Exclusive Excerpt from 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian

Guy P. Harrison is the author of the popular books 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God — an excellent primer for new atheists trying to figure out how to respond to popular Christian arguments — and 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True.

This week marks the release of his latest book: 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian (Prometheus Books, 2013). As with his previous books, this one is easy to read and a great ice-breaker for anyone who wants to start a debate :)

An exclusive excerpt from the book is below:

HOW DO WE KNOW THAT HEAVEN IS REAL?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
– John 3:16

Heaven is the most appealing promise Christianity makes. It is central to the religion, the reason Jesus came to Earth and died for us. His gory blood sacrifice gave us the opportunity to defeat death and live forever in a better place. Undoubtedly, this post-death paradise is the primary motivation for many people to become or remain Christian. But slow down! Why would anyone think this place really exists in the first place? It’s one of the most amazing and spectacular claims ever made. How can we trust it? Where is the proof? Some think heaven is real because they trust the Bible and the Bible says it is. But that’s not good enough for people who are also skeptical of the Bible’s accuracy. More than written words, they need compelling evidence, if not conclusive proof, in order to take seriously a claim this big. Keep in mind, heaven is supposed to be a perfect place where one dwells with God for eternity after dying. Few claims in the history of humankind are larger than this one. How can we be expected to just believe that it exists without some very good reasons to? Skeptics might agree with Christians that a heaven in some form or another is worth hoping for, but that’s very different from “knowing” that it really exists.

Many Christians say they have that proof. They point to near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences that involve a person “dying,” perhaps even visiting heaven, and then returning to Earth alive. Across cultures a few key descriptions of this experience have been reported. People feel a profound sense of peace and calm. Many see a tunnel and a bright light. They feel a sense of detachment from their bodies. Some see dead friends, family members, or religious figures such as angels, Jesus, or Mohammed. Interestingly, it seems that virtually all those who have the latter experience see only prominent figures who are associated with their religion. Hindus do not report seeing Zeus, Christians do not report meeting Mohammed, and Muslims never seem to encounter Joseph Smith. And no one ever gets greeted by a long-forgotten god from an extinct prehistoric religion. Despite some contradictory details, the argument often made is that so many people in so many different places cannot all be wrong about this similar experience. Heaven, therefore, must be real. As we shall see, however, there are reasonable explanations for all these things that require neither an afterlife nor the existence of heaven.

Near-death experiences are fascinating and well worth investigating, no doubt, but do they qualify as proof that an afterlife and heaven are real? I’ve read about many cases and interviewed two people who say they left their bodies for a brief period after dying. One says she visited heaven. A preacher named Don Piper “died” on January 18, 1989, and wrote about his afterlife experience in the bestselling book 90 Minutes in Heaven. I read it and found nothing that comes close to qualifying as serious evidence for his claim. He describes the “pearlescent” gates of heaven, seeing a close friend who had died in a traffic accident years before, and hearing glorious music before being whisked back to Earth to live again.

Modern brain biology and psychology can provide reasonable and likely explanations for all these things, however. Maybe Piper went to heaven, but isn’t it more likely that he and others in similar circumstances remember images and feelings that were created by their oxygen-deprived and severely stressed brains? Piper seems uninter¬ested in doubting the accuracy of his recollections—even though it is well known that our brains can fool us into believing sights, sounds, and even complex experiences that do not match with reality. “I have no intention of trying to solve this debate,” he writes. “I can only relate what happened to me. No matter what researchers may or may not try to tell me, I know I went to heaven.”[1]

Many people say they know they were experimented on by aliens, too. Many people also say they know a horoscope accurately foretold their future. Many people know they saw a ghost. Clearly an individual’s confidence is not enough. If it is, then we would have to believe every story ever told with conviction as if no human can be honestly mistaken or innocently deluded. Claims of seeing heaven may be true, but without evidence they are all just stories.

FINAL VOYAGE

I interviewed a man who told me about the day his soul left his body. He was dying of septic shock. His heart rate was down to four to six beats per minute. Devastated by infection, full of drugs, and empty of hope, he began to slip away. He drifted from his body and found himself looking down at the room from somewhere near the ceiling. He remembers seeing his doctor praying for him at his bedside. It was weird but all very real, he said. But he didn’t die. After regaining consciousness, he told the doctor that he saw him praying. The doctor, he said, was shocked. He was stunned that his patient “saw” him praying despite being dead or near dead. This out-of-body experience, though dramatic, was brief and did not include a visit to heaven. Loretta Blasingame, however, went all the way.

An “anointed evangelist,” Blasingame has traveled the world, telling people the news about Jesus’s promise of the afterlife. She also loves to share the story of her amazing visit to heaven. I met Blasingame in the Cayman Islands, where she performed a faith-healing service. That night, she claimed to “dissolve tumors” and heal a wide variety of serious illnesses.[2] Nothing topped the story of heaven that she told me, however.

Blasingame said she “died” of a heart attack and then rose out of her body. She saw her physical body lying beneath her as she hovered above. Then she found herself at the literal gates of heaven. The gates were bedazzled with blinding pearls and diamonds, and the streets were paved with gold, she said. She saw angels teaching newcomers how to properly worship God. People ate fruit, and when they were finished, another piece would magically appear. No one goes hungry in heaven, she explained. And then she saw him. Jesus approached Blasingame and took her hand. She said he had beautiful wavy hair and “the most beautiful crystal blue eyes.” Jesus “anointed” her and sent her back to Earth so that she could tell people about him and heal people in his name.[3]

STORIES ARE NOT PROOF

This was easily one of the best stories I have ever had the privilege to hear. I watched her closely as she spoke. I saw her lip tremble, the tears build in her eyes before streaking her cheeks. Skeptical though I may be, if I had to guess, I would say that she was telling me the truth that night. Maybe she fooled me, but I think she was sincere. No, I’m not convinced that she actually went to the place we know as heaven. Maybe she did, but I doubt it. However, I do think she probably went there in her mind. She felt it, experienced it, and now she remembers it, probably more clearly, in greater detail, and with more confidence than I remember some of the real places I have actually been to. I think this explanation is more likely to be accurate because I know enough about the human brain to know that it can take us to places that do not exist and leave us with unshakeable memories of having really been there. The fact that we know the brain can do this means we need to have much more than a story to be sure.

While researching alien abduction claims for another book, I was surprised to find out how common sleep paralysis is. This likely explanation for stories of extraterrestrials invading bedrooms and molesting people involves the brain’s failure to fully awaken from a dream state coupled with false memories. At least 20 percent of the population is thought to have had at least one episode of sleep paralysis with hallucinations.[4] I was amazed to discover that I had friends and family members who experienced sleep paralysis. The tacking on of elaborately constructed memories of alien mischief is less common, of course, but apparently it does happen to many people. Science has revealed much about the brain’s ability to fool us into thinking we have physically experienced things that never really happened. This knowledge must not be forgotten or diminished when people tell extraordinary stories without supporting evidence.

This knowledge should fuel our skepticism when we hear extraordinary stories, such as the one Blasingame told me. The good skeptic, even if he likes the person and is impressed with her story, recognizes that, without proof, it’s only a story. Don’t forget, we have stories of just about everything imaginable. There are stories out there about people being kidnapped by Bigfoot, time traveling, talking to ghosts, and so on. But they all have one thing in common — no proof. How can we sensibly decide which ones are true and which ones are probably not true? This is where the scientific process comes in. If we really want to get to the bottom of things, all we have to do is feed the story into the machinery of science. If it survives to emerge from the other end somewhat intact, then we might have something to be excited about. But without submitting to the scientific process, extraordinary stories wither and die, or at least they should. They still could be true, but how can we know? A story may stir us emotionally and may appeal to us in ways that make us want it to be true. It might even be believed enthusiastically by most of the people we know. But without evidence and testing, it’s just a story and nothing more.

Heaven is an irresistible hope for most people. Why wouldn’t it be? Our extraordinarily intelligent brains burden us with an awareness of our ultimate fate. Unless the singularitarians and transhumanists turn out to be right, we all will die. It’s the big finish, the ultimate end. The ever-present shadow of that realization is probably one reason most people seem so determined to keep themselves busy with either productive work or nonsense distractions. Sit still too long, and you might actually contemplate your own existence — and eventual nonexistence. One doesn’t need to be Freud to suspect that the extraordinary appeal of heaven is tied to a universal concern with death and our desire to avoid it. Many religions offer an answer that is very soothing to this concern. Christians should understand that skeptics are not necessarily opposed to an afterlife. We would love to get some more time on the clock (although eternity seems a bit much and leaving most of humankind behind would feel very wrong). We can hope too. Who wouldn’t want to be reunited with loved ones and exist in a place without want or suffering? The difference is that skeptics aren’t willing to pretend to know something that we don’t. The skeptics’ problem with heaven is not that we wouldn’t be willing to jump through the appropriate theological hoops to get there. Within reason, most of us probably would. The problem is that we are unconvinced. Stories about heaven, whether they are found in the written words of anonymous authors from thousands of years ago or in the spoken words of people who claim to have been there, fall short.

Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic, says that the absence of proof leaves us with no choice but to withhold belief in heaven at this time: “Here is the reality. It has been estimated that in the last fifty thousand years about 107 billion humans were born. Of the hundred billion people born before the seven billion living today, every one of them has died and not one has returned to confirm for us beyond a reasonable doubt that there is life after death. This data set does not bode well for promises of immortality and claims for an afterlife.”[5]

The first thing nonbelievers wonder about regarding dramatic stories of near-death and out-of-body experiences is whether or not there are natural explanations that might explain them. If there are no afterlife and no heaven, then what is going on? It seems unlikely that all these people are lying. Once again, science comes to the rescue and leads us to possible answers that are far more likely to be true because they rely on testable human biology and psychology rather than on gods and supernatural forces that are so elusive to testing and confirmation. Not all is understood, of course, but enough is to make it clear that the dying or oxygen-deprived brain is probably behind these events. For example, the tunnel of light that many dying or distressed people have reported seeing is likely nothing more than the tunnel vision that occurs when the eyes don’t get enough blood and oxygen. Researchers have also found that some drugs can trigger hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.[6] Other researchers have induced the same sensation in people by stimulating specific parts of the brain with mild electrical currents. Let’s think about this: we are not gods. We do not send people to heaven. Yet we are able to induce the near-death and out-of-body experience. None of this disproves heaven, of course. But it does strongly suggest that there is a physical, biological cause and not necessarily a supernatural one.[7]

A key factor in many of these experiences is likely the influence of prior beliefs. Those who deeply believe that death is the gateway to heaven may already be halfway there. Psychologists know very well that expectations can color perceptions of reality. If one thinks Jesus is real and frequently prays to Jesus, then it is not surprising that an image of Jesus may be conjured up by the brain during one of these near-death events. The person doesn’t even necessarily have to be religious. Simply being exposed to religious beliefs in his or her culture might trigger one’s brain to place or interpret the psychological experience into a religious context. For example, I am not religious, but if I had one of these near-death psychological events and “saw” a religious figure in my mind, it would most likely be Jesus or “God the Father.” This is because I have lived among so many Christians and been exposed to Christianity for so many years. The Christian god likely would be first in the queue for such an experience. It is much less likely that I would encounter Khepri, an ancient Egyptian god, for example.

Being skeptical of heaven does not necessarily diminish its importance. Just as fears of death have haunted us, dreams of heaven and other escapes have driven us in profound ways. Philosopher Stephen Cave believes a deep wanting to avoid death is behind much of what we do: “All living things seek to perpetuate themselves into the future, but humans seek to perpetuate themselves forever. This seeking — this will to immortality — is the foundation of human achievement; it is the wellspring of religion, the muse of philosophy, the architect of our cities and the impulse behind the arts. It is embedded in our very nature, and its results are what we know as civilization.”[8]

As a skeptic of heaven, I tell people to consider both the absence of evidence and the very reasonable scientific explanations for the dramatic near-death-experience stories about it. I tell no one, however, that they should not hope for an afterlife and a heaven. Hope, if you wish, so long as doing so does not reduce your passion for this life or diminish your desire to make it the best it can be. I see nothing wrong with hoping, so long as we do not confuse it with knowing.

[1] Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2004), p. 201.

[2] Guy P. Harrison, “God Is in This Place,” Caymanian Compass, November 19, 1993.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Susan A. Clancy, Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 35.

[5] Michael Shermer, “Hope Springs Eternal: Science, the Afterlife and the Meaning of Life,” Skeptic (accessed March 22, 2012).

[6] Charles Q. Choi, “Peace of Mind: Near-Death Experiences Now Found to Have Scientific Explanations,” Scientific American, September 12, 2011 (accessed May 7, 2012).

[7] Kevin Nelson, The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain (New York: Dutton, 2010), pp. 142−43.

[8] Stephen Cave, Immortality (New York: Crown, 2012), p. 2.

If you’d like to win a copy of Harrison’s new book, just leave your own question for Christians in the comments below and place the hashtag #AnswerThat at the end of it! I’ll contact the winner next week.

From 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian (Prometheus Books, 2013). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

    I think “Have you ever read the Bible?” is the most important question to ask any Christian. If I truly believed that the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe wrote a book, you can bet that I would be locked up in my room reading it frantically cover to cover, and probably re-reading it every few years or so.

    • Valancy Jane

      I did once truly believe that, and you can bet that was my general response. My strategy had the usual effect.

    • The Other Weirdo

      I am currently reading it, cover to cover, though not locked in a room and not frantically. All I am seeing in it so far is a lot of wishful thinking.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Being forced out of the closet was what started my journey out of Christianity. After that, I sat down and actually *read* the bible, instead of the typical “Read this and then let someone else tell you how you’re supposed to understand it” that christianists usually get through church or ‘quiet time’ aids.

      Actually reading the book was what slowly did my faith in.

    • Donaving

      I think that the Bible is a mirror. If you are a hateful person–you will see hateful things in it. If you are a poet, you will see poetry. I can tell pretty much everything I need to know about a person by what they think of the Bible.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        For some people horrible abuse and violence aren’t made better by gifts of rainbows and poetry.

        • Donaving

          Of course not. Nobody is ever “made better by gifts of rainbows or poetry”. I don’t think that I suggested that. I don’t think anybody in the history of anything ever suggested that.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            No, you said hateful people see the hateful parts. I think we people who point out the hateful parts don’t do it because we’re hateful. We do it because we don’t think those parts should be brushed over or ignored.

  • PietPuk

    Why are there so many brands of christianity, and why is christianity now so vastly different from christianity in the past?
    Which and when is/was the correct christianity as god intended it?
    If it happens to be yours, where/are all those other real christians?

    #AnswerThat

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=739835719 Robert Peate

    The one I like best is, “How would life on Earth be any different if your god did not exist?” Because it wouldn’t be, because he doesn’t. The answers I get always expose their low expectations.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=739835719 Robert Peate

      Oh! I forgot the tag. #AnswerThat

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Christian apologists would insist that “you” or “science” is now your god. Because everyone needs to have a god, of course.

    • Blacksheep

      As a Christian I would say it’s a circular question since without God earth wouldn’t exist.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=739835719 Robert Peate

        You’re missing the point. Try this: what would life on Earth look like if your god took a break for a week?

        • Blacksheep

          Maybe the same as if a farmer took a week off from his farm: Everything that he planted, tilled, tended, put in place, etc. would still be there.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Except that you have no proof that your claim is actually true, because you have no proof your god actually created the world.

        So try again, this time actually answering the question instead of dodging it.

        • Blacksheep

          I’m not dodging anything – it’s a purely logical answer. To a believer, God created the world. So World – God = no world.

    • Carolyn Zeller

      Who says the earth WOULD exist? it does because He does. isn’t that the point? God created the heavens and the earth. if He didn’t exist, neither would they.
      ;-)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=739835719 Robert Peate

        lol Internally consistent, at least!

  • http://samradford.com/ Sam Radford

    “Heaven is the most appealing promise Christianity makes. It is central to the religion”

    I know that many of we Christians think that, and clearly the author does too, but where in the Bible is the “promise” of heaven to Christians? Where does the Bible say that “heaven” is central to the religion? (The religion of Christianity may have made it central, but the Bible doesn’t.)

    The Bible does NOT promise that people will go to heaven when then die (most Biblical scholars understand that “eternal life” and “heaven” are not interchangeable terms).

    This is not to suggest the Bible doesn’t talk about heaven (though not in the way most assume) or the afterlife, but if you’re gonna critique something, at least do your research on what the Bible actually says, not simply what (sadly) many misguided Christians believe.

    • PietPuk

      Have you ever entertained the possibility that it is you that does not understand what the bible says?
      You known, metaphors and all?

      Tell me, what does “Thou Shalt Not Kill” mean?
      Does it mean, nobody should kill another human?
      Does it mean, nobody should murder another human?
      Does it also include not killing animals? Because the amendment does not seem to specify any species.

      • C Peterson

        The bible doesn’t say “thou shalt not kill”, except in poor translations (which are, of course, common). The verb found in the original Hebrew means “murder”, and therefore refers to the unlawful killing of a human being. The commandment does not refer to animals, nor to the justified killing of humans.

        • PietPuk

          So we have estabelished that bilbes are commenly subject to bad translations. Why has this god not supplied the world with a clearer written bible?
          Who decides what unlawful or justified is?

          • C Peterson

            Why has this god not supplied the world with a clearer written bible?

            That is an excellent question. Not only are the oldest existing manuscripts semantically opaque, but you’d think that a god who considered them to represent his words would inspire translators to operate accurately. And yet, we have thousands of versions of the bible, all saying different things (and some containing clear errors). And we have entire biblical books that some sects include in their bibles, and others reject.

            Societies decide what constitutes lawful and unlawful killing. They always have, and they always will.

            • ecolt

              So if societies always have and always will decide what constitutes an unlawful killing, why do we need god to command that we do not kill at all? And why do Christians say god’s law is higher than man’s law when god’s law thus depends on man’s law for its interpretation? If societies decide what is or is not a lawful killing, are things like lynchings, honor killings or the Holocaust therefor acceptable to your god? After all, the societies who do/did those things considered them lawful, which by your definition means they fit within the commandment to not kill.

              • C Peterson

                Societies decide what constitutes lawful killing, and then frame that decision in the commands of the god or gods they create.

                Certainly, lynchings, honor killings, and other types of homicide can be lawful, and are or have been in different societies. Any yes, because they are lawful, they don’t constitute murder, and therefore aren’t subject to the command “thou shalt not murder” found in the original Hebrew commandments.

                • ecolt

                  Thank you for just proving that atheists can in fact be far more moral than Christians.

                  See, I would say that all of those things are wrong. I would say that human laws through history may have allowed them, but that humans and governments are easily corrupted and can’t be taken as absolute moral guides. I would say that any god who expected me to believe in and worship him while condoning such acts doesn’t deserve my praise. And I would say that you have just given a perfect illustration of why religion has been such a harmful force in this world and how so much evil has been done in the name of god.

                  Honestly, that was just about the most disgusting and abhorrent answer you could have given to that question. But you still haven’t told me why we need god to make laws at all, when you put all the power in human government (no matter how corrupt) anyway.

    • Art_Vandelay

      but if you’re gonna critique something, at least do your research on
      what the Bible actually says, not simply what (sadly) many misguided
      Christians believe.

      Okay, so the bible quite clearly says for instance that a raped woman has two choices: Marry her rapist or be thrown in a hole and bludgeoned to death with rocks. I might conclude from this that the bible sucks. So what’s the response?

      but if you’re gonna critique something, at least do your research on
      what modern Christians actually say, not simply what the misguided stone age goat herders who wrote that bible said.

      Amirite?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EYZCDG3OAPGD3PDG7XD7SM7OAM ElizabethS

    going to buy it tomorrow (payday) :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/theslydog Sly Cotto

    Christians, do you ever wonder if Jesus actually said any of the things attributed to him? He left no writings of his own and the earliest accounts of him begin at least a generation after his death… so,…

    Why should I believe he actually said what the Bible claims he said? #AnswerThat

    • Blacksheep

      The gospels were written by men who were with jesus and were eye -witnesses, so we believe that the reporting of what he said is accurate.

      But more importantly: We believe that God guided the accuracy of scripture over time. If not for that belief, human error would play too large a role.

      • Claude

        We don’t know who wrote the gospels. They were anonymous.

        And “human error” in the Bible is clearly in evidence, which would follow, since humans wrote the books.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        So the hundreds of transcriptions, all of which vary in substantial ways, did God guide the council of Nicea to bring it all back together? But he didn’t guide the individual transcriptions? The “cast the first stone” story, did God cause that to be included later because it really happened but was missed by the original writers?

      • ecolt

        So if what they said was accurate, and that accuracy was guided by god, why do the gospels disagree and even contradict each other in some accounts? #AnswerThat

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    Christians commonly believe that Jesus is God. How does this make sense given that: Jesus prayed to God; Jesus referred to God in the 3rd person several times; he offered himself as a sacrifice to God; he is now seated at the right hand of the father? How is this logical?

    #AnswerThat

    • viaten

      God doesn’t have to be logical, at least not to us. He wouldn’t be as “godlike”. It goes toward greater faith in greater mystery. All quite logical.

      • Carmelita Spats

        Baloney…This same response can be given by a schizophrenic when discussing a purple “SFashdfasdfa” with its “SFashdfasdfa-like” attributes. You are singing “Jabberwocky”…Declaring that something is beyond the realm of reason (“God doesn’t have to be logical, at least not to us”) removes it from the discussion…Yes, reason is limited…it is limited to the FACTS. If you ignore facts, you are left with wishful thinking/faith, which is an admission that your claims cannot stand on their own two feet…The frightening consequence of braying “God-doesn’t-have-to-be-logical-at least-not-to-us” is that you can use this blathering to justify the most heinous acts including child rape, human sacrifice, torture of “heretics”, etc. After all, you were only following orders and God’s orders don’t have to be logical or moral to “us” because he wouldn’t be “godlike” (whatever that means). Sickening.

        • viaten

          I meant to be sarcastic. I’m sorry if it didn’t come across very well. I have no disagreement with you. “Catch all” excuses I’ve heard are that it’s all a mystery, as if that were expected from God, or that whatever God does is OK, just because he’s God, or that we weren’t meant to understand. They are all frustrating justifications because they think they’ve got you and think they’ve dismissed in advance any argument you might make.

          • allein

            If we aren’t “meant to understand,” and we get it “wrong,” how is it “just” or “merciful” that we be punished for eternity? #AnswerThat

            (Not directed to you, but to the people who use this
            reasoning, of course.)

            • viaten

              I also wonder what Christians would say about people who want to believe in some way that supersedes the need for understanding, who believe some others actually do believe in some “real” way, but who are honest enough to know/admit, and even say, they currently don’t. I would think such (few? many?) people are probably destined to become at least weak atheists.

              Would God condemn agnostics or deists (if they died) who sincerely want to religiously believe in God and honestly admit they don’t or are not sure they do? Could such a person exist? #AnswerThat

              BTW, I don’t see how it can be “merciful” to punish someone for eternity. But I think I have heard some people make that argument.

              • allein

                No, eternal punishment is not just or merciful in any case. I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone argue that it’s “merciful” so much that it is simply deserved, we choose it, or it is what God must do, because, well, them’s the rules, I guess (so why can’t all-powerful/merciful God change the rules to something a tad more in keeping with his purported merciful nature, then? #AnswerThat).

                • viaten

                  I never said God is being merciful or just in sending anyone to hell. But supposedly according to some Christians, some people don’t want to go to heaven and would actually prefer hell. This video came to mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FmIMAA46A8#! Fischer says God is being loving to Hitchens, (rather than merciful), in sending him to hell and that God would be cruel to take him into heaven. It’s still a “chosen” hell, quite different from a deserved hell God “must” inflict, supposedly against his and the person’s desire. But there is nothing loving, merciful, or just, much less sensible about it.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Do you consider the blood sacrifice of a child to be a moral, loving act for any human being and if not, why do you hold your God to a lower standard of morality than mere humans? #AnswerThat

  • Tony Debono

    My question is: Why does your god require a human blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins when it could just forgive mankind and welcome us all into its presence? #AnswerThat

    • Donaving

      God doesn’t require a blood sacrifice. We do. (Even the most cursory glance at human history will tell you that.) As a Christian, I participate in a sacrifice of blood and flesh every week. It’s also Vegan. Wrap your head around that,

      • ecolt

        Actually, there are several times in the Bible when god demands a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus shouldn’t have been necessary, since your god could have just as easily have decided to forgive people and called it a day.

        And not all Christians believe in the transubstantiation, so not all participate in a literal sacrifice of blood and flesh. But for those who do, the ingredients of the wafer don’t matter since they believe it is actually transformed into flesh, so it can’t be vegan. Wrap your head around that.

  • Mej

    Does God care about sports games? #AnswerThat

    • tubi

      On a related note, why were the Jets so terrible last year?

      • Duke OfOmnium

        Because god was too busy caring about the Ravens

  • decathelite

    When Jesus’s body ascended into heaven (Luke and Acts), where did the body go? How does a physical body go to a metaphysical place? #AnswerThat

    • Castilliano

      And why has his body undergone changes so that he’s seen as white & blue-eyed (as woman in article saw) when he would have originally been tan and brown-eyed?

      • eonL5

        Well, that one’s pretty easy: when he was sent down to earth, he appeared as the locals would have expected him to appear. But hanging out in heaven, he gets to appear whatever way he wants to, and so naturally, he is white and blue-eyed, because that’s what the white bigots think he SHOULD look like.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      Maybe he’s locked in the pattern buffer? Better hope the Heisenberg Compensators hold out!

    • Blacksheep

      Physics teaches us that on a quantum level, matter ceases to exist in a way – we’re left with energy – wavelengths – vibrations. The world is metaphysical.

      In the ascension story, God could have made it so the events took place in a way that humans could understand.

      • decathelite

        Physics also teaches us that those wavelengths are measurable and detectable. How did a physical body defy gravity, then break up into energy, and where did that energy go? Physical human bodies are not on the quantum scale. If a physical body can transition into energy, why was it necessary for Jesus to defy gravity? Couldn’t He have just vaporized right there?

        For thousands of years people thought (imagined, in their minds) that heaven was a real physical place, and that the only way to get to heaven was to go literally up, in the sky. The Bible is full of such references. But now we know heaven isn’t really “up”. And were questioning if heaven really exists at all. So why would God make us think heaven was up, knowing that we’d eventually find out that it wasn’t?

        Anyone can imagine answers to these questions. But that doesn’t mean they’re good answers. What evidence do we have that God, and all the conjecture about God’s design, isn’t simply imagined?

      • b s

        “Physics teaches us that on a quantum level, matter ceases to exist in a way – we’re left with energy – wavelengths – vibrations”

        So when Jesus ascended, he reached critical mass and…boom? I’m guessing he had moved far away enough that nobody saw the earth shattering kaboom.

        “In the ascension story, God could have made it so the events took place in a way that humans could understand”
        They understood quantum mechanics during the Roman empire?

    • ecolt

      He ascended through the upper atmosphere so his body was incinerated. :-)
      (No wonder xtains think I’m going to hell!)

  • Art_Vandelay

    Why is it so great for an infallible, omnipotent being to live a sinless life? Dude created supernovae…now we’re supposed to be impressed that he was able to not be a dick for a few decades? #AnswerThat

  • Reginald Selkirk

    He drifted from his body and found himself looking down at the room from somewhere near the ceiling. … Blasingame said she “died” of a heart attack and then rose out of her
    body. She saw her physical body lying beneath her as she hovered above.

    Accounts of Near Death Experiences (NDE) fall into two general categories: religious imagery, such as the tunnel of light and seeing religious figures and dead relatives, and out of body experiences (ODE or OOBE). OBEs can also occur in situations that do not qualify as NDEs.OBEs like those above have severe difficulties as evidence for the supernatural. The experient claims to see or hear things from outside her body.And yet, we know a lot about how vision and hearing work. Vision involves light bouncing off objects, entering the eye, being focused by the lens onto the retina, where the trigger photoreceptors which send neural signals to parts of the brain. Likewise, hearing involves pressure waves entering the ears, triggering vibration sensitive hair cells, etc. These are very material events. And the organs necessary for them are parts of the body. So, if your body is down below, so are the eyes and ears.

    • C Peterson

      Your argument fails to convince for the simple reason that once you allow phenomena to be supernatural (that is, to occur outside the natural laws of the Universe), anything goes. Let magic exist, and there’s no value to rational analysis at all.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Well there you go. People who see no value to rational analysis will not be influenced by my argument. I can live with that.

        • C Peterson

          It’s not a question of seeing value in rational analysis or not. The problem is that you can’t have rational analysis in a universe that allows magic. The concept itself ceases to have meaning.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Eh, I disagree with that. Magic just changes what is and isn’t rational in a universe. In a universe in which people can rise from the dead, that becomes a part of rational discourse. In a universe in which people can warp time, conjure energy, and otherwise destroy physics as we know it with a flick of their fingers, what is rational changes to suit that universe. You still have rational analysis, the premises just change.

            • C Peterson

              If you can define a few odd things, we can simply add them as previously unknown laws. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Rather, this is magic without rules. An omnipotent god that can do anything and everything. Now we have a universe that isn’t open to rational analysis, because you can’t have such analysis without rules that are firm.

              Reginald argues against the out-of-body experience using laws of nature. But magic gets rid of those. I can answer his objection by stating that little invisible angels grab the photons that would hit the patient’s eyes and transport them to the “eyes” of the soul floating overhead. Or that the light hitting the patient creates resonant god-rays that recreate the image for the soul. Or absolutely any other bullshit explanation, which because it is outside natural laws, can’t be rationally examined.

  • Rain

    If the Holy Spirit is everywhere, then how did it manage to not get everyone pregnant with the baby Jesus? #AnswerThat

    • b s

      Poor swimmers?

      • tubi

        Are implying that the issue lies with the Holy Spirit Sperm?

        • b s

          Everybody sing along!

          “Every sperm is sacred…”

          • BeasKnees

            This made me laugh really hard.

  • Glasofruix

    He remembers seeing his doctor praying for him at his bedside.

    What an incompetent asshole, the doctor i mean. Also, heaven as described by christians would be like an eternal nightmare for me…

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      i wanted to bring up that many religions across history and various regions of the world have imagined an afterlife very, very differently than the xtian heaven. some of the ancients posited that only great heros got to go to the “summerlands” or “blessed isles” or whatever happy afterlife there was. regular ordinary people just drifted around for all eternity in a dark underground place, impotent, silent and powerless. some religions posit that people turn into ghosts, who have the ability to affect the living world if they aren’t honored properly.

      xtian heaven is just one of many versions of the afterlife. i find this interesting, because it suggests that the author is not entirely correct about the motivation religious people have that causes them to believe. many religious people outside the US have a very different understanding of the afterlife, and they are still believers. it is worth exploring what motivates them to cling to their traditions just as firmly as xtians cling to theirs. #AnswerThat

      • ecolt

        I think it’s not just an idea of eternal bliss, though; the idea of having eternity at all is appealing. Even if it’s not a paradise, just your consciousness remaining aware, people are more comforted by that than uncertainty or a simple lights-out. Any kind of afterlife is a response to the human fear that everything just ends when you die.

        But I do agree with the comment before that the way a lot of Christians describe Heaven isn’t appealing at all to me. Eternally stroking the ego of an all-powerful being while knowing that people are being tortured for all eternity? No thanks! If there has to be an afterlife I want it to be more like Valhalla – an eternity of feasting, booze and general partying.

  • tubi

    For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that God is omniscient-he knows everything that has or will ever happen. Given that, we can assume that He knew when He created me 47 years ago that I would reject Him and eventually He’d have to cast me into a lake of fire for eternity. Why do that? Why would God create a life that He knew would be wasted? Why create me? #AnswerThat

    • Glasofruix

      because free will’&’shit.

      • tubi

        But that means that there’s a possibility that God might be wrong. Or that there’s something He doesn’t know for sure.

        So…1) Is there ever a condition under which God can be wrong about something? and 2) Is God truly omniscient? Are there some things He doesn’t actually know? #AnswerThat

        • ecolt

          Good point. If god is omniscient, doesn’t he therefor already know how we’ll use our free will, thus making it not really free will after all. Even with free will god’s omniscience would mean he’d know how we would use that free will, which means he’d still be creating people that he knew he would be sending to hell for all eternity.

    • Steve Bowen

      The Calvinist tradition says exactly that: you are not elect and will not be saved and will burn in hell for eternity through no fault of your own because, well.. because. Christianity is such a lovely religion don’t you think?

      • Glasofruix

        Oh yeah, predestination, very nice concept.

  • Rod

    My question is: What is your definition of “Christian?”
    The answer will say more about the respomdent than about Christians.
    #AnswerThat

    • PietPuk

      Good one.

      Also “How do you define ‘God’?”

  • Andrew B.

    If free will is so important, wouldn’t we expect to have it in heaven, too? But if we had it in heaven, wouldn’t we be able to sin there as well? Wouldn’t that run the risk of ruining or blemishing heaven in some way?

  • http://twitter.com/GeeEmmaGee Emma Gee

    Why pray? If God already has a plan (and good and bad things happen in the world because of his plan), why ask God for anything? #AnswerThat

    • Blacksheep

      Prayer is about much more than asking for something…

      • http://twitter.com/GeeEmmaGee Emma Gee

        Then what is it about? Reaffirming the works of the (supposedly) omniscient? Worshiping something that already knows everything? What is the utility of prayer if not just for mental affirmation? And why are the results of prayer so oddly identical to those of natural probability?

        • Blacksheep

          This is a much longer discourse than one can have in a little box – but I will say that for millions of people, prayer has provided peace of mind, comfort, a cleared conscience, and a host of other positive things that are life enhancing. The very act of giving time and thought to something larger than oneself, with the inderstanding that God wants us to care for and love one another – that act of meditation on things like that – can have profound effects on people.

          Thankfullness is another big part of prayer. In a non-religious study, people who practiced being in a “thankful” mindset reported feeling happier than before.

          http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/practicing-gratitude-can-increase.php

          • blasphemous_kansan

            That’s a really nice and graceful way to explain all the benefits that people can get from prayer. I come away with two questions:

            1) I noticed that among the great things that prayer can do, that it did not seem like belief in a god was required for any of them* (peace of mind, comfort, a cleared conscience, and a host of other positive things, thought to something larger than oneself, meditation on thankfulness). Why do you think that is?

            2) While your very graceful standard of prayer may indeed apply to millions of people, what about the millions of people who do pray for god’s will to be exerted in this world? What about the people who don’t have such a graceful notion as you, who do pray for lucky lotto tickets, for a positive outcome in a job interview, or that the holy spirit will take away that nasty mustard stain from my favorite dress? Do they just have it totally wrong? Why, or why not?

            (*That’s obviously, except for the ‘God wants us to care for an love one another’ part. I don’t relate much to that, but I do relate to caring for my fellow humans because it is humane.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

            So why pray? As you point out yourself, all the benefits of prayer can be achieved through meditation and things like gratitude journals. Doesn’t that imply that the prayers themselves are worthless? Science HAS explained why prayers improve people’s lives and make them feel better. It is not because there is some supreme being answering them, it is because when people pray they are essentially meditating or focusing on feelings of gratitude, and both of these (along with the placebo effect) are proven psychological methods for increasing happiness and a sense of well-being. it seems like your statements actually favor the belief that there is no God, but I don’t think that’s what you were trying to say.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    “Do you want to come to my bisexual support group and meet some real queer people? Then we can hang out and have coffee and discuss this some more?” #answerthat

  • baal

    Why follow the ‘christian’ god of Abraham? Isn’t YHWH or even Brahma a better choice? #AnswerThat

  • tubi

    On the basis of what evidence do you reject Allah and the Koran? #AnswerThat

  • http://twitter.com/_minego Micah N Gorrell

    I love the last comment about passion for this life. When asked why I am an atheist my response usually includes something along those lines.

    My question for Christians is how would you live your life differently if you knew without a doubt that there was no after life? Would you still be a good person? Would you try to make the most of this life?

  • http://twitter.com/_minego Micah N Gorrell

    I’m very tempted to buy this book, read the whole thing myself and then give it to my mom. I really don’t think I’ll ever convince her to leave the LDS church (and that isn’t really my goal anyway) but it would be very nice for her to at least have a better understanding of why I left.

  • deb

    Why spend so much time on a subject that you do not believe in. I am not interested in Herpetology, so I do not talk about, or read about it because it does not interest me. It does not affect my life one way or the other because I do not have an interest. If you don’t believe in God why do you spend so much time discussing him. Maybe you could spend your time on something you believe in.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Because one of the things I believe in is the freedom to live my life as free of unfounded superstitious bullshit as possible. The religious in America, and my part of the country, make that difficult. One way (among many) they enjoy doing that is by trolling blogs for people who think like I do, and pedantically suggest that they are all wasting their time (and what, exactly, are you doing here? Are you upset that atheists exist?).

      Religion and they way people conceive of god is interesting to me because I’m interested in the justifications that people use to deny each other dignity and freedom. Herpetology makes no such agendas. Duh. Why are you so interested in people who should be so uninteresting?

      Questions answered? Move along now?

    • Valancy Jane

      You parrot a canned question, so you’ll get a similar response: because Herpetologists are not trying to ram their love for reptiles into government, trying to convince schools to teach the controversy about a Frog God creating the world, or actively working to harm women’s and gay’s rights. They’re not trying to tell us who we’re allowed to love, sex up, marry, or even be friends with. There aren’t any Dominionist Snake-ists trying to take over every aspect of society or convince foreign powers to execute those they consider different. Herpetologist parents don’t throw their kids out of the house for not liking Komodo dragons or refuse them healthcare when they’re sick or believe it’s awesome to hit them with rubber tubes when they act out as INFANTS. Herpetologist families don’t browbeat their daughters for not wanting to keep newts in their rooms, raise them to believe rape culture is valid, and force them into early marriages to keep them in line. Herpetologists don’t beat the tar out of those who don’t like amphibians, either, or vandalize billboards that just say “Hey, guess what? There are people who don’t like amphibians in this world.”

      In short, herpetologists do not dominate our society nor harm it, and so we don’t really spend a lot of time on them. There is much about evangelical Christianity that is repressive, evil, and cruel, and so yes, many of us believe that is something that must be examined and fought.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        mostly this.

        i take an active interest in social and political groups who want to KILL ME. many different believer groups have stated this is their ultimate goal. call me selfish, or self interested, i don’t care. but you’re stupid if you think i’m not going to pay attention to what people who advocate the murder of queer people like me are doing. gay people are bashed, fired, beaten, ostracized, and shunned every day of the year, in the name of some religion. this is why it is important to me.

        • deb

          I believe it is very extreme to believe that all Christians would want to see you killed. Yes there are some folks that take the name of Christians and go totally insane as to what they say God wants. I am sure there are also atheist, who take extreme measures sometimes against people that they disapprove of but it does not make every atheist a criminal. You seem to believe that it is only Christians that want to do these things to you. There may be a whole bunch of non-believers who would kill you if it benefited them like if you have something they want like a car or money. Most of this type of people don’t care anything about God. There were 16799 murders in the U. S. in 2011 some of those may have been gays killed by Christians, my guess is most of them were killed by people who had no interest in their sexual orientation. Labeling people is the very thing you rail against and then you turn around and bash religious people. I guess the theory is if they are going to call me names, I will call the names right back.

          • eonL5

            But you haven’t addressed the issue of the many religious folks who want to make our laws conform to their religion, who harm gay people and try to control women’s sexuality FAR more than men’s. Just because not “all” christians do it doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. And give up the “not a true Christian(TM)” argument. It’s a non-starter.

          • allein

            Where did anyone say “all Christians”?

          • Valancy Jane

            Do you really not understand how bad the discrimination and violence against gay people gets in the United States? Are you really that sheltered? Why don’t you look up hate crimes instead, or, oh I don’t know, read this very blog for constant articles about gay people who have been hurt, killed, and thrown out on their ears for their orientations? Why don’t you look up some stats on bigotry and learn that yes, actually, religion accounts for almost all anti-gay sentiment? The only argument against it really is religious, let’s face it.

            I don’t think “all” Christians want that either, but CD didn’t say that. You inferred it all by yourself. Telling, isn’t it? Well, it is to me at least. You may lack the self-awareness needed to realize how shameful your post was. Enough of your lot want to hurt and harm her that she is completely within her rights to fear and dislike Christianity as a whole. And of the ones who don’t want to actively do her physical harm, plenty of others consider her non-human enough that she doesn’t deserve the right to marry anybody she wants just like straights get to do, or that she doesn’t deserve protections from domestic violence, or even the right to go to school and not face discrimination and bullying. YOUR religion’s doing that. By just staying a member, you are allying yourself with a group that is, by and large, totally toxic and harmful to CD, her family, and everybody she loves. Don’t even try to get off the hook by bleating that it’s, it’s, it’s um, not ALL of us… and then try to throw some false statistics at her. We know more about this stuff than you do, and it shows.

            Also, don’t think I didn’t notice that you didn’t answer me at all. You asked a question, but you didn’t want to hear the answer. I hope you realize that one reason non-believers don’t take Christians seriously is precisely this habit of blathering and preaching but not listening in turn. You’re trying to tell her that her fears and concerns are invalid, but you’re doing it in about the most ridiculous and hurtful manner possible. Instead of telling CD how she should feel and how far she “deserves” to take her pain and distrust, why don’t you damn well LISTEN to her next time?

            • deb

              Not sheltered at all. I know because my son is gay. You assumed I knew nothing about the situation. I understand because I have seen my son go through all the above. I love him regardless. I encourage him to move on and enjoy his life and not focus on the people who treat him badly and do not give him respect. Yes as a mother it is very hard to see your child mistreated. I just always told him to not let other people determine his outlook on life. To see the good things in his life and not continually look at the negative because there is plenty that could cause him hurt. It is a wasted life to let the attitudes and beliefs of others make you entirely miserable in you own existence. He is happy and as far as I know not really concerned how the Christians view his life. Does he come across people that treat him wrong, sure he does. But he does not allow them to take away his happiness so that all he focuses on is the people who are against him.
              You are angry with Christians because they are Christians. You know nothing about their problems. You wrote to me based on your perspective of how awful Christians are. You did not have a clue of my life experiences. You think I am a moron because of what I believe, and it makes you angry. I don’t take offence to you disagreeing with me. I don’t take offense to you telling me exactly what you think. It has been my experience that hurt people will hurt people, that is not a christian philosophy that is a life philosophy. I understand that. I understand that you cannot allow any one in your life to disagree with you because it causes you to much pain. So I will not after this disagree with you because through your writing you pain is very visible. I hope outside of this brief encounter the rest of your life is peaceful and happy

              • blasphemous_kansan

                >>”You are angry with Christians because they are Christians.”

                You have a reading comprehension problem. Continue spouting platitudes and never addressing anyone’s points.

                Troll is a troll.

              • Valancy Jane

                Wow, and another round of assumptions from you. You say I know “nothing about their problems” but a) I was a Christian for the first 25 years of my entire life, married a preacher, and considered a life in the ministry myself for a while there. How dare you even presume to say I know nothing about Christianity? Or that I am somehow ignorant of how evil Christians can be? I’ve seen the best and the worst the religion has to offer, and you’re dang right I flat-out reject it. And b) If Christians have “problems,” they are of their own making. Don’t ask me for sympathy because your religion’s leaders think your son is less than human.

                I think you’re a moron not because of what you believe. That was another assumption on your part without any help from me. But these assumptions are the symptoms of a sick mindset that I’m sick of playing nice around. You make assumptions about others, and you dismiss the hurt your religion’s inflicted on everybody in this world–including you and your son. So face it: you said something that is flat-out wrong about hate crimes and anti-gay bigotry in this country, and you got called out for it. If you don’t like that, the obvious solution presents itself.

              • ecolt

                I know a lot about Christians and their problems. My family are Christians, many of my friends are Christians. I was raised to be a Christian.

                People like you, deb, are why we think Christianity is full of hypocrites. You’ll whine and bitch and moan if anyone is critical of you, but then turn around and treat us the same way.

                I’m not angry with Christians because they are Christians. I’m angry with them because they say I’m immoral and (in the case of one ex-president) not even worthy of citizenship, then they turn around and use their religion as a justification to do some of the most horrible immoral things possible. And you know what, I’m angry because Christians dominate our society, as much as they whine about being persecuted, and can’t even let non-believers have one little corner of the internet to ourselves without butting in and preaching to us.

                Nothing you’ve said is original or compelling. It’s the same crap we hear from Christian trolls like you every day. It’s amazing to me how people like you can really be arrogant enough to think that your recycled condescending comments will just blow my mind and make me think you’re right. People like you don’t make me love religion any more, deb, they just remind me why I left it.

                • deb

                  You are criticizing me because I asked the question How come you spend so much time focusing on religion that you do not like. I got my answer, because it offends you. I am not personally offended by much of anything, do I think there are things in this country I would like to see different sure. I just don’t have that kind of “I need to tell people how sick this makes me attitude” I however am not treated badly by anyone either, so I would probably have a different attitude if I were. I would hope I would find peace with what I believe and not let the opposition determine my state of mind. While what is posted here by the bloggers sounds good and right, it also sounds like a lot of time is taken up in the heads of these folks about how bad religious people are. I just don’t have the time to spend everyday thinking about how wrong I think this group of that group is was all I wanted to say. I got sucked into a debate that was wasteful on my part. I was not trying to or intentionally change anyones view point I know when people believer strongly in their cause you are wasting wind and spit to try and change them I have not experienced what you have so I can’t say for positive that I would not have your same reaction. I have not walked a mile in your moccasins. I guess I am content with who I am and content to let you be who you are except by being involved with religion that kinda makes me the enemy since there seems to be religious folks on purpose making your life miserable, so you are attempting to gain numbers for the atheistic view. I get that and you have every right to do so whether I agree are not. On this side I am sure there are many more who are verbal about how wrong you are and go to the extreme to let you know. Pretty sad state all around. Thank you for you words, they do make me think. I am really not a bad person, if we met in real life you would probably like me aside of the fact that I am a Christian. I have heard the word hypocrite before one of those words that in intended to really let someone know how nasty and deplorable you really think they are the word itself is not that bad. My experience is that it is used to really low rate someone that has forced their opinion on you. I am sorry I made you feel that violated.

          • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

            It is not extreme to believe that some Christians want to kill me, just look at the abortion restrictions they are trying to ram through in so many different states! They certainly have no concern for my health and safety, which is disturbingly close to wanting to kill me, and my daughter.

    • Thegoodman

      We believe there is no god. We often discuss individuals, groups, and texts that tell us otherwise. We take joy in disproving the previously mentioned parties because it gets us closer to the actual truth. We do not wish to fabricate any false-truth to answer our questions, so we examine the evidence presented to us and make our conclusions.

    • b s

      ” I am not interested in Herpetology… It does not affect my life one way or the other because I do not have an interest.”

      But what of anti-venoms and any advances in medicine that may come along as a direct result of people studying venom? What if you were bit some day? Just because you don’t believe or care doesn’t mean something can’t affect your life.

      • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

        Awesome point!

    • ecolt

      If you don’t agree with atheism, why do you post so many comments on an atheist blog? Maybe you could spend your time on something you believe in.

      And people wonder why we think Christians are hypocrites…

  • b s

    Looks like someone said something similar, but …

    MK 14:21 “…woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

    So before the world was even created, god had perfect knowledge of who will go to hell. Regardless of whether or not man has free will, would it not have been better to have never created the people who will go to hell? God loves us so much that he created souls for the “sole” purpose of going to hell?

    #AnswerThat

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    If the bible contains the most important message that god has ever given humanity, why didn’t he see to it that the original manuscripts survived?
    Also – why does this book even need translating? If understanding it is so incredibly important, why didn’t god just make the book magically readable by anybody?
    And why didn’t Jesus write his message down personally, instead of relying on fallible human memory to have it written later?
    #AnswerThat

  • observer

    “Human heaven? goodness me! humans don’t go to heaven, no. Someone just made that up to prevent you all from going nuts.” ~ Kryten, Red Dwarf

  • Andy

    If religions as ridiculous as Mormonism and Scientology can get started in our relatively educated and scientific country in the modern era, isn’t it likely that Christianity may have started in a similar manner, especially in an uneducated, superstitious, and scientifically ignorant culture thousands of years ago? #AnswerThat

  • Sean

    If our earthly lives are the beginning, learning states, why do these 70 or so years determine where we will spend billions and billions of years later on with no second chances? #AnswerThat

  • Brad C.

    Christians, have you ever stopped to think about why the church teaches that we should have a “childlike faith”? Children accept what we tell them without question (Santa, the tooth fairy, storks bring babies, God answers prayer, you can be anything you want when you grow up, etc.).

    Surely the kind of discernment, judgement and reason that we develop as we grow out of childhood is a GOOD thing, so we can distinguish truth from lies, fantasy from reality, and friends from those who would take advantage.

    Why, then, is a “childlike faith” presented as any kind of a GOOD THING? Why shouldn’t we subject the claims of the church, and the claims of the Bible, and the claims of our pastor or the Pope or a televangelist or any other religious leader, to the same kind of scrutiny we subject to any other claim?
    #AnswerThat

    • eonL5

      Love this one.

    • Blacksheep

      “Childlike” is another way of saying pure and innocent. I think in certain ways it’s similar to a state of being that philosophers, artists, and creators strive for – in the moment, unencumbered by stress, blissful as opposed to stressed out, etc. In “The Little Prince” it’s a childlike state that leads to greater insight and vision – not less. In “Catcher in the Rye” it’s the grown-ups who are “phonies…”
      “Child-like” does not mean “Child-ish.”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Have you met many children? Sometimes they’re pure and innocent. Sometimes they’re unholy terrors, for lack of a better term. Sometimes they’re shockingly wise and sometimes they’re amazingly stupid. They’re people in broader brush strokes with higher ups and lower downs. There is no way that childlike could possibly mean “pure and innocent” to anyone who has ever been around children.

        • Blacksheep

          I agree – that’s why I said that i don’t believe it means “Child-ish” but child-like. Jesus was referring to the positive attributes of being childlike – humble, trusting, not made cynical by life.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Gullible as all get-out, you mean?

    • ecolt

      A Christian (not knowing that I’m an atheist) told me the other day that her 19-year old daughter doesn’t believe in god because “she thinks about things too much.”

      This woman pushed her daughter to go to college even though the girl really didn’t care about it. In high school and now in college the family has ridden her hard about her grades; part of the reason she’s living at home is so her parents can make sure she’s studying and applying herself to her classes. It’s not just schoolwork, though – at other times I’ve heard them tell her to “use her head” and figure out how to do things or how things work.

      I couldn’t get over that comment. You encourage your kid to go to school, study hard, think things through and use her head. But when she thinks about religion or studies it from a different point of view, you see it as a bad thing?

  • debbie

    Why spend do much time on a subject you do not believe in. If you do not believe in God why not talk about something that you do believe in? Something that brings happiness to your life. Instead you go on and on about God that you do not believe is real. I don’t believe in ghosts but there are people who certainly do, however I have greater things to do in this life than constantly bash and demean them for their beliefs. How does all this make you feel any better?

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Please see the responses to you above. Changing ‘herpetology’ to ‘ghosts’ does not make your point any more valid.
      People who believe in ghosts don’t want to deny other people rights. People who believe in various gods do.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      >>>” I have greater things to do in this life than constantly bash and demean them for their beliefs…”

      Ahh yes, your trolling presence here speaks volumes to your moral superiority in this regard.

      • deb

        Is this the only place you speak out about your beliefs or do you also assert your opinion in other non atheist venues?

        • blasphemous_kansan

          I don’t see the point to your question, so I don’t believe I’ll answer it. Unless you’ll enlighten me as to the point.

          Do you have anything of substance to add?

        • http://www.facebook.com/park.james.102 Park James

          I think an instructive and actually on topic way for you to interact in this comment section would be for you to answer some of the questions listed by the author or by other posters. Or you could just keep asking unrelated and stupid questions , which is what you’re probably going to do.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Because reality matters. Because logical, concise, evidence-based thought can only make the world a better place. Because I care about making the world a better place by ridding it of superstitions that harm people. Because ghosts, like gods, are silly and not real, and thinking they are warps people’s brains into accepting claims without demanding adequate evidence to back them up. Because when people accept claims without demanding adequate evidence, it becomes immensely harder to make the world a better place since people won’t listen to the evidence about what works and what doesn’t, instead substituting what they want to be true for what is actually happening.

      • deb

        Who gets to define reality?

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          No one. Reality is what is. Different frames of reference can lead to different conclusions, and I am limited by my own senses and brain in my ability to perceive and understand it. But when it comes to physics and the greater universe, at least, what is there exists and what isn’t there does not exist.

          Is there a God? Haven’t seen any evidence for it so I don’t think so. Is there dark matter? Probably, though we’re having trouble confirming it. Our math suggests something of the sort, though it might not be dark matter as currently conceived. Is there a Higgs boson? Yeap, we just confirmed that! Are there unicorns? Haven’t seen any evidence for them so I don’t think so. Are there horses? Yeap, I’ve seen those and so have other people and we all confirm their basic characteristics. I’ve also seen their hoofprints, smelled their droppings, ridden one, groomed one, fed one, etc. I have every reason in the world to confirm the existence of horses.

          Now, when it comes to politics or emotions, reality is more difficult to define. There’s still reality being what is, but we have a really hard time figuring out what that is because there’s just so much data coming at us, some of it hidden or extraneous, and people can draw different conclusions from the same (incomplete) data sets.

    • http://www.facebook.com/park.james.102 Park James

      This is pretty much trolling defined. Your question has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the blog post. You’re also asking terrible questions and being a jerk while doing so. So, I cannot engage more than this response. #dontbemad

    • SeekerLancer

      Time is spent on this topic because there’s a discussion to be had.

      Just because we may not believe in a god or subscribe to a religion doesn’t mean that other people’s beliefs, or more specifically how they act upon them, don’t effect our lives.

      You could ask yourself the same exact question. Why did you feel the need to comment about something you disagree with?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      Because while God likely isn’t real, his believers are very real and their beliefs affect others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

      Debbie – I read this blog, and fairly often comment, because I find it interesting and I find that occasionally having my views challenged helps me understand myself better, and understand other people better. I’m particularly interested in God right now for several reasons.

      First, I was horrified at the part religion played in the last US election. It opened my eyes to the depth and amount of oppression that still occurs in the US, and left me feeling that I have to get involved, pay more attention, fight for my rights and become much more involved in my community. I used to be a “none” who ignored most religious debates, but I feel I can’t do that anymore, just because I, personally, was not being hurt by religion, doesn’t mean it’s OK to stand by and do nothing while others are being hurt.

      The second reason is because I have a family member who has recently started turning to Christianity, and I don’t feel like it will be a good move for her. I am attempting to gain knowledge and understanding that will help me come up with some ways to help her without causing her to reject me and runaway.

      The third reason is because it does make me feel better. Many of the discussions I have in these comment are discussions that would not occur between me and my friends and family members. I find more people who agree with my views and understand my concerns here, than I find in real life, and that is a good feeling.

      Does that answer your question?

      • deb

        Yes, thank you for your expressing yourself. I do believe we have the right to believe what we want. I guess I am sheltered – didn’t think so, There are many things in this country that I don’t agree with. I just don’t spend much time talking about them or feeling such strong animosity toward those issues. But then I don’t feel like I have been ostracized in this country for my beliefs If I was perhaps I would feel different emotions toward the things that I disagree with and find a place like this to discuss and express those feelings.. I am sure I tend to be pollyannaish and believe that we all have an opinion that is worthy even if it is different. I do feel like I have learned from these discussions. By my own intrusion, I have heard a little bit of what atheist must hear from people about their belief system. I have learned how strongly atheist oppose religions period not just Christians. I truly had no idea religion was such a disdained subject to atheists. I guess because the views are such polar opposites there has to be strong views on each side. I realize now how small atheist think their voice is and that they are not heard by many people. It is not just a matter of one’s own personal belief but belief that there the religious system should be changed and I guess annihilated from existence, is the mission. I am sure I don’t get the complete undertaking. However I am more aware of some things than before needless to say. I am glad I gave up my right to be offended, since I am considered a trespasser on this site. I certainly got plenty of reasons why they don’t like people not of the same voice on here. I learned that there is nothing I could say in my defense because once I offended one person I had offended everyone. When people feel disrespected they will definitely take to task the offender on this site, which is not a bad thing. This site does not give tone so please know that I am in no shape form or fashion being ugly in what I am saying to you, I hope nothing I said is offensive to you. I realize because of who I am identified as could make it easy to find fault with everything I say, I hope you did not.

        • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

          I thought you asked a legitimate question, and a question that I had to sit and think about for a minute before I could come up with my answer, so I was happy to give you a response. I do think some people who comment regularly on this site are too quick to attack any opposing viewpoints and once they decide you are the “enemy” so-to-speak, they will tear down anything you say without much consideration to what you are actually saying. I have certainly had my share of being insulted, or being called homophobic or stupid, but that’s the Internet for you. Everyone feels much freer to insult each other when they can hide behind pseudonames and know they will never have to come face to face with the person they insulting, I wouldn’t take it personally, I don’t. I don’t think you should feel like you are trespassing here. Personally, I’m glad to see some different viewpoints, as long as you are legitimately trying to ask and answer questions and not just here to insult people and tell them how wrong and evil they are, and I don’t think that was your intention. And I’m very glad that you felt like you learned something, increasing knowledge is never a bad thing. My advice to everyone is to always question your beliefs and never stop asking questions and looking for answers!

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Yes. It’s a public blog. There’s no atheist card check at the door. Nobody is trespassing.

            True, like any group, although we in-fight, we usually drop everything to defend our group against anyone who we think is abusing one of our ‘family’. But that’s not unlike what you’ll find in any group in society.

            And some of us are snarlier than others, but if you ask an honest question, you’ll probably get a variety of honest responses.

            Thanks for doing a good job on this one Cary.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Yes. It’s a public blog. There’s no atheist card check at the door. Nobody is trespassing.

            True, like any group, although we in-fight, we usually drop everything to defend our group against anyone who we think is abusing one of our ‘family’. But that’s not unlike what you’ll find in any group in society.

            And some of us are snarlier than others, but if you ask an honest question, you’ll probably get a variety of honest responses.

            Thanks for doing a good job on this one Cary.

    • ecolt

      Probably because other people don’t push their belief in ghosts on you, legislate laws that apply to you based on their belief in ghosts, and say that you can’t possibly be a good person because you don’t believe in ghosts. They don’t try to teach your children to believe in ghosts, discriminate against you in hiring or social services because you don’t believe in ghosts or ask your tax dollars to help support ghost hunting expeditions.

      And people who believe in ghosts don’t go to anti-ghost blogs and troll their comment boards. They then don’t bash the anti-ghostists while asking why anti-ghostists are always bashing them.

      In short, because people who believe in ghosts are a lot less annoying and self-righteous than people who believe in gods.

  • RoxnSox

    If Jesus truly loved us, why didn’t he tell anyone about simple biology and medicine? The knowledge of sterilization alone could save millions of lives throughout the years since his death.
    #AnswerThat

  • http://profiles.google.com/jennie.erwin Jennie Erwin

    Why don’t any of the women in Jesus’ life have writings in the bible? #AnswerThat

  • BeasKnees

    If there is such a thing as an all loving god, why would he create things like disease, genetic disorders, and mental illness that are so devastating to so many people? #AnswerThat

  • BeasKnees

    I so wish I could just give a copy of this to my family members and that they would actually read it instead of things like Joel Osteen’s book. Ugh.

  • Mario Strada

    Miracles. What about the amputees? #AnswerThat

  • http://www.facebook.com/park.james.102 Park James

    We live on one of several planets orbiting a star in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Milky Way is made up of at least 100000000000 stars, and possibly up to four times that. In the observable universe, there are probably more than 170000000000 galaxies. The universe began to exist about 13.8 billion years ago. Why did God pick our planet out of the trillions of planets in the universe to save, and why did he wait until 2000 years ago to do so? #AnswerThat

    • Carolyn Zeller

      who says ours is the only one?

      • http://www.facebook.com/park.james.102 Park James

        The Bible says it. John 14:6 is one of the places where it says belief in Jesus is the only way to get saved. I have to assume that no other planet in the universe has a copy of the bible, so we would be the only ones, according to Christianity.

        • Blacksheep

          If there is a God, then of course it’s possible. If there isn’t one, I would agree with you.

        • b s

          Well, Jesus was only around here for a short time. After he ascended, maybe he flew off to another planet. Kind of like the ending of “Green Lantern”

  • http://www.facebook.com/park.james.102 Park James

    Who created God? #AnswerThat

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Why do Christians think Heaven is perfect when people will have to see/know their relatives, friends, and neighbors are burning in Hell forever? Isn’t that, by definition, not perfect?

    #AnswerThat

  • Saffie

    Many Christians believe, say, that an exceptional child prodigy is a gift from God, while children all over the world suffer hunger, abuse, disease and early death. Why would a god deserve praise for one, but not the other? #AnswerThat

    [Alternate question]

    If one thank’s God for saving someone’s life in a horrible automobile accident, what credit, then, should be given to God for the suffering and death of the others? #AnswerThat

    • ecolt

      According to Mother Teresa and Westboro Baptist, yes.

      Which is to say, only to absolute religious sickos.

  • viaten

    If God wants so greatly to forgive everyone, what stops him from doing so anyway? #AnswerThat

  • http://www.spellwight.com spellwight

    Dear Christians, how can you be so sure your book is the true word of god? Because it says so? Well, what about other books that say they’re a true story but are complete fiction. What’s the difference?

  • allein

    If God is truly omnipotent, why doesn’t he just come out and show himself, and dispense with all these questions? #AnswerThat

  • Baby_Raptor

    According to the bible, God created mankind knowing he would “have to” torture most of them for eternity because he gave them free will, and because of free will, humanity would not live up to his standards.

    1) How is this supposedly a righteous, loving God?

    2) Why are you okay with this?

    3) How can you honestly say that humans are at fault, when the bible explicitly says that God gave us this free will and that it’s impossible for anyone to live up to God’s standards because of that?

    #AnswerThat

    • Blacksheep

      1) Righteous means that any sin can’t be tolerated; there must be 100% justice. Even Eastern religions teach that we don’t become “One” with the universe until full enlightenment and perfection are reached. It’s the concept of a just universe.

      2) I’m not OK with it – I’ve never met a Christian who understands the doctrine of hell, and I’ve met many who believe A. That everyone is saved or B. that there is no hell, just heaven or death. (no suffering).

      3) The Bible says we’re at fault – but that being in Christ makes us innocent in God’s eyes. The fact that it’s impossible to live up to God’s standards is a moot point because of salvation, Christ came “to save the whole world.”

  • Severalspeciesof

    Is there free will in Heaven? #AnswerThat

  • metalsheep

    How do you define “head of the household”? Do you believe that a partnership based on authority and subordination is inherently better than one based on both partners being equal? Why? #AnswerThat

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    How do you decide between competing claims of the Abrahamic traditions? (or even within various forms of Christianity). E.g. How do you decide that Jesus ascended to heaven, but Mohamed didn’t fly to heaven on a winged horse, or Jesus didn’t visit North America? #AnswerThat

  • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    If “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” and “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good,” then why are countries with the lowest rates of belief in God also some of the most healthy and peaceful places on Earth? Further, why do non-believers like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett do so much good through charity?

  • Ouigui

    If Jesus’s message from God was so important for the world to understand, why are the Gospels so full of inconsistencies?
    #AnswerThat

  • PNW

    The Pharaoh was willing to let the Israelites go many times, why didn’t God let them leave and spare the Egyptians. If he really felt that they should be punished couldn’t he just let the Israelites leave and then punish the Egyptians? #AnswerThat

  • David C. Frier

    Why Jesus? Why not Zeus or Ashtarte or Krishna or Thor or….

    #AnswerThat

  • viaten

    Why does God value a person’s belief in him more than that person being good? #AnswerThat

  • Greg Peterson

    Presumably God is not making any MORE demons, so whatever the number was for Adam and Eve should be the same as the number for us living today. Doesn’t that mean the per-capita number of demons should go down drastically as the human population has exploded? And shouldn’t that lead to considerable moral progress? So why don’t we see that happening…at least in the Christian conception of what morality consists of? (Do demons now job-share?) #AnswerThat

  • ecolt

    She saw Jesus, a Semitic Jew living in what is now Palestine, and he had blue eyes?

    In all seriousness, though, my question would be why do you think a benevolent and loving god would ask us to worship him? From the ancient Jews to modern Christians, the belief has always existed that it is our duty to praise and worship god. Heaven itself is not a place of eternal rest, but a place where the righteous go to spend all of eternity constantly offering praise to their god. I can understand offering prayers of thanks, but why does god demand such an extreme level of worship? If any human king demanded his subjects bow before him every day, take a full day of the week to do nothing but praise him, spent holidays or his birthday doing nothing but telling him how great he is, and so on we would criticize his ego. Even if you support the claim that we were created by an all-powerful supreme being, why would that being need constant praise? An omniscient god would be fully aware of his own power and glory, and he/she/it would know that its people were in awe. Why require people to spend any time, let alone all of eternity, basically telling god just how great he is? This need for ego-stroking is at odds with the idea of a benevolent god. And if your god is so powerful, what does he actually gain from this kind of worship? What impact could the words of mere humans possibly have on him?

    Christians say it’s appropriate to praise god because he created us, loves us, and takes care of us. My parents created me, they love me, they took care of me as a child and continue to help me through my adult life. In return I love them, I thank them, and I try to reciprocate the things they have done for me. I do not bow before them, I do not call them just to tell them how amazing they are and, while I would do anything to help them if they were truly in need, they don’t expect me to spend my entire life working just for them to live in opulence. So why would your loving creator god expect or need those things from you?

  • Chris B

    How about what happened to all of the people who didn’t worship the Christian God before Christianity existed?

    Christianity has been around for roughly 2,000 years, so even if you are are young Earth creationist, there is about a 4,000 year gap where people wouldn’t have been Christians, in any recognizable sense. They could still be Jews, but that still only gets you another 1,800 years or so. So *everyone* that existed between ~6,000 years ago and ~3,800 years ago must be in hell for not worshiping God.

    #AnswerThat

  • John Perkins

    Why are actions that are not moral for humans acceptable for god? #AnswerThat

  • Christine

    If there’s evil in the world because we have free will then how can God be totally perfect and still have free will? Doesn’t that mean that God has no free will? #AnswerThat


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X