.

  • Darryl

    Huntsman, you’re trapped inside a room full of mirrors.

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

    Hey Ash, welcome! Thanks for the additional questions.

    You asked:

    i want to know about this quote -

    “I don’t feel as if I have to “reject” a lot from the Bible or Christianity to maintain my faith. Rather, it has been a re-discovery of what I think was there all along and just got buried by our theological systems.”

    how does this affect your readings of some of the more unpalatable biblical stories (i.e. sodom + gomorrah)?

    I realize that several here have asked me about this and I’ve gotten too sidetracked to really address it. Sorry about that (especially to C.L. Hanson who has been waiting so patiently). BTW, I’m going to cut and paste part of my answer here from a comment I wrote for Richard Wade on my blog, so if you think you’ve read some of this before, you have.

    Let me start by saying that I can’t explain all of it myself. There are still plenty of parts of the Bible that don’t make sense to me and some that really disturb me. I don’t think I’m completely capable of justifying all the ways of God throughout the Bible (though I’m not sure I should be able to – if I understood everything about God, I’d doubt that s/he really is God).

    But anyhow, to your question. It’s easy to point to some of the more violent stories of the Bible and think that they are just senseless acts of smiting, divine overreaction as it were, but I think that may result simply from a surface reading of the text without really delving into the meaning of the stories. Personally, I didn’t really start to understand the biblical stories until I started to understand injustice and how much God hates it. As I became aware of all the injustices in our own world – from sex trafficking, to modern slavery, to exploitation of the poor, to gender related violence, to genocide, etc., etc. – I started to realize that most of the time when God seems so angry or violent in the Bible, it’s because he’s angry at these kind of injustices.

    That’s the tension throughout all of scripture is that God is both a God of love but also a God of justice. He fights for the cause of the oppressed, the poor, and the abandoned – so it’s natural that he would seem a fearful and vindictive God to those of us (like most of us in modern Western society) who more closely identify with the wealthy oppressors. But frankly, I don’t think the Bible was written primarily to people like us (wealthy, educated, powerful). Try reading the Bible instead through the eyes of a Latin American peasant, or a Sudanese refugee, or a Southeast Asian sweatshop worker – suddenly the God of the OT seems like a welcome figure of liberation and justice.

    I’m very serious about this. Until we read the Bible through the eyes of the marginalized and oppressed, I don’t think we’ll really understand it, since the vast majority of it was written by and for a marginalized and oppressed people. Until we learn to get very angry about the oppressions that still go on in our own world, I don’t think we will be able to understand why God gets so angry too.

    Just one example, try not to read the Exodus as a story of God smiting the innocent Egyptians. Instead read it from the point of view of an escaped slave fleeing for your life against the might of the most powerful empire on earth at that time. Put it into our own times. What if the story was about God standing in the way of the Nazis as they were about to perpetrate the Holocaust, or in the way of the Sudanese nationals as they slaughter the people of Darfur? Suddenly God’s violence seems a little more justified – after all we don’t fault the Allies for smiting the Nazis as we liberated Jews and other Europeans from their oppression, do we? It’s a similar kind of thing.

    Oh, and another example – you’ve all mentioned Sodom & Gomorrah, but I think you’ve probably been misled by the Jerry Falwell’s out there into thinking that God smote S&G for homosexuality. The Bible says nothing of the sort. In fact, the Bible is very clear what Sodom’s crime really was. Ezekiel 16:49 says “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” In other words, Sodom’s sin was injustice – and again, God takes oppression or even apathy towards the poor and oppressed very, very seriously. (BTW, Sodom here does sound an awful lot like another contemporary society we’re all familiar with. I concur with Billy Graham that “if God doesn’t judge America, he’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah”. Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned – yeah, that sounds about right.)

    But I think you probably get my point. Again, I’m not saying I can explain away every disturbing thing in the Bible this way – there are still lots of parts that I want to hope weren’t really from God. But using these new lenses, the lenses of the oppressed, a lot of things about the Bible have started to become a lot more clear.

    BTW, I think part of the point of Jesus’ message is that he comes to offer mercy not just for the oppressed but for the oppressors as well, because Jesus points out that the oppressed too often turn into the oppressors once the tables are turned. This is the story of Israel in the OT – everytime God liberates them from one oppressor, they turn right around and start oppressing others – so God smacks them down again. In the NT the Jews are again looking for liberation from their oppressors (Rome) but Jesus’ message is that they are really oppressing themselves – through the exploitative Temple system they’ve set up, through their racist and exclusionary religious rules, through their own inclination towards violence and hatred. Basically what Jesus says is “This whole time you’ve been praying for God to smite the oppressors and bless the oppressed, but what happens when the oppressed are their own oppressors? What if the problem is that all people, oppressed and oppressors, have the same inclinations toward violence and evil and injustice? What if the only solution is to break the cycle of revenge and offer forgiveness and peace to both sides?”

    Again, this is why Jesus was crucified – the Jews were looking for just another liberation from their external enemies, and Jesus said, no, first you need a liberation from yourselves, from the enemy within. That’s not what they wanted to hear, so they killed him.

    One other point I should make too about how to understand the disturbing parts of the Bible: we need to realize that most of the characters in the stories are not perfect. The Bible is actually quite amazing among ancient literature in that it constantly gives us flawed heroes. We are not supposed to read stories about Lot sleeping with his daughters or Jephthah sacrificing his daughter as if they were exemplary stories that we should emulate. These stories are intended as cautionary tales about how badly wrong even the people of God can tend to go. It would be absolutely ridiculous to assume that “Well, it’s in the Bible so God must approve of it.” Not at all. It’s in the Bible so that we can see how sick and twisted we humans can tend to get, even when (or sometimes, especially when) we think we’re obeying God.

    And again, this ties back again into Jesus’ constant critique of the religious people of his day. He was constantly saying to them, “You think you’ve got it just because you act religious and follow all the rules – but you keep missing out on what is most important – justice & mercy.” (cf. Matthew 23:23)

    Anyhow, I hope that gives you at least some idea of how I begin to make sense of these difficult parts of scripture. I’ll try tackling the rest of your questions in another post. Though I should let all of you know that I’m leaving early tomorrow morning to hang out at a castle all weekend, so I won’t be able to respond to any of your further comments until late Monday. Sorry. :(

    -Mike

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

    Ash, you also asked:

    what is your stance on organised religion as opposed to individual faith?

    I’m not a huge fan of institutionalized Christianity, though at the same time I don’t think the Christian faith was meant to be done in isolation either. Instead, I think what we need are true communities – gatherings of friends who are united in a common passion and mission and who are sharing life together authentically and openly. To me that is the most basic definition of the Church – people doing life together.

    can a rational tolerant christian be part of a long established church tradition given that christian church’s have been historically involved in gross human atrocities, power and wealth garnering and were not initiated or authorised by jesus himself?

    It depends. Is that church still involved in those sorts of activities or have they repudiated and repented of them? You’re never going to find any human institution without some kind of a checkered past – the question is whether they’ve grown past it or not.

    If not, then I’d suggest either leaving and finding (or creating) a community that reflects your own values, or (for those of a more courageous spirit), staying and working as a positive force for change from within. I tried the latter approach in my old conservative Baptist church, but I was eventually booted when it became clear that they didn’t want to change so I shifted to the former approach instead and decided to start a new kind of church.

    what’s your position on women in christianity – as there is no unequivocal endorsement of equality in the bible, and several quotes of womens inferiority to men.

    I wouldn’t say no endorsements. Galatians 3:28 seems pretty unequivocal to me. I’ve also blogged about the numerous other places in scripture that affirm female equality and leadership. And I should also say that the few places in the New Testament that seem to imply female subordination (and there are really only a handful) are universally taken out of their historical, textual and/or cultural context and thereby grossly misinterpreted (IMHO).

    But at any rate, I am very pro-gender equality. In fact, my wife is co-pastor with me, and she also runs the Emerging Women blog and puts on several conferences a year all over the country to encourage female leadership within the church.

    Anyhow, I hope that answers you questions, and again, I won’t be able to respond any further until Monday. Have a great weekend everyone! :)

  • Miko

    (though I’m not sure I should be able to – if I understood everything about God, I’d doubt that s/he really is God).

    I’ll never be able to understand how not understanding something could be viewed as a good thing…

    Just one example, try not to read the Exodus as a story of God smiting the innocent Egyptians. Instead read it from the point of view of an escaped slave fleeing for your life against the might of the most powerful empire on earth at that time. Put it into our own times. What if the story was about God standing in the way of the Nazis as they were about to perpetrate the Holocaust

    Since God went around killing young children, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t innocent. The WWII parallel would have to be the fire bombing of Dresden or the nuking of Japan, all of which I would say were war crimes regardless of circumstance.

    The Bible is actually quite amazing among ancient literature in that it constantly gives us flawed heroes. We are not supposed to read stories about Lot sleeping with his daughters or Jephthah sacrificing his daughter as if they were exemplary stories that we should emulate. These stories are intended as cautionary tales about how badly wrong even the people of God can tend to go.

    At Lot’s request, God delayed smiting the cities and agreed to leave intact the city Lot decided to go to. Lot was a rapist; Lot’s wife looked over her shoulder; the people of the cities were allegedly uncharitable. (And really: every person who lived in the city was so evil as to deserve death? Hard to believe. Sounds more like a stereotype that a primitive man from a different area would hurl on them.) I think God needs to rethink his priorities.

    As for Jephthah, according to Judges 11:32, God accepted his deal.

    As I became aware of all the injustices in our own world – from sex trafficking, to modern slavery, to exploitation of the poor, to gender related violence, to genocide, etc., etc. – I started to realize that most of the time when God seems so angry or violent in the Bible, it’s because he’s angry at these kind of injustices.

    I’ll take Gandhi over God any day of the week. God’s way seems more like becoming a worse version of the thing you’re trying to overcome. He also seems much more interested in his “chosen people” than in fighting injustice: he led Moses and his people out of slavery in Egypt only to give them instructions on how to keep slaves of their own nine chapters later.

    You can interpret away, but I doubt you would think these actions were justified if they had been committed by anyone other than God. (My apologies if any of this comes across as overly harsh.)

  • Darryl

    A third of our country is hurting the rest by their ignorance and religious paranoia. Read it and weep:

    GALLUP: Nearly 1 in 3 Believe Bible is Literal Word of God

    By E&P Staff

    Published: May 25, 2007 10:05 AM ET

    NEW YORK About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word, a new Gallup poll reveals. This percentage is only slightly lower than several decades ago.

    Gallup reports that the majority of those “who don’t believe that the Bible is literally true believe that it is the inspired word of God but that not everything it in should be taken literally.” Finally, about one in five Americans believe the Bible is merely an ancient book of “fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man.”

    There is also a strong relationship between education and belief in a literal Bible, Gallup explains, with such belief becoming much less prevalent as schooling continues.

    Those who believe in the literal Bible amount to 31% of adult Americans. This is a decline of about 7% compared with Gallup polls taken in the 1970s and 1980s. It is strongest in the South.

    Believe in the literal word of the Bible is strongest among those whose schooling stopped with high school and declines steadily with educational level, with only 20% of college graduates holding that view and 11% of those with an advanced degree.

  • Darryl

    P.S. Sometimes I wonder if President Lincoln did the right thing holding the Union together. Look at all the crap that the South has given us since the Civil War. My heart beats a little faster when I permit myself to daydream of a U.S. without Texas. If this North American Union thing happens, I say we in the North join with Canada and give the South to the Mexicans.

  • Mriana

    Believe in the literal word of the Bible is strongest among those whose schooling stopped with high school and declines steadily with educational level, with only 20% of college graduates holding that view and 11% of those with an advanced degree.

    That’s sad. You would think it would be lower than that with advance education, but maybe that is the people who go to seminary. Who knows.

    Look at all the crap that the South has given us since the Civil War.

    HEY! I live (regretably, except for the milder winters) south of the Mason-Dixon Line and I’m not crap. :( I don’t think so at least. I’m hurt. :( OK I’ll admit, I’m a bit weird, but not crap or giving crap. I certainly hope not at least.

  • Richard Wade

    There, there, you’re not crap. I think Darryl was using metaphorical crap.

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t know Darryl. Texas not part of the Union? They were a separate country very briefly. I saw the Texas embassy in London. Can you imagine an independent Texas with its own army, navy and nukes? (shiver)

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    What if the story was about God standing in the way of the Nazis as they were about to perpetrate the Holocaust, or in the way of the Sudanese nationals as they slaughter the people of Darfur? Suddenly God’s violence seems a little more justified – after all we don’t fault the Allies for smiting the Nazis as we liberated Jews and other Europeans from their oppression, do we? It’s a similar kind of thing.

    CARR

    Exodus 4:21
    The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

    The Allies hardened Hitler’s heart, just like God hardened Pharoah’s heart.

    And then the Allies killed very one of the first born in Germany.

    And we call them heroes for doing that, while wonder if an all-powerful God needed to kill people to achieve his results.

    We atheists are such hypocrites!

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    Just one example, try not to read the Exodus as a story of God smiting the innocent Egyptians…..

    CARR
    Presumably Pharoah never oppressed and subjugated a single Egyptian.

    God didn’t do anything to help the Egyptians under the yoke of the Pharoahs.

    Mike is quite happy to call the poor , oppressed Egyptians ‘Nazis’ – without ever having met an ordinary Egyptian in the field.

    I guess that is the Christian love coming through.

    Mike compared the luxurious living standards of the Jewish leaders , ‘…while the vast majority of Jews lived in abject poverty – on the level that most people in the Third World live today….;

    Just like Pharoah and the Egyptians?

    I wonder why God sent an angel to kill the first born of the vast majority of Egyptians who lived in abject poverty – on the level that most people in the the Third World live today.

    Because God cares for the poor and oppressed?

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The bible is a symbolic spiritual book. The OT shows mans fall and the reasons he needs jesus. The story of Lot is one of lust. Lot was drawn to S & G by his desires. When he was told it would be destroyed. (the lust in his heart) He couldn’t find anything that should be saved. He lost his wife and even after the lust in his heart was destroyed, his daughters came to him so they could have the child of lust. Doesn’t lust still exist today?
    I was told in an english class once that there are only so many stories in books. The writers change the scenery and the time, but the story is still the same. The death angel passed over Eygpt and killed the first born sons. This was to free the slaves. Didn’t we have a Civil War to do the same thing? Weren’t a lot of first born sons killed then? The bible repeats itself throughout history.
    Because it is a symbolic spiritual book, people have used it to pursue their own interests. It has caused more evil than good, because of mans sins, not gods.
    Every person refered to in the bible represents a path that people choose to walk in their life. When you recognize the path you are on, you can then find the path out.
    I can understand the difficulty in a god belief. Moses led the people to the edge of the promised land. Then their doubt kept them from going in.
    The horror stories are stories of our making. We read about them in the bible, but if we look around, we see the same things going on today.
    How can we say, “I reject god, because idon’t understand the bible.”? Isn’t it more like, “I don’t understand the bible because I reject god”?

  • Tommy Huntsman

    mike said
    BTW, I think part of the point of Jesus’ message is that he comes to offer mercy not just for the oppressed but for the oppressors as well, because Jesus points out that the oppressed too often turn into the oppressors once the tables are turned. This is the story of Israel in the OT – everytime God liberates them from one oppressor, they turn right around and start oppressing others – so God smacks them down again. In the NT the Jews are again looking for liberation from their oppressors (Rome) but Jesus’ message is that they are really oppressing themselves – through the exploitative Temple system they’ve set up, through their racist and exclusionary religious rules, through their own inclination towards violence and hatred. Basically what Jesus says is “This whole time you’ve been praying for God to smite the oppressors and bless the oppressed, but what happens when the oppressed are their own oppressors? What if the problem is that all people, oppressed and oppressors, have the same inclinations toward violence and evil and injustice? What if the only solution is to break the cycle of revenge and offer forgiveness and peace to both sides?”

    Again, this is why Jesus was crucified – the Jews were looking for just another liberation from their external enemies, and Jesus said, no, first you need a liberation from yourselves, from the enemy within. That’s not what they wanted to hear, so they killed him.

    I agree with this part. And it is what I am trying to say also.

  • txatheist

    Darryl and Richard,
    Yes, Texas is really messed up. I can’t tell you exactly how this mentality came about but I’ll share my interpretation. Texas has a real historical problem of thinking they are god’s chosen people. They brag about everything being bigger in Texas when the reality is no one wanted to live here and to reach Union population requirements it took a whole lot of land. But they just love to brag about the size, not the reason. Texans speak out of both sides of their mouth. They curse illegal labor for getting free healthcare, sending money earned here to Mexico and not paying taxes when they work. Yet, Texans don’t do the work like construction, landscaping, digging ditches and bussing tables. You should hear them Texans crying about the new minimum wage. They literally believe most Texans “work hard”. My rear end. I do not work hard in the slightest. My easiest day detasselling corn or in the Navy is still way harder than sitting at a desk crunching numbers. I ain’t complaining about how much I have to pay in taxes but these Texans do. They really would rather pay less in taxes and let a kid go without school provided lunches or have healthcare. They need a new Ford F-350 you know. The death penalty has never been a deterant of crime level but they repeatedly say it sends a message to criminals. If someone is a criminal they ain’t worried about the consequences, they are only thinking about the reward. Racism was already explained when Hemant visited Forth Worth and some putz thought Ravi would be good reading. Texas education is last or next to last and repeatedly we hear the Texans crying ” throwing money at the problem won’t solve it”, meaning paying teachers more to get a better candidate pool. However, they think vouchers will solve everything because privatization is smaller government. Not enough parents realize that stupid Texans raise another generation of stupid Texans and it’s not the school systems fault. Are there many good Texans? Yes, but not nearly enough and if you dare say something liberal you are labeled a liberal and that’s almost like saying commie in most of Texas. And they love to say Bush was born in CT, not Texas so he ain’t a Texan(now that he’s a failure) but Texans loved him and voted in him as governor with little reservation. He’s looks, talks and thinks like a Texan…he’s a typical Texan.
    p.s. Some of us are here to fight the good fight. Today is Saturday, time to counter protest the fundies at the local planned parenthood.

  • txatheist

    Darryl and Richard,
    Yes, Texas is really messed up. I can’t tell you exactly how this mentality came about but I’ll share my interpretation. Texas has a real historical problem of thinking they are god’s chosen people. They brag about everything being bigger in Texas when the reality is no one wanted to live here and to reach Union population requirements it took a whole lot of land. But they just love to brag about the size, not the reason. Texans speak out of both sides of their mouth. They curse illegal labor for getting free healthcare, sending money earned here to Mexico and not paying taxes when they work. Yet, Texans don’t do the work like construction, landscaping, digging ditches and bussing tables. You should hear them Texans crying about the new minimum wage. They literally believe most Texans “work hard”. My rear end. I do not work hard in the slightest. My easiest day detasselling corn or in the Navy is still way harder than sitting at a desk crunching numbers. I ain’t complaining about how much I have to pay in taxes but these Texans do. They really would rather pay less in taxes and let a kid go without school provided lunches or have healthcare. They need a new Ford F-350 you know. The death penalty has never been a deterant of crime level but they repeatedly say it sends a message to criminals. If someone is a criminal they ain’t worried about the consequences, they are only thinking about the reward. Racism was already explained when Hemant visited Forth Worth and some putz thought Ravi would be good reading. Texas education is last or next to last and repeatedly we hear the Texans crying ” throwing money at the problem won’t solve it”, meaning paying teachers more to get a better candidate pool. However, they think vouchers will solve everything because privatization is smaller government. Not enough parents realize that stupid Texans raise another generation of stupid Texans and it’s not the school systems fault. Are there many good Texans? Yes, but not nearly enough and if you dare say something liberal you are labeled a liberal and that’s almost like saying commie in most of Texas. And they love to say Bush was born in CT, not Texas so he ain’t a Texan(now that he’s a failure) but Texans loved him and voted in him as governor with little reservation. He’s looks, talks and thinks like a Texan…he’s a typical Texan.
    p.s. Some of us are here to fight the good fight. Today is Saturday, time to counter protest the fundies at the local planned parenthood.

  • Darryl

    Mriana, of course you’re not crap. I was excluding all you good folks that keep the South from going to Hell overnight.

    Richard, you’ve got a point. I suppose having Texas in the Union helps us keep an eye on those rascals.

    Txatheist, go get ‘em! Forgive me if you’ve all heard this one, but I think it was General Sheridan that said “If I owned Hell and Texas, I’d live in Hell and rent out Texas.”

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    May 26, 2007 at 2:24 am

    There, there, you’re not crap. I think Darryl was using metaphorical crap.

    Thank you. I feel a little better now. :)

    What if the story was about God standing in the way of the Nazis as they were about to perpetrate the Holocaust, or in the way of the Sudanese nationals as they slaughter the people of Darfur? Suddenly God’s violence seems a little more justified – after all we don’t fault the Allies for smiting the Nazis as we liberated Jews and other Europeans from their oppression, do we?

    God didn’t do any of that. HUMANS did it! Humans did all of that. What I want to know is why do people blame a supernatural deity for the things they do wrong? Why do they give credit to a supernatural deity, with little to no credit to the human, when they do well? It’s crazy.

    Mike compared the luxurious living standards of the Jewish leaders , ‘…while the vast majority of Jews lived in abject poverty – on the level that most people in the Third World live today….;

    That’s what I’m talking about. The Jews, as well as other people worked hard for their achievements, yet they get no credit for it. God blessed them or something crazy like that and they get no credit for their hard work. Either that, or the rich are called evil because the poor are so bad off that they will be blessed. It’s insane.

    Darryl said,

    May 26, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Mriana, of course you’re not crap. I was excluding all you good folks that keep the South from going to Hell overnight.

    Thanks. I try but the Religious Reicht is VERY strong down here and drive people crazy- one way or the other. :roll: If you aren’t religiously crazy, you’re crazy fighting the Religious Reich so that Church and State stay separate, among other things. :roll: They don’t give up.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    MIKE C
    What if the story was about God standing in the way of the Nazis as they were about to perpetrate the Holocaust, or in the way of the Sudanese nationals as they slaughter the people of Darfur? Suddenly God’s violence seems a little more justified – after all we don’t fault the Allies for smiting the Nazis as we liberated Jews and other Europeans from their oppression, do we? It’s a similar kind of thing.

    CARR

    Exodus 4:21
    The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

    The Allies hardened Hitler’s heart, just like God hardened Pharoah’s heart.

    And then the Allies killed very one of the first born in Germany.

    And we call them heroes for doing that, while wonder if an all-powerful God needed to kill people to achieve his results.

    We atheists are such hypocrites!

    Tommy
    I love the way you write. Your points are easy to understand.

    God hardened Pharoahs heart. Pharoah realized that if he let the people go he would lose his workforce. It was the truth of this that made him refuse. God is the truth.

  • Miko

    How can we say, “I reject god, because idon’t understand the bible.”? Isn’t it more like, “I don’t understand the bible because I reject god”?

    No, it’s more like: “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand. ” (Mark Twain)

    God didn’t do any of that. HUMANS did it! Humans did all of that. What I want to know is why do people blame a supernatural deity for the things they do wrong? Why do they give credit to a supernatural deity, with little to no credit to the human, when they do well? It’s crazy.

    Every civilization in history has done that. The only difference with the Jews was that they made the unfortunate decision to write down their bigotry and superstition so that people today could still think it was fact.

    I think that that would be the most disturbing part of being a Christian: if you think that god not only exists but also is good, then you’re forced to look over these reams of barbaric stories and conclude that god’s ‘actions’ in them are good as well. Honestly, as our moral development as a society marches ever onward, I think that there’s going to come a time when Christianity is either going to have to repudiate the Bible or disband. And I have no idea what choice they’ll make when that time comes.

    Can you imagine an independent Texas with its own army, navy and nukes? (shiver)

    I think that if Texas had stayed independent, they would have never developed a public education system. That means that while they might have formed an army, I doubt that anyone would have developed the necessary technical skills required for a navy or nukes. And since their army would have quickly ended up way behind the US’s, we wouldn’t have much to fear from them as long as someone stopped them from smuggling in guns.

  • Mriana

    I think that that would be the most disturbing part of being a Christian: if you think that god
    not only exists but also is good, then you’re
    forced to look over these reams of barbaric stories
    and conclude that god’s ‘actions’ in them are good
    as well.

    That sounds almost like the Stockholm Syndrome. Dad beats you because you were bad and deserved it, thus you’ll become a better person. :roll:

  • Mariann

    Matthew 18:34 You must forgive,to be forgiven.When you don’t forgive,You keep it,it torments you.You are not set free from it.,When you forgive you are set free.

  • Mariann

    I think the parable is saying if some one wants you to forgive,you should forgive them.If God will forgive you ,should’nt you have compassion and forgive them.Why should God forgive you, if you wont forgive.

  • Steven Carr

    MARIANN
    I think the parable is saying if some one wants you to forgive,you should forgive them.If God will forgive you ,should’nt you have compassion and forgive them.Why should God forgive you, if you wont forgive.

    CARR
    I think Jesus put this idea across very well in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’

    The parable claims that God forgives people a large debt that they cannot repay and then has the people he has forgiven tortured.

    We can put the parable in modern terms.

    If we cancel the large debts of 3rd world countries that they owe to us, we would be very angry with them if they then insisted on us paying them what we owe them for the goods we buy from them.

  • Richard Wade

    Exodus 4:21
    The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

    Can somebody help me out with another free will paradox? If God hardens the Pharaoh’s heart then he’s manipulating the man’s thoughts and feelings. His thoughts and feelings are not his own. So the Pharaoh has no free will of his own to choose to bend to God’s will or not?

    So here’s God playing with his two action figures, Moses and Pharaoh the way Dark Helmet plays with his in “Spaceballs,” wiggling the Moses and Pharaoh action figures as he makes them speak, think, feel and act out whatever he wants:

    Moses action figure: “Let my people go!”

    Pharaoh action figure: “You will serve me and build my kingdom. So shall it be written, so shall it be done!”

    God, wispering to the Moses action figure: “Don’t worry Moses, you’re gonna kick his ass seven times with the magic I’m gonna give you, but I’m gonna make him still be a hard ass so he wont cave in the first time so you can kick his ass some more.”

    Moses action figure: “Woe unto you Egypt! Prepare for your first ass kicking!”

    And so the completely contrived melodrama wears on.

    If there is a single thought, feeling or action that is manipulated by god and not the freely chosen domain of the action figures then the entire concept of free will is bullshit and none of us have to worry about any of it because even the nonsense I’m writing this very second is just God wiggling another action figure, and the “Yes, you’re right” thought in some of you and the “No, you’re wrong” thought in others of you are not your own, they’re just more dialogue supplied by Dark Helmet. No mind, no will, no consciousness, just empty pawns in a stupid pointless game of pretend.

    So did Pharaoh have free will or not?

  • Pam M

    Sounds like a chess game to me. This god seems to have total control of the match. If this behavior is what people who believe in god call “all powerful” and “all knowing” they are certainly the ultimate in control freaks.

  • Mariann

    Parable matthew 18,Not just forgiving a debt,but forgiving in your heart.
    The old testament for us is a guide ,we see the right way to go in life through many of the stories.some are allegories.Like in kings,when the king did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord the people suffered.
    Sometimes God intervenes when a prophecy is to be fullfilled.All the prophecies are to be fullfilled.

  • Mriana

    There are a few things I don’t get:

    See in the 10th commandment women are property, but if you hear today’s Christians talk that one was for a different time. YET, Paul wanted women to cover their heads, not wear jewlery, etc Women are to be silent in church, but the churches could change that and ordain women as priest (Anglican) etc.

    Blacks could not be ordain for a while based on something in the Bible. I forget now, but the Mormans still use it and even go as far as to say only white people will get into heaven. :roll:

    BUT… When the Episcopal church goes and ordain gays the Conservatives squawk and throw a tantrum. Everything about women and slavery now applies to a different time, when not too long ago, it didn’t. As recently as the 1800s women were not much higher than slaves on the social ladder. They were also property, but not placed in the same book as slaves though. 1960s women could not be priest in the Anglican church. Yet that thing on gays still applies today when it doesn’t to women and alike.

    Why is it, there is always one group the religious try hard to keep down and not allow them human dignity? Not that I want to see same sex couples kiss in public, I don’t, but then I don’t appreciate it when hetrosexual couples kiss all over each other in public either. I just think everyone should be happy and if someone makes a person happy, why not?

    So, as I said, times have changed for women and Blacks, but not for others? Therefore people have to fight over something that seems so stupid to argue over it in this day and age. It makes no sense, esp in light of scientific knowledge.

  • Richard Wade

    Why is it, there is always one group the religious try hard to keep down and not allow them human dignity?

    One at a time each oppressed group only gains its liberation through long hard struggle, never because the oppressors suddenly have a change of heart. Later the oppressors like to minimize their role in the oppression. Women and people of color still have a ways to go in their fight for equality in this country. The battle has just begun for gays. After they win their liberation guess who will be the next group to really start their long struggle?

    It should be said that not all religious people actively condone such scripture-rationalized bigotry. Unfortunately not enough of them actively protest that bigotry either. As my dear old agnostic dad said, “Apathy is the greatest force in the world.”

  • Mriana

    Women and people of color still have a ways to go in their fight for equality in this country.

    I know. I’m a woman with two bi-racial sons.

    The battle has just begun for gays. After they win their liberation guess who will be the next group to really start their long struggle?

    Who? The Humanists, Atheist and other non-theists groups who don’t agree with the Bible? I thought we all already started that struggle.

    It should be said that not all religious people actively condone such scripture-rationalized bigotry. Unfortunately not enough of them actively protest that bigotry either. As my dear old agnostic dad said, “Apathy is the greatest force in the world.”

    This is true. Sad but true. Look at the Religious Humanists, Progressive/Libral Christians in the Anglican church. They backed down from the Conservative Anglicans really quickly just to save the Anglican Communion. :roll:

  • Richard Wade

    Who? The Humanists, Atheist and other non-theists groups who don’t agree with the Bible? I thought we all already started that struggle.

    I think what we see, even with the recent best selling books out lately are just the first faint murmurings. In the case of gay people, competing and conflicting laws about supporting or suppressing their rights are now being introduced in different states. That’s the sign of a battle in earnest. We’re not at that stage yet. Only later will history decide when the rumblings became an eruption, when rising awareness became strident action.

    This is a long process that spans generations. It is marked by gains, losses and casualties.

  • Mriana

    Yes, because the women’s movement began in the late 1800s when we finally gain the right to vote before 1900 (Women’s Sufferage). This battle for equality continued well into 1970 with the Women’s Lib Movement and the ERA. Then there was the glass-ceiling which is still being fought today, among other things.

    Even before Women’s suffage, John Adam’s wife (Abigail) wrote her husband with a letter asking him, “Remember the women.” Thus the battle for equality for women has gone on long before 1776. So, that IS many, many generations of women struggling to gain rights.

  • Miko

    Why is it, there is always one group the religious try hard to keep down and not allow them human dignity?

    To add to what Richard said, Christians didn’t give up on the other groups without a fight. The process in the US is basically always the same: first the group or some representative protests publically, then people attack them for being rude, then a court case comes up and asserts rights for the group, then people attack the court for legislating from the bench where that is defined to mean upholding the Constitution, then another generation is born and fails to see the distinction the previous generation means, and then they try to claim that Christianity never led people to be bigots in order to protect themselves from the shame.

    Take slavery, for example. There were a few people opposed to slavery who bent over backward to justify opposing it Biblically (“well, the Bible says to love your neighbor. And the word ‘neighbor’ could more accurately be translated as fellow non-slave coreligionist, but if we pretend it doesn’t, we can use that to justify abolition”) while the vast majority including the pastors pointed out that the Bible was pretty pro-slavery and preached eloquently on why God wanted us to keep it up (paraphrasing the standard example, “what the Bible condoned in the Old Testament and allowed in the New cannot be a sin”).

    That’s one of the biggest problems with religionists: by assuming that they’ve got a holy book that gets everything right, it’s very hard to convince them that they’re obviously wrong about many things. Buddhism is the best in this regard: someone once asked the Buddha about how to know which of the stories people travelling from afar told about him were true and he responded that it didn’t matter which he had actually said done, because those teachings which in the individual’s mind reduced suffering and promoted happiness were his and those that did not were not. How I wish that every religion would adopt that idea…

    Therefore people have to fight over something that seems so stupid to argue over it in this day and age. It makes no sense, esp in light of scientific knowledge.

    The Bible is a two-to-three thousand year old text written by countless anonymous authors. In the Old Testament, there’s clear evidence of different texts separated by hundreds of years being inserted side by side (for example, the two creation stories in Genesis, the two flood stories in Genesis, or the two sets of Ten Commandments in Exodus. One examination of this from a religious perspective is available at http://www.sullivan-county.com/identity/2cs.htm.) as well as whole books that look like the ravings of a lunatic that was able to maintain a stream of thought through about 90% of a sentence at most (Isaiah) or that seem to have originally been intended as fiction (Job). And let’s not forget that it was originally written without spaces or vowels either, so that one had to know what it said before reading it and only use the written text as a memory aid. Thus, while it was written down, it was still essentially an oral tradition, which is quite unreliable. Who’s to say, for example, that the letters BRHM were orignally meant as the name Abraham and not as Brahma? (It sounds reasonable from a linguistic angle, but I don’t know enough about Hindu teachings or history to know whether it’s possible that their teachings could have actually inspired the character of Abraham. The fact that he was originally named Abram suggests that he might be a composite of two sources with similar names, however.)

    The principal author of the New Testament, Saul/Paul, contradicts himself constantly, freely admits that he’s willing to lie to convert people (Scientology, anyone?), and doesn’t seem to think Jesus was ever on Earth at least some of the time. The Book of Revelation reads like a report of a dream someone had. All of the non-Markan gospels used Mark as a source. The author of Mark almost certainly used Paul as a source, but doesn’t bother reporting where he got the rest from, assuming he didn’t make it all up.

    When you realize that people accept this anonymously-authored mess of conflated texts, insanity, fiction, admitted lies, inconsistencies, bad history, hearsay treated as evidence, and phantasmagorical fantasy as the divinely inspired or divinely dictated word of God, the fact that people are fighting to deny gays their rights suddenly seems a lot less absurd, comparatively speaking.

  • Mriana

    Yes, I see what you are saying, Miko, but then again, I see the Bible as being written by man, not inspired by any supernatural deity, and not inerrant. Many people have been tried and charge with heresy, witchcraft, and more because of what the Bible and other religious text say, not to mention all the wars that have been started over religion, present one included. It’s sad that people can be so nieve that they live their life using a religious text written for people years ago in a different time, with little scientific knowledge as a guide for life in this day and age.

    For Pete’s sake! It says a bat is a bird among other things that we have found were in error over the years. :roll: Of course, Social Darwinism led to many BIG mistakes concerning other people. :( So, science is not infallible either, BUT it is whta people do with it that makes it good or bad, just as it is with the holy texts too- it’s all about the humans and what they do with it all.

  • Miko

    Thus the battle for equality for women has gone on long before 1776. So, that IS many, many generations of women struggling to gain rights.

    It’s not unidirectional either. For example, prior to 1328, France allowed females to become monarch (when no males were available–a remnant of the Salic Law). However, female claimants had been skipped over in 1316 and 1322 because they were both younger than six years old while an adult (male) was available. In 1328, Phillipe V managed to invalidate the claim of Jeanne (daughter of Louis X) to the throne by claiming that the 1316 and 1322 coronations were precedents for denying the crown to women based on gender and people went along with it because she was married to Philippe d’Évreux of the Capetian dynasty, whom they wanted to keep out of power in France. The interesting part of all of this is that it wasn’t directly intended to deny rights to women (although it did firmly establish French primogeniture), but instead merely used that issue as leverage against Jeanne and Philippe. The moral seems to be that gaining rights is not enough to keep rights: you also have to convince people who can take them away that you deserve them or at least that you have the power to maintain them.

  • Miko

    For Pete’s sake! It says a bat is a bird among other things that we have found were in error over the years. :roll:

    That’s probably not the best example. They were using a different taxonomy back then which didn’t include the category of mammals. I think that our present one is probably better from an evolutionary perspective, but in their time, saying that a bat is an example of “a furry vertebrate animal in which the females produce milk for the nourishment of the young” didn’t make much more sense than saying “ya’know, one of those flying things.”

    Of course, Social Darwinism led to many BIG mistakes concerning other people. :( So, science is not infallible either

    Darwin repudiates the idea of Social Darwinism in The Origin of Species. The practice of Social Darwinism is a more recent invention of rich conservatives, who saw it more as a justification for being selfish than as a scientific theory (as indeed, it isn’t).

    Darwinian evolution has nothing to do with morality, just as gravity has nothing to do with morality. They’re both just theories of what will happen if amoral nature is allowed to take its course. Thus, the tenets of Social Darwinism make just about as much sense scientifically as the idea that the theory of gravity teaches that we shouldn’t try to catch someone when they trip.

  • Darryl

    When you realize that people accept this anonymously-authored mess of conflated texts, insanity, fiction, admitted lies, inconsistencies, bad history, hearsay treated as evidence, and phantasmagorical fantasy as the divinely inspired or divinely dictated word of God, the fact that people are fighting to deny gays their rights suddenly seems a lot less absurd, comparatively speaking.

    Holy crap, my computer’s on fire! I’m not worthy . . . I’m not worthy . . .

  • Miko

    So did Pharaoh have free will or not?

    I’ve heard some Christians argue that the Old Testament just attributes everything to God, whether or not he actually acted. Thus, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” becomes “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” The trick then, is to interpret when God is really acting and when it’s just a metaphorical phrase. The distinguishing factor usually appears to be whether the Christian in question wants a certain act to have been done by God or not.

    I’ve also heard some Christians argue that the Exodus story doesn’t represent fact (although it may have a kernel of truth) and was embellished with a series of plagues for the purpose of making god look cool and powerful in the minds of other primitive peoples. In this interpretation, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened as a literary device to justify God sending the next plague and the question of free will becomes moot since Pharaoh is just a fictional character. Of course, the biggest problem with this view is that the Holy Spirit is the bringer of the last plague, so claiming that the story is mythical involves denying the presence, action, or goodness of (i.e., blaspheming against) the Holy Spirit and so eternally dooming oneself to Hell.

  • Darryl

    The questions raised by Richard and Mriana, point out why it is necessary to discuss the particulars of a religion and why it is a waste of time to argue over whether or not a god exists.

  • Richard Wade

    The questions raised by Richard and Mriana, point out why it is necessary to discuss the particulars of a religion and why it is a waste of time to argue over whether or not a god exists.

    Worse than a waste of time, in a way it is counter-productive. A good friend pointed out the other day that endless discussion over god yes or no is in a roundabout way akin to worshipping god. So non-believers who step into that hall of mirrors trap have the embarrassing position of giving as much “air time” to god as the believers do. It’s like talking about the large herd of purple elephants that is not in the room with you. The more detailed your description of them not being in the room, the more “real” they become.

  • Darryl

    Back in day, when I was a good little preacher boy, in Bible College . . . by the way, kids, don’t screw up your life–avoid like the plague any school with the word ‘Bible’ in its name or mission statement. Well, as I was saying, when I was in Bible College, one day the President of my school taught on the subject of free will versus election (for those of you who have been blessed to never learn the special language of theology, ‘election’ refers to God’s choice in any matter, which is, of course, entirely free, unrestricted, not in any way contingent upon any of our choices, and made before God created anything–outside of created time). Anyway, our President told us the story of how when he was studying at Dallas Theological Seminary under Dr. Charles Ryrie (have any of you heard of the Ryrie Study Bible ?–that Ryrie), and Ryrie was teaching on this subject he devoted one whole class to it. The class proceeded as follows: he read every verse in the Bible about God’s election, then every verse in the Bible about peoples’ free will, then he shut the Bible and said “If you think you’ve figured out the answer to the problem of God’s election and man’s free will, you’re wrong.” With that the class ended.

  • monkeymind

    Hi:

    and then they try to claim that Christianity never led people to be bigots in order to protect themselves from the shame.

    How accurate is this picture of “religionists?” If you look at US history, you will see religious and non-religious on both sides of every major issue that has furthered the cause of humanity. Frederick Douglass spoke at many a church in the US and Britain; many “religionists” could tell the difference between the bond slavery portrayed in the Old Testament and chattel slavery in the plantation system.
    Religious language and imagery permeated the civil rights movement and the movement for farmworkers’ rights. I have known too many religious people who have risked their lives as “witnesses for peace” to dismiss religion as solely a force for repression. Who can forget the voice of Archbishop Oscar Romero, speaking tin tn the midst of civil war and repression in El Salvador:

    On March 23 Romero walked into the fire. He openly challenged an army of peasants, whose high command feared and hated his reputation. Ending a long homily broadcast throughout the country, his voice rose to breaking, “Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasant . . . No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God . . . ”

    There was thunderous applause; he was inviting the army to mutiny. Then his voice burst, “In the name of God then, in the name of this suffering people I ask you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: stop the repression.”

    Romero’s murder was a savage warning. Even some who attended Romero’s funeral were shot down in front of the cathedral by army sharpshooters on rooftops. To this day no investigation has revealed Romero’s killers. What endures is Romero’s promise.

    Days before his murder he told a reporter, “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.”

    http://salt.claretianpubs.org/romero/romero.html

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you, monkeymind. We must be good craftsmen of our arguments, avoiding words like “all” or “none” when describing any group or category of people, lest we alienate the allies we have in their midst.

  • Miko

    Frederick Douglass spoke at many a church in the US and Britain

    He also said “I prayed for freedom twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” I think his message is more important than his venue.

    many “religionists” could tell the difference between the bond slavery portrayed in the Old Testament and chattel slavery in the plantation system.

    Both included circumstances in which people could be enslaved for life and have their children after them enslaved as well. Both allowed masters to force slaves to arrange marriages to breed new slaves. Both allowed buying and selling of slaves. Both denied the rights of citizens to slaves and labelled slaves as nothing but property. Both gave people the right to invade foreign lands and capture natives as slaves. What differences were these, exactly?

    Religious language and imagery permeated the civil rights movement and the movement for farmworkers’ rights. I have known too many religious people who have risked their lives as “witnesses for peace” to dismiss religion as solely a force for repression.

    I wouldn’t say that it’s solely a force for repression, just that it is a force for repression. Religious language and imagery is necessary in these movements only because some of their members are religious and want to excuse the fact that they’re going against what the Bible says by countering the direct word of God with vague quotations obscured by three or four indirections of interpretation. That is, they use religiocity solely because the other side is already using religious text and doing a great job of it (for those who think religious quotation is a convincing argument). On issues unrelated to the Bible or when the Bible doesn’t support their side, like tax codes say, it’s very rare to hear someone offer religious arguments unless the other side already has. If some group were to start arguing loudly that churches should be taxed on grounds based on Matthew 22:21, you’d instantly see churches coming up with some contorted Biblical argument why they shouldn’t. Since groups today are only arguing that churches should be taxed for secular reasons, you don’t hear Biblical counterarguments.

  • Darryl

    Religious language and imagery is necessary in these movements only because some of their members are religious and want to excuse the fact that they’re going against what the Bible says by countering the direct word of God with vague quotations obscured by three or four indirections of interpretation.

    This is not the “only” cause for the necessary use of religious language and imagery in these movements. It certainly is one of the causes, and the rest of your argument makes sense to me. Some other causes are: genuine belief in such interpretations (like Mike C.’s), expedient deployment of the mantle of religion–get God’s authority behind your argument and a whole lot of people will respond, sticking with what you know–when preachers who once believed become atheists, they are faced with a choice: get out of the ministry or not. Some decide to stay in and work for social justice and human rights. Some continue to use the religious language and imagery about which they are knowledgeable, and with which they are eloquent and comfortable.

    Recently I heard some fundamentalist trying to use the Rev. King in defense of religion’s role in our public policy. I’ve yet to hear any of these kinds of arguments also state the theology of Dr. King–he was no fundamentalist, and I doubt he was not motivated by what they are.

    I wouldn’t say that it’s solely a force for repression, just that it is a force for repression.

    Religion is usually not the sole cause of the goodness or badness of religious people. The potential goodness and badness of religious people can be actualized by the constituents of culture other than religion. It therefore follows that religion is neither the sole impediment nor the sole path to the advancement of the welfare of our world.

  • Miko

    Religion is usually not the sole cause of the goodness or badness of religious people. The potential goodness and badness of religious people can be actualized by the constituents of culture other than religion. It therefore follows that religion is neither the sole impediment nor the sole path to the advancement of the welfare of our world.

    Definitely not. Aristotle gave justifications for slavery. They were religious justifications (you could enslave people who worshipped “inferior” gods), but they were not the justifications once offered by the religions we have today, so clearly no individual institution is to blame. Still, there may be something to Weinberg’s thought that “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Of course, to make this solid, we have to redefine religion—perhaps dogmatic thinking is a better phrase here.

    However, to take a broad view, I would look not only at the effects the religion has had after its creation, but at the circumstances that led to the creation of the religion. At the core of almost every religion is a list of commandments handed down from on high which are in at least one instance literally set in stone. And (most) religious adherents will agree that in all cases except possibly one, these laws were not from a deity, but were simply the existing laws of the society placed in the mouths of gods.

    Now, we should definitely try to encourage reasonable theists to join our side. But we can’t do this if they insist that the perfect statement of all laws was given 2500 or 2000 years ago. Carl Sagan quotes the Dalai Lama (he doesn’t specify which one) as saying: “If science found a serious error in Tibetan Buddhism, of course we would change Tibetan Buddhism.” The current Dalai Lama (probably the same one?) also said “I am interested not in converting other people to Buddhism but in how we Buddhists can contribute to human society, according to our own ideas. I believe that other religious faiths also think in a similar way, seeking to contribute to the common aim… Just as Buddha showed an example of contentment, tolerance, and serving others without selfish motivation, so did Jesus Christ.” This is exactly the sort of religious leader we want on our side.

    To some degree, this is because he is talking about what is right as opposed to what this or that book says is right. In a perversely ironic way, theists are the ultimate moral relativists when they assert that morality comes from god: since we don’t have god available for questioning, we’re then forced to interpret away at his book and twist its words to suit our conclusions. Instead, we should be asserting that to the extent there are absolute morals, they represent ideas that are right or wrong for a reason and as such we can discover them through discovering these reasons. While we may have to work with people who prefer to argue by citing scripture, I’d much rather have the discussion on the level of which ideas are right than the level of which interpretation of a really old book is right. I’m not anti-religion, but I am 100% anti-dogma.

  • Miko

    This is not the “only” cause for the necessary use of religious language and imagery in these movements. It certainly is one of the causes, and the rest of your argument makes sense to me. Some other causes are: genuine belief in such interpretations (like Mike C.’s), expedient deployment of the mantle of religion

    To clarify, I’ll add that I definitely think that both sides have a genuine belief in their interpretations. My main point is that because the holy books can support both sides of an argument, citing their authority isn’t the best way to go.

    And there are some messages that are so bad that they can’t be supported by anything other than religiosity. Hitler got people behind his Holocaust with rhetoric like “I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.” He was helped by the copious number of copies of The Protocols of Zion appearing in Germany at the time, but his plan for mass murder nonetheless rested on the authority implicit in the Nazi slogan Gott mit uns (God is with us) inscribed on the belt buckle of every soldier.

    If I recall, Mike C has attacked the idea that God is on the side of the US and I’ll support him there. And he doesn’t subscribe to a so-called literal reading of portions of the Bible, and I’ll support him there. But to move forward as a society and as a civilization, we’re going to need to realize that things in the Bible aren’t true simply because they’re in the Bible.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    May 27, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    The questions raised by Richard and Mriana, point out why it is necessary to discuss the particulars of a religion and why it is a waste of time to argue over whether or not a god exists.

    Worse than a waste of time, in a way it is counter-productive. A good friend pointed out the other day that endless discussion over god yes or no is in a roundabout way akin to worshipping god. So non-believers who step into that hall of mirrors trap have the embarrassing position of giving as much “air time” to god as the believers do. It’s like talking about the large herd of purple elephants that is not in the room with you. The more detailed your description of them not being in the room, the more “real” they become.

    I have to agreee. It does seem trying to prove the existance or non-existance of God is just giving the subject too much attention. Even I’ve noticed that.

    Miko raises some good points too.

  • Miko

    I have to agreee. It does seem trying to prove the existance or non-existance of God is just giving the subject too much attention. Even I’ve noticed that.

    In a way, any attention at all on the subject is too much. If you think that god exists, I can see why you might think the question is somewhat important, but those of us that don’t should just translate the word ‘god’ as “incoherent formal sound.” The only reason to talk about gods at all is that there are some people who actually do believe one or more exist.

    But while the metaphysical question isn’t very important, the epistemic one can be worthwhile, because we have the ability to get rid of a whole range of bad ideas in one fell swoop. For all who haven’t read it, I highly recommend Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World, a major theme of which is the way in which belief in UFOs, alien abductions, ESP, prayer and miracles (he doesn’t quite say god, but implies it I think), witch hunts or anti-Communist hearings, Mesmerism (as originally defined), memory ‘recall’ under hypnosis, astrology, crystal power, chanelling dead spirits from Atlantis, and so on are all derived using the same basic fallacious argument of faith. (The other major theme is how our education and scientific systems are set up in a lousy way that allows this to happen.) Individually, most of these don’t look that harmful (witch hunts and possibly god being the exceptions) and indeed they aren’t. Rather, they’re symptoms of something which really is a problem.

    We had three candidates at a Republican debate who stated that they don’t believe in evolution. We’re creating a society where opinions are seen as a valid stand-in for reasons. The annual budget of SETI is probably less than a day’s cost in Iraq. NASA is maybe a couple of weeks. A few months would give us the world’s best particle accelerator. Are they worth that level of funding? I’d say that 90% of the U.S. population couldn’t give a coherent answer whichever side they’re on. Which is especially troubling in a democracy.

    A while back, Japan tried a budget experiment where they basically flipped the U.S.’s percentages on national defence and on science/technology (more technology than science, sadly) and is the world leader in electronics as a result. The U.S., on the other hand, has more enemies to defend against than ever before. Truly you get what you pay for.

    So yeah, on the list of problems we face, god is pretty low. But it’s a tip of the iceberg in the sense that it’s getting kids when they’re young. It’s not just creationists trying to undermine science education through curriculum and through telling their kids not to believe what they’re taught. It’s not just Sunday Schools creating the impression that a complete pre-packaged truth exists. It’s the whole anti-progress ideal of keeping things exactly the same way they’ve previously been and opposing change before considering whether it’s worthwhile. To combat that, we need to get rid of the notion that there are ideas beyond question. Sadly, theists have been on the forefront in opposition to this.

  • monkeymind

    the Nazi slogan Gott mit uns (God is with us) inscribed on the belt buckle of every soldier

    .
    “We got mittens too!”

    was the slogan of the Allied soldiers who participated in the Christmas truce of 1914/1915.

    Along many parts of the line the Truce was spurred on with the arrival in the German trenches of miniature Christmas trees – Tannenbaum. The sight these small pines, decorated with candles and strung along the German parapets, captured the Tommies’ imagination, as well as the men of the Indian corps who were reminded of the sacred Hindu festival of light.

    Not that it is defensible an sich, but the slogan Gott mit uns was the traditional motto of the Prussian army before the Nazi era.
    The slogan of the Waffen SS was Meine Ehre heisst Treue – My Honor is Loyalty.
    The collaboration of the Church with the Nazi regime is scandalous, but don’t forget that the universities and many renowned scientists such as Heisenberg and Werner von Braun also participated in the Gleichschaltung or synchronization with the Nazi party:

    Don’t say that he’s hypocritical,
    Say rather that he’s apolitical:
    Vunce ze rockets are up, who cares vhere zey come down
    That’s not my depahtment, says Werner von Braun.

    -T. Lehrer

  • Miko

    “We got mittens too!”

    I love it. :-)

    Not that it is defensible an sich, but the slogan Gott mit uns was the traditional motto of the Prussian army before the Nazi era.

    Really, no one should be using it. I’ve heard people comment that it’s silly for atheists to worry about “under God” in the pledge or “In God We Trust” on currency since they’re only symbolic issues, but I’d counter that these are serious issues and are extremely dangerous for the U.S. Since you quoted Lehrer (nice taste, by the way), I’ll bring up Bob Dylan’s With God on Our Side, which is all so true that selecting an excerpt is impossible. But I will anyway: “And you never ask questions/When God’s on your side.” I’d think even the religious would want to dispel this notion.

    The collaboration of the Church with the Nazi regime is scandalous, but don’t forget that the universities and many renowned scientists such as Heisenberg and Werner von Braun also participated in the Gleichschaltung or synchronization with the Nazi party

    Oh yeah. I don’t know too much about von Braun beyond what I’ve heard from TW3, but Heisenberg was without a doubt completely amoral. His Copenhagen conversation with Bohr played a large role in the U.S. decision to build an atomic bomb of our own (as well as executing a terrorist bombing on a civilian ferry…). But he’s not typical either. The number of scientists who willingly supported Hitler’s plans was about the same as the number who want to win a Templeton prize today, and for much the same reasons.

    I wouldn’t say the universities so much, however. They did kick out all their Jewish faculty in 1933, but that was ordered from above and long resisted. Even when the purge came, many scientists and academics were very instrumental in helping their Jewish colleagues flee to the West (one example is Fermi’s Nobel Prize—while he certainly deserved it, the Nobel Committee intentionally timed it to give him money to flee Italy). And when David Hilbert was asked “How is mathematics in Göttingen now that it has been freed of the Jewish influence?” by the German Education Minister, Bernhard Rust, he didn’t try to sugarcoat his reply: “Mathematics in Göttingen? There is really none any more.”

  • monkeymind

    Miko – essentially I agree w. you. Anyone who thinks they are receiving direct orders from God should not be holding a gun or commanding an army. (Which disqualifies our C in C, I believe.)

    But I don’t think that belief in God should be a litmus test of rationality or eligibility for participation in public debate or an indication of who is a “progressive” and “on our side.”

    I agree with Juergen Habermas that the legislative arena should act as the essential filter where any specifically religious justifications for public policy should be eliminated, and perhaps thrown back to the arena of public debate to see if a “saving translation’ of religious values to universal values can be made via the process of “discourse ethics.”

  • monkeymind

    Miko – essentially I agree w. you. Anyone who thinks they are receiving direct orders from God should not be holding a gun or commanding an army. (Which disqualifies our C in C, I believe.)

    But I don’t think that belief in God should be a litmus test of rationality or eligibility for participation in public debate or an indication of who is a “progressive” and “on our side.”

    I agree with Juergen Habermas that the legislative arena should act as the essential filter where any specifically religious justifications for public policy should be eliminated, and perhaps thrown back to the arena of public debate to see if a “saving translation’ of religious values to universal values can be made via the process of “discourse ethics.”

  • monkeymind

    Aaaargh, sorry about the double post!

  • Karen

    Sagan quotes the Dalai Lama (he doesn’t specify which one) as saying: “If science found a serious error in Tibetan Buddhism, of course we would change Tibetan Buddhism.” The current Dalai Lama (probably the same one?)

    Yes, it was Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama. He said:

    “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.

    Here’s what he said when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (emphasis mine):

    As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.

    Miko again:

    To some degree, this is because he is talking about what is right as opposed to what this or that book says is right. In a perversely ironic way, theists are the ultimate moral relativists when they assert that morality comes from god: since we don’t have god available for questioning, we’re then forced to interpret away at his book and twist its words to suit our conclusions. Instead, we should be asserting that to the extent there are absolute morals, they represent ideas that are right or wrong for a reason and as such we can discover them through discovering these reasons. While we may have to work with people who prefer to argue by citing scripture, I’d much rather have the discussion on the level of which ideas are right than the level of which interpretation of a really old book is right. I’m not anti-religion, but I am 100% anti-dogma.

    You make some excellent points.

  • Miko

    But I don’t think that belief in God should be a litmus test of rationality or eligibility for participation in public debate or an indication of who is a “progressive” and “on our side.”

    Neither do I. Excluding people from public debate for any reason would totally destroy all claims of rationality on our part. But we should still judge the speakers on their ideas and their ideas on their content.

    I agree with Juergen Habermas that the legislative arena should act as the essential filter where any specifically religious justifications for public policy should be eliminated, and perhaps thrown back to the arena of public debate to see if a “saving translation’ of religious values to universal values can be made via the process of “discourse ethics.”

    It should, but it won’t always. I’ve always figured that that was the reason the US Founders gave us one populist branch of government and two elitist branches. Ideally, the executive and judicial should be more focused on Constitutional ideals than the legislative is. Then if the legislature makes an error, we have two chances to fix it (vetoing and overturning by the court). Of course, the system breaks down when you have a ___ in the Oval Office.

    Yes, it was Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama.

    Thanks for the confirmation and elaboration, Karen.

    If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.

    Now that is what we actually needed when Gould gave us NOMA. It’s pretty amazing that we got him and his predecessor when the main qualification for becoming Dalai Lama is a kid picking out some items owned by the previous Dalai Lama from a larger set. Perhaps he actually is reincarnated (which is better supported by evidence than most other religious claims, although still most probably wrong), but I hope they aren’t, because it’s wonderful to imagine that we might have a whole world of people like them by giving every child an upbringing similar to theirs.

  • Darryl

    Anyone who thinks they are receiving direct orders from God should not be holding a gun or commanding an army. (Which disqualifies our C in C, I believe.)

    In principle, I support popular sovereignty. A population of the like-minded should decide the form of the government that they will live with. However, more important than that principle is the principle that overrides it: if the people are irrational, and hence dangerous to others, they do not get to pick their form of government. As it is now, we think that if a state or country chooses to have a government with God at its top, that is its choice, and it will have to live with the troubles that will surely come of it.

    But, no popular theocracy should be tolerated by the world, since it will always have the potential to export its form of government and to threaten other nations for religious reasons. I do not want to live in a theocracy, and I will resist any who would try to force one on our country.

    Unlike those Republicans who have never met a war they didn’t like, I really mean it when I say that war should be the last resort–only engaged when it is absolutely necessary and when all other attempts at a peaceful solution have been tried. If our intelligence can be believed this time, and Iran is trying to make a bomb, if the world community cannot persuade it to suspend it’s nuclear weapons program, then an awful war may be unavoidable. Whatever the cost, the world must come to an agreement that no nuclear capability can be wielded by a government run by holy men, mullahs, priests, preachers, or people that hold their religion fanatically, and enforce that agreement without fear or favor.

    There is no religious test for public office here in the U.S., but would it ever be necessary to have a religious disqualification? Simply put, if you’re a religious fanatic, you cannot hold the public trust. Defining religious fanaticism would be quite easy to do though it would be very a contentious process. Getting an infiltrated, ineffective and corrupted Congress like ours to define it and pass such a law would, I’m afraid, require us to suffer a crippling crisis that would have to be clearly and unequivocally shown to have resulted from the actions of fanatical public officials. Even that might not do it. I hope such a law never becomes necessary here because it would no doubt be abused, and religious moderates would almost certainly oppose it. However, what things are worth struggling over? Where is the line beyond which we refuse to go? We have fought with each other over the right of universal freedom; will we have to fight over the right of universal reason?

  • Miko

    But, no popular theocracy should be tolerated by the world, since it will always have the potential to export its form of government and to threaten other nations for religious reasons. I do not want to live in a theocracy, and I will resist any who would try to force one on our country.

    I don’t want to live in a theocracy either, but that still sounds a bit too much like the Domino Theory. Iraq and Vietnam share the common thread of the U.S. trying to impose a form of government that the people didn’t want. I’d rather talk directly to the people who live in a theocracy, perhaps in something akin to Voice of America. But what do you do in countries like Afghanistan where the government bans radios? The most dangerous tyrant is the one who realizes both that education is the answer and that he/she is the problem.

    Whatever the cost, the world must come to an agreement that no nuclear capability can be wielded by a government run by holy men, mullahs, priests, preachers, or people that hold their religion fanatically, and enforce that agreement without fear or favor.

    I’m an idealist, but I’d rather leave religion out of this one and just scrap all of the nukes.

    There is no religious test for public office here in the U.S., but would it ever be necessary to have a religious disqualification? Simply put, if you’re a religious fanatic, you cannot hold the public trust.

    That would be a bit scary. Both in an Orwellian sense and in the sense that religious fanatics would start going undercover in order to sneak in and destroy us all.

    However, what things are worth struggling over? Where is the line beyond which we refuse to go? We have fought with each other over the right of universal freedom; will we have to fight over the right of universal reason?

    Yikes! Some tough questions there. Regarding the last one: I grew up in an area where a school bond issue never failed as far as I can remember. It wasn’t until I saw statistics for them in other areas that I realized how lucky that made me. When people prefer slightly lower property taxes over having the next generation be literate enough to understand the manual for their DVD players (let alone a voter’s pamphlet), isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When poor children suffer permanent mental loss from early malnutrition, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When people attack revised mathematics cirriculum designed with the philosophy that teaching children how to think is as important as what to think, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When PBS funding is threatened for the nth time, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When parents decide to homeschool children and then send them to the new bunch of Christian colleges to hide basic scientific fact from them, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? I’d say it looks like we’re losing the battle, and it is terrifying. And I’m not quite sure what to do. I would say we should reason with them about why these things are important, except for the overwhelming irony of that statement.

    The scary thing about the line beyond which we refuse to go is that it’s already been drawn with half of the population on each side facing off in opposite directions. Needless to say, this goes way beyond religion and isn’t really religion’s fault (except in the cases of religionists that advocate ending public education). Perhaps we could even look for help from the religious in solving the problem: wouldn’t it be nice if we could get churches to energize their congregations into going out to vote for school funding instead of energizing them into going out to vote against science or civil rights?

  • Darryl

    I’m an idealist, but I’d rather leave religion out of this one and just scrap all of the nukes.

    Me too, but which do you think will happen first, a confrontation with Iran over nukes or a global relinquishing of all nukes?

    When people prefer slightly lower property taxes over having the next generation be literate enough to understand the manual for their DVD players (let alone a voter’s pamphlet), isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When poor children suffer permanent mental loss from early malnutrition, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When people attack revised mathematics cirriculum designed with the philosophy that teaching children how to think is as important as what to think, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When PBS funding is threatened for the nth time, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When parents decide to homeschool children and then send them to the new bunch of Christian colleges to hide basic scientific fact from them, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? I’d say it looks like we’re losing the battle, and it is terrifying. And I’m not quite sure what to do. I would say we should reason with them about why these things are important, except for the overwhelming irony of that statement.

    I agree.

  • Miko

    Me too, but which do you think will happen first, a confrontation with Iran over nukes or a global relinquishing of all nukes?

    I’d like to see them happen simultaneously. The conventional wisdom has always been that a balance of nukes is a good thing because of the deterence value of the MAD theory, but it’s broken down now that we have potential players that think being killed in an atomic holy war would be a good thing. Thus, relinquishing our nukes isn’t going to have much of a negative effect on the Iran situation and may even have a positive effect: if we were to come up with a plan for the phased destruction of our nukes, the moderates in Iran (I assume there are some) would be more willing to listen when we suggest that building them in the first place isn’t such a great idea.

    That said, waiting to deal with the situation until all of our nukes are destroyed is akin to suicide. It really isn’t the case that all nations are equally scary in this regard. I doubt anyone was frightened at the prospect of France getting the bomb.

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

    Wow, over 340 comments. That’s gotta be some kind of new record at Hemant’s blog! :)

  • Miko

    Welcome back, Mike. I assume you know that tradition now dictates that you make castle photos available? ;-)

  • Miko

    Scratch that: I see that you do. That’s pretty cool looking indeed.

  • Mriana

    Welcome back, Pastor Mike. I thought we had scared you away. Glad we didn’t.

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

    Welcome back, Pastor Mike. I thought we had scared you away. Glad we didn’t.

    Nope, not scared. :) Though I think my part in the conversation on these threads is pretty well done. I sincerely apologize if I didn’t get to someone’s question. I’ve tried to respond to as many as I can, but I know that there have been some that have just gotten lost in the flow of the conversation and with several hundred comments now on this thread alone there’s no way I can go back and dig up all the unanswered questions. Sorry.

    Peace,
    -Mike

  • Mariann

    Ignorance is the problem.I love,universal values,universal responsibility,universal freedom.Sounds good.One should never be allowed to hurt another.There is a book Secret Societies a history,by Daraul.There is a chapter,The Old Man Of The Mountains.It discribes a man who made a artificial paradise ,withgold and streamsof wine,women ect.His name Hasan,he would attract young men whom he turned into killers.With the promise of paradise thatwas in1271.Sounds like what the suicide bombers fell for.

  • Ash

    the whole idea of islamic suicide bombers saddens me deeply – i have found my studies on islam vs christianity (where the holy books are interpreted by the spirit rather than the letter) show islam to be a far more open minded and congenial religion than christianity ever could be.

    one brief example – Mike C was kind enough to point out to me the one line in the bible that specifically endorses male/female equality (Galations 3:28) – the qur’an is littered with such examples repeatedly. it’s also worth mentioning that the quo’ran specifically teaches tolerance and understanding towards those of other religions (the ones being mentioned by name are judaism + christianity)

    Mike C. – if you get the chance, may i suggest reading ‘islam; a very short introduction’ by M. Ruthven. i think you will recognise your version of god, his ideals and those values you would uphold in your christian life reflected deeply in islamic ideals.

    crying shame that fundamentalists of any religious bent cannot live up to the high ideals proposed to them.

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

    Thanks for the suggestion Ash. I am somewhat familiar with Islam, but one of the things that has turned me off to it has been that it’s current practice seems rather repressive of women. It’s good to know that those attitudes are not universal in Islam and that the Qur’an does support a different possibility.

  • Miko

    one brief example – Mike C was kind enough to point out to me the one line in the bible that specifically endorses male/female equality (Galations 3:28) – the qur’an is littered with such examples repeatedly.

    Not so much equality as only-sort-of-inferiority. Some commonly cited examples are “And they [women] have rights similar to those over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them.” (2:228) and “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other” (4:34). And of course there’s the theme of “2 women = 1 man” (2:282, 4:11, 4:176).

    it’s also worth mentioning that the quo’ran specifically teaches tolerance and understanding towards those of other religions (the ones being mentioned by name are judaism + christianity)

    …which is why it says things like “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship [i.e., convert to Islam] and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who know not” (9:5-6).

    The standard theme on this subject seems to be that you can’t force someone to convert to Islam, but you should ask them to and if they refuse you should either kill or subjugate them.

    i have found my studies on islam vs christianity (where the holy books are interpreted by the spirit rather than the letter) show islam to be a far more open minded and congenial religion than christianity ever could be.

    I’ve found that when books are interpreted by the spirit (i.e., what you wish they said) instead of the letter (i.e., what they actually say), the one that the interpreter wants to be better invariably is.

    I don’t agree with all of its analysis, but the SAB puts them as about equally good and bad.

    It’s good to know that those attitudes are not universal in Islam and that the Qur’an does support a different possibility.

    Definitely. Like Christianity, whether you use a holy book to justify being good or bad eventually comes down to which verses you choose to use and which you choose to ignore. Unfortunately, the Koran is a comparatively short book, was written by essentially one man, and written in a short period of time, while the Bible is a sprawling tract written by a myriad of authors over a bit more than a thousand years. The end result is that there’s less rug to sweep the bad stuff under in the Koran.

  • Mriana

    Author: Mike C
    Comment:
    Thanks for the suggestion Ash. I am somewhat
    familiar with Islam, but one of the things that has
    turned me off to it has been that it’s current
    practice seems rather repressive of women. It’s good
    to know that those attitudes are not universal in
    Islam and that the Qur’an does support a
    different possibility.

    And Christianity is not? Paul was terrible when it came to women. According to him, we are to sit down and shut up. Women are not suppose to teach or preach. Not to mention, in the OT women are property, even in the 10th Commandment. The list of women oppression in the Bible goes on and on. So, Islam doesn’t have an exclusive on oppressing and repressing women.

  • Keith

    Yikes! Some tough questions there. Regarding the last one: I grew up in an area where a school bond issue never failed as far as I can remember. It wasn’t until I saw statistics for them in other areas that I realized how lucky that made me. When people prefer slightly lower property taxes over having the next generation be literate enough to understand the manual for their DVD players (let alone a voter’s pamphlet), isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When poor children suffer permanent mental loss from early malnutrition, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When people attack revised mathematics cirriculum designed with the philosophy that teaching children how to think is as important as what to think, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When PBS funding is threatened for the nth time, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? When parents decide to homeschool children and then send them to the new bunch of Christian colleges to hide basic scientific fact from them, isn’t that an attack on our right to reason? I’d say it looks like we’re losing the battle, and it is terrifying. And I’m not quite sure what to do. I would say we should reason with them about why these things are important, except for the overwhelming irony of that statement.

    Miko,

    The phrase “attack on our right to reason” seems to apply in varying degrees to the examples given. Underfunding schools and ignoring childhood malnutrition could be called an attack on the right to reason … but I disagree with the characterization of homeshooling. Do some homeschoolers do so to shelter their kids? Yes. Do some homeschool because they want their kids to be literate enough to understand the manual for their DVD players & their voter’s pamphlet? Do some homeschool because they want their children to learn math in a manner that teaches them that how to think is as important as what to think? Certainly.

    Please help me understand why homeschooling is often not seen as a viable educational alternative even by those who would criticize the current state of public education. Thank you.

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

    So, Islam doesn’t have an exclusive on oppressing and repressing women.

    I never said it did. I’m turned off to it in any religion.

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

    Do some homeschool because they want their kids to be literate enough to understand the manual for their DVD players & their voter’s pamphlet? Do some homeschool because they want their children to learn math in a manner that teaches them that how to think is as important as what to think? Certainly.

    Keith’s right. As my wife and I are discovering, there are more and more “liberals” and progressives who are homeschooling these days because of the piss poor quality of our public education system – especially now that Bush’s “No Child Left Untested” has made it even more about performing for grades and hardly at all about the pure enjoyment of learning and teaching kids to actually think for themselves and be creative.

  • Miko

    Please help me understand why homeschooling is often not seen as a viable educational alternative even by those who would criticize the current state of public education. Thank you.

    Oops. I seem to have dropped a phrase in my finished post. I meant to say homeschooling for the purpose of forcing children’s thoughts to conform to some ideology. There is, of course, nothing wrong with homeschooling if done correctly. In fact, since the teacher-to-student ratio is going to be much closer to 1:1, it’s obviously going to be quite a bit better than public school if done right. There is some benefit to public education in the form of hearing multiple voices and points-of-view and hypothetically in access to lab equipment, etc., but I’d whole-heartedly recommend that anyone capable of doing a good job of homeschooling their children consider doing so.

  • Miko

    especially now that Bush’s “No Child Left Untested” has made it even more about performing for grades and hardly at all about the pure enjoyment of learning and teaching kids to actually think for themselves and be creative.

    Oh yeah. The local middle schools in my area responded to NCLB by dropping their foreign language program in favor of a mandatory class on how to do well on the exam. That’ll really help the students later in life: “No, I can’t speak French, but I do know how to game the system on a test I took once.”

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    May 29, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    So, Islam doesn’t have an exclusive on oppressing and repressing women.

    I never said it did. I’m turned off to it in any religion.

    Yes, but surely you’ve noticed it in Paul and the OT. I’m not saying this is any reason to snub your nose at your beliefs, I’m just pointing out that it’s there. JC wasn’t too bad, except he was very rude to his mother during the wedding reception when they needed more wine.

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

    Yes, but surely you’ve noticed it in Paul and the OT. I’m not saying this is any reason to snub your nose at your beliefs, I’m just pointing out that it’s there. JC wasn’t too bad, except he was very rude to his mother during the wedding reception when they needed more wine.

    Yes, I’ve noticed it. It all comes down to context.

  • Mriana

    Could you expand on what you mean by “it all comes down to context”? If your wife wanted to be a minister, would you object on the grounds Paul disagreed or would you be gung ho and encourage her? Just curious.

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

    Could you expand on what you mean by “it all comes down to context”? If your wife wanted to be a minister, would you object on the grounds Paul disagreed or would you be gung ho and encourage her? Just curious.

    Mriana, did you miss my reply to Ash above when I answered this question about women in ministry and throughout the Bible? My wife is a minister. She co-pastors our church with me. And we think that the Bible actually very much supports the idea of female equality.

    By “context” I mean everything I’ve already talked about in these responses regarding reading the Bible in it’s literary, historical, and cultural context as a dynamically unfolding narrative and not just a collection of a-cultural commands for all time. For instance, I am convinced that every one of the four or five NT passages that seem to reduce female equality are either mistranslated or misinterpreted. And as for the OT, it was more a reflection of patriarchal culture 2000-3500 years ago than a statement of how God intended things to be for all time (though even in the OT there are several examples of strong female leadership – Deborah in Judges for example). God starts working with us where we’re at, not where he wants us to end up. The Bible describes this transformative process – the slow but gradually upward trajectory of increasing gender equality. By the time we get to Jesus, women are almost universally treated as equal to men: women are disciples (Mary of Bethany learns at Jesus’ feet just like one of the guys in Luke 10), they are Apostles (Junia in Romans 16:7), they are commissioned as the first evangelists (the Woman at the Well in John 4 and Mary Magdalene post Resurrection in John 20), they are teachers of the gospel (Priscilla in Acts 18), they prophesy – which means to speak authoritatively in the church (Acts 2 & the daughters of Philip in Acts 21), and more.

    Hope that clarifies. I’m not inclined to give much ground to those fundamentalists who insist that the Bible justifies the subjugation of women. They are absolutely reading it the wrong way and perverting its intention. This is an issue that my wife and I are both very passionate about.

  • Miko

    For instance, I am convinced that every one of the four or five NT passages that seem to reduce female equality are either mistranslated or misinterpreted.

    Weren’t these passages written originally in Greek? That’s not really a language we have too much trouble translating, is it?

  • Mriana

    Mriana, did you miss my reply to Ash above when I answered this question about women in ministry and throughout the Bible? My wife is a minister.

    Sorry, I guess I did miss it. There are a lot of posts here.

    This is an issue that my wife and I are both very passionate about.

    I’m glad you are very passionate about it.

    Miko said,

    May 29, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    For instance, I am convinced that every one of the four or five NT passages that seem to reduce female equality are either mistranslated or misinterpreted.

    Weren’t these passages written originally in Greek? That’s not really a language we have too much trouble translating, is it?

    I had the same thought, BUT ‘almah’ (Hebrew) meaning young woman in Isaiah 7:14 was mistranslated when it translated to Greek. When it was translated to Greek, they used the word for virgin. This of course lead to a Literature field day with the NT. :roll:

  • Keith

    Oops. I seem to have dropped a phrase in my finished post. I meant to say homeschooling for the purpose of forcing children’s thoughts to conform to some ideology

    No problem, Miko. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Ash

    Not so much equality as only-sort-of-inferiority. Some commonly cited examples are “And they [women] have rights similar to those over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them.” (2:228) and “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other” (4:34). And of course there’s the theme of “2 women = 1 man” (2:282, 4:11, 4:176.

    it’s worth noting that there are also statements of spiritual equality (e.g. 33:35), the word ‘allah’ is derived from a feminine noun, and stuff like in islam’s version of the garden of eden myth, it was adam, not eve who was tempted (but that each person is not automatically ‘doomed’, instead they are born with a clean slate + responsible for their own sins)

    BUT…

    Miko’s totally right when she points out that the qur’an’s literal word contains some really dodgy passages – btw, you missed the one about a man being able to beat his wife (4:35) – the reason i brought it up is that if you use the criteria that Mike C judges his bible on, i.e. placing it in a historical and social context and using the spirit rather than the letter of the law to interpret it, it works out as being every bit as just and equal as the bible. the biggest difference between christians and muslims appears to be that far more muslims DO take qur’anic word as being literal – hence the ongoing ‘right’ to treat women as inferior.

    to me, all this suggests that if you insist on having a holy book to refer to, but that you have to be selective about how you read it + which bits you consider relevant – isn’t it time to re-write the damn thing? most holy books already exist in a plurality of versions – what’s one more? you could even put a little sticker across the title (the new moral version of…/a modernists interpretation of…/whatever…) stating that “The material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

    just a thought…

  • Miko

    the biggest difference between christians and muslims appears to be that far more muslims DO take qur’anic word as being literal – hence the ongoing ‘right’ to treat women as inferior.

    In my experience, Muslims are also a lot better than Christians at knowing what their holy book actually says.

    to me, all this suggests that if you insist on having a holy book to refer to, but that you have to be selective about how you read it + which bits you consider relevant – isn’t it time to re-write the damn thing?

    It certainly is. The biggest problem with claiming a book is divinely inspired is that no one has grounds to do this. It’s hard to imagine an editor’s introduction reading “The [name of holy book] is the divinely inspired Word of God and should be read reverently and often for guidance in your daily life, except for the parts that we cut out, which were just examples of the bigotry of the society that wrote the book.” And if someone did have the nerve to try this, the book would almost invariably get shorter and shorter with each successive edition.

    But I do love the title “The Moral Version of the …” They should make a whole series of those. The implied comparison is certainly worth making.

    “The material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

    Add “and an open heart” and you’ve essentially got the intellectual basis of atheism, don’t you?

  • Mriana

    Was the whole of Paul concerning women mistranslated? Maybe there was suppose to be a progression from the values then to today as time passed, but if that is the case, then the Bible, IMO, is worthless, because none of it is applicable for today.

    The OT has a bunch of tribal wonderers and other tribal people and the NT has some backwoods people roaming around. Paul was such a backwoods hillbilly that when he went to Greece and tried to convert them, they laughed at his illogical thinking. So in his 1st letter to the Corinthians he criticized human wisdom as bing folly before God. OK…. I won’t touch that with my thoughts, except he was trying to rationalize away the Athenian snub. Paul would have hated the Enlightenment.

    Pastor Mike I’m going to ask you a similar question I asked Bishop Spong once:

    If you’re going to pick and choose, discard, and even twist, redefine, change the meaning, say it was mistranslated and probably meant this, say that was for that time period, but this still applies today, etc etc, why even bother with the Bible?

    I have a friend who is Church of Christ and says you cannot take from the Bible or add to it, but she is very liberal in her thinking, not a Fundies.

  • Darryl

    By the time we get to Jesus, women are almost universally treated as equal to men

    Huh? Don’t forget Mike, Jesus was a demarcation only after the fact. By the time we get to Jesus, the Law of Moses was still the law among Jews, nothing had changed on that score. Despite the elevated place of prominent Jewish women in society, Paul’s views were typical–women were still second class, not to be trusted, temptresses away from God, and cyclically unclean and in need of purification. If it weren’t for the Roman occupation, I doubt any change in the treatment and status women would have been noticed.

    If you’re going to pick and choose, discard, and even twist, redefine, change the meaning, say it was mistranslated and probably meant this, say that was for that time period, but this still applies today, etc etc, why even bother with the Bible?

    Good question.

  • Mriana

    Thank you, Darryl. I just could not resist asking. Hopefully he’ll be back to answer it.

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

    Weren’t these passages written originally in Greek? That’s not really a language we have too much trouble translating, is it?

    You’d be surprised.

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

    Was the whole of Paul concerning women mistranslated?

    Keep in mind that by “the whole of Paul concerning women” you’re really only talking about four passages: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 1 Cor 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:22-24, and 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Of these, I think one, possibly two (1 Cor 11 and 1 Timothy 2) are mistranslated (in any kind of translation work there are often words and phrases that don’t have a direct correlation into the target language and could be rendered in many different ways). The other two, I believe are taken out of context and mis-interpreted (i.e. taken to mean something which they would not have meant to their original hearers). I really don’t feel like getting into all the alternative interpretations here, but if you’re interested I’d recommend browsing some of the articles at the Christians for Biblical Equality site).

    Paul was such a backwoods hillbilly that when he went to Greece and tried to convert them, they laughed at his illogical thinking.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting this impression of Paul from, but I’m afraid it’s most likely mistaken. Based on his own writings and the accounts of him in the Book of Acts it’s clear that Paul was a highly learned individual, having studied both the Jewish rabbinic tradition and the Greek poets and philosophers (given how frequently he quotes or alludes to them – especially in the speech in Athens which you reference).

    If you’re going to pick and choose, discard, and even twist, redefine, change the meaning, say it was mistranslated and probably meant this, say that was for that time period, but this still applies today, etc etc, why even bother with the Bible?

    I thought I’d already answered this question (or a form of it) several times now, but to reiterate one more time: I don’t think that I am “picking and choosing”, “discarding”, “twisting”, “redefining”, or “changing the meaning”, etc. I believe that, for the most part (allowing for the fact that I do still make mistakes of my own and my knowledge is far from complete), my approach to the Bible is the correct one and how it should have been read and interpreted in the first place. IMHO, it is the “fundamentalist” readings that are guilty of all the words you use above. In other words, for me it’s not about “changing” the meaning. It’s about rediscovering the meaning that was there all along and has gotten covered over by fundamentalist distortions.

    Of course, Darryl and others are welcome to disagree with me and argue that the fundies have really had it right all along. I’m not really interested in trying to prove which of us is right in this matter as it would be a far too long and involved debate – and as I’ve said, I’m not really here for a debate.

    But btw, just to clarify regarding Darryl statement:

    By the time we get to Jesus, women are almost universally treated as equal to men

    Huh? Don’t forget Mike, Jesus was a demarcation only after the fact. By the time we get to Jesus, the Law of Moses was still the law among Jews, nothing had changed on that score. Despite the elevated place of prominent Jewish women in society, Paul’s views were typical–women were still second class, not to be trusted, temptresses away from God, and cyclically unclean and in need of purification. If it weren’t for the Roman occupation, I doubt any change in the treatment and status women would have been noticed.

    Sorry, I was referring to Jesus’ treatment of women specifically and the high status women enjoyed in the first century church – not to the status of women in first century Judaism in general (which, as you point out, was still very patriarchal – which is why Jesus’ behavior towards them would have been so remarkable). Anyway, sorry for being unclear.

    And of course, I disagree with you about your interpretation of Paul’s attitudes, but I already mentioned that above.

  • Mriana

    I’m not sure where you’re getting this impression of Paul from, but I’m afraid it’s most likely mistaken. Based on his own writings and the accounts of him in the Book of Acts it’s clear that Paul was a highly learned individual, having studied both the Jewish rabbinic tradition and the Greek poets and philosophers (given how frequently he quotes or alludes to them – especially in the speech in Athens which you reference).

    Yes he was, but the Greeks laughed at his logic and saw no logic in his thinking. So, he condemned human wisdom, which has lead many a Christian (fundamentalist esp) to be close-minded about an real education. They fear it will cause them a lose of salvation- I know this because of the discussions with my aunt, mother and grandmother. They all three and also my grandfather when he was alive, worried about my salvation when I decided to go for a degree in psychology (they are of the devil according to my family :roll: ). A Secular education is the ruin of salvation, in their opinion, so they hated it when I went to a Secular college, but for me, it was Enlightenment.

    I don’t think that I am “picking and choosing”, “discarding”, “twisting”, “redefining”, or “changing the meaning”, etc. I believe that, for the most part (allowing for the fact that I do still make mistakes of my own and my knowledge is far from complete), my approach to the Bible is the correct one and how it should have been read and interpreted in the first place. IMHO, it is the “fundamentalist” readings that are guilty of all the words you use above. In other words, for me it’s not about “changing” the meaning. It’s about rediscovering the meaning that was there all along and has gotten covered over by fundamentalist distortions.

    You sound almost like Bishop Spong. This is where he and I part company. He loves the Bible, but I don’t love it like he does. Jephtha was one of the worst parents and even Spong states the cruxifiction makes God look like a child abuser. He is now doing short essays on that topic (to be in a series of three parts for members of his website, in which he reinterprets it to have a different meaning than the Fundies). I have yet to see him succeed with the first short essay.

    Oh don’t get me wrong, I love him dearly, because he’s taught me a lot, we just part company when it comes to the Bible. I hope he can see that with the research paper I did on C. S. Lewis never having been a true atheist: http://mrianasoriginalfiction.houseofbetazed.com/CSLewisNeverAnAtheist.html IF he gets the time to read it, because I used him as a recourse in my paper. If anything, he has taught me that much, if not much more. I just can not see my way to accepting the Bible/Jesus, even with what he says. He has highly encouraged me to read his new book “Jesus for the Non-religious” through his personal letters to me. I haven’t bought it yet. Not sure I will at this point, but I have not disregarded it entirely.

    He is a unique minister in that he does attract Humanist and alike to his site and books. Even Price has called Spong a Humanist, which I don’t doubt in the least. I just can’t agree with him concerning the Bible.

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

    Yes he was, but the Greeks laughed at his logic and saw no logic in his thinking.

    That’s not quite what the passage in Acts 17 says. All is says is that some of the Greek philosophers at the Aeropagus sneered at his belief in the resurrection of the dead but that others were interested and wanted to hear more. Specifically, Acts 17:32-34 says:

    32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33At that, Paul left the Council. 34A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

    So only a few of them sneered, and it wasn’t his logic that they objected to, it was his belief in resurrection. This had nothing to do with the “rationality” of such a belief. It had to do with the fact that most Greeks made a sharp dichotomy between the material and the spiritual worlds with material=evil and spiritual=good. The highest goal of Greek philosophy was to escape the material world. In this context then it would have seemed ridiculous to preach a bodily resurrection. Why, from the Greek’s point of view, would you want to get your body back? In their opinion the body was exactly what we are all trying to escape.

    At any rate, the text is clear that at least some of the Athenians didn’t scoff and wanted to know more, and that a few of them actually ended up becoming Christians. Hardly seems like a rout on the part of the philosophers.

    So, he condemned human wisdom, which has lead many a Christian (fundamentalist esp) to be close-minded about an real education. They fear it will cause them a lose of salvation- I know this because of the discussions with my aunt, mother and grandmother. They all three and also my grandfather when he was alive, worried about my salvation when I decided to go for a degree in psychology (they are of the devil according to my family :roll: ). A Secular education is the ruin of salvation, in their opinion, so they hated it when I went to a Secular college, but for me, it was Enlightenment.

    I don’t think it’s fair to lay this at Paul’s feet. Christians for millenia after Paul held philosophy in very high regard and wholeheartedly embraced “secular” learning and wisdom. If it weren’t for the Irish monks most of Greek philosophy wouldn’t have even survived the barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages. And nearly every major University in Europe and most in America too was started by the church. The anti-intellectual bent of some Christians is really just a recent phenomenon – stemming from the early 20th Century debates between fundamentalists and liberals in the church. Outside of fundamentalism most Christians do still value learning very highly. Believe me, I’ve ranted against the anti-intellectualism of conservative Christians circles too – but as much because I see it as a betrayal of the long intellectual tradition of my faith as for any other reasons.

    Thankfully there are still plenty of Christian institutions that promote an “integration of faith and learning”, not an opposition. In fact, my wife and I actually found more open mindedness to differing scholarly theories and views at our conservative Christian college (Wheaton) than at some of the state universities we were familiar with (where the professors had to conform to whatever academic orthodoxy ruled their particular department).

    the research paper I did on C. S. Lewis never having been a true atheist:

    Thanks for the link. I’ll read it with interest. :)

  • Miko

    The anti-intellectual bent of some Christians is really just a recent phenomenon – stemming from the early 20th Century debates between fundamentalists and liberals in the church.

    I’d say it goes back at least to 415 CE.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    So only a few of them sneered, and it wasn’t his logic that they objected to, it was his belief in resurrection. This had nothing to do with the “rationality” of such a belief. It had to do with the fact that most Greeks made a sharp dichotomy between the material and the spiritual worlds with material=evil and spiritual=good. The highest goal of Greek philosophy was to escape the material world. In this context then it would have seemed ridiculous to preach a bodily resurrection. Why, from the Greek’s point of view, would you want to get your body back? In their opinion the body was exactly what we are all trying to escape.

    CARR
    As Paul pointed out to the Roman church in Romans 7:24 ‘Who will rescue me from this body of death?’

    Mike has made an excellent summary of Paul’s views.

    Paul thought it foolish even to want to get Adam’s body back. Foolish even to discuss how corpses could be restored. That was ‘the body of death’. It brought death by its very nature of being flesh, whereas Jesus had become a spirit , which , by its nature, was ‘life-giving’.

    ‘There is nothing good in my flesh’ – Paul in Romans 7.

    ‘For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh’ Paul in Galatians 5.

    A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his flesh, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

    Once more, Paul scoffs at the idea that flesh will be resurrected and have eternal life. The very nature of flesh is that it will be destroyed and brings destruction with it.

    Paul regarded it as foolish to wonder how corpses will be restored, and he would have scoffed at the stories in the Gospels of a resurrected Jesus made of flesh and eating.

    Paul declares in 1 Corinthians that God will destroy both stomach and food. This trashes the Gospel stories of resurrected beings having stomachs and eating food.

    It is clear from 1 Corinthians 15 that at least some converts to Jesus-worship scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse.

    Acts is late, secondary and written by an anonymous person who never reveals any sources,.

    It is obvious from 1 Corinthians 15 that it could not possibly have happened that way.

    Early converts scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse, and Paul never implies that other Christians *did* believe in corpses being raised.

    Even in Thessalonika, some Christians were getting worried that their fallen Christian brethren were now corpses. Even then Paul breathes not a word about corpses rising.

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

    I’d say it goes back at least to 415 CE.

    Sorry, I’m not catching the allusion.

    Though of course history is a complicated thing and Modern fundamentalism is not the first instance of anti-intellectualism that has popped up in the church. It’s just the most recent and the one that has most likely affected Mriana’s experience with her family.

  • Steven Carr

    MRIANA
    I hope he can see that with the research paper I did on C. S. Lewis never having been a true atheist:

    CARR
    What is a true atheist?

  • Miko

    Sorry, I’m not catching the allusion.

    There’s a bit of debate on some of the events or motivations, but the basic story I’m referring to is:

    In 391, Theodosius established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, leading to the closing of pagan temples as well as quasi-secular buildings such as the Library of Alexandria. Over the next few years, life becomes very unpleasant for scholars, especially pagan scholars. Finally, in 415, a mob of Christians acting at the behest of St. Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, put the final nail in the coffin of intellectualism by murdering the mathematician Hypatia and burning down the Serapeum, which was probably housing the surviving portion of the Library of Alexandria’s collection. As Bertrand Russell put it, “After this, Alexandria was no longer troubled by philosophers.”

    Though of course history is a complicated thing and Modern fundamentalism is not the first instance of anti-intellectualism that has popped up in the church.

    I agree. It tends to be a cyclic phenomenon. There are always those that support it and those that oppose it, so it’s more of an issue of who has the political power in the church and in the government at any given time. We’re usually fairly safe from it, but every once in a while bad luck gives us an anti in both the church and the government and then really bad things happen.

    I cite the Alexandria example because it’s probably the biggest fall in recorded history. It was without a doubt the coolest place on Earth in its heydey: the first city devoted to independent scholarship and tolerance, where Homeric scholars worked side by side with the rabbis who produced the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint). Then six hundred years later the scholars were fleeing for their lives and the Jews were in pogroms. The scary thing is that anti-intellectualism or anti-diversity don’t have to be the dominant views of the church: they just have to be held by the wrong two or three people and the edifice of civilization can come crashing down.

  • Mriana
    the research paper I did on C. S. Lewis never having been a true atheist:

    Thanks for the link. I’ll read it with interest.

    Great! Can’t wait for your response. Incidently, I was listening to a podcast by Speaking of Faith, with Krista Tippett. Here guest for this one was Karen Armstrong, who I admire greatly. Ms. Armstrong said stated not all of the books we attribute to Paul were written by him. That was no surprise, but what was shocking to me was that I fell for the idea that Paul wrote them all when I know full well that we don’t even know for sure who wrote the Gospels or Revelations. :roll: I’m going, “Doh!”

    My point is, what so many have attributed to Paul might not have been his thoughts at all, which is some what in line with what you suggested. Forgive me if I came off sounding like whatever you want to fill in the blank with. I should have known better after reading and/or corresponding with other theologians that I highly respect. I’m sure if Bishop Spong heard me attribute all those books and alike to Paul, he would have called me on it and maybe more.

    Steven Carr said,

    May 31, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    MRIANA
    I hope he can see that with the research paper I did on C. S. Lewis never having been a true atheist:

    CARR
    What is a true atheist?

    You would have to read my paper to get an idea as to what I am talking about, but when Lewis said he was an atheist, he in fact was not, because British Idealism believes in an Absolute- a non-theistic god. The Absolute deals with Hegel and Berekley’s ideas. How am I defining non-theism? Much like Spong does- anything that does not deal with theism. Panendeism, Deism, and even Hinduism is non-theistic. I cover Deism in my paper too. All of them have some sort of human concept of (a) god. By contrast, atheism has no concept of god or any god- IF it’s true atheism. A belief in the Absolute is a belief in a god, but it is non-theistic yet throws a person out of the catagory of disbelieving in a god, so it is not atheism.

    It has gone well on the the CFI board and other boards too, so it has appealled to more than just the Spong board and my prof (who happened to be Catholic).

    Hope that clears things up a little for you Carr, if not maybe reading my paper will help.

    If not, just consider it my thank you gift to Pastor Mike for being so willing to join us on Hemant’s Blog.

  • Miko

    even Hinduism is non-theistic

    How do you figure that?

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

    Finally, in 415, a mob of Christians acting at the behest of St. Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, put the final nail in the coffin of intellectualism by murdering the mathematician Hypatia and burning down the Serapeum, which was probably housing the surviving portion of the Library of Alexandria’s collection.

    Ah yes, I thought that’s what you were probably referring to. Definitely one of the great tragedies of history. Still makes me angry to think about it. As Tom Stoppard says in “Arcadia” regarding the destruction of the Library “How can we sleep for grief?”

    But of course, right around this same time (or shortly after) Christian monks on the other end of the Empire were busy preserving and copying as many ancient texts as they could get their hands on – even sending monks on dangerous expeditions to the far reaches of the known world to bring back copies of Plato, Sophocles, Seneca and Archimedes. Again, church history is always a mixed bag.

    There are always those that support it and those that oppose it, so it’s more of an issue of who has the political power in the church and in the government at any given time. We’re usually fairly safe from it, but every once in a while bad luck gives us an anti in both the church and the government and then really bad things happen.

    Agreed, which is why Bush and his neo-cons are so scary. (I keep telling myself – “Only 19 more months…”)

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

    Ms. Armstrong said stated not all of the books we attribute to Paul were written by him.

    I admit to not having looked into this as closely as the authorship of the gospels question. I know that even Wright thinks that 2 Timothy was likely not by Paul. However, as for the rest of the disputed letters (Ephesians, 1 Timothy, & Titus) the reasons for doubting them seem to rest on the same suspect methodology used in the case against the gospels – namely inter-textual comparison. I.e. the main arguments against Pauline authorship is that some of the words, phrases and concepts in these letters are different than in his other letters. However, I just don’t think that this is a very reliable method. Why should we assume that an author is going to express himself in exactly the same way all the time – especially when he’s writing to different people in different cities and cultural contexts about different questions and concerns and often separated by the span of years or decades between writings? Can’t we allow for development within Paul’s own thinking and writing style? For goodness sake, I’m pretty sure that if you compared my current writings with stuff I wrote back in high school over a decade ago (or even stuff I wrote in college), you wouldn’t find much similarity either.

    Anyhow, I’m not closed to the possibility that Paul didn’t write every one of the letters attributed to him, but I don’t find the arguments that he didn’t very convincing either.

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

    Great! Can’t wait for your response.

    Good article. I think your basic thesis is pretty much right on – Lewis was not a strict atheist in the sense that most people today would use that term. As a Hegelian Idealist he was more properly a non-theist.

    Of course, there may have been some development in his belief/non-belief. He seems to have been a more “true atheist” in his teen and young adult years (especially due to Kirkpatrick’s influence) but then getting into some occult experimentation and then eventually Idealism before becoming a non-Christian theist and then eventually a full-blown Christian.

    I did take several courses on Lewis in college and my wife actually got to spend some time with his step-son, Douglas Gresham, at his estate in Ireland. I’ve read nearly all of Lewis’ published works (with the exception of his literary criticism, which isn’t really my cup of tea), but it’s been a few years since I’ve gone back to them and refreshed myself on his writings. I suspect I might see some things differently from Jack (Lewis, not Spong) these days, but he did serve as a good catalyst to get me moving in the right direction once upon a time. Anyhow, thanks for the good insights. :)

  • Steven Carr

    I wonder if we can tell whether creeds , such as those found in 1 Corinthians 15, contain non-Pauline language….

    The similarity of style of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus mean that they were almost certainly written by the same person.

    There are also historical problems associated with them, as well as stylistic and theological differences.

    We have to remember that Christians really did forge letters by Paul (The letter now known as 3 Corinthians is a good example) Paul himself complains about forged letters, supposedly written by him.

    In fact, ancient authors were trained in forging other people’s styles. It was considered a skill.

    Does Wright really stick his neck out and say that Paul did or did not write them?

    I would be utterly astonished if he expressed a personal view on whether Paul either did or did not write them.

    He believes in sitting firmly on the fence on such issues, in contrast to his claims that we can have ‘no doubt’ about the intentions of anonymous authors of 2,000 years ago.

    See page 675 of Wright’s ‘Resurrection’, ‘and if he was going to include this there are no doubt many other things he could have added as well…’, or page 643 ‘We can be sure however, that this strange comment would not have occurred to somebody telling this story as a pure fiction…’

    How can we be so sure about the intentions of unknown people when Wright can’t even hazard an opinion on who wrote some of these books?

    Wright only has doubts about liberal scholarship. He has no doubts about anything which supports his views.

  • Miko

    Ah yes, I thought that’s what you were probably referring to. Definitely one of the great tragedies of history. Still makes me angry to think about it. As Tom Stoppard says in “Arcadia” regarding the destruction of the Library “How can we sleep for grief?”

    Good line. The quotation over at your blog is fantastic as well. I’ve been meaning to see Arcadia but it seems I’m never in the right place. Everything by Stoppard is brilliant.

    I was going to say that I was surprised that the Library gets mentioned in Arcadia, but I’ve decided that I’m actually not. It’s one of those things that are so enormous and inexplicabe that it has to take on a mythic status in our culture. It’s humanity’s foremost fear—that 5,000 years from now, the leading scientific and philosophical question will again be whether the Earth is flat.

    To quote the film “The Day After Tomorrow” (yeah, I know, I wouldn’t have expected it in this conversation either):

    Elsa: What book is that?
    Jeremy: The Guttenburg Bible.
    Elsa: You think God is going to save you?
    Jeremy: No, I don’t believe in God.
    Elsa: You seem to be holding onto the book very tightly.
    Jeremy: I’m protecting it. This Bible is the first book ever published. It represents the dawn of the age of reasoning. As far as I’m concerned, the written word is mankind’s greatest achievement. Laugh if you want. But if Western Civilization is destroyed, I want to save one little piece of it.

    Why should we assume that an author is going to express himself in exactly the same way all the time

    While I’ve never been sufficiently interested in who wrote the Bible to look into it from this standpoint, this sort of textual analysis has had an excellent success rate in other areas. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work as well for Biblical authorship as well.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/4/984front.html

    Anyhow, I’m not closed to the possibility that Paul didn’t write every one of the letters attributed to him, but I don’t find the arguments that he didn’t very convincing either.

    So what authority do you think they have, then?

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

    While I’ve never been sufficiently interested in who wrote the Bible to look into it from this standpoint, this sort of textual analysis has had an excellent success rate in other areas. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work as well for Biblical authorship as well.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/4/984front.html

    That article seemed rather anecdotal and polemical (being skeptical of textual analysis methods doesn’t make one a “fundamentalist”). Are you aware of any other articles that give more objective data about the reliability of this method, especially when taking into consideration some of the factors I mentioned above – e.g. differences in audiences, focus and purpose, and time between writing?

    Again, if you compared a love letter written by me to my high school girlfriend alongside a letter written 12 years later to an atheist friend about philosophy of religion would textual analysis still be able to identify me as the same author? The article you linked to didn’t seem to indicate one way or another whether they could.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    Anyhow, I’m not closed to the possibility that Paul didn’t write every one of the letters attributed to him, but I don’t find the arguments that he didn’t very convincing either.

    So what authority do you think they have, then?

    Sorry, I hit “Submit” too soon.

    My view of biblical authority is vaguely “Catholic” in that I think the authority of the text derives (in part) from the authority of the Church, and not only from the apostolicity of the writings. E.g. 2 Timothy is authoritative not just because Paul wrote it, but because the historic church said it was. In other words, even if Paul didn’t write it (maybe Polycarp or Clement did), it still contains good and true statements that the early church recognized as worth keeping.

    But again, I’m not convinced that they weren’t written by Paul. Textual comparison doesn’t really strike me as an exact science. Too much room for interpretive error and mitigating variables.

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

    Carr, you clearly have some issues with Bishop Wright. Since you live in Durham as you say, perhaps you should just take them up with him personally. Why not give his parish a call and see if he’ll meet with you?

  • Miko

    That article seemed rather anecdotal and polemical (being skeptical of textual analysis methods doesn’t make one a “fundamentalist”). Are you aware of any other articles that give more objective data about the reliability of this method, especially when taking into consideration some of the factors I mentioned above – e.g. differences in audiences, focus and purpose, and time between writing?

    I agree. I’ve seen better articles on it in the past, but this was the best I found with a quick search (and the fact that it talked about the Bible in addition to the basic textual methods was actually a coincidence). It’s the kind of topic that’s better addressed in a journal article than a webpage, unfortunately, and I’ve read so many thousands of journal articles that tracking down original sources isn’t always easy—especially if I’m trying to find one accessible to a nonspecialist audience. :-)

    There are some famous examples in analysis of Shakespeare, the Federalist Papers, the Unabomber’s letters, etc., as well as some cross-overs that don’t at first seem to be related applying the same underlying mathematical ideas to determine authorship of musical compositions.

    I have seen work specifically on differences in audiences, but it was primarily focused on developing algorithms for classifying what the intended audience was (this one is actually a huge research area due to the need for spam detection). Since much of the goal of technical writing is to eliminate the personality of the author (as well as things like clarity, of course), there are definitely going to be cases in which determining authorship could be difficult in some cases (but see below).

    Focus and purpose has been studied to some extent. For a somewhat technical paper, check out http://www.sigmod.org/record/issues/0112/SPECIAL/6.pdf , which deals with ascertaining authorship of anonymous e-mails. Some parts of it don’t carry over (for example, analysis of HTML tags), but there’s a bit on genuine textual analysis. It goes specifically into cross-category e-mails, but is limited in that it requires one to start with a pool of potential candidate authors. They suggest:

    For example, the composition of formal e-mails will differ from informal ones (changes in vocabulary etc.). Even in the context of informal e-mails there could be several composition styles (e.g., one style for personal relations and one for work relations). However, humans are creatures of habit and have certain personal traits which tend to persist. All humans have unique (or near-unique) patterns of behaviour, biometric attributes, and so on. We therefore conjecture that certain characteristics pertaining to language, composition and writing, such as particular syntactic and structural layout traits, patterns of vocabulary usage, unusual language usage (e.g., converting the letter “f” to “ph”, or the excessive use of digits and/or upper-case letters), stylistic and sub-stylistic features will remain relatively constant.

    In the case of each characteristic examined, it’s worthwhile to consider exactly how well it would carry over from their particular case to the Biblical analysis case. I think that one of their strongest bits is the creation of author signatures based on the use of function words like “the,” “if,” and “too.” While it’s unexpected, apparently each of us is idiosyncratic in our usage of these words (both in frequency distribution and in placement). For example, I tend to start sentences with prepositional clauses like “For example” with a greater frequency than most. Another technique is placement of punctuation (Fitzgerald used more commas than anyone else on the planet), although I’m not sure how well preserved punctuation is on a text as old as the Bible. Still, this kind of thing probably answers your question in the affirmative, since you’re unlikely to use alter your use of words like “the” between the love letter and the discussion of philosophy. The above also goes a bit into the issue of the age of the writing: my writing style has conscioulsy changed over time, but I’ve never focused on changing the frequency of the word “the” in my texts.

    Another technique is author classification through dichotomies. There’s been some research in detecting whether a text was written by a male or female, vocabulary richness, average word and sentence length, etc. This kind of thing isn’t usually specific enough for making positive matches, but it would have some promise in showing that two pieces were not authored by the same individual.

    In the end, you wind up a computer program that analyzes sometimes more than 1,000 different minute features to come up with a probable author. When you have that many features, some people are going to argue about exactly how pertinent each individual one is and it’s going to be difficult to determine exactly how each feature should be weighed in coming up with a final determination. I wouldn’t accept any particular conclusion without a bit of skepticism, but I think in general the methods work pretty well and in theory they could work quite a bit better a few decades from now. The underlying theory is basically the same one that the government uses to identify fingerprints: identify the salient details and combine them to form a signature. There are some legitimate linguistic questions regarding whether certain proposed characterizations are actually valid discriminators (your argument against the use of specific words or phrases as an indicator is an example of this), but the overall method is certainly sound. Also, it’s worth noting that you’re more likely to get a false positive than a false negative using these techniques, so if a given analysis suggests that two pieces were written by different authors, I’d be inclined to believe it.

  • Miko

    My view of biblical authority is vaguely “Catholic” in that I think the authority of the text derives (in part) from the authority of the Church, and not only from the apostolicity of the writings. E.g. 2 Timothy is authoritative not just because Paul wrote it, but because the historic church said it was. In other words, even if Paul didn’t write it (maybe Polycarp or Clement did), it still contains good and true statements that the early church recognized as worth keeping.

    I think that that’s an excellent source. In fact, I wish religions would move entirely to justifying their texts based on good and true content (as unlikely as that seems to be). But why worry about the bad statements then? If you’re going to justify texts based on their good statements, it seems equally valid to throw out portions because they don’t contain good statements. I read a couple of the articles at the site you linked earlier on gender equality and concluded that, even after looking at translation issues and so on, you still end up with a text that, while softened, is still suggesting the same fundamental point. One article moved from the “Women shall not teach” idea to “Women shall not teach in a way that would dominate a man,” which is different, but not a whole lot better. If you put it on Paul’s or an anonymous author’s authority instead of God’s, I’d think that throwing it out would be no more difficult than throwing out Luther’s antisemitism, etc.

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    May 31, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Great! Can’t wait for your response.

    Good article. I think your basic thesis is pretty much right on – Lewis was not a strict atheist in the sense that most people today would use that term. As a Hegelian Idealist he was more properly a non-theist.

    Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it and that was what I finally deduced too, as you read. I really think he was a non-theist until he converted back to Christianity. I dind’t care too much for his works, except the Lion, The Witch and the Wordrobe. You’re very welcome for the insights.

    Miko said,

    May 31, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    even Hinduism is non-theistic

    How do you figure that?

    Because it is not theistic, not Christian or Islam which are theistic religions. It meets all the requirements of non-theism. There is a difference between non-theism and atheism. Deism is also an example of non-theism. Research it and you will understand better.

  • Miko

    It meets all the requirements of non-theism. There is a difference between non-theism and atheism. Deism is also an example of non-theism. Research it and you will understand better.

    What are you asserting as the requirements for non-theism (or theism for that matter)? The Wikipedia article on “theism” gives Hinduism as an example of a theistic religion, by the way.

  • Mriana

    Wikipedia is not a reliable source. Deism, I can tell you for sure IS non-theistic. Regardless, I would not trust Wikipedia’s information.

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

    As I understand it, isn’t Hinduism typically either pantheistic or polytheistic?

    I guess whether or not you consider that “non-theistic” depends on whether you equate theism strictly with monotheism, or whether theism is a broader term under which pantheism and polytheism are types. Personally I tend to use “theism” as shorthand for “monotheism”, but I guess technically it’d be more accurate to use it as a broad category.

  • Miko

    As I understand it, isn’t Hinduism typically either pantheistic or polytheistic?

    I guess whether or not you consider that “non-theistic” depends on whether you equate theism strictly with monotheism, or whether theism is a broader term under which pantheism and polytheism are types. Personally I tend to use “theism” as shorthand for “monotheism”, but I guess technically it’d be more accurate to use it as a broad category.

    Hinduism is typically somewhere between polytheism and monotheism. They believe in multiple gods, but they see them as avatars or aspects of one god—Vishnu, Shiva, or Brahman depending on the sect, where the first two are personal gods and the last is closer to pantheism but can be either personal or impersonal depending on the sect. I would say that it’s really no more polytheistic than Christianity is for similarly claiming three-gods-in-one.

  • Steven Carr

    Mike hates people quoting Wright, not praising him, just as Mike hates people quoting Jesus, not praising him.

    Mike does not seem to want to engage in substantive discussion about how Wright can be so ‘sure’ about the intentions of anonymous people of 2,000 years, when Wright can’t even tell us such basic stuff as whether the author of 2 Timonthy was lying about claiming to be Paul.

    2 Timothy claimed that Paul left Trophimus ill in Miletus, while the whole point of Acts 21 is that Trophimus was with Paul.

    To get around this, people have to invent a whole new episode in Paul’s life, where he left Rome, journeyed , went to Miletus, left Trophimus there, was arrested, was taken to Rome again – everything that he had done before, just to make 2 Timothy fit.

    I did email the Bishop of Durham, as Mike asked.

    I asked Wright more than one year ago, when he was going to respond to ‘The Empty Tomb’, a book which prestigious papers like ‘The Times Literary Supplement’ said successfully attacked many of his arguments.

    Wright said he was reading the book, but one year later , he has not been able to come up with a rebuttal.

  • Richard Wade

    Once upon a time a group of wise and learned men and women came together once again from distant places far and wide under the shady branches of a huge tree. When they reached the tree they were relieved that there was no sign of the tricky village idiot to whom they had given most of their food and drink once before.

    This time they gathered to discuss the single question, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” They each had widely differing views and backgrounds and it was sure to be a lively debate. At first there were preliminary assumptions that had to be discussed and agreed upon.

    They argued over what kind of pin. They had brought with them many different kinds of pins to examine. Would it be a pin with a plastic round head? Or a pin with a flat steel head? Some pin manufacturers made the heads of their pins larger than others. These details took many hours to work out, but at last they settled on a type of pin that they all could accept.

    Then they discussed at length about what kind of angels. Would they consider Catholic angels? Protestant angels? Would they be chubby little baby angels like in those nauseating Italian Renaissance paintings or the tall, leggy women in flowing robes on Christmas cards? That would make a big difference in how many could dance on the head of a pin. What about Muslim angels, or the angelic counterparts in Hinduism? And there were angel-like beings in many other religions to consider. This got very complicated and very difficult. The wise and learned men and women argued on and on for many days.

    In the midst of all that the question came up about what kind of dance would the angels be dancing? A stately minuet might require less area than an expansive waltz, and so would allow for more angels. Or what about western square dancing or circle dancing or line dancing? Or that showy stuff like on Dancing with the Stars. These would all pose different challenges for angels on the head of a pin and would affect the number. And what about break dancing? Angels might be really good at that, or they might suck. Maybe some angels would be shy and wouldn’t want to get out there to dance on the head of the pin unless a lot of others were out there first. Also, would some angels be willing to dance at all? Maybe dancing was against their religion.

    This complicated things so hopelessly that after many weeks of often heated debate the wise and learned men and women were very frustrated, wondering if they would ever resolve it all. After all they were still working on just the preliminary assumptions. They hadn’t even started arguing over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

    After so much time being camped out day and night under the great tree the wise and learned men and women were tired, hungry, dirty and they smelled bad. They were disgusted with each other and with themselves, and with the whole idea of having such discussions. At last they all threw up their hands, dropped their pins in the dirt beneath the great tree and went their separate ways to their homes far and wide.

    Time passed with season following season, sun following rain, and beneath the great tree the thin parts of the pins that the wise and learned men and women had dropped in the dirt rusted away. In the end there was just a bunch of pinheads.

  • Mriana

    Hinduism is typically somewhere between polytheism and monotheism. They believe in multiple gods, but they see them as avatars or aspects of one god—Vishnu, Shiva, or Brahman depending on the sect, where the first two are personal gods and the last is closer to pantheism but can be either personal or impersonal depending on the sect. I would say that it’s really no more polytheistic than Christianity is for similarly claiming three-gods-in-one.

    Yes, that is right, Miko. I consider Polytheism as bieng anything theism (polytheism, monotheism pantheism), but the the Oxford online philosophy and theology dictionary said Hinduism was non-theistic. Unless of course, I did so much research on non-theism, that I got my wires crossed. Hinduism was not the focus of my paper at all.

    Non-theism and atheism was, in which deism is included in non-theism. That I know I did not get my wires crossed. I won’t deny that since Hinduism was not the focus of my paper, that I skimmed over it and set it aside for something later. Given that, I could very well be wrong about Hinduism because I didn’t maul over it like I did Deism and atheism. Humanism I didn’t have to maul over much because I’ve been studying it for years now and fit perfectly with my paper. I enjoyed playing with ‘Old Knock’. :D

  • Fundamentalist

    I must come back to a question i aked of Mike earlier:
    If I read you correctly and correct me if I don’t, you reject
    1. A literal everlasting hell
    2.The infallibility of Scripture
    3. The Redemptive work of Christ at the Cross
    4. Faith in the death burial and resurrection of Christ as the only way to
    heaven for those who have heard the gospel of Christ.
    5 Most if not all of the other “essentials” of the Christian faith
    If this is so would you then see or claim to be a born again Christian ? Would you discribe your “conversion” experience.

  • Ash

    i’ve done some brief study on hinduism, and the only conclusion i could come to was that i didn’t understand it at all. however, this isn’t such a bad conclusion as hinduism only has a few common features. it was originally a geographic term which stretched to eventually include all ‘indigenous’ (which of course got influenced by other faiths imported into the area) religious and socio-cultural practises in india. hence, depending on which parts you focus on, it can be described with all of the above labels.
    i’m sure that as it expands and tries to cope in the modern world, hinduism will eventually coalesce itself into something that can be more easily labelled, but given that many adherents live in remote, illiterate villages uninfluenced by modern india, let alone the western world, it’s still probably a long way off.

  • Miko

    Ash said,
    i’m sure that as it expands and tries to cope in the modern world, hinduism will eventually coalesce itself into something that can be more easily labelled, but given that many adherents live in remote, illiterate villages uninfluenced by modern india, let alone the western world, it’s still probably a long way off.

    I tend to doubt it. Basically the only core doctrine they share is “one truth, many paths.” Why go against the teachings of your religion just to make things easy on world religion instructors?

    Fundie said,
    5. Most if not all of the other “essentials” of the Christian faith

    Yeah, how dare you drop all of the *ahem* ‘essentials’ of the Christian faith? And more importantly, are you still beating your wife? ;-)

  • Ash

    I tend to doubt it. Basically the only core doctrine they share is “one truth, many paths.” Why go against the teachings of your religion just to make things easy on world religion instructors?

    i’m only going with precedent on this one – that is, the tendency of the religious to want to be able to identify themselves in easy terms, to espouse a singular path as being the only ‘right’ way for true belief and to pretend to present a united front in order to claim converts and cast scorn on opposing beliefs. maybe hindus do not yet find themselves in a position where fundamentalism seems like a good idea, but, like i said, i’m going on precedents…

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

    Hey Fundamentalist (at least you’re up front about where you’re coming from ;) ):

    I’m not sure I can really answer your questions as they are based on a particular systematic theology (i.e. extra-biblical schema for intepreting the Bible) that no longer makes much sense to me. The questions just don’t “fit” what I think the gospel is all about. So instead, let me ask you some clarifying questions:

    1. What do you mean by “literal”, “everlasting”, and “hell”?
    2. What do you mean by “infallible”? In intent? In its effects? In its historical details?
    3. By “Redemptive work of Christ on the Cross” do you mean just one particular theory of the atonement or do you simply mean that the Cross is the basis for our salvation, however we choose to describe how exactly that works?
    4. Is going to heaven really what Jesus said his gospel was all about? If so, how do you reconcile that with what Jesus clearly said his gospel was in Luke 4:18-19 or Matthew 25:31-46?
    5. What, to you, are the “essentials” of the Christian faith, and how are they different than the Apostles Creed, the oldest and most universally accepted statement of Christian essentials, that I explicitly affirm on our church’s website?

    And, what do you mean by “born again Christian”? I’ve “prayed the prayer”. I’ve “accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior”. (Despite the fact that Jesus never told people to do either of those things to be saved.) Aren’t those enough?

    BTW, have you sold all your possessions and given them to the poor? I mean, Jesus told one guy that he had to be “born again” in order to be saved, but if you can tell me that I have to be “born again” then I can tell you to sell everything to be saved since Jesus said that to one guy too.

    My “conversion experience”? Well, what do you mean by “conversion”? I’m daily being converted to the way of Christ. But if you want to know my “born again” credentials – I was raised in a conservative Baptist family, I “prayed the prayer” when I was 4, and I “rededicated” my life to Jesus several times at camp when I was a teenager and in college. Does that count? :roll:

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    5. What, to you, are the “essentials” of the Christian faith, and how are they different than the Apostles Creed, the oldest and most universally accepted statement of Christian essentials, that I explicitly affirm on our church’s website?

    CARR
    Isn’t the Apostles Creed the one which says Jesus descended into Hell?

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    so, how do you reconcile that with what Jesus clearly said his gospel was in Luke 4:18-19 or Matthew 25:31-46?

    CARR
    Here is some of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46

    Verse 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

  • Mriana

    CARR
    Isn’t the Apostles Creed the one which says Jesus descended into Hell?

    It depends on whose version you are using. Lutherans say he descended into hell, but Episcopalians he descended to the dead. I have all of them at my fingertips. I could type out both the Lutheran and the Episcopal versions if you like. Regardless, my point is that it depends on who you are talking to as to what it says.

  • Mriana

    Oh I have the Catholic version around her too, but not at my fingertips.

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

    It depends on whose version you are using. Lutherans say he descended into hell, but Episcopalians he descended to the dead. I have all of them at my fingertips. I could type out both the Lutheran and the Episcopal versions if you like. Regardless, my point is that it depends on who you are talking to as to what it says.

    Our version says “He descended into death”. The original Greek is “Hades”, which in NT context, I believe is a parallel to the Hebrew “sheol”. Sheol is primarily a reference simply to physical death (literally “the pit” or “the grave”), not really to any kind of “afterlife” location. So in our recitation of the Creed we don’t get into any funky theology about Jesus kickin’ in the gates of Hell (though I like the imagery :) ). We just basically say “Jesus died”.

  • Mriana

    You know, that reminds me, there are stories where people were actually unconscious and thought dead. So, they were buried alived and then people thought they rose from the dead. Although IF Jesus was whipped to a bloody pulp, nailed to a cross, and then stabbed in the side, he would have bled to death. At the very least, that much blood loss would have made him as white as a ghost, IF he survived the stab to the side.

    I found out recently there is a neat story similar to the JC story in Hinduism. I forgot how it goes and which part of the story is similar, but it is said that is why the Hindus are hard to convert to either Christianity or Islam- they have heard the stories before. The only reason some Hindus converted to Islam, supposedly and generally those of the lower castes, was the equality within the Muslim religion- there is not caste system or anything like that (except the deal with women).

  • nsa

    Fortunate – stumbling across this site by happenstance.
    Unfortunate – Reading through all of the Steven Carr comments in one sitting.

    I have never read a more pensive, angst ridden soul in need of daily justification… A need that is undeniable and seemingly unquenched when witness to his imaginary battles of “whit” each day.

    What a disservice..

  • Fundamentalist

    I am not sure what the problem is with the word literal or everlasting is but by literal i mean an actual place with actual pain and actual weeping and wailing that will go on infinately for those who have never received Jesus Christ as their person savior.
    I am sure you understand what i mean by infallible. I will not play word or mind games with you. I mean it in the very sence found in your denominations affirmation of faith on page 17 in bold letters. i personally would affirm the plenary verbal inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God but I doubt you will go there.
    As far as redemption is concerned. Do you believe that all are condemmed to the above discribed hell because all have sinned and that Jesus death on the cross was the vicarious blood atonement, a voluntary substituionary acceptance of the penalty of sin limited to those who have accepted and received it for themselves.?
    I am not talking about praying the prayer. Did you truely receive the gift of salvation by trusting Christ alone to do for you what you could not ever do for yourself and undergo a metamorphasis, becomeing a new creation ?
    I am sure you understand what I mean by beeing born again but i am not sure i understand what you mean.

  • Mriana

    Oh boy! :roll: Why do I get the feeling we now hve Christian v. Christian? I hate both Christian v. Christian and Christian v atheist or other. It’s insane IMHO. I hate sounding like that old saying, but… “Why can’t we all just get along and leave each other alone?” BTW, Fundamentalist, not that I’m perfect, but you need some spelling lessons.

  • Miko

    You know, that reminds me, there are stories where people were actually unconscious and thought dead. So, they were buried alived and then people thought they rose from the dead. Although IF Jesus was whipped to a bloody pulp, nailed to a cross, and then stabbed in the side, he would have bled to death. At the very least, that much blood loss would have made him as white as a ghost, IF he survived the stab to the side.

    Richard Carrier has examined this possibility. He concludes it’s unlike, but more likely than the alternative. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/2.html

    The only reason some Hindus converted to Islam, supposedly and generally those of the lower castes, was the equality within the Muslim religion- there is not caste system or anything like that (except the deal with women).

    Conversion to Buddhism is common also. It’s appealing since it has no caste system and is a dharmic religion. It’s better off for women as well, although the extent depends on the area since a bit of anti-women practices have been adopted since the religion’s inception.

  • Miko

    by literal i mean an actual place with actual pain and actual weeping and wailing that will go on infinately for those who have never received Jesus Christ as their person savior.

    Seems like the weeping and wailing parts would have to be a personal choice rather than a description of the place.

  • monkeymind

    No, Miko, god says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So that ‘s that. You’re getting confused w. Buddhism, where pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.

  • Mriana

    Yes, Miko, that could be the truth, but the man is so buried in the Myths of Mithra and others, that it is difficult to say what really happened. I’m more inclined to believe that the myths came first, were intermeshed together into one religion, esp around the time of Constentine, in which he added Pagan things to the religion. BTW, the cross has not always been a part of Christianity. It came from Pagan religions. The Anke is a good example of this.

    And you are right about Buddhism too, but it also depends on the area. In some areas where Buddhism was and is, women haven’t been treated so great.

    As for the weeping and nashing, it would get old after a while and cease to be affective.

  • Mriana

    BTW, I’m still reading Richard’s paper (or whatever it is called) and finding it very interesting and thought provoking, but even so, I still say IF JC lived, his life is mixed with a lot of myth.

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

    Thanks for your reply Fundie. As I said before, I don’t really know how to answer your questions because they’re part of a theological scheme that I don’t really subscribe to anymore (and that in truth I find to be rather unbiblical – or rather, a based on an interpretive distortion of scripture). Anyhow, I can’t deconstruct your entire theology here – an atheist blog is hardly the place for it.

    I am not sure what the problem is with the word literal or everlasting is but by literal i mean an actual place with actual pain and actual weeping and wailing that will go on infinately for those who have never received Jesus Christ as their person savior.

    Well, I believe in hell as a state of having rejected God, but as for whether it is an actual place or everlasting, I don’t think we know enough about it to say. I don’t see much about it in the Bible.

    As for whether hell is “for those who have never received Jesus Christ as their person savior”, I’m not sure where you’d find that in the Bible either. Again, Matthew 25 is pretty clear about who “goes to hell” (if you want to talk about it in those terms) and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with “receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour”.

    I am sure you understand what i mean by infallible. I will not play word or mind games with you. I mean it in the very sence found in your denominations affirmation of faith on page 17 in bold letters. i personally would affirm the plenary verbal inspiration, infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God but I doubt you will go there.

    Well, again, I don’t find words like “infallible”, “inerrant” or “plenary verbal inspiration” in scripture itself, nor is “the Word of God” necessarily identical with “the Bible” – John 1 is pretty clear that the Word is Jesus (which are all more reasons to think that fundamentalist beliefs are based too much on extra-biblical theological systems). If I was going to stick to what the Bible says about it self then I’d have to say I believe that the Bible is “God breathed” (which in context seems to mean something like “living and active”, not “dictated word for word”), and useful for spiritual transformation and training in the ways of justice.

    As far as redemption is concerned. Do you believe that all are condemmed to the above discribed hell because all have sinned and that Jesus death on the cross was the vicarious blood atonement, a voluntary substituionary acceptance of the penalty of sin limited to those who have accepted and received it for themselves.?

    I do believe in redemption and the forgiveness of sins, and I do believe that this comes through Jesus’ death on the cross, but no, I wouldn’t describe it like that. Again, your description seems to have more to do with a particular branch of Protestant systematics than with the teachings of Jesus and Paul, IMHO. I just don’t think it’s what the Bible is really talking about.

    I am not talking about praying the prayer. Did you truely receive the gift of salvation by trusting Christ alone to do for you what you could not ever do for yourself and undergo a metamorphasis, becomeing a new creation?

    Absolutely, yes! In fact, I’m still in the process, day-by-day, of becoming a new creation.

    Anyhow, that’s the best I can do to answer your questions. Sorry I can’t be any clearer than that. Again, it’s hard to give you a straight yes or no because there are all kinds of underlying assumptions behind your questions that would need to be unpacked first. But again, this hardly seems like the place to get into all that.

    Peace,
    -Mike

  • Miko

    Yes, Miko, that could be the truth, but the man is so buried in the Myths of Mithra and others, that it is difficult to say what really happened. I’m more inclined to believe that the myths came first, were intermeshed together into one religion, esp around the time of Constentine, in which he added Pagan things to the religion.

    I would agree and based on things Carrier has said elsewhere, I think that he probably would as well. I don’t see any reason to believe that any of the gospels are actually historically accurate in the slightest way. Especially the non-Mark gospels, as they used Mark as a source and come across like a tall tale getting bigger with every retelling.

    And you are right about Buddhism too, but it also depends on the area. In some areas where Buddhism was and is, women haven’t been treated so great.

    I usually applaud Buddhism for not having a closed canon (i.e., acknowledging that everything it says is not necessarily true and that there are things that it does not say which are nonetheless true), but things like this are the unfortunate downside: people can feel justified to add whatever junk into that they feel like.

    As for the weeping and nashing, it would get old after a while and cease to be affective.

    Or as Bart Simpson asks, “Wouldn’t you eventually get used to it, like in a hot tub?” If pain is going to be involved, there must be a physical body there, in which case all of the nerve endings will burn away fairly quickly on the scale of eternity. :-)

  • Fundamentalist

    First i am aware of my spelling errors, I would have less if i were more concerned with the spelling than eternal issues. I suspect many are the result of poor typing skills as well, particularly when the mind works faster than the fingers.
    I so not desire to have a Christian vs. Christian conflict. However I am concerned that I detect a positon that is a very old issue. Whether the social outreach or dimension of the Gospel is seen as the effect or evidence of salvation or the avenue or means to it. It is a crucial differnace.
    If you are a Christian Pastor, Mike were you never asked to affirm a statement of faith as being truth by those who gave you credentials.
    If you no longer hold to those positions why are you still part of the organization. Isn’t that somewhat deceptive ?

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

    I so not desire to have a Christian vs. Christian conflict. However I am concerned that I detect a positon that is a very old issue. Whether the social outreach or dimension of the Gospel is seen as the effect or evidence of salvation or the avenue or means to it. It is a crucial differnace.

    That’s an old and outdated dichotomy. It’s not an either/or. Both social justice and the forgiveness of sins are part of God’s larger work of rescuing, reconciling and restoring the whole world. Ask yourself this Fundie: as you read the words of Jesus (cf. Matt. 4:17 & 6:10, Mark 1:15, Luke 4:18-21) does his message seem to be more about going to heaven when you die, or about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth? Is the gospel about escape or restoration?

    If you are a Christian Pastor, Mike were you never asked to affirm a statement of faith as being truth by those who gave you credentials.
    If you no longer hold to those positions why are you still part of the organization. Isn’t that somewhat deceptive ?

    Yes, I was asked to give a detailed account of my theology to our denomination when I was licensed – just as any pastor is. I wrote a long paper giving very specific answers and explained my beliefs to the licensing committee. They saw nothing objectionable in my beliefs and even praised my thoroughness and the biblical support I gave for my views. There was nothing deceptive about it.

    Again, you don’t have to hold to fundamentalist theological systems to affirm the unifying essentials of the faith.

  • Mriana

    Fundamentalist said,

    June 2, 2007 at 8:53 am

    First i am aware of my spelling errors, I would have less if i were more concerned with the spelling than eternal issues. I suspect many are the result of poor typing skills as well, particularly when the mind works faster than the fingers.

    That happens too.

    I so not desire to have a Christian vs. Christian conflict.

    I’m glad, because I really hate seeing such things. I don’t know which is worse Christian v. Christian or Christian v non-theists/atheists.

    If you no longer hold to those positions why are you still part of the organization. Isn’t that somewhat deceptive ?

    Before you judge Pastor Mike, you might want to read “Here I Stand” by Bishop John Shelby Spong. He took a vow/affirmation statement, which he does not believe, admits it, but kept his position until the day he retired and is still considered a bishop if the Episcopal church. He calls himself a non-theist, but in all honesty, he has helped me in a lot of ways. No, I have not returned to the Church and probably won’t. I will probably stay a Humanist for the rest of my life, but have a new understanding of some things thanks to him.

    It is possible that Pastor Mike might give others a new understanding of some things, in which he does bring back “Believers in exile”, as Spong puts it. I see nothing wrong with what Paster Mike is doing because I don’t think it’s much different from Spong, except in interpretation. Neither of them is wrong, IMO. I don’t necessarily agree, but I do not believe either is doing anything wrong.

    Right now, the Church is stagnant, so unless X-ianity changes, it will die. It’s as good as dead in Europe and except in the mega-Churches, it’s dying here in the States too. There’s a lot to change though, but I won’t go through the list. It would take far too long and the thing is, the Church won’t change overnight. It will probably take a century for it to even make the necessary changes to attract people again, because so many old views are so engrained into those who are still in the Church.

  • Mriana

    Again, you don’t have to hold to fundamentalist theological systems to affirm the unifying essentials of the faith.

    What is faith anyway? Couldn’t that be considered yet another human concept? What I mean is, one human’s concept of faith could be different from another’s, but still be faith. I think it is a bit judgemental to judge another person’s faith, be it in the human or in God, based on our own interpretation.

  • Fundamentalist

    The question is: are the works elements of salvation or are they evidences of what has taken place. I have no problem with them evidencing a living faith but would if they were a part of the requirement. I am concerned about those who profess faith but do not evidence it by what they do. James indicats their faith is dead. However, does Paul not say: By grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourself it is the gift of God not works, lest any man should boast.
    As I read it Paul wrote Galations to correct any thinking that works were a part of salvation. I seems to me, he indicates that to add works to faith nullifys the very concept of faith and the work of the cross. So i return to the premise that works are not essential to salvation but the evidence of it. It can not then be a both and when it comes to the means by which we are saved. IMHO
    I know I am slightly to the right of Moses but so be it if that is where the truth is.

  • Darryl

    Pastor Mike, having read many of your comments on this blog, I think you are but a step away from a greater freedom of the mind. I say this meaning no disrespect and with no patronizing intended (although this may be unavoidable, so I apologize in advance). As I see it, the difference between you and me (when it comes to faith) really comes down to the decision to release whatever it is that ultimately holds you to your faith. It seems that everything else you have already released.

    I say this because you are rational, and you investigate your ideas, and, critically, your ties to orthodox Christianity are tenuous. Despite your statements about the source of religious authority, it is clear to me that you are prepared to rationalize away any part of the Christian tradition that does not comport with what you feel to be true and right and just. Hence, you have some source and authority for your beliefs that stands separate and over against that of the Christian tradition. I know that you think otherwise; and I know that you, like all other varieties of Christians, can trace your genealogy, but that is the insider’s view, and I am looking at you from the outside.

    From my perspective, you have more in common with atheists, humanists, and secularists than with most of the self-identified Christians in our country–and our world. Unfortunately, you belong to a small minority within Christianity. Your willingness to participate in these discussions says more about your faith than anything I might find in the Bible.

  • Miko

    The question is: are the works elements of salvation or are they evidences of what has taken place. I have no problem with them evidencing a living faith but would if they were a part of the requirement. I am concerned about those who profess faith but do not evidence it by what they do. James indicats their faith is dead. However, does Paul not say: By grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourself it is the gift of God not works, lest any man should boast.

    Good point. I think Martin Luther said it best: “If men only believe enough in Christ they can commit adultery and murder a thousand times a day without periling their salvation.”

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

    Fundamentalist, I don’t disagree that salvation is entirely by grace and that we do nothing to “earn” it. However, I think the disconnect might be in that we are each defining “salvation” rather differently.

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

    Darryl… ummm, thanks? I think…

  • Mriana

    Your
    willingness to participate in these discussions says
    more about your faith than anything I might find
    in the Bible.

    I agree whole-heartedly with Darryl.

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

    I guess I should add one more point of clarification in regards to Darryl’s compliment: most of what I’ve said here in this blog has been about painting contrasts between my beliefs and the typical conservative Christian beliefs that you all are used to. Thus it’s understandable that most of you perceive my faith to be primarily about rejecting parts of Christianity that I don’t like.

    However, what I’ve done very little of here is describe my positive theology, the beliefs that I do hold to. There is far more about my faith that I do believe in than the things I’ve been able to mention here. And truthfully, most of the issues that have been brought up here where I differ with conservative Christianity (e.g. biblical interpretation, views of hell, conceptions of the soul, etc.) are really rather secondary to the core of my belief. They are marginal issues – important to consider from time to time, no doubt, but not really the things that I dwell on the most regarding my faith. (For instance, I could count the number of times I’ve bothered to address any of them in church this past year on one hand.)

    In contrast, my commitment to the gospel of the kingdom of God and to my practice of Christ’s way of love and justice is far more important to my day-to-day faith than these controversial. I am passionate about pursuing this immanent and yet transcendent Creator God, convinced that this God loved us enough to come and live among us as one of us, attracted to the vision of his kingdom coming to earth and inspired by the idea of a kingdom that exalts the poor, the powerless and the simple, challenged by the words of the OT prophets and of Jesus to practice justice and mercy, and grateful for the unconditional grace offered through Jesus to people like me who fail so constantly in my efforts to really live this way. Beyond this, I’ve been constantly amazed at how these themes and more continue to emerge from the biblical texts when I start to look at them with the help of interpreters like Wright and McLaren and others. These passions and commitments of mine are not in spite of the Bible, but because of it.

    Perhaps based on my previous posts here it may seem like I’m on the verge of giving up my faith, but truthfully, I feel like I’ve never been more passionate or committed to it than I have been since discovering this “new” way of understanding what the Christian faith has been about all along.

  • Steven Carr

    Mike makes excellent points.

    The Kingdom exalts the poor. Who can forget that Ananias and Saphira were struck down dead because they refused to hand over the entire proceeds of their property sale? The money they got from selling their property was for the poor. Little wonder that these so-called ‘converts’ to Christianity were struck down dead. They had not understood Jesus messsage like Mike has.

    You can’t see Mike being struck down dead by God , can you? He is not a hypocrite like Ananias or Saphira.

    Or who can forget the wise words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount?

    “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’

    Jesus exmpahsises the sheer wickedness of people who you can tell are fasting.

    You can actually see that they are fasting, because they have no oil on their face!

    That sort of behaviour fills me with outrage. No wonder Jesus was so shocked.

    Why can’t these oppressors and exploiters fast in secret? Is that so difficult for them? Was that too much to ask?

  • Fundamentalist

    I think we have finallycome to the critical mass. I suspect that I might differ over a definition of Salvation. For me, it is an instanteous act by which God acting on my faith in what He has done for me and my agreement with Him regarding my sin and it’s consequences transforms me into a new creation. The result of that transformation is a life long process of conforming to His image.
    I get the impression that for you: It is that life long process that ultimately culminates with a relationship with him.
    If I have read you correctly, then what happens if for some reason I do not have a life long enough to complete the process.
    If I read you correctly, you would see all accepted by God eternally irregardless. Is that not a universalist position ? If it is am I correct in my assessment or have I read you wrong?

  • Mriana

    Fundamentalist said,

    June 4, 2007 at 7:03 am

    For me, it is an instanteous act by which God acting on my faith in what He has done for me and my agreement with Him regarding my sin and it’s consequences transforms me into a new creation.

    Transformed into a new creation? Gee, and all I got was swimmer’s ear when my mother had me baptized at 14 by my great uncle who was a Free Methodist Minister. Of course, I didn’t expect to be transformed by it, either.

  • Fundamentalist

    Therein is the very problem with thinking that any acts or things we could do has any part in the issue. If we are trusting any effort of ours, such as baptism or any thing besides God’s grace, we can be baptizeduntil the minnows know our DNA and all we will get is “swimmers ear”.

  • Fundamentalist

    I would also suggest that your lack of expectation indicates a lack of faith which is the true path. Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. It inheriently has expectation as a critical element. I am aware that I am just a dumb country boy and should not be in dialogue with the advance intellectuals or speaking to matters of apologetics but the matter seems so basic and simple to me. Either what Christ did for us is adadquate or it isn’t. It is not about what I do it is about what He has already done. If I must do anything to subsidize it the cross is no longer enough. I have real problems with that.

  • Mriana

    Dear, I didn’t really want to be baptized, esp in a river. However, I was afraid of the humans. Afraid of what they would do to me if I did not conform. Of course, I didn’t want to loose that feeling of awe and wonder of the world. The feeling of being one with the universe and most of all what I call an inner drive or what Spong and Freeman would call God in Us. That numinous feeling we get when we are driven to do something for others or what have you.

    However, I was mostly afraid of the humans more than anything else and could never voice that. Humans can be bruttle when it comes to religion and what some don’t seem to realize is that God, religion, faith, etc are all manmade concepts. My concept of god is different from yours and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think Pastor Mike concept of God is also different from ours, which is perfectly normal.

    Everything was the same when my uncle brought me back up out of the water again. Which was a good secure feeling to me at 14. Except the swimmer’s ear didn’t feel good a couple days later. Rivers are filled with all sorts of bacteria and I knew it even then.

  • Ash

    Either what Christ did for us is adadquate or it isn’t. It is not about what I do it is about what He has already done.

    are you suggesting that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re a christian? that you can do things wrong as long as you repent? that you can do things wrong and not have to repent? that all will be forgiven or nothing can? that the smaller things can be forgiven, but the larger sins can’t? just want clarity on how you view these things…

  • Mriana

    Fundamentalist said,

    June 4, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I would also suggest that your lack of expectation indicates a lack of faith which is the true path.

    Oh so, other religions or philosophies are not true paths? Only your way is the right way?

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.

    I have faith that humans can make earth heaven or hell. Currently, with this war and global warming, we are making it hell. Humans are doing that. There is no divine intervention there.

    It inheriently has expectation as a critical element.

    I expect my sons to grow up as good productive citizens striving to make this world a better place for my grandchildren to live.

    I am aware that I am just a dumb country boy and should not be in dialogue with the advance intellectuals or speaking to matters of apologetics but the matter seems so basic and simple to me.

    I have no apologies.

    Either what Christ did for us is adadquate or it isn’t. It is not about what I do it is about what He has already done. If I must do anything to subsidize it the cross is no longer enough. I have real problems with that.

    At the risk of sounding like one of my mentors, Christ did not die such a morbid and barbaric death for me. He did not have to. My teachers’ biggest complaint about me growing up was that, in my mother’s words, I was “too good” and at that time we did not go to church then, except when we visited her family, who scared the hell out of me with their religion. It was not until she was saved when I was 14 that we went to church regularly. Knowing I would fight going to a Fundie church, she took me to a liberal Lutheran church. Of course, I became Episcopalian for a few years after I left home and hooked up with ministers like Bishop Spong, who I dearly love and have great respect for, even though I do not attend anymore.

  • Fundamentalist

    Shall we sin that grace may abound God forbid. The person wh wants to continue to do as they please has not been born again in my opinion. There is no repentance in that person ( a change of heart that leads to a change of direction ) The issue is not whether a true save person will live right and do the right thing. The issue is rather whether doing the right thing is the means to being of salvation or the evidence of it. I can say if it is a duck it must have feathers. That is one of the evidences of it being a duck. But haveing feathers does not make it a duck. It could be a chicken. The feathers are the evidence or result not the means.
    Is my way the only way ? Jesus said I am the way the truth the life, noone comes to the father except by me. The Jews of the day rejected this and said God was their father and Jesus corrected them. He told a very religious man in John 3 you must be born again. He that hath the Son hath life and He who hath not the Son hath not life but the wrath of God abides on him.
    I can jump out of a plane without a parachute and reject the thinking of the one who warned me about the effects. I can deny gravity. but it will not change my destiny when I come to the end of my journey.

  • Ash

    okay, i can see that asking straightforward questions will not get me straightforward answers…

    is a bald duck not still a duck? is the plucked duck not a valid member of it’s species? does this fit in more with your line of reasoning?

    The person wh wants to continue to do as they please has not been born again in my opinion.

    this is not an answer to my questions, in that it seems to take no account of diificult moral dilemmas that we all face. is a white lie said for good intentions disgraceful? is fighting back against (and possibly killing) your attacker a sin or are we ‘helping ourselves’ with god’s grace?

    if you find it difficult to explain your faith in an honest and reasonable manner, perhaps this is not the place to be. or perhaps you don’t understand your faith as much as you wish you did. either way, i don’t mind, but you are making it extremely difficult to hold a dialogue.

  • Mriana

    Well, I hate to tell you this, but the Islamic Fundamentalists would say you were an infidel for that line of thinking and going to hell for it. The Buddhists might just laugh and assumed you were unenlightened, but would not judge you as a bad human. The list goes on and on, but if the Buddhist are right, the enlightened ones will recieve Nirvana. With enough karma, IF the Hindus are right, we will become one with Brahman, but if the Islamics are right… well… IF there is a hell not on earth, then I guess we’ll see each other there.

    My point is, I hardly believe there is one right path in life. I do believe that whatever you believe comes truly from your heart and not out of fear or guilt, it is true belief. However, religious dogma does not cut it, IMHO.

    I truly do not care what one believes, esp if it makes one a peaceful humn being, but I really can not stand religious dogma. There is nothing like religious dogma to turn me off. The people who really attract me are those without extremism and without dogma. Those people are generally very content with their lives as they show love and compassion for others. You can feel the peace within exude from them, regardless if they are non-religious, Christian, Humanist, Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, or even a Wiccan.

    However, when one starts pushing religious dogma, there is no true peace exuding from them. What comes from them is a dissatisfation with their life and a demand for others to believe what they believe. Hate also seems to exude from them, which turns a lot of people away. I cannot comprehend how anyone can love themselves when they are filled with hate. Religious dogma, in my preception, is an extension of that hate that comes from within that person who is dissatisfied with their own life. Oh I know, you say you are satisfied with your life and say you are very happy because you have Christ, but that is not the feeling I preceive from you. I preceive this loathing for oneself and others from most fundamental extremists and it really turns me away.

    Those who do not push religious dogma and do not see a need to push their beliefs on others, I preceive contentment from them. I also preceive that they are happy and love themselves. I have seen this in Humanists, Hindus, the non-religious, and even those that I do not know what their religious background is- IF they have one. It is these people who are content with themselves and life that attract me.

    Surfice it to say, those who are my mentors are generally non-Christians, liberal/progressive Christians, Humanists, non-theists, and alike. They love themselves, others, and life. They live life to it’s fullest, savouring every moment of it, even in the bad times. IMHO, that is a very spiritual and sanctified life, and I don’t mean that in a religous sense. I mean that in the most secular definition. I have met atheists who are very spiritual and sanctified in a natural sense. Even Dawkins, Sagan, and Spong have a spiritual nature about them, that I can detect immensely.

    According to my Buddhist son, who is 18, I sense their Chi, which is in everything and everyone on this planet. He add, science has found this via an electrical (I forget his exact words but I know exactly what he is talking about) almost aura like emission from everything that is on this planet, including the planet itself. This Chi as he calls it, Spong and Freeman call God in us, the ground of all being. Whatever it is, I feel when one is at peace and love them for sharing that peace via love and compassion.

  • Fundamentalist

    I am as strightforward as it is possible to be. Those who want to live immoral and ungodly lives are not saved. But doing these things does not make one saved it is rather an evidence of one who is already saved. Not by what they have done but by God’s grace.
    If a person says black is white, regardless of what his faith may be, it will not make it so. I am only persaued by what the Bible says. That may offend the athiests and others among us but it does not change the truth.
    Any denial of the Bible truth will not change that truth. I am prepared to accept the consequence of my faith in the Word of God. As I see it I have nothing to lose. If I am right and you are wrong are you as prepared and what will you lose?

  • Darryl

    Perhaps based on my previous posts here it may seem like I’m on the verge of giving up my faith, but truthfully, I feel like I’ve never been more passionate or committed to it than I have been since discovering this “new” way of understanding what the Christian faith has been about all along.

    Pastor, I for one do not think or say that you are on the verge of relinquishing your faith, just that you are very close to people who view religion as I do. What I understood from your comments is clearly stated in mine (I think). To restate it in light of your quote above, I think that your passion and commitment come from within yourself and have their origins elsewhere. Your faith is being projected onto Christianity as you would like it to be, not as it was or has been. Your faith is a recent flowering of an old tree. It is as authentic as any other flowering, and in my view, more valid than most.

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

    Thanks Darryl.

    BTW, you guys don’t have to call me “Pastor”. The folks at my church don’t, there’s no reason you all should. Just call me Mike. :)

  • Miko

    if you find it difficult to explain your faith in an honest and reasonable manner, perhaps this is not the place to be. or perhaps you don’t understand your faith as much as you wish you did. either way, i don’t mind, but you are making it extremely difficult to hold a dialogue.

    I’ve never known fundamentalists to be interested in dialogue. They usually stick to monologue. After all, if the Bible is the literal word of God, why care about anyone else’s opinion? The fact that they disagree with you just means they’re going to Hell to burn in agony eternally. Jesus says he has the only game in town and that’s that. Mohammad says he’s Allah’s last prophet and that’s that. The scariest thing is watching a fundamentalist Christian talk to a fundamentalist Muslim: they usually just end up trading speeches about how the other is going to Hell.

    According to my Buddhist son, who is 18, I sense their Chi, which is in everything and everyone on this planet. He add, science has found this via an electrical (I forget his exact words but I know exactly what he is talking about) almost aura like emission from everything that is on this planet, including the planet itself.

    The explanation I’ve heard for Qi is bioelecromagnetism, although that would refer to living things only (and is indeed only related to the idea of Qi by people who want to claim that believing in Qi is scientific). Qi is traditional Chinese mythological and not Buddhist per se, by the way.

  • Miko

    If I am right and you are wrong are you as prepared and what will you lose?

    If we’re going to play Pascal’s Wager, we should really all convert to Islam, since the Koran says that those who convert after the rapture will not be saved while the Book of Revelation suggests that we can get in late by having our heads cut off.

    That said, Hell could conceivably be much nicer than Heaven. You’ll have Jerry Falwell and hordes of illiterate peasants that will constantly accuse you of practicing withcraft. We’ll have most every scientist, philosopher, and artist who ever lived, not to mention an inexhaustable supply of inexpensive exothermic energy. I predict that we’ll have cleared some living areas and set up a fantastic air-conditioning system within a month tops, after which point we’ll live in luxury. ;-)

  • Steven Carr

    MIKO is right. It is surprising just how many people think religious dialogue means that you get to say ‘I believe this. I believe that. I believe this as well, and I think that X is right.’ Mike’s posts , for example, are usually filled with ‘me, me , me’. (Perhaps not surprising on a thread where he was invited to answer questions)

    Dialogue means reading what the other person says, thinking about it, and trying to see what value there is in it.

    Being open-minded is difficult. For example, being an open-minded atheists takes a lot of work. Do you know how many pages there are in the ‘Resurrection’ book by Wright that Mike C. recommends, or just how much checking you have to do to see if what Wright says corresponds to reality?

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    June 4, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    BTW, you guys don’t have to call me “Pastor”. The folks at my church don’t, there’s no reason you all should. Just call me Mike.

    From me you can take the title as a compliment. I don’t give people their due title unless I have some respect for them, but if you insist…

    Steven Carr said,

    June 4, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Being open-minded is difficult. For example, being an open-minded atheists takes a lot of work. Do you know how many pages there are in the ‘Resurrection’ book by Wright that Mike C. recommends, or just how much checking you have to do to see if what Wright says corresponds to reality?

    Not much?

  • Miko

    Mike’s posts , for example, are usually filled with ‘me, me , me’. (Perhaps not surprising on a thread where he was invited to answer questions)

    Dialogue means reading what the other person says, thinking about it, and trying to see what value there is in it.

    I doubt that a person’s beliefs could get to where Mike’s are without doing this. :-)

  • Ash

    Those who want to live immoral and ungodly lives are not saved. But doing these things does not make one saved it is rather an evidence of one who is already saved. Not by what they have done but by God’s grace.

    okay, this is far clearer. however, a person who lives a moral life but is not a christian would still (as i take it, according to you) be doomed. do you really see your god as this nasty and judgemental? and if so, would it not be up to him to call on that decision? i must admit, i don’t understand the whole old testament/new testament thing…in the old, god is angry, quick to condemn, violent and generally a bit vicious. in the new, we have jesus, son of god, who is kind, generous, mild-tempered and well, um, good. i know i’m summarizing, but… how do you reconcile the two seemingly very different views?

  • Fundamentalist

    God does not condemm anyone. To the contrary God so loved the entire world that he did everything to provide the means for all to be reconsiled to him. Out of His love He became a man and went to calvary for all. As a result, the gift of salvation is availible to all. It is not God’s will that any should to be condemmed or perish. But God does not force his provision upon us. Rather it is a gift he offers to us. So then, if one rejects that gift, he is condemmed and perishes because he has chosen it for himself. That individual dooms himself by refusing to accept God’s provision.
    If I were dying of a disease and the doctor offered me a cure and I refused to take it who would be responsible for my death? Not the doctor. I would

  • Ash

    If I were dying of a disease and the doctor offered me a cure and I refused to take it who would be responsible for my death? Not the doctor. I would

    and if the doctor misdiagnosed your being ill, and gave you treatment that potentially harmed both you + those around you, who would you blame? the medical profession, the doctor, the drug company, or yourself?

    btw, thanx, i am developing a whole new line in cryptic/allegorical debate…

  • Miko

    If I were dying of a disease and the doctor offered me a cure and I refused to take it who would be responsible for my death?

    That depends. Were you refusing the cure because you believe the Bible is inerrant and opted instead to follow the scriptural advice in James 5:14-15?

    and if the doctor misdiagnosed your being ill, and gave you treatment that potentially harmed both you + those around you, who would you blame? the medical profession, the doctor, the drug company, or yourself?

    btw, thanx, i am developing a whole new line in cryptic/allegorical debate…

    Sounds so fun I can’t resist joining in. So, hypothetically, if a man in a funny hat were to tell you that he had once heard a story about a doctor which the funny-hat man interpreted to mean that you’d be cured after you died if you gave him 10% of your gross income annually, and you instead choose to go to an actual doctor instead and as a result don’t die, who should you thank for your survival? Yourself, for having sense to ignore the funny-hat man, your parents and teachers, for helping you develop the critical thinking skills necessary to make that decision, the doctor who saved you, or all of the above?

  • Richard Wade

    Would it matter how funny the hat is?

  • Maria

    Mike C, I tried to contact you through the email address provided on your webpage, but it said you no longer have that address. Is there another way to contact you? I would like to chat with you. Thanks! Maria

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

    Mike C, I tried to contact you through the email address provided on your webpage, but it said you no longer have that address. Is there another way to contact you? I would like to chat with you. Thanks! Maria

    Hey Maria,

    You can email me at mike(dot)clawson(at)gmail(dot)come.

    (I assume you know how to turn that into a real address. I don’t want the spy-bots and spiders to find me. :) )

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

    Mike C, I tried to contact you through the email address provided on your webpage, but it said you no longer have that address. Is there another way to contact you? I would like to chat with you. Thanks! Maria

    Hey Maria,

    You can email me at mike(dot)clawson(at)gmail(dot)com.

    (I assume you know how to turn that into a real address. I don’t want the spy-bots and spiders to find me. :) )

  • Mriana

    Pastor Mike, what are your thoughts on this article?

    http://www.tcpc.org/library/article.cfm?library_id=373

    I thought it was an interesting perspective and I can see how they would think that, as well as the identity being hidden. Many a woman writer has hid behind a masculine name in the past just to get her work published or what have you. In this case, I understand it to be more than one.

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

    It seems like an interesting theory Mriana, though obviously based on a lot of “what ifs”. I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t have been written by a woman. Women had very high status in the early church for at least the first few centuries. I’ve read another book suggesting that the book of Hebrews was written by a woman, Priscilla to be precise. It seems plausible to me.

  • Mriana

    I think anything is possible. There has been many a woman who has assumed a masculine name as her penname. It’s a shame we can’t go back in time to find out who wrote what and who editted what.

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