When Atheists ‘Act Like Jesus’

It’s always interesting to hear Christians giving us credit where it’s due…

Like this blogger, Mason, who speaks in Christianese but is trying to grapple with the fact that atheists can be kind and generous despite what the church might have him believe…

It’s become pretty common that I’ll be involved in a deep discussion about faith, politics, or ethics and will end up coming to the defense not of my fellow Christians but of my atheist/agnostic friends.

Not because I agree with their agnosticism, but because they seem to be telling the Story more faithfully than many Christians are.

This can pose a bit of a dilemma though, especially when Christians often assume you can only be truly loving and gracious if you’re “saved”…

If I’m behind a pulpit preaching a message of exclusion and superiority while my atheist neighbor is inviting a co-worker over for Christmas dinner because that person’s family rejected them for their lifestyle and they have no one to feast with, who is acting more like Jesus?

Sometimes the people who reject the music end up singing the song better than we do.

Well, it’s not about acting like Jesus. Many atheists do lots of volunteer work, give plenty to charity, donate our blood during this life and our organs after we die, and we help out people whenever we can. But we don’t always do it with groups of atheists, so it often goes under the radar.

In short, though, it’s about acting like kind, decent human beings.

It’s amazing how religion can so often get in the way of that.

(Thanks to Brett for the link)

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The "Eh"theist

    It’s funny how christians want to take credit for everything. I was talking with a catholic guy the other day and he made the argument that any good done by anyone is the result of god putting natural law in everyone’s heart. So any good I do is all credit to god.

    I listed off all the assumptions he had to accept to make that statement and he just smiled stupidly and said it was still true.

    I pointed out that with his understanding of things that god was the source of evil and that without such a god, people would develop their own standards of behaviour, much like we actually see today. At that point he reverted to “god can’t be evil, because god says so” while still trying to claim all the good done in the world for god.

    It’s ridiculous the philosophical knots believers will tie themselves into to try and make their god look good.

  • http://www.mycultlife.com Lisa

    I think it’s interesting that for years I was taught in church that atheists were nothing but representatives of the “devil.” I even hear my mom saying something about atheists can’t be trusted because they’re not “for God” so they’re “against her.”

    It’s incredibly sad that anyone who isn’t 100% “sold out” for Jesus is automatically a bad person and equated with evil intentions and actions. This is unfortunately small-minded and dangerous thinking.

    It’s also similar to the exclusivity of most extremist religious groups.

  • Jeff

    That’s nice. So, if I invite a Christian to dinner, does that mean I won’t go to hell?

  • phira

    I wouldn’t call it “acting like Jesus,” since that assumes that doing good deeds and giving to charity is something that Jesus invented. He probably got the ideas from, say, being Jewish or something like that …

  • http://www.bdkeller.com Brett Keller

    Thanks for posting this, Hemant. I think one response I had to this (and hope some of your other readers will have to) is “hey, it’s good that there are Christians out there who don’t assume we’re bad, or write us off.” Low standard, I know, but still a good thing to recognize.
    As a former Christian (one of my Christian friends shared this with me, which is how I came to share it with you) I know that we’d take stories like this — if it happened the other way around, where an atheist was noticed something nice a Christian did — as little victories. This is a little victory for “us,” the non-religious, because it means this guy knows some atheists. The first step to not thinking of someone only as stereotypes is to actually know an atheist! Count this as a small victory.

  • Barbara

    There is all kinds of wrong in what he stated and he won’t see or understand what it is. This really is no compliment to anyone, just further exposure of the ignorance of religious belief.

  • stevesie

    This is what organized Humanism does– out-philanthropies theists and shows the world that morality is not a subset of religion. When we put our money where our mouths are and make ourselves visible, people will be more inclined to step away from religion and walk towards rational life philosophies. Even Christians are beginning to see this.

  • Claudia

    Hmmm maybe it’s the Christmas spirit (heh) but I’m inclined to take this guy at face value. No, I don’t call being a generally decent human being being “Jesus like” but he’s just using the terminology that is familiar to him and those like him.

    I think he’s making a very valid call to his co-religionists to judge people by their acts and not their labels, and to realize that merely being “saved” does not make you like Jesus (Christianese for “good”).

    It’s not easy to stand up in front of your own community and call it on its bullshit, and I commend him for doing so, even when I don’t share his basic assumptions about the origins/nature of goodness.

  • Jeff

    Brett, if you can get Mason to come over here and say, “I don’t think you’re all going to hell” – then I’ll see it positively.

  • http://www.youratheistneighbor.blogspot.com keystothekid

    I like what Christopher Hitchens would say to this. At least, this is what he says to Douglas Wilson in their documentary Collision.

    So, for thousands of years humankind was just running around pillaging, murdering and raping itself, yet it managed to survive, and then, all of a sudden, POOF! God shows up and gives us morality two thousand years ago. History shows us that cultures who practice self defeating ideas (cannibalism, incest, etc) tend to die out rather quickly.

    Man gave god his morality, not the other way around.

    This might be seen as a compliment, it may well be a very tiny stepping stone. First, they realize we don’t eat babies (at least not all the time). Of course, they’ll say that we’re acting “Christian,” but maybe, just maybe, one day they’ll realize there are good people out there who owe nothing to Christ or any other religious figure. Doubtful, but. . .

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Good. I’m glad that they can recognise a problem with their belief system. Let’s hope that they can change it to fit the evidence.

  • Melissa

    I do appreciate the point he’s trying to make. Many Christians are quick to defend other Christians regardless of their actions, and disregard any “good” actions by those who are not believers of their particular brand.
    I suppose I see his point of view as refreshing compared to the standard Christian line of thought vs. atheists. I don’t see anything wrong with the way he said it. It’s nice to see it being acknowledged, at least.

  • Jeff

    Let’s hope that they can change it to fit the evidence.

    Yeah, that’ll happen.

  • Jason Jenkins

    “Eh”theist: tell your Catholic friend that Romans, chapter 1, says that God does the opposite of putting goodness into the hearts of those who don’t acknowledge him or give him his due.

  • jose

    I think “act like Jesus” or “act like X” is a bad advice, no matter how good and admirable and even holy X may be. Role models are for people without an identity of their own.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    It’s because most atheists and agnostics don’t have an agenda of either converting someone to their organized religion or wanting that guaranteed pass into heaven.

  • Shawn

    Many atheists do lots of volunteer work, give plenty to charity, donate our blood during this life and our organs after we die

    I have a blood donor appointment tomorrow, at a church. Do we call it even? :)

  • Mr Z

    WOW, Barbara touched on the truth above, but didn’t get it full on. What the OP is on about is that some non-believers are good and honest and compassionate. These are things that the Christian theology teaches. The poster is coming from a point of view that such is supposed to flow from belief and their problem is that some non-believers do it better than so called Christians.

    Here we need to say “Good without god, millions are” and follow up with the results of a recent poll that shows that on average non-believers are more knowledgeable about Christianity than Christians are… for a reason. We have studied it and came to a logical conclusion: it is false and cannot lead where it says it does. Even though it spouts good deeds, it does not lead to them. All those Christians who ARE good, are good on their own and gods had nothing to do with it. There is the real truth.

  • lebce

    I’m a ‘sceptic believer’, which means that I accept that there may be a god or even gods but I reject that the ‘supernatural’–whatever that may be–should be thought of as being good in a moral sense. Good and evil are human attributes, that I know for sure and atheist are doing much better that true believers in that realm.

  • allison

    I’m glad that Mason has noticed an issue here and is trying to grapple with it. It’s a start, and his view on this will likely evolve as he continues to grapple with the issue. He’s saying that we seem to be doing okay, even better than many Christians, at being good even without God. That’s not a bad place for him to start!!

    By “acting more like Jesus” he doesn’t mean that we’re emulating Jesus, just that we’re acting more like he supposes Jesus would than those Christians he’s commenting about are doing. He’s asking those who share his worldview through his faith if they can adjust and use the words in their story to act more like we do.

    There’s obviously still a way to go from here, but one has to start somewhere. We’ll see if it’s one step forward and two steps back or one step forward that’s the beginning of a walk across the room…..

  • Richard Wade

    The man tipped his hat to us, and he took a risk to critique his own ranks. I’m not going to quibble about whether he still has some misconceptions about us or his own beliefs. I appreciate his intention.

    You’ve all heard the story about the little boy who got a pile of horse shit for a present, and he was ecstatic because he was convinced there was a pony buried somewhere inside.

    A lesser known story is about a few of my colleagues who, when given a pony, glumly see nothing but the future pile of horse shit inside.

  • stevesie

    Very nicely put Richard. Thanks for that comment, I’m going to hold on to that analogy.

  • flawedprefect

    Agreed with Richard: he acknowledged what we’ve been saying all along: we ARE good without God. In his own words, he’s called us more Christian than some Christians he knows.

    It is a very large step, and I for one am grateful for the recognition.

  • gsw

    The real problem with christianity, is that somewhere along the way (poss. 300+ AD), they stopped following Jesus the life-giver and became fixated with Jesus the sacrificial lamb.

    Before then, the symbol of the christians was a fish – the symbol of life, food and heaven on earth – where everyone is fed.

    Take over the cross – symbol of torture and suffering – eating fish is replaced by ritual cannibalism – and from then on the whole thing goes downhill.

    No more need to actually follow the teachings of a good man, who talked of creating a heaven on earth, brotherhood of man, end of suffering, etc.
    Now they eat his body, drink his blood, wallow in his death, in sacrifice and torture.

    They have relocated heaven on earth to some place after death and hell went with it.
    All for power and money and immunity from arrest.

    There never was a god & Jesus never claimed he was one. He claimed to be a son of man and taught that with less selfishness and a bit of hard work, this planet could be a beautiful place.
    Not a religion, but a true ideology!

    Sorry for the rant, but I feel better now (Atheists can, if they so choose, follow the teachings without the mumbo jumbo).

  • Jeff

    A lesser known story is about a few of my colleagues who, when given a pony, glumly see nothing but the future pile of horse shit inside.

    Meh – doesn’t change my mind. Salvific exclusivism is, for me, the line of demarcation. First, let him say non-Christians don’t go to hell – then we can talk. Until then, I’m not impressed.

  • Mike

    Meh – doesn’t change my mind. Salvific exclusivism is, for me, the line of demarcation. First, let him say non-Christians don’t go to hell – then we can talk. Until then, I’m not impressed.

    I am a Christian and I will say it. I won’t even begin to pretend to know the actual numbers, but I would guess an equal fraction of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists (well maybe not Buddhists), etc. as atheists will be going to hell.

    But, as a progressive Christian, I am not about to say anything definitive about heaven/hell in an afterlife sense (or the act of “going there”). I am willing to wager that the existential heaven/hell we create for ourselves relates pretty closely to how closely our personal life philosophies align with those of the man Joshua ben Joseph, a.k.a. the Christ.

    Now, can we talk?

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Mike:

    Hell is described – in the Bible – as a place of eternal torture. What could an atheist possibly ever have done in their entire life that would warrant eternal torture? It’s a brutal philosophy, that you would believe in a god who would condemn a person to an eternity of pain just because they choose to look at the world around them and follow the reasonable science about it.

    I’m an atheist, but I was a Christian when I was younger. I have been raised with respect ingrained into me. I always respect my fellow man, to a limit even further than I’ve seen from some Christians. I always keep my promises, even when they result in my discomfort. It tears me apart right now that I can’t be honest with my family re: my atheism and my relationship because I don’t know if they’d react well.

    Do you think I deserve an eternity of torture? Your Bible sure says I do.

  • Jeff

    I would guess an equal fraction of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists (well maybe not Buddhists), etc. as atheists will be going to hell… Now, can we talk?

    Er… no. You really rather missed the point.

    Also, for my money, there is no such thing as “progressive” Christianity. I used to argue about this with Hemant’s friend, Mike Clawson, who fancies himself a “progressive” evangelical (or did, last time I checked). He (like a lot of you) claimed that fundamentalism is a recent innovation. My reply has been and continues to be that while fundamentalism as a movement is only about a century old, the things today’s fundamentalists believe – substitutionary atonement, salvific exclusivism, eternal damnation – reflect what most Christians have believed for most of the past two millennia.

  • Inthewater

    The fact that Christians believe that a person who rapes and tortures, then asks for forgiveness and is accepted into heaven is better off than a non-believer that lives an amazing life, helping others and caring for people has always just blown my mind.

    As long as that is still a core belief, I can’t take what a Christian says very seriously. Even if it is a compliment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    I agree with Brett on this. Yeah, they’re still crediting god but the fact that he’s vocally recognizing Atheists come in good people too is no small step forward. It’s a start. Let’s say thank you politely and accept the acknowledgement that we aren’t evil-doing, baby-eating assholes.

    It’s not easy to stand up in front of your own community and call it on its bullshit, and I commend him for doing so, even when I don’t share his basic assumptions about the origins/nature of goodness.

    Exactly. I mean what do they have to do for us to acknowledge open-mindedness? Denounce their faith? Is that the only thing we’ll accept? If so, than we’re as bad as we claim they are.

    No, I’ve never heard that story before, Richard, but I love the analogy. So much better than the glass is half full thing.

    The real problem with christianity, is that somewhere along the way (poss. 300+ AD), they stopped following Jesus the life-giver and became fixated with Jesus the sacrificial lamb.

    Before then, the symbol of the christians was a fish – the symbol of life, food and heaven on earth – where everyone is fed.

    Take over the cross – symbol of torture and suffering – eating fish is replaced by ritual cannibalism – and from then on the whole thing goes downhill.

    That’s a very good point.

    I am willing to wager that the existential heaven/hell we create for ourselves relates pretty closely to how closely our personal life philosophies align with those of the man Joshua ben Joseph, a.k.a. the Christ.

    Well, Mike, yes, we can talk. I won’t quite go that far but I guess I do go the nonbelieving form thereof. I’ve been saying since I lost my faith decades ago that heaven and hell exist right here on Earth. In other words, life is what we make it. It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when we do good, we make the world we live in a better place to be and when we do bad, we make it a worse one. Not only that, but whether we concentrate on the good or the bad (in other words if you say hey, I’ve got a horse rather than damn, I’ll be mucking that stall for the life of that beast) determines how happy we are.

    And, thank you. It is refreshing to hear a Christian say they don’t know about heaven and hell. After all, even if you’re right and we’re wrong, it isn’t you who decides that.

    Hell is described – in the Bible – as a place of eternal torture. What could an atheist possibly ever have done in their entire life that would warrant eternal torture? It’s a brutal philosophy, that you would believe in a god who would condemn a person to an eternity of pain just because they choose to look at the world around them and follow the reasonable science about it.

    Kevin, problem with your statement is that whether or not it’s fair (it wouldn’t be if true) has nothing whatsoever to do with if it’s true. This is why I often say even if you could prove god to me, I’d have nothing to do with the bastard. Hell alone would make him a gazillion times worse than Hitler.

  • Jeff

    I mean what do they have to do for us to acknowledge open-mindedness?

    Renounce the concept of hell. This is what it comes down to for me. I’ll accept nothing less.

  • Darryl

    In the past, I’ve been both an evangelical and a “progressive” liberal Christian. The comment from Mike looks a lot like what I would have said when I was in my early twenties – I was embarrassed by the irrationality and blind certitude of fundie leaders, but I wasn’t ready to shake off the notions of heaven and hell. (Though, I dumped the idea of hell long before I gave up on heaven.) I simply became very vague about my beliefs, and entertained the notion that God’s requirements were blurry enough to include lots of, but not all of, my fellow humanity, and that it wasn’t in my job description to sort it out. So, Mike, I sincerely hope you’re on your way down the slippery slope. The water here in the atheist camp is fine indeed, and the silencing of that thudding cognitive dissonance is blissful.

  • http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com J. K. Jones

    Of course atheists can do good things! Even Christians can do good things occasionally.

    There are two problems with all of this.

    One is that I know of very few Christians who would not acknowledge that atheists do good works. The question is whether they have a rational basis for doing so. I am still waiting for an approach to ethics based solely on reason that does not commit a logical fallacy.

    The other is that God’s standard is perfection. Absolute, 100% adherence to ethical standards of thought, speech and behavior that never compromises. Only Christ met this standard, and He met this standard on behalf of those who have or will trust Him. No Christian or non-Christian can claim to be 100% good.

  • Inthewater

    @J.K

    And we know that Jesus met this standard, how?

    Ahh yes, it’s in the book.

    Love that sort of argument, after “crushing” ethics based on reason, you go right to, “Says so in the bible”.

  • Robert W.

    Jeff,

    Renounce the concept of hell. This is what it comes down to for me. I’ll accept nothing less.

    So you would accept the concept of Heaven if there wasn’t a corresponding concept of Hell?

    I’ll answer our question directly- Yes all those that have heard about and have the information about Jesus and armed with that knowledge they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior are going to Hell. That is the basic Christian belief.

    Why? Because that is where they have chosen to be. Hell is eternal separation form God. They have rejected God in this lifetime, so why would they want to be with Him in eternity? Why would a loving God force something upon them that they chose not to accept?

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    In short, though, it’s about acting like kind, decent human beings. It’s amazing how religion can so often get in the way of that.

    I agree, but want you to know that it is possible to reject religion without rejecting God.

  • sven

    Why? Because that is where they have chosen to be. Hell is eternal separation form God. They have rejected God in this lifetime, so why would they want to be with Him in eternity? Why would a loving God force something upon them that they chose not to accept?

    Great, a place without gods is where we already are. It’s as beautiful and ugly as we make it to be.
    I’m definitely in a place without gods. If this is hell, my piece of it is actually a great place to be.

  • Jeff

    I’ll answer our question directly- Yes all those that have heard about and have the information about Jesus and armed with that knowledge they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior are going to Hell. That is the basic Christian belief.

    Why? Because that is where they have chosen to be. Hell is eternal separation form God. They have rejected God in this lifetime, so why would they want to be with Him in eternity? Why would a loving God force something upon them that they chose not to accept?

    Your belief system is an abomination. You’re trash, Robert. You are utter garbage. You and your coreligionists are the ultimate parasites. You contribute nothing to civilization. I’m angry that you even exist. If I could press a button and make all of you disappear from the face of the earth, I would do it without a moment’s hesitation. You and your Islamic counterparts will be the undoing of humanity.

  • Robert W.

    Jeff,

    Your belief system is an abomination. You’re trash, Robert. You are utter garbage. You and your coreligionists are the ultimate parasites. You contribute nothing to civilization. I’m angry that you even exist. If I could press a button and make all of you disappear from the face of the earth, I would do it without a moment’s hesitation. You and your Islamic counterparts will be the undoing of humanity.

    At last you show your true colors Jeff. In the name of goodness and the furtherance of what you view as a more moral worldview you want to kill off billions of people. Its good to see that logic has not gotten in the way of your hatred.

    As for me, your juvenile insults don’t get me upset. If it makes you feel better then continue. If however you have anything productive to add to the discussion or if you want to discuss Christian doctrine in a reasonable manner, than I am willing to do so.

  • jose

    Inthewater,
    Christians believe that a person who rapes and tortures, then asks for forgiveness and is accepted into heaven
    The idea is that the person repent from her past sinful life and receive Jesus, and Jesus forgives her because she’s no longer a bad person. The soul is transformed by her repentance, she’s no longer that person who did those bad things. That’s why she’s accepted into heaven.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea, but that’s the idea.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    all those that have heard about and have the information about Jesus and armed with that knowledge they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior are going to Hell. That is the basic Christian belief.

    I beg to differ. There are reasonable, scripturally literate Christians who do not hold such monstrous views. This is your horrible belief. Own it.

    Hell is eternal separation form God.

    Chapter and verse please.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    I beg to differ. There are reasonable, scripturally literate Christians who do not hold such monstrous views. This is your horrible belief. Own it.

    I don’t mind owning it at all. I would like to see the scriptural justification for those that believe that with the exception of children and those that have never heard of the Gospel there is eternal salvation without accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. Jesus specifically said there is only one way to the Father and that is through Him. John 14:6

    Chapter and verse please.

    2 Thessalonians 1:9

    There are a number of prominent biblical scholars, J.P. Moreland for example who hold that the references to fire in Hell are symbolic because whenever fire is used in the Bible it is not literal. Billy Graham preached this view as well.

  • Richard Wade

    Jeff,
    Take a step back, relax and consider the effect of your words. People comment here basically for two different reasons. Some try to persuade others to be open to differing views, hoping to promote mutual understanding, broader tolerance, perhaps even agreement, and in the longer term maybe even a more just and peaceful society.

    Others just want to vent. Pure self expression is not interested in its effect on whoever may hear it. Often the consequences include more of whatever the person is venting about.

    Getting it out of your system doesn’t have to mean crapping in your own bathwater. You are intelligent and articulate. Consider using those gifts to coax the better outcome from a situation rather than to drive it away beyond anyone’s reach.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @gsw

    Atheists can, if they so choose, follow the teachings without the mumbo jumbo

    I prefer the Buddha. He did say that we should only follow his teachings when we think they are right. Much superior to anything from Jesus.

    @jose

    The idea is that the person repent from her past sinful life and receive Jesus, and Jesus forgives her because she’s no longer a bad person.

    My reading is that you don’t need to repent in order to be forgiven (Forgive enemies, Father forgive them for they know not what they do etc etc).

    @robert W

    Yes all those that have heard about and have the information about Jesus and armed with that knowledge they don’t accept Jesus Christ

    And those that haven’t heard about Jesus, on what basis shall they be judged?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I’ve said this before, but I think most Christians are better than the God they worship. I count Mason (and Robert W) as probable examples of these better Christians. I doubt that either Mason or Robert would throw their own children out of their house and tell them never to return if their children didn’t profess love in a certain designated time-frame (say by the time they were 9 years old). I bet Mason and Robert would end up loving their Children no matter what they said or believed throughout their entire life. And I applaud that.

    Contrast this with the Christian notion of God that supposedly gives you your finite earthly lifetime to accept Jesus as your savior and if you don’t take that step during that constricted time-frame, then it is eternal separation for the infinite time-span to follow. No second chance. No reprieve. No compromise.

  • Robert W.

    Deepak,

    And those that haven’t heard about Jesus, on what basis shall they be judged?

    I believe that God’s righteousness and his love and justice will prevail in this instance. Much like children before the age of accountability.

    Jeff P,

    Contrast this with the Christian notion of God that supposedly gives you your finite earthly lifetime to accept Jesus as your savior and if you don’t take that step during that constricted time-frame, then it is eternal separation for the infinite time-span to follow. No second chance. No reprieve. No compromise.

    Since when does the length of the offense dictate how long the effect of consequences of the offense should be? When someone murders another person, we lock them up in prison for the reminder of their natural life even though it only took a second to commit the crime.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert, we do have this notion that the punishment should fit the crime.

    I, for one, just can’t conceive of a God that infinitely rewards a certain example of credulous faith and infinitely punishes a lack of that one particular credulous faith. I can much more easily imagine a God that sets up quite a different ontology. Of course I find it easiest to just not make any assertions at all about afterlives without any supporting evidence. You live. You die. If, by chance, there is anything after dying, then we will obtain additional information at that time and can react accordingly. Anything said about an afterlife while you are still alive is merely speculation and wishful thinking (including everything written in your any anyone else’s holy book).

    I guess I’ll burn for saying that ;)

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    I believe that God’s righteousness and his love and justice will prevail in this instance.

    So as a hypothetical. There’s this man in some remote village say in India , no Christianity in sight , born say to a Hindu family , leads a good life. is charitable , helpful, loving all that. Falls ill. If he dies you say he goes to heaven. Next along comes a missionary decides he must save this man. Reads him the bible explains the passages etc ettc. Man says but I have been taught per Hinduism that the truth is one the paths may be many so while you might find that Christianity works for you – It doesnt for me. If he dies now he goes to hell?

    Somehow that makes sense to you?

  • DA

    “I prefer the Buddha. He did say that we should only follow his teachings when we think they are right. Much superior to anything from Jesus.”

    This isn’t really accurate. In the Kalama Sutta, he says that it’s proper to inquire into the reasons for teaching, but he never actually said you should only follow his teachings if logic confirms them. He even says in the same Sutta that one shouldn’t rely on logic or inference anymore than spiritual authority. The Kalama Sutta does have some ideas similar to freethought but ultimately it’s more of a pro-Buddhist polemic. Other Pali discourses have him saying that apostates from Buddhism will be reborn in hell in their next life, and that some beings are cursed and will never attain Nibbana (Nirvana). I think there are some genuinely good points in Buddhist philosophy but it gets more credit from (most) atheists than it deserves.

    As to the original post, I appreciate good intent from anyone and see no need for a purity test. I appreciate “Merry Christmas” when someone genuinely means it and isn’t using it as a rhetorical weapon. I appreciate being called Christlike if a person’s general point of moral reference is Jesus. I think that the attitude of some people in this thread borders on religious bigotry.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @DA
    This is the quote Im going by

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    Gautama Buddha
    http://thinkexist.com/quotation/do_not_believe_in_anything_simply_because_you/12103.html

    I do not believe there is a Judeo-Christian-Islamic equivalent to this.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    I don’t mind owning it at all. I would like to see the scriptural justification for those that believe that with the exception of children and those that have never heard of the Gospel there is eternal salvation without accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. Jesus specifically said there is only one way to the Father and that is through Him. John 14:6

    Sigh. Well why make the exception for children? You god wants to torture people based on their beliefs rather than their actions so why not torture children too?

    2 Thessalonians 1:9

    2 Thessalonians 1:8 says something about punishment in fire.

    J.P. Moreland for example who hold that the references to fire in Hell are symbolic because whenever fire is used in the Bible it is not literal.

    So, like you, they are interpreting what has been written to fit their own views. Curiouser and curiouser.

  • Claudia

    @Robert W, I’m afraid I simply don’t believe you believe all non-Christians are going to hell. I mean that as a compliment, by the way.

    However you define Hell, be it eternal hellfire (as millions do) or “eternal separation from god” (as those uncomfortable with god as torturer-in-Chief do) we can agree, I think, on two things:
    1. It’s not a nice place/state to be.
    2. As per your beliefs, everyone who doesn’t believe in the Christian god and lives according to those rules, is going there.

    Every single atheist you’re going to find in life is going to be offended by both those points, but especially by point two.

    First of all, there is no crime that deserves eternal punishment. None. A basic assumption in human ethics is that punishment must be proportional to the crime. Hell is a total violation of this rule. By definition, or crimes cannot be eternal because we are finite beings in a finite universe. Hell is like torturing a three year old to death in punishment for grabbing a cookie she was told not to. Except it’s not like that, it’s worse, because your religion applies the very inconvenient word “eternal” to punishment, which means the punishment never, ever, ends. Purgatory was an attempt to rectify this glaring moral flaw. Hell is inherently immoral, period.

    You’re right that Heaven is similarly irrational. Just as there is not bad deed that can warrant eternal punishment, there is no good deed that warrants eternal reward. However it’s only natural for humans to be more offended by unjust punishment than by unjust rewards. So yes, Heaven makes as little sense as Hell, but it’s much less disgusting a concept.

    But the real kicker for most atheists is point two. Have you really stopped to think about this point, Robert? Under this rule, Ghandi and Hitler are going to the same place (unless Hitler repented, in which case he gets to go to Heaven). Under this rule, the vast majority of humanity is going to hell. Under this rule, almost all the children who died in the Indonesia Tsunami are in Hell this very minute. Under this rule, a pedophile murderer who happened to rape and kill the child of Hindu parents are both going to Hell. If you cannot see how deeply, viscerally offensive and immoral this is, then I must conclude you are too blinded by your faith to really allow yourself to confront this reality.
    Christians like J.K. Jones realize the horror of this point, which is why they refuse to believe it’s true. I honesty don’t believe that in your heart of hearts, you believe it either. I don’t think anyone but a psychopath could go through life calmly, being friendly to people who they honestly believed would suffer eternal punishment when they die. If one honestly believes that, the only moral path one can possibly take is to dedicate ones life to evangelizing, and hence trying to save as many souls as one possibly can.

    [edit]: In anticipation of you desperately trying to make a special exemption for children. How about if the rape/murder victim was 13 years old? 16? At what point does it become acceptable for her to go to hell along with her rapist/murderer? Did the pregnant women of the tsunami go to Hell? Old grandmothers?

  • Jeff

    @Deepak Shetty: Somehow that makes sense to you?

    Yes, it makes sense to him. This is who they are. Why am I the only one outraged by this? I really wish it bothered the rest of you as much as it does me.

  • Jeff

    Consider using those gifts to coax the better outcome from a situation rather than to drive it away beyond anyone’s reach.

    Richard, there is no reasoning with these people. There is now a small but growing body of evidence suggesting a strong neurological foundation for fundamentalism/authoritarianism. I’ve suspected it for decades, and I’m convinced that more research will bear this out (or would, if we had the money, which we haven’t, and time left as a species, which probably we also haven’t).

    I stand by what I said. These people are garbage. They’ve spent the past thirty years, since Reagan empowered them, voting into office the criminals and lunatics chiefly responsible for our current socioeconomic crisis. We aren’t coming back from this, and as a result of the interconnected nature of the global economy, as we continue to go down, we’ll be taking everyone else down with us. We’re facing, within the next several years, the end of our global civilization – quite possibly the end of humanity. Ultimately, they’ll turn out to be far more toxic to humanity as a whole than the Islamic extremists have yet had the opportunity to be.

    Naturally, the fundies, operating as they are at the cognitive and developmental level of children, will never accept any responsibility. The last Christian, on his deathbed, will be cursing those whom he KNOWS to be the real culprits (because his pastor told him so) – the liberals, the atheists and the gays (aided and abetted, of course, by the Jews who control the media and the banks).

    Even if I am right, and they are biologically programmed to perceive reality through this warped and clouded lens, it’s still their fault, as there is complicity on their part. It’s a form of criminal insanity. Most don’t struggle with it at all; they don’t even try not to be that way. These are the worst people in the world, Richard. They are the worst people in all of human history. I never descend into Godwin territory, with this one exception – they are worse than the Nazis, and I say this as a Jew. The Nazis merely wanted to exterminate us, they didn’t give a damn about what happened to us afterward. These people believe – indeed, they are perfectly comfortable with the idea – that billions of their fellow human beings will be tortured for all of eternity. In fact, many (I suspect most) actually relish the idea; it’s one of the core teachings of Calvinism, which is itself one of the most pervasive influences within the evangelical subculture, even upon those who wouldn’t define themselves as Calvinists. They truly believe that the large part of their “heavenly reward” will consist of hanging around on a mezzanine in heaven, chugging beers with Jesus and Dubya, peering over the balcony into the bowels of hell, watching you and me and everyone we have ever loved or cared for, along with the vast majority of the rest of humanity, being tormented unimaginably, forever and ever, for their amusement. You have to understand, Richard – they truly believe this. It’s what they live for. They’re banking their afterlives on it – and it isn’t a few crazies on a compound in Idaho. There are, literally, millions of them.

    I’m 54 now, Richard, and throughout the course of my adult life, their power and influence in our society has done nothing but grow. The inmates are now running the asylum, and I see no way in which beings this pathological can solve their problems. If we are to have a future, I’m convinced that it lies in breeding this maladaptive trait out of the genome. Quarantine them; don’t let them vote, don’t let them reproduce, and, for heaven’s sake, don’t allow them anywhere near children. Of course, I’m well aware that none of this will be done, which is the main reason I have no hope left at all for the future of humanity.

    If you want to continue to try to use gentle persuasion, go ahead, but I’m convinced that it’s a complete waste of time. With the advent of the internet, resources are readily available; the few who are capable of getting out will do so on their own. The vast majority are incapable of change. All we can do is to disenfranchise them – but, again, we won’t. We’re completely screwed. I can’t do anything about it, but I don’t have to be nice to them on our way out the door.

    Richard, about two years ago, I made several remarks along these lines – although I didn’t go on at this length or into this much detail– and a few of you attacked me. I believe you were one of them (although my memory isn’t what it used to be). I discussed this with Hemant when he was here in Boston recently; it’s the reason I stayed away for about a year and a half. It was absolutely ridiculous; these people are the enemy, yet I was the target of your ire. If it’s going to be that way again, I’ll take off, because I don’t need the aggravation – but this is who I am now. Fifty-four years of dealing with these psychopaths has turned me into the irascible, morose middle-aged man you now encounter. They’ve literally ruined my life. I’m not happy about it, but I certainly won’t apologize for it. As I’ve said numerous times, here and elsewhere – Hemant is the Friendly Atheist. I’m a son of a bitch.

    Why don’t you and Hemant talk about it, and decide if you want me to stay or go. Of course, if you decide you want me to leave, but the fundie can stay – I think that will say a great deal.

  • Jeff

    Did the pregnant women of the tsunami go to Hell? Old grandmothers?

    Claudia, ask him about the victims of the Holocaust.

    What you all need to understand is that he believes human beings are born deserving nothing less than eternal damnation. And, yes – this makes perfect sense to him, and to millions like him. As I said to Richard in my comment above – these people are psychopaths. It’s a form of criminal insanity.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Jeff,

    I’m not as pessimistic about the future as you. I think things are actually quite a bit better now (as a trans-generational struggle) than in the past. Your pessimism is probably due to unfulfilled idealism within your own lifetime. Just remember that in the past, people could accuse people of witchcraft and get the religious authorities to burn the accused alive. Now people just accuse people of “being sluts, liberals, or intellectuals” and get them voted out of office or shouted down on Fox News. Overall, things have improved a lot since the old days of a few centuries ago. Sure we have a long way to go, but I don’t think the end is near. Thinking that the end is near is buying into the apocalyptic thoughts of the same people you are criticizing.

    I agree that it is sometimes painful to witness credulous thinking by so many in our society in what we fancy to be an enlightened modern “age of reason”.

  • sven

    Jeff
    Hang in there, you are not alone.

    And keep in mind The Old Pastament. It clearly states in The Random Number of Not Commandments, Suggestions;
    13. Thou shalt be amused rather than angered by the words and deeds of idiots; for I am thy Noodly Lord and I have created idiots solely for entertainment purposes, Mine first and thine likewise.

  • Claudia

    these people are psychopaths. It’s a form of criminal insanity

    Don’t believe it, sorry. For starters being a psychopath is an actual medical diagnosis that I don’t think should be thrown around so lightly. It combines lack of empathy with a strong tendency to amoral conduct. Voting for George Bush simply doesn’t make the cut, sorry. Psychopaths would throw a baby in front of a bus just to see it go *splat*. They most certainly wouldn’t work for charities, and dedicate parts of their lives and salaries to help others, as many very sincere fundamentalists do.

    Certainly, they say they believe and are at peace with something truly disgusting, the concept of Hell and the idea that a fair proportion of humanity is going there. A belief of this sort would be very much in line with the behavior of a psychopath. But they don’t behave like psychopaths, and I think actions speak a lot louder than words. Even if they have convinced themselves that after we die, a lot of us are going to Hell, this belief must be walled off from every other part of their brain in a truly awesome case of cognitive dissonance, because that’s the only way such a belief could co-exist with a generally decent person in the same brain.

  • Jeff

    Jeff, I’m not talking about overall quality of life. I’m glad we no longer live like Medieval European peasants, but I don’t think things have progressed all that far. Let’s take America as an example. It began as a set of good ideas, but it’s never really worked all that well. Each advance that has been made (insofar as advances have been made) in terms of what we now call human rights – abolition, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights movement – has been made at the cost of enormous suffering, and the aftermath has been a huge disappointment. We really are not doing well at all. Western Europe is doing much better than we are in terms of community, egalitarianism, quality of life, etc., yet even they’re finding it unsustainable.

    Now, we have these zealots and mindless automatons to deal with. Another decade of evangelical politics (although I don’t think we have that much time left), and we won’t be so far removed from the Middle Ages you’re describing. They want a theocracy; nothing less will satisfy them. Any conservative evangelical (and that’s most of them) who claims otherwise is a liar.

  • Jeff

    Sven, I don’t find them at all amusing. I’ve lost that ability, if I ever had it in the first place. All I can be now is appalled.

  • Jeff

    @Claudia: A belief of this sort would be very much in line with the behavior of a psychopath. But they don’t behave like psychopaths, and I think actions speak a lot louder than words.

    Well, that’s a personal preference on your part.

  • sven

    Jeff
    Than go watch “Life of Brian”. Just to put things in perspective.
    Think of the ending, and sing along:

    “Some things in life are bad
    They can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse.
    When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
    Don’t grumble, give a whistle
    And this’ll help things turn out for the best…
    And…always look on the bright side of life…

    etc..”
    words and music by Eric Idle

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Jeff,

    I truly hope you can find a way to laugh and enjoy life a bit more. Discover some comedy that works for you. I wish you well.

  • Inthewater

    @jose

    I am all too aware of what the “idea” of Christian forgiveness, and then salvation, is all about.

    That doesn’t change anything about what I said, as I do not believe what they believe. So in my eyes, a person guilty of horrors against humankind can be washed pure as snow, in the blood of Christ, but they are still just a frakking murderer.

  • Inthewater

    @Robert W

    I just don’t think that the majority of Christians believe that people who have never heard the gospel, or learned of Christ will still go to heaven. Otherwise, what’s the point of spreading the gospel?

    It may be what you believe, but in my experience, it’s not what the majority of Christian Churches believe or preach.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Renounce the concept of hell. This is what it comes down to for me. I’ll accept nothing less.

    In other words, yes, they have to renounce their faith in order for you to not be bigoted against them? If you believe in the Christian god, you believe in hell whether you approve or not. It’s that simple. You are blaming believers for the imaginary actions of their imaginary god. You realize that, don’t you? Your further comments kind of just display more bigotry and intolerance so you’ve really no cause to complain about others acting exactly the same way as you do.

    Robert W, while I disagree with your conclusions (if god did exist, he decides who goes to hell, not you), but you’re right, I’d take that hell. If, to my shock since I’m like 100% sure this won’t happen, I find myself seated before some tyrant calling himself god on judgement day after I die demanding I explain my sins, I’ll say fuck you and walk away. I’d take that hell. Hell, I’d take the hell I was taught to believe in as a child (yours sounds like paradise frankly) over heaven any day of the week. Eternity bowing and scraping and kissing god’s ass so as not to incur his wrath, smiling at my mother and ex-husband who were both believers not to mention some people even worse than they were. Yeah, that’s what sounds like fucking hell to me.

    I’ll pass. I’ll give you that. However, since the whole thing is bullshit, it’s not really me making a decision but it does rather mean your whole Pascal’s wager in disguise thing has no impact on me whatsoever.

    For what it’s worth, I’d rather read your comments then Jeff’s kill the Christians horseshit. Peace.

  • Steve

    There is so much stuff that’s written in holy books that people don’t believe, but used to believe, why should hell be any different? It’s really not such an integral part of the belief system as it seems.

    There can be a new dichotomy between eternal life in heaven and ceasing to exist. They can still scare people into submission with that alone. No eternal torture required. Nah, Christianity would be just fine without hell.

    Historically, hell as we understand it is a relatively new concept anyways. In the Old Testament people just died. The whole particulars of hell, like who goes there for what and the different levels of hell like limbo and purgatory were all worked out in the middle ages. And some of that stuff (like limbo) was later officially discarded.

  • Robert W.

    To everyone,

    There is alot to respond to and i will attempt to do so. First let me clear up what I perceive to be some misconceptions about the Christian beliefs.

    Christians, if they are true to their faith, don’t relish in the idea of Hell nor do they want to see people ending up there. We grieve over it. I grieve for all of you here (including Jeff) and pray that at some point your minds and hearts will be changed. I don’t judge you for your convictions, but believing what I understand to be the outcome and the effect of accepting Christ as your savior can have on your life here, I am saddened.

    It is something that we are taught in the great commission to try and help prevent by going out to the world and preaching the Gospel. That is why we are vocal and you guys get tired of hearing from us. It is also why we are taught to live our life as much like Jesus as we mortally are able in order to be a living example of His grace.

    Further, the Bible is clear that God doesn’t relish in the idea of people going to Hell either. But there is an objective standard of righteousness and holiness that we all fall short of. That is why he sent himself to Earth in the incarnation of Jesus to accept the payment for our sins through grace to redeem us. So he didn’t give us the standard that we couldn’t meet and give us no way to redeem ourselves. He did through Jesus Christ.

    From your comments I perceive that the biggest objection is the alleged arrogance of Christianity that Jesus Christ is the one true way to God and that failure to accept this truth is a minor infraction that doesn’t warrant the cost of Hell, particularly when you look to people who have lived moral lives as compared to those that have lived immoral lives and they are judged the same way as nonbelievers or believers. In other words, that actions just be more important then beliefs in determining our eternal destiny.

    As to the Christian belief that this is the truth, that is not unique to any worldview, including Atheism. Those that are Atheists hold to the truth that there is no God and all who think otherwise are wrong. Hindus do the same, even Buddism, which appears more inclusive says that other beliefs must accept their truths. So when you say that there is no God and that life has no meaning other then here on Earth and no purpose other then the whims of mankind, I am appalled and could take offense. Truth, by its very nature is exclusive and denies all other thoughts that aren’t true. So it is not proper to lay this objection just at the feet of Christianity.

    As to atheism, you actually want it both ways and for there to be two truths. You want the truth that there is no God, and you also want it to be true that if you are wrong, this same God, will not hold you to that choice and let you be redeemed anyway.

    You are stating your objections to God’s plan based upon one truth- accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and you think it is more fair to base salvation upon an unstated sense of what most perceive to be right and wrong. I find that grossly unfair and extremely relative and arbitrary.

    If we are to base our eternal destiny on the acts and works here in life, then we first must determine what acts and works qualify and we must be able to tell everyone what the ground rules are. What standard of morality are we going to use? What objective standard will it be? Or is it all going to be relative? And if it is relative, then is there any standard at all?

    If you are saying that God gets to determine what that objective morality is, then you must accept all that He has said. He has told you that your salvation doesn’t hinge on your works because we all fall short of the glory of God and we all sin. He has given you the plan and you want to reject it.

    If you say that man should be able to decide what is moral behavior that determines eternity, then you have all the objections I have stated.

    For example, suppose there is a culture that believes in cannibalism and that it is perfectly okay to kill and eat your neighbor as some do in the South Pacific. In that culture, doing that wouldn’t be immoral, however, other cultures would say it is. If a person from that culture came to the states and killed his neighbor for dinner before he understood we thought it was wrong we would still throw him in jail (or execute him here in Texas and say that ignorance of the law is no excuse). By the same token, under this worldview, his eternal destiny would be determined by his actions, even though he didn’t know it was immoral.

    Let’s use Ghandi. He believed in both the caste system and was an absolute pacifist. He thought the back man was lower then the untouchables of India and he thought that the Jewish race should accept their deaths at the hands of the Nazi’s and that war was not justified to stop it. I imagine that most of you would view these thoughts as immoral yet you look at other accepts of his life and say he was a greatly moral man. Which acts would prevail?

    My point is that you are basing what you perceive to be an injustice on standards that are from man’s perspective and man on their own can’t even decide what those standards should be and would still hold someone accountable for them when they didn’t know they were doing wrong or conduct a balancing test to determine if it was enough.

    Jesus preached that we all fall short of the glory of God. All of us. So even though we may compare people’s lives here on say some are better or more moral then others, to God until we are redeemed, we are all the same. Just like when we are redeemed, we are the same. But being redeemed is more then just accepting Christ, it starts with true repentance for our actions and it continues with the conviction to go and live like that no more. It includes the acceptance of our need for God and his grace.

    So is Ghandi or the Holocaust victims or the children in Indonesia in Hell? I don’t know each of their stories so I will leave that to God. But I am convinced that if they heard about God and the Gospel of Jesus and rejected it, then how they died or what their works were in life would not be enough to save them. Just like me who has never done horrible things and tried to live a good life hasn’t done enough.

    But by accepting the gift of grace from Jesus Christ I am assured of my salvation. And yes that does give me peace. Does it give me peace that three are billions of people who have heard the truth and have rejected it or that there are billions that haven’t heard it? No it doesn’t. That is why I talk about the gospel, that is why I travel the globe on mission trips. That is why i pray that people will seek God.

    That is all the time I have for now. If I didn’t address your thoughts specifically then point it out and i will add more later.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert, religion all boils down to the following two questions.

    1. How do you know that there is any afterlife?

    2. How do you know that the concept of an afterlife promoted by your religion is true?

    As for morality, even if there was some kind of objective unchanging morality, how can we discover it? I submit that the best we can do is to act as if morality is relative to culture and continually try to refine and improve it. The only other choice is to blindly accept whatever some authorities tell us is good… And that always gets us in trouble. Shall we burn some witches?

    I think the popularity of Christianity can be explained by the following two human tendencies.

    1. Wanting to get something for nothing. For example, going to heaven for the non-action of just believing in a certain proposition.

    2. Liking to marginalize enemies. Saying that all non-believers in a certain proposition are going to hell.

    Imagine a religion that said that anyone who did a certain little dance gets a $100 and everyone who didn’t do the dance had to pay $100. Would the religion be popular? What about if the payout and fine were elevated to $100,000,000? Christianity just takes this idea and elevates the payout (and fine) to infinity but adds the provision that the payout and fine are not implemented until after you die. Everything else said about Christianity is just sugar-coating, packaging, and marketing.

  • Claudia

    So is Ghandi or the Holocaust victims or the children in Indonesia in Hell? I don’t know each of their stories so I will leave that to God. But I am convinced that if they heard about God and the Gospel of Jesus and rejected it, then how they died or what their works were in life would not be enough to save them

    So in short, young blameless children are in Hell because being good is worthless to God, only belief will let you avoid Hell. You cannot see how jaw-droppingly disgusting this belief is, and hence you will never, ever, be able to communicate with any of us about your “loving God”. Even if I believed in your sadistic God, Robert, I would never worship or love a being that would condemn a single child to Hell, let alone hundreds of thousands. In that sense, I’m very glad such a god doesn’t exist, because I’d have to hate him with all my heart if he did.

  • sven

    Robert W,
    Wow.
    It is painful to see so much time and energy being lost because of your fantasy world.
    For all the time you have been here, you really have not even tried to understand a single thing about atheist.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Jeff

    Yes, it makes sense to him. This is who they are. Why am I the only one outraged by this? I really wish it bothered the rest of you as much as it does me.

    I’d rather be offended by Robert W’s decision to vote against gay marriage than his beliefs about hell (to which I can always quote Omar Khayyam and laugh).
    There are far too many things to get outraged about – I’d rather not waste my outrage on Robert W’s convoluted belief system. Like other’s Im more amused than outraged over the contortions performed to justify hell

  • Richard Wade

    Jeff,

    Why don’t you and Hemant talk about it, and decide if you want me to stay or go. Of course, if you decide you want me to leave, but the fundie can stay – I think that will say a great deal.

    There’s no need for Hemant and I to talk about it. I want you to stay. I want you here, just as you are, an irascible, morose, 54 year-old son of a bitch.

    I only ask one thing of you, and this is not a condition of your being welcome here. You’re welcome here, period. I ask that you just keep a tiny part of your mind open to the idea that

    people can change.

    I’ve changed, many times, even recently. If you say I attacked you about two years ago, that you were a target of my ire, that is certainly possible, and I sincerely apologize. That was not right for me to do, it was stupid and self-important of me. I’m very glad that you came back. But yesterday, I didn’t attack you, I did exactly what I was suggesting you could do, “Use your gifts to coax the better outcome from a situation, rather than to drive it away, beyond anyone’s reach.”

    See? Even just recently, I’ve changed. I’m 60, and I’ve changed many times in very important ways. When I was in my twenties, a huge part of me was already an irascible, morose, middle-aged son of a bitch. But one day I had an amazing realization that gave me tremendous freedom to be happier and more effective in life:

    I can be wrong.

    I tend to gradually build up pessimistic, cynical opinions and outlooks, but whenever I have realized that I’m wrong, and I’ve been willing to loosen my death grip on insisting that I’m right, instead of it being a humiliation, it’s a pleasure and a liberation. When I see that I’m wrong about people, life, or myself, things definitely get better. My life has more energy, more joy and satisfaction, and I can actually effect change in people and situations where my efforts used to be futile. Being wrong is growth. I hope I can keep discovering where I’m wrong for the rest of my life.

    Many people who come to this site have changed profoundly. Many had all the awful extreme fundamentalist beliefs and attitudes that you’ve described. They’re not that way any more. They saw that they were wrong, and they were able to change. It was difficult and even painful for them, but they did it. Some changed as teens, some as men and women much older than you and me. There’s no age at which you are incapable of change.

    All you have to do is to let go of the importance of being right; right about others, right about the world, right about life, and right about yourself. Clinging to being so right is fossilization, a living death. Consider that you might be wrong, and crack off that crust of calcium that is forming on your skin.

    Anais Nin famously said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Currently, you live in a world of defeat, depression and doom. I’m only suggesting that that world is living in you. When you change, you will see that things around you seem to have changed.

    Jeff, just please keep a tiny place in your mind for my little seed to sprout. Don’t worry, you can always throw it out later if you don’t like it, but after some time, after you’ve completely forgotten about me, I think you might be pleased.

    I promise that I will never again participate in driving you away beyond anyone’s reach. I will continue to coax the better outcome from you. If you find that annoying, well, of course I would expect that from a (for the time being) irascible, morose, 54 year-old son of a bitch.

  • Inthewater

    @Robert W

    You didn’t answer or address what I said, and I’d like to “hear” your thoughts.

    What I was taught, and what in my experience, the majority of Christians believe, is that if you do not accept Christ as your savior, you are hell bound. I believe, as you mentioned, there is an “out” for children too young to understand and those mentally incapable.

    What you said, “Yes all those that have heard about and have the information about Jesus and armed with that knowledge they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior are going to Hell. That is the basic Christian belief”, does not match up to what Christianity teaches or what the bible says, anyway.

    And again, if people that don’t hear about god or jesus or salvation get a free pass to heaven, why go and bother them with it at all? Just let them get in for free.

    What you’ve said here just doesn’t match up. You can’t get to heaven, except through christ. That is what your rules say, I see no exception made for people that are capable of understanding, but never knew about it getting in, in the Christian system.

    If it is there, please show me. Seriously. Not just ” I believe” or “my denomination believes”. Where does it say that in the bible?

    I just don’t see the point of witnessing and sharing the gospel, from a christian’s point of view, if all you are doing is damning an otherwise heaven bound person to hell by telling them about it in the first place. Assuming they reject it.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Interesting post from Mason, but I suppose it confirms that I will probably never understand the Christian mindset. It’s just so bizarre to me that they act like Jesus (assuming he was even a single historical figure) is the origin of kindness and generosity. They act like no one in the history of humanity had ever thought of those things until Jesus supposedly appeared on the scene. When you consider how many thousands of years people have been living together in societies all over the world, it’s really rather insulting to pretend that Christianity invented certain types of behavior. There’s nothing new under the sun, and their religious teachings aren’t unique.

  • Nordog

    54 is not middled aged.

  • Jeff

    Richard, thank you for your kind words, and for your apology. I’m not positive that you were among those who turned on me – I think so, but, as I say, my memory isn’t as good as it used to be – but thank you for being gracious.

    I must say that I’ve very rarely seen people change, even in small ways; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone change profoundly. I think people are who they are. During my previous time here, I didn’t see one Christian change. I saw them come and go, but not once did I see one return and say, “I’ve changed my view because of the arguments I encountered here.” Nor have I ever seen it happen in any other venue. I have had former Christians tell me that they were never really comfortable with the belief system, could never reconcile themselves to the idea of hell, etc., which indicates, to me, either that I’m right, and that the very few who get out haven’t really changed, but are merely throwing off the facade and owning their innate compassion (something of which the Christians, for all of their rhetoric, are incapable), or that the Calvinists are right, and they were never really Christians in the first place.

    Anyway, this makes the decision for me (a small example of what happened two years ago, btw):

    @Donna: You are blaming believers for the imaginary actions of their imaginary god. You realize that, don’t you? Your further comments kind of just display more bigotry and intolerance so you’ve really no cause to complain about others acting exactly the same way as you do.

    This makes absolutely no sense. It isn’t even internally consistent.

    For what it’s worth, I’d rather read your comments then Jeff’s kill the Christians horseshit.

    That isn’t what I said. You obviously have a problem with reading comprehension.

    Richard, I’m old and tired. It’s bad enough that I have to live in a world overrun by fundamentalists; I don’t have to put up with this crap from people with whom I’m supposed to be on the same side. It’s time for me to walk away. You and Hemant take care.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W

    As to atheism, you actually want it both ways and for there to be two truths. You want the truth that there is no God, and you also want it to be true that if you are wrong, this same God, will not hold you to that choice and let you be redeemed anyway.

    Untrue. we ask that if a God exists would he be fair and just, as we are told?

    we have our version of fairness and justice
    For e.g.
    We do not punish people(at least legally) for thought crimes – You can think whatever you want, You can be as racist as discriminatory in your thoughts as you want , so long as you dont practise it we dont punish you for it. We also have a sense that not all crimes are the same. Murder is worse than theft and we have appropriate punishments. We also deem that simple repentance is not enough for forgiveness for some crimes e.g. murder.

    If God is fair and just and follows different rules then where are we wrong?
    If we are right and God behaves as you say he does then he is not fair or just by our standards, why worship him?

    Also if there is a God and we meet him after we die – then Im sure most of us will accept that there is a God – why does acceptance before death make a difference?

    Its a different matter that I might still not choose to follow or be with a God , but if he’s there when Im dead I wont have any choice but to believe he exists, no?

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Anna

    They act like no one in the history of humanity had ever thought of those things until Jesus supposedly appeared on the scene.

    +1. This is one of the things that bugs me about some religious people. They think that only their chosen savior/prophet/god ever came up with some good moral stories.

    Its why even though the original post referred to Mason who credited non believers , there still was a spark of irritation which had to be suppressed lest Richard Wade think I can only see future piles of horse shit :) .

  • Steve

    The same thing can be said about the “morality comes from god” argument.

    It’s like people went around for thousands of years lying, stealing, cheating and murdering. Then god comes along and hands down his laws to some prophet (e.g. Moses) and suddenly everyone goes “Damn! I guess we can’t do that anymore”

  • Richard Wade

    Deepak Shetty,
    LOLOLOL! :D
    Go ahead and express your irritation. Don’t mind me, I get irritated by that nonsense too.

    You want expressed irritation? Check out my rant about their tax exempt status.

    I just don’t slap away a hand offered in a gesture of friendship, or completely give up on chances for understanding.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I wonder, if Jesus had actually existed as the person described in the bible, what he would think of Christians today. Jesus, we are told, spent time with the poor, the beggars and prostitutes, he defended those accused of moral crimes (let he who is without sin…), he raged against the hypocrisy of his own culture. He claimed no reward for himself and did not demand worship or power, he helped the sick and the meek, he taught a message of love and compassion.

    True, there is nothing revolutionary about his teachings even for the time but still a good idea is a good idea and he (if he existed) deserves some credit for what he said.

    Today we have Christians like Robert W. who claim this same compassion that Jesus demonstrated but don’t show it in their words or deeds. We’re all going to hell he says for what we fail to believe. It is all very sad but what is he supposed to do about it? I wonder what Jesus (if he existed) would do? Would he demonstrate that Christianity actually makes a positive difference to humanity? Would he denounce such a vile teaching? Would he claim that he was misquoted and clarify his position?

    All hypothetical of course because we understand that Jesus, heaven, hell, miracles, gods and sin are just ways for people who know no better to make sense of the world. They are myths that people cling to because they cannot accept the reality that we see so clearly. They aren’t bad people. They aren’t insane. they aren’t dangerous. They are merely misinformed and invested in the myth of Christ.

    Sometimes they make me really angry with the way they judge others on their myths. Sometimes they make me feel sadness or pity for them. Sometimes it confuses me how anyone can believe such things. Rarely someone like Mason takes a step forward and drops that judgemental Christian attitude and speaks of us like the human beings that we are. At those times I can let go of the anger I feel for people like Robert W. and appreciate that we’re all just human beings trying to get along in a complex world.

  • Richard Wade

    Jeff,
    Fare you well, my friend. I’ll risk being presumptuous by calling you friend, because I know that at least I am one for you. Walking away is probably a good idea. Not for our comfort, but for yours. Please feel free to come back any time, in any mood or mode. You have several friends here who know what you feel, have felt the same, they understand why you feel that way, and they care about you. Please take care of yourself, taking time to watch the clouds roll by and feel the breeze on your face. The beautiful world is right there too.

    You’re a good man.

  • Robert W.

    Jeff P.,

    I think the popularity of Christianity can be explained by the following two human tendencies.

    1. Wanting to get something for nothing. For example, going to heaven for the non-action of just believing in a certain proposition.

    2. Liking to marginalize enemies. Saying that all non-believers in a certain proposition are going to hell.

    I think that your view of Christianity is a little simplistic. The very nature of what Christianity requires leads to people resisting it. To be truly saved as a Christian it takes you to give up yourself completely and to put your faith and trust in Christ. As Ravi Zacharias put it- “Because he calls you to die to yourself…Any time truth involves a total commitment in which you bring yourself to complete humility, to the surrender of the will, you will always have resistance.” So instead of being easy and a get something for nothing religion, instead it calls for total and complete commitment which a lot of people are unwilling to do.

    Claudia,

    So in short, young blameless children are in Hell because being good is worthless to God, only belief will let you avoid Hell

    I don’t think I said that and the Bible doesn’t teach that. Nowhere does it say that blameless innocent children will go to Hell. In fact that is what the age of accountability is about. Jesus said, let the little children come to me because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. (Mark 10:14) The Bible also says that God is infinitely just and righteous. So far from treating innocent children cruelly or unjustly, the Bible teaches just the opposite.

    Now without changing the subject, if i recall from our previous discussions (if I am wrong I apologize) you are pro-choice. As such you believe that a woman has the right to abort her unborn child and you would not call her a murderer or evil for doing so. In your worldview, life is all there is. So this woman intentionally took away the only thing that the child had, its life, yet you see nothing wrong with that. So its okay for mankind through abortion to allow for the killing of innocent children, but you find it reprehensible to think that God allows the suffering of innocent children. I find that way of thinking to be very inconsistent. (and we don’t need to get into a discussion of when the baby becomes a child, people support abortion all the way up to partial birth)

    Sven,

    For all the time you have been here, you really have not even tried to understand a single thing about atheist.

    Actually I have gained a greater understanding and appreciation of your way of thinking, even if I don’t agree with it. But if I have misunderstood something in my previous post please let me know.

    InTheWater,

    What you said, “Yes all those that have heard about and have the information about Jesus and armed with that knowledge they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their savior are going to Hell. That is the basic Christian belief”, does not match up to what Christianity teaches or what the bible says, anyway.

    There is admittedly more then one position on this subject. Mark 16:15-16 says that we are to go out and preach the good news to all creation and those that believe will be saved and those that don’t will be condemned. In order for you to make that choice, you must hear about the information. John 15:22 says that once they hear they have no excuse for their sin before that they were not guilty of the sin of rejecting Christ and thus rejecting the Father. Thus I believe that God’s grace and mercy will dictate those who have not heard. I also think that there will be and are very few people who haven’t heard the Gospel.

    Now would we be better off then not evangelizing? No because the Bible is clear that God has made himself known to all men and that He can bring the gospel to those that seek him. Like the story of Phillip and the eunuch in Acts 8. Also, we believe that accepting Christ benefits your life in on Earth not just your eternal destiny so there is no need to not share the good news.

    Some people hold that when Romans 1 says that God has revealed himself to all men, that that is enough to condemn them if they don’t seek him out. They hold that God has revealed himself to all men and they need to seek him out and once they do it will be revealed to them. But, after this revelation these men still reject God, even without hearing the Gospel, that they will be condemned.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    Today we have Christians like Robert W. who claim this same compassion that Jesus demonstrated but don’t show it in their words or deeds. We’re all going to hell he says for what we fail to believe. It is all very sad but what is he supposed to do about it? I wonder what Jesus (if he existed) would do? Would he demonstrate that Christianity actually makes a positive difference to humanity? Would he denounce such a vile teaching? Would he claim that he was misquoted and clarify his position?

    Actually Jesus has already answered your question. John 14:6- “I am the way, the truth and the light, no one comes to the Father except through me” He is referring to faith and belief in Him. Jesus was very clear that acts did not lead to salvation, faith and trust in him and God is the only way. He condemned the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day for thinking that they were saved by following the law.

    So what you refer to as vile teaching, is actually the words of Jesus. And if you really think about it, that is a whole lot better then basing salvation upon acts or works. Because Jesus is not just asking you to change the way you act but to change the way you think. Just like abolishing slavery didn’t end racism, but loving your neighbor as yourself will. Just like not murdering someone else is good, but being willing to lay down your life for another is even better.

    And you say that Jesus hung out with the sinners and the rejected and you are right. But he didn’t condone their sins. he told them to go and sin no more. As for the poor, the orphans and the widows he called upon us to take care of them and to help them, which Christians, including myself do to a very large degree.

    Now you call me cruel or unloving when I say that if you don’t believe in God and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior you are going to spend eternity in hell. I say I would be cruel for not telling you that and keeping it to myself. I don’t judge you nor am I the one that would make that decision, but I do believe I have the obligation to tell you and love you regardless of your choice, which I do.

  • Steener

    If he is aloowed to do it, then people who are athiests should put those views on thier juresy and see if anyone says anything. If they are both allowed then it shouldn’t matter.

  • Robert W.

    And to all including Jeff, I am sorry to see him go.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Richard Wade
    I suppressed my irritation because I know you were right , thanks :)

  • Mike

    Wow… go to work for the day and miss a rather lengthy thread…

    Darryl Says:

    So, Mike, I sincerely hope you’re on your way down the slippery slope. The water here in the atheist camp is fine indeed, and the silencing of that thudding cognitive dissonance is blissful.

    @Darryl,

    Interestingly enough, I have (in my early 20s) been all the way down the slippery slope and have waded in the water of the atheist camp. And like so many others, I looked back at those doing the delicate balance required to avoid slipping down that hill and thought “why would anyone work so hard to stay in such a precarious position?” But, something was “off” in my life. About 15 years ago (I am now in my 40s), I took a broader look around and saw that while I had neither the will or ability to “reclimb” the slippery slope, there were many other religious routes that did not blind adherence to a philosophy of willful ignorance. I am now on a very different quest for the true nature of the divine.

    I follow this blog precisely because it holds a spotlight up to the flaws and traps in religion. I follow Christ both out of tradition and because I see in him an excellent example of how we should live this quest. (And yes, I repeatedly fail miserably when the rubber hits the road.) It is in this sense that I can say without hypocrisy that the Christ is the son of God… by examining his life and teachings (even if they are completely fictitious) we get a small glimpse of the ultimate goal for humanity.

    I am certain that at least one person will respond that this makes me a non-Christian (possibly even voices from both sides). But, it always strikes me as amusing when the rationale the atheist uses when accusing me of being a non-Christian is that my beliefs aren’t supported by the bible… A source which they would vehemently dismiss as (at best) a highly flawed basis should a Christian use it to defend their position.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Mike, good luck with your quest. Taking ancient writings and determining a personal non-literal interpretation that has meaning for you is what religion should be about. There is nothing wrong with that. It only becomes problematic when a single interpretation is declared to be the only true interpretation and that everybody must subscribe to it, tithe, and work to convert all others to that single interpretation or be damned and go to hell. If you find something that works for you, then run with it. Mileage may vary with other people, though.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert W, the idea of giving up yourself (at least in moderation) is the one aspect of Christianity that I do like. I agree that it is a good idea to not over-script your life. A little should be left to chance. To not take oneself too seriously… to be humble that you don’t know all there is to know (and probably never will). I just don’t see why you need to drag this whole notion of original sin, damnation, heaven, hell, saved, and bible worship into it. It is quite possible to be humble and be an atheist at the same time. An atheist can be “Jesus like” in this way. Personally I am quite content in saying “I don’t know” when asked some of life’s fundamental questions.

    As with Hoverfrog, I also wonder what Jesus would think of the way (at least evangelical) Christianity has evolved with its emphasis on having certain “correct beliefs”. Would they be the new Pharisees?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Mike

    I am certain that at least one person will respond that this makes me a non-Christian

    There are so many different ways to be a Christian that the only sure way to tell who is a Christian is to fidn out how they identify themselves. You call yourself a Christian. You are a Christian.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert as for John 14:6 I respond as Philip did.

    John 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

    Show us that God exists and we’ll believe you. Show us that following Christ makes a genuine, positive difference to this life and we’ll be convinced. It isn’t too much to ask. Is it?

    He condemned the Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day for thinking that they were saved by following the law.

    The letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Honestly Robert you can’t simply skim the lessons of your most holy book, you have to understand them. Jesus taught that the law existed to make lives better, not to be blindly followed. If the laws interfere with living a good, compassionate life then they should be discarded. For example Jesus healed on the Sabbath and broke the law but the act of healing was “God’s work” and took precedence.

    Some Christians understand this. I see, as Mason has, that many more atheists understand it better.

  • DA

    Robert W says that Christians don’t enjoy the thought of people suffering in hell and that god wouldn’t send innocent children to hell. And he’s probably right, modern Christians usually don’t do that, but he disagrees with a lot of early church docrtine and I’m suspicious of random internet commenters who think that they have a better claim to represent Christianity than Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, and Jerome, among others.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I find it most bizarre that Robert keeps quoting bible passages like John 14:6 that supposedly quotes Jesus as if those actually had any relevance or provide any evidence towards the supernatural. They only provide evidence towards what the author who called himself “John” thought (or propagandized). If there actually was a personage called Jesus who said those words doesn’t make those words true. Also, anyone ever play the game of telephone?

  • GentleGiant

    Robert W,

    To be truly saved as a Christian it takes you to give up yourself completely and to put your faith and trust in Christ. As Ravi Zacharias put it- “Because he calls you to die to yourself…Any time truth involves a total commitment in which you bring yourself to complete humility, to the surrender of the will, you will always have resistance.” So instead of being easy and a get something for nothing religion, instead it calls for total and complete commitment which a lot of people are unwilling to do.

    So, we are to become mindless automatons? Doesn’t that fly in the face of the whole “free will” concept? “Sure, I gave you free will, I just don’t want you to use it….”

    In fact that is what the age of accountability is about.

    What exactly is this age?

    The Bible also says that God is infinitely just and righteous.

    So it’s just and righteous to stone disobedient kids? To kill people who are gay? To keep slaves?
    You don’t really see what so many of us have a problem with here?

    How about “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.” – that’s any kind of capitalism right out the window there. Is capitalism unjust?
    Be careful with voicing anything like that in your own home country, people might accuse you and your “saviour” of being communists. ;-)

  • GentleGiant

    Also, if this God is so compassionate, why doesn’t he just eradicate Hell? He’s all powerful, no?
    Just let those who don’t accept his “son” (and I’m not even going to go into the whole convoluted idea of an omnipresent, omniscient being having to go through the trouble of impregnating a virgin to have a fleshy avatar walk around on earth, why not just forgive people’s sins?) as the way to him die off and cease to exist. Wouldn’t that be more compassionate?
    But no, they have to SUFFER! Funny how the “actions” of said God doesn’t fit the PR campaign his followers have drummed up.

  • Inthewater

    Yeah, I was hoping for more discussion out of Robert about what HE thought, rather than more of the same old “The Bible says this” sort of stuff. I guess that was pretty silly.

    It doesn’t matter if you don’t share the gospel with people, they have all heard it or know of it, because god said so.

    In the bible.

    From what he says about himself and his own beliefs, I feel like what he thinks about this subject doesn’t mesh very well with what the bible really says, at times.

    Oh well, been a fun discussion anyway.

  • Robert W.

    Jeff P,

    Robert W, the idea of giving up yourself (at least in moderation) is the one aspect of Christianity that I do like. I agree that it is a good idea to not over-script your life. A little should be left to chance. To not take oneself too seriously… to be humble that you don’t know all there is to know (and probably never will). I just don’t see why you need to drag this whole notion of original sin, damnation, heaven, hell, saved, and bible worship into it. It is quite possible to be humble and be an atheist at the same time. An atheist can be “Jesus like” in this way. Personally I am quite content in saying “I don’t know” when asked some of life’s fundamental questions.

    I agree that humility is an aspect of Christianity but i view it a little different then you. My humility comes from knowing that I have turned my life over to Christ, that I have complete trust in Him.

    Jeff P and Hoverfrog:

    As with Hoverfrog, I also wonder what Jesus would think of the way (at least evangelical) Christianity has evolved with its emphasis on having certain “correct beliefs”. Would they be the new Pharisees?

    The letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Honestly Robert you can’t simply skim the lessons of your most holy book, you have to understand them. Jesus taught that the law existed to make lives better, not to be blindly followed. If the laws interfere with living a good, compassionate life then they should be discarded. For example Jesus healed on the Sabbath and broke the law but the act of healing was “God’s work” and took precedence.

    I agree that “religion” can and alot of times does get in the way of being like Christ. I also agree that Christ taught that all of the laws were wrapped up in two commandments- Love your god with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. So Hoverfrog I don’t think we are disagreeing. My point was that the Pharisees believed that they were superior to everyone else because they followed all of the laws, most of which they made up themselves. Jesus taught that these laws will not lead to salvation, but only faith in him, which is I think what we were discussing.

    Show us that God exists and we’ll believe you. Show us that following Christ makes a genuine, positive difference to this life and we’ll be convinced. It isn’t too much to ask. Is it?

    I find it most bizarre that Robert keeps quoting bible passages like John 14:6 that supposedly quotes Jesus as if those actually had any relevance or provide any evidence towards the supernatural. They only provide evidence towards what the author who called himself “John” thought (or propagandized).

    Gentlemen now you are changing the subject. Our discussion in this thread has been about how terrible God is for the concept of Hell and what it means to act like Jesus. In doing so you have discussed Christian theology and what the Bible says. Now, when I try to point out that this understanding maybe mistaken you say quit quoting the Bible and show us there is a God. We have had that discussion before and I would be happy to have it again.

    DA,

    but he disagrees with a lot of early church docrtine and I’m suspicious of random internet commenters who think that they have a better claim to represent Christianity than Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, and Jerome, among others.

    Of course as a Protestant after the reformation I will disagree with some of the teachings of these early writers who were Catholic but I would be interested to see where any of these writers taught that God and/or Christians relished in the idea of people going to Hell.

  • Robert W.

    InTheWater,

    Yeah, I was hoping for more discussion out of Robert about what HE thought, rather than more of the same old “The Bible says this” sort of stuff. I guess that was pretty silly.

    You specifically asked me not to tell you what I thought. You asked for where the Bible said it. Here is what you asked:

    If it is there, please show me. Seriously. Not just ” I believe” or “my denomination believes”. Where does it say that in the bible?

    So I complied with your request.

    GentleGiant,

    So, we are to become mindless automatons? Doesn’t that fly in the face of the whole “free will” concept? “Sure, I gave you free will, I just don’t want you to use it….”

    No. Its two different concepts.

    What exactly is this age?

    The Bible doesn’t say that there is a specific age

    So it’s just and righteous to stone disobedient kids? To kill people who are gay? To keep slaves?
    You don’t really see what so many of us have a problem with here?

    How about “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.” – that’s any kind of capitalism right out the window there. Is capitalism unjust?
    Be careful with voicing anything like that in your own home country, people might accuse you and your “saviour” of being communists. ;-)

    Also, if this God is so compassionate, why doesn’t he just eradicate Hell? He’s all powerful, no?

    So you really want to get into a discussion about all of these issues or are you venting? I will be happy to discuss them with you but you are basically covering the entire Christian doctrine here and it will take some time.

    To answer your last question, go to your first question- free will and the choice of some to use that free will to believe in God and accept Christ necessitates Hell.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert W, I’ll play the bad boy and put words in your mouth for the purpose of letting you know how I view your statement on humility:

    (bold: my words put in your mouth)

    I agree that humility is an aspect of Christianity but I view it a little different then you. My humility comes from knowing that I have turned my life over to Christ, that I have complete trust in Him that He will guide and protect me as my personal savior and grant me eternal life in the hereafter while not extending that favor to all those that have heard the Word and not believed.

    Now how is that humility? It sounds more like conceit to me.

    Perhaps you can comment and clarify.

    I prefer a more modest version of humility.

    My humility comes from a recognition that I am a finite mortal being living only for a short while on the crust of an advancing wave of time. I hope to leave the world a little better than when I found it and experience a little happiness along the way. I am curious about the world but don’t expect to find out all the answers or get a pot of gold at the end.

  • Robert W.

    Jeff P,

    You are incorrectly combining personal humility arising from a Christian’s submission of his will to Christ together with an acknowledgment of the gift of grace and God’s plan for salvation. When i think of what God has done fro me and all of mankind I am humbled and awestruck.

    I understand that some view the idea that the Christian belief that there is only one way to salvation as being arrogant. However, I tried to point out that this is not unique to Christianity and really applies to all worldviews that believe they have the truth. But believing this certainly doesn’t mean we know all the answers.

  • Inthewater

    @Robert W

    Yep, but I started out with, “You didn’t answer or address what I said, and I’d like to “hear” your thoughts.”

    Sorry, I am no word-smith or super debater. I just wanted to hear what you thought about a topic.

    You didn’t show me where it says that people that haven’t heard the gospel can still get to heaven, and you didn’t explain why you think it is better to tell them if they already get into heaven. You quoted some bible verses that could be (and probably are) translated to mean any number of things, depending on which version you read.

    In my experience, most Christians do not believe that grown humans that have not been witnessed to (regardless of if they have “heard” of this story of salvation through christ, they may not have been presented with it in their life) will go to heaven. The catch, as you pointed out, is that the bible says they all know anyway.

    Gosh, how convenient.

    If they all know anyway, because the bible says so, then I again don’t see the need to witness or share the gospel.

    It just seems like a convenient way to say “no matter what, if you don’t believe our book, you are all hosed”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    They can still scare people into submission with that alone.

    Speak for yourself. I’m fine with ceasing to exist. That whole death will be like before I was born thing really isn’t freaking scary at all. Hell, not nearly as scary as being unable to cease to exist but to go on and on for millenium long after you grew tired of it, especially in some freaky ass place bowing and scraping to some heinous thing threatening to snuff you out the second you make some slight offensive to him.

    and you also want it to be true that if you are wrong, this same God, will not hold you to that choice and let you be redeemed anyway

    Um, Robert, did you read my comment. Do I have to get blunter? You know what god can do with his salvation, don’t you?

    As pertains morality, however, it really isn’t rocket science. As individuals and as societies, we have to determine what’s moral and it ain’t that tough to do. Do our actions make the world a worse place (as eating and torturing each other definitely and obviously do)? If they do, they’re immoral. If not, (yes, making it better is desirable but not necessary as long as an action or inaction does no harm), it’s perfectly okay. Like gays marrying. Hurts no one.

    The only reason we endlessly argue about morals is because there’s a lot of gray areas and a lot of times when one person thinks something’s harmful and another doesn’t. But, when it comes to gray areas, that’s something mankind has to hash out for itself. I’m sorry but it does that much better without religion.

    Religion makes so much just not even up for discussion. Just obey because gawd says so. Not good enough. Like no gay marriages because god says so. No, you’re going to have to do better than that. Show the freaking harm. And, no, it isn’t harm that kids might see the example and find it an acceptable choice. For that to be harmful (without even getting into the stupidity of thinking that in the first place), there’d have to be something wrong with gay marriages to begin with. Show me what other than gawd said no. I don’t give a flying fig what the best selling work of fiction of all time says.

  • Robert W.

    Inthewater,

    You didn’t show me where it says that people that haven’t heard the gospel can still get to heaven, and you didn’t explain why you think it is better to tell them if they already get into heaven. You quoted some bible verses that could be (and probably are) translated to mean any number of things, depending on which version you read.

    I wasn’t meaning to be critical. My view does come from Biblical scripture, so to tell you my view I would quote scripture. To use my words, I think that there is a general revelation that comes to all man from God. We know enough even if we haven’t heard of the Gospel or know what to call Him to know that he exists. We can either seek Him as a result of this revelation or we can disregard him. If we seek Him, God will find away for the Gospel to come us.

    To use your Hindu example, that man may not be saved regardless of the missionary coming to him if he has rejected God before the missionary gets there. He is in no different position. If however, he is seeking God and then hears the Gospel and rejects it then I don’t think he will be saved.

    Donna,

    Your point on your thoughts regarding salvation is very clear. My use of the word “you” in my comment was an universal “you” and not directed to you in particular.

    As pertains morality, however, it really isn’t rocket science. As individuals and as societies, we have to determine what’s moral and it ain’t that tough to do. Do our actions make the world a worse place (as eating and torturing each other definitely and obviously do)? If they do, they’re immoral. If not, (yes, making it better is desirable but not necessary as long as an action or inaction does no harm), it’s perfectly okay. Like gays marrying. Hurts no one.

    The only reason we endlessly argue about morals is because there’s a lot of gray areas and a lot of times when one person thinks something’s harmful and another doesn’t. But, when it comes to gray areas, that’s something mankind has to hash out for itself. I’m sorry but it does that much better without religion.

    I do not think that moral relativism leads to a better and more moral society. It inevitably leads to a less moral society so that we are careful not to impinge upon what others think is moral conduct and in the end we have little morals at all.

    In my opinion there has to be an objective morality that comes from a source beyond man himself. I think that there is such an objective morality and the fact that there is good evidence for the existence of God.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Robert W
    humble people actually don’t go about telling people how humble they are.

  • Deepak Shetty

    Mike

    It is in this sense that I can say without hypocrisy that the Christ is the son of God… by examining his life and teachings (even if they are completely fictitious) we get a small glimpse of the ultimate goal for humanity.

    Do you care to clarify because this statement doesn’t make sense to me. Superman is completely fictitious will you make the same statement of him?.
    Your statement assumes there is an ultimate goal of humanity – something that if you accept evolution cannot possibly be true.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Deepak Shetty,

    I had a friend back in high-school (who was Mormon) who used to joke that he “was humble and proud of it”.

    I think the theology of Mormonism is a bit off the wall, but in his case, I do appreciate self-deprecating humor when I hear it. I wonder if Robert could come up with some self-deprecating humor about some component of his belief system?

  • Robert W.

    Jeff P.,

    I wonder if Robert could come up with some self-deprecating humor about some component of his belief system?

    I actually really enjoyed the Church Lady on SNL and one of the comedians I like is Tim Hawkins who regularly makes fun of Christians and the way we act.

  • Inthewater

    @Robert W

    Thanks for the insight into what you think on this subject. I still don’t see how you can say that on one hand, everyone knows of god because he said that they do in the bible, but then say that people that don’t know about salvation through christ (which is impossible based on what you said prior) can go to heaven.

    It seems like trying to have it both ways. In its most basic form, or in my opinion, chritians believe there is one way to heaven, and it is through christ. Is there more than one way to heaven, now?

    Do you believe, or rather does your religion tell you, that if a group of natives in the amazon somewhere have never heard of the christian god, they will go to heaven upon death? If so, that has NEVER been expressed that way before to me, except where people were interpreting rather than reading and following.

    Anyway, thanks for the continued discussion, regardless of the topic.

  • GentleGiant

    GentleGiant,

    So, we are to become mindless automatons? Doesn’t that fly in the face of the whole “free will” concept? “Sure, I gave you free will, I just don’t want you to use it….”

    No. Its two different concepts.

    I fail to see how it is. Care to explain?
    The way I see it, if you have free will, but you can only do as God tells you, then you really don’t have free will if you want to go into heaven. Use that free will and you automatically go to Hell, unless you give up your free will and give yourself fully over to Jesus.

    What exactly is this age?

    The Bible doesn’t say that there is a specific age

    You brought up this age…
    If there is no specific age, how can there be an age at all? Isn’t it just an arbitrary concept then?
    Something you seem to be against, judging from some of your other comments.
    Also, if it really is an arbitrary age, what are the ground rules for determining this, apparently, individual age?

    So it’s just and righteous to stone disobedient kids? To kill people who are gay? To keep slaves?
    You don’t really see what so many of us have a problem with here?

    How about “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.” – that’s any kind of capitalism right out the window there. Is capitalism unjust?
    Be careful with voicing anything like that in your own home country, people might accuse you and your “saviour” of being communists.

    Also, if this God is so compassionate, why doesn’t he just eradicate Hell? He’s all powerful, no?

    So you really want to get into a discussion about all of these issues or are you venting? I will be happy to discuss them with you but you are basically covering the entire Christian doctrine here and it will take some time.

    You said that God is infinitely just and righteous, I pointed to some of his rules and asked if you find these rules just and righteous.
    You brought it up, I just expanded on the issue with examples and challenged your assumption.

    To answer your last question, go to your first question- free will and the choice of some to use that free will to believe in God and accept Christ necessitates Hell.

    Why does it necessitate Hell? Why does non-existence not offer a much better alternative to Hell? Unless God is so spiteful that if he doesn’t get his way, he’s going to sulk like a child and punish those who dare to defy him. Sorry, this, again, again, doesn’t seem like a compassionate guy to me.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W. Matthew 22:36-40 has some subtleties that I think you are missing. If the first and greatest command is to love God then why is the second and equal commandment (to love your neighbour as yourself) like it? What is the deeper meaning here? How does this relate to the question of whether we are saved through faith or works? It seems central to the question for me.

    I think that Mason gets it.

    Gentlemen now you are changing the subject. Our discussion in this thread has been about how terrible God is for the concept of Hell and what it means to act like Jesus.

    You’ve taken two unrelated quotes and mixed them up as if we are talking about the same thing. Come on Robert, that’s a little sly of you isn’t it? I want evidence. Inthewater wants to know what you think.

  • Robert W.

    Inthewater,

    Do you believe, or rather does your religion tell you, that if a group of natives in the amazon somewhere have never heard of the christian god, they will go to heaven upon death? If so, that has NEVER been expressed that way before to me, except where people were interpreting rather than reading and following.

    I don’t think that it that simple. Our problem I am sure is my inartful way that I originally made my statement.

    There are several basic tenets to begin with which must be reconciled- God is infinitely just and righteous. All people are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death. The only way to be saved is through acceptance of Jesus Christ. All have seen the glory of God through his creation and therefore there is no excuse for not recognizing Him.

    So that tribe in the Amazon that has never heard the gospel may have some people that have recognized God and i believe if they have sought him out they will be judged by the “light they know”. I also believe that in that instance, God will find a way to get them the Gospel. As for others who have seen the same information regarding God and have rejected Him, they will be judged accordingly.

    I am not pretending to know all the answers here but i do believe that this is a Biblically sound way to look at this issue. I do know that there are different ways and that different schools of thought. I am still learning and thank you for this discussion because I have been forced to think about it in great detail.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert, you talk of the Christian notion of hell being necessary if there is free will. The way I see it, the minimum theology would need to be the following:

    1. That there is a God
    2. And that God cannot tolerate or abide imperfection in His presence (in the afterlife)
    3. And that all souls are eternal (always exist) and have to reside somewhere at all times
    4. And that the only place God does not reside (in the afterlife) is in Hell.

    Since you base your beliefs on what is written in the bible, can you cite any passages in support of proposition 2, 3, or 4?
    I’m just curious.

  • GentleGiant

    There are several basic tenets to begin with which must be reconciled- God is infinitely just and righteous.

    I gave you examples, how are these just and righteous?
    Again, the evidence doesn’t fit the assertion.

    All people are sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

    If we were created by God, why did he then create us imperfect? Doesn’t that point to God not being perfect if he can create something this flawed?

    The wages of sin is death. The only way to be saved is through acceptance of Jesus Christ.

    In other words, God created us all doomed unless we do exactly as he tells us. Again, that’s not free will. That’s holding a gun to our heads and saying that we have free will, but if we don’t do as he wants us to do, he’ll pull the trigger. Swell guy, that.

    All have seen the glory of God through his creation and therefore there is no excuse for not recognizing Him.

    Except there is no single evidence for this “creation by God”… It’s the act of having a foregone conclusion and looking for the “evidence” to support that conclusion and discarding anything that doesn’t fit that conclusion.

    I am not pretending to know all the answers here but i do believe that this is a Biblically sound way to look at this issue.

    And here’s the rub, we don’t look at this from a biblical way, but from an actual, factual way. From our observations about the world around us. And none of those observations support the biblical way.

  • Robert W.

    GentleGiant,

    I fail to see how it is. Care to explain?
    The way I see it, if you have free will, but you can only do as God tells you, then you really don’t have free will if you want to go into heaven. Use that free will and you automatically go to Hell, unless you give up your free will and give yourself fully over to Jesus.

    Freewill is your choice to accept Christ and believe in God. You have the free will do do that. What Christ calls for you to do to accept Him as your savior is to give your life to him and to give your will over to Him and put your complete trust in Him.

    You brought up this age…
    If there is no specific age, how can there be an age at all? Isn’t it just an arbitrary concept then?
    Something you seem to be against, judging from some of your other comments.
    Also, if it really is an arbitrary age, what are the ground rules for determining this, apparently, individual age?

    Some call this the age where a person would have “God consciousness”. Old enough to be able to have the capacity to understand the reality of God’s revelation such that they could be held accountable for their response to it.

    Examples of God being just and righteous-

    stoning disobedient kids- Is there a particular verse you are referring to?

    Kill people who are gay- God treats all sexually immoral behavior as being wrong and sinful. If you will look at the entire list in Leviticus even adultery between a man and a women has the same language.

    Covetness- that is greed and envy, not capitalism.

    Slavery- God does not condone slavery, but he did give some principles on how slaves should be treated. In the old testament slavery was different then racial based slavery that you are referring to, it was more of a way to repay debt. The Israelites also had the year of jubilee when all slaves were set free. When Jesus came he could have specifically said something about slavery to get rid of it but instead he went further and said that all should treat each other with love regardless of their station in life. Why just try to get rid of slavery when you can get rid of racism and hatred all together.

    Why does it necessitate Hell? Why does non-existence not offer a much better alternative to Hell? Unless God is so spiteful that if he doesn’t get his way, he’s going to sulk like a child and punish those who dare to defy him. Sorry, this, again, again, doesn’t seem like a compassionate guy to me.

    We believe that souls are eternal. They cannot just be eradicated. So they just can’t go “poof”. And there will be an ultimate judgment day when all who have lived on Earth will be judged.

    If we were created by God, why did he then create us imperfect? Doesn’t that point to God not being perfect if he can create something this flawed?

    He didn’t create us imperfect. Remember the fall? That is when sin came into the world.

    In other words, God created us all doomed unless we do exactly as he tells us. Again, that’s not free will. That’s holding a gun to our heads and saying that we have free will, but if we don’t do as he wants us to do, he’ll pull the trigger. Swell guy, that.

    Nope. God didn’t create us that way, but that is the state we are in now. do you have children? Have you told them the rules of your house and what will happen in the event they don’t follow them? Have they violated those rules and got punished? Would you say that they have no free will to obey you or not? Of course they do, there are just consequences to their choices.

    Except there is no single evidence for this “creation by God”… It’s the act of having a foregone conclusion and looking for the “evidence” to support that conclusion and discarding anything that doesn’t fit that conclusion.

    Don’t quote the Bible to support your idea that God isn’t just and then disregard the parts you don’t like. The same Bible that says shows you that God isn’t just is the same Bible that says He created the universe. Now if you want to get into a discussion of extra biblical arguments for God, then we can go through a cosmological argument, the design argument, etc…

    Hoverfrog,

    Robert W. Matthew 22:36-40 has some subtleties that I think you are missing. If the first and greatest command is to love God then why is the second and equal commandment (to love your neighbour as yourself) like it? What is the deeper meaning here? How does this relate to the question of whether we are saved through faith or works? It seems central to the question for me.

    The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus into to determining what was the greatest commandment. They were trying to show their superiority in the law. Jesus answered the question by basically telling them that the all of their laws were not important. Jesus later also makes it clear that it is faith that saves you, not works. For example, the thief on the cross, the lady at the well, etc.. Specifically John 3:16 makes it clear- For whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Paul also makes in clear in Ephesians 2:6- not saved by works lest any man boast.

  • ACN

    Nope. God didn’t create us that way, but that is the state we are in now. do you have children? Have you told them the rules of your house and what will happen in the event they don’t follow them? Have they violated those rules and got punished? Would you say that they have no free will to obey you or not? Of course they do, there are just consequences to their choices.

    Are we assuming that your god has the usual omni^3? If so, he created his humans with the full knowledge that they would sin and fall away from him and that he would have to send some of them to hell. In fact, if you take his alleged omniscience seriously, he knows that there are some people who will never believe in him who he will HAVE to send to hell, yet he persists in creating those people expressly for this purpose!

    You have to remember that his newly formed humans were functionally infants. They had no parents, they had no experience with breaking rules and consequences. If your 4 year old child pressed a giant red button you’d told him not to touch, would the correct consequences for him be to eject him from your house for all time until ? The humans who ushered this “sinful nature” into the world had less experience with parents, discipline and consequences than this hypothetical 4-year old.

    Given his omni^3, why even create a satan who would tempt his creation into destroying its perfection. And why let the damn satan live after he tempted people to sin? And if he is truly omnipotent, why can’t he just poof the sin out of the world, kill the snake, and return his creation to placidity? Why does he have to wait thousands (millions or billions?) of years to carry out a ridiculous plan for salvation that culminates with a guy getting nailed to a piece of wood to make up for the sins of his original people? Why does the whole plan have to end in sacrificing himself to himself to appease himself to make up for the wrongs that his own creation performed against him? How is it even possible to wrong something that knows all of your actions in advance, and is infinitely powerful? Can you take something from it? Hurt it?

    and here:

    Except there is no single evidence for this “creation by God”… It’s the act of having a foregone conclusion and looking for the “evidence” to support that conclusion and discarding anything that doesn’t fit that conclusion.

    Don’t quote the Bible to support your idea that God isn’t just and then disregard the parts you don’t like. The same Bible that says shows you that God isn’t just is the same Bible that says He created the universe. Now if you want to get into a discussion of extra biblical arguments for God, then we can go through a cosmological argument, the design argument, etc…

    GentleGiant is trying to be charitable. He is assuming your premises and disregarding the possibility of your external inconsistency to show that he thinks your ideas are internally inconsistent.

  • Robert W.

    Jeff P.,

    2- See Hebrew 12:14; Matt: 5:8 there are a lot more verses about the holiness of God

    3- One of the best is Daniel 12:2; Matt:25:46

    4-2 Thess 1:9- says Hell is eternal separation from God

    I am sure there are quite a few more, but I hope these help.

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    Way too many questions to answer one by one. But these questions have been answered by others.

    I would suggest here:

    http://carm.org/questions/skeptics-ask/if-god-knew-people-would-sin-why-did-he-make-them

    or

    http://www.gotquestions.org/if-God-knew.html

  • DA

    robert, there was no “Catholic” and ‘Protestant” back then so that’s a bit of a non-starter; there was Catholicism/Trinitarianism as opposed to Arianism, which was a bit like Islam. Luther drew heavily from Augustine, including predestination, and Augustine held that even infants were sinful and would go to hell if they died outside of God’s grace. Origen thought that celestial bodies like the sun could commit sins and incur god’s wrath. Tertullian wrote that one of the pleasures of paradise would be the chance to watch the tortures of the damned. Jerome said a Christian had no duty to concern himself with the torments of those in hell (not even the worst thing he said; he defended the right of Christians to burn down synagogues). I’m just going with what I recall offhand too, If I sat down and did some reading I’m sure I could find a lot of stuff that shows that the doctors of theology (from whom, like it or not, modern Protestantism is a direct descendent, and without whom it could not exist) don’t share your rather modern take on Christianity. Let me also say, I believe your values, like those of many Christians I know, are probably significantly more advanced than the people who brought us Christianity as we know it; I don’t know if you consider that a compliment or an insult, but I consider it the former.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Robert W.

    The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus into to determining what was the greatest commandment. They were trying to show their superiority in the law. Jesus answered the question by basically telling them that the all of their laws were not important. Jesus later also makes it clear that it is faith that saves you, not works. For example, the thief on the cross, the lady at the well, etc.. Specifically John 3:16 makes it clear- For whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Paul also makes in clear in Ephesians 2:6- not saved by works lest any man boast.

    Sigh. That is certainly the obvious meaning but I’m sure if you look a bit deeper you’ll see more to it. Let me help you.

    Jesus never claimed to be the son of God but claimed that we were all children of God. Loving God and your neighbours amounts to the same thing because it is like the love you have for your father and brother. Perhaps not literally but family ties (and the misogynistic overtones) were very much of the time and very important.

    The message is one that we might call humanism today. People are important because they are just like you. Spare them hardship where you can, help them when they need it and in doing so you do God’s work. God’s work in this case is…..

    Come on Robert.

    The thief on the cross and the lady by the well are examples of compassionate behaviour, not of blind belief. It is blind adherence to rules that set Jesus to calling the Pharisees hypocrites. They could have been practicing the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it. Surely you can see this? Or is following the letter of your holy book more important than following the spirit of its inspiration’s teachings?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert, thanks for the bible passages.

    Probably the best one was from the section in Matt 25:31-46. Interestingly, there is not a word in this section about judging based on belief. Its all about separating the sheep from the goats based on humanitarian actions.

    It is quite apparent that the bible is a collection of stories by authors with competing agendas as for what Christianity should be. It is also apparent to me that the various Christian denominations and sects merely selectively pay attention to the subset of the bible that agrees with their viewpoint.

    You are from the “God separates the sheep from the goats based on their belief” camp and can cite your collection of passages in the bible supporting your stance. Others can claim that “God separates the sheep from the goats based on their humanitarian actions” camp and can cite their collection of passages in the bible. Granted there is a lot of over-lap but there are important differences as well. It all comes down to who’s authority you choose to listen to. Or you can be skeptical about the authority of all the people who wrote the bible and await better evidence.

  • Robert W.

    DA,

    I agree that there are some theological differences between the modern church and the ancient writers you mention. It is also true that the Protestant revolution changed some of the early thinking but it is clear that thousands of years ago there was a more strident idea of torment in Hell then some, including me view it today. Regardless, even if it is merely separation from god for all eternity, its not a place that I want to be.

    Hoverfrog and Jeff P.,

    First let me say that I truly enjoy our discussions. I like both of your insights and comments. However, just as you might think that my belief that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ clouds my thoughts on the value of good works, I think that your idea that faith isn’t important may be having the opposite effect.

    I agree with you that Jesus taught that the Pharisees strict adherence to the law blinded them of their unrighteousness. That they believed following the law saved them. Jesus said he came not to follow the law but to fulfill it.

    There is no doubt that good works and treating people with love, grace and mercy is extremely important in the Christian worldview. We are called to do that, specifically with the poor and widows but not to the exclusion of anyone else. And it is equally true that we fail in a lot of respects. However, as important as these good works are, they are never enough to give you salvation. As much as Jesus called for us to treat people with love, He also made it clear that faith is what sets you free. Not that you can’t treat people this way without faith, but for most Christians (and i would say those that are soundly theologically based), the works are a natural outflow from the belief and trying to live up to the calling of Christ, not as a merit based system to earn their way into Heaven.

    The thief on the cross was told he would be with Christ in paradise, not because of his good deeds, but because of his faith. This is expounded upon by Paul in his various letters particularly in Romans.

    John 3:16 says it most succinctly- whoever believes in him shall have everlasting life.

    Romans 5:1- justified by faith

    Gal.2:16- justified by believe in Christ, not by works

    Gal.2:21- if justification was by works, then Christ died needlessly
    Let me say that I wholeheartedly agree with you Christians need to live more like Christ and love their neighbor as themselves and do good works. Because I also belief that faith without works is dead and not true faith coming from the heart and soul, but just a verbal proclamation. I just think I disagree with you about those works being the basis for salvation.

    Did Jesus say he was the Son of God? I believe He made it very clear that he was God-

    John 8:58- I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM.” referring to the message in Exodus 3:14;

    John 8:24- you will die in your sins unless you believe I am HE

    John 1:- the word was with God and the word was God

    When he said he could save people from their sins, he was making a direct reference to the fact that he was god. The Jewish authorities knew that and that is why they wanted him killed, for blasphemy.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert,

    Yes John is the gospel writer from the “belief gets you into heaven” camp backed up a bit by Paul. That is just their opinion, though. I’m not saying that works gets you into heaven. I simply don’t believe in the whole concept of a heaven to get into (and therefore the entrance criteria is a bit irrelevant except to better understand the beliefs of Christians). I thank you for explaining better your beliefs.

    It time now for me to go to one of my neighbor’s houses for a new-years eve party. They are kind-of non-practicing Catholics who would probably (if pressed) say they were in the “good works” camp. :)

    Happy new year everybody!

  • Robert W.

    Jeff P.

    Have a safe and blessed new Years.


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