Open Thread: Questions for Christians

Per user suggestion, consider this an open thread for atheists (or anyone) to pose questions to Christians.

Anyone is welcome to respond. (Keep it clean, please.)

If you’re a Christian who would like to ask questions to atheists, go to this thread.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Andrew

    Is something good (moral) because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

  • http://dmcleish.id.au Shishberg

    Two related questions:

    1. Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up in a society dominated by a non-Christian religion?

    2. Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up with no religious influence at all?

    (Obviously, if you actually did one or the other, then you can answer “yes”.)

  • nowoo

    Philosopher David Hume said “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Do you agree?

    If the only evidence in favor of religious miracle claims is untestable two thousand year old anecdotal hearsay testimony (among the least reliable kinds of evidence), isn’t it appropriate to be extremely skeptical of their truth?

  • http://foo.ca/wp richard

    Why does one, offering condolences to someone who has experienced tragic loss say “God bless you”?

    Hasn’t God made his point to the bereaved very clear already at that point?

  • http://www.acosmopolitan.blogspot.com Anatoly

    Hm, I’ve got one I got from Dan Barker (or at least I heard Dan Barker say it first. Here’s the premise: If God knows the future he would know his own future. If God knows his own future he would not be able to make an action or a decision he already did not previously know he is going to make. Since he cannot alter his choices because they are already fore-known by his omniscience – does God have free will?

  • nowoo

    Does infinite eternal torture seem like a fair and just punishment for finite human crimes?

  • nowoo

    Is people’s degree of gullibility with respect to ancient miracle claims a good criterion for determining which ones should be exempt from infinite torture after they die?

  • nowoo

    Would you be in favor of torturing and killing an innocent person in order to clear yourself of guilt for crimes you committed? What about for crimes you didn’t actually commit but only “inherited” from your ancestors?

    Would you consider scapegoating by human sacrifice a valid form of justice? How about by deicide instead of human sacrifice?

  • nowoo

    If a person hears a disembodied voice telling them to kill their child, should they do it?

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I’m sure Mike C. will have some good answers, but allow me to slip in and give you my opinions on a few questions:

    Is something good (moral) because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

    God doesn’t “command” anything. He just “is.” I believe morality came from humans. (other Christians may disagree.)

    1. Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up in a society dominated by a non-Christian religion?

    2. Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up with no religious influence at all?

    Yes, and yes. I grew up in a non-religious family in a society dominated by a non-Christian religion.

    Philosopher David Hume said “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Do you agree?

    Yes, to a degree. But what qualifies as “evidence” seems to be different for different people. Is personal experience considered evidence?

    Does infinite eternal torture seem like a fair and just punishment for finite human crimes?

    You have it all wrong. That’s not what Christianity is about. It’s not about sin or no sin, right or wrong, or doing good deeds. It is, however, about life or no life. It is about freedom from fear, guilt, and shame.

  • http://foo.ca richard

    Given two contradictory religious books and no outside information, how does one decide which is correct? Each of them say that they are the revealed word of God, and that the other book is wrong. Let’s call the two books The Kible and The Buran just for the sake of discussion.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Why does the God of Christianity reward belief itself? If for some reason I were separated from my son (my creation) and he couldn’t see me, but I had some kind of power to punish or reward him from afar, I certainly would not choose to punish him because he didn’t think I existed. It seems like a non-issue to me. I would care about how he was living his life. Was he helping or hurting people? A teaching that focuses on and requires belief just strikes me as a clear example of the meme theory of religion, where an idea inoculates itself from doubt.

    On another topic, I suspect some Christians might rebut the questions above about infinite torture not fitting the finite crime by saying sinning against an infinitely good god IS an infinite crime. My counter-rebuttal to that is the goodness of a judge should NOT affect the degree of punishment. Should a criminal get only 2 years in prison under a judge who shop-lifted once in his life, but 3 years under a judge who never committed any crime? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Another rebuttal I have heard is that God doesn’t send you to Hell, you choose to go there by rejecting God. I think this idea is also absurd, since if God was obvious to me, why would I reject him? In this line of discussion the description of Hell has usually changed from literal fire roasting you, to some kind of limbo like state which is somehow lacking the attention or love of God. If this “Hell-lite” version is actually true, and dead people are actually choosing to go there, how is this punishment? But if there is some kind of punishment involved, and it is eternal, why would anyone choose to go there unless they were somehow misled about the actual choice in front of them?

  • ellen

    If you don’t believe the Bible is literally true, how can you honestly say you know anything about it? Are you just assuming it’s “directionally correct”?

    How can you be sure you’re interpreting its teachings accurately rather than according to 1) what you would like it to mean or 2) what your pastor/teacher/parents said it means?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Is something good (moral) because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

    You could always ask Socrates. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I’m sure Mike C. will have some good answers

    No thanks Linda. I’ve already played this game once back in May. It ate up waaay too much of my time. This one’s all yours. :)

  • nowoo

    Is personal experience considered evidence?

    Untestable, unverifiable, irreproducible, subjective experience by human beings who are known to be susceptible to misperception, faulty memory, logical fallacies, and a host of other cognitive errors (think how easily we can all be fooled by simple magicians’ tricks) can only lead to anecdotal hearsay testimony, which is among the least reliable kinds of evidence.

    At best, reports of subjective experiences can point to possibly real phenomena, but unless they produce some kind of objective, measurable effect in the observable universe or lead to testable predictions, there’s no good reason to believe them, especially if they’re the kind of experiences or beliefs that would be well explained by superstition, indoctrination in mythology, self-deception, delusion, or wishful thinking.

    In the case of “religious” experiences, there are reports of the same kinds of ecstatic, out-of-body, near-death, and transcendent “one with the universe” experiences coming out of all the mutually incompatible religious traditions, and similar experiences have been produced through non-religious meditation and in the lab by manipulating brain chemistry, drugs, and trans-cranial magnetic stimulation. This suggests a reproducible human physiological explanation for these experiences, rather than a supernatural, religious one. It also means they can’t be considered evidence for the truth of any one religion.

  • Mriana

    You have it all wrong. That’s not what Christianity is about. It’s not about sin or no sin, right or wrong, or doing good deeds. It is, however, about life or no life. It is about freedom from fear, guilt, and shame.

    Oh Linda! If my Free Methodist Minister Great Uncle were still around… he was terrible with laying on fear, guilt, and shame, even when someone didn’t do anything. Why if you didn’t go up to his alter, you were living in sin and going to hell. Women had to be submissive to their husbands, no matter how abusive they were and children, well let’s say the Best Little Girl In the World doesn’t have anything on what they expect, they had be even more good. Very much the source of misery.

    However, the no guilt part you might fit well with Spong’s group. Thing is, the Bible speaks of sin everywhere and as Spong says, the first layer of guilt and shame was laid on people with the story of Adam and Eve. There is no freedom if one is in fear of going to hell for whatever- something so many Evangelical Fundamentalist churches are famous of doing to their congregations. Your definition of Christianity doesn’t even fit the Catholic view either for that matter. Therefore, I’m not sure where you get your ideas, because they are pretty foreign, even in the Bible.

    I mentioned the OT, I will now mention the NT: Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt 10:34). Then he goes on to explain his family values: He comes to set man against his father, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law, and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 states “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; 38) and he wo does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

    Um… personally, that doesn’t sound too good to me. Seems to me he’s suggesting tearing up families. Are we suppose to honour our father and mother? Geeze contradiction right off the bat with these values- man against his father?

    No, don’t tell me that mumbo jumbo about not understanding the Bible, I can read. The thing is, what you are saying doesn’t sound one bit like Christianity. Now to me, Humanism means freedom, but that’s another topic.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com/ Hugo

    If you could would you have saved Jesus?

    And a possible follow up, if nobody was willing to “sacrifice him for our sins” would you do it yourself?

    (I think this question comes from Hitchens)

    update: I see nowoo has asked this already in a different way.

  • Claire

    One thing that has always puzzled me is, what is the emotional appeal of the crucifixion story? I’m not talking about why a christian thinks it’s true, but wondering where the emotional resonance comes from, because it’s just a bad story. I love stories, I get stories, I truly understand why people will live and die for a particular story, but not this one. It’s pointless, it makes no sense, and most of all, it’s a cheat – the “son of god” knew perfectly well he wasn’t going to really die. It was, as they say, a bad weekend, no more.

    And while I know that theologians have many explanations/excuses for why it “had” to happen, and how someone dying 2000 years ago atones for the sins of someone today, those aren’t the people I’m talking about. It’s the more-average christian that tells you, in all seriousness, that jesus died for your sins, and sometimes get nearly hysterical about it, and expects that to be an argument that will convince someone to believe (while completely unable to answer the questions the aforementioned theologians delight in), the kind of person who made “The Passion of the Christ” into a major moneymaker. What is the emotional appeal for that person? Why all this frenzy over such an inane story?

  • http://www.myspace.com/brown_j_s J.S.Brown

    The Christian God (and others) is commonly described as being omnipotent and omniscient. Omnibenevolence is also included regularly. Belief that God exists is said to require faith because it is not observable. Some even go so far as to say that humans lack the capacity to comprehend it. Stipulating the existence of God and its revelation…

    How can any human know or have any amount of certainty that God isn’t actually evil, having lied about it’s nature?

    An omnipotent, omniscient God would know just how to deceive humankind, and be able to do so with ease. And since there is no way to observe the nature of God, we are without the ability to overcome such deception. Some will immediately respond by saying that God can’t or won’t lie because it is good. The problem is, their information about its goodness was revealed by God itself, which could be false.

    An extension of this would be to ask if Satan might actually be good rather than evil. Consider that all of the information in Christianity about Satan comes from God. That poor devil has never been able to share his side of the story!

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Linda said, “You have it all wrong. That’s not what Christianity is about. It’s not about sin or no sin, right or wrong, or doing good deeds. It is, however, about life or no life. It is about freedom from fear, guilt, and shame.”

    Linda, I really hope that you have found a branch of form of Christianity that does not convict its member with all forms of misery because I never did.

    A cousin of mine recently told me how happy he is with his new church. He is now going to a Reformed Orthodox Presbyterian church. He told me what a relief and freedom there was to the teaching, all he has to do is focus daily on how he is an inherently corrupt sinner.

    I can imagine what is like to walk around with that daily burden because that is how I was raised. I groaned silently when he told me this because it took so much pain, misery and guilt for me to break free from that mind set. And here he is just revelling in it… for the moment. The misery will come later, it always does. They he will change churches again.

    I know that when I was going to church, I waisted years and years wrapped up in self-annihilating guilt. I ended up with a marriage on the rocks, a pocket full of psychological medication, and a suicidal diagnosis. It took a lot of time, a really good therapist and some very good non-religious friends to get me back to normal.

    The very concept of original sin now makes me so angry I can’t speak. No greater injustice has ever been conceived of by man… and make no mistake it is the invention of man.

    (My apologies if this is not ‘friendly’ enough)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Question for a Christian:

    What is more noble? Doing good things because doing good things is good? Or doing good things to please God?

    A follow-up question is why would someone do good things to please God?
    The bible gives plenty of reasons to fear God: plagues and other “Acts of God” in the here and now and eternal torturing in the hereafter. It seems a strong motivation for pleasing God would be self-serving: to get on God’s good side so He won’t bestow those bad things on you.

    How is this “sucking-up” behavior to God any different than “sucking-up” behavior to any other person who you may want to get favors out of later on? Is this “sucking up” noble? Is it worthy? Doesn’t the whole idea of a heavenly reward corrupt religion?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Holy crap!!! I see what Mike C. means…
    I happen to have somewhat of a free day today, so I’ll do my best to give you my views.

    Richard said: Given two contradictory religious books and no outside information, how does one decide which is correct? Each of them say that they are the revealed word of God, and that the other book is wrong. Let’s call the two books The Kible and The Buran just for the sake of discussion.

    First of all, spirituality is something very personal. You have to decide for yourself which is correct. What I hate about all religions, including Christianity, is the fact that they try to force everyone else to see things their way. It’s just like trying to make everyone else eat jalapenos just because I love them. For me, I love the Kible because it teaches love to me. It speaks love to me. I learn about the people and the stories (fact or fiction – i don’t care) and I see myself in every one of them. I identify with them, and through their trials and triumphs, I learn bit by bit who I am and how to live my life more freely. It makes me a better person.

    I’ve never studied the Buran but have heard and seen what it can do. You may say to me that Kible has done much damage also in the past. But I’ve never been hurt personally by it. I have, however, been hurt by the Buran. The people who studied it destroyed a part of me by flying planes into buildings that meant so much to me. So I choose Kible over the Buran. I choose love over hate. But if you can find love in the Buran, I have no problem with that. When I read The Kite Runner, I saw love in there. The love was written by someone who knows the Buran. To me, love is love.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    You seem to think that Christianity is about crime and punishment, but it is not. I know that many Christians believe in our sinful nature that needs to be forgiven by some great judge that sits above. I’ve been there also. But you’re right in saying that it’s a non-issue.

    To me, God is not anything that can be described. That’s why many Christians equate God with love. Unconditional love. And yet, they still put a condition on it. That is what’s contradictory and hypocritical.

    When you have a spiritual experience (and I’ve talked to other people who have), you cannot put words to it. You cannot really label it. The only thing that I am sure of is that we are spiritual beings as well as physical beings.

    Given the experiences that I’ve had (now twice), Christ makes more sense. When I read the Bible, I understand why they had to write what they wrote. Not fully; but little by little, it all makes more sense. But as I’m looking around as of late, I’m beginning to see similar truths in other places as well.

    Ellen said: If you don’t believe the Bible is literally true, how can you honestly say you know anything about it? Are you just assuming it’s “directionally correct”?

    How can you be sure you’re interpreting its teachings accurately rather than according to 1) what you would like it to mean or 2) what your pastor/teacher/parents said it means?

    It’s not as simple as that. For example, you can read everything that I write and take it literally at its face value (which you would surely misunderstand); but if you knew me personally, or if you’ve had similar (life) experiences that I’ve had, then you would be able to understand why I wrote the words and what I meant to convey. You don’t need someone else to tell you what it means.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    nowoo said: Untestable, unverifiable, irreproducible, subjective experience by human beings who are known to be susceptible to misperception, faulty memory, logical fallacies, and a host of other cognitive errors (think how easily we can all be fooled by simple magicians’ tricks) can only lead to anecdotal hearsay testimony, which is among the least reliable kinds of evidence.

    I meant your own personal experience being your own evidence. As you have said, humans are easily fooled. You cannot even believe what you see and hear as concrete truth. Only you, yourself, can know for sure what you have personally gone through, such as love… and pain.

    And here’s an interesting link that demonstrates how our senses can easily fool us. (a friend sent it to me a while back)
    http://www.media.uio.no/personer/arntm/McGurk_english.html

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    No, don’t tell me that mumbo jumbo about not understanding the Bible, I can read. The thing is, what you are saying doesn’t sound one bit like Christianity. Now to me, Humanism means freedom, but that’s another topic.

    No, it doesn’t sound like Christianity that you know. But perhaps what you call “Humanism” follows the true Christ more than your own perception of Christianity. Have you ever considered the possiblity that you are living the real Christian life more so than your mother or whoever else that tries to preach the religion to you?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    If you could would you have saved Jesus?

    And a possible follow up, if nobody was willing to “sacrifice him for our sins” would you do it yourself?

    Wow! Hmm… No. I couldn’t save Jesus. No one could. He, himself, knew that and accepted it. I believe there were plenty of people who could have saved him. But they were afraid. They let him die. Pilate didn’t have the balls to listen to the truth. Jesus’ followers were paralized by fear. He knew that.

    We have to stop and think… who killed him? God? No. We killed him. Fear killed him. He was a radical, liberal, and a polemicist. He was about to change the whole concept of religion. The way of life back then. He came and told people that they don’t need to listen to religion… that they need to be free thinkers. And people started listening to him, especially the ones who were smart, imaginative, and felt suffocated by religion… the ones who were tired of listening to the Pharisees. Do you see why he had to die? Because he was not willing to stop telling the truth to save his own ass. He’s my hero.

    Would I do it myself? I honestly don’t think I’m that strong or worthy… or brave.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Claire said:

    What is the emotional appeal for that person? Why all this frenzy over such an inane story?

    I may be accused of all kinds of things by talking so frankly. But so be it. Jesus, I believe, was one person who fully comprehended the truth of who/what God is. He knew that God fully resided in him. He knew the way and the life. He fully accepted death, because he knew that death would not be the end of him. That does not mean he was not afraid. I believe he went through every turmoil a human can go through when faced with death.

    No one can know what comes after death until they die. I don’t know if he knew. He just knew there was more. I don’t know if he knew all that would come after his death. But he trusted and accepted, sticking to his conviction of telling the truth no matter what. And he was free from having to listen to anyone else. That’s the Jesus who was fully human.

    Now, the Jesus who was fully God… That’s where my faith has to come in. I can only believe in the spiritual because I have felt it. Before that, I couldn’t help but deny it and be skeptical. People could testify or preach to me until they were blue in the face; but until it was true for me, I could not be fully convinced. And I think anyone would be a fool to believe something that’s not real for them.

    I would lose respect for anyone who “let” me or anyone else convert them. I am not that powerful.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com/ Hugo

    Thanks for that answer Linda, I actually learned something.

    I’ll never understand that but then to me if Jesus existed he was just another human and I would never kill another human and if possible I would save another human from death (depending on if I knew crimes were commited by said human but even then it would be extremly hard to kill myself and I would equally feel really bad in allowing another human to be killed, and there is also self defence off-course)
    But your religion seems to be able to attach certain magic qualities to other humans that can make you allow another human to be killed, your answer even alludes that being able to kill Jesus would make a person more brave, strong, worthy. That’s pretty twisted in my worldview.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    J.S. Brown said,

    An extension of this would be to ask if Satan might actually be good rather than evil. Consider that all of the information in Christianity about Satan comes from God. That poor devil has never been able to share his side of the story!

    That’s an interesting and fun concept. We should write a book.

    Personally, I don’t see Satan as someone with horns and a pitchfork. I try not to put human qualities on God, and I do the same for Satan. If God is love, then Satan is fear. Love and fear go hand and hand. I say fear instead of hate, because I believe hate comes from fear.

    The way I see it, In those moments when we can love without fear, we have heaven on earth. In those moments when we cannot love because of fear, we live in hell.

    A good friend told me recently, there’s no good and bad or right and wrong. Just what works and doesn’t work. I’m still contemplating that concept.

  • Andrew

    God doesn’t “command” anything. He just “is.” I believe morality came from humans. (other Christians may disagree.)

    Thanks, Linda. I’m very surprised at your answer and it’s refreshing to hear a Christian say that morality is not supernatural.

    But I’m slightly confused by your claim that God doesn’t command anything. Didn’t God command Abraham to kill his son Isaac? What about the 10 Commandments? And Jesus’ teachings about loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, etc? Aren’t all of these things moral commands?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Oh, Hugo…

    I think you misunderstood me. But it happens.

    I was trying to point to the fact that people were too afraid to stand up and stop the killing of Jesus. And that I am not strong or brave enough to die for a cause, even if it meant saving the whole of mankind. I am often “one of those people” who are too afraid to stand up for Jesus.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    But I’m slightly confused by your claim that God doesn’t command anything. Didn’t God command Abraham to kill his son Isaac? What about the 10 Commandments? And Jesus’ teachings about loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, etc? Aren’t all of these things moral commands?

    You tell me… Is it humanly possible to obey every one of the commandments written in the Bible? Just ask that guy who wrote that book.. J.K. Rawling, was it? In my opinion, the purpose of the commandments is to merely point to the fact that we cannot obey them to perfection. They are pointing to human frailties. Paul says that no one is righteous– not even one. Jesus said that too.

    We are all humans, and we are all imperfect. No one can put themselves above anyone else. That’s what the commandments teach me. But that’s just me.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    Claire said:

    “One thing that has always puzzled me is, what is the emotional appeal of the crucifixion story? I’m not talking about why a christian thinks it’s true, but wondering where the emotional resonance comes from, because it’s just a bad story. I love stories, I get stories, I truly understand why people will live and die for a particular story, but not this one. It’s pointless, it makes no sense, and most of all, it’s a cheat – the “son of god” knew perfectly well he wasn’t going to really die. It was, as they say, a bad weekend, no more.”

    The emotional appeal is in the idea of the Creator caring enough to die for the world. And as far as ‘the bad weekend;’ that’s not our story. We believe that he did actually die.

    Jeff said:

    “How is this ‘sucking-up’ behavior to God any different than ‘sucking-up’ behavior to any other person who you may want to get favors out of later on? Is this “sucking up” noble? Is it worthy?”

    We don’t see worship as “sucking up,” we see it as a natural response to the God we believe in. Furthermore, the Bible doesn’t promise believers a free pass through this life. I don’t know if our worship is “noble” or “worthy” by your definition, whatever that may be, it is simply a response of faith.

    I have found some good discussions at this blog from time to time, but this one is somewhat disappointing. To everyone using this thread as an opportunity to ask loaded questions, rant, and unload some snark, do you feel better now?

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Linda,

    I appreciate your views but I fear that you are fundamentally a humanist at heart. I can point you to any number of Christian theologians who would tell you that what you believe is not Christianity. The entire faculty at the Dallas Theological Seminary for example.

    You want a good view of what a lot of very theologically based Christians believe. Check out these sites
    http://www.rbthieme.org/
    http://www.gbible.org/

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Viggo the Carpathian said,

    The very concept of original sin now makes me so angry I can’t speak. No greater injustice has ever been conceived of by man… and make no mistake it is the invention of man.

    I’m sorry to hear that about your cousin. The problem with most Christians is that they’re always trying to find someone to follow… someone to tell them what to do. If you put your all your faith in another human or a human organization, sooner or later, you’re bound to be disappointed. That’s not just in Christianity. It’s a fact of life.

    About the original sin… To me, the original sin was looking at ourselves and seeing the flaws. When you go back and study what happened in the garden, the moment the human decided that it should be up to us to know what’s good and evil, we started judging ourselves and also others. Fear, guilt, and shame entered the picture. Before that, as you will read, there was no evil. Things just were. The serpent was a thought that was introduced. We tried to cover ourselves to hide the flaws, and God allowed the shedding of blood of an animal to cover our shame. Shedding of blood to cover our flaws. Sound familiar?

    Yes, it’s a story. Fact or fiction — does it matter? What’s important is that our fear, guilt, and shame causes shedding of blood. That’s been the story of mankind throughout history. Jesus tried to free us from that, and ended up as the sacrificial lamb.

    The way religion teaches Christianity goes against everything that Jesus was about. He is about freedom, not religion. So yes, the way it is taught makes me angry too…

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Linda,

    I’ll say it again… you are a humanist at heart.

  • http://www.sexysecularist.com SexySecularist

    We donâ??t see worship as â??sucking up,â? we see it as a natural response to the God we believe in.

    While I agree that the question was a bit snarky, I find your answer to be rather unspecific. What’s the goal of worship? In a personal relationship, there can be many reasons to show excessive gratitude or appreciation – you want something from your partner, or you want to help them feel better about themselves by showing your appreciation. Both of these seem a bit pointless in regards to an omnipotent being, and I’m not sure they’re your reason anyway.

    So my question – though it’s really more of a request – would you be able to go a bit more in depth as to why you worship? What are the specific reasons, goals, and feelings motivating worship, at least in your own life, and do you find these compatible with the notion of an omnipotent, omnipresent God?

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    December 17, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Holy crap!!! I see what Mike C. means…

    :lol: Poor Linda. I do hope we aren’t too hard on you.

    To me, love is love.

    Take it another step further and you have Cupitt’s concept: Love is God. He has a non-realism approach to Xianity.

    To me, God is not anything that can be described. That’s why many Christians equate God with love. Unconditional love. And yet, they still put a condition on it. That is what’s contradictory and hypocritical.

    That’s the problem. IF you are going to make love and compassion a god concept, then there should be no conditions placed on it. Otherwise it is not love and compassion.

    No, it doesn’t sound like Christianity that you know. But perhaps what you call “Humanism” follows the true Christ more than your own perception of Christianity. Have you ever considered the possiblity that you are living the real Christian life more so than your mother or whoever else that tries to preach the religion to you?

    I think I mentioned that I have a Church of Christ friend who says she considers me more Christian than some Christians she knows and yes, I have often pondered your last question. If that is the case, then IF Jesus were to appear in this day an age, he’d take one look around and declare himself a Humanist. The thing is, to declare that I am living the real Christian life as a Humanist, would be very arrogant, conceted, and judgemental of me. I try to avoid such judgement calls. I rather call people on their behaviours than how I think the titles they give themselves should be defined.

    BTW, Linda, it is just a story and not the inerrant word of some deity. The authors could have written it or rewritten it any way the wanted. So, yes, humans could have stopped it- even in reality, IF it had been real and not all allegorical. IF I were to look at from a non-realist POV, such as Spong or Cupitt, Christ did not die for our sins and any resurrection he had was all spiritual and not a bodily resurrection. How does Spong phrase it? Something like, Christ metaphorically arose into the word of God. That’s not a literal quote. I’d have to look it up to get an exact quote.

    Now, IF I were a deity, I’d throw away that crap of John 3:16, because it instills not only fear, but also changes the situation in which people just want the freaking reward. This in turn makes Pascal’s Wager VERY flawed. If one believes to avoid punishment, then it is not from the heart. If one believes to gain a reward, it is not from the heart. BUT if one acts (regardless of belief or disbelief) from the heart without any regard of punishment or reward, they, IMHO, should be the ones who get rewarded- even if that was not what they were seeking.

    As a deity, I would give those who believed in hopes of a reward, a punishment, because it was not from their heart. Those who believed out of fear and avoidance, it still was not from their heart, so off they go. Yes, yes, I’d be such a cruel deity, but I would not want anyone believing just to avoid punishment or to receive a reward. IMHO, it is what comes from the heart that really counts- not some superstitious head trip. So, this would mean, as a deity, even non-believers could receive reward, because they did things from their hearts out of love and compassion- not from fear or what have you.

    So, IF one were to be technical, it could be said that love and compassion, along with reason is/are my god(s), but that is OK, by definition, I cannot argue that. However, I can argue about John 3:16 and Pascal’s wager. So anyone who throws those two things out, I have to wonder why, because any deity worth their salt would want it to be from the heart, not as a means of avoiding punishment or seeking a reward.

    It’s like the child being told, “If you do this, I’ll give you ice cream”. Well, they are doing it for the reward, not because they love their parent and want to please them. It’s all a bribe and not worth my time, but then again, I don’t believe in an actual heaven or hell- earth is what we make it. Of course, I could even take this back to the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas if I wanted to, just to appease some of the religious who accept Thomas, but even so… Keeping it real, it makes no sense to me if actions are not from one’s heart.

    Yet some Xians will argue their belief is from the heart- well not if you fear going to hell and really truly want that eternal reward so you don’t burn forever and ever. :roll: Think about it. When you get down to it, heaven and hell are JUST human concepts- nothing more. So, what is it that Christians and other religious people are afraid of really? I don’t understand it. Thus why I say it is freedom not to worry about such human concepts being real or not- what’s in the heart seems to me more important and any deity worth IT’s salt would look at the heart, if you ask me.

    Like I said, I just don’t understand the religious and their god.

  • Mriana

    Viggo the Carpathian said,

    December 17, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Linda,

    I appreciate your views but I fear that you are fundamentally a humanist at heart.

    I have to agree, but I would have to say it is more in keeping (probably) with Christian Humanism- such as Spong, Cupitt, Freeman, and the Sea of Faith.

    Viggo the Carpathian said,

    December 17, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Linda,

    I’ll say it again… you are a humanist at heart.

    Yup! And I would highly recommend that Linda reads Anthony Freeman’s God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism and there is another by Daniel C. Maguire called The Moral Revolution: A Christian Humanist Vision. I’m more of a Religious Humanist, so there is a bit of a difference between Christian Humanism and Religious Humanism. Xian Humanism deals with a lot of non-realism and god-talk, as well as a non-metaphysical entity. Religious Humanism is more cultural and doesn’t even believe in any sort of entity. You can compare the two with any of Robert Price’s online articles about Religious Humanism.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    The entire faculty at the Dallas Theological Seminary for example.

    Screw them! Tell any one of them to come and talk to me about Christianity, minus their scholarly hats and their PhD arrogance, which I would like to call PhkD arrogance. (sound it out.)

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    There are quite a few questions so forgive me if this has already been posted.

    Is the Christian Heaven still a paradise if you get to sit next to Jesus while your friend or family member is being punished in Hell. What if you are the only one of your social group who “got it right” and everyone else is spending eternity being tortured? Even if you discount the torture aspect and the concept of Hell and your friends and family are merely exiled from Heaven is it still a paradise if you must spend eternity without them?

    OK more than one question.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Linda,

    All I was trying to say by the reference to Dallas, is that its hard to separate a religion from the word of its own authorities. I could have used the Vatican, but I thought that I’d try a new target, one closer to home. Theologians steer and shape a faith, and as for those particular shapers, they would say that you have no ability to say because the ‘spiritual gift’ to interpret scripture is only given to certain ‘men’.

    Oh well, as you said, ‘Screw Them!’.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    a good view of what a lot of very theologically based Christians believe.

    Vigo, I do have a good view of what the theologically based Christians believe. I deal with them all the time. They preach to me all the time. There was a time when I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Thank God my own (current) church is not like that. But I have to say 90 percent of all Christians that I come in contact with (outside of my fellowship.. and some within) subscribe to the theology that you speak of. They can’t live out what they believe, but they still believe it. Go figure! I bet you my whole retirement savings that every one of those PhkD ;-) profressors at the seminary struggle with their inability to practice what they preach at some level. Either that or they are in complete denial.

  • Vincent

    That’s not what Christianity is about. It’s not about sin or no sin, right or wrong, or doing good deeds. It is, however, about life or no life. It is about freedom from fear, guilt, and shame.

    Atheism is about life/no life, freedom from fear, guilt and shame.*
    So what would I need Jesus for?

    *you’ve probably heard of “Jewish Guilt” or “Catholic Guilt” but when’s the last time you heard “Atheist Guilt”?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Atheism is about life/no life, freedom from fear, guilt and shame.*
    So what would I need Jesus for?

    Vncent,

    Would it be considered blasphemy by the Christians, or would you be terribly offended if I suggested that you don’t need him because it sounds like you already have him?

    As I mentioned somewhere else before, if you have vital signs of life, you are alive, regardless of what you or anyone else wants to call it.

    I hate labels.

  • Claire

    Linda, thank you for trying, but I’m still don’t see it. You aren’t the first person I have asked this of, by the way. One person tried to explain, but couldn’t (still just a bad weekend), two others saw it as an opening to try to sell me the message, but couldn’t explain. That’s when I stopped asking, at least in person.

    It’s a genuine question, by the way. I can think of about 3700 questions I could have posted here that were really just versions of “how can you be so stupid as to believe THIS particular piece is insanity?” but this one truly puzzles me. The whole idea of the narrative (in general) and its effect on people interests me enormously. Many religions do without a central story (does islam have one? I think judaism and buddhism have lots of them but no real central one, don’t know if islam has any..) but the crucifixion story seems central to one kind of christian.

    Anway, Linda, I’m not sure if you are the right or wrong person to answer this. You don’t seem like one of that breed of christian, so your beliefs don’t really help to explain it. But then, if you know enough of the other kind, maybe you can explain them better than they explain themselves. If you would like to give it another try, I’m still interested.

  • Karen

    Linda, thank you for trying, but I’m still don’t see it. You aren’t the first person I have asked this of, by the way. One person tried to explain, but couldn’t (still just a bad weekend), two others saw it as an opening to try to sell me the message, but couldn’t explain. That’s when I stopped asking, at least in person.

    Claire, I’m no longer a Christian but I was one (the fundamentalist type) for 30 years and was deeply moved by the crucifixion story. I’ll try to explain the appeal for me back at that time.

    First, there are some deep-seated “givens” for Christians that you probably don’t share:

    Given 1: Humans are inherently sinful, filthy, blind, lost and unworthy of any good thing because of original sin.

    Given 2: God is wholly righteous. Nothing sinful can survive in god’s presence.

    Given 3: Adam and Eve’s sin separated people from god eternally.

    Given 1, 2 and 3, there seems to be no hope for humankind and god to reconcile. Then, along comes Jesus: God incarnate, sent to earth to become a sacrifice for our sins.

    This self-sacrifice is the only way that humans and god could ever be reconciled. And though we didn’t deserve it (remember the utterly unworthy description of humans, above), god took it upon himself to initiate the reconciliation, and even suffered and went to hell on our behalf.

    That story is extremely moving and overwhelming to Christians of all kinds, but particularly fundamentalists who are really, really into the doctrine of original sin. This means they have a lot of guilt and self-hatred. The idea that of a god who loved them SO MUCH that he’d die for them – the author and creator of the very universe himself! – is very beautiful and appealing.

    Your point, that this was just a “bad weekend,” never came up in fundy circles in the 30 years when I heard Easter sermons, etc. In fact, Jesus’s suffering is almost fetishized; I never saw it being downplayed. The idea is that Jesus was “fully man and fully god” – a tough concept. So the part that was “fully man” suffered and died and went to hell just like a human would. He was not considered to have been spared any of the suffering or grief or harm or pain just because he was also fully god.

    Does that help? (Remember, I’m not arguing for this position now – I see the flaws in it fully. I’m just trying to explain the appeal for many.)

  • Arlen

    Sorry, I haven’t read all of the comments yet (though I plan to). Here’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.

    Andrew:

    Is something good (moral) because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

    I would probably say neither, necessarily. The Old Testament is full of examples of God telling folks to do truly terrible stuff. I wouldn’t really ever call those things moral just because “God commanded” them. Perhaps they were necessary for the greater good, but I can’t possibly know that. God has never commanded me to do anything. God commands lots of things that are good, sure, but there are lots of things that are good that God doesn’t command (like baking cookies!)

    Shishberg:

    1. Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up in a society dominated by a non-Christian religion?
    2. Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up with no religious influence at all?

    1. Probably not. Depending on more precise circumstances, it is not impossible at all that I would be/become a member of whatever religious group was dominant. Religion is just too interesting a subject to not become fascinated with.
    2. Depends on what you mean by none. If I had never heard of Christianity, and didn’t know anything about it, then of course I wouldn’t be a Christian. If I grew up in an atheist household but had other, standard Christian influences, it’s hard to say what I would believe.

    nowoo:

    Philosopher David Hume said “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Do you agree?

    Usually, yes. But belief also needs to be proportional to the importance of the issue. I’m no climatologist. I don’t, personally, have lots of evidence of global climate change. Neither of those facts keeps me from working with others to try to get people to become more energy efficient. Neither keeps me from campaigning for candidates who advocate progressive environmental policies. For me, even a modicum of evidence for something of potentially monumental importance drives me to act in such a way that may otherwise be reserved for those with profound evidence.

    If the only evidence in favor of religious miracle claims is untestable two thousand year old anecdotal hearsay testimony (among the least reliable kinds of evidence), isn’t it appropriate to be extremely skeptical of their truth?

    I reject your premise. Just because you reject other evidence doesn’t make it any less valid for me. If I walked outside 100 times and started shivering each time, I wouldn’t need a thermometer to say it’s cold. Others may certainly need more evidence; I respect that.

    richard:

    Why does one, offering condolences to someone who has experienced tragic loss say “God bless you”?

    I usually just say that when someone sneezes. Regardless, it can never be a bad thing to wish someone else well. Your question seems to presuppose that God had a hand in that person’s loss; I wouldn’t make that assumption.

    Anatoly:

    does God have free will?

    I don’t know how God works. That’s really not of interest to me.

    nowoo:

    Does infinite eternal torture seem… fair…?

    No. I don’t know that I believe in Hell. I haven’t found a lot of convincing justification for it.

    Would you be in favor of torturing and killing an innocent person in order to clear yourself of guilt for crimes you committed? What about for crimes you didn’t actually commit but only “inherited” from your ancestors? Would you consider scapegoating by human sacrifice a valid form of justice? How about by deicide instead of human sacrifice?

    Nope to all. I don’t kill folks… or torture them, for that matter.

    If a person hears a disembodied voice telling them to kill their child, should they do it?

    Of course not. There may be great reasons to kill one’s child, but that probably wouldn’t be one of them.

    richard:

    Given two contradictory religious books and no outside information, how does one decide which is correct?

    Within the premise of your question, there is no way to tell. Outside information would be necessary.

    ellen:

    If you don’t believe the Bible is literally true, how can you honestly say you know anything about it? … How can you be sure you’re interpreting its teachings accurately

    I’ve read it, studied it, studied the cultures from which it came, and developed relationships with others who know more about it than I do. I understand the value of what it contains and the power of what it teaches. Something doesn’t have to be literally true to convey truth; that’s why we have fiction. On the matter of interpretation, no, there is no way to separate out one’s own experiences from one’s interpretation. The best one can do is to understand the historical context of the original. That, and see how well a particular interpretation holds up in practice (trial and error).

    MikeClawson:

    I’ve already played this game once back in May. It ate up waaay too much of my time. This one’s all yours.

    Yeah… I hear you, but I hope that if you have anything to add or question from what I’ve said you will do so.

  • Claire

    Odgie said:

    The emotional appeal is in the idea of the Creator caring enough to die for the world. And as far as ‘the bad weekend;’ that’s not our story. We believe that he did actually die.

    Thanks for trying, but while that restates it, it still doesn’t explain the appeal. Everybody dies, every living thing dies, it’s just not that big of a deal.

    The “he did actually die” is what was explained to me once before, so I know that part. It just still seems to me that if you know that it’s not permanent, if you know you’re coming back, it’s a cheat, a bad story device.

    To have emotional resonance in a story, a death needs to mean something, to accomplish something, and it needs to be real. Nothing visible was changed by this death, and the only reason as to why it was necessary is that it was to save humanity in some vague and inexplicable way that seems, well, completely unnecessary, and worst of all, from the story perspective, it wasn’t real.

    When I was twelve, I found it comforting that when they killed off a main character on “Star Trek”, I knew he wasn’t really dead. I’m not twelve any more, and I want my narratives to have genuine resonance.

    When Amelia Earhart disappears mysteriously, doing what she loved, that has emotional resonance. When Marie Curie dies as a result of the studies that brought knowledge into the world, that means something. When a firefighter dies trying to save someone from a burning building, even if he fails, it means something.

    The crucifixion? Meh.

  • Mriana

    First, there are some deep-seated “givens” for Christians that you probably don’t share:

    Given 1: Humans are inherently sinful, filthy, blind, lost and unworthy of any good thing because of original sin.

    Given 2: God is wholly righteous. Nothing sinful can survive in god’s presence.

    Given 3: Adam and Eve’s sin separated people from god eternally.

    Given 1, 2 and 3, there seems to be no hope for humankind and god to reconcile. Then, along comes Jesus: God incarnate, sent to earth to become a sacrifice for our sins.

    I’ve heard this many times before, Karen, and even when I did attend church, I never did understand it. It made no sense and it was totally wrong to me for anyone or anything- even in sacrifice for what we did wrong. It is insanity to me and always has been. The story was never moving to me, I never believed he died for my sins, and I sure as hell didn’t want anyone to be killed on a damn cross (or impaled) for any reason. It was and is barbaric to me. I was appaulled by the idea even as a child and thought it was the cruelist thing on earth that people could ever conceive of and no one could convince me differently, although they tried hard. Personally, if it actually happened and I was there, I would have fought tooth and nail to stop such an inhumane act- even if it meant my own death. Therefore, no one died for my wrongs and I don’t want them to either. That’s on me and me alone. Such a story is the most inhumane act and the worst act of cruelty I’ve ever heard in my life and to this day, I still believe it should be stopped. No child should be told such a violent and horrifying story.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Wow Claire! That’s quite a challenge. The whole concept of Christianity rests on the cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ll do my best.

    Most of the Christians believe in the “sinful nature” of humans. They believe that humans, left to their own ways, are inherently bad. We look at the history of mankind, the people who have hurt us I the past, and our own self-reflection and come to the conclusion that we ultimately cannot save ourselves. You cannot understand this unless you’ve had events in your life that caused you great sorrow and pain, along with having made some bad choices to have done some physical or emotional harm to yourself or someone else. You have to have experienced certain amount of self-hatred, self-condemnation, and self-pity. You have to have had enough failures in your life despite your desperate attempts to better yourself.

    That’s the mindset of a person before Christianity is introduced. I’ll post this much for now, as I think through what comes next.

    (I see that Karen has posted her thoughts on this already.)

  • Claire

    Karen:

    Thank you, that really does explain it. I’ve never really gotten the whole guilt thing, although I have known a lot of people who seemed to feel guilt for everything in their life. I’ve never bought the whole “god is good” thing, because he’s a rat bastard in the old testament and not even that nice in the new one. I’ve always thought the whole Adam and Eve thing was just another big cheat – here’s this tree, don’t touch it, no explanation given, who wouldn’t go right for it at the first opportunity, and what’s so bad about knowing good from evil?

    No wonder the story has no resonance for me. Thank you so much, Karen, that’s been bothering me for years, and now I know.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Linda said, “You cannot understand this unless you’ve had events in your life that caused you great sorrow and pain, along with having made some bad choices to have done some physical or emotional harm to yourself or someone else.”

    In the most affluent, pampered society in the history of the world, are there so many who have known pain and sorrow? Are there really so many who even know what it means to miss a meal? We have it better than all of our fore-bearers including the royalty and nobles and yet we have this zealous adherence to religion.

    I am not buying that its the product of pain or sorrow, the bad choices maybe.

  • Claire

    we ultimately cannot save ourselves. You cannot understand this unless you’ve had events in your life that caused you great sorrow and pain, along with having made some bad choices to have done some physical or emotional harm to yourself or someone else.

    Thanks, Linda, this does expand some on what Karen said. Karen’s explanation made it clear why the story doesn’t resonate with me, and who the people are that it does resonate with. Now you are adding something about how these people got to be that way.

    I think it must also be partly the personality a person is born with, because all those things you mention above have happened to me. Bad things have happened to me, I have hurt other people and myself, but somehow, that never translates into a feeling that I need to be saved from anything or by anyone. I learn from the mistakes, I try to correct them, I make what amends I can to other people, then I go on with my life. Someday I will die, that’s not a problem either. It’s not even like I’m toughing it out, bad stuff happens along with the good and that’s just how life is.

    I have never felt, even in passing, that I needed to be saved. I still don’t understand why other people do. I suspect that I won’t ever really understand that on an emotional level, even if I now have some understanding on an intellectual level, thanks to all you people who were so kind as to answer my question.

  • Obscurifer

    Linda,

    You said,

    That’s not what Christianity is about. It’s not about sin or no sin, right or wrong, or doing good deeds. It is, however, about life or no life. It is about freedom from fear, guilt, and shame.

    and

    Would it be considered blasphemy by the Christians, or would you be terribly offended if I suggested that you don’t need him because it sounds like you already have him?

    Please don’t take this as a personal attack, but I’m having trouble phrasing this question in a way that doesn’t appear to be aggressive. What gives you, or anyone for that matter, the authority to speak to what Christianity really means? The Catholics claim that their pope derives his authority directly from Jesus, and therefore can speak to what true Christianity is. Many Protestant sects claim that God’s will is revealed directly to Christians. Woo gets to decide what Christianity is or isn’t?

    As to your second statement, if the true teachings of Jesus are all about happiness and love, and a secular humanist or atheist can “have” Jesus without acknowledging that connection, then it almost sounds as if belief in Jesus is similar to the magic feather that Dumbo carries in the movie. If one can have the benefits of the thing without the thing itself, then the thing is irrelevant, right?

  • Obscurifer

    Wow. Major Freudian typo there – “Woo gets to decide what Christianity is or isn’t?” should be “Who gets to decide…”

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Obscurifer,

    Your comments tie in with what I was saying earlier about how Linda’s description would not be considered Christianity by most theologians. I know that the Christianity I was raised with (see links posted above) would not agree. In fact, the preachers I grew up with would declare poor Linda damned. (sorry Linda)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Woo gets to decide what Christianity is or isn’t?

    Obscurifer,

    Before you corrected yourself, I was going to say who is Woo? If Woo gets to decide Woe is me. Woo Hoo for Woo, and boo hoo for me! But it’s not that funny anymore… :-(

    Anyhoo, my first comment that you quoted is just what I believe personally. In no way do I want to force that on anyone else. I think I said somewhere else in these many comments that everyone should decide for themselves and not “let” me convince them. The proof is in the fruits. When you look at the fruits of the tree, you can tell what kind of tree it is. Trees that have rotten roots produce no fruit. And you have to decide for yourself if the fruit is something you want to taste.

    The second comment that you quoted was purely hypothetical. And a question also to myself. I was not stating a fact or a concrete conclusion. Just trying to think along with everyone, that’s all. I like to keep an open mind at all times, and when ideas and thoughts come to mind, I blurt it out. Can’t help it…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    In fact, the preachers I grew up with would declare poor Linda damned. (sorry Linda)

    Hallelujah! That’s the best compliment I heard all day! The heck with Woo.. Woo Hoo for me!

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Linda said, “Hallelujah! That’s the best compliment I heard all day! The heck with Woo.. Woo Hoo for me!”

    I paint myself with BBQ sauce everynight just in case.

  • Mriana

    You cannot understand this unless you’ve had events in your life that caused you great sorrow and pain, along with having made some bad choices to have done some physical or emotional harm to yourself or someone else.

    Linda, that is what I have seen so much among people who are fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, esp those of the Religious Reich. The pain and sorrow was not what I did, but what others did to other people. What I call the source of misery.

    Let me explain:

    As a child, I thought as a child. (Yes, that is scriptual, from Paul)

    I had a great uncle who was a Free Methodist minister. He scared me with his hellfire and damnation alter calls, so much so I wanted to run out of his church. Everytime my mother tried to leave my abusive father they’d make her repent and send us back. Why? Paul again. Women are to be submissive to their husbands… No matter what, even if the husband was abusive to wife and child. Divorce was sinful- even if it meant potential death to wife and child to stay with the husband.

    Now why would I want a cookie if it meant I had to have pain and discomfort inflicted on me first? No, far better to risk being beat than to submit to the will of an immoral patriarch. Far better to refuse the cookie/food and to risk being forced to do something that felt innately wrong. Sometimes taking the beating for my pets seemed better than they getting hurt or even killed for something that was uncalled for. It was something I had to indure in the name of religion because the adults in my life said I had to “honour my parents” even the abusive one.

    Finally, after my mother told the full story to my grandfather was she given permission by her father to divorce the immoral man, but it too came with a price- I was not allowed to prosecute the man who did me far more harm than those who scared me religiously. My grandfather said, “We have you away from him, that is enough. God will take care of him.” What about Man’s law? Oh no, anger was a sin. NO! That was wrong! It says, “Be angry and sin not.” To prosecute him by Man’s law, Human law, was not a sin, but rather holding another human being accountable for his crimes. Vengence is mine sayth the Lord. Not in that case, he still should have been accountable to Human law too. Therefore, it was not vengence nor was it sin.

    Such twisted account of what the Bible said and it was a source of misery. I still see it today- even in the Episcopal church. The Conservative Episcopalians, if they had their way, would oppress women and other groups, in the name of God/the Bible. No, not even they are dignifying to the human, esp with how they use scripture.

    IF this is Christianity, I want no part of it. That which comes from the heart, with the use of reason from the mind, is far better than any religious text, esp if it gives people human dignity.

    I learned a long time ago, in childhood, that my “god” was not that of most Christians. What I knew as a child as a god was empathy, compassion, and love for a fellow human being or other animal on this planet. I saw it in the eyes of pets and felt it in nature. IT is one that does no harm to anyone or anything. That was the god I knew as a child and it was innate within me.

    However, this “god” that I knew as a child was purely intense emotion- thus why it had no form, sex, or mass. It was most definitely lobe, of the mind, and without a doubt a human concept. Thinking as an adult, it is numinous- an external stimulus that triggers a reaction in the brain and manifess itself as intense emotion. There was the innatenous, the source, of what I knew as a child as being “god”. It is definitely not the god of religion, but rather the desire to give everyone human dignity and to give other creatures dignity too.

    I don’t need any religious text to tell me how to do this, but I will admit that the closest religious text I have ever stumbled upon that describes my experience is in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. Am I afraid I will burn in hell because I have never known the god of religion? No, because I’ve already been through hell here on earth and now that I am an adult, I can attempt to make my own heaven here on earth and I can try to give people a taste of heaven on earth too. Thus why I do not believe in a supernatural world beyond this one nor a supernatural deity. IF there is a god, one that is worth its salt, it will look at my heart, not what my mental thoughts conceived, but I have a strong feeling it is all innate. All else is just a human concept, which is of the mind.

    Does this make me an atheist? Many hardline Xians say that I am. An infidel or heathen? Hardline Xians say that I am. All I know is that I do not ascribe to any supernatural god of religion. This I will contend makes me a non-theist, esp since I no longer label this numinous feeling as being a deity, but not necessarily an atheist or agnostic nor does it make me a deist, because I do not ascribe to something that is out there in the beyond somewhere and unseen/invisible.

    So, long story short, I don’t see how experience supports your thesis that I quoted above. IMHO this does not contribute to Christianity nor does it do the opposite either. It is a human concept. Of course, if you would like to clarify more, I am open to listen.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    In the most affluent, pampered society in the history of the world, are there so many who have known pain and sorrow? Are there really so many who even know what it means to miss a meal? We have it better than all of our fore-bearers including the royalty and nobles and yet we have this zealous adherence to religion.

    Vigo, I missed this comment before. It’s a very interesting thought and one that I have also wondered about the American culture. I’m not sure that it is a “zealous” adherence as much as “arrogant” or “entitled” adherence, though. I’ll have to think about it some more…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    I was not stating my thesis. I was merely answering Claire’s question of where the mainstream Chrsitians’ mentality may come from. It’s not at all where I’m at.. Sorry if I wasn’t clear…

  • Mriana

    Before you corrected yourself, I was going to say who is Woo? If Woo gets to decide Woe is me. Woo Hoo for Woo, and boo hoo for me! But it’s not that funny anymore… :(

    :lol: Yes it is.

    Linda said,

    December 17, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    In fact, the preachers I grew up with would declare poor Linda damned. (sorry Linda)

    Hallelujah! That’s the best compliment I heard all day! The heck with Woo.. Woo Hoo for me!

    :lol: You guys are giving me a good laugh, esp after that long post I just posted. I needed that. Praise… Um… Praise humans!

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    December 17, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Mriana,

    I was not stating my thesis. I was merely answering Claire’s question of where the mainstream Chrsitians’ mentality may come from. It’s not at all where I’m at.. Sorry if I wasn’t clear…

    It maybe the same reason the hardliners do not understand my worldview. They can’t put themselves in other people’s shoes and see what harm they can sometimes do. Sometimes blinkers to keep such beliefs can do more harm. Maybe they can’t see the concepts of others are beneficial and come from experience too. That’s not a judgement call, but rather an observation.

  • nowoo

    Linda said: I meant your own personal experience being your own evidence. As you have said, humans are easily fooled. You cannot even believe what you see and hear as concrete truth. Only you, yourself, can know for sure what you have personally gone through, such as love… and pain.

    Personal experience simply isn’t strong evidence, even for ourselves. We are easily fooled by illusions, hallucinations, and deception. Our memory is unreliable to begin with, and can be even less so when it’s affected by emotion, fatigue, peer pressure, alcohol, caffeine, the passage of time, etc. We misremember things all the time, we unintentionally alter our memories through the process of recollecting them, and we conflate our own memories with other people’s stories.

    If the only evidence in support of religious beliefs is ancient hearsay and untestable subjective personal experience, and there’s a complete absence of any objective evidence for those beliefs or testable predictions derived from them, then the wise thing to do is to consider alternative explanations (Maybe people are prone to falling for catchy myths. Is there any evidence that this is in fact the case?) and keep your confidence in those religious beliefs to a minimum.

    On the other hand, if there’s concrete objective evidence for something, then everyone can examine it, confirm and reconfirm its details, hammer out any disagreements by testing them against reality, possibly make falsifiable predictions about it and test them, propose alternative hypotheses to explain what it is, how it works, and test those hypotheses to see which turn out to correspond to reality. Even then, science keeps its explanations tentative and open to later falsification or new evidence.

    “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.”

    Which is wiser: religious conviction based on hearsay and frail human memory, or the tentative claims of science based on mountains of objective evidence and tested predictions that are available for anyone to confirm?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Nowoo,

    Have you talked to Woo? He may know more than me. But then again, your name… awww forget it. it’s getting old…

    Okay, seriously,

    I never listen to hearsay and believe it at face value. When I believe something about anything, it’s because it makes logical sense to me. If the logic comes from past personal experiences, I don’t see the harm in going with that until proven otherwise. The difference between you and me seems to be that I usually like to give the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong; and you like to have the proof in hand before giving anything a chance.

    All I can say is, I jump into things without fear most of the time, and I do often get burned or hit rocks on the bottom. And it hurts like hell. But then on rare occasions, I land on balloons. Life is exciting because of those times. And the rocks can be fun too, depending on how you look at them.

    But again, that’s just me.

  • Arlen

    Okay, I’m back for some more.

    nowoo:

    At best, reports of subjective experiences can point to possibly real phenomena…

    I’ll take it. If you were walking through Ireland when you happened across a leprechaun sitting at the end of a rainbow holding a pot of gold, you would absolutely believe in leprechauns. Having no objective proof would make you no less sure. I hope that you can accept that I believe (in God, not leprechauns) whether or not I can prove it to you. I certainly accept that you don’t.

    Mriana:

    …he was terrible with laying on fear, guilt, and shame, even when someone didn’t do anything.

    I experience guilt and shame constantly, and I’m sometimes actually thankful for it. It doesn’t have anything to do with “original sin,” but I do feel guilt that I’m not doing everything in my power to help those around me. I don’t think that’s unique to Christians; I sincerely hope that all people feel shame that they can help and don’t. That said, playing on people’s emotions like your great uncle did is pretty rotten in my mind.

    Yeah, that Matthew text is very odd, especially when out of context. I had to spend a lot of time with that before I “cracked” it. Within the context of Jesus advocating radical love and justice, this text (by my reading) simply indicates that there will be a lot of people standing in the way of this new kind of life. Fathers, mothers, and others will try to stop you from acting the way that is right because it is against tradition or current religious mores, but you should be strong in your conviction even if it divides your family.

    Hugo:

    If you could would you have saved Jesus?

    Yes, just as I like to think that I would save anybody wrongfully convicted of a crime and unjustly sentenced to death. I hope you would too.

    If nobody was willing to “sacrifice him for our sins” would you do it yourself?

    No. In my mind, it’s very unfortunate that Jesus ended up being a martyr. I would much prefer it if he had stuck around longer, won more people to his cause, and had more chances to better explain his “way.”

    Claire:

    One thing that has always puzzled me is, what is the emotional appeal of the crucifixion story?

    Yeah, what an awful story to have to tell your kids. I’ve never understood focus on the crucifixion to the exclusion of Jesus’ teachings.

    J.S.Brown:

    How can any human know or have any amount of certainty that God isn’t actually evil, having lied about it’s nature?

    Quite easily. If the fruit that your faith bears is bad fruit, then something is very, very wrong. If the fruit of one’s faith is goodness, love, justice, and peace, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that God’s plan is pretty benevolent. The goal of Christians, in general, is to bear as much of the good fruit as possible. The only trouble comes when some Christians don’t realize that their fruit is actually bad, and need some convincing on the subject from the rest of us.

    Viggo the Carpathian:
    I’m very sorry that you went through that. What a horrible experience. I am really thankful that you were able to pull yourself out of the mire.

    Jeff:

    What is more noble? Doing good things because doing good things is good? Or doing good things to please God?

    I think we both agree that doing good things is noble. I think God is pleased when people do good things because they are good. I guess I may be having a hard time drawing a real distinction between those two motivations, sorry.

    It seems a strong motivation for pleasing God would be self-serving

    That can be said of anybody doing any good for any reason. I think I recall a whole episode of “Friends” where they were trying to decide if there was such a thing as a selfless act. To be quite frank, I think it’s probably impossible to separate the altruistic motivation from the narcissistic motivation behind any good action. That doesn’t make doing good things any less good.

    Viggo the Carpathian:

    I can point you to any number of Christian theologians who would tell you that what you believe is not Christianity.

    I’m sure you could. I’m sure they do believe that. That’s why there are hundreds of different Christian denominations; some seem to think that they are more right than others. I don’t plan on letting that get to me. We’re all just doing our best to discern and follow the “way.”

    More later…

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Linda & Arlen, you guys are doing a great job. Told you it was a lot of work! ;)

    However, it seems to me that the biggest difficulty here is that neither of you represent the kind of Christianity that most of these questions are being asked of. You are doing a great job of describing what it is that you believe – and I agree with a lot (not all) of what you are saying – but of course most of the atheists here have been primarily exposed to much different forms of Christianity – the fundamentalist or evangelical varieties – and their questions are for those people. It’s too bad we don’t have more of those kind of Christians around here to answer them. Well done Karen to think back to when you were one and attempt to give an answer. I suppose I could do the same, but I don’t really want to waste my conversational capital here describing views that I no longer hold and risk having my own views confused with them.

  • nowoo

    Arlen said: For me, even a modicum of evidence for something of potentially monumental importance drives me to act in such a way that may otherwise be reserved for those with profound evidence.

    So the more outrageous the threat, the less evidence you require? I understand the precautionary principle, but there’s a certain minimum level of plausibility and basis in objective evidence required before it applies. If someone told you that Thor threatened a punishment for disbelief that was ten times worse than your god’s, would you believe in Thor just to be safe?

    I am curious what the modicum of objective, testable evidence for the existence of a god might be.

    If the only evidence in favor of religious miracle claims is untestable two thousand year old anecdotal hearsay testimony (among the least reliable kinds of evidence), isn’t it appropriate to be extremely skeptical of their truth?

    I reject your premise. Just because you reject other evidence doesn’t make it any less valid for me.

    True, you may have different standards of evidence than I do, and all I can do is point out the weakness and unreliability of the types of evidence I no longer consider valid. If you can demonstrate that hearsay, mythology, and subjective impressions are more reliable than hard objective evidence I might be convinced to adopt your standards of evidence.

    If I walked outside 100 times and started shivering each time, I wouldn’t need a thermometer to say it’s cold. Others may certainly need more evidence; I respect that.

    There’s enough objective evidence that human shivering usually correlates with cold temperatures, and that cold air and shivering really exist. Nothing mysterious there. If you went outside and claimed to encounter unicorns, leprechauns, or invisible deities then yes, we’d want more evidence.

  • Mriana

    I experience guilt and shame constantly, and I’m sometimes actually thankful for it. It doesn’t have anything to do with “original sin,” but I do feel guilt that I’m not doing everything in my power to help those around me.

    I wasn’t saying it was “original sin” or that it was unique to Xians, Arlen. I was just talking about my great uncle, my mother’s family as a whole, and their insanity.

    Fathers, mothers, and others will try to stop you from acting the way that is right because it is against tradition or current religious mores, but you should be strong in your conviction even if it divides your family.

    Well then, I’m on the right track with my own worldview. :lol: ;)

  • Karen

    Thank you, that really does explain it. I’ve never really gotten the whole guilt thing, although I have known a lot of people who seemed to feel guilt for everything in their life. I’ve never bought the whole “god is good” thing, because he’s a rat bastard in the old testament and not even that nice in the new one. I’ve always thought the whole Adam and Eve thing was just another big cheat – here’s this tree, don’t touch it, no explanation given, who wouldn’t go right for it at the first opportunity, and what’s so bad about knowing good from evil?

    Honestly, I think in order to truly “get it,” you have to be raised in this mindset and never allow yourself to seriously question it, or have an extremely emotional, life-changing conversion later in life that wipes out your objections by fiat. Because it doesn’t make sense if you analyze it objectively as you just did.

    One thing that atheists who have not been religious tend to miss is that many of these “givens” are stated as such, accepted and adopted into one’s mental paradigm sans any real scrutiny or questioning (especially amongst fundies, where too much questioning is dangerous and to be avoided). It’s the most natural thing in the world for a skeptic to examine statements objectively, ponder them from all sides, try to disprove them, etc. But what you have to realize is that this process is NOT natural to fundamentalists, in fact it is anathema. So the questions just don’t get addressed.

    No wonder the story has no resonance for me. Thank you so much, Karen, that’s been bothering me for years, and now I know.

    Glad to help! Having been on both sides of this fence, it’s very satisfying to be able to explain something obscure to one side or the other and attempt to increase crucial understanding.

  • nowoo

    Arlen said:

    Okay, I’m back for some more.

    nowoo: “At best, reports of subjective experiences can point to possibly real phenomena…”

    I’ll take it. If you were walking through Ireland when you happened across a leprechaun sitting at the end of a rainbow holding a pot of gold, you would absolutely believe in leprechauns. Having no objective proof would make you no less sure. I hope that you can accept that I believe (in God, not leprechauns) whether or not I can prove it to you. I certainly accept that you don’t.

    I can understand why you think that would make me believe in leprechauns, and maybe at one time it would have. I’ve learned enough about human perception and scientific skepticism over the last couple of years so that now I’d be more likely to attribute an experience like that to a hallucination based on common folk tales, and probably a bit too much time spent exploring the Irish pubs. Or maybe someone was playing a trick on me. Or it was a vivid dream that I mistook for reality. Or I made up the experience but I told the story so many times that I started to convince myself. Or I was hypnotized and a false memory was planted while I was hypnotized. Or…

    “Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among ‘multiple working hypotheses,’ has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.” – Carl Sagan.

  • Mriana

    One thing that atheists who have not been religious tend to miss is that many of these “givens” are stated as such, accepted and adopted into one’s mental paradigm sans any real scrutiny or questioning (especially amongst fundies, where too much questioning is dangerous and to be avoided). It’s the most natural thing in the world for a skeptic to examine statements objectively, ponder them from all sides, try to disprove them, etc. But what you have to realize is that this process is NOT natural to fundamentalists, in fact it is anathema. So the questions just don’t get addressed.

    You get shut down for questioning and if you persist, you get seriously scolded or even the inquistion or worse. Just once when I share something with my mother that is contrary to her beliefs, and she gets angry and alike for it, I want to be upfront, full out, no holds bar, honest with her. Instead of pussy footing around to keep her from getting angry or more angry. I’m too old for the games of child (now 41) pleasing parent (now 62). It’s rediculous.

    Thing is, I was raised with both mind sets, Karen. I got the Humanist/atheistic view better, while the Evangelical Fundie view made no sense at all to me and it was twisted.

  • Karen

    Thing is, I was raised with both mind sets, Karen. I got the Humanist/atheistic view better, while the Evangelical Fundie view made no sense at all to me and it was twisted.

    Good for you for having the smarts to see through that mindset from an early age, Mriana. I actually got some glimpses into humanist philosophy from my dad, who was a secular Jew, but I rejected that at a very young age due to my family dynamic, unfortunately.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    What is more noble? Doing good things because doing good things is good? Or doing good things to please God?

    Jeff, in my frenzy of answering the other questions, I missed your question before.

    I agree with Arlen. Good deed is good if it brings favorable results for the needy. The motivation behind the deed is for the doer to sort out for him/herself.

    A follow-up question is why would someone do good things to please God?

    Someone would do things to please God: 1) to feel worthy of His love; 2) to get more “blessings”; 3) to get more rewards in heaven; 4) because they feel they owe him their life (He died for them).

    I, myself, don’t do things to please God anymore. I do, however, still have the people-pleasing disease. I’m in recovery though.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C. said:

    the fundamentalist or evangelical varieties – and their questions are for those people. It’s too bad we don’t have more of those kind of Christians around here to answer them.

    Oh I see… I guess I missed the objective. I was just trying to demonstrate that there are Christians who completely disagree with the fundies. I can do my best to act like one, but I don’t think I’d be very good. I was never very good at it even when I was trying for real.

    My question, then, would be: Are we trying to understand their views or discredit their views? I don’t know too many fundamental Christians who would come to this blog to answer questions in an honest way. They are afraid of you.

  • Mriana

    Karen said,

    December 17, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Thing is, I was raised with both mind sets, Karen. I got the Humanist/atheistic view better, while the Evangelical Fundie view made no sense at all to me and it was twisted.

    Good for you for having the smarts to see through that mindset from an early age, Mriana.

    Well, I did have another great uncle who was an atheist in a Foxhole during WWII. He cleaned up afterwards and had the difficult task of deciding who they could or could not save. It was DURING the war he became an atheist. So, all the BS you hear about people becoming Christian during a war is just that BS. I think becoming an atheist was the best thing that could have happen to him during the war. He was living through hell and afterwards he had already been through hell- all on earth.

    I really felt his anger when my grandfather, his brother, tried to convert him back to Christianity. I don’t know why. He was a wonderful just as he was. Nothing my grandfather said or did caused him to convert back and he died an atheist, but he lived life to it’s fullest.

  • Mriana

    My question, then, would be: Are we trying to understand their views or discredit their views? I don’t know too many fundamental Christians who would come to this blog to answer questions in an honest way. They are afraid of you.

    Well, it is really not that difficult to understand me and there is no reason to fear me, even when I get upset with dogma and call people on it. Just talk to me and you can learn many things about me.

    I don’t think attempting to discredit views it going to do much good. Views are neither right or wrong- they just are and they are the perceptions of the individual. Some atheists have issues with ALL Christians, and some, like myself, are capable of getting along with liberal and progressive Christians- not necessarily agreeing, but getting along.

  • Claire

    Karen said:

    One thing that atheists who have not been religious tend to miss is that many of these “givens” are stated as such, accepted and adopted into one’s mental paradigm sans any real scrutiny or questioning

    That was exactly what I was missing. It’s kind of like reading the legends and stories of a different culture without the necessary background to understand them; they just seem pointless and weird and the people in them seem like freaks. I thought growing up in the same country and speaking the same language would be enough. It got me most of the way there, but not all the way.

    In thinking about it more, I think that only one of the three things you mentioned was what was needed. If a person thinks that humanity (or his or her own self) is hopelessly evil or wrong or needs fixing and is unfixable, and that only something outside them can redeem them, then the appeal of the story is clear.

    Now when someone tells me that bit about “but he died for you!!” , I can simply explain that I don’t see humanity or myself as hopeless, and that the sacrfice they see as so vital has no meaning for me. I don’t know that it will really help the conversation any, but at least I can explain why what they say doesn’t change my mind. It will make a nice change from both of us thinking the other is making no sense at all.

    Karen, thanks again, you did a really good thing here!

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    My question, then, would be: Are we trying to understand their views or discredit their views?

    I get tons of opportunity to discredit their views, and read how other people have done so.

    What I don’t get a chance to do often is get a question about religion answered by people who are knowledgeable and articulate enough to answer it, but won’t mistake it for an opportunity to proselytize.

    I’m kinda sorry now that that was the only thing I was seriously puzzled about.

  • Mriana

    Here’s a question without a lot of explaintion or introduction, but I’m not sure how many Christians here can answer it, because they aren’t fundies:

    OK why is it, some Christians fear a honest and true education will ruin their salvation? They will become knowledgable, lose faith, and then be unsaved, so they resist education. They don’t even educate themselves about their own religion. They prefer ignorance over knowledge. I don’t understand why.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Mike C. said:

    ..the fundamentalist or evangelical varieties – and their questions are for those people. It’s too bad we don’t have more of those kind of Christians around here to answer them.

    I am an atheist that goes to an evangelical Baptist church and participates in an adult Christian small group. My motivations for going to church and spending time with fundamentalist Christians is complex and besides the point here. But I can share some insights into the fundamentalist mindset.

    Each of the following are beliefs that have been expressed in the Christian small group in which I participate. It is interesting that some of the more fanatical (and fundamentalist) in my group refer to themselves as previously being non-believers.

    People in my small group have said:

    We are all guilty of original sin.
    We are also all guilty of sin in our lives.
    The penalty of sin is burning in Hell.
    Hell definitely exists.
    All people who do not accept Jesus as their personal savior go to Hell after death.
    Jesus is the ONLY path to heaven.
    Jesus died to save those who accept Him as their savior.
    All other religions are false.
    God answers prayers. Even little trivial ones.
    God is continually involved in the world answering prayers.
    One should pray about everything in one’s life.
    The bible is an expression of God’s love for the world.
    Everything in the bible is true from Genesis to the last paragraph of Revelation.
    Basically, if anything good happens, it is because of God.
    Bad things happen because people are separated from God.
    Where people reject God, the devil (Satan) reigns.
    Satan definitely exists.
    Satan must be fought and resisted.
    We can not do it alone.
    We must walk with Jesus armor.
    Atheists are under the spell of Satan.
    Liberal Christians are also under the spell of Satan.
    Evolution is wrong and should not be taught in school.
    Ideally America should be a theocracy.
    Only Christians are loving and altruistic.
    Non-Christians will be consumed by evil thoughts and do wicked things.
    It is everybody’s duty to try to save the unsaved.
    Everybody can get closer to God.
    Everyone should continually give praise to God.
    Jesus loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved but you must accept Him to be saved.

    I pull my punches with this group…it is part of the price of admission. Interestingly, most of the people in the group have family members that are atheists or otherwise non-religious. I view each of these small group members as a friend. Individually, each of them is a very nice person even though they have strange beliefs. It has been an interesting experience.

  • Mriana

    Individually, each of them is a very nice person even though they have strange beliefs.

    That they do.

  • Claire

    Well, Jeff, I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep tonight. Too damn scared….

    Seriously, though, since you know these people – how do they reconcile their beliefs about how generally bad/evil atheists and non-believers and liberal christians are with how they feel about the ones they know and like? Or do they not try to do that and just live with the cognitive dissonance?

    Oh, and what is a “small group”?

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    A few thoughts:

    I did a quick skim of the questions and responses.

    I appreciate Linda and others who present an alternative view of Christianity. What’s sad is this view was more predominate 50 years ago. The rise and the prominence of the religious right and fundamentalism is a recent thing.

    “Is something good (moral) because God commands it, or does Godcommand it because it is good?” The latter. Does that make God beholden “to the good? I’d rather say that God is the good.

    Would you “be a Christian if you had grown up in a society dominated by a non Christian religion?” Probably not. History and context shapes us..

    “Do you think you’d be a Christian now if you had grown up with no religious influence at all?” Not sure, because I have my doubts if such a society exists.

    “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Do you agree?”

    Yes, but there’s a cautionary note: evidence is shaped by the nature of the inquiry (and the accompanying beliefs governing that inquiry). And there’s differing beliefs that could follow as a result of that.

    Hell questions: If the past is irrevocable, then there’s some way that every act forms a permanent part of the story of this world, perhaps part of the story in the life of God. It could be that through our actions, it’s not us but God that faces a bit of hell, a bit of heaven.

    If the Bible is not literal, how does one sort through it? Is it determined by “what your pastor/teacher/parents said it means?”

    One can look at the history of the Christian tradition for meaning in these texts. You could do historical biblical research to imagine how it may have first been received. And then there’s the way sacred stories are responsible to the world and current problems we face today. So there’s all sorts of voices, needs, perspectives informing how these texts are used today.

    “Is personal experience considered evidence?” Yes. It’s what we have. But what’s key is connecting up that experience with a wider range of experiences (ie other people). ie “intersubjective agreement”

    Original Sin questions:

    I find the concept liberating, not a downer. Because sin is not so much identified with discrete acts, but with the condition of this world, human life, etc. It suggests that no individual act of will can rescue us.

    ie the burden is not on any one individual. Rather instead of asking is this a good or bad person, we’re invited to examine the structural conditions that lead to the problems we see in this world.

    Salvation questions:

    The need for salvation can be found by a quick read of the paper. (genocide, poverty, corruption, etc) Where does salvation come from? If one calls it God or not, salvation has to come from a wider reality than just me as an individual. It’s source (even if only partially experienced) is social.

    Questions about the family: I think too much of the church has made an idol of the family. I think the NT is a much needed corrective to knock that idol down (or re conceive it: family as friendship based not biology based)

    Progressive Christianity as rare: It’s not as rare as one thinks. Outside of a few rural communities in the south there is not any town that does not have a moderate to liberal religious body.

    Sometimes it’s United Church of Christ, Episcopal, United Methodist, ELCA Lutheran, Presbyterian Church USA, Disciples of Christ, Quakers. Now congregations do vary but progressive religions represents tens of millions.

    “Woo gets to decide what Christianity is or isn’t?” Depends on the purpose of the description. But I’d go with folks who self identify with the religion and practice it in churches, communities.

    These are some brief thoughts…but I enjoy the site and the respect that it has for varying viewpoints.

  • nowoo

    Arlen said in response to my comments (sorry, double block quotes aren’t working for me here):

    “Does infinite eternal torture seem… fair…?”

    No. I don’t know that I believe in Hell. I haven’t found a lot of convincing justification for it.

    Yeah, those “divinely inspired” biblical references to Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, Gehenna, the lake of fire, eternal fire, eternal punishment, etc. were probably typos. It’s better not to believe something so irrational. I’m sure the rest of that “holy” text is far more reliable. :-)

    “Would you be in favor of torturing and killing an innocent person in order to clear yourself of guilt for crimes you committed? What about for crimes you didn’t actually commit but only “inherited” from your ancestors? Would you consider scapegoating by human sacrifice a valid form of justice? How about by deicide instead of human sacrifice?”

    Nope to all. I don’t kill folks… or torture them, for that matter.

    Should Christians gladly and gratefully accept salvation from their own failings by means of an alleged obscene, unnecessary human/god torture and sacrifice in their place, a sacrifice that they didn’t ask for and would have opposed if they could have?

    “If a person hears a disembodied voice telling them to kill their child, should they do it?”

    Of course not. There may be great reasons to kill one’s child, but that probably wouldn’t be one of them.

    So do you agree that Abraham, rather than being a hero of faith of the three major monotheisms for his attempted filicide, is better understood as a misguided, schizophrenic, hallucinating almost child murderer along the lines of Andrea Yates? Or more likely as a completely fictional character who didn’t really exist, much less live to the age of 175, father 8 children (all sons?), including 6 unimportant ones with his second wife Keturah AFTER his “miraculous” son Isaac in his old age?

  • http://www.myspace.com/brown_j_s J.S.Brown

    I do enjoy the chance to ask questions like these of Christians. It usually disappoints me because, so often, the answers have nothing to do with what was asked. That’s certainly the case for the question I posted. Thanks to Hemant for the opportunity.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    J.S. Brown,

    so often, the answers have nothing to do with what was asked. That’s certainly the case for the question I posted.

    That’s so unfair. I was in a frenzy yesterday. You asked some great questions that I often wonder about myself, and they made me think some more. I did what I could for the moment so you don’t think that you’re being ignored. I was hoping for a continued dialogue and evolving thoughts. I thought your question deserved more than just a short, one-time, simple answer.

    You jump in unannounced and unexpected, throw out a loaded question, then you jump out saying that it wasn’t worth your time? What kind of crap is that?

    Now I’m glad I didn’t waste too much time trying to answer your question.

  • Vincent

    Linda,
    I hate to say it but you seem to be describing what you take from Christianity personally rather than what Christianity is. You claim that I already have Jesus. I don’t. I don’t even think he ever existed. I doubt anyone but you would consider me Christian.
    Also, what you paint (accept your impotence, submit to authority, etc.) does not sound at all appealing.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Claire said,

    …how do they reconcile their beliefs about how generally bad/evil atheists and non-believers and liberal Christians are with how they feel about the ones they know and like? Or do they not try to do that and just live with the cognitive dissonance?

    Oh, and what is a “small group”?

    Christianity didn’t start with a big organized church. Christianity started with small groups of like-minded people meeting in someone’s house to religiously bond. Many denominations today continue this early Christian tradition of “small group” meetings . These are groups of perhaps 4 to 8 adults who have a guided spiritual bible lesson usually from a Christian workbook. We bring our kids and the kids play upstairs while the adults talk downstairs. These meetings are not in lieu of church. They are in addition to church. My church fully expects a good member to do each of the following:
    1. go to church on Sunday and participate in a church ministry
    2. go to church on Wednesday
    3. participate in a small group
    4. Give till it hurts (well I don’t do that part)
    5. go on occasional mission trips

    As for reconciling the belief that atheists are going to hell and personally knowing some atheists, I have observed the following:

    1. One woman has separated from her husband because he is an atheist. I have heard of no other reason. The husband wants the marriage to work. The husband is not part of the small group.
    2. One couple was very happy when their daughter broke up with her boyfriend who wasn’t religious enough for their tastes.
    3. Some hold out that God, due to his loving Grace, could spare some atheists from eternal burning. They hope (and pray) that some of their loved ones may be so spared.
    4. Some reflect on their own godless period and are proud :) about how far they have progressed towards God.
    5. There is definitely some cognitive dissidence in the group.
    6. I sense that the beliefs of some may not be as strong as they let on… there is a bit of “play-acting” going on… but I’ve only been in the group a year. It takes a long time to build trust and have people truly and freely express themselves in person especially when the group has so much Christian framing about what to believe.

    My wife is the one liberal Christian of the group. The group perceives me as a “recovering atheist” who is trying to understand Christianity. They are all to happy for the opportunity to save a soul (or two). My blog site is blowback to these fundamentalist Christian experiences.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    nowoo said,

    Should Christians gladly and gratefully accept salvation from their own failings by means of an alleged obscene, unnecessary human/god torture and sacrifice in their place, a sacrifice that they didn’t ask for and would have opposed if they could have?

    You are missing the big picture here. Jesus could have prevented the death himself. He could have chosen to run, hide, or keep his mouth shut. But he didn’t. He struggled with it for hours, sweating blood, in Gesthemene. He chose to give of himself, because to not do so would have gone against everything that he believed (knew) of God. He chose God over his humanness.

    Yes, the torture/death was very tragic, but it was the necessary and obvious consequence for his cries of freedom in the face of the oppressor. He spoke truth, and truth had to be killed for the survival of religion. Not only killed, it had to be hated, tortured, ridiculed, and spit on, over and over again to make sure that it would not rise up again.

    That’s just the way it is. No one likes the truth when they live in a lie. But truth is truth. You cannot kill it for good. It pokes its head out again and again. It comes back to life, because truth IS life. But life listens to the lie. Truth threatens the lie. Life listens to the lie and kills the truth. Truth comes back to life, becuase truth cannot die. But Life listens to the lie, becuase listening the lie is easier than looking to the truth. There’s the cycle and the ongong paradox.

    Jesus tried to tell this to mankind. To always look to the truth. Why did Jesus come into the world? To save us from sin? no, this is only a result. To give us forgiveness? no.. another result. To save the world? no. To tell us to obey the law? no, absolutely not.

    He came for one reason and one reason only: “…to testify to the truth.” from the horse’s mouth (John 18:37). And for this, and because of this, he was tortured and put to death on the cross. To me, the crucifixion story stands for freedom. Freedom to think for ourselves…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Vincent,

    What??? I painted a picture of accepting my impotence and submitting to authority? OMG! Get the white-out!! Quick! AHHHHHH!! I’m sinking!!

    Perhaps I meant to say accepting my IMPORTANCE and submitting to the TRUTH?

    I did not say you have Jesus. I was just suggesting that perhaps Jesus is not who you think He is… and perhaps he stood for something you already believe in.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    And Jeff,

    Can I join your small group? I can just come and pretend not to know you. Can I come and at least join in on one of your services? I bet I could make it real interesting for you to watch…

  • Arlen

    MikeClawson:

    the biggest difficulty here is that neither of you represent the kind of Christianity that most of these questions are being asked of

    That’s probably true, but I’ll keep on answering so that everyone knows that the fundamentalist/literalist/evangelical/etc. Christians do not represent all Christians, or even most Christians. They are actually a fairly small, fairly recent phenomenon (in their current incarnation).

    The type of atheists who visit FriendlyAtheist need to know (though I’m sure they already do) that the type of Christians who visit FriendlyAtheist are a.) out there, b.) willing to engage in dialog, and c.) represent a great opportunity to work together for the common good and against those who would usurp the name of Christianity to increase their power over others.

    nowoo:

    If you can demonstrate that hearsay, mythology, and subjective impressions are more reliable than hard objective evidence I might be convinced to adopt your standards of evidence.

    That’s a silly claim, and I would never make it; of course objective evidence is better than subjective evidence. If I had any objective evidence (or if anyone did) I’m sure you’d all be Christians too. I’m afraid you and I are going to have to agree to disagree on what evidence “counts,” otherwise our argument will just be circular.

    BTW: I totally love Carl Sagan; that’s a great quote.

    Mriana:

    I wasn’t saying it was “original sin” or that it was unique to Xians, Arlen.

    Oh, I know that; I didn’t mean to imply that that was the case. Sorry.

    Well, it is really not that difficult to understand me and there is no reason to fear me, even when I get upset with dogma and call people on it.

    They prefer ignorance over knowledge. I don’t understand why.

    I hesitate to make this comment, because it’s probably not productive in terms of debate, but I just want to assure you that it’s not your fault that the fundamentalists aren’t showing up to the picnic. I’ve been very close to many fundamentalists; I’ve gotten to know their viewpoints very well; I’ve seen the extent to which some of them will go to account for things like eons-old fossils. For the very large part, Christian fundamentalists are incredibly insular. I think that they have to be in order to survive. They have had to create their own books, music, television stations, schools, churches, community events, etc—their own culture—because too much exposure to different ideas too easily topples their house-of-cards worldview. Their way of life depends on no one asking questions.

    That said, many fundamentalists are wonderful people, and I mean absolutely no disrespect toward them. I just don’t believe that a lot of what they believe is very productive.

    jeff:

    My motivations for going to church and spending time with fundamentalist Christians is complex

    I get it… there’s totally a hot girl you want to meet there! (I’m just kidding of course.) Good for you for going and being a part of that. I think that it’s really important for everyone (especially fundamentalists) to have polite, subtle pressure put on them to question their beliefs. I’m sure you learned a lot from them and they from you. Kudos!

    nowoo:

    Yeah, those “divinely inspired” biblical references to Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, Gehenna, the lake of fire, eternal fire, eternal punishment, etc. were probably typos.

    After looking at the scripture and its historical context (outside of the centuries of Christian storytelling and mythology), I have found very few references that cannot be interpreted as references to either actual places, allegorical states-of-being, or something else. In the end, whether I believe in Hell or not doesn’t really matter. There either is one or isn’t, and I’ll either go there or not. Neither of those factors is going to have much impact on the way that I live my life.

    It’s better not to believe something so irrational. I’m sure the rest of that “holy” text is far more reliable.

    As I’ve said above, I, like most Christians, am not a literalist. I am probably in the minority in that I question the existence of Hell, but I’m in no way inconsistent. Generally speaking, I really try not to get too hung up on exactly what Hell, Heaven, God, Angels, etc. are or look like. I accept that it is impossible for the living to know, so I believe that my time is better spent helping others than pondering the explicitly unknowable.

    Should Christians gladly and gratefully accept salvation from their own failings by means of an alleged obscene, unnecessary human/god torture and sacrifice in their place, a sacrifice that they didn’t ask for and would have opposed if they could have?

    Your question is somewhat obscured by your snark. I think what you’re asking is, “Is it right for Christians to accept the salvation offered to them by an agent of God as he was ruthlessly murdered?”
    Short answer: that’s the offer we got, so we should be glad to take it. Would it have been better if Jesus didn’t have to die? Yes! He showed up to teach us how to love and get along and help each other, and we responded by killing him—harsh! I think given our treatment of him, it’s a miracle that he decided to give us the gift of salvation anyway; we certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it.

    So do you agree that Abraham, rather than being a hero… for his attempted filicide, is better understood as a[n]… almost child murderer along the lines of Andrea Yates?

    Abraham had simple instructions. Have a kid. He messed it up. In his humiliation, he was willing to kill his own son if it would mean putting the world right again. In the end he made an animal sacrifice to God rather than kill his son. He avoided murder even though he knew that that choice would lead to incredible hardship down the road. Abraham is the hero of monotheism not because he was perfect guy, but because he was a regular guy, chosen by God to do something miraculous.

    J.S.Brown:

    the answers have nothing to do with what was asked

    I’m sorry; I thought I gave a pretty straightforward answer. Is there something you’d like me to clarify, or can you rephrase your question so that I could better get at what you are after?

    All:
    Wow! That’s the end of the thread so far! Any other questions that I can help answer or are there any of my answers that I can clarify for anyone? Thanks to all of you for your great, thought-provoking questions!

  • Mriana

    He could have chosen to run, hide, or keep his mouth shut.

    According to the Islamics, Linda, he did run and hide. They say it was not Jesus on the cross but someone else. Jesus married, lived a long life, ascended like Elijah, etc etc etc. So… We are back to just a story that can be written any old way the author wants it to be written. The actual event never really happened as depicted in the Gospels OR the Koran. It is JUST a story to be told any old way you want to tell it. Pick which story you want to show and tell, then go with it. Or pick one of the zillion dying and rising god stories of the past. It’s all the same and just my own observation of religion and mythology- nothing personal.

    Mriana:

    I wasn’t saying it was “original sin” or that it was unique to Xians, Arlen.

    Oh, I know that; I didn’t mean to imply that that was the case. Sorry.

    It’s alright. Sorry if I misunderstood you. It’s easy to do in this mess.

    For the very large part, Christian fundamentalists are incredibly insular.

    I’m directly related to fundies. My aunt and mother are so sheltered, even at their age and refuse to live in the city for fear of many things- including losing faith. They do not live in this world, but rather some fairy-tale world of some sort, with sayings and song that say, “This is not my home.” I don’t understand it. They also foo-foo science and insist it is wrong in favour of the Bible (which is not right). They cling to their invisible father figure and security blanket like they would die without it. They fear education because it will cause a loss of faith- thus they pray for me because I got an education at a Secular State Uni. :roll: Thing is, they don’t realize that I never believed like they do- ever. What they say has always been foreign to me- even as a kid.

    I bring up science and I get shut down really quickly. :roll: I just do not understand why Evangelicals are so anti-intellectual. It makes no sense- except, you are right, Arlen, their way of believing would not and cannot survive intellectual persuits. It’s too… what’s the word? Primitive, is the best I can think of,- too primitive to survive modern knowledge.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    Thanks for answering all the questions, Arlen. I like hearing what you have to say.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Jeff, your experience as an atheist peacefully existing within a conservative Christian church (would you say it is truly “fundamentalist” or simply “evangelical”?) is very fascinating. I hope you’ll tell us more about it sometime. Why are you there and what (if any) benefit do you get from it?

    Perhaps you could do a full blown post about it here on Hemant’s blog?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    That’s probably true, but I’ll keep on answering so that everyone knows that the fundamentalist/literalist/evangelical/etc. Christians do not represent all Christians, or even most Christians.

    I’m glad you are Arlen! Someone needs to, and I have filled that role here at times, though it can get tiring. Be prepared to hear many of the atheists here accuse you of not being a “real” Christian because your views don’t match their stereotypes of fundamentalist Christians. Ironically I hear this accusation of not being a “real Christian” just as much from atheists these days as I do from conservative Christians. Though I suspect some of the former might actually intend it as a compliment! :)

  • Arlen

    MikeClawson:

    Be prepared to hear many of the atheists here accuse you of not being a “real” Christian because your views don’t match their stereotypes of fundamentalist Christians.

    Ha! So true, Mike. We definitely get it from both sides. I think that people have a natural reaction to just ignore observations that don’t fit with their world-view. If something isn’t easily explained (for example, people like you or me being Christians), it’s awfully easy to just say that we are extraneous examples or ill-informed of our own classification and to just box us up and throw us away. Oh well, the good news is that not everybody will have that reaction (I hope!)

  • Mriana

    I’ll be the last one to say that, because I’ve been there and it’s no fun. You get shoved around like a half-breed. I can empathize somewhat with my sons. :(

    I’m telling you, there is nothing like Fundamgelicals shoving you over to the atheist realm, when you yourself don’t consider yourself as such and the militant atheists (I must clarify both sub-groups here) shoving you back again to the other side. I spent years dealing with that until I decided that I was a non-theist and decided that I am a Humanist. It’s hell.

    If you declare yourself a theist/Christian/progressive/liberal etc or you declare yourself an atheist, non-theist or part of any sub-group on either side, who am I to question you?

    It’s a horrible feeling to be shoved back and forth. My sons get that just based on their skin colour, behaviour, and the fact they were raised by a White woman and not by their Black father. Therefore, I can empathize with them too.

    I would never propose you are not Christian or propose one is not an atheist based on their statements alone- regardless if they jive with my definition or not. I avoid judging anyone as much as humanly possible.

  • Karen

    Now when someone tells me that bit about “but he died for you!!” , I can simply explain that I don’t see humanity or myself as hopeless, and that the sacrfice they see as so vital has no meaning for me. I don’t know that it will really help the conversation any, but at least I can explain why what they say doesn’t change my mind. It will make a nice change from both of us thinking the other is making no sense at all.

    Exactly. You can explain that you don’t feel the need to be “saved” from anything. Then they’ll realize they have to first persuade you that you’re a filthy sinner, a larger and far more unpleasant task than spreading the “good news”! ;-)

    Karen, thanks again, you did a really good thing here!

    No problem, m’am. I aim to please. :-)

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    I think there’s a function of: what we experienced as kids definitely shapes our sense of things. I grew up in a mainline church, where I had never heard there was a “conflict” between evolution and faith until I was in college. Most of the evangelical subculture I had never ran into until college. Most folks I knew growing up were Catholic or Lutheran.

    But now living in a fundamentalist dominated area (old school Pentecostals and a ton of baptist churches), I can see how religion can often look quite different. The point is that neither experience told us the whole story. There’s a lot of good and bad, beauty and sometimes weirdness in any religion..it’s a very human affair after all.

  • Vincent

    Linda,
    I apologize for generalizing from the thread. I have carefully re-read your posts and where I got the bleak picture was this quote:

    We look at the history of mankind, the people who have hurt us I the past, and our own self-reflection and come to the conclusion that we ultimately cannot save ourselves.

    This sounds very much like the defeatist negative self-image that Alcoholics Anonymous uses. It is not life affirming. I apologize for implicating you in their tactics.

    Anyway, I absolutely agree that fundamental christianity of the sort most people here would complain about is the minority.
    However, after carefully reading your posts I would conclude that the form of Christianity you profess is also the minority, and perhaps an even smaller one.
    In fact, from reading your posts it is not even clear that you believe Jesus was God. You seem very moved by the story of the man Jesus, but give no play to the story of the God Jesus. (for instance you express doubt Jesus knew the future)
    There are many definitions of Christian. However, I only accept those as Christian that believe Jesus was divine. Christian, to me, implies worship of a god christ. That is certainly the majority view, since the largest Christian sect is Catholicism, and that’s one of the short list of things you must believe to be Catholic. Most other followers of Jesus accept that. Some don’t, then they are only Christian in the same way an economist is a Keynesian.

    You suggest that I already have Jesus because I live a certain way. I say I am a humanist, and the Jesus you describe was also a humanist. Lots of people throughout history have been humanist. The Jesus figure you describe (if he ever existed) deserves respect, but so does M. Ghandi. No one has argued that Ghandi was divine or deserving of worship. Why Jesus?

  • Karen

    Jeff, your experience as an atheist peacefully existing within a conservative Christian church (would you say it is truly “fundamentalist” or simply “evangelical”?) is very fascinating. I hope you’ll tell us more about it sometime.

    I’ll second that sentiment. I don’t know how you do it, Jeff. As an ex-fundy, it would be way too tough emotionally for me to re-immerse myself in that kind of group.

    But I’d love to be a fly on the wall at some of your small group meetings. My small groups never contained nonbelievers so I don’t know what it would be like to see some serious questions introduced (what Helen calls comments “outside the range of acceptable answers”). I imagine you shake the group out of their self-contained worldview from time to time!

  • Robin

    I have quite a few issues with Christianity, but one of them is a bit more important to me than the others, and that one involves homosexuality. Being gay, and being raised in a very homophobic Christian tradition caused no end of problems for me as a young man; it eventually came down to a simple choice: either reject who I was, or reject Christianity.

    I rejected Christianity. And I haven’t looked back since. It was the right decision.

    But my husband is still a loyal Catholic. I respect his decision, and support it. But his liberal Catholic church–in which he’s still an active member–will only support gay and lesbian people so far. Oh, sure, they’d let gay people contribute to their coffers, sing in their choirs, and attend their services, but would they let them get married?

    Uh, no.

    What is it about the issue of homosexuality that gets so many Christians’ undies in a bunch? Certainly, there are Biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior, but they’re on the same pages as nonsensical rules and condemnations that no Christian takes seriously anymore.

    Given that that’s the case, it’s sort of difficult not to feel singled out for ridicule.

    My question for the Christians on the thread are pretty simple:

    Is homosexuality sinful? (This is a “yes” or “no” question.)

    Do you believe that gay and lesbian people have the right to marriage, and all the rights and responsibilities that marriage entails?

    If not, why not?

  • Arlen

    Robin:

    Is homosexuality sinful?

    No. I think that the evidence is in that homosexuality is not a “choice,” but an inseparable part of who a person is. If God created a person who is homosexual, it would be the height of hypocrisy to call that creation sinful. I just saw a great documentary on this issue called “For The Bible Tells Me So.”

    Do you believe that gay and lesbian people have the right to marriage, and all the rights and responsibilities that marriage entails?

    Yes. My church welcomes and embraces homosexuals. The denomination won’t yet allow our pastor to perform a homosexual marriage, but that doesn’t stop us from celebrating marriages performed elsewhere. This is an incredibly frustrating issue for gays and their allies in the church; I assure you that folks are working hard to change hearts and minds about this issue at high levels in several denominations. I think that we are going to witness, over the next ten to twenty years, a remarkable transformation within the Church regarding homosexuality. I can’t wait.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Vincent,

    In fact, from reading your posts it is not even clear that you believe Jesus was God. You seem very moved by the story of the man Jesus, but give no play to the story of the God Jesus. (for instance you express doubt Jesus knew the future)

    Thank you for taking the time to go back to re-read my comments. That means a lot.

    I do believe Jesus is fully God, as well as fully human. However, as I am only human, I can only relate to Jesus who was human. I can only testify to what I know, what I have personally experienced, and what comes straight from the heart. I cannot pretend to fully know who Jesus the God is. But since everything else I know about him makes perfect sense to me, I have to believe that part is true also. That’s the faith part. That’s the trust part. He hasn’t given me one reason not to trust or believe what he says. And until he does, I choose to believe him.

    (for instance you express doubt Jesus knew the future)

    Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. I don’t have any evidence for or against this. I don’t know the scripture well enough to argue this point. From what I do know, I believe that he knew that he was God incarnate but did not know in detail what he would have to endure before death, nor did he know exactly how his resurrection would come about. He just knew the concept and knew it to be the truth. That’s as far as I can imagine, only because that’s how it is for me. When I understand a concept, I know it in my heart but cannot form the right words to explain it, let alone describe it in full detail. I cannot say that was the case for Jesus. Who can understand or explain how God works? Again, I can only talk about what I know to be true for me.

    The Jesus figure you describe (if he ever existed) deserves respect, but so does M. Ghandi. No one has argued that Ghandi was divine or deserving of worship. Why Jesus?

    Good question. And one that I have wondered often as well. It has something to do with the resurrection part, I’m sure. And the fact that Ghandi did not have disciples and apostles to write books about him explaining the death and the resurrection. There’s something about Jesus that just makes sense, too much sense for me to deny. Unless someone presents proof to me that confirms the contrary, I have no choice but to go with what makes more sense to my gut instincts, along with certain experiences that I cannot explain.

    BTW, I only became a believer about four years ago. Before that, I hated Christianity. But it was the religion that I hated. It took me four years to realize that I was never wrong in hating the religion. Jesus is not a religion. Jesus is Christ. And as I said in a previous comment, Jesus is freedom.

    To add a last note: I hate religion, because the religion claims to know things that are unknowable. Religion forces beliefs that are unbelievable. Religion makes laws that are absolutely impossible to follow. I refuse to live my life that way. I choose freedom.

    A friend wrote in his book that in order to go to heaven, you also have to be willing to go to hell. Well, I am willing to go to hell for freedom. And I know freedom cannot send you to hell. Because freedom is already heaven for me. And the Jesus I know would die for this…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Is homosexuality sinful? (This is a “yes” or “no” question.)

    Do you believe that gay and lesbian people have the right to marriage, and all the rights and responsibilities that marriage entails?

    People can answer yes or no until cows come home. But what I would ask my fellow Christians are the following questions:

    Would you invite Robin into your homes to play with your sons? To babysit them?

    Would you invite Robin and his husband to your family Thanksgiving dinner?

    Would you invite them into your fellowship who oppose homosexuality and announce them as close friends of yours?

    That’s what I really want to know…

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    “you express doubt Jesus knew the future”

    If the future is open, not just Jesus but God couldn’t fully know the future. There’s no implication about Jesus’ divinity by how one sees the issue.

    “Christian, to me, implies worship of a god christ.”

    I don’t think it should be implied. The son is subordinate to the father throughout the NT “why do you call me good, there is no one good but your father who is in heaven”. It’s what makes the religion monotheistic.

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    Linda: excellent questions.

    As for GLBT inclusion:

    Some churches were ahead of the game. Some Quakers came out in support of equality in 1962. Other churches are fighting over the issue, like the Methodists. Other churches are out to fight gay and lesbians (too many Baptist churches)

    There are three churches in my town of 20k (admittedly a college town) that will bless gay unions. As a gay person I’ve been involved with a Disciples church that is not there. But we’re moving on these issues and I have some optimism.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    MikeClawson said,
    Jeff, your experience as an atheist peacefully existing within a conservative Christian church (would you say it is truly “fundamentalist” or simply “evangelical”?) is very fascinating….Perhaps you could do a full blown post about it here on Hemant’s blog?

    Its an evangelical church that contains a range of believers in its congregation. The small group I attend is run by someone who is more on the fundamentalist side. The pastor of the church is more on the moderate side.

    I think dedicating a post to “mixed marriages” where one person is an atheist and the other person is a theist (or Christian) would be very interesting. I assume I’m not the only person in the world in that situation. It might get a lot of attention and yield some positive things about co-existing. Perhaps I can write something up and send it to you as an email to start a new post.

    Karen said,
    I imagine you shake the group out of their self-contained worldview from time to time!

    I decided from the first time I went to that church that I would not be confrontational. I’ll save that for blogging ;) I have no agenda at the church to de-convert anyone or even to say anything that makes anyone uncomfortable. In the small group I do challenge the edges of believe but always within the confounds of acceptable discourse. I’ve always been an atheist and am enjoying learning about how this group of Christians think. I view myself (at church) like an anthropologist learning about an alien culture without trying to change that culture. I don’t advertise myself as an atheist. Most probably think I’m a Christian just like they are.

  • Claire

    Now I have found a second question. Why do homophobia and fundamentalism (and sometimes some moderate churches, too) go hand and hand so often? For many liberal christians, the whole gay thing these days is just, meh, who cares what a person is? For some christians, it seems a core value to fight over, and I don’t know why this one thing. Yes, I know it’s prohibited in the bible, but so are a whole hell of a lot of things. Why is this one singled out? What causes the level of fear I see?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Jeff said:

    I have no agenda at the church to de-convert anyone or even to say anything that makes anyone uncomfortable.

    But don’t you develop relationships with these people and form bonds? Don’t you become friends with them? Do you begin to care about them? Why can’t you gently lead them into thinking out the box? You can gently interject questions to make them stop and rethink their views. One great question I can think of is “Why?”

    Even people at my own church sometimes resist thinking with me, because we always end up getting off course from that day’s lesson plan. But are we there to merely get along and get through the lessons, or are we there to encourage each other to think and get closer to the truth? If it’s the former, it seems a waste of time… You say you are there to study them. Have you considered maybe you are there to help them see the bigger picture?

  • kwrigh5

    To Arlen,
    I’m willing to help out with defending other types of Christians. I understand where you are coming from about being the perceived “few” of non-fundamentalist Christians and how draining it can be to defend yourself. You’re not alone :-)

  • Karen

    I view myself (at church) like an anthropologist learning about an alien culture without trying to change that culture. I don’t advertise myself as an atheist. Most probably think I’m a Christian just like they are.

    Actually, I wish more atheists who have always been non-religious could do what you are doing. This is also what Hemant did attending churches and what Eliza did attending a Lutheran class. I think it’s very helpful for both sides.

    My question, though, is what do you do if/when you are asked to pray, or “share” something about your life, or contribute to the cause (financially or otherwise) or give a prayer request? In my experience, small groups are highly participatory. I think it would be difficult for me to go along with the suppositions of a group without feeling like I was being false, unless I could openly state that I didn’t believe what they did.

  • kwrigh5

    Now I have found a second question. Why do homophobia and fundamentalism (and sometimes some moderate churches, too) go hand and hand so often? For many liberal christians, the whole gay thing these days is just, meh, who cares what a person is? For some christians, it seems a core value to fight over, and I don’t know why this one thing. Yes, I know it’s prohibited in the bible, but so are a whole hell of a lot of things. Why is this one singled out? What causes the level of fear I see?

    Hmm I have wondered this too. Honestly, I think there is a personal fear of homophobia for these people that is apart from their Christian beliefs (i.e fear of the unknown or foreign)and certain verses in the Bible only encourage their bias.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Karen said,
    My question, though, is what do you do if/when you are asked to pray, or “share” something about your life, or contribute to the cause (financially or otherwise) or give a prayer request? In my experience, small groups are highly participatory.

    Well there are certain aspects of Christianity in which I do like and buy into like being unselfish, not being too attached to material things, and trying to silence your ego in order to “hear God” (which I consider a metaphor for the creative process). With a certain cognitive dissidence, I can even imagine having a certain internal divine spark (be it the subconscious or novel brain connections) that is the source of new ideas. I have led the group in prayer before, but I am a bit uncomfortable with it. I usually let others do the prayer leading. I am quite vocal otherwise, just not antagonistically. At my wife’s insistence, we do leave a small offering each time we go to church but it is well below the 10% tithe that the church wants out of everybody.

    Linda said,
    You say you are there to study them. Have you considered maybe you are there to help them see the bigger picture?

    I probably will engage them in more deep theological discussions as time goes on. It takes a while to build trust.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I think there is a personal fear of homophobia for these people that is apart from their Christian beliefs (i.e fear of the unknown or foreign)and certain verses in the Bible only encourage their bias.

    Exactly. Homophobia is not exclusive to Christians. It exists everywhere. It is the fear of the unknown. Even the people who say they are not biased, when crunch time comes, will be leery of completely accepting those who are different. I have done it, and I have been a victim of it.

    I’ll bet even the minority groups themselves have certain types of poeple that they avoid for one reason or another. We all have our prejudices. You cannot point fingers at anyone else, and you cannot deny that you have your own biases.

    I just don’t like people who pretend to be above it all, which prompted me to ask the few questions that I asked earlier.

  • Claire

    kwrigh5 said:

    I think there is a personal fear of homophobia for these people that is apart from their Christian beliefs

    Linda said:

    Homophobia is not exclusive to Christians. It exists everywhere.

    Yes, it clearly exists in our culture. But – everytime I hear about a church splitting up, it’s always over this issue. We have a whole damn WAR going on, churches aren’t splitting over that. Two guys want to get married, and churches are splitting up left and right over it.

    So, I think there is more going on here than just what’s in the culture.

  • ash

    re; homophobia

    just thought i’d share with you what a christian friend who takes most instruction from the bible said to me on this subject…(she believes in the divinity of christ and that jesusu came ‘to fulfil the law’, i.e., although the OT is true, we are no longer expected to adhere to all of the rules + regs within, as jesus took the place of old laws of purity + sacrifice)… she pointed me to I Corinthians 6:9-10, which clearly states that sodomy is wrong, although it makes little comment on the sexual orientation of individuals. i.e., homosexuals are to be respected, homosexual behaviour is not. not sure on the status of lesbian behaviour, although that may be covered by Romans 1:26-27 (as an aside, why is it usually male homosexual behaviour that is focused on ?). i was actually quite impressed by the fact that she was able to be logically consistent with her condemnation of behaviour, rather than the individuals who practise such, whilst also holding true to her views on OT vs. NT. not that i agree with any of it ;) .

  • ash

    Mike. C.

    Be prepared to hear many of the atheists here accuse you of not being a “real” Christian because your views don’t match their stereotypes of fundamentalist Christians.

    ok, tried to address this before, obviously failed miserably…

    i am not saying you have not heard this BS here or otherwise, from atheists or otherwise, but this is the second time you have implied that atheists will do this without having a single quote from the particular thread you’re addressing. is it too much to ask that you save this vitriol for when it actually happens?

  • ash

    my question for any christians here who care to answer…

    i have another christian friend who is currently trying to address a relationship problem; that of sex before marriage.

    i would like to be able to discuss this with them from a christian, preferably biblical, angle. where in the bible can i find information pertaining to this? is marriage a christian, biblical or social norm? where does the proviso originate from that sex is ok, but only within a marital context? is this a question of purity (and therefore rooted firmly within an OT context)?

    any and all info (but especially from a christian perspective) welcomed…

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    Ash

    Though there are questions raised concerning the validity of the word “homosexual offender” as found in many translations, I admit that if one found the perfect proof text on the issue it would far from settle (and rightfully so), an appropriate Christian response to this issue.

  • ash

    Dwight, in the copies of the bible i have (NRSV + KJV), the word ‘sodomy’ is used in one, “abusers of themselves with mankind,” in the other. i think this is what my friend was alluding to when she condoned the practise rather than the practioners, but yes, i’ll agree wholeheartedly with the issue of translations. just trying to give a christian perspective i’ve personally heard.

  • ash

    dammit, now i’ve totally mislaid one of my bibles and my qur’an. life as an atheist truely sux. :roll:

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Perhaps I can write something up and send it to you as an email to start a new post.

    That’s a great idea Jeff! I’d gladly post it for you.

    Is that cool with you Hemant?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    ok, tried to address this before, obviously failed miserably…

    i am not saying you have not heard this BS here or otherwise, from atheists or otherwise, but this is the second time you have implied that atheists will do this without having a single quote from the particular thread you’re addressing. is it too much to ask that you save this vitriol for when it actually happens?

    Chill out ash. No vitriol was intended. My post was entirely lighthearted. (Did you miss the smiley?) Just giving some friendly advice to Arlen.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I have quite a few issues with Christianity, but one of them is a bit more important to me than the others, and that one involves homosexuality. Being gay, and being raised in a very homophobic Christian tradition caused no end of problems for me as a young man; it eventually came down to a simple choice: either reject who I was, or reject Christianity.

    I rejected Christianity. And I haven’t looked back since. It was the right decision.

    I can respect your decision to give up on Christianity Robin. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you.

    I have another Christian friend who recently came out, both to herself and to everyone. She faced a similar dilemma, but it included a third option: find a different kind of Christianity – one that had room for people like her. Fortunately it is out there.

    I’m not saying that option is right for you, I just wanted to affirm that being gay and being a Christian don’t always have to be mutually exclusive.

    To answer your questions:

    Is homosexuality sinful?

    10 years ago I would have said “yes”.
    4 years ago I would have said “sometimes”.
    2 years ago I would have said “I don’t know”.
    Today I say unequivocally “no”.

    Just thought you should know that as a recovering evangelical and former Baptist, it’s been a journey for me. I hope that’s okay. :)

    Do you believe that gay and lesbian people have the right to marriage, and all the rights and responsibilities that marriage entails?

    On this one I say absolutely, unequivocally “yes”. And I would have said “yes” even 10 years ago.

    And to answer Linda’s questions:

    Would you invite Robin into your homes to play with your sons? To babysit them?

    Would you invite Robin and his husband to your family Thanksgiving dinner?

    Would you invite them into your fellowship who oppose homosexuality and announce them as close friends of yours?

    Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. Already done it in fact. (Not with Robin of course, but with others.)

  • monkeymind

    ash, I have seen this happen here with Mike. Also on another blog where I am a guest author, a christian shared his more humane interpretation of some scripture passages, and told how his pastor had basically told him he was no longer welcome in his church. To me, it seemed like a very heartfelt reaching for a more life-affirming kind of belief, but one of the blog’s other authors cut him off with this sneering comment: “if you’re going to be a christian, then be one!”, implying that by disagreeing with his fundamentalist pastor, he was no longer a “true” christian.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    ash, I have seen this happen here with Mike.

    yes, I guess I should have also pointed out that it has already happened in this thread to both Arlen and Linda. Several different posters in fact have made comments suggesting that they are perhaps not true Christians.

  • Steven Carr

    A question for Christians.

    Why do you follow somebody who threatened people with hell-fire, drowned pigs, called people ‘dogs’, claimed he was going to kill followers of Christians teaching false doctrine (See Revelation 2), and told people not to sell ointment to raise money for the poor.

  • Steven Carr

    ‘True Christians’? ‘Sneering comments’? Being told you ‘were no longer welcome’?

    Can you imagine Jesus castigating people for not being ‘True’ Christians?

    Can you imagine Jesus making ‘sneering comments’ about people not being ‘True’ Christians?

    Matthew 7
    21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Jesus says that ‘many’ people who call themselves Christians are not ‘True’ Christians at all.

    As I said before, scratch a fundamentalist Christian and you will find Jesus underneath.

    It is one reason why fundies are such easy targets for atheists , unlike more liberal Christians.

  • Steven Carr

    LINDA
    Religion makes laws that are absolutely impossible to follow.

    CARR
    How different from Jesus who simply told his followers – ‘Be perfect.’

  • http://www.myspace.com/brown_j_s J.S.Brown

    Linda said:

    That’s so unfair. I was in a frenzy yesterday. You asked some great questions that I often wonder about myself, and they made me think some more. I did what I could for the moment so you don’t think that you’re being ignored. I was hoping for a continued dialogue and evolving thoughts. I thought your question deserved more than just a short, one-time, simple answer.

    I’m sorry you were in a frenzy. I didn’t ask anyone to stress themselves to answer. You reacted to my question, but didn’t offer an answer. That’s fine. I responded accordingly. I had no way of knowing that you wanted to begin a dialog, since you didn’t mention it. How was I to know your answer would come, later, after I engaged you in an exchange of messages?

    Linda said:

    You jump in unannounced and unexpected, throw out a loaded question, then you jump out saying that it wasn’t worth your time? What kind of crap is that?

    I apologize for my ignorance. I had no idea I needed to be announced and expected before posting. As for my question, it isn’t loaded. I listed the generally accepted presuppositions on which it was premised.

    Linda said:

    Now I’m glad I didn’t waste too much time trying to answer your question.

    So am I! It seems you were in a frenzy and didn’t have any time to spare. My apologies on every point.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I have copied and pasted many of the question on this entry to the Friendly Christian forum. I’ve almost certainly missed a few but please feel free to add them there if I have. I hope people will continue the debate there as it’s getting difficult to keep track of the questions and answers over here.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    J.S. Brown

    Oh my! Feisty, arent’ we? :) You made me start out this morning with a good laugh! Thanks! You’re funny! I love it.

    I’m sorry
    I apologize for my ignorance.
    My apologies on every point.

    AND… you apologized THREE times in your comment. Gosh, no need for groveling… I forgive you!! because, after all, I have Jesus! Yay!

    However, I’m still pondering over your original questions.

  • Mriana

    This is more rhetorical and food for thought than it is anything else, but what in the world is a true Christian?

    IMHO, given how many different denominations and ideologies within, I seriously doubt there is JUST one single “dictionary” answer. There are even some people who say they believe and they don’t even go to church. There are even lapsed Catholics.

    I don’t get it, but I don’t think anyone can give an answer to the above question, thus why it is rhetorical.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    I thought about your “rhetorical” question, and I found this link.

    http://www.mb-soft.com/believe/txh/chrisdef.htm

    Interesting…

  • Mriana

    Gee! Linda, I really didn’t expect an answer, just people giving it some personal thought. :lol: Thus rhetorical. Thanks for the link.

    I don’t know, I include wolves as dogs, because they are related. (you’ll have to read the article) Obviously, I don’t have a narrow definition of anything. It is an interesting article, but I think they are nitpicking to make a new term “Believer in Christ”. I really do think Christian is sufficiant- in the broadest sense of the word, but then again, I consider wolves dogs too. Lions = cats cheetah = cat Siamese = cat Coyote = dog Fox = dog. They are just different breeds of the same family.

    It is a very interesting article though.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    ash said:

    i have another christian friend who is currently trying to address a relationship problem; that of sex before marriage.

    i would like to be able to discuss this with them from a christian, preferably biblical, angle. where in the bible can i find information pertaining to this?

    Ash, I am not a Bible scholar by any means, and from what I hear, I’m not even a “true Christian,” but let me give you my take on this issue.

    In his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:12-13), Paul states,

    “Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.

    Food [is intended] for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will finally end [the functions of] both and bring them to nothing. The body is not intended for sexual immorality, but [is intended] for the Lord, and the Lord [is intended] for the body [[a]to save, sanctify, and raise it again].

    I often study the Amplified Bible, because it explains in more detail what the original text may indicate.

    What I personally get out of this passage is that it’s not about following the religious law or what’s morally right or wrong. There are things that are just not good for you. There are things that are harmful just because of the nature of things and/or actions. Sex in itself is not bad, but if you allow it to have power over you, then it becomes harmful. If you begin to obsess over it, or anything else for that matter, and it clouds your mind to a point of affecting other parts of your health (mental or physical), then it is harmful.

    In the end, we all live and die. Years down the road, no one will remember nor will they care if you had sex before marriage, not even God. What’s important is that you find freedom in who you are (in my case it is in Christ) and live as free and complete loving beings. I happen to believe that my freedom lies in my identity in Christ and that the freedom that awaits me after death will be more awesome than I can possibly imagine.

    I have seen this passage in different translations that take it totally out of context. NIV is one of them. NLT is worse (see below). They make it sound like you are claiming freedom because of your rebelliousness. But it is not so. We claim freedom because Jesus told us we are free.

    (NLT)
    12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    Please don’t think that I am promoting the site that I found. (I know you don’t, but others might.) I don’t even know who they are. I just found it and thought it was interesting…

  • ash

    Mike C., ‘vitriol’ was far too strong a word choice, sorry, i wrote that when i was pished. i also am intrigued by the ‘true christian’ concept, although i have to admit i kinda agree with whoever it was on this site that suggested the whole ‘not a true christian’ thing tends to be bandied about by people who don’t wish to engage with forms of christianity they don’t agree with – for most christians; fred phelps type beliefs, for pissy atheists; emergent how-dare-you-be-reasonable christianities. that said, i did miss where Arlen + Linda were accussed of such, and especially if it was offensive in a subtle way, i’d personally find it useful to see examples (if indeed either felt they were accused + found it offensive?…guys…?)

    Monkeymind –

    ash, I have seen this happen here with Mike.

    yep, said i expected it was so, however, my point was more that because i’d missed seeing any examples here, what he said seemed both pre-emptive and unnecessary. if it’s wrong to judge a christian as not being a proper christian because their form of christianity is not one you wish to recognise, is it not also wrong to judge an atheist on the negative behaviour you presume they might display because of bad past experience?

    but, as Mike assures me they were examples here, i shall take his word for it, and this becomes a moot point…

  • ash

    Linda, thanx for trying to address my question, and congrats, i think you have actually found a Paulism i can agree with (too much of anything is a bad idea/addiction is harmful – my interpretation anyhoo), but it doesn’t address the idea of pre-marital sex, and how the concept of marriage itself relates to christianity. it’s a start tho…

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    December 19, 2007 at 9:13 am

    Mriana,

    Please don’t think that I am promoting the site that I found. (I know you don’t, but others might.) I don’t even know who they are. I just found it and thought it was interesting…

    No I don’t, but you are right, others might. I does show that some people have a broader view than others or is that a narrower view? :lol: Now I’m confusing myself.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    but it doesn’t address the idea of pre-marital sex, and how the concept of marriage itself relates to christianity.

    Ash,

    In order to explain the biblical concept of marriage (the way I understand it), I would have to start in the garden.

    Let me just give you some skeletons of my thoughts:

    1. Eve Came out of Adam, and Adam does not feel complete without her. She is his missing link. At the same time, although she stands independently of Adam and feels like she’s whole in and of herself, she will never be truly whole without him. Only when they unite and become one, they are complete and whole.

    2. Apply that picture to the relationship between two people in love, and you can see the concept of the covenant of marriage. In this context, sex becomes something sacred between the two people.

    3. Apply that picture on a much larger scale, with Christ (God) being the groom and the body (us) being the bride, then you have the concept of Christianity.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    i did miss where Arlen + Linda were accussed of such, and especially if it was offensive in a subtle way, i’d personally find it useful to see examples (if indeed either felt they were accused + found it offensive?…guys…?)

    Go back towards the beginning of this thread and look for posts by Vincent, Viggo, and Obscurifier. Each of them had made several comments to the effect that “many Christians theologians wouldn’t consider Linda (or Arlen) real Christians.”

    And if you go back and read my original post about this you’ll notice that I didn’t say they were being “offensive”. In fact, just the opposite – I suggested that they were actually attempting to be complimentary in their own minds. (I.e. if an atheist being a real Christian is a bad thing, then I suppose it’s a compliment for an atheist to tell me I’m not a real Christian – and according to their definition I suppose I’m not.)

  • Steven Carr

    ‘This is more rhetorical and food for thought than it is anything else, but what in the world is a true Christian?’

    Matthew 7
    21?Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    So a true Christian is somebody who does the will of the Father in heaven.

    How an omnipotent being can will something without it happening is one mystery.

    How you know what the will of your Father in Heaven is, is another mystery.

  • Steven Carr

    LINDA
    Years down the road, no one will remember nor will they care if you had sex before marriage, not even God.

    CARR
    Really?

    An omniscient being like God just forgets about your sin, and ‘years from now’ (isn’t God timeless), God doesn’t even care whether you sinned or not.

    This is one reason why ‘Ask a Christian’ threads are useless.

    Theology is all make believe and any person’s opinion is just as good as anybody elses

    So asking one Christian a question will get you one answer, and asking a second Christian the question will get you the opposite answer.

    And then if you say ‘But I was told X was the answer to that question, and now I am told the exact opposite is true.’, Mike C. will accuse you of saying that some people are not True Christians.

    Can’t all the Christians get together and get their story straight , instead of criticising atheists for pointing out that Christians have no idea what True Christianity actually is?

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE is right again.

    Here is what Vincent wrote ‘There are many definitions of Christian. However, I only accept those as Christian that believe Jesus was divine.’

    How dare atheists say that they only accept those as Christian that believe Jesus was divine!

  • Mriana

    Carr, now you make no sense. How can anyone know the “Will of an invisible parent in the sky”"? If such a being talks to you, I’d have to wonder if you need a psychological test done on you.

    Omnipotent. Well, I won’t go around with you about the word. I’m sure you have heard it before.

    No, I don’t think any of that makes anyone a Christian or not, because it allows for too much human judgement, but (not to be snide) it is all a human concept in the first place.

  • ash

    Go back towards the beginning of this thread and look for posts by Vincent, Viggo, and Obscurifier. Each of them had made several comments to the effect that “many Christians theologians wouldn’t consider Linda (or Arlen) real Christians.”

    oh, ok. but…is an atheist recognising the fact that there are discrepancies within christianities and noting the fact that some christians will accuse other christians of not being ‘true’ christians a legitimate prelude to the comment

    Be prepared to hear many of the atheists here accuse you of not being a “real” Christian because your views don’t match their stereotypes of fundamentalist Christians.

    ?
    to my mind, appreciating that such happens is not the same as doing it yourself, yet this seems to be what you addressed.

    on another note, do you have any comment to make or directions you can point me in regarding marriage as a theological/social/cultural concept?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    There once was a good post on FA
    Topics ranged from free thinking to gays
    Some tried our best
    to engage the rest
    But this brain game gets too hard to play

  • Mriana

    I love it, Linda! :lol: I really do, as long as it stays more or less civil. No, I wasn’t trying to be anit-civil with what I said, I was just pointing you a few things.

    The omnipotent thing though is one of those other thinking games, which really gets complicated, thus why I didn’t go into it, but the judgement thing and the human concept thing is easy. Even MikeC gets the judgement one, so you don’t have to be a non-theist to get it. Human concept is easy too when you think about it. ;) Your concept of a Xian is different from an Evangelicals- thus it is a human concept- one that is defined by human beings.

    It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to figure that out.

  • monkeymind

    do you have any comment to make or directions you can point me in regarding marriage as a theological/social/cultural concept?

    Well, i’m not Mike, but my take is that the attitude of the early church to both sex and marriage was “just say no.” There were a lot of other sects around at the time, like the Essenes, who practiced celibacy so that attitude may have come from there. When you remember that sacred prostitution was a big draw at pagan temples, it’s a wonder that Christianity ever got off the ground! Of course, there were questions raised at the time about the “love feasts” at christian churches where men and women and slaves worshipped together.

    A big reason why the Romans persecuted Christians was because they were undermining family values by rejecting marriages that their parents had arranged. There are a lot of Catholic women saints who got out of marriages by miraculously growing beards overnight and what not. Marriage was a purely civil arrangement, I don’t know when it became a sacrament blessed by the church but it certainly wasn’t at the beginning of Christianity.
    As for why any culture or religion has rules about sexual behavior and marriage, it usually to do with property ownership (usually to the advantage of males) and with concepts of purity and uncleanness, which are big part of the moral universe of traditional societies. I guess early christianity was more equal than the pagan world in that they valued chastity for everyone, not just female children of wealthy families. In practice, though, the double standard rules.

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    Carr
    I imagine if I ask atheists questions I’d get varied answers too. Why be surprised if you find that to be the same when asking Christians? Or any other group of folks?

    God as invisible sky parent? Don’t believe in it. Of course neither did Aquinas. (not to compare us two). I have a friend who has this test for religious beliefs, think it’s a pretty good one: if its less believable, well thought than D&D then it’s probably something you can ignore.

  • Steven Carr

    Dwight is correct to say that if you ask different atheists the same question you would get different answers. I don’t think the Patriots will have a perfect season, other atheists might differ to me. I guess atheism is just self-contradictory, when you see atheists contradicting each other like that.

    Atheists have very little in common, except a lack of belief in gods.

    Why should they answer questions the same? Who would expect that?

    Apart from questions about atheism. There is only 1 question. Do you believe in gods?

    And a True Atheist says that he or she does not believe in gods.

    But Christians are all supposed to be inspired by the same alleged god, and they even have the same book to work from (more or less, they can’t even agree on that).

    So if you ask Christians what beliefs they have in common with other Christians they should at least not give totally contradictory answers.

    DWIGHT
    ‘God as invisible sky parent? Don’t believe in it.’

    You mean you have seen God?

    When Jesus referred to his Father in Heaven, why did Christians decide that the Greek word for ‘sky’ was the ideal Greek work to express their non-sky concept of Heaven?

    Why did early Christians write about the disciples looking into the ‘sky’ when Jesus ascended into Heaven?

    Because early Christians thought Heaven was somehow above the sky, and that very special people could make that journey. So they wrote a story of Jesus doing just that.

    Of course, we now know that early Christianity was full of strange beliefs that sensible Christians have long ago abandoned.

    BTW, what should be painted over the Sistine Chapel, as apparently the Vatican was infiltrated by atheists, intent on portraying Christian beliefs in the most literal minded fashion possible.

    These atheist caricatures of religion get everywhere, even into the heart of the Vatican….

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    “But Christians are all supposed to be inspired by the same alleged god, and they even have the same book to work”

    Sure. But to be inspired doesn’t mean know everything, have stuff figured out, escaping the finitude and limits of being human. We’re trying to work through these things like anyone. But we’ve got a 2000 year tradition to work out of, resources, tools in doing just that.

    God up in the sky, the three tiered universe, etc. it’s potent imagery and maybe good for art and song. But it doesn’t help us think well about the source of good in life. In that way theology ought to be more constrained than most parts of the church in trying to talk about the holy.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    on another note, do you have any comment to make or directions you can point me in regarding marriage as a theological/social/cultural concept?

    Honestly, not really. This is an area that I’m less certain about as of late. Contrary to the claims of most conservative Christians, I don’t think the Bible lays out one simple ethic of sexuality and marriage. It’s complex. And yet I do agree with Linda that marriage is looked at as a sacred thing in the Bible, and also that sexuality is a powerful thing that shouldn’t be abused – but beyond that there aren’t always clear commands about the specifics.

    Anyhow, I don’t have much else to say about that. I haven’t taken the time to really work out what I think about those issues anymore – it’s not really a pressing concern for me at the moment. I grew up in a Christianity that was obsessed with sexual ethics, and frankly I’m just tired of it. There are far more important ethical issues in the world for me to be concentrating on right now – e.g. poverty, slavery, discrimination, the environment, etc. My thinking about sexual ethics is on hold for a while.

  • tim

    MikeClawson said,
    MikeClawson
    December 19, 2007 at 12:40 am

    I have quite a few issues with Christianity, but one of them is a bit more important to me than the others, and that one involves homosexuality. Being gay, and being raised in a very homophobic Christian tradition caused no end of problems for me as a young man; it eventually came down to a simple choice: either reject who I was, or reject Christianity.

    I rejected Christianity. And I haven’t looked back since. It was the right decision.

    Mike,
    why reject christianity (or do you mean rejecting christians?)–maybe you could ignore christians and focus on christ and see where that leads?

  • http://www.popcorngallery.blogspot.com Max

    One thing that has always puzzled me is, what is the emotional appeal of the crucifixion story? I’m not talking about why a christian thinks it’s true, but wondering where the emotional resonance comes from, because it’s just a bad story. I love stories, I get stories, I truly understand why people will live and die for a particular story, but not this one. It’s pointless, it makes no sense, and most of all, it’s a cheat – the “son of god” knew perfectly well he wasn’t going to really die. It was, as they say, a bad weekend, no more.

    I disagree. I believe that the one thing the Bible IS, is a fantastic story. How else would it still be around after 2000 years and have millions of people obsessed with. Tolkien has some intense fans, but the Bible, the Torah, the Quran have him beat hands down.

  • Claire

    Max said:

    I believe that the one thing the Bible IS, is a fantastic story.

    Check out Karen’s answer to my question about 1/3 down from the top. It’s only a good story if you accept certain presuppositions, such as original sin. Otherwise, this story has the emotional appeal of unflavored yogurt.

    Also, it wasn’t the bible as a whole I asked about, just the one story. Beyond that story, the rest of the bible is worse than Stephen King. He’s popular, too.

    How else would it still be around after 2000 years and have millions of people obsessed with.

    Ah, but would they like it so much if they actually read it? Mostly they seem to treat it like a reference book, reading certain parts and ignoring the unpleasant bits. So far, I have yet to meet a single christian in person (online is different) who remembered anything about Elisha and the bears.

  • ash

    Mike, Linda, monkeymind, thankyou.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Mike,
    why reject christianity (or do you mean rejecting christians?)–maybe you could ignore christians and focus on christ and see where that leads?

    tim, I think you meant to direct your question at Robin. The bit you quoted was from him, not me.

  • Pither

    Well, even if Paul in his letter to the Corinthians had come right out and said, “It’s wrong to have sex outside of marriage,” it would still be just Paul’s opinion. I cannot understand how one can claim to know that when Paul wrote that he was somehow writing for God and for all eternity. It just seems to me so much more likely that Paul was a learned scholar and charismatic leader who imparted his own fallible wisdom on the people of Corinth. Good stuff, for what it’s worth, but it’s still 2000 year old fallible human wisdom. For me, the weakest link in the Christian argument is the Bible itself.

  • Vincent

    #

    MikeClawson said,

    December 19, 2007 at 10:39 am

    i did miss where Arlen + Linda were accussed of such, and especially if it was offensive in a subtle way, i’d personally find it useful to see examples (if indeed either felt they were accused + found it offensive?…guys…?)

    Go back towards the beginning of this thread and look for posts by Vincent, Viggo, and Obscurifier. Each of them had made several comments to the effect that “many Christians theologians wouldn’t consider Linda (or Arlen) real Christians.”

    And if you go back and read my original post about this you’ll notice that I didn’t say they were being “offensive”. In fact, just the opposite – I suggested that they were actually attempting to be complimentary in their own minds. (I.e. if an atheist being a real Christian is a bad thing, then I suppose it’s a compliment for an atheist to tell me I’m not a real Christian – and according to their definition I suppose I’m not.)

    I object to the way you characterized my comment.
    One thing to keep in mind when having a discussion is whether or not you are using the same definition of a key term. Here the term is Christian. I never said anyone was not a “true Christian.” I said the definition of the word Christian that I am working with is “one who believes Jesus was divine.”
    I’m pretty sure you fit my definition. Linda does too. I made that comment because it was not clear from her posts that she did.
    The definition of Christian that I am comfortable with is actually very broad. However, if someone is using a different definition, they should say so.
    What I DID say was that Linda was describing a minority view of theology. I made no comment about what the majority would think of her other than that they would disagree with her.
    Keep in mind, I grew up as a liberal Catholic in a predominantly Southern Baptist area. I was brought up to believe that anyone who believed in Jesus as divine savior was Christian, even though my neighbors did not think I was Christian (I was told at least a couple times a week as a child that I was going to hell, and in High School I was not allowed to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because Catholics aren’t Christian).
    I am sure you disagree with many other Christians over anything from transubstantiation to the proper language for worship, to whether or not to include Macabees in holy writ, and on and on. Whatever their view of your Christianity is no issue for me to even consider.

    So, to sum up: If you believe in a divine Jesus, then you fit my definition of Christian. If you don’t, but insist on being called Christian, then let’s work up a clear definition of the word. In either case, while I am an atheist, your being a Christian is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. You can believe whatever you please. I will only deem your actions to be good or bad, not your beliefs.

  • Arlen

    HappyNat:

    Thanks for answering all the questions, Arlen. I like hearing what you have to say.

    Thanks very much! I’m happy to share my take on things. I hope you’ll jump into this discussion or another so that I can hear your viewpoint!

    Claire:

    Now I have found a second question. Why do homophobia and fundamentalism (and sometimes some moderate churches, too) go hand and hand so often?

    I think this is about people who have biases that are extra-Biblical trying to justify their hate or fear through Biblical means. If God says I should hate gays, then it’s okay to do so. It wasn’t so very long ago that churches broke off from one another over the issue of civil rights, and before that over slavery. Groups who are intensely focused on hate and exclusion (of gays, blacks, slaves, or otherwise) would rather break off to form their own churches than progress with the rest of the world. The good news is that these splinter churches rarely survive longer than their founding members (or their founding members’ children at the longest). The progressives have history on our side, here.

    kwrigh5:

    I understand where you are coming from about being the perceived “few” of non-fundamentalist Christians and how draining it can be to defend yourself. You’re not alone!

    Thanks very much!

    ash:

    I was actually quite impressed by the fact that she was able to be logically consistent with her condemnation of behaviour, rather than the individuals who practise such, whilst also holding true to her views on OT vs. NT.

    With nothing but the upmost respect for your friend, I would probably caution against looking to Paul’s letters for advice on sex. I love him to death, but he was absolutely convinced that the final coming of Christ was *immenent,* like, any minute now. Paul was actually against having *any* sex—premarital, straight, or otherwise (or even getting married)—because he saw it as an unneccesary diversion from getting right with God before judgement. This ties directly in with your question about pre-marital sex.

    I have another christian friend who is currently trying to address a relationship problem; that of sex before marriage.

    Unfortunately, there’s just not a whole lot to go on in the New Testament in terms of sex. Even if there was strong a admonishion against premarital sex in there, I’m not sure how much relevance it would hold in today’s world. The fact is that abstenance make lots more sense when folks got married in their early teens. We live in a different world, now; the best advice today is probably different than the best advice back then. The only advice that I can offer (and this is in no way Biblically based) is to try to abstain from sex outisde of a long-term, committed relationship. It’s probably not advisable (for lots of reasons) to just go around having sex willy-nilly, but there has been some evidence that folks who try to hold to that no-sex-until-marriage thing can be doing themselves mroe harm than good. I had a good friend in college who saved kissing for marriage… but that’s a whole other story.

    MikeClawson:

    10 years ago I would have said “yes”.
    4 years ago I would have said “sometimes”.
    2 years ago I would have said “I don’t know”.
    Today I say unequivocally “no”.

    Wow… those could have been my words, exactly. This is why I have so much hope and anticipation for the future of homosexual rights in the church. This is something that folks almost always seem to become more comfortable with over time.

    Steven Carr:

    Why do you follow somebody who threatened people with hell-fire, drowned pigs, called people ‘dogs’, claimed he was going to kill followers of Christians teaching false doctrine (See Revelation 2), and told people not to sell ointment to raise money for the poor.

    I’m curious what passage you’re refurring to with Jesus threatening folks with “hell-fire” so that I can reread it. As I’ve mentioned above, my jury’s still out on the existance of Hell, but almost every passage that aludes to what is commonly thought of as Hell has some other explaination. Jesus did drown pigs, but he did so to help people. I’d take healthy people over healthy pigs any day. Both instances that I can recall where Jesus mentioned dogs he was speaking metaphorically (“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw pearls to swine” and “it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs”). Maybe you are thinking of some other example; I don’t actually have a Bible in front of me, so I’m not sure. Revelation is not a gospel, and should in no way be read literally. Anything that Jesus does in there is either symbolic or nonsense (I tend to think of Revelation as a fair mix of both). Jesus didn’t tell “people” not to sell the ointment, he told Judas not to sell the ointment. This is important for two reasons: Judas was the purse-keepe for the diciples and was probably embezling from them all along, and Jesus needs the ointment to be literally anointed before his execution. The implication of the story (and the parable of the “bridegroom,” as I recall) is that *these folks* (as opposed to folks in general) have a unique opportunity to see and hear and witness Jesus and they ought to be (literally) following him every minute of every day; once Jesus is gone there will be plenty of time for them all to go about doing wonderful, altruistic deeds. I hope that sheds some light on those stories for you.

    Mriana:

    …what in the world is a true Christian?

    In my mind, a “true” Christian is one who loves God and looks to the example of Jesus to learn how to express that love.

    Linda:

    There once was a good post on FA
    Topics ranged from free thinking to gays
    Some tried our best
    to engage the rest
    But this brain game gets too hard to play

    Bravo!

    Dwight:

    I imagine if I ask atheists questions I’d get varied answers too. Why be surprised if you find that to be the same when asking Christians? Or any other group of folks?

    Thanks for beating me to that response.

    Sure. But to be inspired doesn’t mean know everything, have stuff figured out, escaping the finitude and limits of being human. We’re trying to work through these things like anyone. But we’ve got a 2000 year tradition to work out of, resources, tools in doing just that.

    Right on. I would just add that a non-zero portion of that 2000 year tradition is utter crap and/or lies made up to perpetuate a certain power structure, and seperating out that garbage from what truth is in there is not easy work.

  • Arlen

    Vincent:

    If you believe in a divine Jesus, then you fit my definition of Christian. If you don’t, but insist on being called Christian, then let’s work up a clear definition of the word.

    I think your definition of Christian may need a little attention. It would be good to remember (not just you, but everyone) that Jesus only came to be described as divine by the result of a vote by the early church. Some basic information about the subject and differing views can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christology.

  • Mriana

    Mriana:

    …what in the world is a true Christian?

    In my mind, a “true” Christian is one who loves God and looks to the example of Jesus to learn how to express that love.

    I wasn’t really expecting an answer, Arlen- thus rhetorical, but OK, since you answered, isn’t that still a judgement call?

    I have a Christian friend who tries to look at the heart and decides from there if one is a Christian. Thing is, that is a judgement call in my mind too, for we can only make this call by their behaviour and the thoughts they share.

    Here’s another question: What or who is God?

    Spong describes it as rauch or the wind. Not a who, but a what. Cupitt again describes it as a what and labels it Love. Others think of it as an anthropomophic being. The list goes on and on. It’s all a human concept.

    Then there is who was Jesus?

    Some like Price and me say there was no historical Jesus or IF there ever was a man named Jesus he is so buried in myth we cannot find him (Religious Humanism- having atheists beliefs). Others say he did exist as depicted in the Bible and others will add he exists as the H.S.

    What is the H.S.?

    OK it could be as simple as the wind. Who knows. Or it could be Brahma. or it could be the ghost of Jesus. Or it could just plain be a myth.

    Plain and simple all I see are various human concepts of all these things and no one definition is necessarily right or wrong. I have met professed Christians who do not believe in a metaphysical deity (Christian Humanists) nor do they believe in the supernatural- no H.S., yet they believe a man named Jesus may have lived, but not necessarily as described in the Bible. They, like Cupitt and Spong, live their lives without supernaturalism and at the same time live their lives by the humane teachings of Jesus, but they do not believe Jesus died for their sins- it’s all metaphorical, right down to a deity, which they turn into love. The Bible is NOT the inerrant word of God, but rather written by man, inspired by no one, and nothing by a series of stories. They believe it, (rauch for example) resides within us as love, compassion, and reason (humanistic views). They are, as I mentioned, Christian Humanists, who do not believe in supernaturalism, but practice non-realism, as well as, humanistic beliefs.

    Are they (Christian Humanists that is) not Christians by your view?

  • Vincent

    #

    Arlen said,

    December 20, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Vincent:

    If you believe in a divine Jesus, then you fit my definition of Christian. If you don’t, but insist on being called Christian, then let’s work up a clear definition of the word.

    I think your definition of Christian may need a little attention. It would be good to remember (not just you, but everyone) that Jesus only came to be described as divine by the result of a vote by the early church. Some basic information about the subject and differing views can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christology.

    I am well aware of the history of the church. I have a BA in medieval history. I studied church history in great detail, which is why I ultimately left the church. Anyway, the earliest use of the term Christian is immaterial to the present discussion. What is material is the term as it is used today.
    So, if my definition needs attention, what do you propose?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Thanks for the clarification Vincent. Sorry for the mischaracterization.

  • Arlen

    Vincent:
    From my post above:

    In my mind, a “true” Christian is one who loves God and looks to the example of Jesus to learn how to express that love.

  • monkeymind

    Vincent, I don’t see anything wrong with pointing out what the normative definition of Christianity may be, and attempting to get clear about terms, it it’s helpful to the dialogue.

    What I find objectionable is claims by Sam Harris and others that fundamentalists are the only ones who “really believe” and really follow their religion. (the quotes are out there, but I don’t time right now to google them up) First of all, statements like this just accept at face value fundamentalists’ claims about their centrality or “trueness” in relation to a particular tradition. It’s offensive to believers who also “really believe” but are less interested in political domination over non-believers.

    I also think it’s interesting that there is this readiness to ascribe “trueness” to harsh , punitive, violent versions of a tradition. Could be something hard-wired in human nature. Violence (verbal or otherwise) is somehow more salient. In relationships for example, we sometimes give more weight to something negative a partner says about us in the heat of an argument than the hundreds of loving actions over the course of months. It’s hard not to feel that “that’s what he really thinks about me” even though it might have been the expression of a fleeting thought brought on by defensiveness.

  • Claire

    Arlen said:

    Groups who are intensely focused on hate and exclusion (of gays, blacks, slaves, or otherwise) would rather break off to form their own churches than progress with the rest of the world.

    You know, I think that does explain it. People can disagree about all kinds of things , but it’s when the fear and hate get going that the opposing sides really solidify. Riling up the congregation over how the gays are going to corrupt the children is one (very unfortunate) way to motivate a group.

    I already had that figured out, too, in other contexts. I don’t know why I didn’t put two and two together. Thanks, Arlen!

  • Arlen

    Mriana:

    I wasn’t really expecting an answer, Arlen…

    I think I accidentally skipped this post earlier, sorry. Let me see if I can address some of your questions.

    …isn’t that still a judgement call?

    Yes it is. I don’t think there is an objective way to tell who is Christian (or Jewiish, or atheist, or Republican, etc). There’s an old song that says “they will know we are Christian by our love,” and I like that idea, but (thankfully!) Christians don’t have a monopoly on love, so that’s just not enough information. I think, realistically and objectively, self-reporting is the only means of identifying a Christian.

    What or who is God?

    I don’t know. And I actually don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. I think that the nature of God is largely unknowable. I believe that God is a loving force for good in the universe and wants the best for God’s Creation (that’s not in any way to say that I’m a creationist). Therefore, I’d rather spend my time demonstrating my thankfulness and love of God by following the example of God’s agent, Jesus, than trying to discern God’s nature.

    Then there is who was Jesus?

    It is my honest opinion, even in the absence of strong, objective evidence, that Jesus was a real, historical person. I hold no grudge against people who disagree with my assessment. I think that he has doubtless been mythologized. I don’t waste a lot of time pondering whether he performed a bunch of miracles or commanded evil spirits, because that has very little relevance to the world today. I think that the true blessing of Jesus is that his teachings and example are every bit as important and effective today as they were in his time. I am thankful for his example.

    What is the Holy Spirit?

    I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes I confuse the HS a little bit with “the Force” from Star Wars. I’m only half serious, but I admit to you that I don’t have a particularly good feel for this third of the Trinity. I’m sorry. I’d love to hear and play off of what other Christians may have to say.

    … Are they (Christian Humanists that is) not Christians by your view?

    To play off of my idea above, I really don’t think it’s my place to label people; I’m 100% sure that people do a better job labeling themselves, anyway. I’d love to hear more about what they believe and how they came to believe it.

    MonkeyMind:

    Vincent, I don’t see anything wrong with…

    Great post, a very good read! I admire your insight.

    Claire:

    I already had that figured out, too, in other contexts. I don’t know why I didn’t put two and two together. Thanks, Arlen!

    Thank you! I’m happy that I could help, if I did!

  • Don

    Why do I need Jesus to die for my sins when in Matt 6:14 it says that God will forgive me when I forgive other peoples sins against me?

  • Mriana

    I think, realistically and objectively, self-reporting is the only means of identifying a Christian.

    I can accept that answer and it seems most reasonable.

    What or who is God?

    I don’t know.

    Good answer, although I think it benefits us all to eventually ponder, at least once in our lives, “Who or what is God?” if nothing more than to define what we mean and if we really believe that concept, or to come to a conclusion for ourselves as to whether or not our concept actually exists or if there is even a possibility of its existance. Some may fear this could lead to atheism. I say it all depends on the person and how they define “human concept”. If it does lead to atheism, it is not the worst thing in the world, but as you see, even atheists re-evaluate their ideas every now and then. It is, without a doubt, part of the human condition to ponder these things every now and then.

    Saying “I don’t know” is the first step in learning and nothing to be ashamed of. The more you ponder and question, the more you are able to form an opinion that is yours and one you can firmly stand by.

    I can accept your answer concerning Jesus and it is not one I would attempt to refute based solely on my own concept, opinion, and understanding.

    What is the Holy Spirit?

    I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes I confuse the HS a little bit with “the Force” from Star Wars. I’m only half serious, but I admit to you that I don’t have a particularly good feel for this third of the Trinity. I’m sorry. I’d love to hear and play off of what other Christians may have to say.

    That’s cool- even your own “Star Wars” concept and note, I say concept only because other Christians will have different descriptions/ideas and probably only a few will match another. Their description will also depend on their Christian background and what they were taught, as well as what they have come to believe as adults.

    … Are they (Christian Humanists that is) not Christians by your view?

    To play off of my idea above, I really don’t think it’s my place to label people; I’m 100% sure that people do a better job labeling themselves, anyway. I’d love to hear more about what they believe and how they came to believe it.

    Again, good answer and one I can accept. However, I cannot tell you how Christian Humanists came to believe what they believe except to refer you to those who have wrote books on the matter and to the Sea of Faith website. I don’t know if that will tell you how they came to believe what they believe, but you could learn more about what they believe.

    You are obviously a thinking Christian, which is good. I encourage you to continue to think for yourself, regardless of the labels you attach to yourself. IMHO, our beliefs and ideas develop, change, and grow for as long as we live- as long as we continue to think for ourselves, evaluate and re-evaluate our ideas/beliefs, and come to our own conclusions.

  • Austin

    Don – good question. Jesus was contantly preaching to drive home certain points. The point of Matt 6:14 was to again state that as Christians, we are to forgive those who harm us. He later says that to the extent we forgive others, we will also be forgiven. Either way, we are still seperated from God by our sin and Jesus’s death washes away that sin. To truely understand the Bible you have to understand the context of which Jesus was speaking. Jesus says all kinds of things that, when taken out of context, sound contradictory. However, when you tie a statement to the context of a conversation you get meaning.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Humanity has been around in it’s present form for about 200,000 years. Christianity has existed in various forms for about 2,000 years. Judaism has existed for about 4,000 years. These are established facts supported by evidence. Granted, you could argue that the human race is only 100,000 years old from archaeological evidence alone but it’s still an awful long time.

    My questions is this: Given that the human race has existed for so long, what took God\Jesus so long to get round to “saving” His children?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Arlen said,

    In my mind, a “true” Christian is one who loves God and looks to the example of Jesus to learn how to express that love.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m just curious as to where you are coming from. In your mind, what does it exactly mean to “love” God, and what does the expression of that love look like? And how do you “learn” it?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Don said,

    Why do I need Jesus to die for my sins when in Matt 6:14 it says that God will forgive me when I forgive other peoples sins against me?

    In my opinion, Jesus did not “need” to die for our sins, he had to die because he was not afraid to testify to the truth and challenge religion. Reglion was a way of life back then. If truth threatens everything that you know and believe, then truth has to be killed. I think Jesus knew this better than anyone.

    What is sin? I believe every sinful act stems from fear, and shame and guilt adds to the fire. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being explosed. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of failure. Fear of losing control. Fear of abandonment. Fear of insecurity.

    What the passage you mentioned says to me is that if we are to embrace each other’s weakness and failties, understand each other’s mistakes and failures, and know that we are not all that different; then we can begin to be free from fear and free from sin. The forgiveness comes from the freedom of knowing that we are not perfect, and we don’t have to be. If we are free to forgive others, then we can be free to forgive ourselves.

  • Pingback: Life before death :: On the Lack of Mutual Admiration :: December :: 2007

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    Hoverfrog

    God is older than Christianity, Judaism, the human race, etc so I assume that God was at work before hand as well.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Dwight, I’m trying to come at this from a respectful point of view so I won’t leap up and down and yell prove it. ;) It’s fine you making assumptions about your deity of choice but I’m afraid it doesn’t answer my question. If God has been around forever (your assumption) then why wait until the relatively recent past to reveal himself? Didn’t all those previous generations of humans deserve some chance at divinely granted redemption?

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    Hoverfrog

    The heaven’s declare God’s handiwork says the psalmist. Folks have been engaging, writing, singing, developing rituals about the source of life, of value, of good before my religion was around. Maybe that’s because God was being “revealed” for all that time?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Dwight, I would argue that this was either the work of other Gods or that you are mistaken about the existence of your God. Besides which you really need to cite an actual Biblical passage or I’m forced to conclude that you have simply made it up. Opinion isn’t good evidence….Not that a Biblical passage is good evidence for me but I assume it is good for you.

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    hoverfrog

    A few thoughts come to mind

    a. There is a difference between descriptions of God and God.
    b. I’m a monotheist meaning I believe in one God
    c. I’m a theist meaning I believe that God is the creator, source of existence

    If we go with these (and that could be for a different discussion if you like) God has had some dealings with humans, just by virtue of being the creator. Being the source of all that is, means that God’s been doing this longer than humans have been around.

    Because there is only one God, that means there can’t be a Christian God or a Muslim God, etc.There are only differing descriptions of God from various traditions over time. God was prior to those descriptions and if these religions were to die out, God would still be.

    I don’t think I’m making a controverial claim, within the logic of theism. As far as I can tell, if you let those things go, it’s theism that would suffer. Making God the handmaiden of us and our descriptions, and not a reality that is wider than any of us would be the result.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog said,

    Besides which you really need to cite an actual Biblical passage or I’m forced to conclude that you have simply made it up.

    He didn’t make it up. It’s in there. And who’s rule is that you have to cite the passage? Jeremiah says that God will write directly in our hearts and we will not need a book to teach us. A pastor once told me that he will not take me seriously unless I can cite the scripture, and I think that’s ridiculous.

    The thing about truth is that it doesn’t need to be validated with a reference and proven with an evidence. If you have to rely on another source to tell you if something is true or not, then you are ultimately not making your own choice. Truth is truth. Truth speaks for itself. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t come all at once and that we only get bits and pieces at a time. But maybe our minds are not capable of handling the whole truth at one time. Who can explain God is one comment, one thesis, one essay, or even one book? If we listen with our hearts with an open mind, I believe we can discern between a truth and a lie. Sure, we can cite references, but that does not reveal the truth, only information and data gathered by another.

    Paul says that we need to demolish every argument that sets itself up against God and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I equate Christ with freedom, so to me, that means think for yourself. In order to take something captive, we have to know what it is, so we learn everything that we possibly can. We share what we have learned and discuss our different perspectives with open minds. Then we can discern for ourselves what is the truth. Something either makes sense or it doesn’t. This goes for both religion and science.

    Dwight said,

    Because there is only one God, that means there can’t be a Christian God or a Muslim God, etc.There are only differing descriptions of God from various traditions over time. God was prior to those descriptions and if these religions were to die out, God would still be.

    I don’t think I’m making a controverial claim, within the logic of theism. As far as I can tell, if you let those things go, it’s theism that would suffer. Making God the handmaiden of us and our descriptions, and not a reality that is wider than any of us would be the result.

    That makes a lot of sense, and I agree. I’m not sure if I make any sense half the time, but I think I can recognize it when someone else makes sense. :)

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    OK Dwight, Linda, I understand what you’re saying and perhaps the comment about citing a passage was a little off. However I am after some evidence to support your beliefs. As far as I know there is no evidence that the world (or the universe) was created at all. Saying it was without evidence is precisely like making up a story to explain something that you don’t understand. I don’t blame you. I don’t understand the forces involved in forming our universe. At best my understanding could be described as ‘vague’ or ‘incomplete’.

    OK Dwight you say that God has had some dealings with humans but why would a being capable of creating…well everything…bother with superstitious apes who walk on two legs and can barely go a day without trying to murder one another. Humanity would simply be beneath god’s notice. I can just about accept that there is a possibility of a creator intelligence (just about) but surely such a being has better things to do than notice humans except perhaps as a plague.

    @Linda,

    The thing about truth is that it doesn’t need to be validated with a reference and proven with an evidence.

    I’m afraid that it does. Truth doesn’t care what your opinion is (or mine) it simply is. We validate the truth through testing and certainly reference other sources of evidence to determine the veracity of a given idea. We do not simply make something up and say: This is truth. Or read something and accept it without exploring it. OK, you have the freedom to make that choice if you wish but it sounds a bit unreliable to me. How on Earth can you ever know if you’re right or alter your viewpoint if you are shown to be wrong?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog said:

    I’m afraid that it does. Truth doesn’t care what your opinion is (or mine) it simply is. We validate the truth through testing and certainly reference other sources of evidence to determine the veracity of a given idea. We do not simply make something up and say: This is truth. Or read something and accept it without exploring it. OK, you have the freedom to make that choice if you wish but it sounds a bit unreliable to me. How on Earth can you ever know if you’re right or alter your viewpoint if you are shown to be wrong?

    Yes, maybe I can agree that truth in science does. But spritual truth doesn’t. I was trying to point out that in spiritual matters, no one can tell or convince another person what is true regardless of what credentials or magical tricks they have up their sleeve. It’s sad that so many blindly follow another and fail to search for truth for themselves.

    I want to put my sights on things above, things outside of what can be seen and heard with human eyes and ears, and that is where my hope and faith lie. Looking beyond the obvious and finding the small meanings in every speck of dust and every moment in time, and then imagining how it could all fit in to the big picture makes life exiciting. Even the most horrific events become bearable. And life itself becomes precious and well worth putting every effort into making the most of every moment. Not only our own lives, but lives of every other human being that we come in contact with. Nothing and no one goes un-noticed or dismissed as unimportant.

    No… I wasn’t talking about truth in science. I was talking about life. Then again, I’m a hopeless idealist.

    BTW, I like your blog.. it’s nice… clean, simple, and… green.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Yes, maybe I can agree that truth in science does. But spritual truth doesn’t. I was trying to point out that in spiritual matters, no one can tell or convince another person what is true regardless of what credentials or magical tricks they have up their sleeve. It’s sad that so many blindly follow another and fail to search for truth for themselves. I want to put my sights on things above, things outside of what can be seen and heard with human eyes and ears, and that is where my hope and faith lie. Looking beyond the obvious and finding the small meanings in every speck of dust and every moment in time, and then imagining how it could all fit in to the big picture makes life exiciting. Even the most horrific events become bearable. And life itself becomes precious and well worth putting every effort into making the most of every moment. Not only our own lives, but lives of every other human being that we come in contact with. Nothing and no one goes un-noticed or dismissed as unimportant.

    Religion or a belief in a supernatural “God” isn’t required to appreciate the little things in life.

    No… I wasn’t talking about truth in science. I was talking about life. Then again, I’m a hopeless idealist.

    You aren’t alone.

    BTW, I like your blog.. it’s nice… clean, simple, and… green.

    and grumpy. Don’t forget gumpy/

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    “I don’t understand the forces involved in forming our universe. At best my understanding could be described as ‘vague’ or ‘incomplete’.”

    Mine too. It’s how I would describe my understanding of God…incomplete. But I do believe there is an importance in responding to such forces, that were not just creating in the past but continue to do so.

    “Humanity would simply be beneath god’s notice..surely such a being has better things to do than notice humans”

    Well such humans developed rituals (isn’t there graveyards for instance for neantherdal?), some recongition of a world wider than their immediate environment. I don’t think humans are beneath God.

    I’m not sure anything can be if we really are talking about the creative source of existence. Even fleas has a place in choir, so to speak. And rocks. And gasses we haven’t even identified yet.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I’m probably going to regret this but you say that your understanding of God is incomplete in a similar way to my understanding of the formation of the universe is incomplete. With my incomplete knowledge I can always get a book and read up on the subject, study a bit, take some advanced astrophysics classes, buy a telescope, etc till I’m an expert.

    With God you have a really old book that’s been edited and translated so many times that there’s more to argue about in the translations than their is in the content. You can’t even go back to the original because they no longer exist (if they ever did). You just have the Greek translations. In historical study this is called tertiary evidence.

    In case you’re not familiar with the levels of evidence in historical study I’ll list them here.

    Primary sources are original materials. They are from the time period involved and have not been filtered through interpretation. For example records of the Roman Census of 6AD.
    Secondary sources are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence. The original Bible books could have been called secondary evidence if it existed.
    Tertiary sources consist of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources. For example the King James Bible.

    My point is that an understanding of the Christian God is limited to the source material which is a very poor source of information and to personal experience which is also a very poor source of information.

    But I do believe there is an importance in responding to such forces

    What forces? Do you mean supernatural forces? In order to properly respond to these you’d first need to understand them. For instance a ghost making it’s presence known would need to do so in such a way as to be different from a draft of cold air or a dust particle reflecting light. It would need to be able to repeat the supernatural force so that the response can be properly gauged. For the record I don’t believe in ghosts either.

    Well such humans developed rituals (isn’t there graveyards for instance for Neanderthal?), some recongition of a world wider than their immediate environment.

    It’s true that primitive man interred their dead and may well have included gifts for an afterlife but this in itself isn’t evidence of an afterlife. Merely primitive superstition.

    I don’t think humans are beneath God.

    For what it’s worth neither do I but only because I believe that God is an invention of man.

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    “My point is that an understanding of the Christian God is limited to the source material which is a very poor source of information”

    I would argue that any source of knowledge that increases our understanding of this world, from religious traditions to the modern sciences increases our knowledge of the God of the universe.

    “What forces? Do you mean supernatural forces? In order to properly respond to these you’d first need to understand them.”

    If “supernatural” means outside of space, time, and experience..no. Because it couldn’t be understood (at least partially). So in this case, such forces would have to be “natural”

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    Just to expand a bit: if we are looking for what makes for good, what makes for life, what makes for living well together, we’re going to want to look at as many resources, disciplines, traditions as we can. It’s a shame when some resources are shut off by people (evangelicals scared of the sciences, some atheists who are dismissive of religious traditions, anyone who is scared of new knowledge and learning)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hoverfrog, you said

    For what it’s worth neither do I but only because I believe that God is an invention of man.

    Yes, I agree if you’re talking about God as taught by religion. But if you equate God with Truth, with Love, something that is unknowable (not completely), unfathomable, and un-inventable, then I cannot say that God was invented by man.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    “My point is that an understanding of the Christian God is limited to the source material which is a very poor source of information”

    I would argue that any source of knowledge that increases our understanding of this world, from religious traditions to the modern sciences increases our knowledge of the God of the universe.

    Well said Dwight. As they say at my alma mater: “All truth is God’s truth.” In other words, everything is our source material. Scientific truth (or any other kind of truth) is as much part of it as the Bible is.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Dwight, the English and American culture is really intertwined with Christianity. Just look at the number of phrases that are in everyday use. It would be incredibly difficult (not to mention pointless) to try to seperate religion from our culture. However I can’t agree with you that increasing our knowledge brings us closer to God. It just increases our knowledge. This is, of course, a good thing. We build on what went before. I can’t see how dwelling on an old story helps to build a better future. You see there isn’t anything new in religion.

    Linda, actually every non-atheist out there, how do you define God? If not through your holy book of choice and through the traditions of your religion then how can you “know” what God is? Or are you simply running on a kind of faith instinct?

    An alternative is that “God” is simply an all encompassing theory of everything. Or am I off base?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog,

    That’s really a tough question. I thought about it, and I wrote a poem for you:

    I used to define him as love
    But that seemed no longer enough
    I defined him as the truth
    But what exactly is Truth?
    I thought maybe the universe
    The endless – limitless – infinite
    Yet it seems somehow limited
    to describe the indescribable

    Oh so many have attempted
    since the beginning of time
    to put a face, a voice, a name
    to who, the what, the one, the all
    The one who holds the meaning
    to the nothing and the everything
    Though we search, knowledge remains
    forever just beyond our reach

    Yeah, I know… it’s poorly written, but it sums up my ever-searching-for-answers state of mind. I guess it all boils down to faith and hope. Faith in whatever will reveal itself next, being completely open to it; and hope that whatever it is will be much bigger than what I had ever hoped for.

    Sorry if I don’t make any sense. I’ve been accused of that before.

  • Mriana

    Linda, actually every non-atheist out there, how do you define God? If not through your holy book of choice and through the traditions of your religion then how can you “know” what God is? Or are you simply running on a kind of faith instinct?

    HoverFrog, I asked similar questions towards the top. Actually it was on the Trinity and I broke it down into the three.

  • Tim

    —————————————————————
    hoverFrog said,

    December 26, 2007 at 4:20 am

    I’m probably going to regret this but you say that your understanding of God is incomplete in a similar way to my understanding of the formation of the universe is incomplete. With my incomplete knowledge I can always get a book and read up on the subject, study a bit, take some advanced astrophysics classes, buy a telescope, etc till I’m an expert.

    With God you have a really old book that’s been edited and translated so many times that there’s more to argue about in the translations than their is in the content. You can’t even go back to the original because they no longer exist (if they ever did). You just have the Greek translations. In historical study this is called tertiary evidence.
    —————————————————————

    Gee, it sounds like you have quite a grasp of the historicity of Biblical texts. Where did you study Biblical transmission and historicity? I have a NIV Bible in front of me. Exactly, how many times has it been translated?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Linda, you do make sense and you’re quite right in that it all boils down to faith. It’s just that, to me, your faith is groundless. I require something significantly more robust in order to change my mind when reason and knowledge has served me so well in my life. I’m not going to abandon that and I am unable to reconcile God with logic. I’ve said this many times in the past: Provide evidence or a convincing enough argument and I’ll re-evaluate my position.

    Mriana, ah yes, I see. However if “God” is love and compassion and all those human societal traits that we like so much then why not simply embrace those traits rather than giving them a face and a set of dogmatic beliefs. See a God of War I can understand, a God of the Sun makes sense. Both provide something that we need whether it be luck in battle or light and warmth. A God without portfolio is something I’ve always had trouble making sense of.

    Tim, I’ve read that there are thirteen iterations of the bible but really without an original document it’s impossible to verify. You could even argue that there is only one translation from the Greek copies but again without an original there is simply no way to tell. Your NIV bible does differ from my King James bible though. Why is that do you think? Should not the inerrant Word of God remain uncorrupted? How much has been removed from the bible? Why remove anything that is supposedly holy? Honestly the Greek translations are still around so why not put all the edited out stuff back in?

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog,

    It’s just that, to me, your faith is groundless.

    Well, of course, silly! If it was grounded and based on solid evidence, then it would not be “faith.”

    I require something significantly more robust in order to change my mind when reason and knowledge has served me so well in my life. I’m not going to abandon that

    I would never ever want you to abandon whatever it is that makes you who you are. I would hate that, because then you would no longer be genuine. And to tell you the truth, being a Christian is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Too bad that I can’t seem to shake it off, otherwise I would – because your way seems so much easier and makes more sense to me at times…

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    He he he Linda, “faith” should still be based on something otherwise it’s just wishful thinking. Not that wishful thinking can’t be good sometimes.

    being a Christian is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Too bad that I can’t seem to shake it off, otherwise I would – because your way seems so much easier and makes more sense to me at times…

    I’m not sure about “easier”, believing that some all powerful and all knowing being could come along and make it all better seems to be infinitely easier to me. Plus you don’t have to be concerned about those trivial little annoyances like death.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    hoverFrog said,
    Honestly the Greek translations are still around so why not put all the edited out stuff back in?

    Of course the main issue with the bible is not how it has been mis-translated from the original Greek, but the selection job that was done by those who made the decisions of what works should be included in the bible out of all the possible writings existing at the time.

    Another issue is what was so special about that particular time in human history as opposed to times earlier or later. Why couldn’t a “bible” be assembled today out of contemporary philosophical writings with a supernatural bent? And I don’t view Revelation 22:18 &19 as being a reason not to. That was just a clever stunt. Anyone can write a couple of lines like that to the end of a bible to try to “make it stick”.

    Excuse me for jumping into the conversation at this point without following everything up to this point.

  • Mriana

    HoverFrog said:

    Mriana, ah yes, I see. However if “God” is love and compassion and all those human societal traits that we like so much then why not simply embrace those traits rather than giving them a face and a set of dogmatic beliefs.

    That’s a good question. It would be interesting to hear the answers.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog,

    “faith” should still be based on something otherwise it’s just wishful thinking.

    It is based on something. It is based on evidence but not the kind that is acceptable to those who cannot believe. And faith cannot be ‘grounded,’ (at least not for me) because I have to keep myself open to take in any new surprises that God throws my way. That’s just me. I don’t expect anyone else to believe what I believe. Not anymore, anyway.

    Being human in this human world and trying to hold on to something spiritual that only comes in quick (and perhaps vague) glimpses is most definitely NOT easy.

  • Mriana

    It is based on something. It is based on evidence but not the kind that is acceptable to those who cannot believe.

    What evidence? Religious texts are not evidence because they were written by humans. It is allegory, metaphor, and other literally styles. The authors’ inspiration to write came from within themselves, but not from a deity. I’m a writer and know about inspiration to write something and it has nothing to do with anything out there. It’s all from within me. Nor is said evidence found in other historical sources. Josephus was a forgery- even by religious scholars standards.

    So, what evidence are you talking about?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    The authors’ inspiration to write came from within themselves, but not from a deity.

    The diety that lives within them, called the Spirit.

    What evidence?

    That’s just it. It’s evidence to me and also a mystery. Something that cannot be put into words. I’ve tried many times and failed miserably. Those who have it are powerless to explain it. And those who claim they can explain it, I don’t buy it. The only thing that you can see are the fruits. For me, it has nothing to do with religion, going to church, or any of that evangelical stuff. All I know is that I’m free. You would have to have met the old me to believe the new me, and I don’t know what to do about that. You’ll just have to take my word and the testimony of those around me, just like those looney writers that wrote the Bible.

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    December 28, 2007 at 9:22 am

    The authors’ inspiration to write came from within themselves, but not from a deity.

    The diety that lives within them, called the Spirit.

    I can’t agree with this, but since this is questions for Christians, I’ll let it go and not go into neuro-psychology.

    You’ll just have to take my word and the testimony of those around me, just like those looney writers that wrote the Bible.

    Did you know testimony had to do with men’s testes? Yes, when they made a statement, they would grab their testes because if it were not true, they’d be ripped off him. Thus the name testimony.

    Take your word for it? That’s where religion all started and was a total brainwash.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverFrog said,
    Honestly the Greek translations are still around so why not put all the edited out stuff back in?

    There is no possible way to translate Greek into English and get the exact meaning that the original writers wanted to convey. If you’ve studied Latin or any of the ancient languages, or even a current language, you would understand how difficult it is to translate from one to another and not lose something in the process.

    Jeff said,

    Another issue is what was so special about that particular time in human history as opposed to times earlier or later. Why couldn’t a “bible” be assembled today out of contemporary philosophical writings with a supernatural bent? And I don’t view Revelation 22:18 &19 as being a reason not to. That was just a clever stunt. Anyone can write a couple of lines like that to the end of a bible to try to “make it stick”.

    Jeff, I found a great link (disclaimer: I don’t know them) and it’s pretty much how I see the book of Revelation, and possibly others as well. You always have to keep in mind when and to whom the words were written, and why… what was happening at that time in history among those people that they would need those words… etc…

    Here’s the link: http://www.wcg.org/lit/bible/Rev/revelation.htm

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Did you know testimony had to do with men’s testes? Yes, when they made a statement, they would grab their testes because if it were not true, they’d be ripped off him. Thus the name testimony.

    Take your word for it? That’s where religion all started and was a total brainwash.

    Mriana! OMG… my stomach hurts from laughing…

    And by take my word for it, I mean just know that it’s what I believe and a part of who I am. At the same time, I don’t want anyone to take it and make it their truth. Everyone needs to find their own. I think religion started because people were too lazy to find their own and wanted someone else to tell them what they should believe and do.

  • Mriana

    Yes, I thought the testimony/teste thing was funny when I heard it too. I’ve heard it more than once from scholars.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Linda said

    There is no possible way to translate Greek into English and get the exact meaning that the original writers wanted to convey. If you’ve studied Latin or any of the ancient languages, or even a current language, you would understand how difficult it is to translate from one to another and not lose something in the process.

    Yes, I did know that and therein lies part of the problem. Sadly I was never taught Latin or Greek at school and so have to rely on English and a smattering of the barbarous tongues of the French and German peoples. ;)

    OK I know a couple of swear words in Greek but I doubt that being able to call someone a wanker would be much aid in translating a bible into English.

    The ‘evidence’ for your faith that you spoke of, is it personal experience? I ask because that’s up there with the very worst kinds of evidence that there are. It comes just before hearsay and innuendo.

    Having said that, if it works for you then who am I to judge you for it? *grabs balls*

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It’s really hard to concentrate while watching “Chuck and Larry” with the kids, but here it goes:

    hoverfrog said,

    The ‘evidence’ for your faith that you spoke of, is it personal experience? I ask because that’s up there with the very worst kinds of evidence that there are. It comes just before hearsay and innuendo.

    Personal experience + confirmation from the scripture + sharing with others with similar experiences = belief & faith & hope for more to come. And yes, I agree it is the worst kind of evidence, because I can’t prove it. But then there is that Latin phrase: Res Ipsa Loquitur. It describes evidence in a courtroom. I adopted it as my #1 motto. I don’t want to attempt to produce evidence, because I know I can’t. I just try to become it. I just say, “This is who I have become,” and be as genuine and real as I can be, and not be afraid to fall on my face and look foolish on occasion. Who will deny me that?

    Having said that, if it works for you then who am I to judge you for it? *grabs balls*

    Hold right there! Keep your hands up where I can see them! This is for your own protection! ;-)

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    Hoverfrog

    I wouldn’t identify God with everything, but with those features of existence which transforms us, saving us from destructive ways, opening us to life, to each other, to love, to the good in life.

    Why call it God? And connect this with the Christian tradition? Because the word suggests the appropriate response to such realities (reverence, openness, etc). And because the word God functionally in the west has meant the source of salvation, the basis for the good, etc.

    And lastly because this tradition provides me resources, a language, sets of practices that helps to engage such realities.And because given my own history and context, that tradition is the one that is available to me to work out these issues.

    Reasons to not be a Christian. If it gives pat answers, it’s not true to life (who said life was easy and simple?). If you’re worried about death (or dwell on the need for yourself to live on forever)..it’s hard to imagine this not being all about one’s self and not a wider world to which we are accountable towards.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Linda *hands up* forgive me for saying this but that sounds awfully tenuous. It seems to me that you don’t have a firm basis for your beliefs. If you reevaluate your experiences or a part of scripture is shown to be wrong doesn’t that cause you to question your faith? I suppose what I’m saying is that the “transformation” of you into the person that you are today does not require a theistic belief system. Is it not possible that a grounded philosophy could have served just as well but been more stable in the long term?

    Dwight, they sound like good reasons to adhere to a political viewpoint or a philosophy but you’re talking about a leap beyond that. Beyond an idea to an actual being. I think that this is the key problem that I have with theism. You have some essentially good ideas in Christianity (be excellent to each other, don’t overindulge, don’t bother with stupid traditions) but then go and make a belief system of it that limits you from building on the ideas that started the whole thing in the first place.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hoverfrog,

    If you reevaluate your experiences

    I do it all the time

    or a part of scripture is shown to be wrong

    That’s never happened to me. I’m often wrong with my understanding of it, but the scripture itself has never been wrong.

    doesn’t that cause you to question your faith?

    hmm… the scripture doesn’t cause me to question my faith. But I do question my faith daily, which causes me to dig some more and ask more questions. When I dig, I generally find more. But I have to stay connected, “plugged in” to a fellowship. That keeps me energized. Because of the holidays and my attempt at boycotting Christmas, I haven’t seen my people in two weeks. I’m having symtoms of withdrawal and my ‘faith’ is feeling weak. Good thing tomorrow is Sunday. Yay!

    Yes, if us Christians don’t get nourishment on a regular basis, we start to wither.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana you are an amazing resource.

    Did you know testimony had to do with men’s testes? Yes, when they made a statement, they would grab their testes because if it were not true, they’d be ripped off him. Thus the name testimony.

    Finally a way for atheists in court or taking public office to swear on something with credibility! Forget swearing on the Constitution or law or science books. The original tradition of swearing on something meant that you authorized whatever you swore on to be taken away from you if you were false. So swearing on your mother’s honor or on your life meant that was what you were putting up as collateral. Can you imagine someone holding a handful of their own private parts on the witness stand or in front of one’s constituency as they are sworn in? Gonads would probably be a lot more convincing of someone’s sincerity than a Bible.

    Now for female atheists, trying to grab their own ovaries would probably not have the same dramatic effect, so maybe they could swear on Leonidas chocolate.

  • Mriana

    Mriana you are an amazing resource.

    Thank you. :)

    Now for female atheists, trying to grab their own ovaries would probably not have the same dramatic effect, so maybe they could swear on Leonidas chocolate.

    Well, you have to remember that the OT was a man’s world. The women didn’t count for anything except property.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade said,

    maybe they could swear on Leonidas chocolate.

    NOOOO!! Not the chocolate! Don’t yank the chocolate from me! I sware I’ll be good and never tell another lie!

  • Vincent

    I didn’t realize this conversation was still going on…
    Sorry for my late response.

    Monkeymind and Arlen:
    You seem to be discussing the issue of biblical literalism. The progressive view is that nothing in the bible can be taken literally, and I think one or both of you may have this view. Harris nods to the fundamentalists because they are consistent. They say the bible is the literal truth, from Genesis 1 to Revelations.
    Most Christians I think believe that the OT is mythical/metaphorical while the NT is true but with some errors in the transcription. Harris sees this as inconsistent: either the bible is the word of god or it is not.
    Arlen at least seems to think the Bible can be taken as words to live by even if it has no divine origin or inspiration.

    So, I no longer thought of myself as a christian while I continued to look to the example of Jesus because I didn’t believe Jesus was god.
    I stopped looking to Jesus as an example later, so to you that was when I stopped being christian.
    (I think I can accept your definition for the conversation though I won’t use it elsewhere because mine is too ingrained.)

    Mriana,
    Res Ipsa Loquitur literally means “the thing speaks for itself.”
    It is a concept in liability law that says we can accept the conclusion drawn from the facts when there is no other possible explanation for the facts, even though there’s no first-hand evidence.
    This doesn’t really apply to personal experience because there are many possible other explanations.

  • Mriana

    Vincent, I have no idea what you are referring too, even though I went back in the thread to figure it out and could not.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Vincent,

    Mriana,
    Res Ipsa Loquitur literally means “the thing speaks for itself.”
    It is a concept in liability law that says we can accept the conclusion drawn from the facts when there is no other possible explanation for the facts, even though there’s no first-hand evidence.
    This doesn’t really apply to personal experience because there are many possible other explanations.

    I think you meant to address me? I wasn’t trying to use it in the legal sense. I know it means “the thing that speaks for itself.” Also spelled Res Ipsa Loqvitvr. A few months ago, I adopted it as part of who I want to be. Nothing to do with presenting evidence for my belief. Just pointing out that by being transparent, I can BE what I believe rather than merely saying the words.

    But the funny thing is, I’m changing all the time. So I try to BE true to each stage of the transformation and not foolishly hang onto the pride of not wanting to contradict myself.

    Speaking of the transformation, the movie “The Fly” comes to mind. He has no idea what took place in that pod when he first came out, but little by little, he becomes the thing that speaks for itself.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Monkeymind and Arlen:
    You seem to be discussing the issue of biblical literalism. The progressive view is that nothing in the bible can be taken literally, and I think one or both of you may have this view. Harris nods to the fundamentalists because they are consistent. They say the bible is the literal truth, from Genesis 1 to Revelations.
    Most Christians I think believe that the OT is mythical/metaphorical while the NT is true but with some errors in the transcription. Harris sees this as inconsistent: either the bible is the word of god or it is not.

    Your description of the options is too “all or nothing” Vincent. While most fundamentalists do say that the whole Bible is “literal”, most progressives do not say that none of it is. Most progressives who have studied the issue would say that “entirely literal” vs. “entirely mythical/metaphorical” is a false dichotomy.

    The problem with taking an all or nothing view is that the Bible isn’t a single document. It is a compilation of many different literary genres created over the space of centuries. A far more intelligent approach to the Bible is to understand each genre according to the rules that pertain to that genre and according to it’s historical context. Some of it will be interpreted “literally”, some of it will be interpreted in other ways. That is not “inconsistent”, it is simply consistent to the rules of literary interpretation. Harris’ (and the Fundamentalists’) suggestion that it ought to all be read in exactly the same way is exceedingly naive and unscholarly. It’s comments like this that really make me wonder if Harris has any clue what he’s talking about. How does one study English at Stanford and get a degree in Philosophy and yet not understand basic hermeneutics?

  • Mriana

    Maybe the more appropriate question is why are there so many “different” Christian doctrines- ie some believe the Bible is the literal inerrant word of God and others believe they are just stories. Some believe Jesus was the son of God and others the son of man- strictly human, but a good teacher.

    There is one extreme to the other in Christianity.

    Also, there are different views besides hermeneutics too. For example, there are docetists and evemerists. There is no consistancy in religious beliefs in Christianity.

  • monkeymind

    Vincent, I don’t hold a brief for any definition of christianity. I also think you’ve been very clear that you are not implying any sort of judgment about anyone. My objection to how some critics of religion seem to be really offended by or contemptuous of christians who don’t claim a “literal” belief in the Bible. And my problem with that is that many of these so-called literal believers are quite selective in their interpretation of the Bible, they just pick out the bits that will support their harsh judgmental worldview. To me, it’s offensive for Sam Harris to say that fundamentalists “really believe” and chrisitians with more generous worldviews have “watered down” beliefs. Is a guy who claims literal belief in the Bible, and adheres strictly to the fundie’s narrow version of morality, more of a true believer than someone in the catholic worker movement who has undertaken voluntary poverty and service to the poor?

  • Vincent

    Mike,
    I didn’t actually say the view of the Bible is “all or nothing.”
    I did say that about the OT, but not the NT.
    And I see that it could be wrong. I mean, Song of Songs is a poem, and uses much of the tools of poetry that don’t suit narrative, so it should be read in a different way than Kings.
    Where the “all or nothing” does come in though is in the question of whether this book (and not another) was inspired by God.
    Either it was or it wasn’t. There’s no 3rd option.
    So if you take the assumption that it was, how do you determine when god meant for you to read a passage as literal and when not; when to obey a commandment and when it’s optional, etc. etc.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Vincent said:

    how do you determine when god meant for you to read a passage as literal and when not; when to obey a commandment and when it’s optional, etc. etc.

    If I may insert my two cents here…

    The way I see it, understand it, and believe it, the Bible is not meant to be taken apart in bits and pieces. The many books in the OT, as well as the NT, are intricately woven together with the four books of the gospel as the ribbon that binds them. It’s to be taken as a whole. One giant materpiece.

    If you have not read a piece of literature in its entirety and you do not understand the main theme and the message the author is trying to convey, it is useless to discuss individual chapters or singular ideas represented therein.

    All of you are avid readers. You should understand this concept better than anyone.

    The scripture is NOT a book of rules, commandments, and instructions. It’s not a ‘how-to’ guide. From the very first page to the very last, it is about one thing and one thing only — Christ. Christ as God, Christ as Man, and Christ as Spirit. You can take that as the truth or just a story. That is the choice we have.

    At the same time, I believe there is so much more to the mystery of the divine than just one book.

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    The many books in the OT, as well as the NT, are intricately woven together with the four books of the gospel as the ribbon that binds them. It’s to be taken as a whole.

    Ok, then – which whole? Considering that which books belong and which don’t is still a different list depending on the religion.

    If you have not read a piece of literature in its entirety and you do not understand the main theme and the message the author is trying to convey, it is useless to discuss individual chapters or singular ideas represented therein.

    Yes, if there is a single author, but that’s not the case here. This collection of writings spans centuries, why shouldn’t it be legitimate to look at the pieces separately?

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Claire said,

    Ok, then – which whole? Considering that which books belong and which don’t is still a different list depending on the religion.

    It’s not how many books that’s important as the same thread that connects them to the whole. The whole being the concept of Christ.

    Yes, if there is a single author, but that’s not the case here. This collection of writings spans centuries, why shouldn’t it be legitimate to look at the pieces separately?

    As Christians believe that the scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit, there is only one author – written by people but authored by God. But that’s the amazing thing with the many books. Although the writings span centuries and written by various people, they all somehow fit together to make one book, and they all point to one theme, one God, one Christ.

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    It’s not how many books that’s important as the same thread that connects them to the whole.

    I wasn’t talking about the number of books, but which books. People sat down and said, this piece of writing is in, this piece is out. So, in this whole, is Judith in or out? Likewise, the rest of Esther and Susanna. When you look at the whole, do you include those or not? And why do the women always get the short shrift? (ok, that last one is rhetorical).

    there is only one author – written by people but authored by God.

    In that case, why is it such a horrible mishmash of conflicting ideas and directives, and so self-contradictory? If it had a single author, shouldn’t it be more cohesive, rather than lending itself so thoroughly to opposite interpretations? Based on the internal evidence, I don’t see a single author. I still think Vincent’s question in valid.

    Also, if viewing it as a whole is the only way it can be discussed, that’s a conversation stopper. I don’t believe in the single author you postulate, so I can’t discuss it on that basis. It’s a compendium of ancient writings, which could be examined book by book, but to insist that the only way to look at it is as a whole, when to me it so clearly isn’t, means that we can never discuss the same book.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Also, if viewing it as a whole is the only way it can be discussed, that’s a conversation stopper.

    The whole concept of Christianity is based on Christ. The Bible, and all books therein, is about Christ. All I meant was that one has to understand who, what, where, and why of Christ and God’s unconditional and unfailing love as the main theme in order to understand the separate passages that may come up for discussion.

    I don’t believe in the single author you postulate, so I can’t discuss it on that basis. It’s a compendium of ancient writings, which could be examined book by book, but to insist that the only way to look at it is as a whole, when to me it so clearly isn’t, means that we can never discuss the same book.

    So you would rather discuss it with the hard-core evangelical fundies who take everything apart to take each word literally? I don’t even claim to know the scripture all that well, so I agree that we can never discuss the same book if the only interest is in dissecting it. That may work very well in science, as that’s what sciecne is all about, but you cannot apply that principle to things that are spiritual. Not always. But I understand that you don’t agree, and that’s fine.

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    So you would rather discuss it with the hard-core evangelical fundies who take everything apart to take each word literally?

    Ok, Linda, you got me! Frankly, I’d rather not discuss it at all ;) but everytime I start talking to a religious person about their beliefs, they drag in some old text and there I am…. talking about it. :roll: Again…

    I just still think Vincent’s question was valid.

    Look, ma, I used a smiley!

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Hi Linda,

    You wrote,

    The Bible, and all books therein, is about Christ.

    I think Jewish rabbis and scholars would disagree with that statement. How can you be sure they are wrong?

  • Mriana

    NYCatheist said,

    January 3, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Hi Linda,

    You wrote,

    The Bible, and all books therein, is about Christ.

    I think Jewish rabbis and scholars would disagree with that statement. How can you be sure they are wrong?

    There are a variety of theologians and scholars who would disagree with her statement. I could list a few even.

    Linda said,

    January 2, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    The whole concept of Christianity is based on Christ. The Bible, and all books therein, is about Christ.

    Actually, no it’s not. I think I’ve explain this before on your blog even, but that’s OK. I really don’t want to go into it again.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist, you asked

    I think Jewish rabbis and scholars would disagree with that statement. How can you be sure they are wrong?

    I’m not so sure that they would disagree. I said “Christ.”

    Definition of Christ:

    anointed, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word rendered “Messiah” (q.v.), the official title of our Lord, occurring five hundred and fourteen times in the New Testament. It denotes that he was anointed or consecrated to his great redemptive work as Prophet, Priest, and King of his people. He is thus spoken of by Isaiah (61:1), and by Daniel (9:24-26), who styles him “Messiah the Prince.”
    The Messiah is the same person as “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15), “the seed of Abraham” (Gen. 22:18), the “Prophet like unto Moses” (Deut. 18:15), “the priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4), “the rod out of the stem of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1, 10), the “Immanuel,” the virgin’s son (Isa. 7:14), “the branch of Jehovah” (Isa. 4:2), and “the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1). This is he “of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.” The Old Testament Scripture is full of prophetic declarations regarding the Great Deliverer and the work he was to accomplish.

    Christians believe that Jesus was and is Christ. The Jewish scholars would agree with the concept of the Messiah. They just don’t think it was Jesus. At least that’s how I understand it. Please correct me if I’m wrong, because I have been wrong once or twice before. ;-)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    I’m wrong in saying that the concept of Christianity is based on Christ? That’s like saying the concept of Humanism is not based on Humans.

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    January 3, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Mriana,

    I’m wrong in saying that the concept of Christianity is based on Christ? That’s like saying the concept of Humanism is not based on Humans.

    No, Humanism is based on the human, as well as science, but Christianity, more specifically, Christ, is rewritten myth. There was the Joshua cult (the name Joshua is the origin of Jesus), Mithra, Horus/Osiris, Krishna (another form of Christ, Krista, Kristos, etc), the list goes on an on. The blending and rewriting all these was an attempt to unify people into one religion (or rather mythology). The only difference is in the name and the fact it is directed to a different culture.

    Regardless if you want to believe that or not, the gospels were written according to the Hebrew liturgical calendar and is a series of midrashes (specifically Moses and Elijah) from the OT. There never was a historical Jesus or IF there ever was, the man is so buried in myth that his true personhood is lost.

    Humanism is not based on previous myths or any myths for that matter. It’s based on science and the human.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Linda wrote:

    The Jewish scholars would agree with the concept of the Messiah. They just don’t think it was Jesus.

    I see that as a significant disagreement, since I assumed you meant a particular Christ in your original statement. Maybe a safer claim would be, “The Bible, and all books therein, is about a Christ.”

    However I am not sure Jewish rabbis would agree their Hebrew Bible’s central theme is about their messiah. I could be wrong, but my ignorant guess would be the central theme of the Hebrew Bible is about the relationship between the Jewish people and Yahweh. Also I don’t think the Jews conceive their messiah as being a literal son or embodiment of Yahweh.

  • Mriana

    the central theme of the Hebrew Bible is about the relationship between the Jewish people and Yahweh. Also I don’t think the Jews conceive their messiah as being a literal son or embodiment of Yahweh.

    That’s the way I understand it too. And while Moses led them out of bondage, he also led them into a new age- away from the bull (Ba’al) and into the ram (YHWH). The sacrificial Passover before they went into the wilderness was a lamb and it’s blood (as we know) was placed on the doorframe. This is what is happening in the Last Supper (it was the Passover dinner)- the disciples are symbolism for the 12 tribes and the door frames. Jesus was the sacrificial lamb, but he played a duel role in that he was also moving them from one age to another- the ram to the fish (thus the fish symbol).

    The first Christians didn’t view Jesus as the literal son of God either. In fact, they did not see Jesus as a real man, but more spiritual not literal, but docetism was one of the beliefs that was eventually squished. However, Paul displays some docetism though.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    Maybe a safer claim would be, “The Bible, and all books therein, is about a Christ.”

    But what kind of a Christian would I be if I said a christ and not the Christ? :) But a good point, nevertheless.

    I could be wrong, but my ignorant guess would be the central theme of the Hebrew Bible is about the relationship between the Jewish people and Yahweh.

    I don’t think it’s ignorant at all. I think you’re absolutely right. The problem with that, though, is that Yahweh remains far removed and separate from man. (A pie in the sky, if you will.) The idea of Christ’s death and resurrection makes it possible for the living to become one with Yahweh via the Holy Spirit. The “relationship” that Jewish people think of when speaking of Yahweh is that of a father figure, a provider, or a king. Maybe even a ruler that rewards and punishes as he sees fit. Again, correct me if I’m wrong.

    The Christian God, the way I see it, is more like a lover. God who makes love to us and accepts us for who we are. Being loved (unconditionally) makes us feel beautiful, and it allows us to go out into the world and love others the way we are loved. And lose all our fears, guilt, and shame. Well, at least that’s the way I see it; but sadly, many Christians just add more fear, guilt, and shame. So the great irony and the paradox continue.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mariana said:

    No, Humanism is based on the human, as well as science, but Christianity, more specifically, Christ, is rewritten myth.

    I know you say that the story of Jesus is a myth. I wasn’t arguing the point of validity. I was merely saying that the belief that Christians have is based on Christ. Not right or wrong. Just that it is.

    If I told you that I have a headache and you took x-rays, C-scans, and whatever other tests available to find nothing wrong; would you then say that my headache is not valid? Just because you don’t feel the same ache does not prove that I don’t have mine.

    It seems somehow wrong to use a headache as an analogy for my beliefs… but oh well. :-( :shrug:

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Claire,

    I like your smileys. :)

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    This is straying into other Judaism that I’m not overly familiar with but I’d like to add one thing. The identity of Jesus in Islam is that of a true prophet of God, whose message has been corrupted, in Judaism he is considered a false prophet and in Christianity he is considered the Son of God, God incarnate, savior of the world, all round good egg. All three faiths being Abrahamic in origin but diverging on key points.

    Christianity is based on the character of Christ as portrayed in the New Testament. The fact that the evidence for the existence of such a person is suspect never really bothered Christians so why should it bother atheists? As an atheist I view the Bible as a fiction inspired by stories of a “saviour” and embellished and edited by successive generations of men (not women though). This saviour may well have been a conglomeration of several real people, one real person or a made up fiction. A Christian may very well view it as a book based on the life of one very real person. Historical evidence does not favour any particular view to my limited knowledge. For a timeline of Christianity have a look on Religion Facts.

    As an atheist does it matter if Jesus was a real person who is credited with the miracles of the New Testament? Not at all because I do not believe that the miracles actually occurred or that the texts are in any way reliable as evidence or as a moral compass.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hoverfrog,

    Thank you for that comment, which I agree with. I think the issue is not whether the different beliefs can be proven right or wrong, but rather if they should be pushed on others who do not share them. That’s where I have the problem with religion and most Christian teachings where we are pressured to change the minds of the non-believers or “save” them from eternal hell. Sometimes I think it is the religious people who need the saving… from a lifetime of useless and tiresome task of soul saving. I really don’t think that’s our job. I, for one, am seriously underqualified for that one.

    edited by successive generations of men (not women though).

    “Women should learn in quietness and full submission… she must be silent,” didn’t you know? ;-)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Where the “all or nothing” does come in though is in the question of whether this book (and not another) was inspired by God.
    Either it was or it wasn’t. There’s no 3rd option.
    So if you take the assumption that it was, how do you determine when god meant for you to read a passage as literal and when not; when to obey a commandment and when it’s optional, etc. etc.

    The same way that you would if it isn’t inspired. Divine inspiration of a text doesn’t change the rules of literary interpretation. As far as I’m concerned, God is at least as capable of writing (or inspiring) a book composed of multiple literary genres as anyone else is.

    And I have a high enough view of human intelligence to think that most of the time we’re smart enough to figure out which genre is which and interpret it accordingly – if we actually bother to that is.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Linda wrote,

    The problem with that, though, is that Yahweh remains far removed and separate from man.

    I guess the rabbis don’t see that as a problem; it’s just the way things are.

    I do admit that your version of Christianity is attractive. However, as you know, it is the nature of my personality not to believe certain ideas just because I like them.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    However, as you know, it is the nature of my personality not to believe certain ideas just because I like them.

    Well, of course. I would lose all respect for people who would believe something so easily. That’s how religion started, no?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Sometimes I think it is the religious people who need the saving… from a lifetime of useless and tiresome task of soul saving. I really don’t think that’s our job. I, for one, am seriously underqualified for that one.

    Jesus in the bible stories always led by example. I wish that rather than evangelise and attempt to convert and save us they would be a shining example of goodness and tolerance that they claim that their messiah was. I think that being the best person that you can be is everyone’s job.

    “Women should learn in quietness and full submission… she must be silent,” didn’t you know?

    I’ve heard it but I just don’t believe it. It certainly doesn’t seem ..what’s the word… rational.

  • Arlen

    Don:

    Why do I need Jesus to die for my sins when in Matt 6:14 it says that God will forgive me when I forgive other peoples sins against me?

    First, I don’t think too much forgiveness is a bad thing. Second, I’m not sure that Jesus needed to die. By declaring his death to be forgiveness, he made an incredibly profound and subversive statement that what may be our greatest sin as a human race (the murder of the blameless agent of God) should be remembered as the symbol of how much we are forgiven. I’m not a person easily given to religious fervor, but it’s pretty cool to think that our forgiveness is equal to or greater than the injustice and horror of Jesus’ murder.

    We are called to forgive other people in the same way that Jesus forgave us. Maybe that’s because it makes God more inclined to forgive us, or maybe it’s because a world in which people forgive one another is more loving and just than a world in which everyone is out for revenge. Maybe you could think of Jesus’/God’s forgiveness as a metaphysical concept and our forgiveness of one another as a more practical one. Both are important.

    Mriana:

    Our beliefs and ideas develop, change, and grow for as long as we live—as long as we continue to think for ourselves, evaluate and re-evaluate our ideas/beliefs, and come to our own conclusions.

    I couldn’t agree more. Reason is not the opposite of faith by any means, and I hope that no one feels that questioning one’s own beliefs is a form of blasphemy.

    Austin:

    To truely understand the Bible you have to understand the context of which Jesus was speaking. Jesus says all kinds of things that, when taken out of context, sound contradictory. However, when you tie a statement to the context of a conversation you get meaning.

    Well put. Historical context is every bit as important to understanding a text as literary context; too often, folks forget to examine both or either.

    hoverFrog:

    Given that the human race has existed for so long, what took God\Jesus so long to get round to “saving” His children?

    According to Christian tradition, God has been trying to set us straight in different ways and with different levels of intensity going as far back as the beginning. I don’t take the creation story in Genesis literally, but it’s interesting to note that God initially wanted everything to be perfect and easy for humanity; humanity rejected that. God later decided to let the people have more freedom in living their lives, but gave them a code of law to follow; the people perverted it. God then regrouped and decided to show us how we ought to live by giving us an example, Jesus; we killed him. God finally showed us the extent of God’s love and forgiveness by bringing Jesus back briefly and leaving humanity a permanent “paraclete” (a consoler or advocate) in the Holy Spirit.
    Why didn’t God do anything in the interim between creation and Abraham? Maybe God was still pissed at us, I don’t know. It’s an impossible question to answer. No one can know.

    Linda:

    In your mind, what does it exactly mean to “love” God, and what does the expression of that love look like? And how do you “learn” it?

    I think the act of loving and the expression of that love are fairly inseparable. It looks like following the example of Jesus to the best of our abilities by loving, forgiving, and embracing one another on Earth and doing what we can to glorify and honor God. I think that we can learn how to do this by learning as much as we can about Jesus (so that we can more successfully emulate him) and then carefully taking stock of our own actions. If the things that we do as we attempt to follow Jesus’ example aren’t resulting in more love and more justice, we probably need to reexamine them to determine whether they are really very Christlike.

    hoverFrog:

    Besides which you really need to cite an actual Biblical passage or I’m forced to conclude that you have simply made it up.

    That’s the exact argument that a literalist/fundamentalist would use. Most Christians lean on reason, experience, and tradition in addition to scripture. Besides, don’t you think it’s a little silly to ask a question that is impossible to answer about a being in which you don’t believe and then demand evidence that doesn’t exist from a source that you don’t trust?

    All:
    More later. Sorry I haven’t been around for a while. I was traveling for Christmas.

  • Arlen

    hoverFrog and all atheists:

    I don’t understand the forces involved in forming our universe. At best my understanding could be described as ‘vague’ or ‘incomplete’.

    I’m the same way. Here’s the way I see the theism/atheism debate—I’m interested to hear if you think I’m misguided:

    There is no evidence that God created the universe. There is no evidence that God did not create the universe. Theists believe that God probably created the universe. Atheists believe that God probably did not create the universe.
    With that as my understanding of the debate, I just can’t figure out why atheists and theists can have such a hard time getting along. When there’s no evidence, people hypothesize—that’s the scientific method! Until we can scientifically test for the presence or absence of God, I hope that you don’t begrudge me my hypothesis; I certainly won’t begrudge you yours.

    hoverFrog:

    I can just about accept that there is a possibility of a creator intelligence (just about) but surely such a being has better things to do than notice humans except perhaps as a plague.

    Again we’re conjecturing about things that are impossible to know, but here I’ll toss you a counter-example: Humans have incredible power to create and destroy; we are pretty much the undisputed masters of everything. Yet, we spend lots of time studying things that should be “beneath” us. We’ve spent millennia breeding plants and animals to be more to our liking; we’ve manipulated viruses and bacteria in the attempt to change them into something beneficial rather than malignant; we’ve even taught sign-language to gorillas so that we can communicate with them. I’d bet that given infinite time and infinite resources, we’d meddle in even more minutia; maybe God’s no different.

    Linda and hoverFrog:
    Wow! A blog that’s nice, clean, simple, green, and grumpy! Now that sounds like something that I could get into!

    hoverFrog:

    With my incomplete knowledge I can always get a book and read up on the subject, study a bit, take some advanced astrophysics classes, buy a telescope, etc till I’m an expert.

    Yes, that is true; but you won’t know everything. You can do the same with religion, study all that there is to study, take classes with the greatest religious thinkers, explore the entire holy land, etc, and you will be much more informed; but you still won’t know everything.
    Let’s pick a better example for comparison. Instead of astrophysics, let’s consider sociology, economics, or history. There is no superstition or supernatural occurrences in any of these fields, but no matter how much one studied them there is only so much progress one could make. We study these things because there is value there, but the subjects don’t lend themselves nearly as well to experimentation, and even when they do, interpretation of the results is not always black and white. We can’t let that discourage us.

    You see there isn’t anything new in religion.

    Actually, I couldn’t disagree more. Religion is distinct from a science in that it is a practice more than a study. I believe that there is still immense value in practicing religion, if only because it has the power to make the world a more loving and just place.

    Linda:

    That’s really a tough question. I thought about it, and I wrote a poem for you:

    Great work! That was fun! I’m fairly certain that I’ve never read profound poetry on any other blog’s comment thread, kudos!

    Tim:

    Where did you study Biblical transmission and historicity? I have a NIV Bible in front of me. Exactly, how many times has it been translated?

    Let’s play nice, Tim.

    hoverFrog:

    Should not the inerrant Word of God remain uncorrupted? How much has been removed from the bible?

    I swear, I’m going to sit between you two!

    Mriana and hoverFrog:

    If “God” is love and compassion and all those human societal traits that we like so much then why not simply embrace those traits rather than giving them a face and a set of dogmatic beliefs.

    I don’t think that God literally is love or literally is compassion, but love and compassion are two traits that exemplify what God is all about. I think Christians do embrace those traits, but also try to honor God as an independent entity/concept.

    Mriana:

    What evidence? Religious texts are not evidence because they were written by humans.

    Last time I checked, science textbooks were written by humans, too! In fact, I’m fairly certain that no book has ever been written except by a human! ;) I’ll just reiterate my statement above that you and I are going to have to disagree about what evidence is valid; it’s clear from this discussion that there is not going to be a meeting of the minds on that subject.

    hoverFrog:

    I think that this is the key problem that I have with theism. You have some essentially good ideas in Christianity (be excellent to each other, don’t overindulge, don’t bother with stupid traditions) but then go and make a belief system of it that limits you from building on the ideas that started the whole thing in the first place.

    I think that’s a really common opinion. As a Christian, I reject any ideas or practices, that stand in the way of those “good ideas.” Christians shouldn’t be restricted from loving or seeking justice because of a “belief system.” Where that is the case, those systems need to be reevaluated.

    Richard Wade:

    Gonads would probably be a lot more convincing of someone’s sincerity than a Bible. Now for female atheists… maybe they could swear on Leonidas chocolate.

    HILARIOUS!!!

    Vincent:

    The progressive view is that nothing in the bible can be taken literally, and I think one or both of you may have this view.

    Welcome back!
    Not me! I think the whole Bible is a mix of truth, metaphor, and fiction. I can’t always say for sure exactly which parts are which, but that doesn’t take a whole lot of the value out of studying it or practicing my faith.

    …Either the bible is the word of god or it is not

    The Bible is a collection of stories about God. It wasn’t written by God, and it doesn’t include everything we’d like to know about God.

    Arlen at least seems to think the Bible can be taken as words to live by even if it has no divine origin or inspiration.

    Yes, I do. Even if God was undeniably proven not to exist, I would still look to the Bible for inspiration and guidance; there’s some really great philosophy in there!

    All:
    Thats all for now. There’s quite a backlog here. I’m still going to try to get to everything.

  • Arlen

    Mriana:

    There is no consistency in religious beliefs in Christianity.

    Are you sure that you aren’t missing the forest for the trees here? Sure there are zillions of Christian denominations; I’ll bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find two Christians who have exactly the same beliefs across the board. I’d say that, within reason, that’s a good thing. I think it keeps us all thinking about things we might otherwise never think to think about.

    The cool thing about Christianity is that it wasn’t given to us with a whole lot of doctrine or laws attached. We just have this guy. A really nice guy who lived a really long time ago that we are called to emulate. Around that simple example, Christians have (had to?) build an entire religion! It’s only natural that we might squabble a bit over the parts that we really didn’t get any direction on.

    monkeymind:

    To me, it’s offensive for Sam Harris to say that fundamentalists “really believe” and chrisitians with more generous worldviews have “watered down” beliefs.

    I agree. Just look at that “Year of Living Biblically” guy to see what fundamentalists would look like if they weren’t picking and choosing.

    Vincent:

    Where the “all or nothing” does come in though is in the question of whether this book (and not another) was inspired by God. Either it was or it wasn’t. There’s no 3rd option.

    Was David McCullough’s biography John Adams inspired by John Adams? There’s your answer.

    Linda:

    The way I see it, understand it, and believe it, the Bible is not meant to be taken apart in bits and pieces.

    I’m going to respectfully note my disagreement with this point. While the Bible certainly has a common subject matter, I think there is also value in seeing the pieces as independent of one another.

    As Christians believe that the scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit, there is only one author – written by people but authored by God.

    Again, I’m going to respectfully distance myself from this stance a bit.

    The whole concept of Christianity is based on Christ. The Bible, and all books therein, is about Christ.

    While I’m on a roll here, I’m just going to insert that I tend to see the Bible as being more about God than about Jesus/Christ, but I’m not itching for a fight on the subject.

    Yahweh remains far removed and separate from man. (A pie in the sky, if you will.) … The Christian God, the way I see it, is more like a lover.

    Here I’d just like to distance myself from the idea of God as a cosmic love-pie. That’s both creepy and disgusting, and if it were true we’d all be emulating Jason Biggs instead of Jesus. Ewww.

    hoverFrog:

    Jesus in the bible stories always led by example. I wish that rather than evangelize and attempt to convert and save us they would be a shining example of goodness and tolerance that they claim that their messiah was.

    I agree completely.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Arlen said:

    That’s the exact argument that a literalist/fundamentalist would use. Most Christians lean on reason, experience, and tradition in addition to scripture. Besides, don’t you think it’s a little silly to ask a question that is impossible to answer about a being in which you don’t believe and then demand evidence that doesn’t exist from a source that you don’t trust?

    Yes, absolutely. I was trying to point out that the evidence relied on is thin and not really evidence to someone who doesn’t believe in the back story.

    There is no evidence that God created the universe. There is no evidence that God did not create the universe. Theists believe that God probably created the universe. Atheists believe that God probably did not create the universe.
    With that as my understanding of the debate, I just can’t figure out why atheists and theists can have such a hard time getting along. When there’s no evidence, people hypothesize—that’s the scientific method! Until we can scientifically test for the presence or absence of God, I hope that you don’t begrudge me my hypothesis; I certainly won’t begrudge you yours.

    Not to be too argumentative but your hypothesis is that God probably made the universe where as atheists as a group (if such a thing could be said to exist) simply don’t have an hypothesis. Instead we say: I think you’re wrong as your hypothesis has not basis in evidence.

    I’d bet that given infinite time and infinite resources, we’d meddle in even more minutia; maybe God’s no different.

    Maybe but I doubt it.

    Actually, I couldn’t disagree more. Religion is distinct from a science in that it is a practice more than a study. I believe that there is still immense value in practicing religion, if only because it has the power to make the world a more loving and just place.

    Actually I couldn’t disagree more. The practice of religion could certainly be viewed as incredibly negative. Rather than making it more loving and just it has precisely the opposite effect.

    Christians shouldn’t be restricted from loving or seeking justice because of a “belief system.” Where that is the case, those systems need to be reevaluated.

    Now I can agree with that completely just as we agree that Christians should be an example rather than an excuse.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    One more thing Arlen. That must have taken you ages. Well done for the dedication on catching up.

  • Arlen

    hoverFrog:

    I was trying to point out that the evidence relied on is thin and not really evidence to someone who doesn’t believe in the back story.

    I think that if that statement were entirely true, folks converting to (any) religion would be very rare, indeed. I would posit that a more accurate statement may be that you view the existing evidence with more skepticism than most of the world. I certainly don’t consider that a bad thing, you would be intellectually dishonest if you kept silent about your view of the evidence.

    Not to be too argumentative but your hypothesis is that God probably made the universe where as atheists as a group (if such a thing could be said to exist) simply don’t have an hypothesis. Instead we say: I think you’re wrong as your hypothesis has not basis in evidence.

    If you have no hypothesis, I’d recommend that you either start working on one or start helping us test ours. There’s no reason to belittle our hypothesis if you have no evidence on which to base such an argument.
    As I said above, not all science is physics or chemistry. There are numerous fields of study in which data is not always reproducible, experiments are not always repeatable, and wherein two scientists can look at the same evidence and draw very different conclusions. That doesn’t make it pseudoscience, it just means that folks are doing the best they can with the information they have. As new information is discovered, we reevaluate what we think.

    The practice of religion could certainly be viewed as incredibly negative. Rather than making it more loving and just it has precisely the opposite effect.

    I don’t think that you can possibly know that without a “control” universe. I think that, despite religion’s long-standing partnership with the forces of imperialism and oppression, that’s not what religion is really about. I believe whole-heartedly that people of faith need to free their religion from this unholy alliance and reclaim it in the name of love and of justice. Religion can clearly motivate people; I think it’s high time we got back to doing as Jesus taught us to do rather than using religion as a way to amass and maintain socio-political power.

    One more thing Arlen. That must have taken you ages. Well done for the dedication on catching up.

    Ha! Yeah, it did. But this is a great thread and an interesting discussion. (plus work has been a little slow because a lot of the office is still on vacation).

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Not to be too argumentative but your hypothesis is that God probably made the universe where as atheists as a group (if such a thing could be said to exist) simply don’t have an hypothesis. Instead we say: I think you’re wrong as your hypothesis has not basis in evidence.

    “Atheism” per se might not propose an alternative hypothesis, but most atheists themselves do have a hypothesis – most commonly the hypothesis of Naturalism (if there are atheists who don’t believe in God but are also not Naturalists I’ve never met any and I’m not sure what they would believe in). Naturalism is a metaphysical hypothesis about the origins and nature of this universe that is based on just as much or just as little evidence as Theism.

  • Mriana

    Naturalism is a metaphysical hypothesis about the origins and nature of this universe that is based on just as much or just as little evidence as Theism.

    How so? Where do you get the idea it is metaphysical?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl

    Mriana, I’ve not participated in this due to having no questions to ask Christians and not being one myself but naturalism is as much belief as supernaturalism, it cannot be confirmed or denied by any objective means and its assertion as knowledge is entirely dishonest. This is especially true when that knowledge is asserted by people who deny honest believers in other things the right to their belief. You know some of the folks I mean. They depend just as much on the ignorance of many people as religious fundamentalists in gaining converts. Reality is hard, orthodoxy is easy, most people go for what’s easy.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Where do you get the idea it is metaphysical?

    I’m not sure what your understanding of the word “metaphysical” is, but if you’re thinking of the “New Age” section of the bookstore, that’s not what I’m talking about. Metaphysics is simply one of the four major branches of philosophy laid out by Aristotle (Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics & Aesthetics). According to Wikipedia:

    Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science, traditionally, cosmology and ontology. It is also concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of being and the world. Some examples [of metaphysical questions] include:

    * What is the nature of reality?
    * Why does the world exist, and what is its origin or source of creation?
    * Does the world exist outside the mind?
    * If things exist, what is their objective nature?

    I hope that clarifies my description of Naturalism as a metaphysical theory. It is one possible answer to these sorts of questions, and like olvlzl said, “it cannot be confirmed or denied by any objective means”. It can only be assumed (i.e. taken on faith).

  • Mriana

    No, Mike, I wasn’t talking about the New Age definition, but, except for maybe the questions, I can’t see how what you said applies either.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    except for maybe the questions, I can’t see how what you said applies either.

    huh?

    Naturalism is an answer to the questions posed by metaphysics, therefore it is a metaphysical theory. What’s not to get?

  • Mriana

    I’m not saying I don’t get it, I’m saying I don’t agree.

    Let’s take something that is very natural, observable, and in some ways, quite provable by neuro-scans. I don’t see love, or any other emotion, as metaphysical or supernatural. If anything it is non-metaphysical and non-supernatural. Love is natural and it is a real emotion. There is nothing supernatural about the love between a mother and child or the love between a husband and wife.

    Such emotions can be seen via brain activity. You can’t show any deity with neuro-scans nor is a deity disprovable or provable by neuro-scans, but emotions are provable via chemical activity in the brain and perfectly natural.

    This is not new age either, because our emotions have been around since the day we started walking the earth. There is nothing metaphysical about them and they are perfectly natural. This is what I call natural and innate to the human, while the belief in a deity is not innate, but rather taught. We learn to control our emotions, but they are still very natural and we are born with most of them, we just don’t have the cognitive ability to define them as children though.

    So, you can define naturalism without any New Age definition or metaphysical definition. There are many other things besides emotions that are innate to all animals, perfectly natural, and not metaphysical. Naturalism does not have to be defined by the terms you propose nor do they have to have anything to do with metaphysics.

    You don’t need a deity or anything metaphysical to express emotions- just an external stimulous to trigger the chemical reaction in the brain.

    This does not explain why we are here, but I am not concerned with that when it comes to things natural to the human.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    If you have no hypothesis, I’d recommend that you either start working on one or start helping us test ours.

    Forgive me for not being clear. I was saying that atheists don’t have an hypothesis. There are plenty of credible scientists in the world who have perfectly reasonable and logical ideas about how the universe, the world and life formed. I just don’t think that they have anything to do with a belief or lack of belief in a god. I am certain though that a claim to knowledge without evidence or inventing a theory and then looking only for evidence that will support it is bad science.

    Even if it has occasionally produced good results.

    Religion can clearly motivate people; I think it’s high time we got back to doing as Jesus taught us to do rather than using religion as a way to amass and maintain socio-political power.

    I agree completely apart from the lack of clear teaching that the bible offers. As a “How to live a good life” book it leaves much to be desired.

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen, thank you for your very patient and clear responses to so many questions and comments. I have one answer to something you have expressed puzzlement about. You said:

    There is no evidence that God created the universe. There is no evidence that God did not create the universe. Theists believe that God probably created the universe. Atheists believe that God probably did not create the universe.
    With that as my understanding of the debate, I just can’t figure out why atheists and theists can have such a hard time getting along. When there’s no evidence, people hypothesize—that’s the scientific method! Until we can scientifically test for the presence or absence of God, I hope that you don’t begrudge me my hypothesis; I certainly won’t begrudge you yours.

    When theists say to atheists “We think God created the universe,” most atheists (if they have their wits about them and their good manners in place) don’t even say as hoverfrog characterizes, “I think you’re wrong as your hypothesis has no basis in evidence.” I think they more often say (or at least should say) “That’s an interesting hypothesis. I will withhold belief in it, as I do with all hypotheses until you can produce convincing evidence to back it up.” Then the rest of the conversation is about what is acceptable evidence.

    If “God made the universe” was the extent of the theists’ claims then theists and atheists could get along just fine, but it doesn’t stop there. The conflict gets serious when some very vocal, well-funded theists get into the details of the nature, formation and age of the universe and the world. When they launch campaigns to teach children in public schools that the world is six to ten thousand years old and all the other unfounded absurdities that go with such claims, then there is a threat to the continuing quality of science education, and that is a threat to our very survival.

    With six and a half billion people on this overcrowded planet we need a constant flow of good, reliable science to avoid a catastrophic cascade of famine, epidemic, economic collapse, ecological destruction and the violence that will come from all that. Teaching young earth creationism to prospective science students is to expect them to use the technology and methods that have resulted in many important, useful and essential innovations EXCEPT wherever those technologies and methods contradict literal scripture. Scientists would have to become schizophrenic to follow the evidence they were researching but suddenly turn away if it led them toward discrediting literalist assertions of Genesis.

    If we continue to slip in science education the rest of the world will pass us by and we will become a backward, has-been nation of quaint, superstitious bumpkins. Portugal once explored the whole world. Now they’re a brief stop-over for tourists who like romantic old ruins and quaint people.

    To re-quote one part of your statement:

    When there’s no evidence, people hypothesize—that’s the scientific method!

    Yes, that is part of the method but if a hypothesis does not produce empirical, confirmable evidence after a couple of millennia then it stops being legitimate as a part of a scientific dialogue. It may find refuge in metaphysics as an assertion, but until it can be supported by the same kind of evidence in a disciplined inquiry that has resulted in the innovations that put the clothes on your back, the food in your belly, the medicine in your veins and the computer in front of you, then it should not pretend to be a “scientific” hypothesis.

    One other point I wish to comment on. In your continuing dialogue with hoverfrog was this exchange:

    hoverfrog: I was trying to point out that the evidence relied on is thin and not really evidence to someone who doesn’t believe in the back story.
    Arlen: I think that if that statement were entirely true, folks converting to (any) religion would be very rare, indeed. I would posit that a more accurate statement may be that you view the existing evidence with more skepticism than most of the world. I certainly don’t consider that a bad thing, you would be intellectually dishonest if you kept silent about your view of the evidence.

    This sounds a lot like argumentum ad populum, the fallacious appeal to the majority. “Millions of converts can’t just be gullible.” Oh yes they can.

    I think it at least approaches intellectual dishonesty if a person has a constantly shifting threshold for their skepticism and the quality of evidence they require for giving credence to a claim. If you are on trial for a serious crime, do you want your defense to be the kind of arguments that theists are fond of using, or do you want the kind of hard nosed, skepticism-driven, empirical evidence-backed arguments that scientists use? I contend that to want the benefits of both standards is to be just a little hypocritical.

    Arlen, please take no personal offence from my last paragraph. I really value your input to this dialogue, especially your positive tone.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Regarding naturalism, if some kind of god really exists, wouldn’t it be natural by definition? The line between supernatural and natural phenomenon isn’t so clear. Some so-called supernatural events might just be unusual natural events. Others are just make-believe.

    It seems to me that if a supernatural event or entity really exists, it shouldn’t be called supernatural. So in the end “supernatural” is just a synonym for “magic”. Of course the tricky part is determining if something really exists!

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I’m not saying I don’t get it, I’m saying I don’t agree.

    Let’s take something that is very natural, observable, and in some ways, quite provable by neuro-scans. I don’t see love, or any other emotion, as metaphysical or supernatural. If anything it is non-metaphysical and non-supernatural. Love is natural and it is a real emotion. There is nothing supernatural about the love between a mother and child or the love between a husband and wife.

    Mriana, I think you’re still misunderstanding what the study of Metaphysics is. Metaphysics is not synonymous with supernaturalism. Supernaturalism is simply one particular view within the field of Metaphysics. Naturalism is another. As I said before, Metaphysics deals with questions like:

    * What is the nature of reality?
    * Why does the world exist, and what is its origin or source of creation?
    * Does the world exist outside the mind?
    * If things exist, what is their objective nature?

    Naturalism proposes an answer to these questions, and especially the first two, thus it is a Metaphysical theory. Again, it doesn’t have to include a “supernatural” element to be considered part of the study of Metaphysics. Both Naturalism and Supernaturalism are sub-categories of Metaphysics. So when you say:

    Love is natural and it is a real emotion. There is nothing supernatural about the love between a mother and child or the love between a husband and wife.

    That is a metaphysical statement (because you’re making an assertion about the nature of underlying reality). It’s just not a supernaturalist one.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Regarding naturalism, if some kind of god really exists, wouldn’t it be natural by definition? The line between supernatural and natural phenomenon isn’t so clear.

    The issue is not whether specific phenomena within our already existing universe are “natural” or “supernatural”. The key question of Naturalism vs. Theism is one of the origin of our universe in the first place. The question is whether the universe had a beginning, and, if so, what caused that beginning. Theists hypothesize that God existed prior to, and independent of the universe, and caused it to come into being. Naturalists… well, I’m not sure what version Naturalists are going with these days. Typically there is either a hypothesis about an eternally existing universe (i.e. our universe did still exist in some form before the Big Bang), or a hypothesis about eternally existing multiple universes constantly giving birth to new ones. The problem, as far as I see it, is that neither of these two hypotheses are any more or less provable or likely than the existence of God. We don’t have, and could not ever have, “scientific” evidence for any of them.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Mike,

    Fair enough. I guess I am a naturalist, but I find the idea of a universe with an eternal past to be absurd. (Of course it could still be true.) Another possibility is that the universe did have a beginning, but whatever caused it was natural. Some mechanism that we can’t currently conceive. I guess my point is there are more than two possibly hypotheses, and many more that we probably can’t imagine.

    The problem, as far as I see it, is that neither of these two hypotheses are any more or less provable or likely than the existence of God. We don’t have, and could not ever have, “scientific” evidence for any of them.

    I agree we have no idea now, but I am reluctant to agree that we will never have any scientific evidence. Who knows what cosmology will have found in 100 years. 500 years? 1000 years? Assuming our civilization continues to advance it’s knowledge I hesitate to use the word “never”.

    Maybe some future scientific discovery will actually disprove the possibility of an omnimax god. Or maybe such a god will suddenly appear and show us the truth which is nothing like any of our current religions or scientific theories. Or maybe the universe itself is evolving towards a god that doesn’t exist yet. There are so many possibilities that I can imagine. How many more can’t I imagine that might be true?

    It’s old news but I highly recommend the videos from the Beyond Belief 2 conference available online. You can find them on Google. Sean Carroll’s short talk on cosmology is great. And if you want to hear a real nuts and bolts materialist give a talk on the universe coming from nothing, check out Peter Atkins. He managed to piss off half the audience by calling philosophy a nuisance. Haha

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll google them when I get a chance.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Richard, you have some very good points and of course you are quite right to point out that I shouldn’t dismiss a theory simply because I think the evidence is not good enough. If I did that I’d have to say evolution were nonsense because of the gaps in it even though it is the best theory to explain the development of species.

    Similarly there are good theories for the formation of the universe with good evidence to back them up. What I should have said was that the evidence for God creating the universe poor. Better theories exist and, while I’m certainly no expert, I prefer to put my trust in science and good evidence.

    I’m still intrigued by the idea of having a “control universe” with no religion so that we could see which is better. I know what I think the result would be given the historical evidence of the suffering carried out in the name of religion. I do know that there wouldn’t be a need for the word “atheist”.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Arlen,

    Wow! You’ve really been busy in the last couple of days! You deserve a second Wow! 8O

    You said,

    I think the act of loving and the expression of that love are fairly inseparable. It looks like following the example of Jesus to the best of our abilities by loving, forgiving, and embracing one another on Earth and doing what we can to glorify and honor God. I think that we can learn how to do this by learning as much as we can about Jesus (so that we can more successfully emulate him) and then carefully taking stock of our own actions. If the things that we do as we attempt to follow Jesus’ example aren’t resulting in more love and more justice, we probably need to reexamine them to determine whether they are really very Christlike.

    You see, my problem with this statement is that it sounds so much like the “religion” that I know.

    Religion is distinct from a science in that it is a practice more than a study. I believe that there is still immense value in practicing religion, if only because it has the power to make the world a more loving and just place.

    “Practice” religion? That’s the problem I have with many (most) Christians. They are constatntly practicing, failing, self-condeming, and criticizing others for getting it wrong, not practicing enough, etc.

    My take on it is this: If you have been loved unconditionally without agenda (i.e. Jesus), then you have love. When you see another person to share that love with, the love burns within you (i.e. compassion, passion). Then you just freely express it the way it comes out. Love does not need “practice.” It just needs to be expressed. If you have to practice it, “attempt” it, or “strive” for it, then I cannot see it as pure or genuine if I were on the receiving end.

    I don’t think that God literally is love or literally is compassion, but love and compassion are two traits that exemplify what God is all about. I think Christians do embrace those traits, but also try to honor God as an independent entity/concept.

    I agree that God is not just one thing or one idea. But everything that God is is all intertwined and related, I believe. And the common thread is love.

    I’m going to respectfully note my disagreement with this point. While the Bible certainly has a common subject matter, I think there is also value in seeing the pieces as independent of one another.

    I later explained it as follows: “All I meant was that one has to understand who, what, where, and why of Christ and God’s unconditional and unfailing love as the main theme in order to understand the separate passages that may come up for discussion,” and I still firmly believe that.

    Here I’d just like to distance myself from the idea of God as a cosmic love-pie. That’s both creepy and disgusting, and if it were true we’d all be emulating Jason Biggs instead of Jesus. Ewww.

    LOL Arlen! That scene gets me every time! However, the pie comment was just a silly after thought and had nothing to do with the lover part. I was talking about the concept of Jesus as the groom and us as the bride. If you think of yourself as a bride, then the concept of being “made love to” when we receive the Holy Spirit is not that crazy, is it? Is it? Oh well, it works for me. ;-)

    Arlen, I fully respect all of your views even if I disagree with some of them. I find them very interesting and look forward to hearing more. And for whatever it’s worth, I like you. You’re honest and unpretentious (IMHO).

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist said,

    Another possibility is that the universe did have a beginning, but whatever caused it was natural. Some mechanism that we can’t currently conceive.

    Very interesting concept and made me think. Have you ever considered that maybe God is completely natural and the norm? Although I wouldn’t describe it as “mechanism.” I would be more inclined to describe him with words like “am”, “are”, or “is.”

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Similarly there are good theories for the formation of the universe with good evidence to back them up. What I should have said was that the evidence for God creating the universe poor. Better theories exist and, while I’m certainly no expert, I prefer to put my trust in science and good evidence.

    Which are what?

    Please keeping in mind that theories about the “formation” of the universe (i.e. what happened after the Big Bang) are not the same as theories about the “creation” of the universe (i.e. what happened before the Big Bang). As far as I know science can tell us nothing about the latter. It’s beyond the limits of scientific inquiry.

    And that’s not just my opinion. Nobel Laureate particle physicist Leon Lederman would also agree with me. On the first page of his book “The God Particle” he writes:

    “In the Very Beginning there was a void – a curious form of vacuum – a nothingness containing no space, no time, no matter, no light, no sound. Yet the laws of nature were in place, and this curious vacuum held potential. Like a giant boulder perched at the edge of a towering cliff…
    Wait a minute.
    Before the boulder falls, I should explain that I really don’t know what I’m talking about. A story logically begins at the beginning. But this story is about the universe, and unfortunately there are no data for the Very Beginning. None, zero. We don’t know anything about the universe until it reaches the mature age of a billionth of a trillionth of a second – that is, some very short time after creation in the Big Bang. When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up. We are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the Very Beginning (and so far She hasn’t let on).”

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Very interesting concept and made me think. Have you ever considered that maybe God is completely natural and the norm? Although I wouldn’t describe it as “mechanism.” I would be more inclined to describe him with words like “am”, “are”, or “is.”

    Sure. I just used the word “mechanism” to imply that the initial cause might not have the traditional god-like qualities. I hardly have any problems with deism, beyond that I don’t see any reason to invest belief in that particular hypothesis. The problem is the hard data we have on these matters is minuscule or non-existent, and even our imaginations don’t go much further.

    As I have said before, there are so many god models (and non-god models) I can imagine for the origins and/or foundations of reality. I just don’t have the evidence to place belief in any of them. However the more claims someone makes about the exact qualities of a certain hypothesis the harder I will shake my head in disagreement.

    Heck, I could be wrong about so many things. Any second now I might wake up like Neo in some Matrix pod. Or maybe the fundamentalist Christian rapture will actually take place, in which case I’ll be SOL. Haha.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    “NYCatheist said,

    Another possibility is that the universe did have a beginning, but whatever caused it was natural. Some mechanism that we can’t currently conceive.”

    Very interesting concept and made me think. Have you ever considered that maybe God is completely natural and the norm? Although I wouldn’t describe it as “mechanism.” I would be more inclined to describe him with words like “am”, “are”, or “is.”

    I agree. If by “natural” one means simply “whatever exists” (as opposed to the more conventional philosophical definition of “whatever exists within the universe“) then even God as the creator of our universe would still be a “natural” cause. Then the debate simply becomes whether this “natural cause” is “personal” or not. That is, does it have some kind of consciousness with thoughts and a will and purposes of its own, or is it simply an inanimate “mechanism” as NYCatheist suggests? I have my reasons for thinking that it is a consciousness, but reasonable people can differ IMHO.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog,

    You said,

    I’m still intrigued by the idea of having a “control universe” with no religion so that we could see which is better. I know what I think the result would be given the historical evidence of the suffering carried out in the name of religion. I do know that there wouldn’t be a need for the word “atheist”.

    I would love to see that universe. But how do you define religion? In my opinion, religion does not necessarily have to have a name. Any form of a belief system can be a religion. Let’s look at a world that begins with persons A, B and C. A and B get together and decide that they should always shake hands when they meet. C does not necesarrily want to shake hands. But since the two believe that’s the way it should be, shaking hands becomes a religion. A and B then believe that C is not a good person because he does not want to shake hands. C becomes an outcast and a sinner.

    Who decides what is righteous? Yep, the majority. I don’t know if your test universe can ever exist. Not with humans, anyway.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I’d agree that there is a distinct lack of evidence as to what occurred prior to the big bang but that the big bang is pretty well established as a sound theory. We can see the evidence for the expanding universe theory and posit an early state where the matter in the universe was at a very dense state. We can estimate the age of the universe. Granted that these are theories to do with the formation of the universe. You say that they do not address the creation of the universe but that presupposes that the universe was created. There is no evidence for or against that.

    Have a read of Stephen Hawking’s Beginning of Time lecture. He writes exceptionally clearly for a scientist :)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    You say that they do not address the creation of the universe but that presupposes that the universe was created. There is no evidence for or against that.

    Sorry, by “creation” I simply mean “cause” or “origin”. I did not mean to necessarily imply a “creator”. If you substitute one of these other words in for “creation” then it’s still the case that science can tell us nothing about the “cause” or “origin” of the Big Bang.

    And yes, I have read Hawking. Not that article in particular, but a few of his books on the same subject.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    @Linda, such is the trouble with a test universe. I suppose the best option in the real world would be to compare a country that is largely atheist like Sweden with a largely religious nation like the USA or Iran. You’d need something to measure though.

    Mike, I understand but again it assumes that time is linear and didn’t originate at the Big Bang event. After all the laws of physics break down in singularities or at least operate in ways that we don’t understand and having all the mass in the universe in one place could certainly be considered a singularity. You assume that there was a “before” the Big Bang. This may not be the case.

    It’s at about this point that I scratch my head and realise why I never became a theoretical physicist.

    Having said that I’d agree that it doesn’t rule out a creator deity. I don’t think it is necessary to have one though.

  • Richard Wade

    hoverfrog, my only difference with what you said was a tiny point more about the strategy of your argument. I think it is better to keep the burden of evidence on theists’ claims by avoiding any statement that requires a body of evidence in a counter claim. So when somebody says “God exists” or some similar claim we don’t fall into the trap of replying “Does not.” Let them do the work by politely asking for the kind of evidence that would convince a skeptical jury of their innocence of a serious criminal charge. In the world of science claimants have to be tough.

    When it comes to the “big” questions such as those that Mike Clawson lists below as the territory of metaphysics, I have no quarrel with theists mainly because I have no interest in questions that do not appear to ever be resolvable other than subjectively:

    * What is the nature of reality?
    * Why does the world exist, and what is its origin or source of creation?
    * Does the world exist outside the mind?
    * If things exist, what is their objective nature?

    Now the second one Mike lists here gets a little squeaky because of the vagaries of what is meant by “the world” and what is meant by “origin.” Mike has subsequently and I think validly differentiated between questions containing these terms that can be investigated scientifically and those which cannot. When some theists other than Mike assert their scripture-based theories about specific formative processes and time scales of the galaxies, stars and planet Earth, then they move out of the territory of metaphysics and stumble into physics-based cosmology and geology. In that forum their claims do not hold up well. They resemble a 98 pound Caribbean cruise tourist who has blundered into a Detroit biker bar.

    So the preferable way I think a dialogue between a theist and a scientist might go is:
    Theist: “God made the universe this way, blah blah blah…”
    Scientist: “I eagerly await your evidence. Anyway, as I was saying this is what the red shift of distant galaxies suggests… this is what the background microwave radiation suggests… this is what U-235 radioactive decay suggests… blah blah blah…”
    Theist: “Okay that stuff is probably so but God started it all.”
    Scientist: “I eagerly await your evidence. Hey let’s get some lunch. So what do you think of the Cubs?”

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade,

    You said,

    So the preferable way I think a dialogue between a theist and a scientist might go is:
    Theist: “God made the universe this way, blah blah blah…”
    Scientist: “I eagerly await your evidence. Anyway, as I was saying this is what the red shift of distant galaxies suggests… this is what the background microwave radiation suggests… this is what U-235 radioactive decay suggests… blah blah blah…”
    Theist: “Okay that stuff is probably so but God started it all.”
    Scientist: “I eagerly await your evidence. Hey let’s get some lunch. So what do you think of the Cubs?”

    That sounds great, but then there would be no knock-down drag-out fights that are so much fun to watch. They would throw tomatoes… ;-) People love conflicts, don’t they?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Richard, quite true. Sometimes I get a bit enthusiastic. ;)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Having said that I’d agree that it doesn’t rule out a creator deity. I don’t think it is necessary to have one though.

    No, I don’t think so either. Richard is quite right that these arguments do nothing to prove the existence of God. Cosmology has little to do with why I ultimately believe in God. Those reasons are more existential and experiential. All this line of thinking does is show that the existence of God is not impossible or irrational, nor any less likely than the alternatives (e.g. Naturalism) – and also reminds us that the question is ultimately beyond the limits of science to comment on.

    When some theists other than Mike assert their scripture-based theories about specific formative processes and time scales of the galaxies, stars and planet Earth, then they move out of the territory of metaphysics and stumble into physics-based cosmology and geology. In that forum their claims do not hold up well. They resemble a 98 pound Caribbean cruise tourist who has blundered into a Detroit biker bar.

    I quite agree, and excellent image Richard. :)

  • Richard Wade

    Linda,

    That sounds great, but then there would be no knock-down drag-out fights that are so much fun to watch. They would throw tomatoes… People love conflicts, don’t they?

    Wellll, conflicts are interesting and they make for good novels but not everyone likes knock-down drag-out fights, especially when they or their friends are the ones being knocked down and dragged out. I don’t even like them when folks who are not my friends get knocked and dragged. I don’t get pleasure from seeing the pain or humiliation of even my opponents. I can kick ass if I have to but I’d rather have a nice chat and come to better understandings. When I want to vent my primate aggression I go to a movie like The Golden Compass (loved it) or watch something as obviously contrived and staged as WWF Smackdown or whatever silly name they’re calling it now.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade:

    conflicts are interesting and they make for good novels but not everyone likes knock-down drag-out fights, especially when they or their friends are the ones being knocked down and dragged out. I don’t even like them when folks who are not my friends get knocked and dragged. I don’t get pleasure from seeing the pain or humiliation of even my opponents.

    That’s you. Because you are a “nice” atheist. :)

    I always claim that I don’t like conflicts either. But the fact of the matter is… I’m the first to run to the TV whenever someone says, “Did you see that horrific such-and-such on the news today?”

    Do you know what one of the biggest reasons for traffic back-ups is? Rubber-necking.

    We love to be spectators. What’s the most exciting part about watching a hockey game? The fights. Why do people love going to NASCAR races? For the wrecks. More cars involved, the better. If someone gets carried away on a stretcher, the more exciting it becomes. Correct me if I’m wrong. I personally am not a hockey or a NASCAR fan, but I cannot say that I don’t become an eager spectator whenever there is a conflict to watch.

    I’m not proud of it, but that’s just an honest truth. So beat me with a stick.

    Don’ get me wrong. I agree with your point that you made. I just don’t know if human nature will allow peace on earth, that’s all. Not to be negative or anything.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike, in your dialogue with hoverfrog there was this recent exchange:

    Hoverfrog: Having said that I’d agree that it doesn’t rule out a creator deity. I don’t think it is necessary to have one though.

    Mike: No, I don’t think so either. Richard is quite right that these arguments do nothing to prove the existence of God. Cosmology has little to do with why I ultimately believe in God. Those reasons are more existential and experiential. All this line of thinking does is show that the existence of God is not impossible or irrational, nor any less likely than the alternatives (e.g. Naturalism) – and also reminds us that the question is ultimately beyond the limits of science to comment on.

    Okay. In regard to God stuff, you have said something about possibility, likelihood and rationality.

    Well I would agree that it is possible. As for the likelihood I would say that it is not possible to say whether it is more or less likely than alternatives such as naturalism, as I see no way to quantify these things relative to each other, unless you think that all unprovable/undisprovable propositions (an infinite number) are equal in probability. But then even that proposition about such propositions has equal likelihood to be correct or not correct, in which case if it is not correct then you have set up a self-contradicting paradox.

    Even though it is not possible to say that any unprovable/undisprovable proposition is more or less likely than any other, that does NOT mean that all such propositions are all of equal likelihood. They are just all equally unverifiable. To say that the infinite number of possible unprovable/undisprovable propositions all have a 50-50 chance of being correct is absurd, meaningless and useless. What the heck do you do with that?

    So Mike I think you should say that God’s existence is possible but you should not venture any statement about that being equal, greater or lesser in likelihood than some other unprovable/undisprovable statement.

    As for the rationality, I do not think that believing in an elaborate proposition that is neither provable nor disprovable (given the definitions of the believers) is actually equal in rationality to simply refraining from belief in it. I’m not saying that believers such as you are irrational as in crazy, I’m saying that such believing does not at its foundation involve rationality as the method of thought. You yourself have said it is based on an experiential thing. (I don’t understand what you mean by saying it’s also existential, but never mind.)

    I don’t like calling people crazy so how about a different word other than “irrational?” There’s the technically neutral but still slightly bad sounding “non-rational” or the slightly superior sounding “surrational” meaning above and beyond rational, or I know, how about a cool sounding “transrational” as in transcending the bounds and limits of rationality? Although my old Zen teachers didn’t coin that term they were always going on about such things. They probably would have liked it.

    I guess what’s irrational is me going on and on about this stuff and fantasizing that anybody cares to even read it.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    God is not impossible or irrational

    Not impossible, true. Just not very likely and anyway the God of the Christians has holy books that make several disprovable claims. So while the possibility of a God cannot be completely ruled out it is certainly possible to point out that the Christian God is unlikely.

    Personally I think that if there is a God or a pantheon of Gods then no religion is even close to having an idea of what that is.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Richard wrote,

    I guess what’s irrational is me going on and on about this stuff and fantasizing that anybody cares to even read it.

    I make a point to read all of your comments Richard.

    On another post I made the half-facetious proposal to call religious people “part-time rationalists”

    Hoverfrog wrote,

    Personally I think that if there is a God or a pantheon of Gods then no religion is even close to having an idea of what that is.

    That’s exactly what I think. I do believe the “Truth” is out there as Agent Mulder used to say, and it might very well be something we can’t even imagine (yet?).

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I still think it’s a big “if” though.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade said (somewhat irrationally), ;)

    I guess what’s irrational is me going on and on about this stuff and fantasizing that anybody cares to even read it.

    I second what NYCatheist said; however, I suppose it’s irrational for me to fantasize that anyone cares that I care… 8O (I really like that bug-eye face, Jeff… reminds me of frogs.)

    hoverfrog said, (speaking of frogs)

    Personally I think that if there is a God or a pantheon of Gods then no religion is even close to having an idea of what that is.

    I sometimes wonder if all religions have some idea of God. I happen to see him through the eyes of Christianity, so of course I would say that’s who he is in my narrow view of the “truth” that NYCatheist spoke of.

    But as you said, maybe God does have NOTHING to do with religion. Maybe we have to totally look away from religion to see the true God, or the true “truth.” Maybe we’re so wrapped up in the very act of attempting to prove or disprove God and so focused on this “religious” dilemma that we are preventing ourselves from really seeing the big picture — whatever that is.. I still think after so many debates, so many discussions, and so many battles on so many levels, we have not accomplished much. It seems that trying to understand God and religion is a futile effort. But we still cannot tear ourselves away. That’s why I made the comment about people being addicted to conflicts.

    I just wish for something bigger than the gerbil wheel we find ourselves in, but I don’t know what that is.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So Mike I think you should say that God’s existence is possible but you should not venture any statement about that being equal, greater or lesser in likelihood than some other unprovable/undisprovable statement.

    I have to admit that you sort of lost me with all that Richard. I’d try to unpack it, but it doesn’t seem all that important anyway. The only point I was trying to make was that, if they are both unprovable, then, all other things being equal, there is no inherent reason to prefer Naturalism over Theism. So while science, for instance, might assume methodological Naturalism, that in no way tells us anything about whether metaphysical Naturalism is in fact true or untrue. (I’m assuming you all understand the difference between methodological and metaphysical Naturalism, though I can clarify if necessary.) I think this is an important point only because I find too many people who get these two confused and think that just because science assumes methodological Naturalism that this somehow “disproves” God.

    I don’t like calling people crazy so how about a different word other than “irrational?”

    I think a different word would be fine. I agree that some of these things are beyond the bounds of rationality (depending on your definition of “rationality” of course), so “trans-rational” would work. “Non-rational” would work too, though I think there are too many people who don’t understand philosophy well enough to notice the distinction between “non-rational” and “irrational”. In fact just the other day someone here (I won’t name names) incorrectly used “non-rational” as a synonym for “irrational”.

    (I don’t understand what you mean by saying it’s also existential, but never mind.)

    The very, very short version is that I’m trying to acknowledge that we human beings don’t typically come to our beliefs solely through processes of philosophical reasonings, nor solely through “experiences” but usually through a complex interplay of both of those factors as well many other factors that go into making each of us who we are. In other words, my belief in God is a wholistic thing, not just because I’ve had one or two convincing experiences I can point to (though I have had a few), or one or two convincing arguments that I’ve heard (though I do find some arguments compelling). Rather belief in God is something that helps me make sense of a whole web of experiences and ideas about life and the world. It’s kind of like the glue that ties together all the other pieces for me.

    I think C.S. Lewis expressed something of what I’m getting at when he said: “I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

  • AJ

    MikeClawson,

    “Non-rational” would work too, though I think there are too many people who don’t understand philosophy well enough to notice the distinction between “non-rational” and “irrational”. In fact just the other day someone here (I won’t name names) incorrectly used “non-rational” as a synonym for “irrational”.

    Anyone with even the slightest understanding of philosophy would see this as absolutely false. Non-rational is used on things claimed to be outside the realm of reason. Your statement clearly comes from theology not philosophy. I beg anyone here reading this to actually read real philosophy, and see what the real difference of non-rational and irrational is.

    It should be clear to any reasonable person that there is no difference in the irrationality of the claims, only in whether rationality should be applied to them. There’s no reason for why these things are claimed to be outside the realm of reason that I’ve come across. Anyone should be able to see that this is a case of special pleading, yet another area where religion wants a free pass.

    WordNet Search – 3.0

    S: (adj) irrational (not consistent with or using reason) “irrational fears”; “irrational animals”

    S: (adj) non-rational (not based on reason) “there is a great deal that is non-rational in modern culture”

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    If you can’t see that there’s a difference between “not based on reason” and “not consistent with reason” then there’s really nothing more I can do to explain it to you. I’ll just trust that the rest of the folks here are sharp enough to figure it out.

    And “special pleading” by religion? Richard was the one who brought up the difference in the first place!

  • AJ

    I like to think of it as this:

    Rationalist: That’s obviously irrational!
    Reverend: I wasn’t trying to be!

  • Richard Wade

    Mike,

    I have to admit that you sort of lost me with all that Richard. I’d try to unpack it, but it doesn’t seem all that important anyway.

    Never mind. You’re right it might not make sense if you dissected it and it’s not important even if it does make sense. I wrote that late at night and I’m not sure why, and I’m a little sorry I did. This place is like a fireworks factory sometimes. Don’t strike any matches just to illuminate something.

    My Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t give me a good differentiation but to me and other people I have read irrational and non-rational are not synonymous. Irrational means thinking that is goofy, silly, absurd, crazy, insane. Non-rational is a category of thinking or deciding that would include things like intuition, hunches, impulses, leaps of faith, free associating, flat-out guessing and flipping a coin but not insanity. These don’t follow step-by-step reasoning but whether or not such ways of making decisions end up being called “irrational” depends mostly on the outcome later. So if a guy non-rationally picks the right course of action and saves the day he’s hailed as an intuitive hero, but if he non-rationally picks the wrong course of action and gets everybody killed he’s reviled as a crazy idiot. Somehow it seems unfair but people tend to assess others’ decisions according to the results.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I tend to think of the difference as similar to the difference between the prefixes “a-” (as in “a-theist”) and “anti-” (as in “anti-theist). Something that is a-rational (or non-rational) simply doesn’t involve reason. But something that is anti-rational (or irrational) is contrary to reason.

    One example of a-rational/non-rational thinking, IMHO, would be the a priori assumptions that we make that are themselves the foundation for rational thought. For instance, you cannot rationally prove the law of non-contradiction. You simply have to assume it since without the law of non-contradiction you can’t even have rationality in the first place. It is prior to rationality.

    Anti-rational/irrational thinking, on the other hand, would be like directly denying the law of non-contradiction.

  • Darryl

    Naturalism is undeniable; Theism is eminently deniable; therein is the difference. Challenge the facts of physics (like defying gravity) and you die; blaspheme God all day long and nothing occurs whatsoever. I can demonstrate the facts of nature to anyone, no matter if they believe in the supernatural or not, but no believer can demonstrate any supernatural thing to me. All talk to the contrary is just that: talk. Mike, you need to find some better tactics. Trying to make naturalism out to be metaphysics is an obvious ploy. I’m not taking the bait. What you believe is metaphysics; what I believe is physics.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    There is such a thing as metaphysical naturalism. It is falsifiable, however.

    There are many different varieties of metaphysical naturalism, but all can be separated into two general categories, physicalism and pluralism. Physicalism entails the claim that everything everyone has observed or claimed to observe is in actual fact the product of fundamentally mindless arrangements or interactions of matter-energy in space-time, and therefore it is unreasonable to believe anything else exists. Pluralism (which includes dualism) adds to this the existence of fundamentally mindless things besides matter-energy in space-time (such as reified abstract objects).

    The mind is caused by natural phenomena

    What all metaphysical naturalists agree on, however, is that the fundamental constituents of reality, from which everything derives and upon which everything depends, are fundamentally mindless. So if any variety of metaphysical naturalism is true, then any mental properties that exist (hence any mental powers or beings) are causally derived from, and ontologically dependent on, systems of nonmental properties, powers, or things. This means metaphysical naturalism would be false if any distinctly mental property, power, or entity exists that is not ontologically dependent on some arrangement of nonmental things, or that is not causally derived from some arrangement of nonmental things, or that has causal effects without the involvement of any arrangement of nonmental things that is already causally sufficient to produce that effect.

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

    Darryl, you make a huge mistake which is endemic to neo-atheism but also in all forms of fundamentalism.

    Naturalism is undeniable; Theism is eminently deniable; therein is the difference.

    Naturalism is not the same thing as the physical universe, it is a human construct in its entirety, it is not the thing it purports to represent. Like all human constructs it is inherently limited and like most complex human constructs it is a shoddy substitute for what is represented, a disaster when forced. When it is insisted on, it’s exactly the equal of fundamentalist forms of theism and other exclusive orthodoxies such as fascism and Maoism.

    It is one of the worst follies of scientism that it mistakes the human construct with what they are supposed to represent, but that is an entirely unscientific idea. I’m beginning to think that it’s skipping over the first page of science that is the problem, no one should be allowed to think they have a knowledge of science without them understanding that it is not the thing it tries to explain, it is not more important than the thing it tires to explain and its artificiality is an inherent limit past which it can’t go.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Naturalism is undeniable; Theism is eminently deniable; therein is the difference. Challenge the facts of physics (like defying gravity) and you die

    olvlzl is right – Naturalism is not the same as the laws of physics. Denying Naturalism has nothing to do with denying the laws of physics.

  • Richard Wade

    And Captain, you canna defy the laws of physics!

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    Hoverfrog

    Sorry, about the late response. I’ve been having problems with internet access as of late, but I seem to have things fixed for now.

    “Beyond an idea to an actual being. I think that this is the key problem that I have with theism.”

    I wouldn’t say a being but a person. Which is to say I don’t think of God as an organism but as a a certain set of activities (and how they reflect a particular direction and therefore character). But I think that distinction works with us well…we’re more than a lump of flesh, our personalities are gleamed from what we do in the world, how we do it, etc.

    “a belief system of it that limits you from building on the ideas that started the whole thing in the first place.”

    I’m not sure what the limitation is? It’s a starting point (and not a bad one with 2000 years to work with). But it’s never prevented me from engaging other religions, disciplines, philosophy, etc. It’s just given me a location from which to engage such things.

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    Mike Clawson

    Aristotle believed that the universe was eternal and that such a system depended on a God to keep that system going. A good number of classic philosophers held such an opinion such that I’m not sure if origins must be the place where the belief in God rises or falls.

    I also suspect the naturalism/supernaturalism discussion is rigged against theists and was set up to be such. The God we know is the God experienced in space and time, in this world of ours. It’s as natural as any other event can be experienced as.

    I suppose if we start speaking of God before this universe, or outside of this universe then we’d be in the “supernatural” but then at that point: what sort of information can we gleam from that? How would we get it? I’m not sure any positive content for theology can be derived from it.

  • Arlen

    Richard Wade:
    Thank you for your fantastic response!

    I think [atheists] more often say… “That’s an interesting hypothesis. I will withhold belief in it, as I do with all hypotheses until you can produce convincing evidence to back it up.”

    Wouldn’t that kind of response make one agnostic rather than atheistic? There must be something I don’t understand about the distinction.

    If “God made the universe” was the extent of the theists’ claims then theists and atheists could get along just fine, but it doesn’t stop there…

    I agree completely. Creationism (as a “science”) is silliness perpetuated by the temporarily powerful. I wouldn’t say that it represents most of what Christianity is about or that it is believed by most Christians. Let’s toss the bathwater, not the baby.

    …if a hypothesis does not produce empirical, confirmable evidence after a couple of millennia then it stops being legitimate as a part of a scientific dialogue.

    I reject the idea that there is or should be an expiration date on hypotheses as unscientific. All hypotheses should be welcomed until a suitable experiment can be developed to test them. Religious people have been testing various hypotheses and nuances thereof for millennia; that’s part of why there are so many different religious groups, many or which have died out. It’s not surprising that you discount this experimentation; you clearly reject the evidence that it is based on. I don’t fault you for that. I just ask you remember that there are billions of people who view your standard of evidence to be naive.

    “Millions of converts can’t just be gullible.” Oh yes they can.

    There’s a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the young Indy gets separated from his scout troop. Upon realizing that he is alone in the desert he exclaims, “Oh no! Everyone is lost but me!”

    If you are on trial for a serious crime, do you want your defense to be the kind of arguments that theists are fond of using, or do you want the kind of hard nosed, skepticism-driven, empirical evidence-backed arguments that scientists use?

    Having previously worked in a law firm, I can say for a fact that we used all manner of evidence: eyewitness reports, expert testimony, secondary and tertiary descriptions of events, etc. Contrary to popular belief, not all proof comes out of the CSI lab.

    Arlen, please take no personal offence from my last paragraph. I really value your input to this dialogue, especially your positive tone.

    I take no offense whatsoever. I appreciate your questions and opportunities to express and defend my position. I hope that you take no offense to anything that I have said and will continue to participate in the discussion.

    MikeClawson:
    I don’t have anything specific to add to your examination of Theism vs. Naturalism, but I do find it fascinating an appreciate you posts.

    Linda:

    That’s the problem I have with many (most) Christians. They are constatntly practicing, failing, self-condeming, and criticizing others for getting it wrong, not practicing enough, etc.

    As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think that if one replaced “Christians” in that sentence with “baseball players,” you’d have a pretty apt description of my brief and un-illustrious career in high school athletics.

    Love does not need “practice.” It just needs to be expressed.

    I disagree for a couple of reasons. I think love needs to be “practiced” so that it is kept in focus for the individual. Separately, I think focus on the forms that that expressed love takes can be a good thing. Folks, in general, can have a hard time separating selfless and/or brotherly love from creepy and/or erotic love, especially without much experience. That’s why I think it’s nice to have the example of Jesus rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

    …the pie comment was just a silly after thought and had nothing to do with the lover part. I was talking about the concept of Jesus as the groom and us as the bride. If you think of yourself as a bride, then the concept of being “made love to” when we receive the Holy Spirit is not that crazy, is it? Is it? Oh well, it works for me. ;-)

    Ha ha! I know. I was just having a little fun with you. I think you and I don’t disagree very much, I just thought I toss out there (more for the benefit of others than for you) some of the finer theological points that separate one believer from another.

    I like you. You’re honest and unpretentious

    I’m afraid you forgot “extremely susceptible to flattery.” Thanks though!

    Richard Wade:

    I think it is better to keep the burden of evidence on theists’ claims by avoiding any statement that requires a body of evidence in a counter claim. So when somebody says “God exists” or some similar claim we don’t fall into the trap of replying “Does not.”

    What happens when both the theists and atheists play that game?

    Derryl:

    Trying to make naturalism out to be metaphysics is an obvious ploy. I’m not taking the bait. What you believe is metaphysics; what I believe is physics.

    Oh Derryl… don’t you think it’s a little silly to call out Mike for using an “obvious ploy,” and then go on to imply that theists don’t believe in physics?

    All:
    Great discussion! I’ve been having a great time getting to know everyone’s viewpoints (and personalities) better.

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen,

    Richard: I think [atheists] more often say… “That’s an interesting hypothesis. I will withhold belief in it, as I do with all hypotheses until you can produce convincing evidence to back it up.”

    Arlen: Wouldn’t that kind of response make one agnostic rather than atheistic? There must be something I don’t understand about the distinction.

    There’s a lot of confusion about these terms recently, and dictionaries haven’t kept up. Finding a definition doesn’t necessarily mean finding understanding. Austin Cline has written a very helpful article about the distinction here:
    http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/atheism.htm

    Basically atheism deals with belief while agnosticism deals with knowledge. “Strong atheism,” which is quite rare and to which I do not subscribe makes the positive belief statement, “I believe there is no God.” On the other hand “weak atheism” which is the more common type and to which I subscribe says “I have no belief in God.” That is an important difference that I’m sure you are able to see, but which many believers new to dialogues with atheists or who never talk to atheists have trouble distinguishing. Many believers assume that all atheists are “strong atheists.” (I put scare quotes around these terms because I find them a little annoying.)

    Agnosticism makes statements about knowledge such as “I do not know,” or may make a more general statement such as “This is something that we cannot know,” and to either of those statements some more thoughtful agnostics might add, “at least as of now.” Knowledge and belief are two separate things and someone who acknowledges that they do not know may still believe, believe against, or have no belief in the subject in question.

    So agnosticism is not a third way in between theism and either classes of atheism. It is another thing entirely that can accompany theism or weak atheism or strong atheism.

    So I would say, “I don’t know about God…” (agnosticism) “…and because I have not yet seen any evidence, and for me evidence precedes belief…” (skepticism) “…I have no belief in God.” (weak atheism)
    I also don’t buy the notion that some people put forth that all unknowable propositions are of equal likelihood. Being unknowable means no assumption can be made about the likelihood being higher, lower or equal to any other such proposition. Belief or its lack have to enter at that point. So a self-described agnostic might acknowledge that he’s more atheistic about say, invisible pink unicorns than about the Abrahamic God, even though technically they are both as yet unknowable propositions.

    Any stance of atheism depends entirely on the definitions of God or gods given by theists. Theists’ definitions and the descriptions of the nature of God and gods have become more sophisticated over the ages as people in general have become more sophisticated. For instance, the very early Greeks believed that Jupiter and the other gods actually existed in physical form on Earth atop Mount Olympus. Those gods might be able to change form but most of the time if a human dared to climb Mount Olympus he could catch a glimpse of them as big scary humanoid gods sitting around. The early Christians believed that God and heaven existed literally, physically above the Earth. Telescopes, aircraft and rockets made that part of the description of God not workable so theists revised their descriptions of God to be somehow always just beyond any human contrivance to see him or his realm. This is kind of like always adding yet another yard at the end of the football field to prevent a touchdown. The old concepts lingered however. I remember hearing some people during the early space race wondering if the first Russian and American cosmonauts and astronauts would see God when they exited the atmosphere.

    This continual changing of their story in the face of advancing sophistication is what has discredited the literalist fundamentalists. They claimed and still do that they possess a perfect, divinely inspired, unchanging source of knowledge, the Bible. Based on that they said that extinction could never happen. After thousands of species were hunted to extinction they backed off on that. They said that fossils were fakes. After digging them up themselves they backed off on that. The same kind of steady retreat goes on about the age of the Earth, the origin of species, and the actual whereabouts of God. If their source of information is so unassailable then why do they keep backing up? Arlen, I know that you don’t subscribe to these absurd interpretations, but these beliefs are very destructive to the advance of our culture and they should be strongly opposed by both atheists and theists like yourself.

    That’s enough for now. I’ll respond to your other remarks later.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade,

    First of all, I want to thank you for such a well thought out, very profound, and thought-provoking post. I’m so glad we got away from the dull and pointless technicalities.

    I know you wrote the comment for Arlen, but I wanted to address a couple of things you said:

    The early Christians believed that God and heaven existed literally, physically above the Earth. Telescopes, aircraft and rockets made that part of the description of God not workable so theists revised their descriptions of God to be somehow always just beyond any human contrivance to see him or his realm. This is kind of like always adding yet another yard at the end of the football field to prevent a touchdown. The old concepts lingered however.

    Very interesting point. However, I have to believe that the reason for that is because even the believers cannot exactly grasp the concept of God. All we know is that there is something that is real beyond description and something that we feel so deep down to the very core of our being. It’s not something that can be spoken or expressed in any human way. So throughout history, men have put God just beyond what the human capabilities are at that time. Each time, as you said, “revising the description to put him just beyond human contrivance.”

    Isn’t that the same thing that the science has done? Didn’t science start out saying that the earth only went as far as the horizon? Then as we search and dig, we continue to expand that horizon?

    I think the only difference between science and faith is that science only validates what lies within the ever expanding horizon, and people of faith choose to imagine God who always remains beyond that horizon.

    This continual changing of their story in the face of advancing sophistication is what has discredited the literalist fundamentalists. They claimed and still do that they possess a perfect, divinely inspired, unchanging source of knowledge, the Bible.

    I think the key word is “literalist fundamentalists.” That is the side of religion that I despise. For me though, the Bible has been such a source of inspiration and comfort. I have found freedom to be who I am through the words in the scripture. What I have received personally from those words is so monumentally profound that I cannot discredit even the things in there that seem to make very little sense.

    It is like after years of rejection and dismissal from everywhere you turn, meeting someone that finally validates you and understands you. …someone that tells you there’s not a damn thing wrong with you. This person introduces you to unconditional love. Then that person becomes everything to you. You trust them fully and want to believe everything else that they say. Even if something doesn’t make sense at the time, your trust in their love allows you to believe there must be a good reason for what they say.

    After many discussions here, I’m beginning to realize that someone who has not experienced utter loneliness or emptiness will never understand the heart of a true believer. How can someone know the value of illumination when they have never seen darkness? (I’m not necessarily referring to you.)

    :) Just had to insert a smiley face to keep it from being too heavy and serious…

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen,

    Arlen: (to remarks I made about standards of evidence) “I just ask you remember that there are billions of people who view your standard of evidence to be naive.”

    Richard: “Millions of converts can’t just be gullible.” Oh yes they can.

    Arlen: There’s a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the young Indy gets separated from his scout troop. Upon realizing that he is alone in the desert he exclaims, “Oh no! Everyone is lost but me!”

    This is the third time you are implying argumentum ad populum, and you really should abandon it as an argument. Reality cannot be determined by a popular vote. I don’t care if a quadrillion people believe in unverified things and accept old stories, warm fuzzy feelings and arguments about arguments as “evidence.” The world’s majority’s standards of what constitutes “evidence” are the same standards that have accepted just cause for witch burning, book burning, genocide and opposition to beneficial innovation. The vast majority of people on this planet are ignorant and backward. Their way of determining “truth” has held civilization back for centuries.

    How many individual incidents where insisting on empirical evidence has turned superstition away from a course toward disaster does it take to start losing unquestioned faith in unquestioned faith?

    Your own views of things like the formation of the universe are very much in the minority when you count all the billions of uneducated Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists and those of indigenous religions around the world, so according to your argument by majority you are wrong too.

    Arlen, just give up the bandwagon strategy. Maintain your personal faith for your personal reasons. I can genuinely respect that stance. Please don’t imply that I am wrong or I am being self-centered like young Indiana Jones just because I fall into a minority in a poll. You’re outnumbered too.

    More later.

  • Richard Wade

    Linda,
    Really good stuff. Thank you for bringing these things up so I can clarify some of my thoughts. You said:

    Very interesting point. However, I have to believe that the reason for that is because even the believers cannot exactly grasp the concept of God. All we know is that there is something that is real beyond description and something that we feel so deep down to the very core of our being. It’s not something that can be spoken or expressed in any human way.

    Yes I agree it is a very very subjective thing, and when a person expresses those experiences I respect them and I don’t argue with them. I would only add that it is not a universal thing, nor is it necessarily perpetual once it is established in people. Many people, although completely open to and even eager for the experiences you have described never have them and many people, several of whom are regulars on this blog will assert that they had for a significant period in their lives just as deeply felt, subjective experience-driven convictions but they did not last. So here they are having experienced what sounds like very similar inner events but now they are atheists. Why that is or what is implied by that seems to be according to each individual’s story. I can make no generalization from it.

    You continue with:

    So throughout history, men have put God just beyond what the human capabilities are at that time. Each time, as you said, “revising the description to put him just beyond human contrivance.”

    Isn’t that the same thing that the science has done? Didn’t science start out saying that the earth only went as far as the horizon? Then as we search and dig, we continue to expand that horizon?

    I think the only difference between science and faith is that science only validates what lies within the ever expanding horizon, and people of faith choose to imagine God who always remains beyond that horizon.

    Linda, I know that you make an important distinction between your faith as you practice it (I might also call it spirituality) and religion, which you generally reject. Unfortunately for most people those two are all mixed up together. My remarks and my concerns here are about religion because your kind of subjective faith has no conflict with things that I value, but religion sometimes does. I have at times quipped that if anything is an invention of the devil, it’s religion. Nothing can so efficiently, deeply and permanently divide people from each other and I’d venture to add divide people from themselves as can religion.

    I think that some branches of the various religions have grown more mature and your, Arlen’s and Mike Clawson’s versions are good examples. That is what allows me some glint of optimism about an otherwise bleak looking future. Yes, science has grown and matured as well, whenever it has stayed true to its premise of fearlessly following the evidence wherever it leads. Science improves when it proves itself wrong. Science never says “This is the truth.” It says “This is the best explanation we have so far, given what we have observed so far.” Religion has a tougher time acknowledging whenever it is wrong because it has a bad habit of making claims about absolute truth. So as Arlen points out it experiments with new versions of itself. I hope some day a version comes along that is free of that bad habit.

    I like your metaphor of science being concerned with what is inside the ever-expanding horizon and religion being concerned with what is beyond the ever-receding horizon. When it is properly practiced science has no intent to destroy or banish religion. It just wants to fearlessly follow wherever the evidence leads. The conflict arises when religion tries to impede science as it steadily intrudes into the unknown territory and religion feels its turf is threatened. Lately religionists have adopted a strategy of imitating scientists by using jargon, twisted scientific arguments, highly skewed selections of empirical evidence, and oxymoronic constructs like “creation science.” This seems to me an act of desperation.

    In response to your last two very poignant paragraphs I never begrudge anyone the healing and comforting effects of their faith. The change that you have described in yourself is wonderful and I am very glad for you. My only word of caution to you or anyone else is to beware if that unconditional love ever seems to be coming to you via a charismatic human being. With such complete trust given to them they have a nasty tendency to instruct their devotees to drink some Kool-Aid or to fly a plane into a building.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard,

    Thank you for your response. We agree that we both hate “religion,” so we’re on the same page with that. The rest, I guess what it comes down to is what Alan Watts describes as prickles and goo. There are prickly people and then there are gooey people. Prickly people want everything in order, figured out, measured, categorized, and in straight lines. Gooey people are… well… gooey. (I can’t remember exactly how he distinguished the two, but you get the idea.)

    I remember one part where he said prickly people seem to want to look at the world through the square holes in a net. Looking through the net, they see everything as so many squares across and so many squares down. That was an interesting thought.

    I suppose you’re a prickle and I’m a goo. :-)

    My only word of caution to you or anyone else is to beware if that unconditional love ever seems to be coming to you via a charismatic human being.

    No worries there, because I know all too well that there is no such thing as unconditional love from a human. I don’t put all my faith in any human, not even myself.

    In my opinion (which can often be wrong, so challenge me on this), you can always count on three things with every human being: Everyone has a condition, everyone has an agenda, and everyone has a price.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    irrational vs. rational

    This topic was discussed earlier on in this thread.. One term I find useful is the “arational” meaning that which is beyond rational thought. It is quite possible that aspects of the world are beyond rational explanation. There is no guarantee that the world can be totally explained (ever) rationally. This notion is hopefully something that both atheists and theists can agree on.

    The study of the arational may be an emerging field that will expand our current notions of science. Of course, there are those that want to take short-cuts and move the field too quickly without doing the necessary work. One could argue that the world’s religions do precisely this…. take unfounded short-cuts to explore the arational. I do share a belief with my theistic brethren that there is more to the world than the purely rational. I just think that to study the arational, one must first tear down all the old superstitious irrational beliefs (including almost all the cherished details of Christianity). That is, we must do the following:

    1. unclutter your mind with religion
    2. have a full understanding of the limits of rational thought
    3. explore what is left over.

    This will be the new religion ;)

    I’m not talking new-age spiritualism here… but a serious consideration of the arational. I also don’t believe there will be any need for theistic notions… That would be an unfounded short-cut.

  • monkeymind

    1. unclutter your mind with religion
    2. have a full understanding of the limits of rational thought
    3. explore what is left over.

    This will be the new religion

    Love it!

  • Richard Wade

    Jeff, this is a very interesting proposal about arationality and I am entirely in favor if exploring it. As someone who is pretty fond of rational thinking, I am not automatically adverse to considering the validity of looking beyond its limits. In fact I think to be closed against seeking something that can augment rationality would be… irrational.

    Your three steps make sense but I balk at your saying it will be the “new religion.” I see the winking smiley after that sentence so I hope you are being tongue-in-cheek. Religion is usually a fossilizing and self-serving institution that tends to interfere with free exploration rather than facilitating it. The moment you have a religion you have a blasphemy that it will not allow. Let’s call it something else or avoid labels entirely until we invent a completely new term.

  • Mriana

    Jeff, Monkeymind, not that I don’t like your idea, but isn’t this thread called questions for Christians and not teach them to be rational? It could be preceived in their minds that you’re stepping on their toes or accusing them of not being rational. It’s just a thought.

  • Darryl

    Jeez, I’m surprised, but I think the I.Q. of this site has dropped a few points. So let me break it down for you: when God has been dismissed from one’s world-view, what remains is nature–the cosmos. What the realistic person then believes in is nature, that’s it. I call this Natural-ism. If some want to define it otherwise so as to argue a point, let them do so. The facts remain.

  • Mriana

    Darryl, that wasn’t what I meant. I agree with you, but that wasn’t my point. I was talking about being respectful towards the theists since it is their thread and directed to two other people- not necessarily you.

  • Richard Wade

    Linda, you said,

    Richard, Thank you for your response. We agree that we both hate “religion,” so we’re on the same page with that.

    I don’t hate religion. I see the negative things that religion can do and I try to work against those negative things by promoting better understanding and clear thinking. If I had a lot of capacity for hatred I might be active in a religion since a few sub sects are very hospitable to haters. On the other hand some subgroups of religions can improve and have improved, just painfully slowly and with many casualties. We meet some of their courageous members here. Hate is not a desirable bond or motive. It tends to be self-destructive and self-defeating in the long run.

    I suppose you’??re a prickle and I’m a goo.

    I’m not sure where Watts was going with that but I think it’s overstated to characterize you and me as such extremes. Neither sound like very wise people. You at least are wiser than that.

    In my opinion (which can often be wrong, so challenge me on this), you can always count on three things with every human being: Everyone has a condition, everyone has an agenda, and everyone has a price.

    I can’t share that opinion about people in general because I can’t intimately know enough people to make so strong a judgement about all of them. Conditions, agendas and prices vary tremendously from person to person, from topic to topic and from situation to situation. To make a blanket decision about people may reflect one’s own present personal development rather than one’s insight about humanity. As you taught me about Anais Ninn, “We see things not as they are but as we are.” Perhaps that also applies to how we see people.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Richard Wade said:
    Your three steps make sense but I balk at your saying it will be the “new religion.” I see the winking smiley after that sentence so I hope you are being tongue-in-cheek.

    I, too, am very concerned that the exploration of the arational would end up deteriorating into a religion (with all of religion’s baggage)… That is probably why the scientific community has been slow to consider that there is an arational component to nature. I personally don’t think science is being all that it can be… but I’m also fearful of the slippery slope of sliding into yet another new-age “religion”. This new study of the arational will be a slowly developing new form of science that will not happen overnight… The field needs some people of the caliber of Newton, Einstein, and Darwin… not Robertson, Falwell, and Dobson.

    Mriana said,
    Jeff, Monkeymind, not that I don’t like your idea, but isn’t this thread called questions for Christians and not teach them to be rational?

    I was actually agreeing with the Christians that certain aspects of religious belief is not irrational, but arational. There is a difference between irrational and arational. I’m not advocating that only rational thought is allowed. But you are tight, I was preaching, and not asking Christians questions.

    Darryl said,
    …when God has been dismissed from one’s world-view, what remains is nature–the cosmos. What the realistic person then believes in is nature, that’s it. I call this Natural-ism.

    I agree. I also believe that the arational is part of nature. Nature doesn’t equal rational… but you can (and should) have the arational without theism.

    But anyway, enough about the arational. I’ll save further comments for a more appropriate message thread.

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

    when God has been dismissed from one’s world-view, what remains is nature–the cosmos. What the realistic person then believes in is nature, that’s it.

    First, you don’t have to dismiss God from your world-view in order to acknowledge the physical universe, if that was necessary science would be a number of centuries delayed in its development. Even PZ has to acknowledge that at least forty percent of American scientists believe in something more than the physical universe. Working scientists who produce science.

    Second, you still mistake human ideas with the physical universe itself, this isn’t surprising, it is the way that all academic fields that have allowed themselves to believe their own PR end up viewing things. Theology had that problem back in the middle ages. Everything, literally everything, about how humans think about the physical universe is the product of their particular abilities to perceive it, those abilities contain limits and operate to create what can only inadequately be understood as a symbolic representation of the thing itself. We don’t even understand how that representation works or what it consists of. The idea that a naturalist has a view of the universe that is in some way special and apart from those who interpret their experience as indicating something more than the apparent is sheer folly, entirely nonobjective and, in those who allege themselves to be objective realists, dishonest.

    You can’t come up with anything like an objective view of something without taking into account the conditions under which you are observing and thinking about them. You can’t express an objective viewpoint without acknowledging those.

    Far from chaining someone to superstition, this frees everyone to honestly evaluate their own experience and express it to those willing to listen. It also requires that everyone be humble enough to not maintain that they have a superior vantage point. This is especially true in the general run of fundamentalists, of all ideologies, who demonstrate they aren’t willing to do the necessary groundwork to take themselves as seriously as they do.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Jeff,

    Yep. I concur with most of what you said.

    you can (and should) have the arational without theism.

    Not sure about that one. If you eliminate God altogether, who will keep a sight on what’s beyond that horizon that I referred to in my comment to Richard Wade? I believe we need both atheists and theists in order to see the big picture and move forward into the unknown.

    BTW, weren’t Newton and Einstein theists? I’m not sure about Darvwin?

    Darryl said,

    Jeez, I’m surprised, but I think the I.Q. of this site has dropped a few points.

    So when theists and atheists try to talk to each other with respect, that indicates a drop in IQ points? Maybe we need to drop a few more then.

    Richard Wade,

    By referring to prickles and goo, I was merely describing people who have to have clear-cut, pricise answers for everything and the people who can just accept and respect the unknowable, and just believe that there’s something much greater than you or me. But yes, I guess you’re right… most of us are a mix of the two and only lean to one side or the other.

    And about people, I’m not making judgments. Just observations, which always start with myself. Let me just use myself as an example, and then I’ll drop it:

    Condition: I’m here at FA talking to everyone and claim that it’s unconditional. I throw the word love around as if I’m a hippie. But when I dig, that love has conditions: 1) you have to show up; 2) you have to respond; 3) I need to see the real you first; 4) I have to find something in you that I can learn from. Not good or bad, but conditions nevertheless.

    Agenda: People claim that their friendship or love has no agenda. That’s bullshit. Everyone wants something from everything and everyone, even spouses and the closest people to us. Don’t kid yourself. I’m not being cynical. Just observing human nature and studying (at length) every single one of my relationships. Even if it happens to be entertainment or just having fun, I still classify that as an agenda. Not good or bad. Just is.

    Price: Money makes the world go around. We need money to survive in this world, do the things we enjoy, and to help others who are in need. I always claim that I don’t like or need money, but when someone recently approached me with an interesting prospect, I found myself listening with extreme interest… only because of the dollar amount that was being thrown around. Everyone has a price. Again, not judgment. Only an observation.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Oh, and about the Anais Nin quote:

    “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

    I think about this all the time, and I’ve decided that that’s all we can see. We cannot possibly see things the way someone or something else sees it. Becuase we are not them. All we can do is see things from our own perspective, our own angle, and then describe that particular view the best way we know how.

    The only thing that we need to be reminded of is that someone else can look at whatever it is (i.e. God, science, nature, art) from a completely different angle. And it may be just as valid. We live in a three-dimensional (are there only three?) world, but most of us have a one-dimensional mind. Of course what they see is correct and accurate from their view. However narrow that view may be in the big picture; to the person looking at it, it is all they see and all there seems to be.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    I just went back to read your comment, and I see that you basically already said what I was trying to say but in a much more elevated way. Sorry for reiterating.

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

    Linda, “elevated” moi?

    I think the usual way of describing my comments is ” boring “. I dream of being able to say the same thing so a fourth grader could read it but I’m not that good.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I dream of being able to say the same thing so a fourth grader could read it

    See? That’s my problem. I’m only three. Just ask Mriana or Jeff. :-)

  • Mriana

    :lol: I wouldn’t say that, Linda. Most three year olds can’t read.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    But I’m a very gifted three-year-old. ;-)

  • Mriana

    Oh well then, let’s get you into the prodigy program at Mensa. ;)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Well by Linda’s counting system, I’ll be turning 6 soon. So I’ll be twice as old as Linda. :)

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Your comments remind me of the ideas in the book “Philosophy in the Flesh” where our picture of reality is partly (or even mostly) a product of our own brain physiology and not so much about reality itself (whatever that means).

  • Mriana

    I’ll be 6 soon too. :D If we have another six we can be the Holy trio. :lol:

  • Arlen

    I’m having trouble posting, maybe I’m too long-winded. I’ll keep at it.

  • Arlen

    Richard Wade:

    So agnosticism is not a third way in between theism and either classes of atheism. It is another thing entirely that can accompany theism or weak atheism or strong atheism.

    Thank you so much for that post; I found it incredibly enlightening as someone only just now starting to learn about the realm of atheist philosophy. I think your post has given me a good deal of insight into the thinking of several frequent posters around here.

    Arlen, I know that you don’t subscribe to these absurd interpretations, but these beliefs are very destructive to the advance of our culture and they should be strongly opposed by both atheists and theists like yourself.

    You are absolutely right in both respects. I do not subscribe to that particular philosophy, and I, too, find it destructive. I have said several times before (though perhaps not in this thread) that I believe it is critical for mainline Christians and atheists to work together to strongly counter the fundamentalists and literalists.

    This is the third time you are implying argumentum ad populum, and you really should abandon it as an argument.

    Oh, sorry; I didn’t intend for that Indiana Jones thing to be an argument. It just struck me as funny.

    How many individual incidents where insisting on empirical evidence has turned superstition away from a course toward disaster does it take to start losing unquestioned faith in unquestioned faith?

    Let me be perfectly clear that I have no faith in unquestioned faith. I strongly believe that ideas of faith (as well as all ideas, really) should exist within an open marketplace of ideas. If my faith couldn’t withstand questions or challenges it wouldn’t really be worth my time.

    The argument that I intended there, and which I have referenced several times above, is that there already exist multiple standards of evidence in courts and laboratories: A sociologist is not going to have the same standard of evidence as a chemist; a historian pieces together theories in a method quite unlike an astronomer would; courts accept testimony from folks far removed from the actual events while the use of secondary or tertiary information would horrify a physicist. In fact, a lot of what we consider to be true wouldn’t hold up under the standard that you want to apply to theology. For me to really understand your point of view, I’d like to hear why you choose only the highest standard of evidence for the existence of God while relying on what would seem to be much lower standards of evidence for other aspects of your outlook.

    Yes, science has grown and matured as well, whenever it has stayed true to its premise of fearlessly following the evidence wherever it leads. Science improves when it proves itself wrong. Science never says “This is the truth.” It says “This is the best explanation we have so far, given what we have observed so far.”

    I really like the Max Planck quote, “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” The same is largely true with religion. As long as there is a free and open exchange of ideas the dumb ones (ideas or people, take your pick) will eventually disappear through attrition. I would be astounded if Biblical literalism touted more than a handful of politically-active proponents a generation from now. Religious fundamentalism is cyclical, and only tends to intensify when political leaders find it advantageous to use religion as a means to their own ends.

    Lately religionists have adopted a strategy of imitating scientists by using jargon, twisted scientific arguments, highly skewed selections of empirical evidence, and oxymoronic constructs like “creation science.”

    I think that this is partly in response to increasing discomfort among fundamentalists with strict literalism. They wouldn’t need to create a faux-science to justify themselves if their adherents were blindly accepting the party line.

    Only partially related, this is also an effect of scientists’ ill-fated decision to retreat from the spotlight. Most of them thought that if they refused to debate the religious nut-cases then they would eventually go away; unfortunately, this just ensured that the fundamentalists were the only folks who got heard for a while. Only fairly recently have scientists realized their mistake and started beating the drum about there being “no credible scientific alternative to evolution.”

    Mriana:

    It could be perceived in their minds that you’re stepping on their toes or accusing them of not being rational.

    Count me among those not offended. I consider myself perfectly reasonable.

    Richard Wade:

    I don’t hate religion. I see the negative things that religion can do and I try to work against those negative things by promoting better understanding and clear thinking.

    Bravo! I’m 100% with you there.

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist:

    The idea that a naturalist has a view of the universe that is in some way special and apart from those who interpret their experience as indicating something more than the apparent is sheer folly

    I couldn’t agree more. We’ve both examined the same evidence and reached different conclusions, we can argue about standards of evidence all day, but we’re really not so different in our thinking or actions.

    All:
    I think that puts me up to date again as far as responding to questions. Hopefully this gets posted okay; I’ve been having to fight the comment system. My thanks extend to everybody for all of the interesting discussion!

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen,
    The Indiana Jones thing was funny. I only mentioned it because it seemed to be a kind of capping phrase on your other remarks that sound like arguments by majority, and I never let those go by unchallenged.

    In fact, a lot of what we consider to be true wouldn’t hold up under the standard that you want to apply to theology. For me to really understand your point of view, I’d like to hear why you choose only the highest standard of evidence for the existence of God while relying on what would seem to be much lower standards of evidence for other aspects of your outlook.

    What, is my tie straight but my fly is open? Please help me see where I seem to be relying on much lower standards of evidence for other aspects of my outlook.

    The existence of God is kind of an important question, in fact a lot of people think it is the most important question. So I think the standard for evidence should high for so important a question. It puzzles me that for the most important question so many people accept the lowest standard for evidence, being “Mommy and Daddy told me so,” and for the masses the questioning stops right there. I know you have more profound personal reasons, but that is rare. Some of the things that follow from the belief in God or gods include such extremely terrible behaviors that it is of great importance to hold the root assumption to a very high standard. Something that people are willing to persecute, kill or die for should not be accepted casually. If more people had higher standards for this kind of belief there might be less persecuting, killing and dying.

    I like the maxim by Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” If I claim to have a dollar in my pocket, that is not much of a claim and you might not demand any evidence from me to back it up. You might be willing to take my word for it on faith. If however, I claim to have a million dollars in my pocket, that is an extraordinary claim and I think you would be more likely to demand extraordinary evidence, perhaps a million dollar’s worth of evidence. The existence of God and all other claims that use that three letter word are pretty extraordinary claims. To demand extraordinary evidence is to respect the importance of the claim. To be lax and demand only the evidence that would satisfy a child would be disrespectful to its importance. It is out of sincere respect for such an important question that I hold to a high standard.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard: I don’t hate religion. I see the negative things that religion can do and I try to work against those negative things by promoting better understanding and clear thinking.

    Arlen: Bravo! I’m 100% with you there.

    Yep. I stand corrected. I didn’t actually mean “hate.” I guess I do use that word too easily. It comes from a place of pain, I guess. I have residual effects of hurt and betrayal by people I trusted. I suppose I should stop acting like a three-year-old and learn to get over it. ::blush::

  • ash

    Arlen, i love any argument that forces me to stop and think, and this did it for me –

    A sociologist is not going to have the same standard of evidence as a chemist; a historian pieces together theories in a method quite unlike an astronomer would; courts accept testimony from folks far removed from the actual events while the use of secondary or tertiary information would horrify a physicist.

    however, after a brief think, i came to this conclusion; these are not so much different standards of evidence as different methodologies for examining, explaining and possibly predicting already existing evidence. crime figures exist, yet their collection, representation, future implications, and theories regarding criminal activity are widely varied and contested. certain historical events can be proven as fact, but historians can only deal with hypotheses as to details. courts do not contest whether a murder took place, they deal in probabilities and theories regarding who and why. whilst i completely agree that different professions have different ways of approaching and interpreting facts, i would contest that the theorems presented on the basis of said facts are not usually counted as absolute and uncontestable themselves. i would argue that theology approaches from the opposite angle, positing a theory (of a god), then seeing which facts can be forced into that model. else, why a god instead of creator pixies or magic dust?

  • Mriana

    Count me among those not offended. I consider myself perfectly reasonable.

    I’m very glad to hear that, Arlen. :)

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

    i would argue that theology approaches from the opposite angle, positing a theory (of a god), then seeing which facts can be forced into that model.

    Ash, I think Marilynne Robinson said it quite well.

    The churches generally have accepted the idea of evolution with great and understandable calm. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or of Luther, Calvin, and Ignatius of Loyola, or of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, and Martin Luther King, is no Watchmaker. To find him at the end of even the longest chain of being or causality would be to discover that he was a thing (however majestic) among things. Not God, in other words. Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995) declares from its irksomely alliterative title onward that the complex of assertions I have described as Darwinism is vigorously alive. Dennett asks, “If God created and designed all these wonderful things, who created God? Supergod? And who created Supergod? Superdupergod? Or did God create himself? Was it hard work? Did it take time?.” This is my point precisely. It is manifestly not consistent with the nature of God to be accessible to description in such terms. Even Dennett, who appears to have no meaningful acquaintance with religious thought, is clearly aware that to speak of God in this way is absurd.

    It’s not uncommon for people who haven’t read much theology to make the mistake that the old atheist canards are accurate. Most of them in the English language were cribbed from Bertrand Russell who did a bit of cribbing from earlier atheists. Those characterizations are often parodies or taking on the easiest marks. The newest crop of neo-atheists show that their versions are, if anything, less sophisticated than the ones they copied.

  • ash

    hi olvlzl, i am not disagreeing that some/most (difficult to say for definite) religions accept many strains of scientific theory. clearly, most religious people have no problem coexisting with scientific progress and their religious beliefs (as in being able to use benefits of scientific advancement). i also have no problem with deistic presumptions, although i would consider them a) irrelevant to daily existence and b) more in the realm of philosophy rather than theology – especially as theologian approach comes from the explicit assumption of the reality of a god/s, and seeks to study the relationships/attributes of such a predetermined reality. with such an understanding of the term ‘theology’, my question becomes pertinent; if you have a different understanding of the word, please clarify so i can react accordingly.

    the quote from Marilynne Robinson appears to be seeking to define a god as undefinable. fair enough, but this is not the case for much of mainstream western theology, which is primarily concerned with the abrahamic versions of god. perhaps i should have clarified, but i was directly addressing Arlen’s comment, rather than seeking to engage with all mankinds theological musings from all time with my one short comment.

    The newest crop of neo-atheists show that their versions are, if anything, less sophisticated than the ones they copied.

    oh noes! neo-atheists are disproving their own arguments by demonstrating that simplicity arises from complexity rather than the other way round?! small wonder you don’t like them…
    ;)

  • Arlen

    Richard Wade:

    it seemed to be a kind of capping phrase on your other remarks that sound like arguments by majority

    I wouldn’t even mention this except a friend of mine made in interesting comment yesterday in an unrelated conversation that I think might have some value here. She said, (paraphrasing) “Everything that we know we know comes from our senses. If I see a jar of olives, I can’t ever really say, definitively, that the jar of olives exists. I can see that it is there; I can pick it up and roll it around with my hands; I can open it and smell or taste the olives; etc, but if I am the only person whose senses tell them a jar of olives is here, everyone else would think me crazy. If everyone else can see the olives, then I am sane and right with the world.” In a sense, the mere existence of something as mundane as a jar of olives rests on an ad populum argument; likewise, so does all of science.

    I’m not going to stand here and make an adpopulum argument at you, but it is an interesting concept examine from a philosophical distance.

    “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.”

    With nothing but the greatest respect, this is territory we’ve trod already in this thread. Just take a look at the conversation sparked by nowoo in response to his or her question:

    Philosopher David Hume said “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Do you agree?

    ash:

    these are not so much different standards of evidence as different methodologies for examining

    I’m not sure I’m catching the distinction. Certainly, if there’s a corpse laying on a slab no one would contest that a death occurred, however people may well question whether that death was the result of an accident or murder. In fact, evidence and testimony that originates quite distantly in place and time to the scene of the death may reveal the truth (or something close to it). I don’t think, by and large, mainline Christians would say that they know absolutely what happened at the beginning of the universe, in the time of Jesus or Abraham, etc, but most Christians would say that where we are today (in our collective faith) is the result of a centuries-long investigation into the question.

    I honestly think that if there wasn’t any evidence there wouldn’t be any Christians, at least not after a few generations; the marketplace of ideas would weed them out. That’s not a point I really want to argue though, because if we did it would probably just perpetuate some of the circular arguments that we’ve already covered. I do believe that atheists and others would do well to accept (or at least get comfortable with the idea) that Christians believe what they believe based on factors that atheists (almost by definition) will never accept. We are just going to have to either a.) agree to disagree, b.) bash each others’ heads in until only one group is left, or c.) wait each other out until either new evidence is discovered or one group disappears by attrition.

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist:

    …Most of them in the English language were cribbed from Bertrand Russell who did a bit of cribbing from earlier atheists…

    What you’re saying sounds fascinating, and I’m equally intrigued by the Marilynne Robinson quote, but I’m going to honestly admit that this zone of conversation is outside my area of expertise. I’d love to hear more, but I’m likely not going to be able to comment on it intelligently. Please don’t think I’m ignoring you.

    ash:

    The quote from Marilynne Robinson appears to be seeking to define a god as undefinable. fair enough, but this is not the case for much of mainstream western theology

    I respectfully disagree quite strongly with that assertion. While I have not regularly attended a fundamentalist or literalist church, I do have broad experience with mainline denominations. In my experience, almost no one would claim to know the nature of God, and exceptionally few would contend that God’s nature is knowable.

    I would certainly say that God is largely undefinable. The only caveat to God’s undefinability would be that Christians do claim to know how God would have us (as people) act. That certainly doesn’t mean that we all follow through on that very well.

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen,

    “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.”

    With nothing but the greatest respect, this is territory we’ve trod already in this thread. Just take a look at the conversation sparked by nowoo in response to his or her question:
    Philosopher David Hume said “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Do you agree?

    If you think that this territory has been trod to your satisfaction or the limit of your patience then fine, but long after all that you asked me in particular about my standards of evidence, and so I answered you in particular back. I describe my own views with my own words; I don’t say “See so-and-so’s comment.” I worked hard to make that brief statement a clear, accurate and thorough description of my own viewpoint in order to honor your request. If it’s the same old stuff to you I can’t help that. Although you premise with “With nothing but the greatest respect,” your dismissive tone about my response doesn’t sound respectful. I gave you an honest and thoughtful answer to your question. I don’t owe you a brand new, unique, never-been-heard-before answer to your question.

    You also made a statement saying that you think I am inconsistent with my standards of evidence for different aspects of my outlook, and I asked you to tell me what specifically you mean. You have not yet answered.

  • ash

    hi Arlen, right up front, i have no wish to bash your head in, as i’m sure you wouldn’t interest me nearly as much if i did!

    In my experience, almost no one would claim to know the nature of God, and exceptionally few would contend that God’s nature is knowable.

    but…in contesting what god expects of a believer, in using the bible (or other ‘sacred’ texts) as describing gods position on material matters, in making grandiose claims as to a gods omnipotence, benevolence, omniscience, et cetera, theology (yes, ok, i’m addressing mainly mainstream western abrahamic theology) is at the least discussing gods nature and trying to bring it into the realm of the recognisable, if not knowable. add to that the fact that christian theology (specifically) is trying to intepret god from a christian perspective (i.e. making claims on god as triune, jesus as reality, etc.) and you are into the world of god as an understandable ‘thing’. there would also be the amount of believers that describe a god as having a personal relationship with them to take into account, but i’m willing to accept that this is not a general norm. although, again, ‘personal relationship’ assumes a certain degree of knowability (i.e., they’re normally convinced that it is not another religions god or supernatural contestant – for christianity, read ‘devil’ that is communicating).

    exceptionally few would contend that God’s nature is knowable.

    ok, but why then a god?

    Certainly, if there’s a corpse laying on a slab no one would contest that a death occurred, however people may well question whether that death was the result of an accident or murder.

    similarly, that life originated is not in contest, but it seems a lot of enormous leaps to go from ‘we will wait for an explanation’ to ‘there may have been an original cause (creator)’ to ‘ it was a god – specifically, the christian/muslim/jewish god. and he wishes us to behave in x ways.’ if you are willing to go as far as the second (‘there may have been an original cause’) why also is this circumscribed to a god? why not equal or – as Richard mentions for good reason – more emphasis on scientific understanding as to initial cause of life or the existence of our universe?

    the origins of life/creation/our universe may well never be answered in our lifetimes, if ever, but i’m still missing the point as to why this then has to be accredited to a god – especially a particular viewpoint of god with all its inherent standards, judgements and hypocrisy.

  • ash

    I honestly think that if there wasn’t any evidence there wouldn’t be any Christians, at least not after a few generations; the marketplace of ideas would weed them out. That’s not a point I really want to argue though, because if we did it would probably just perpetuate some of the circular arguments that we’ve already covered. I do believe that atheists and others would do well to accept (or at least get comfortable with the idea) that Christians believe what they believe based on factors that atheists (almost by definition) will never accept.

    1) the marketplace of ideas also includes atheism, paganism, witchcraft, hinduism etc., all of which are arguably older than christianity – my point being that the age of an argument says nothing about its’ validity.

    2) i am more than comfortable with the (i think it was Mike c.’s?) idea of arationality – i.e. ideas based on such factors as emotion, intuition, etc. – as governing concepts in personal belief. however, a lot of people with strongly held personal convictions will seek to impose them on others (by means of law, implied threat, violence i.e.). whilst there can be no demonstratable means to convince another of your (generally speaking) beliefs, i am of the opinion it sux to claim others should respect your convictions as sacred (and by implication, uncontestable). i am not saying this applies to you, as you are obviously here, willing to discuss your views. just saying, is all…

  • ash

    re; questions for christians…

    damn, i’m drunk. does this make me a bad person? or just a terrible debater? ;)

  • Richard Wade

    No ash, you’re not a bad person and you’re a fine debater. The alcohol seems to have kicked in sometime between your point number one, which is very good and your point number two, which doesn’t make much sense.
    Go to sleep and have a nice weekend.

    You too, Arlen. Sorry if I was too grumpy.

  • Arlen

    Richard Wade:

    Your dismissive tone about my response doesn’t sound respectful. I gave you an honest and thoughtful answer to your question. I don’t owe you a brand new, unique, never-been-heard-before answer to your question.

    It wasn’t my intent to be dismissive, and I very much appreciate the time and thought you have put into your responses. You have helped me immensely, in the course of this discussion to understand your viewpoint and the viewpoints of other atheists. In rereading my above post, I admit that I may have come across as a little flippant; for that I apologize.

    The reason that I did not put more time into my response is that I felt that I had already gone to good effort to answer almost the exact same question above. I felt that our friendly debate had gotten itself stuck in a loop, and I just wanted to see if you saw things that way as well. Out of respect, I will do my best to respond to your question here, but it probably will not be substantially different from what I said to nowoo.

    “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.”

    I disagree. I believe that claims, period, require evidence, period. If there is evidence to support a claim, then it is probably not particularly extraordinary. I’m not sure why you would imply, now, after for so long insisting on a single, hard standard of evidence, that some claims require more or less evidence than others. I could easily be missing some subtlety in your argument, but the statement that I’ve quoted above would seem to stand in contradiction to what you have previously been arguing.

    More to the point: I think that “extraordinary evidence” is certainly helpful to making one’s case when common perception stands at odds with what one has discovered. If, for example, a scientist discovered that playing basketball caused cancer, people would certainly be disinclined to believe him unless he could produce a mountain of evidence to support his claim. However, even if he had only a modicum of evidence, instead of a mountain, that would not make his discovery any less true.

    I think there is a direct parallel to theism there. I have that modicum of evidence that God exists; I have all that I need to know that it is true. To convince a staunch atheist of that truth, however, I would likely need much, much more evidence.

    Here is where we start bordering back on that ad populum argument: if no one had any opinions about the existence of God (or the carcinogenic properties of basketball) then it is likely that one wouldn’t need much evidence to convince people one way or the other. However, we live in a world where the existence of a higher power is acknowledged as truth by the vast majority of the population. That being the reality, I think that the atheists, not the Christians face the higher burden of proof.

    Ash:

    hi Arlen, right up front, i have no wish to bash your head in

    Thank goodness!

    …theology…is at the least discussing gods nature and trying to bring it into the realm of the recognizable, if not knowable

    That’s true. Christians do a lot of talking about God, but I think it could be more accurately classified as a discussion about God’s instructions to us rather than about the nature of God. Even when the discussion does try to tackle the nature of God, it usually only focuses on some very small part of God’s nature. But I’m really only speaking from my vantage point here, if there are other Christians whose experiences with this kind of thing differ from my own it would be informative to hear.

    ok, but why then a god?

    I’m not sure what you’re asking, sorry.

    that life originated is not in contest, but it seems a lot of enormous leaps to go from ‘we will wait for an explanation’ to ‘there may have been an original cause (creator)’ to ‘ it was a god

    Certainly no one debates the existence of life. I don’t think that many people would debate that life therefore must have come into existence somehow. Where the debate starts to happen is surrounding how life started. I think it is a false dichotomy to say that there are only “God did it” and “Let’s wait and see” camps.

    why not equal or… more emphasis on scientific understanding as to initial cause of life or the existence of our universe?

    I’m more than happy to give science the final word on what went down. I can’t think of a single scientific theory that I would refute for any reason. I absolutely believe in evolution, for example, though I don’t know whether God had a hand in making us sapient or whether that just happened randomly. I’m not sure why you think that I, or other Christians, wouldn’t give science equal footing. So far that kind of closed-mindedness has only come from literalists and fundamentalists.

    i’m still missing the point as to why this then has to be accredited to a god

    It doesn’t; that’s why there are atheists.

    especially a particular viewpoint of god with all its inherent standards, judgments and hypocrisy.

    It is silly to say that theism is necessarily judgmental and hypocritical.

    the marketplace of ideas also includes atheism, paganism, witchcraft, hinduism etc., all of which are arguably older than christianity

    Yes it does.

    my point being that the age of an argument says nothing about its’ validity

    That’s exactly the point I was trying to make to Richard Wade.

    i am more than comfortable with the… idea of arationality… as governing concepts in personal belief.

    Why do you feel that way?

    a lot of people with strongly held personal convictions will seek to impose them on others… i am of the opinion it sux to claim others should respect your convictions as sacred…

    I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I believe that it is critically important for atheists, mainline Christians, and like-minded others to fight against the anti-science, pro-oppression ideology pushed by many literalists and fundamentalists.

    damn, i’m drunk. does this make me a bad person? or just a terrible debater?

    Neither, but it’s probably best (in general) to avoid debating religion or politics when inebriated. I’ve found that I’m somewhat less eloquent and somewhat more inclined to challenge my opponent to drunken fisticuffs.

    Richard Wade:

    Go to sleep and have a nice weekend. You too, Arlen. Sorry if I was too grumpy.

    Not at all. I did have a very nice weekend; I hope you did as well.

  • ash

    Arlen,

    If, for example, a scientist discovered that playing basketball caused cancer, people would certainly be disinclined to believe him unless he could produce a mountain of evidence to support his claim. However, even if he had only a modicum of evidence, instead of a mountain, that would not make his discovery any less true.

    so, a scientist that has a modicum of evidence that god exists and a scientist that has a modicum of evidence that god does not exist have both reached a true discovery? ummm…

    I have that modicum of evidence that God exists; I have all that I need to know that it is true. To convince a staunch atheist of that truth, however, I would likely need much, much more evidence.

    agreed, but it undermines your previous argument.

    However, we live in a world where the existence of a higher power is acknowledged as truth by the vast majority of the population. That being the reality, I think that the atheists, not the Christians face the higher burden of proof.

    previous societies have variously believed, for example, that anyone of different colour or sex were inferior, majority assumption does not equal truth. also, it’s more complicated than christian vs atheist claims, it’s christian vs muslim vs hindu vs buddhist vs sikhi vs jewish vs etc vs atheist claims. also, i have no problems with deist or pantheist claims, it’s the idea of a) specific doctrine and b) relevance of a god/s that i have huge issue with, and those claims i have every right to ask for proof for. and yes, asking for proof as to a specific doctrine and it’s relevance falls firmly with the theist to demonstrate if it is to affect my life in the slightest. which it clearly does, politically, socially and other.

    Christians do a lot of talking about God, but I think it could be more accurately classified as a discussion about God’s instructions to us rather than about the nature of God.

    again, as soon as this is done from a particular religious viewpoint, it is discussing the nature of god – would a christian discussion on god’s instructions include the non-existant instruction on the accumulation of good karma for re-birth into samsara? there is at the least an underlying assumption about the nature of god there.

    “ok, but why then a god?”

    I’m not sure what you’re asking, sorry.

    if god’s nature is unknowable, why does it even come into consideration?
    and why a god rather than a multitude of invisible pixies, magic dust, two-headed griffin, etc.? could it possibly be because if you label your (whoever) belief as being in a ‘god’ – which, lacking definition, could be construed as any of the above – it gains a certain amount of respect and plausibility? i also should’ve asked, why a christian version of god?

    I think it is a false dichotomy to say that there are only “God did it” and “Let’s wait and see” camps.

    i’d agree, but i didn’t say that, sorry if i was obtuse. many religious people do make that leap however, and choosing to understand, relate to and worship a particular god will often go hand in hand with choosing to believe in a certain version of creation myth, or at least an implication of ‘only my god could be responsible for all this’.

    I’m not sure why you think that I, or other Christians, wouldn’t give science equal footing. So far that kind of closed-mindedness has only come from literalists and fundamentalists.

    also sorry if it seemed i was directly accussing you of not being able to integrate both science and religion into your worldview. some other christians (a majority of american christians, if you believe the stats) do not give science an equal footing when it comes to the age of the earth and evolution. and although i hope i’m not one of them, being close-minded and fundamentalist is not limited to theists.

    It is silly to say that theism is necessarily judgmental and hypocritical.

    when i said “a particular viewpoint of god” i meant specific religions, with all their doctrines, schisms, various authorities (written and otherwise) and interpretations of such. please feel free to name a religion, and i shall do my best to justify my statement, or, if you find one this cannot be applied to (i suppose it’s possible), i will admit my mistake.

    I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I believe that it is critically important for atheists, mainline Christians, and like-minded others to fight against the anti-science, pro-oppression ideology pushed by many literalists and fundamentalists.

    if you’re american, again arguing the stats, there’s a debate as to whether ‘mainline’ christians would be with us, but other than that, i’m totally with you on this.

  • ash

    “i am more than comfortable with the… idea of arationality… as governing concepts in personal belief.”

    Why do you feel that way?

    because clearly otherwise sane, rational people choose to believe in god/s and various versions of religion; it seems bizarre to assume that they can be otherwise and then, what?, compartmentalize their complete insanity? especially when religion is claimed to affect all areas of their life? doesn’t make sense…

    for me, arationality would explain this phenomena, as it’s not necessarily an abandonment of logic and reason, rather it’s a difference in emphasis on investigative means. it has it’s own problems, as it can lead to any courses of belief and action as ‘feeling’ right and viable, no matter how hurtful and hateful they may be, but any logical rational model can be capable of the same if the wrong information is fed in. i’m also mainly using arationality as a means to comprehend religious understandings rather than endorse or judge the truth of such.

    would you see this as a good model from which to understand religious perspectives?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Arlen,

    I agree with most of what you say (I really appreciate how much thought you put into your reponses) except for a couple of things:

    However, we live in a world where the existence of a higher power is acknowledged as truth by the vast majority of the population.

    I’m not sure about that one. It is my experience that most self-proclaimed Christians I know have no idea what it is that they believe. I have not met very many thinking and questioning Christians when it comes to their beliefs. I have met, however, countless Christians who are only Christians because that’s what they think they should claim to be… because that’s all they know to do. What is acknowledged is the belief in the higher power, not the higher power itself. It is only the hope in a higher power that is true for the majority, in my opinion.

    That’s why I believe that it is critically important for atheists, mainline Christians, and like-minded others to fight against the anti-science, pro-oppression ideology pushed by many literalists and fundamentalists.

    Who are these mainline Christians? Arent’ they the ones that I described above? I don’t know if they are all that “like-minded.” Am I being too cynical or judgmental? Or… perhaps the like-minded part has nothing to do with their religion. Maybe the statement should be rephrased to say, “It’s critically important for like-minded people to fight together against the anti-science...etc.”

    i’m also mainly using arationality as a means to comprehend religious understandings rather than endorse or judge the truth of such.

    Can’t argue with that, Ash. I do appreciate your willingness to try and understand religion. I can’t speak for Arlen or other Christians here, but I am trying to do the same as well.

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen, thank you for your continuing patience.
    I think we can settle the last of these issues and for those left undone, we can come to an amicable impasse.

    Let’s put one of them to bed. I concede and agree with you that the age of a claim should have nothing to do with it’s apparent validity. The fact that a claim has been made for centuries without acceptable evidence should not make it dismissible, as I was saying earlier, and that fact should also not make give it any more credibility, as you have agreed with ash. So I think we can agree that the length of the beard on a claim should not be brought up as an argument for or against it.

    That phrase “acceptable evidence” is where your and my standards and definitions will probably remain incompatible enough to warrant having to agree to disagree.

    You are right that the conversation is beginning to go in circles and it seems to circle around and around the question of what is acceptable evidence. The problem is there is no universal standard. One man’s mountain of evidence may be another man’s modicum and vice versa. One man’s evidence may not even be seen as evidence at all by someone else.

    The reason that the quality or strength of evidence, (such as is it “extraordinary” or not is important to me is because every claim brings with it a built-in credibility factor, such as my example of claiming I have a dollar in my pocket or a million dollars, or your example of someone claiming that basketball causes cancer. It’s all about how convincing is the evidence compared to the apparent credibility of the claim. All claims are not equally believable/dismissible. My “modicum” of showing you one dollar to support my claim of having a million is probably not convincing even though as you point out, my claim of having a million might still be true. We have slightly different angles on what evidence does. You seem to focus on whether evidence indicates truth, and I seem to focus on whether evidence is convincing. A claim may be true without my knowing it but if the evidence is not convincing compared to the claim’s intrinsic credibility, then I won’t be convinced.

    So you understand me exactly right when you say,

    I think there is a direct parallel to theism there. I have that modicum of evidence that God exists; I have all that I need to know that it is true. To convince a staunch atheist of that truth, however, I would likely need much, much more evidence.

    I thought we were getting to a good stopping point until you said this:

    Here is where we start bordering back on that ad populum argument: if no one had any opinions about the existence of God (or the carcinogenic properties of basketball) then it is likely that one wouldn’t need much evidence to convince people one way or the other. However, we live in a world where the existence of a higher power is acknowledged as truth by the vast majority of the population. That being the reality, I think that the atheists, not the Christians face the higher burden of proof.

    Wellllll, that isn’t on the border of ad populum, that is right in the middle of the country. You are implying again that the large number of people sharing belief in a claim is evidence in support of that claim, and then you make the astonishing assertion that those in the minority who don’t share that belief must come up with evidence of so great a weight to overcome that so-called “evidence” by popularity. I’m sorry I can never accept that argument and I can’t understand why you continue to try it. It is child’s play to demonstrate the fallacy of argument by popularity. It has been done hundreds of times:

    Everybody in the world assumed that Aristotle was right when he said that heavy things fall faster than light things. All it took to prove everyone in the world wrong was for one heretic to drop a wood ball and a lead ball at the same time.

    As I pointed out before, you believe in several things that when you count the opinions of the whole world are minority beliefs, such as evolution. You may not have realized it but you are significantly in the minority there and so you are fighting against ad populum. Don’t practice it.

    The other thing you should keep in mind when you say that atheists bear a higher burden of proof is that almost no atheists make any claim at all against the existence of God. I don’t make any counter claim, I’m just not convinced of your claim or that of billions of other people. How can I come up with evidence for a claim that I am not making? I sit watching the clouds roll by and folks come to me making claims about God and what he wants me to do. They make the claims so I politely ask for their evidence.

    So Arlen let me finish by saying that I completely respect your personal, subjective reasons for your belief. It’s not even that I think my standards for evidence are higher or better; they’re simply different. I only wish that just as we now agree that the age of a claim should not be presented as an argument pro or con, you could see that the popularity of a claim should also not be presented as an argument pro or con.

  • Arlen

    Ash:

    so, a scientist that has a modicum of evidence that god exists and a scientist that has a modicum of evidence that god does not exist have both reached a true discovery?

    Only one of them will be right, but the one who is will likely know it before he has enough evidence to convince a skeptic.

    majority assumption does not equal truth

    Of course not, it just means that those in the minority face an uphill battle if they want to convince others of what they believe.

    it’s more complicated than christian vs atheist claims, it’s christian vs muslim vs hindu vs buddhist vs sikhi vs jewish vs etc vs atheist claims

    Of course it is. I can only speak as a Christian, though, so that’s where most of my arguments will come from. We continue to exist within a marketplace of all sorts of ideas. Over time, some flourish and some fade. For whatever reason, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. have not faded while thousands of other philosophies have. That would seem to suggest (though certainly not prove) that they have more value than other, extinct theologies.

    those claims i have every right to ask for proof for

    I think you have every right to ask for proof of any claim. Furthermore, I think you have the right to reject the “proof” supporting any claim. Just remember that your rejection of the evidence, however justified in your mind, does not necessarily negate its validity either in general or for others.

    asking for proof as to a specific doctrine and it’s relevance falls firmly with the theist to demonstrate if it is to affect my life in the slightest. which it clearly does, politically, socially and other.

    Abstractly, if theists have to prove their point for it to affect your life, and you admit that it does affect your life (politically, socially, etc.), then doesn’t that mean that they have proven it? ; )

    Specifically, we can argue about to whom the burden of proof falls or should fall all day, but that would overlook the important fact that the argument is moot from the start. It just doesn’t matter. I clearly don’t have any proof that will convince you; you don’t seem to have any proof that would convince me. So until some new evidence is discovered, we’re just going to be in this stand-off forever; it would be nice if we weren’t unpleasant to one another in the interim.

    as soon as this is done from a particular religious viewpoint, it is discussing the nature of god… there is at the least an underlying assumption about the nature of god there.

    Okay, sure. That’s probably true.

    why a God rather than a multitude of invisible pixies, magic dust, two-headed griffin, etc.? …why a Christian version of God?

    I think to ask that question presupposes that God doesn’t exist or that the concept of God is fairly mutable. I have seen no evidence for the existence of pixies or magic dust, but I have seen evidence of God; therefore I am inclined to believe in the latter, but not the former. Maybe God looks like a pixie or a bag of magic dust, I don’t know. Either way, I’m going to continue calling whatever entity it is “God” for the sake of convenience; if “God” truly is benevolent, I think I’ll be forgiven for mixing up my nomenclature.

    choosing to understand, relate to and worship a particular god will often go hand in hand with choosing to believe in a certain version of creation myth, or at least an implication of ‘only my god could be responsible for all this’.

    The opposite is also true: choosing not to believe in God goes hand in hand with believing that God could in no way be responsible for the universe. I think it is fair to say that both are assumptions made with little basis on scientific evidence. I hope one day we’ll know more.

    some other Christians (a majority of American Christians, if you believe the stats) do not give science an equal footing when it comes to the age of the earth and evolution.

    I have heard those numbers and they can be pretty frustrating. That’s why I think it is so important that atheists and mainline Christians work together to combat head-in-the-sand thinking. Luckily, we have time on our side; I think a whole lot of folks are uneasy with the idea of carbon-dating, etc. in large part because they just aren’t familiar with it. It is not unreasonable to think that as the old folks die off, those left will be more familiar with the massive leaps science has taken over the last few decades.

    although i hope i’m not one of them, being close-minded and fundamentalist is not limited to theists.

    That is certainly true, but I wouldn’t accuse you of that.

    would you see this as a good model from which to understand religious perspectives?

    I’m tempted to say no, but that’s really an avenue of discussion that’s outside my area of expertise. I’ll leave that up to more philosophical minds than my own.

    Linda:

    What is acknowledged is the belief in the higher power, not the higher power itself. It is only the hope in a higher power that is true for the majority, in my opinion.

    I can’t say with certainty that your statement is untrue, but I am skeptical. I just don’t believe that momentum alone is enough to get people out of bed and into church on Sunday morning for more than a few years. I sincerely hope that your perception of the church in this regard has been tainted by your own circumstances.

    Who are these mainline Christians? Aren’t they the ones that I described above? I don’t know if they are all that “like-minded.” Am I being too cynical or judgmental?

    Again, I sincerely hope that you are being too cynical. My experience would indicate that you are, but I can’t prove that my experience (or yours) is representative.

    Maybe the statement should be rephrased to say, “It’s critically important for like-minded people to fight together against the anti-science…etc.”

    That version would certainly work as well and be no less true in my mind. I absolutely agree that people of all faiths (including atheism) need to get together on this issue.

    Richard Wade:

    I think we can agree that the length of the beard on a claim should not be brought up as an argument for or against it.

    Agreed.

    That phrase “acceptable evidence” is where your and my standards and definitions will probably remain incompatible enough to warrant having to agree to disagree.

    Agreed.

    You seem to focus on whether evidence indicates truth, and I seem to focus on whether evidence is convincing.

    Agreed; that’s a nice way of putting it.

    You are implying again that the large number of people sharing belief in a claim is evidence in support of that claim

    That was not my intention. I simply believe that when it is the case that lots of people believe a claim (true or not) those who do not believe the claim (rightfully or otherwise) will have a hard time convincing those that do.

    I only wish that just as we now agree that the age of a claim should not be presented as an argument pro or con, you could see that the popularity of a claim should also not be presented as an argument pro or con.

    That is not an argument that I ever intended to make, I absolutely concede it if I did.

    I very much appreciate the conversation that we’ve been having here, and I thank you very much for your time and opinions. I have come to understand you much better, and I am thankful for that as well. If you ever have any more questions about my beliefs or if you would ever like a friendly theist to try to help unravel something seemingly crazy that another theist has said, I’m here for you.

  • Richard Wade

    The appreciation, gratitude and better understanding is mutual, Arlen. I will definitely keep your offer in mind.

  • ash

    hi Arlen,

    We continue to exist within a marketplace of all sorts of ideas. Over time, some flourish and some fade. For whatever reason, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. have not faded while thousands of other philosophies have. That would seem to suggest (though certainly not prove) that they have more value than other, extinct theologies.

    or, that some philosophies have been propagated by means of violence and imposition (and in some cases, doggedly defended, no matter to value or truth, as a refusal of submission to such means).

    “asking for proof as to a specific doctrine and it’s relevance falls firmly with the theist to demonstrate if it is to affect my life in the slightest. which it clearly does, politically, socially and other.”

    Abstractly, if theists have to prove their point for it to affect your life, and you admit that it does affect your life (politically, socially, etc.), then doesn’t that mean that they have proven it? ; )

    lol, but then i could argue that by that tenet, if i believe someone should be punched in the face, and i punch them in the face, i have proved that they deserve it. you may be relieved to hear it’s a chain of logic that i don’t believe holds much merit.

    So until some new evidence is discovered, we’re just going to be in this stand-off forever; it would be nice if we weren’t unpleasant to one another in the interim.

    if it were only decent people such as you appear to be, i would be happy to live in a respectful stand-off; unfortunatly there are some people and some views that i will always be moved to challenge, and sometimes aggressively so. plus, i love debating – and i’d far rather do it with someone who has a well reasoned + thought out position that they can present intelligently and coherently.

    Either way, I’m going to continue calling whatever entity it is “God” for the sake of convenience; if “God” truly is benevolent, I think I’ll be forgiven for mixing up my nomenclature.

    fairy nuff, although as i’ve said elsewhere, whilst i can understand deism + pantheism, i still don’t understand why people align themselves with a specific religion?

    The opposite is also true: choosing not to believe in God goes hand in hand with believing that God could in no way be responsible for the universe. I think it is fair to say that both are assumptions made with little basis on scientific evidence. I hope one day we’ll know more.

    i’d personally go with ‘no way’ on many specific religious versions, but just ‘unlikely’ or ‘irrelevant’ for a god per se. these stances seem a little more in keeping with ‘basis on scientific evidence’, and thus a little less hypocritical than i would otherwise, as you rightly point out, be.

    if you would ever like a friendly theist to try to help unravel something seemingly crazy that another theist has said, I’m here for you.

    be afraid, be very afraid…! sometimes it just helps knowing that people like you are out there too, ya know?! ;)

  • Arlen

    Ash:
    I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get back with you; I had a very busy (in a good way) holiday weekend.

    or, that some philosophies have been propagated by means of violence and imposition (and in some cases, doggedly defended, no matter to value or truth, as a refusal of submission to such means).

    That’s certainly true, historically, and is certainly still true in certain regions, but I’m approaching the argument largely from a “here and now” standpoint. As I’ve said above, it is definitely a bad thing when one religion, ideology, or perspective dominates all others through fear or violence; in these cases the marketplace of ideas breaks down and the consequences are devastating for science, society, and religion.

    if i believe someone should be punched in the face, and i punch them in the face, i have proved that they deserve it. you may be relieved to hear it’s a chain of logic that i don’t believe holds much merit.

    Eek! My face thanks you for your disbelief!

    if it were only decent people such as you appear to be, i would be happy to live in a respectful stand-off; unfortunately there are some people and some views that i will always be moved to challenge, and sometimes aggressively so

    It’s certainly important to do so; I only ask that you don’t confuse the destructive, divisive beliefs that held by some specific people as an intractable byproduct of religion in general. The way I see it, religion is not the problem, imperialism is the problem, and the two have a history of alliance that I would very much like to see abandoned.

    whilst i can understand deism + pantheism, i still don’t understand why people align themselves with a specific religion

    I think that virtually all religions are attempts to explain the influence of and evidence for the divine. The choice of an individual religion from the myriad options is an intensely personal decision that I can only hope is the result of a concerted examination various beliefs, philosophies, etc. and based on the success of each faith’s standpoint to explain what that individual has observed and address the questions that individual may have. That’s pretty much how it worked for me, anyway.

    be afraid, be very afraid…! sometimes it just helps knowing that people like you are out there too, ya know?! ;)

    Yeah… wow… I’ve considered posting on that thread and illustrating how and why my own philosophy differs from that guy’s, but I really think I’d rather just let that thread die as quickly as humanly possible. I applaud his enthusiasm for his faith, but he seems to have some major issues to work out for himself before he starts preaching to anyone else.

  • Richard Wade

    Arlen,

    The way I see it, religion is not the problem, imperialism is the problem, and the two have a history of alliance that I would very much like to see abandoned.

    I hope so but I’m not going to hold my breath. They seem to be like iron and magnets. It reminds me of the “guns don’t kill people, people do” routine. One makes the other easier. The alliance is on the rise even in this country of supposed “separation of church and state.”

    The choice of an individual religion from the myriad options is an intensely personal decision that I can only hope is the result of a concerted examination various beliefs, philosophies, etc. and based on the success of each faith’s standpoint to explain what that individual has observed and address the questions that individual may have. That’s pretty much how it worked for me, anyway.

    You are very rare. My guess would be that 99.99% of the people in the world who adhere to any particular religious view do so because they were born into it by family or community. The content of the teaching is not nearly so important to them as is their conforming and obedience to it. Indeed, the kind of careful examination you have practiced is seen as very dangerous by most clerics and adherents in the various religions, even in the West. The kind of “faith” characterized by the unexamined mind is portrayed as a virtue. You would be seen as a highly suspicious character in most religious communities around the world. You think too much. You may have come up with the right answers that would satisfy the religious folks around you, but you shouldn’t have asked the questions in the first place. They’ll keep an eye on you.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard said to Arlen:

    You are very rare.
    …You would be seen as a highly suspicious character in most religious communities around the world. You think too much. You may have come up with the right answers that would satisfy the religious folks around you, but you shouldn’t have asked the questions in the first place. They’ll keep an eye on you.

    Yes, but that 0.01% is the one that will make a difference. It only takes one Darwin, one Ghandi, and one Martin Luther King, Jr. to start a revolution, a movement, a paradigm shift in the way the future generations think. Oh, yeah… come to think of it, one Jesus! ;-)

  • Richard Wade

    Linda, good point. I salute your indomitable optimism.

  • Ingerievigh

    Goodday I’m new here
    And it looks like a interesting forum, so just wanted to say hello! :) :):)
    And looking forward to participating.
    Going on vacation for a few days, so i’ll be back

  • http://www.sk9s.com The Dogfather

    I am new here and find it to be very stimulating. I look forward to more. I have a couple question:
    If there are , lets say, 100 religions in the world as we know it, and lets assume that 1 is actually right, which one is? Are others condemned for having another faith?
    If for every bit of matter there is anti-matter and we are made of matter, is the a anti-you somewhere? Would it make your religion and anti-religion as you know it?

  • rk

    Question: Does feeling that something is true count as proof?

    E.g. You read The Bible and get a wonderful feeling it is true. The spirit has born witness of The Bible’s truth. Is this valid reasoning? What if someone else gets a creepy bad feeling while reading The Bible?