The connections between atheism and Christianity

Rob Moll tells about how atheists were instrumental in his coming to Christianity:

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists,” said G. K. Chesterton. My own period of doubt came not because the idea of God or miracles seemed wrong, but because God himself wronged me. That’s how I saw it, at least. Though atheists may argue that the existence of a supreme being is impossible, their arguments often reveal a belief that God just doesn’t behave as they think he should. In a debate, Christopher Hitchens complained about war and killing in the Old Testament. He said he wrote his book God Is Not Great in response to the murders in Muslim countries that followed the publishing of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. None of these are arguments against God’s existence, but rather arguments against how God and especially his followers act.

That is why traditional atheism is a highly moral philosophy, and one worthy of respect, even while we strongly disagree with it. . . .

Another flaw of the faith revealed by atheists, especially the New Atheists, is the frequency with which Christianity or any religion appears oppressive. It was no coincidence that the New Atheism exploded during the second half of the Bush administration, when Christians were widely perceived (correctly or not) to be using their political power to influence public policy. When some Christian leaders were found to be violating their professed beliefs, whether in sexual behavior or other ethical lapses, it cast all attempts to bring Christian moral arguments into the political process as hypocritical manipulations for power.

“The attractiveness of atheism is directly dependent upon the corruption of Christian institutions,” says McGrath. “History strongly suggests that those who are attracted to atheism are first repelled by theism.”

Atheism is a creature of Christianity. My turn away from God came at a time when I had questions about my faith. My pastors and youth group leaders, rather than hearing out my questions, prescribed more intense devotions, more fervent prayers, and further exclamations of biblical truth. My friends who wandered from the faith faced similar prescriptions. Our questions were heard first and foremost as a desire to flout the rules and to sin without compunction. In truth, there was no real correlation between those who lost their faith and those who flouted the rules of their Christian high school and college, though our behavior was often described as the evidence of our lack of faith (while the infractions of our more faithful colleagues were seen as mere lapses of good judgment).

Most of my wandering friends, like me, seem to have returned to Christ. But I’ve found that a surprising number who had fully accepted the faith have now left it. Each tended to have had some experience in which Christian leaders acted as hypocritical, power hungry, judgmental, or arrogant elites. For some, the church’s inability to shepherd during a painful period led directly to rejecting God. “If God isn’t there when I need him,” they say, “I don’t need him.”

Atheists may have an arsenal of arguments against God or religion. But at heart, rejection of God seems not to be a purely logical choice against the possibility or desirability of God. Rather, it is often a rejection of God’s people. Atheism’s recent popularity should serve as a warning to us. Apologetics conferences and passionate rebuttals may have their place. Certainly we should be ready with reasons for our faith. But before we begin dueling on blogs and arming ourselves with television talking points, let’s learn to see atheists not as deniers of God, but as wrestlers with him. And let’s remember that their deepest arguments against belief are the people they’re arguing with.

The early Christians, of course, were persecuted on the grounds of their “atheism.”  That is, they did not believe in the pagan gods or the deity of the Emperor.   Surely Christians should be “atheists” in their stance against the pantheon of the world’s religions. 

The unstated assumption in much of the New Atheism is that all religions are essentially the same, and some Christians unthinkingly accept that assumption in arguing for some generic deity.  But the Triune and Incarnate God of Christianity is utterly unlike the deities of Islam, Hinduism, Deism, the New Age Movement, and every other religion. 

For example, in dealing with the problem of evil, Christians unwittingly find themselves defending the Muslim or Deistic god who looks down from above on the world’s sufferings.  Rather than the Incarnate God who died on the Cross, taking the world’s evil into Himself.  

Notice how the atheist use the fact of sin to disprove Christianity, when actually the ubiquity of sin–including among believers–proves one of its major doctrines.   Ironically, those same atheists will often then accuse believers in religion of being oppressively moralistic!   And yet Christianity, while upholding morality, is itself all about God’s grace and forgiveness when people are NOT moral.

Can you think of other examples?  Should Christians be atheists when it comes to other religions?  Or should we defend religion in a generic way before zeroing in on Christian distinctives?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    One of the most common example arguments is the “judge not, lest you be judged” where moral judgments by Christians are held with contempt as going against this injunction. This statement has now been almost completely divorced from its Scriptural context and is tossed about casually in discussions on almost any modern moral issue such as abortion or homosexuality. The sad irony is that many of these people cling to this phrase as self-justification, but cannot even locate it in the Bible or even quote another verse, except maybe a scrambled version of the 10 Commandments (another thoroughly abused text).

    Christians should try to promote Christianity and not some generic deism, but that may be hard when the general media may not be interested in the differences or understanding distinctions between competing theologies and belief systems. I half-expect that some will turn to Glenn Beck as a commenter and expositor on basic tenets of the Christian faith and be accepted as such.

  • SKPeterson

    One of the most common example arguments is the “judge not, lest you be judged” where moral judgments by Christians are held with contempt as going against this injunction. This statement has now been almost completely divorced from its Scriptural context and is tossed about casually in discussions on almost any modern moral issue such as abortion or homosexuality. The sad irony is that many of these people cling to this phrase as self-justification, but cannot even locate it in the Bible or even quote another verse, except maybe a scrambled version of the 10 Commandments (another thoroughly abused text).

    Christians should try to promote Christianity and not some generic deism, but that may be hard when the general media may not be interested in the differences or understanding distinctions between competing theologies and belief systems. I half-expect that some will turn to Glenn Beck as a commenter and expositor on basic tenets of the Christian faith and be accepted as such.

  • James T. Batchelor

    It is interesting that there is a picture of Dr. Rod Rosenbladt looking at me as I write this reply for I agree with his approach to presenting the faith. We begin by establishing the historical resurrection of Jesus. Once we have established that Jesus promised to rise from the dead and then kept that promise, we can then make the case that whatever He says about mankind’s problem and the solution to that problem is the truth.

  • James T. Batchelor

    It is interesting that there is a picture of Dr. Rod Rosenbladt looking at me as I write this reply for I agree with his approach to presenting the faith. We begin by establishing the historical resurrection of Jesus. Once we have established that Jesus promised to rise from the dead and then kept that promise, we can then make the case that whatever He says about mankind’s problem and the solution to that problem is the truth.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well I think this article could be summed up along the lines of “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” You can’t be angry or hate something you don’t actually believe in.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well I think this article could be summed up along the lines of “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” You can’t be angry or hate something you don’t actually believe in.

  • libertas

    I like to point out that secular humanism and atheism are both “religous” doctrines, and violent ones at that. (No one has ever seen one species change into another, even though we have been trying with fruit flies for decades…..etc). And, it is easy to point to genocides in the twentieth century, committed by darwinists, as the bloodiest genocides in existance.

  • libertas

    I like to point out that secular humanism and atheism are both “religous” doctrines, and violent ones at that. (No one has ever seen one species change into another, even though we have been trying with fruit flies for decades…..etc). And, it is easy to point to genocides in the twentieth century, committed by darwinists, as the bloodiest genocides in existance.

  • David T.

    Dr. Veith, in regards to your questions Acts 17 may provide some insight. When Paul argued with the men of Athens he started, you might say, as a polytheist, by referring to one of their own gods – the unknown one. He went on from there to the first article, again using one of their own resources (a poet) for support, then on to the coming judgment, then the resurrection. So it appears he starts with some common generic understandings, clarification, and then to specifics and the gospel.

  • David T.

    Dr. Veith, in regards to your questions Acts 17 may provide some insight. When Paul argued with the men of Athens he started, you might say, as a polytheist, by referring to one of their own gods – the unknown one. He went on from there to the first article, again using one of their own resources (a poet) for support, then on to the coming judgment, then the resurrection. So it appears he starts with some common generic understandings, clarification, and then to specifics and the gospel.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Dr. Veith: Fascinating excerpt. I had no idea Chesterton struggled with his faith. He’s one of the Christian writers and thinkers I respect the most, so it’s always interesting to hear more about him.

    re: atheism. Interestingly enough, Richard Dawkins has said something very similar: atheists are just like Christians, they only take it one god further.

    I’m a bit at a loss as to why the religious community seems to be rising up as a whole against the non-religious one. It’s as if they think that it doesn’t matter who you believe in, as long as you believe in someone. Atheism, perhaps ironically, is very often inspired by a real desire for the truth–something, I think, religion could use more of. If you believe in Christ, Islam is as wrong, and as harmful, as Atheism.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Dr. Veith: Fascinating excerpt. I had no idea Chesterton struggled with his faith. He’s one of the Christian writers and thinkers I respect the most, so it’s always interesting to hear more about him.

    re: atheism. Interestingly enough, Richard Dawkins has said something very similar: atheists are just like Christians, they only take it one god further.

    I’m a bit at a loss as to why the religious community seems to be rising up as a whole against the non-religious one. It’s as if they think that it doesn’t matter who you believe in, as long as you believe in someone. Atheism, perhaps ironically, is very often inspired by a real desire for the truth–something, I think, religion could use more of. If you believe in Christ, Islam is as wrong, and as harmful, as Atheism.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @libertas: Please don’t lump the average modern atheist in with the ideological Marxist movements. Those movements relied as much on blind belief as any religion, and are so separate from most modern atheism as to make the accusation equivalent to condemning mormons for the jihads of Wahabbi Muslims.

    This isn’t necessarily to say that atheists are “good.” It is only to say that they are very hard to organize. Trying to conduct a war with most atheists would be like trying to build a government out of anarchists.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @libertas: Please don’t lump the average modern atheist in with the ideological Marxist movements. Those movements relied as much on blind belief as any religion, and are so separate from most modern atheism as to make the accusation equivalent to condemning mormons for the jihads of Wahabbi Muslims.

    This isn’t necessarily to say that atheists are “good.” It is only to say that they are very hard to organize. Trying to conduct a war with most atheists would be like trying to build a government out of anarchists.

  • WRVinovskis

    Tim: My impression is that Chesterton had sort of a nominal faith as an Anglican. It wasn’t till his conversion to Roman Catholicism (in his late 40′s) that he became a more outspoken apologist for Christianity.

  • WRVinovskis

    Tim: My impression is that Chesterton had sort of a nominal faith as an Anglican. It wasn’t till his conversion to Roman Catholicism (in his late 40′s) that he became a more outspoken apologist for Christianity.

  • libertas

    Darwin’s theory of evolution presupposes the natural state of being as one giant continual warfare, ie “the survival of the fittest.” Given that one major basic foundatinal doctrine of evolution is the continual war of supremacy between individuals and species in nature…it isn’t surprising that his followers have murdered more people in the years since the founding of his religion, than all other religions combined. So, my question for the so-called “new atheists”……are you a follower of Darwin? If so, then maybe you can understand my fear of giving you a gun.

  • libertas

    Darwin’s theory of evolution presupposes the natural state of being as one giant continual warfare, ie “the survival of the fittest.” Given that one major basic foundatinal doctrine of evolution is the continual war of supremacy between individuals and species in nature…it isn’t surprising that his followers have murdered more people in the years since the founding of his religion, than all other religions combined. So, my question for the so-called “new atheists”……are you a follower of Darwin? If so, then maybe you can understand my fear of giving you a gun.

  • Louis

    In my experience, atheism is very rarely the honest view it supposes to be. On multiple occassions I’ve found that if you scratch an atheist, you find tons of bitterness and hate underneath. Sure, not all of them, maybe. But this is one of the rare cases I tend to agree with Doug Wilson – who said that atheists have two principles:

    1. There is no God.
    2. I hate Him!

    The day athei rhetoric ceases with anti-Christian, foaming-at-the-mouth rants, I might take them seriously. Also, from a philosophical point of view, you cannot claim there is no god, till you have mastered all knowledge possible, and thus disprove His existence. Until then, atheism remains a hypothesis only.

    Agnostics, on the other hand, are much more honest in my opinion, especially regarding my last point above.

  • Louis

    In my experience, atheism is very rarely the honest view it supposes to be. On multiple occassions I’ve found that if you scratch an atheist, you find tons of bitterness and hate underneath. Sure, not all of them, maybe. But this is one of the rare cases I tend to agree with Doug Wilson – who said that atheists have two principles:

    1. There is no God.
    2. I hate Him!

    The day athei rhetoric ceases with anti-Christian, foaming-at-the-mouth rants, I might take them seriously. Also, from a philosophical point of view, you cannot claim there is no god, till you have mastered all knowledge possible, and thus disprove His existence. Until then, atheism remains a hypothesis only.

    Agnostics, on the other hand, are much more honest in my opinion, especially regarding my last point above.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It seems folks are lured away from true saving faith in Christ by both false religion and atheism. So, false religion, spiritualism, atheism etc, differ in degree not it kind.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It seems folks are lured away from true saving faith in Christ by both false religion and atheism. So, false religion, spiritualism, atheism etc, differ in degree not it kind.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    sg.
    Lured away, or driven away. It happens both ways.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    sg.
    Lured away, or driven away. It happens both ways.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @libertas: I’m afraid that’s because you, like Lenin et al, may be misunderstanding Darwinian theory. Darwinism is about survival and reproduction…period. While war sometimes is part of that system, as often as not it’s detrimental. War today, for instance, with the weapons a major war might be fought with, would not be beneficial to our survival. In fact, Darwinism might very well say that the only “justifiable” wars would be either defensive, or in acquisition of a desperately need resource, such as food. Genocide doesn’t really count.

    Marx was an idealist, inspired as much or more by Hegel as he was by Darwin. His more violent followers were fighting for a paradise on Earth, and believed violence was the only way to reach it. Look at any major religion and you’ll find prophesies of violence before paradise, and descriptions of “spiritual war,” implicit in Christianity and explicit in Islam. Darwinism makes no such claims, and endorses no such means. War is only useful if it is beneficial to survival–not, for instance, if it intends to “spread democracy,” “convert infidels,” or “civilize savages.”

    And seriously, who would you rather see with a gun–Richard Dawkins, or Glenn Beck?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @libertas: I’m afraid that’s because you, like Lenin et al, may be misunderstanding Darwinian theory. Darwinism is about survival and reproduction…period. While war sometimes is part of that system, as often as not it’s detrimental. War today, for instance, with the weapons a major war might be fought with, would not be beneficial to our survival. In fact, Darwinism might very well say that the only “justifiable” wars would be either defensive, or in acquisition of a desperately need resource, such as food. Genocide doesn’t really count.

    Marx was an idealist, inspired as much or more by Hegel as he was by Darwin. His more violent followers were fighting for a paradise on Earth, and believed violence was the only way to reach it. Look at any major religion and you’ll find prophesies of violence before paradise, and descriptions of “spiritual war,” implicit in Christianity and explicit in Islam. Darwinism makes no such claims, and endorses no such means. War is only useful if it is beneficial to survival–not, for instance, if it intends to “spread democracy,” “convert infidels,” or “civilize savages.”

    And seriously, who would you rather see with a gun–Richard Dawkins, or Glenn Beck?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis: I tend to agree. Because “God,” if there is one, is entirely outside of the realm not only of our experience but also our possible experience (ie, outside of our universe), Atheism requires as much faith as Theism, and, like you said, often stems more from anger than anything else. It must be said, of course, that the burden of proof lies with theism: see unicorns, invisible dragons, etc, but the point remains, atheism is as impossible to “prove” as theism.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis: I tend to agree. Because “God,” if there is one, is entirely outside of the realm not only of our experience but also our possible experience (ie, outside of our universe), Atheism requires as much faith as Theism, and, like you said, often stems more from anger than anything else. It must be said, of course, that the burden of proof lies with theism: see unicorns, invisible dragons, etc, but the point remains, atheism is as impossible to “prove” as theism.

  • libertas

    @Tim,

    It’s amazing that you say that Darwinism is about survival and reproduction…period. His followers have spread his theory into all kinds of things…theology, philosophy, sociology, goverment, morality, economics. It appears that the burdan of proof for that statement is one you. It is not be hard to find examples of Darwin’s followers using his limited theory of “survival and reproduction” in all kinds of areas.

    ……………………………..”And seriously, who would you rather see with a gun–Richard Dawkins, or Glenn Beck?”

    Your question is very similar to Dr. Veith’s. My anwer is that I would trust neither one. Mormanism, atheism, secularism…these are all false religions. Although…..even though my knowledge of Glenn Beck’s and Richard Dawkin’s politics is limited….doesn’t Glen Beck at least claim to be a libertarian leaning. If forced into a choice, that is something (though not much).

  • libertas

    @Tim,

    It’s amazing that you say that Darwinism is about survival and reproduction…period. His followers have spread his theory into all kinds of things…theology, philosophy, sociology, goverment, morality, economics. It appears that the burdan of proof for that statement is one you. It is not be hard to find examples of Darwin’s followers using his limited theory of “survival and reproduction” in all kinds of areas.

    ……………………………..”And seriously, who would you rather see with a gun–Richard Dawkins, or Glenn Beck?”

    Your question is very similar to Dr. Veith’s. My anwer is that I would trust neither one. Mormanism, atheism, secularism…these are all false religions. Although…..even though my knowledge of Glenn Beck’s and Richard Dawkin’s politics is limited….doesn’t Glen Beck at least claim to be a libertarian leaning. If forced into a choice, that is something (though not much).

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @libertas,

    What I mean to say is, evolution is not directed. It doesn’t involve “progress,” the way Marxist-Leninism tried to. It’s purely about what works. True enough, there have been plenty of people since it started who have tried to force it into their own worldviews and goals, but that’s hardly surprising. If human beings can take the words of a pacifist rabbi and use them as justification for conquest, I don’t really think they need any rational reason at all.

    Humans, regardless of religion or belief, can be violent under certain circumstances. It isn’t caused by belief in Darwinism, but it is explained perfectly by it.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @libertas,

    What I mean to say is, evolution is not directed. It doesn’t involve “progress,” the way Marxist-Leninism tried to. It’s purely about what works. True enough, there have been plenty of people since it started who have tried to force it into their own worldviews and goals, but that’s hardly surprising. If human beings can take the words of a pacifist rabbi and use them as justification for conquest, I don’t really think they need any rational reason at all.

    Humans, regardless of religion or belief, can be violent under certain circumstances. It isn’t caused by belief in Darwinism, but it is explained perfectly by it.

  • Tom Hering

    “For some, the church’s inability to shepherd during a painful period led directly to rejecting God. ‘If God isn’t there when I need him,’ they say, ‘I don’t need him.’” – Rob Moll.

    No one who has a personal relationship with God – who knows in their heart that He exists and that He cares for them personally – ever confuses the church with God. If someone leaves the church and becomes an atheist, they never trusted in anything but what they could see and hear, i.e., the church and its members. They demand hard evidence of God’s existence now because they looked for it then.

  • Tom Hering

    “For some, the church’s inability to shepherd during a painful period led directly to rejecting God. ‘If God isn’t there when I need him,’ they say, ‘I don’t need him.’” – Rob Moll.

    No one who has a personal relationship with God – who knows in their heart that He exists and that He cares for them personally – ever confuses the church with God. If someone leaves the church and becomes an atheist, they never trusted in anything but what they could see and hear, i.e., the church and its members. They demand hard evidence of God’s existence now because they looked for it then.

  • libertas

    @Tim

    “It isn’t caused by belief in Darwinism, but it is explained perfectly by it.”

    So in your veiw, the darwinistic belief that competition (even violent competition) is the basic order of nature had nothing to do with the tens of millions of genocidal deaths committed by the committed darwinists (fascist and communist)…interesting.

    In the Christian worldview…we have our own explanation for the death and destruction that has occurred in the history of mankind. It is do to the sinful nature within all of us. A sinful nature we can not do away with on our own without God doing away with it for us.

  • libertas

    @Tim

    “It isn’t caused by belief in Darwinism, but it is explained perfectly by it.”

    So in your veiw, the darwinistic belief that competition (even violent competition) is the basic order of nature had nothing to do with the tens of millions of genocidal deaths committed by the committed darwinists (fascist and communist)…interesting.

    In the Christian worldview…we have our own explanation for the death and destruction that has occurred in the history of mankind. It is do to the sinful nature within all of us. A sinful nature we can not do away with on our own without God doing away with it for us.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    That’s my point. Whether you call it fallen nature or genetic nature, people kill people and use whatever they can to justify it. Men like Hitler or Stalin would have done what they did regardless of the philosophies they claimed to believe in. The fact that “darwinists” killed so many more can be explained by a look at a population graph–there were simply more people around to be killed in the early twentieth century than there were in the last religious war.

    One way or another, it’s a moot point. Death tolls don’t determine the truth of a theory–a fallacy atheists and non-atheists commit regularly. If Christianity is true, God has killed far more people through plague, famine, natural disasters, and genetic mortality than any group of humans could ever hope to–but that in itself doesn’t mean Christianity is false.

    I guess the real question isn’t “would you trust an atheist with a gun.” It’s, “would you trust a human with a gun.” The answer, as any good second amendment supporter knows, is no: so buy a gun yourself to even the odds.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    That’s my point. Whether you call it fallen nature or genetic nature, people kill people and use whatever they can to justify it. Men like Hitler or Stalin would have done what they did regardless of the philosophies they claimed to believe in. The fact that “darwinists” killed so many more can be explained by a look at a population graph–there were simply more people around to be killed in the early twentieth century than there were in the last religious war.

    One way or another, it’s a moot point. Death tolls don’t determine the truth of a theory–a fallacy atheists and non-atheists commit regularly. If Christianity is true, God has killed far more people through plague, famine, natural disasters, and genetic mortality than any group of humans could ever hope to–but that in itself doesn’t mean Christianity is false.

    I guess the real question isn’t “would you trust an atheist with a gun.” It’s, “would you trust a human with a gun.” The answer, as any good second amendment supporter knows, is no: so buy a gun yourself to even the odds.

  • Porcell

    Moll makes the point that many atheists have a hard time with the injustice of, say, a child dying of cancer, or as an innocent in war, or from some sort of neglect. Fundamentally their view is that a good God would not allow this to happen. Camus struggled with this issue and, not resolving it, remained an unbelieving existentialist.

    Life can indeed be unfair; evil does exist. No human completely understands why this is so, though the very fact we use such terms is an indication that God exists at the heart of a moral cosmos. People of faith are grownups who despite injustice and evil believe in God and in the case of Christians a Son of God who died on a Cross that we could be forgiven for own inevitable failings to adhere to divine moral law.

    Moll is right that these supposedly sensitive atheists are properly critical of moralistic religious people, though I have found that many of them are far from lacking moralism and arrogance.

  • Porcell

    Moll makes the point that many atheists have a hard time with the injustice of, say, a child dying of cancer, or as an innocent in war, or from some sort of neglect. Fundamentally their view is that a good God would not allow this to happen. Camus struggled with this issue and, not resolving it, remained an unbelieving existentialist.

    Life can indeed be unfair; evil does exist. No human completely understands why this is so, though the very fact we use such terms is an indication that God exists at the heart of a moral cosmos. People of faith are grownups who despite injustice and evil believe in God and in the case of Christians a Son of God who died on a Cross that we could be forgiven for own inevitable failings to adhere to divine moral law.

    Moll is right that these supposedly sensitive atheists are properly critical of moralistic religious people, though I have found that many of them are far from lacking moralism and arrogance.

  • libertas

    @Tim

    “The answer, as any good second amendment supporter knows, is no: so buy a gun yourself to even the odds.”

    Thanks for the laugh.

  • libertas

    @Tim

    “The answer, as any good second amendment supporter knows, is no: so buy a gun yourself to even the odds.”

    Thanks for the laugh.

  • Tom Hering

    “Very unLutheran (and unCatholic) observation.
    No one trusts his heart to assure himself that he knows God.” – J @ 22.

    Usually a good point, but I wasn’t talking about trusting the heart. I was talking about the heart trusting God, as in: the new heart that comes with the gift of faith – with being a new creation.

  • Tom Hering

    “Very unLutheran (and unCatholic) observation.
    No one trusts his heart to assure himself that he knows God.” – J @ 22.

    Usually a good point, but I wasn’t talking about trusting the heart. I was talking about the heart trusting God, as in: the new heart that comes with the gift of faith – with being a new creation.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    I think from a purely political perspective, one has to defend “religion” broadly defined. (Coming from a country that is generally more post-Christian than the United States, defending religious liberty for all is necessary in case the anti-religious rhetoric of the day swings against organized Christianity, as it does from time to time).

    On an individual basis, however, I’d much rather defend the Christian God than some undefined Higher Being. Besides, most of the ardent atheists I know are (like the article suggests) people who have been hurt by the Church or dislike some specifically Christian doctrine. A defense of Allah is not really all that important to them (nor is it all that important to me).

    The other point to make, I think, is that because many atheists have been hurt by Christians, we shouldn’t expect to reason them into the faith. A much more appropriate approach is to be friends with them – to love them – for love covers over a multitude of sins. You have to help them get over their hurt before they will begin to deal honestly with the God-question. [Stackhouse has a relatively good book out called Humble Apologetics where he argues against trying to "win" the debate with individual atheists. It's well worth the read.]

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    I think from a purely political perspective, one has to defend “religion” broadly defined. (Coming from a country that is generally more post-Christian than the United States, defending religious liberty for all is necessary in case the anti-religious rhetoric of the day swings against organized Christianity, as it does from time to time).

    On an individual basis, however, I’d much rather defend the Christian God than some undefined Higher Being. Besides, most of the ardent atheists I know are (like the article suggests) people who have been hurt by the Church or dislike some specifically Christian doctrine. A defense of Allah is not really all that important to them (nor is it all that important to me).

    The other point to make, I think, is that because many atheists have been hurt by Christians, we shouldn’t expect to reason them into the faith. A much more appropriate approach is to be friends with them – to love them – for love covers over a multitude of sins. You have to help them get over their hurt before they will begin to deal honestly with the God-question. [Stackhouse has a relatively good book out called Humble Apologetics where he argues against trying to "win" the debate with individual atheists. It's well worth the read.]

  • Digital

    When talking to athiests and agnostics I have generally followed the advice in 1 Peter 3
    But at the same time having a bit of methodology to it. It is easy to get sucked into a morality battle without defining terms. But without fail, when I define terms, start with a logical point that we both agree and work backwards, one of two things happens. Either the conversation switches to a new topic, or the debater gets frustrated that they were “painted into a corner” and that is not fair. No, it is what we call a logical argument, sometimes when faced with the facts there is only one thing, and whether or not you like that one thing is not the point. The point is, it is the truth.
    Mere Christianity is favored because of this approach, take a starting point and work to the cross, all logical agreements lead there anyway.

  • Digital

    When talking to athiests and agnostics I have generally followed the advice in 1 Peter 3
    But at the same time having a bit of methodology to it. It is easy to get sucked into a morality battle without defining terms. But without fail, when I define terms, start with a logical point that we both agree and work backwards, one of two things happens. Either the conversation switches to a new topic, or the debater gets frustrated that they were “painted into a corner” and that is not fair. No, it is what we call a logical argument, sometimes when faced with the facts there is only one thing, and whether or not you like that one thing is not the point. The point is, it is the truth.
    Mere Christianity is favored because of this approach, take a starting point and work to the cross, all logical agreements lead there anyway.

  • Tom Hering

    “… most of the ardent atheists I know are (like the article suggests) people who have been hurt by the Church …” – Captain Thin @ 24.

    I’m sure some atheists are people who’ve been broken by the sins of specific Christians in specific churches. The real problem, however, is that they haven’t been broken by their own sins. They might judge Christians and Christianity less harshly if they were.

    Besides, we don’t want to take the “broken by the church” thing too far. There’s a tremendous difference between those who are now atheists, and those who don’t darken the door of a church anymore – but still believe.

  • Tom Hering

    “… most of the ardent atheists I know are (like the article suggests) people who have been hurt by the Church …” – Captain Thin @ 24.

    I’m sure some atheists are people who’ve been broken by the sins of specific Christians in specific churches. The real problem, however, is that they haven’t been broken by their own sins. They might judge Christians and Christianity less harshly if they were.

    Besides, we don’t want to take the “broken by the church” thing too far. There’s a tremendous difference between those who are now atheists, and those who don’t darken the door of a church anymore – but still believe.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I know a lot of atheists who are from Muslim, Hindu, and other backgrounds. They don’t have animosity. They just don’t believe. I wonder whether the Christian emphasis on love raises the expectations of folks who expect to be loved. I know a few atheists from Christian backgrounds that feel sort of guilty for not believing because everyone was so nice to them, and they don’t want to hurt their family, etc. Some even say they wish they could believe because they think it would make their lives better.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I know a lot of atheists who are from Muslim, Hindu, and other backgrounds. They don’t have animosity. They just don’t believe. I wonder whether the Christian emphasis on love raises the expectations of folks who expect to be loved. I know a few atheists from Christian backgrounds that feel sort of guilty for not believing because everyone was so nice to them, and they don’t want to hurt their family, etc. Some even say they wish they could believe because they think it would make their lives better.

  • Digital

    @sg
    Interesting, I have never run into one of these individuals but it may be due to my living in the midwest.
    Either way, Satan doesn’t care your background, he will whisper in anyone’s ear. Usually everyone has a reason for not believing, not through reasoning but as mentioned above, some event or frustration with God.

  • Digital

    @sg
    Interesting, I have never run into one of these individuals but it may be due to my living in the midwest.
    Either way, Satan doesn’t care your background, he will whisper in anyone’s ear. Usually everyone has a reason for not believing, not through reasoning but as mentioned above, some event or frustration with God.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Bror,

    “Lured away, or driven away. It happens both ways.”

    Do you mean like abuse, or just unfriendly, being ignored, neglected, that kind of thing?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Bror,

    “Lured away, or driven away. It happens both ways.”

    Do you mean like abuse, or just unfriendly, being ignored, neglected, that kind of thing?

  • Tom Hering

    “Some even say they wish they could believe because they think it would make their lives better.” – sg @ 27.

    No one wishes they believed unless the Holy Spirit is working in them. Could they be a broken reed – a smoldering wick? Kept down by false ideas of what it means to “really” believe? (Like, it means being a better person with a better life.)

  • Tom Hering

    “Some even say they wish they could believe because they think it would make their lives better.” – sg @ 27.

    No one wishes they believed unless the Holy Spirit is working in them. Could they be a broken reed – a smoldering wick? Kept down by false ideas of what it means to “really” believe? (Like, it means being a better person with a better life.)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The thread of commonality I see among my atheist friends is how little they have been tested in life. They had nice parents, easily did well in school, had friends, etc. They never really had extended times in their lives when they felt hopeless and really needed something to believe. Their lives were always pretty orderly and they had the wherewithal to meet expectations and do well. They are pretty diligent and haven’t made a lot of stupid mistakes. So they feel that their lives work without God. If you try to talk religion to them, they just look at you like you are a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman. They don’t hate you. They just aren’t buying. If you persist, they get annoyed, just like they do at the salesman.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The thread of commonality I see among my atheist friends is how little they have been tested in life. They had nice parents, easily did well in school, had friends, etc. They never really had extended times in their lives when they felt hopeless and really needed something to believe. Their lives were always pretty orderly and they had the wherewithal to meet expectations and do well. They are pretty diligent and haven’t made a lot of stupid mistakes. So they feel that their lives work without God. If you try to talk religion to them, they just look at you like you are a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman. They don’t hate you. They just aren’t buying. If you persist, they get annoyed, just like they do at the salesman.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Phil, I don’t know hundreds, maybe a dozen. I think that is a lot because atheists are a pretty low percentage of the population. Most of these folks are academics or work in the STEM fields. Some send their kids to Catholic schools.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Phil, I don’t know hundreds, maybe a dozen. I think that is a lot because atheists are a pretty low percentage of the population. Most of these folks are academics or work in the STEM fields. Some send their kids to Catholic schools.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “As it were, your claim that there are atheists among those with Muslim backgrounds would contradict the right’s meme o’ the day that Muslim (practicing or not) = jihadist.”

    “No one wishes they believed unless the Holy Spirit is working in them. Could they be a broken reed – a smoldering wick? Kept down by false ideas of what it means to “really” believe?”

    Phil, Tom, I only know what they tell me.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “As it were, your claim that there are atheists among those with Muslim backgrounds would contradict the right’s meme o’ the day that Muslim (practicing or not) = jihadist.”

    “No one wishes they believed unless the Holy Spirit is working in them. Could they be a broken reed – a smoldering wick? Kept down by false ideas of what it means to “really” believe?”

    Phil, Tom, I only know what they tell me.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Your comments are not models of coherence on any topic.”

    Okay, like what? Help me out.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Your comments are not models of coherence on any topic.”

    Okay, like what? Help me out.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Your comments are not models of coherence on any topic.”

    They certainly are not models of conformity and compliance.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Your comments are not models of coherence on any topic.”

    They certainly are not models of conformity and compliance.

  • Digital

    @sg
    Are these individuals people you have a personal relationship with? I just wonder if they seem to not have had any challenges in life because they haven’t told you about them. It is rare for an individual to not have any adversity in life. A persons adversity is relative, but always there. I can say with relative certainty that EVERY one of the athiests I have had a conversation with has had a bad Church, Parent, or event at the core. Usually it is a single event that allowed for other events to pile on. An anger towards an event or object.
    With my agnostic friends it is mostly an oppressive church when younger. Atheists tend to have stronger feelings that push them to take on the Atheist cause.
    I am interested because it is fascinating to me the different ways in which Satan lures people away from Christ.

  • Digital

    @sg
    Are these individuals people you have a personal relationship with? I just wonder if they seem to not have had any challenges in life because they haven’t told you about them. It is rare for an individual to not have any adversity in life. A persons adversity is relative, but always there. I can say with relative certainty that EVERY one of the athiests I have had a conversation with has had a bad Church, Parent, or event at the core. Usually it is a single event that allowed for other events to pile on. An anger towards an event or object.
    With my agnostic friends it is mostly an oppressive church when younger. Atheists tend to have stronger feelings that push them to take on the Atheist cause.
    I am interested because it is fascinating to me the different ways in which Satan lures people away from Christ.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Seriously guys, Google is your friend:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/05/god-atheism-islam

    @sg, re: Atheists being untested. Camus is an obvious counterexample. And I’m not sure “tested” is the word you’re looking for. In my experience, being tested and succeeding leads to greater faith in self, while being tested and failing encourages you to put your trust–and the responsibility–in someone Else’s hands.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Seriously guys, Google is your friend:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/05/god-atheism-islam

    @sg, re: Atheists being untested. Camus is an obvious counterexample. And I’m not sure “tested” is the word you’re looking for. In my experience, being tested and succeeding leads to greater faith in self, while being tested and failing encourages you to put your trust–and the responsibility–in someone Else’s hands.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    sg. What I meant by lured away or driven away.
    What I meant is the abuse that comes when the law and not the gospel prevails in the preaching of the pastor. When every sermon is about what you are supposed to be doing, or how to have a happy life, and yet your sin inhibits you from doing and leading that “actualized” life. It is every bit abuse.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    sg. What I meant by lured away or driven away.
    What I meant is the abuse that comes when the law and not the gospel prevails in the preaching of the pastor. When every sermon is about what you are supposed to be doing, or how to have a happy life, and yet your sin inhibits you from doing and leading that “actualized” life. It is every bit abuse.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    Tom Herring @26

    While I would agree that many atheists haven’t felt convicted of their own sins, I’d still suggest the first step to worthwhile communication with them is through acknowledgment of sin on our part and being deliberate friends with these people. They might not see their own sins, but they see the Church’s well enough. And until they begin to see how the Holy Spirit transforms believers into people who reject their own sins, I don’t think atheists will want to follow suit. After all, if what we’re proclaiming to them is a solution to sin, they better be able to see that solution at work in our lives.

    As for hurt Christians not necessarily being atheists, I’ll buy that. But I wasn’t saying that most hurt Christians become atheists. I was suggesting that most atheists were formerly in a church but who were hurt by that church (whether by individual members or by the institution itself). At least in my experience (and apparently in Digital’s @37), that’s generally true.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    Tom Herring @26

    While I would agree that many atheists haven’t felt convicted of their own sins, I’d still suggest the first step to worthwhile communication with them is through acknowledgment of sin on our part and being deliberate friends with these people. They might not see their own sins, but they see the Church’s well enough. And until they begin to see how the Holy Spirit transforms believers into people who reject their own sins, I don’t think atheists will want to follow suit. After all, if what we’re proclaiming to them is a solution to sin, they better be able to see that solution at work in our lives.

    As for hurt Christians not necessarily being atheists, I’ll buy that. But I wasn’t saying that most hurt Christians become atheists. I was suggesting that most atheists were formerly in a church but who were hurt by that church (whether by individual members or by the institution itself). At least in my experience (and apparently in Digital’s @37), that’s generally true.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Digital, I just know them socially through community organizations, professional organizations etc. Others are just folks I got to know when they or my husband or I were officers in those organizations. We had a fair amount of common interests, so we did get to know them well enough for them to share their thoughts. etc. Only a couple are closer friends of the family. One of my husband’s cousins and her daughter and son in law are atheists. They are calm diligent types. Low drama, very sweet, sensible etc.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Digital, I just know them socially through community organizations, professional organizations etc. Others are just folks I got to know when they or my husband or I were officers in those organizations. We had a fair amount of common interests, so we did get to know them well enough for them to share their thoughts. etc. Only a couple are closer friends of the family. One of my husband’s cousins and her daughter and son in law are atheists. They are calm diligent types. Low drama, very sweet, sensible etc.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I was suggesting that most atheists were formerly in a church but who were hurt by that church (whether by individual members or by the institution itself). At least in my experience (and apparently in Digital’s @37), that’s generally true.”

    I can believe that is generally true even if not among my friends.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I was suggesting that most atheists were formerly in a church but who were hurt by that church (whether by individual members or by the institution itself). At least in my experience (and apparently in Digital’s @37), that’s generally true.”

    I can believe that is generally true even if not among my friends.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Thanks, Bror. That makes a lot of sense. The “how-to” sermons sometimes make me feel like a loser because I am just not that good.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Thanks, Bror. That makes a lot of sense. The “how-to” sermons sometimes make me feel like a loser because I am just not that good.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Sg.
    That is the point of the law. We are losers. We’re all losers. or as Luther said “we are all beggars.” And that never really ends, not this side of glory.
    The point of the Gospel is that despite us being losers, God redeems us. He forgives our failures. He loves losers, and finds them worth his blood. He finds you worth the price of his son’s death, and he paid that for you. The great thing is, this isn’t meant to be your best life, your best life is yet to come. So keep you mind on heavenly things.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Sg.
    That is the point of the law. We are losers. We’re all losers. or as Luther said “we are all beggars.” And that never really ends, not this side of glory.
    The point of the Gospel is that despite us being losers, God redeems us. He forgives our failures. He loves losers, and finds them worth his blood. He finds you worth the price of his son’s death, and he paid that for you. The great thing is, this isn’t meant to be your best life, your best life is yet to come. So keep you mind on heavenly things.

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  • ptl

    Bror….my take on what sg is trying to say about being a loser, is not the kind of loser that you describe….a real loser because they don’t live up to God’s expectations as laid down in the law….but the kind of loser that can’t live up to certain Pastor’s or denominations expectations of how a believer should behave…..all full of love and the spirit, just happy and blissful and now able to do all sorts of good deeds and acts for their neighbors and others, etc. etc. Some sermons that emphasize that aspect of our new lives in Christ, can make folks feel like losers who can’t quite get in the spirit of things, yikes! is that it sg? of course, what do you know you loser…..just kidding :)

  • ptl

    Bror….my take on what sg is trying to say about being a loser, is not the kind of loser that you describe….a real loser because they don’t live up to God’s expectations as laid down in the law….but the kind of loser that can’t live up to certain Pastor’s or denominations expectations of how a believer should behave…..all full of love and the spirit, just happy and blissful and now able to do all sorts of good deeds and acts for their neighbors and others, etc. etc. Some sermons that emphasize that aspect of our new lives in Christ, can make folks feel like losers who can’t quite get in the spirit of things, yikes! is that it sg? of course, what do you know you loser…..just kidding :)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ptl,

    Both, and I can’t live up to either set of expectations.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ptl,

    Both, and I can’t live up to either set of expectations.

  • Tom Hering

    Moll seems to credit his years as an atheist, and the “honesty” of atheists, for his present faith. He especially credits Albert Camus:

    “Camus should have been safe territory for me, but as I like to say now, I was saved by an atheist.”

    Well, yes, he likes to say this now. But has he, retrospectively, created a faith story that fails to give credit where credit is due? Nothing in his article lines up with what he tells us in his first two paragraphs:

    “I had an intense, spiritual epiphany that seemed to change my life instantly … That moment was unlike any I’ve ever since experienced. Suddenly, and without words, I knew that God had said to me, I AM. Nothing more, just I AM. With those words, God told me that he cared enough about me to reveal just this little bit about himself. I AM. It answered none of my questions and gave no explanation for God’s five-year absence in my life …” (emphases added).

    Judging by Moll’s own words, the gift of faith he received was a radical act of grace on God’s part. A gift that came out of nowhere, and had nothing to do with his years as an atheist.

    Has Moll created a faith story wherein he gives himself some of the credit for the gift of faith he received? Has he unwittingly argued that the “honesty” of an atheist earns God’s favor? Or at least pleases Him more than the hypocrisy of Christians?

    “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” “For there is no respect of persons with God.” “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

  • Tom Hering

    Moll seems to credit his years as an atheist, and the “honesty” of atheists, for his present faith. He especially credits Albert Camus:

    “Camus should have been safe territory for me, but as I like to say now, I was saved by an atheist.”

    Well, yes, he likes to say this now. But has he, retrospectively, created a faith story that fails to give credit where credit is due? Nothing in his article lines up with what he tells us in his first two paragraphs:

    “I had an intense, spiritual epiphany that seemed to change my life instantly … That moment was unlike any I’ve ever since experienced. Suddenly, and without words, I knew that God had said to me, I AM. Nothing more, just I AM. With those words, God told me that he cared enough about me to reveal just this little bit about himself. I AM. It answered none of my questions and gave no explanation for God’s five-year absence in my life …” (emphases added).

    Judging by Moll’s own words, the gift of faith he received was a radical act of grace on God’s part. A gift that came out of nowhere, and had nothing to do with his years as an atheist.

    Has Moll created a faith story wherein he gives himself some of the credit for the gift of faith he received? Has he unwittingly argued that the “honesty” of an atheist earns God’s favor? Or at least pleases Him more than the hypocrisy of Christians?

    “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” “For there is no respect of persons with God.” “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

  • John C

    Libertas @4
    Secular humanism and atheism are hardly religious doctrines. Most Christians believe in a secular government.
    2000 years of Christian persecution of the Jews contributed more to the holocaust than any political notions that arise out of Darwinism.

  • John C

    Libertas @4
    Secular humanism and atheism are hardly religious doctrines. Most Christians believe in a secular government.
    2000 years of Christian persecution of the Jews contributed more to the holocaust than any political notions that arise out of Darwinism.

  • Digital

    John C@48
    I think you have some skewed notions of history, there is a lot of misinformation out there.
    Do some research on the following:

    1. Persecution of the Jews in Germany and Russia.
    2. Japanese invasion of China.
    3. Australia and Aborigines.
    4. Peruse through Africa’s History.

    Those are in keeping with the OP in the last 100 years. None of them had anything to do with religion, they had to do with race superiority and the belief that the weak need to be extinguished to make way for the strong.

  • Digital

    John C@48
    I think you have some skewed notions of history, there is a lot of misinformation out there.
    Do some research on the following:

    1. Persecution of the Jews in Germany and Russia.
    2. Japanese invasion of China.
    3. Australia and Aborigines.
    4. Peruse through Africa’s History.

    Those are in keeping with the OP in the last 100 years. None of them had anything to do with religion, they had to do with race superiority and the belief that the weak need to be extinguished to make way for the strong.

  • larry

    Did not Luther say that I know of no god except the revealed God. It’s the easiest answer to the other religions. I suppose in a turn of words one could call it “atheist” and it be accurate. Crass example: “I would call myself an aZeusist (atheist) or aAllahist (atheist).

    It’s all about the hidden versus revealed God, and true faith versus reason/emotions that constructs idols of God that are in sum total idols altogether even out of the Scriptures themselves. “the demons believe God is one and tremble” says James, all one has there is a demonic faith. That’s just another way of saying “you believe in one sovereign God…great the demons possess THAT kind of faith and are yet damned”.

    IF one can get an atheist, at least one who has come to atheism via heterodoxy (more on that in a minute), to at least reject the real, naked pure Gospel (and you’ll have to make that clear to the point of ZERO WORKS, which is going to destroy EVERY heterodoxy out there that gives another gospel via the backdoor of assurance), THEN, that’s an improvement and AT LEAST their rejection of the faith and God is being sent to the right address finally.

    I would further argue that many who are going atheist are at LEAST moving away from false Christianity, and that’s an IMPROVEMENT, though they may or may not move toward true Christianity.

    He is onto a similar line of thinking I’ve always spoke of and experience myself. It’s not that Christianity in truth and orthodoxy causes atheism but the corruption of the doctrine to more or less some form of something you have to do, whether that is rank moralism or some other “do”. Atheism, at least the brand I was in and have seen recent youth (more on that in a minute) is also like true Christianity in it asserting itself dogmatically and authoritarian. That is to say, it is utter nonsense even to an atheist to posit “many ways to God”, “many views to God” and “many denominations = the (same) truth”.

    From that dogmatic reality, a consistent atheist, is usually made from a form of former false or heterodox Christianity. He/she is taught, via the false doctrines, that either crassly that you have to work your way to heaven or it is implied in the “assurances” of (am I saved/converted/elect/reborn truly, etc…). Once one is locked into that mode one, still being a “believer” or wishing to be one, one works at it. So that you have on one hand “this is God” per revealed in His Law but presented in the misuse of that law (accusatory so try harder and not accusatory because you do and will not ever) and either zero, conflated gospel or take away with the left hand what the right hand gives gospel (in reality none are the Gospel but subtle other gospels that are false). After working so hard and either failing outwardly, or maybe succeeding outwardly but feeling the inward desire against the outward successes toward the moralism, works to heaven, assurance that you are saved/converted/elect/reborn truly, etc… one begins to analyze reality against the “picture of God”. That is to say, “you say this is God and this is how I’m to be a part of Him, go to heaven when I die, assured so, saved, etc…,” yet this does not match the reality. In a way, this budding atheism from a form of false Christianity is at least more truthful than the false deluded Christianity that presents itself so. Because the budding atheist is AT LEAST seeing the reality of his/her heart that the enthused deluded false Christian is not and thinks he/she is pulling it off. The one staying in the church thinking he/she is assured of his election/salvation/rebirth/conversion on the basis of ANY secondary proofs about his/her life up and including faith itself is just as Luther said, an idolater and apostate Christian. The one who is a budding atheist may themselves be at least be moving in another direction. So the budding atheist sees on one hand “this is God” (per the false preaching, teaching and doctrine) but reality and the same is how I get to God or am assured of saved/converted/elect/reborn truly, etc…; yet “in my life in reality if I’m honest at all”, especially internally, this not true AT ALL. Eventually one has to (1) become deluded like the others and ignore the observation, (2) despair as a false Christian until maybe one day one offs themselves like Judas, or (3) put two and two together under the paradigm presented and say, “there is no God” (the atheist is born).

    Now I’ve seen this not just as my own life but in real time with youth I new in the SB church, and it was not a buffoon church but strong doctrinal Calvinistic John Piper like preaching church (false doctrine need not be Benny Hinn only). At least three cases I know of FIRST hand this occurred. One, since having left many years ago, I just learned of (we still keep in touch with our friends in that church, we were very close). All three youth cases were the same. I knew them very well even helped teach some youth classes they were in for a stretch.

    It basically followed a form of the pattern above, the “gospel” is presented mostly via the backdoor as the “how do you know you are reborn truly/elect/etc…” (the baptist false doctrine of a pure truly regenerate church and by extension only the truly regenerate before hand are baptized drives this). These youth approached, at separate times over the past 6 so years the elders for membership in the church (life long youth by the way that ironically “did mission”, go figure that one) and this of course means baptism. So the elders go into examination mode (don’t ever believe the BS cover up line of the baptist church that they “don’t know people’s hearts on matters of faith”. It’s frank lie because that’s ALL they do is try to detect “the truly regenerate” – it’s the sine quo non of ALL their doctrine). The question that “got” these youth every time was of the form, “do you still desire to sin”. Now realize here is a young pre-teen/teen nervously before the Baptist Sanhedrin and this question comes up. Young people, like the atheist or the true Christian are obviously honest about this and answer it honestly, “Yes”. Not meaning, “Yes and I love to do so…” but rather “yes, those inward feelings and desires are there”. Anyone that denies this is a liar and the truth is not in him/her at all (these are the deluded apostate Christians basing their assurance ultimately on themselves). So the elders shoot back, “I don’t think your ready to become a Christian and be baptized. Keep in mind these elders are not back smoky room hand ringing plotting legalist like Hollywood would portray. But fine fellows, people that for all intensive example are exactly like a John Piper or some other better baptist representative.

    Without exception these youth eventually left the church, dejected, and now are professing atheist and now are in college as such and into some of the darkest things one can imagine.

    Now this story is true, first hand and even close to my heart. We were and are friends with the parents, we knew them well, these were kids we loved and even taught in classes.

    Christianity is not the atheist maker false heterodoxy and their teachers parading around as Christian IS, and such teachers will answer for their false doctrine, and it will not matter how fine a fellow they were or that they were seminary profs at a conservative (heterodox) seminary – that is crystal clear in Scripture (they lead My people astray, they cause the little one’s to stumble).

  • larry

    Did not Luther say that I know of no god except the revealed God. It’s the easiest answer to the other religions. I suppose in a turn of words one could call it “atheist” and it be accurate. Crass example: “I would call myself an aZeusist (atheist) or aAllahist (atheist).

    It’s all about the hidden versus revealed God, and true faith versus reason/emotions that constructs idols of God that are in sum total idols altogether even out of the Scriptures themselves. “the demons believe God is one and tremble” says James, all one has there is a demonic faith. That’s just another way of saying “you believe in one sovereign God…great the demons possess THAT kind of faith and are yet damned”.

    IF one can get an atheist, at least one who has come to atheism via heterodoxy (more on that in a minute), to at least reject the real, naked pure Gospel (and you’ll have to make that clear to the point of ZERO WORKS, which is going to destroy EVERY heterodoxy out there that gives another gospel via the backdoor of assurance), THEN, that’s an improvement and AT LEAST their rejection of the faith and God is being sent to the right address finally.

    I would further argue that many who are going atheist are at LEAST moving away from false Christianity, and that’s an IMPROVEMENT, though they may or may not move toward true Christianity.

    He is onto a similar line of thinking I’ve always spoke of and experience myself. It’s not that Christianity in truth and orthodoxy causes atheism but the corruption of the doctrine to more or less some form of something you have to do, whether that is rank moralism or some other “do”. Atheism, at least the brand I was in and have seen recent youth (more on that in a minute) is also like true Christianity in it asserting itself dogmatically and authoritarian. That is to say, it is utter nonsense even to an atheist to posit “many ways to God”, “many views to God” and “many denominations = the (same) truth”.

    From that dogmatic reality, a consistent atheist, is usually made from a form of former false or heterodox Christianity. He/she is taught, via the false doctrines, that either crassly that you have to work your way to heaven or it is implied in the “assurances” of (am I saved/converted/elect/reborn truly, etc…). Once one is locked into that mode one, still being a “believer” or wishing to be one, one works at it. So that you have on one hand “this is God” per revealed in His Law but presented in the misuse of that law (accusatory so try harder and not accusatory because you do and will not ever) and either zero, conflated gospel or take away with the left hand what the right hand gives gospel (in reality none are the Gospel but subtle other gospels that are false). After working so hard and either failing outwardly, or maybe succeeding outwardly but feeling the inward desire against the outward successes toward the moralism, works to heaven, assurance that you are saved/converted/elect/reborn truly, etc… one begins to analyze reality against the “picture of God”. That is to say, “you say this is God and this is how I’m to be a part of Him, go to heaven when I die, assured so, saved, etc…,” yet this does not match the reality. In a way, this budding atheism from a form of false Christianity is at least more truthful than the false deluded Christianity that presents itself so. Because the budding atheist is AT LEAST seeing the reality of his/her heart that the enthused deluded false Christian is not and thinks he/she is pulling it off. The one staying in the church thinking he/she is assured of his election/salvation/rebirth/conversion on the basis of ANY secondary proofs about his/her life up and including faith itself is just as Luther said, an idolater and apostate Christian. The one who is a budding atheist may themselves be at least be moving in another direction. So the budding atheist sees on one hand “this is God” (per the false preaching, teaching and doctrine) but reality and the same is how I get to God or am assured of saved/converted/elect/reborn truly, etc…; yet “in my life in reality if I’m honest at all”, especially internally, this not true AT ALL. Eventually one has to (1) become deluded like the others and ignore the observation, (2) despair as a false Christian until maybe one day one offs themselves like Judas, or (3) put two and two together under the paradigm presented and say, “there is no God” (the atheist is born).

    Now I’ve seen this not just as my own life but in real time with youth I new in the SB church, and it was not a buffoon church but strong doctrinal Calvinistic John Piper like preaching church (false doctrine need not be Benny Hinn only). At least three cases I know of FIRST hand this occurred. One, since having left many years ago, I just learned of (we still keep in touch with our friends in that church, we were very close). All three youth cases were the same. I knew them very well even helped teach some youth classes they were in for a stretch.

    It basically followed a form of the pattern above, the “gospel” is presented mostly via the backdoor as the “how do you know you are reborn truly/elect/etc…” (the baptist false doctrine of a pure truly regenerate church and by extension only the truly regenerate before hand are baptized drives this). These youth approached, at separate times over the past 6 so years the elders for membership in the church (life long youth by the way that ironically “did mission”, go figure that one) and this of course means baptism. So the elders go into examination mode (don’t ever believe the BS cover up line of the baptist church that they “don’t know people’s hearts on matters of faith”. It’s frank lie because that’s ALL they do is try to detect “the truly regenerate” – it’s the sine quo non of ALL their doctrine). The question that “got” these youth every time was of the form, “do you still desire to sin”. Now realize here is a young pre-teen/teen nervously before the Baptist Sanhedrin and this question comes up. Young people, like the atheist or the true Christian are obviously honest about this and answer it honestly, “Yes”. Not meaning, “Yes and I love to do so…” but rather “yes, those inward feelings and desires are there”. Anyone that denies this is a liar and the truth is not in him/her at all (these are the deluded apostate Christians basing their assurance ultimately on themselves). So the elders shoot back, “I don’t think your ready to become a Christian and be baptized. Keep in mind these elders are not back smoky room hand ringing plotting legalist like Hollywood would portray. But fine fellows, people that for all intensive example are exactly like a John Piper or some other better baptist representative.

    Without exception these youth eventually left the church, dejected, and now are professing atheist and now are in college as such and into some of the darkest things one can imagine.

    Now this story is true, first hand and even close to my heart. We were and are friends with the parents, we knew them well, these were kids we loved and even taught in classes.

    Christianity is not the atheist maker false heterodoxy and their teachers parading around as Christian IS, and such teachers will answer for their false doctrine, and it will not matter how fine a fellow they were or that they were seminary profs at a conservative (heterodox) seminary – that is crystal clear in Scripture (they lead My people astray, they cause the little one’s to stumble).

  • John C

    You’re right; there is a lot of misinformation out there.
    In part, the histories of China, Africa and Australia are histories of imperial conquest.
    The persecution of the Jews stems from the Christian belief that Jews are responsible for the death of Christ. They have endured over the last thousand years in particular, expulsion, massacre and forced conversion — a tradition of oppression that leads directly to the Final Solution.
    Source: Beck University

  • John C

    You’re right; there is a lot of misinformation out there.
    In part, the histories of China, Africa and Australia are histories of imperial conquest.
    The persecution of the Jews stems from the Christian belief that Jews are responsible for the death of Christ. They have endured over the last thousand years in particular, expulsion, massacre and forced conversion — a tradition of oppression that leads directly to the Final Solution.
    Source: Beck University

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Plus, regarding imperialist expansion:

    The Black War Genocide in Tasmania: roughly 1828-1832
    Publication of “The Origin of Species”: 1859

    Imperialism and the conquest of the weak by the strong were in full motion long before Darwin came along and made atheism viable. Racial prejudice was just as strong pre-atheism as it was after. Some justified it by quoting Darwin, some justified it by quoting “the curse of Ham” or “the mark of Cain,” and some just claimed a faux-Christian “mercy” of caring for “the weaker races,” as in the white man’s burden.

    Again, imperialism may have been excused by antiquated Darwinist ideas on occasion, but you couldn’t really say it was caused by it.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Plus, regarding imperialist expansion:

    The Black War Genocide in Tasmania: roughly 1828-1832
    Publication of “The Origin of Species”: 1859

    Imperialism and the conquest of the weak by the strong were in full motion long before Darwin came along and made atheism viable. Racial prejudice was just as strong pre-atheism as it was after. Some justified it by quoting Darwin, some justified it by quoting “the curse of Ham” or “the mark of Cain,” and some just claimed a faux-Christian “mercy” of caring for “the weaker races,” as in the white man’s burden.

    Again, imperialism may have been excused by antiquated Darwinist ideas on occasion, but you couldn’t really say it was caused by it.

  • Digital

    Tim@52
    Definately, it isnt Darwin’s fault nor do I like people who attribute the crimes to his theories.
    Rather it is a part of humanity us Christians call Sin and that which the rest of the world calls evil. But just because there was no explanation at the time doesnt mean it is not an attribute of the belief.
    Evolution is simply a term of the change in DNA. However, when you talk about the evolution of a species you name a concept of the weak perish and the strong survive. The methods matter not, what matters is that throughout the centuries people have use the terms to justify the slaughtering of anyone they deemed “unfit” for procreation.
    Marxism and secular humanism use similar techniques and reasoning.
    The contention above was “2000 years of Christian persecution of the Jews contributed more to the holocaust than any political notions that arise out of Darwinism.” @48
    Which is an incorrect statement.

  • Digital

    Tim@52
    Definately, it isnt Darwin’s fault nor do I like people who attribute the crimes to his theories.
    Rather it is a part of humanity us Christians call Sin and that which the rest of the world calls evil. But just because there was no explanation at the time doesnt mean it is not an attribute of the belief.
    Evolution is simply a term of the change in DNA. However, when you talk about the evolution of a species you name a concept of the weak perish and the strong survive. The methods matter not, what matters is that throughout the centuries people have use the terms to justify the slaughtering of anyone they deemed “unfit” for procreation.
    Marxism and secular humanism use similar techniques and reasoning.
    The contention above was “2000 years of Christian persecution of the Jews contributed more to the holocaust than any political notions that arise out of Darwinism.” @48
    Which is an incorrect statement.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    So, clarify: I take it you’re saying that the Holocaust (and the rest) stem from neither religion or non-religion, but rather from man’s fallen nature?

    If that’s so, I whole-heartedly agree, though of course I explain “fallen” in a different way. I think it’s important to realize that. Any time you say “all _____ humans are ______” you’re in for trouble. If you say “religion is guilty of immense atrocities,” you justify atrocities (or at least bigotry) against religion. If you say “atheism” or “darwinism” is likewise guilty, you likewise justify such action against.

    That being said, beliefs do have an effect on action, as can be seen by comparing present-day conventions of warfare (surgical bombing, human rights) to methods of even seventy years ago (massive firebombing, leveling of cities, large-scale infantry warfare). The interesting thing in my mind is that those belief changes seem to stem from neither religion nor secularism. They seem, as far as I can tell, more a result of technology and a sort of generic or social morality, as held by all members of the main political communities, regardless of the religious persuasions of their members.

    It’s certainly a complex system, which deserves a lot of thought.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    So, clarify: I take it you’re saying that the Holocaust (and the rest) stem from neither religion or non-religion, but rather from man’s fallen nature?

    If that’s so, I whole-heartedly agree, though of course I explain “fallen” in a different way. I think it’s important to realize that. Any time you say “all _____ humans are ______” you’re in for trouble. If you say “religion is guilty of immense atrocities,” you justify atrocities (or at least bigotry) against religion. If you say “atheism” or “darwinism” is likewise guilty, you likewise justify such action against.

    That being said, beliefs do have an effect on action, as can be seen by comparing present-day conventions of warfare (surgical bombing, human rights) to methods of even seventy years ago (massive firebombing, leveling of cities, large-scale infantry warfare). The interesting thing in my mind is that those belief changes seem to stem from neither religion nor secularism. They seem, as far as I can tell, more a result of technology and a sort of generic or social morality, as held by all members of the main political communities, regardless of the religious persuasions of their members.

    It’s certainly a complex system, which deserves a lot of thought.

  • Digital

    Precisely Tim
    Human Nature is explained in 66 books I know of very well and it is a subject that has been debated for thousands of years.
    But when people say “Religion does this” they are inferring that somehow religion is the cause of these issues. When we look at humanity as a whole we see a much more complicated issue. We try to fit the different issues into groups like Christianity, Marxism or secular humanism and try to say one is better than the other or that one is the cause of evil. But to an atheist, this is how they see the world, they don’t acknowledge sin or the devil so they find other ways to explain it. Ways that don’t work.
    If someone wants to split the world into Christianity or Religion, and secularism…then by far the secular movements cause more damage. It is just that in our world there is Satan and he will work hard to making sure that the followers of Christ are condemned for every action.

  • Digital

    Precisely Tim
    Human Nature is explained in 66 books I know of very well and it is a subject that has been debated for thousands of years.
    But when people say “Religion does this” they are inferring that somehow religion is the cause of these issues. When we look at humanity as a whole we see a much more complicated issue. We try to fit the different issues into groups like Christianity, Marxism or secular humanism and try to say one is better than the other or that one is the cause of evil. But to an atheist, this is how they see the world, they don’t acknowledge sin or the devil so they find other ways to explain it. Ways that don’t work.
    If someone wants to split the world into Christianity or Religion, and secularism…then by far the secular movements cause more damage. It is just that in our world there is Satan and he will work hard to making sure that the followers of Christ are condemned for every action.

  • louis

    John C – imperialism isn’t limited to any specific group. Just today there was a news article on how the Khoi, San, Griqua, Koranna and Nama nations are marching to the South African parliament, to demand recognition og tribe, language, land etc etc – these are Southern and Eastern Africa’s First Peoples. They have been pushed into the Kalahari, Karoo and Namib, not so much by “white conquest”, but by the tribes who came later, who are of different ethnicities.

    You seem to have been subtely playing the age old game of trying to blame the religious, and more specifically Christians, for all that’s wrong with the world.

    This does not hold up well, especially under a Darwinian analysis. Ever heard of “Group Selection”, and especially Gene-Cultural coevolution? The latter is a very recent idea, and would give a reasonable explination, from an evolutionarly biological pov, for events that have taken place throughout history, whether persecution, annihilation, conquest etc. Thus, viewed from such a perspective, these regerettable and tragic events in our history are a product of our own nature. This would actually support the Fallen Man view that we Christians take. Thus your attempts are but another group-selected move against another group etc etc.

    A reductio argument will lead you to the truth, that one better take stock of oneself, and more so, that to escape the endless circle of violence, we need a transcendent Saviour, ie, someone that stands outside our biological space-time prison.

  • louis

    John C – imperialism isn’t limited to any specific group. Just today there was a news article on how the Khoi, San, Griqua, Koranna and Nama nations are marching to the South African parliament, to demand recognition og tribe, language, land etc etc – these are Southern and Eastern Africa’s First Peoples. They have been pushed into the Kalahari, Karoo and Namib, not so much by “white conquest”, but by the tribes who came later, who are of different ethnicities.

    You seem to have been subtely playing the age old game of trying to blame the religious, and more specifically Christians, for all that’s wrong with the world.

    This does not hold up well, especially under a Darwinian analysis. Ever heard of “Group Selection”, and especially Gene-Cultural coevolution? The latter is a very recent idea, and would give a reasonable explination, from an evolutionarly biological pov, for events that have taken place throughout history, whether persecution, annihilation, conquest etc. Thus, viewed from such a perspective, these regerettable and tragic events in our history are a product of our own nature. This would actually support the Fallen Man view that we Christians take. Thus your attempts are but another group-selected move against another group etc etc.

    A reductio argument will lead you to the truth, that one better take stock of oneself, and more so, that to escape the endless circle of violence, we need a transcendent Saviour, ie, someone that stands outside our biological space-time prison.

  • Louis

    Also, John C, fairly recent observations in chimpanzee groups in East Africa have shown a more “primitive” version of what I (this is just my analysis) would term the tribal impulse, or group selection, or something like that.

    These things also shows that atheism, far from being neutral, is just another specific grouping within the collection of groupings within humanity. The incessant need to dominate, the incessant need to attack religous beliefs, or all contrary philosophies, would fit the criteria for a newer, aggresive group or tribe, and is not an honest, scientific, neutral approach.

  • Louis

    Also, John C, fairly recent observations in chimpanzee groups in East Africa have shown a more “primitive” version of what I (this is just my analysis) would term the tribal impulse, or group selection, or something like that.

    These things also shows that atheism, far from being neutral, is just another specific grouping within the collection of groupings within humanity. The incessant need to dominate, the incessant need to attack religous beliefs, or all contrary philosophies, would fit the criteria for a newer, aggresive group or tribe, and is not an honest, scientific, neutral approach.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital: Actually, atheism provides a very simple explanation for evil: pure Darwinism. In other words, there is no “Evil.” There is only “evil,” or our survival-selected sense of morality (don’t kill members of your own tribe, serve your tribe in war if necessary, care for your children, etc.). Atheism is very good at explaining why the world is at it is. What it isn’t good at is explaining why it “should” be any different. All morality requires priors (or presuppositions), and atheism has none to offer. I’m non-religious, and I’ve come to identify most with Camus’ existentialism (the prior of morality is will itself) and Buddhism (there is no God with a set of rules, but there is a direction, a path, by which the universe operates).

    What I’m not willing to accept is that a handful of men wandering in the desert a few millennia ago were picked by the creator of the entire universe and handed a few specific rules to follow. It worked in their time, because it helped them to survive, but I don’t think anyone short of the Westboro Baptist Cult would support enforcing the full extent of old testament law today. Human morality, whether religious or not, evolves.

    If the devil is working to blame historical atrocities on Christians, historical Christians don’t seem to have tried too hard to stay blameless. Despite purporting to follow a brilliant moral teacher, I can see no qualitative superiority in the actions of the “everyday christian” than I see in the actions of everyday muslims, buddhists, or secularists. Most humans act like humans, regardless of creed, and even the fundamentalists act differently from decade to decade and place to place.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital: Actually, atheism provides a very simple explanation for evil: pure Darwinism. In other words, there is no “Evil.” There is only “evil,” or our survival-selected sense of morality (don’t kill members of your own tribe, serve your tribe in war if necessary, care for your children, etc.). Atheism is very good at explaining why the world is at it is. What it isn’t good at is explaining why it “should” be any different. All morality requires priors (or presuppositions), and atheism has none to offer. I’m non-religious, and I’ve come to identify most with Camus’ existentialism (the prior of morality is will itself) and Buddhism (there is no God with a set of rules, but there is a direction, a path, by which the universe operates).

    What I’m not willing to accept is that a handful of men wandering in the desert a few millennia ago were picked by the creator of the entire universe and handed a few specific rules to follow. It worked in their time, because it helped them to survive, but I don’t think anyone short of the Westboro Baptist Cult would support enforcing the full extent of old testament law today. Human morality, whether religious or not, evolves.

    If the devil is working to blame historical atrocities on Christians, historical Christians don’t seem to have tried too hard to stay blameless. Despite purporting to follow a brilliant moral teacher, I can see no qualitative superiority in the actions of the “everyday christian” than I see in the actions of everyday muslims, buddhists, or secularists. Most humans act like humans, regardless of creed, and even the fundamentalists act differently from decade to decade and place to place.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “1. Persecution of the Jews in Germany and Russia.”

    I have seen speculation that Jews were persecuted because they were successful.

    Amy Chua wrote that successful minorities are resented in her book, World on Fire. She refers to them as market dominant minorities.

    Seems like the the usual jealousy and envy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_on_Fire

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “1. Persecution of the Jews in Germany and Russia.”

    I have seen speculation that Jews were persecuted because they were successful.

    Amy Chua wrote that successful minorities are resented in her book, World on Fire. She refers to them as market dominant minorities.

    Seems like the the usual jealousy and envy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_on_Fire

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis:

    You’re addressing the old philosophical issue of subject-object distinctions: can we, the subjects, know ourselves objectively? Or are we forever limited to our cultural boxes?

    To break out of a system, you must first understand the system. As the book says, “the truth will set you free.” If you’re a Christian, of course, understanding the system doesn’t matter so much as putting your trust in the idea that the God-man Jesus has already understood it fully, and will come back at some point in the future and fix it for you.

    The rest of us don’t have that luxury. If we are going to advance (“perfection” is a myth) we must always seek further understanding, and further truth, no matter where that truth may lead. Understanding is power. That is the reason many atheists attack religion; not out of any personal denial or hurt, but because a culture that believes God will save them aren’t going to try to save themselves.

    That isn’t true of all atheists, obviously, but at least understand not all unbelievers are simply reacting against your “true” belief.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis:

    You’re addressing the old philosophical issue of subject-object distinctions: can we, the subjects, know ourselves objectively? Or are we forever limited to our cultural boxes?

    To break out of a system, you must first understand the system. As the book says, “the truth will set you free.” If you’re a Christian, of course, understanding the system doesn’t matter so much as putting your trust in the idea that the God-man Jesus has already understood it fully, and will come back at some point in the future and fix it for you.

    The rest of us don’t have that luxury. If we are going to advance (“perfection” is a myth) we must always seek further understanding, and further truth, no matter where that truth may lead. Understanding is power. That is the reason many atheists attack religion; not out of any personal denial or hurt, but because a culture that believes God will save them aren’t going to try to save themselves.

    That isn’t true of all atheists, obviously, but at least understand not all unbelievers are simply reacting against your “true” belief.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @sg: excellent point. Another reason may be that Jewish culture has always been an exclusivist one, and any culture that separates itself from the culture arounds it (refusing to assimilate) will be ostracized. If I say, “I don’t want to be a part of your people,” you will take that as an insult, and tension will grow.

    Other examples of this include Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century, many modern-day Muslims in Europe, and, to take an extreme example, the Westboro Baptist cult mentioned above.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @sg: excellent point. Another reason may be that Jewish culture has always been an exclusivist one, and any culture that separates itself from the culture arounds it (refusing to assimilate) will be ostracized. If I say, “I don’t want to be a part of your people,” you will take that as an insult, and tension will grow.

    Other examples of this include Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century, many modern-day Muslims in Europe, and, to take an extreme example, the Westboro Baptist cult mentioned above.

  • Digital

    Tim@58
    “I’m non-religious, and I’ve come to identify most with Camus’ existentialism (the prior of morality is will itself) and Buddhism (there is no God with a set of rules, but there is a direction, a path, by which the universe operates).”
    I’m sure someone else here can say the following more eloquently but I will try.
    If there is a direction and a path, then there is a set of rules. Buddhism itself is very religious, it is just not monotheistic. Camus’s existentialism as well is religious as it makes god into a malleable source of intellect. Just because a god does not have a name does not mean you don’t have one. Hence the Greek god Agnostos.

    “What I’m not willing to accept is that a handful of men wandering in the desert a few millennia ago were picked by the creator of the entire universe and handed a few specific rules to follow.”
    But that IS what happened. History doesn’t care whether or not you are willing to accept it. That is the core of what is wrong with atheism “I’m not willing to accept”. Atheism isn’t about what is true, it is about what your are comfortable believing.

    “I don’t think anyone short of the Westboro Baptist Cult would support enforcing the full extent of old testament law today’”
    Indeed! Thus the new covenant laid forth by Christ. Christ == new Adam, fulfilling the Old testament prophecies. New Covenant doesn’t require that you DO anything for there is nothing we can do, Christ did it all.
    You are also confusing Mosaic law with divine law. Mosaic law can be seen as similar to the Constitution of the US.
    Can someone better versed help me out here?

  • Digital

    Tim@58
    “I’m non-religious, and I’ve come to identify most with Camus’ existentialism (the prior of morality is will itself) and Buddhism (there is no God with a set of rules, but there is a direction, a path, by which the universe operates).”
    I’m sure someone else here can say the following more eloquently but I will try.
    If there is a direction and a path, then there is a set of rules. Buddhism itself is very religious, it is just not monotheistic. Camus’s existentialism as well is religious as it makes god into a malleable source of intellect. Just because a god does not have a name does not mean you don’t have one. Hence the Greek god Agnostos.

    “What I’m not willing to accept is that a handful of men wandering in the desert a few millennia ago were picked by the creator of the entire universe and handed a few specific rules to follow.”
    But that IS what happened. History doesn’t care whether or not you are willing to accept it. That is the core of what is wrong with atheism “I’m not willing to accept”. Atheism isn’t about what is true, it is about what your are comfortable believing.

    “I don’t think anyone short of the Westboro Baptist Cult would support enforcing the full extent of old testament law today’”
    Indeed! Thus the new covenant laid forth by Christ. Christ == new Adam, fulfilling the Old testament prophecies. New Covenant doesn’t require that you DO anything for there is nothing we can do, Christ did it all.
    You are also confusing Mosaic law with divine law. Mosaic law can be seen as similar to the Constitution of the US.
    Can someone better versed help me out here?

  • Digital

    Tim@60
    “The rest of us don’t have that luxury. If we are going to advance (“perfection” is a myth) we must always seek further understanding, and further truth, no matter where that truth may lead. Understanding is power. That is the reason many atheists attack religion; not out of any personal denial or hurt, but because a culture that believes God will save them aren’t going to try to save themselves.
    This statement only works and holds true if there is no god. Thus the fundamental problem with many atheistic arguments. They presuppose that god does not exist. Thus why atheists are more religious than the agnostic. Their presupposition is unprovable., therefore requiring faith without evidence that it is true.

  • Digital

    Tim@60
    “The rest of us don’t have that luxury. If we are going to advance (“perfection” is a myth) we must always seek further understanding, and further truth, no matter where that truth may lead. Understanding is power. That is the reason many atheists attack religion; not out of any personal denial or hurt, but because a culture that believes God will save them aren’t going to try to save themselves.
    This statement only works and holds true if there is no god. Thus the fundamental problem with many atheistic arguments. They presuppose that god does not exist. Thus why atheists are more religious than the agnostic. Their presupposition is unprovable., therefore requiring faith without evidence that it is true.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Well, that statement also holds true if God doesn’t talk to us or doesn’t plan to save us. If you’re an agnostic, you believe that you can’t know if there is or isn’t a God. If you believe that, you also can’t rely on God to save you.

    So, the desire for understanding, and the problems with religion resulting from it, is a trait not only held by atheists, but also those agnostics who believe that religious faith is intellectually impossible. I’m not an atheist, because as you say, disproof is impossible. However, I have no reason to believe God cares about us, or talks to us, as tiny as we are in relation to the rest of the universe. So, whether or not there is a God somewhere, I’d prefer to take responsibility for my (and our) future rather than just waiting and hoping God or the gods or fate will take care of it.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Well, that statement also holds true if God doesn’t talk to us or doesn’t plan to save us. If you’re an agnostic, you believe that you can’t know if there is or isn’t a God. If you believe that, you also can’t rely on God to save you.

    So, the desire for understanding, and the problems with religion resulting from it, is a trait not only held by atheists, but also those agnostics who believe that religious faith is intellectually impossible. I’m not an atheist, because as you say, disproof is impossible. However, I have no reason to believe God cares about us, or talks to us, as tiny as we are in relation to the rest of the universe. So, whether or not there is a God somewhere, I’d prefer to take responsibility for my (and our) future rather than just waiting and hoping God or the gods or fate will take care of it.

  • Louis

    Tim – yes, not all atheists would fill my description accurately. But the apparent current resurgence in militant atheism certainly follows that pattern. Of course, I would also deny your statement that “To break out of a system, you must first understand the system”. This is a common, no, very common perception, and one I certainly held onto in my Calvinist days, though I would most probably would have denied it.

    I would emphasize the Incarnation here, which means Logos, and Veritas, Incarnated (to mix languages). The effects of this (like the Real Presence, for instance) implies not a little bit of mystery, right along with rational understanding and cerebral analysis. This apparent contradiction is what floors the non-Theist, because the Theist seemingly abandons logic and answers “Just Because”. But this is quite logical, but not rationalist, if you keep the subject-object limits in mind, to some extent, but also the time-space limitations vs the supra-time-space freedoms, ie the difference between Man, and God.

  • Louis

    Tim – yes, not all atheists would fill my description accurately. But the apparent current resurgence in militant atheism certainly follows that pattern. Of course, I would also deny your statement that “To break out of a system, you must first understand the system”. This is a common, no, very common perception, and one I certainly held onto in my Calvinist days, though I would most probably would have denied it.

    I would emphasize the Incarnation here, which means Logos, and Veritas, Incarnated (to mix languages). The effects of this (like the Real Presence, for instance) implies not a little bit of mystery, right along with rational understanding and cerebral analysis. This apparent contradiction is what floors the non-Theist, because the Theist seemingly abandons logic and answers “Just Because”. But this is quite logical, but not rationalist, if you keep the subject-object limits in mind, to some extent, but also the time-space limitations vs the supra-time-space freedoms, ie the difference between Man, and God.

  • Louis

    BTW, Tim, I’m enjoying this civilised Christian-atheist (is that presumptious, or are you fine with the title) discussion.

  • Louis

    BTW, Tim, I’m enjoying this civilised Christian-atheist (is that presumptious, or are you fine with the title) discussion.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Atheism is very good at explaining why the world is at it is.”

    Atheism or science?

    Science as we know it grew out of the Christian west. Without the Church and its humane ethics, the west might not have created conditions necessary for advancement in the sciences.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Atheism is very good at explaining why the world is at it is.”

    Atheism or science?

    Science as we know it grew out of the Christian west. Without the Church and its humane ethics, the west might not have created conditions necessary for advancement in the sciences.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Another reason may be that Jewish culture has always been an exclusivist one, and any culture that separates itself from the culture arounds it (refusing to assimilate) will be ostracized.”

    Would Jews still be Jews if they assimilated and adopted the cultural norms of the country they are in?

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews/

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Another reason may be that Jewish culture has always been an exclusivist one, and any culture that separates itself from the culture arounds it (refusing to assimilate) will be ostracized.”

    Would Jews still be Jews if they assimilated and adopted the cultural norms of the country they are in?

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews/

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    I actually do understand that approach. I was a Christian throughout my childhood and halfway through my college days–I was actually a student of Dr. Veith, who I greatly respect. I found my studies in history, neurology, and cosmology to be in conflict with my religion, and realized that I would either have to accept the mysteries of religion, or deny them. I made the latter choice.

    These days I’d consider myself closest to zen Buddhism if I had to pick a religion, though for practical purposes I’m closest to secular agnosticism. I’m not quite an atheist, though I respect a lot atheist intellectuals and have a number of atheist friends. And, despite various claims in the comments above, I hold no bitterness toward my former religion. ;)

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    I actually do understand that approach. I was a Christian throughout my childhood and halfway through my college days–I was actually a student of Dr. Veith, who I greatly respect. I found my studies in history, neurology, and cosmology to be in conflict with my religion, and realized that I would either have to accept the mysteries of religion, or deny them. I made the latter choice.

    These days I’d consider myself closest to zen Buddhism if I had to pick a religion, though for practical purposes I’m closest to secular agnosticism. I’m not quite an atheist, though I respect a lot atheist intellectuals and have a number of atheist friends. And, despite various claims in the comments above, I hold no bitterness toward my former religion. ;)

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @sg: I should have been clearer. The Atheist-enabling theory of Darwinism is very good at explaining the world as it is.

    The conditions that led to the discovery of the theory doesn’t really affect the veracity of the theory. Copernicus was a Christian monk who had the intellect to see that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa, but of course the Earth was revolving long before the days of Christ or Abraham. Christianity doesn’t really get to claim “credit” for Darwinism any more than Islam gets to claim credit for Starbucks (props if you get the historical connection).

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @sg: I should have been clearer. The Atheist-enabling theory of Darwinism is very good at explaining the world as it is.

    The conditions that led to the discovery of the theory doesn’t really affect the veracity of the theory. Copernicus was a Christian monk who had the intellect to see that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa, but of course the Earth was revolving long before the days of Christ or Abraham. Christianity doesn’t really get to claim “credit” for Darwinism any more than Islam gets to claim credit for Starbucks (props if you get the historical connection).

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Tom, have you read Cochran and Harpending’s The 10,000 year Explosion?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Tom, have you read Cochran and Harpending’s The 10,000 year Explosion?

  • Louis

    Tim, hah – but as coffee was discovered by a medieval Ethiopan herdsman / boy, according to legend, and by then the Ethiopians were Coptic, I think the Christians can claim credit for Starbucks… (if that was the link you were aiming for). :)

  • Louis

    Tim, hah – but as coffee was discovered by a medieval Ethiopan herdsman / boy, according to legend, and by then the Ethiopians were Coptic, I think the Christians can claim credit for Starbucks… (if that was the link you were aiming for). :)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yes, Copernicus studied in an institution built by the Church. My point is that his human need to pursue his vocation was met because of the Church’s commitment to the pursuit of truth and giving able people the wherewithal to pursue it.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yes, Copernicus studied in an institution built by the Church. My point is that his human need to pursue his vocation was met because of the Church’s commitment to the pursuit of truth and giving able people the wherewithal to pursue it.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Oops, I meant

    TIM,
    have you read Cochran and Harpending’s The 10,000 year Explosion?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Oops, I meant

    TIM,
    have you read Cochran and Harpending’s The 10,000 year Explosion?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis, ok, now this is starting to remind me of a Dirk Gently detective case. :D I was actually thinking of the link to the Ottoman tradition of coffee houses–just goes to show you (Occam’s shaving habits aside) there’s very rarely such thing as a “simple explanation.”

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis, ok, now this is starting to remind me of a Dirk Gently detective case. :D I was actually thinking of the link to the Ottoman tradition of coffee houses–just goes to show you (Occam’s shaving habits aside) there’s very rarely such thing as a “simple explanation.”

  • Digital

    Tim@69
    Good discussion.
    My wife has a masters in genetics, taught genetics and biology at a secular college for 5 years, and is months away from a PharmD.
    She never felt like she had to choose between the two. Rather she felt closer to God. I have advanced degrees as well in CS and a very strong background in Physics and mathematics. I feel the same way. I do have a number of atheist’s that I love learning from as well. But only in their respective fields (Except Sun Tzu)
    In truth, the more I open my mind to the sciences, and the more I discover I find God’s design. I think some Christians have a fear that somehow Science is going to shake their faith, on the contrary, I find it strengthens mine.
    Might I ask what in particular you have a hard time reconciling?

  • Digital

    Tim@69
    Good discussion.
    My wife has a masters in genetics, taught genetics and biology at a secular college for 5 years, and is months away from a PharmD.
    She never felt like she had to choose between the two. Rather she felt closer to God. I have advanced degrees as well in CS and a very strong background in Physics and mathematics. I feel the same way. I do have a number of atheist’s that I love learning from as well. But only in their respective fields (Except Sun Tzu)
    In truth, the more I open my mind to the sciences, and the more I discover I find God’s design. I think some Christians have a fear that somehow Science is going to shake their faith, on the contrary, I find it strengthens mine.
    Might I ask what in particular you have a hard time reconciling?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @sg: True enough. Islam also served the same function for a good portion of it’s history–there’s a reason modern mathematics use “Arabic numerals” rather than Roman ones. The truth is, once upon a time religious organizations east and west were the main repositories of learning and study. My point, though, was that Copernicus’ theory was true before he ever discovered it; the discoverer of a truth doesn’t really matter to the truth itself.

    Newton’s theory is physics; the process of Newton’s discovery is history. Darwinism is biology; Christianity’s involvement in the long process towards its discovery is, likewise, history.

    re: Cochran: I haven’t read it! It looks fascinating, though. I’ve added it to my reading list.

    In return for your recommendation, I’ll give you another: Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutons.” Completely changed the way I thought about science and the history of science.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @sg: True enough. Islam also served the same function for a good portion of it’s history–there’s a reason modern mathematics use “Arabic numerals” rather than Roman ones. The truth is, once upon a time religious organizations east and west were the main repositories of learning and study. My point, though, was that Copernicus’ theory was true before he ever discovered it; the discoverer of a truth doesn’t really matter to the truth itself.

    Newton’s theory is physics; the process of Newton’s discovery is history. Darwinism is biology; Christianity’s involvement in the long process towards its discovery is, likewise, history.

    re: Cochran: I haven’t read it! It looks fascinating, though. I’ve added it to my reading list.

    In return for your recommendation, I’ll give you another: Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutons.” Completely changed the way I thought about science and the history of science.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The truth is, once upon a time religious organizations east and west were the main repositories of learning and study.”

    Yes, repositories, not centers of dynamic development.

    Some speculate religion meets a need and those without it are not as well adapted to survive. Kind of an interesting perspective and similar to the issue of Jews not assimilating.

    http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Instinct-Religion-Evolved-Endures/dp/1594202281

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The truth is, once upon a time religious organizations east and west were the main repositories of learning and study.”

    Yes, repositories, not centers of dynamic development.

    Some speculate religion meets a need and those without it are not as well adapted to survive. Kind of an interesting perspective and similar to the issue of Jews not assimilating.

    http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Instinct-Religion-Evolved-Endures/dp/1594202281

  • Digital

    My comment got lost somehow. Good conversation though.
    What I had said was
    My wife taught biology and Genetics for 5 years at a secular college, she has a masters in Genetics, and she will have a PharmD in a few months. In her studies she has only found that her faith is strengthened. I have found the same thing with my own studies, I have an advanced degree in CS and a strong background in Physics and mathematics. I also know many PHDs and professors personally in the sciences who agree.
    Might I ask what in particular you had a hard time reconciling?
    As you said “the discoverer of a truth doesn’t really matter to the truth itself. “ If you preclude the possibility of a God you sway yourself to be missing out on one of the greatest truths out there. Christ loves you regardless of if you acknowledge Him or not, there is no “1,2,3″ to earning His love, it just simply is given freely.

  • Digital

    My comment got lost somehow. Good conversation though.
    What I had said was
    My wife taught biology and Genetics for 5 years at a secular college, she has a masters in Genetics, and she will have a PharmD in a few months. In her studies she has only found that her faith is strengthened. I have found the same thing with my own studies, I have an advanced degree in CS and a strong background in Physics and mathematics. I also know many PHDs and professors personally in the sciences who agree.
    Might I ask what in particular you had a hard time reconciling?
    As you said “the discoverer of a truth doesn’t really matter to the truth itself. “ If you preclude the possibility of a God you sway yourself to be missing out on one of the greatest truths out there. Christ loves you regardless of if you acknowledge Him or not, there is no “1,2,3″ to earning His love, it just simply is given freely.

  • WRV

    I guess I’m a little confused here. It sounds like some are arguing against (or for) atheism as if it was some sort of monolithic system of belief. Back to the original post in this thread, atheists are all over the place. Many, who call themselves atheists, have developed a world-view based on a set of sceintific presuppositions or philosophical arguments against a theistic (or in the West a “Christian”) world-view. As Tim does above (#69), they define themselves by what they “cannot” belief and by what view they do “not” believe. In my experience, many (if not most) other atheists have not developed a very sophisticated “atheistic” philosophy or view, for them it really is a rejection of a negative theistic experience (read “fundamentalist Christian” or “strict Roman Cathlolic” upbrining). Or, even more simply, because being an atheist frees them from any external moral obligations and, in their view, this frees them to live as they please (i.e. “You can’t tell me what to do.”).

    P.S. Tim, I assume you are referring to captain Ahab?

  • WRV

    I guess I’m a little confused here. It sounds like some are arguing against (or for) atheism as if it was some sort of monolithic system of belief. Back to the original post in this thread, atheists are all over the place. Many, who call themselves atheists, have developed a world-view based on a set of sceintific presuppositions or philosophical arguments against a theistic (or in the West a “Christian”) world-view. As Tim does above (#69), they define themselves by what they “cannot” belief and by what view they do “not” believe. In my experience, many (if not most) other atheists have not developed a very sophisticated “atheistic” philosophy or view, for them it really is a rejection of a negative theistic experience (read “fundamentalist Christian” or “strict Roman Cathlolic” upbrining). Or, even more simply, because being an atheist frees them from any external moral obligations and, in their view, this frees them to live as they please (i.e. “You can’t tell me what to do.”).

    P.S. Tim, I assume you are referring to captain Ahab?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hi Tim (@69), totally jumping in here, so I apologize, but …

    You describe (@60) Christianity as waiting around for Jesus to “come back at some point in the future and fix [the system] for you.” You also say that “a culture that believes God will save them [i.e. Christians] aren’t going to try to save themselves.”

    I’m curious to know what you think (or thought) Christianity is about.

    Because in Biblical Christianity, the system has already been fixed. It was, in fact, fixed for all time several thousand years ago. When Jesus comes back at some point in the future, he will not fix the system, but rather end it (at least, the current system of the world and sin).

    But Christians do not therefore sit around twiddling their thumbs. Sure, they know that, as far as their sins and their salvation are concerned, they “aren’t going to try to save themselves” because they can’t. And yet Christianity teaches us that our fellow man (not God) still needs us to act, so we do. And, frankly, it gives a much better framework with which to define the “advancement” you call for.

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your argument, but the Christianity that you describe and the Christianity I read in the Bible do not seem the same.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hi Tim (@69), totally jumping in here, so I apologize, but …

    You describe (@60) Christianity as waiting around for Jesus to “come back at some point in the future and fix [the system] for you.” You also say that “a culture that believes God will save them [i.e. Christians] aren’t going to try to save themselves.”

    I’m curious to know what you think (or thought) Christianity is about.

    Because in Biblical Christianity, the system has already been fixed. It was, in fact, fixed for all time several thousand years ago. When Jesus comes back at some point in the future, he will not fix the system, but rather end it (at least, the current system of the world and sin).

    But Christians do not therefore sit around twiddling their thumbs. Sure, they know that, as far as their sins and their salvation are concerned, they “aren’t going to try to save themselves” because they can’t. And yet Christianity teaches us that our fellow man (not God) still needs us to act, so we do. And, frankly, it gives a much better framework with which to define the “advancement” you call for.

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your argument, but the Christianity that you describe and the Christianity I read in the Bible do not seem the same.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital, The sciences for me don’t conflict with the idea of the Divine–as I said, I’m closest to Buddhist (and thus pantheist or panentheist), so I completely agree with the idea that the universe shows the handiwork of something beautiful.

    However, my main field of study is history and anthropology, and that’s where the conflicts begin to arise. Science doesn’t conflict with the Divine, as I said, but it does conflict with the religious entity which first arose in the context of ancient Mesopotamia, among the Jews. The old testament God is for me far too small to account for the vastness and complexity of the universe as we know it today.

    When I began to understand how Judaism and Christianity came about, I began to doubt in earnest. I’d already abandoned the young-earth Creationism I’d grown up with, with no real damage to my faith. But when I began finding the connections that led up to and through Judaism, I could no longer accept it as any kind of transcendant truth.

    For example, the way agriculture led to astrology and then to the mythic archetype of the “killed and risen god”–Mithras and Horus being two examples out of dozens. Common attributes include twelve disciples (corresponding to signs of the zodiac, or the lunar cycle), virgin birth, death and resurrection after three days (referring to the movement of Sirius in the night sky over the winter solstice–December 23 to December 25), the idea of “renewal” as seen in the return of life in the spring (spring equinox, or Easter), etc. etc.

    Christ was a different story. His teachings were clearly something more or less new–though I’ve been finding some interesting connections to eastern thought, which I’d like to research further. From what I could tell, though, there was no way to believe in the idea of Christ as the Jewish messiah (and savior of humanity) and still discount pre-Christian Judaism as a local religion. So, I decided the best explanation for Christ was as a brilliant moral philosopher in the context of primitive Judaism, and the best explanation for western Christianity was as that small pacifist Judaic cult nationalized and assimilated by Roman culture (thus the papal structure, pulled directly from pre-Christian Roman religious hierarchies).

    The list goes on, but the basic reason is that understanding the context and the steps of the religious journey made me unable to believe any one of those steps was the one and only one that led somehow to the same Divine that made or is our universe.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital, The sciences for me don’t conflict with the idea of the Divine–as I said, I’m closest to Buddhist (and thus pantheist or panentheist), so I completely agree with the idea that the universe shows the handiwork of something beautiful.

    However, my main field of study is history and anthropology, and that’s where the conflicts begin to arise. Science doesn’t conflict with the Divine, as I said, but it does conflict with the religious entity which first arose in the context of ancient Mesopotamia, among the Jews. The old testament God is for me far too small to account for the vastness and complexity of the universe as we know it today.

    When I began to understand how Judaism and Christianity came about, I began to doubt in earnest. I’d already abandoned the young-earth Creationism I’d grown up with, with no real damage to my faith. But when I began finding the connections that led up to and through Judaism, I could no longer accept it as any kind of transcendant truth.

    For example, the way agriculture led to astrology and then to the mythic archetype of the “killed and risen god”–Mithras and Horus being two examples out of dozens. Common attributes include twelve disciples (corresponding to signs of the zodiac, or the lunar cycle), virgin birth, death and resurrection after three days (referring to the movement of Sirius in the night sky over the winter solstice–December 23 to December 25), the idea of “renewal” as seen in the return of life in the spring (spring equinox, or Easter), etc. etc.

    Christ was a different story. His teachings were clearly something more or less new–though I’ve been finding some interesting connections to eastern thought, which I’d like to research further. From what I could tell, though, there was no way to believe in the idea of Christ as the Jewish messiah (and savior of humanity) and still discount pre-Christian Judaism as a local religion. So, I decided the best explanation for Christ was as a brilliant moral philosopher in the context of primitive Judaism, and the best explanation for western Christianity was as that small pacifist Judaic cult nationalized and assimilated by Roman culture (thus the papal structure, pulled directly from pre-Christian Roman religious hierarchies).

    The list goes on, but the basic reason is that understanding the context and the steps of the religious journey made me unable to believe any one of those steps was the one and only one that led somehow to the same Divine that made or is our universe.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The truth is, once upon a time religious organizations east and west were the main repositories of learning and study.”

    “Yes, repositories, not centers of dynamic development.”

    Oops, I meant to say those in the east were not so much centers of dynamic development.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The truth is, once upon a time religious organizations east and west were the main repositories of learning and study.”

    “Yes, repositories, not centers of dynamic development.”

    Oops, I meant to say those in the east were not so much centers of dynamic development.

  • Digital

    Excellent stuff Tim been a while since I have had a good conversation like this where I didn’t have to hold up my XKCD “Citation Needed” Sign :)
    “For example, the way agriculture led to astrology and then to the mythic archetype of the “killed and risen god”–Mithras and Horus being two examples out of dozens. Common attributes include twelve disciples (corresponding to signs of the zodiac, or the lunar cycle), virgin birth, death and resurrection after three days (referring to the movement of Sirius in the night sky over the winter solstice–December 23 to December 25), the idea of “renewal” as seen in the return of life in the spring (spring equinox, or Easter), etc. etc.”
    In my (very limited) dabbling in archeology. I felt like there was an odd consistency in folklore and theology. Many archeologists I came across explained this as Christianity compiling the best stories together into one religion. But I took it another direction. If my assumption is that the God of the Bible is real and the history accurate. Wouldn’t it be true that as people wandered out of the place of origin that their verbal history would reflect that of the Jews? Think the scattering from Babel and what that would mean to a culture, there could not have been manuscripts for everyone to take with them of the history…there would only be one. Therefore the rest would simply have to carry out oral tradition. This tradition evolving into the various religion taking aspects of Judaism. This is my meager explanation coming from my admittedly poor understanding of anthropology.

  • Digital

    Excellent stuff Tim been a while since I have had a good conversation like this where I didn’t have to hold up my XKCD “Citation Needed” Sign :)
    “For example, the way agriculture led to astrology and then to the mythic archetype of the “killed and risen god”–Mithras and Horus being two examples out of dozens. Common attributes include twelve disciples (corresponding to signs of the zodiac, or the lunar cycle), virgin birth, death and resurrection after three days (referring to the movement of Sirius in the night sky over the winter solstice–December 23 to December 25), the idea of “renewal” as seen in the return of life in the spring (spring equinox, or Easter), etc. etc.”
    In my (very limited) dabbling in archeology. I felt like there was an odd consistency in folklore and theology. Many archeologists I came across explained this as Christianity compiling the best stories together into one religion. But I took it another direction. If my assumption is that the God of the Bible is real and the history accurate. Wouldn’t it be true that as people wandered out of the place of origin that their verbal history would reflect that of the Jews? Think the scattering from Babel and what that would mean to a culture, there could not have been manuscripts for everyone to take with them of the history…there would only be one. Therefore the rest would simply have to carry out oral tradition. This tradition evolving into the various religion taking aspects of Judaism. This is my meager explanation coming from my admittedly poor understanding of anthropology.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Todd: the Bible may well teach (at least, if interpreted a certain way) that human action is necessary now, for more than just “saving souls” or some specifically religious goal. The thing is, as I’m sure you realize, there are a rather large number of Christians who don’t hold “Biblical” beliefs, or who interpret the Bible so literally as to believe that the whole world is going to end in apocalypse in a decade or two, a la Left Behind, and so there’s no need to do anything in the meantime–this is the sort of ignorant, unthoughtful religion I’m sure atheists and the readers of this blog alike would unite against.

    Keep in mind that many atheists see all religion as being like that, as it’s those loud, ignorant sects that get the most screen time on television.

    I think the world would benefit if intelligent, thoughtful believers of religion and non-religion alike would unite against blind ignorance–of any belief, and focusing on improving what we have now. As the book says, tomorrow has enough worries of its own. Heaven will or won’t be there, and won’t be affected by anything we do. Though we may occasionally act at odds in terms of what we believe to be best for the future of the world, let us at least agree to act, and act thoughtfully.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Todd: the Bible may well teach (at least, if interpreted a certain way) that human action is necessary now, for more than just “saving souls” or some specifically religious goal. The thing is, as I’m sure you realize, there are a rather large number of Christians who don’t hold “Biblical” beliefs, or who interpret the Bible so literally as to believe that the whole world is going to end in apocalypse in a decade or two, a la Left Behind, and so there’s no need to do anything in the meantime–this is the sort of ignorant, unthoughtful religion I’m sure atheists and the readers of this blog alike would unite against.

    Keep in mind that many atheists see all religion as being like that, as it’s those loud, ignorant sects that get the most screen time on television.

    I think the world would benefit if intelligent, thoughtful believers of religion and non-religion alike would unite against blind ignorance–of any belief, and focusing on improving what we have now. As the book says, tomorrow has enough worries of its own. Heaven will or won’t be there, and won’t be affected by anything we do. Though we may occasionally act at odds in terms of what we believe to be best for the future of the world, let us at least agree to act, and act thoughtfully.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital, that was my explanation as well while I remained a Christian. However, it breaks down with closer study. For example, the risen god myth is a middle eastern and Indo-european phenomenon. You can trace the myth according to the migration of people and find its bounds accordingly. That’s why you see such similarities between, say, Horus and Christ, and yet don’t find the same patterns in the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, or the far east. The death-renewal cycle is almost universal, of course, because of the cyclical nature of the seasons.

    Another clue is that it isn’t a standalone story. It’s a story which very clearly reflects the agricultural cycle, and is refined through the centuries in accordance with that cycle. In the earliest instances all you have is death and the return of life. With the advancement of astronomy, more details are added, such as the three day death and resurrection seen in the movement of Sirius over the winter solstice (the turning point from death, or long nights, to life, the shorter nights of the summer). Even the virgin birth is part of that cycle–the ground, after harvest, is returned to its unsowed, virgin state. There is then a period of incubation roughly equivalent to the nine-month incubation stage of a human embryo before the return to life is celebrated at spring equinox. That’s the reason the zodiac sign Virgo is placed after harvest, in September.

    The flood myth is even more widespread, and perhaps even more interesting. Recent findings point to a real cataclysmic event in the Anatolian peninsula at the end of the last ice age, when the glacial dam across the base of the Black Sea broke. The waters from that breaking, if those findings are accurate, would have rushed en masse across what we know today as Turkey. The people of northern Mesopotamia, fearing the wrath of the gods, would have retreated to the holy mountain of Ararat, which, being a volcano, stands high above the surrounding plains.

    As you can probably tell, I’m fascinated by all of this, and could talk about it for pages and pages. For the sake of comment length, I’ll keep it down, but if you’re interested in some really fascinating history, keep studying. “The Face of the Ancient Orient” is a great introductory text.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital, that was my explanation as well while I remained a Christian. However, it breaks down with closer study. For example, the risen god myth is a middle eastern and Indo-european phenomenon. You can trace the myth according to the migration of people and find its bounds accordingly. That’s why you see such similarities between, say, Horus and Christ, and yet don’t find the same patterns in the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, or the far east. The death-renewal cycle is almost universal, of course, because of the cyclical nature of the seasons.

    Another clue is that it isn’t a standalone story. It’s a story which very clearly reflects the agricultural cycle, and is refined through the centuries in accordance with that cycle. In the earliest instances all you have is death and the return of life. With the advancement of astronomy, more details are added, such as the three day death and resurrection seen in the movement of Sirius over the winter solstice (the turning point from death, or long nights, to life, the shorter nights of the summer). Even the virgin birth is part of that cycle–the ground, after harvest, is returned to its unsowed, virgin state. There is then a period of incubation roughly equivalent to the nine-month incubation stage of a human embryo before the return to life is celebrated at spring equinox. That’s the reason the zodiac sign Virgo is placed after harvest, in September.

    The flood myth is even more widespread, and perhaps even more interesting. Recent findings point to a real cataclysmic event in the Anatolian peninsula at the end of the last ice age, when the glacial dam across the base of the Black Sea broke. The waters from that breaking, if those findings are accurate, would have rushed en masse across what we know today as Turkey. The people of northern Mesopotamia, fearing the wrath of the gods, would have retreated to the holy mountain of Ararat, which, being a volcano, stands high above the surrounding plains.

    As you can probably tell, I’m fascinated by all of this, and could talk about it for pages and pages. For the sake of comment length, I’ll keep it down, but if you’re interested in some really fascinating history, keep studying. “The Face of the Ancient Orient” is a great introductory text.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think the world would benefit if intelligent, thoughtful believers of religion and non-religion alike would unite against blind ignorance–of any belief, and focusing on improving what we have now.”

    Ojalá que!

    Unfortunately, many dismiss anything they don’t like out of hand, rather than consider how the information might actually be used to help all parties improve their lot.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think the world would benefit if intelligent, thoughtful believers of religion and non-religion alike would unite against blind ignorance–of any belief, and focusing on improving what we have now.”

    Ojalá que!

    Unfortunately, many dismiss anything they don’t like out of hand, rather than consider how the information might actually be used to help all parties improve their lot.

  • Louis

    Tim, I follow your argument, and as an amateur student of history, understand where you are coming from. Recently I had been reading about the origin of alcohol in many different cultures. The author often ventured into other realms, and noted the close correlation, archeologically, between the emergence of agriculture, fermentation and often accompanying religious artefacts / symbology.

    The fact that related origin myths, to use your term, and resurrection stories and all that can be traced throughout tribal migrations and histories does not make a significant impact upon my faith (I’m not a YECist…). The dealings of God with our, lets say Neolithic, ancestors do not have to presented as a clear and definite narrative. What Genesis, from the beginning of Abraham’s story, offers is a specifc dealing of God with humanity. If one is not a YEC’ist, and reads the first chapters of Genesis as a tying in of the origin of all things with the God of Abraham etc., the fact that other origin myths are used should not be astounding. We can see throughout Scripture that God uses what people know and understand from the world around them – whether this corresponds 1:1 with our current knowledge or not is irrelevant.

    If you were comfortable with God using biological evolution, why aren’t you comfortable with Him using the evolution of myth, narrative, cosmic perceptions and human awareness within the same evolutionary process? This is of course not an argument for or agisnt that process, I am only pointing out that there is an inconsistency in you abandoning the faith at the point of, to put it simplistically, archeological discovery and the evolution of origin myths etc.

    BTW, I’m trying to be preachy here, but to make a contribution to the discussion, should it appear otherwise.

  • Louis

    Tim, I follow your argument, and as an amateur student of history, understand where you are coming from. Recently I had been reading about the origin of alcohol in many different cultures. The author often ventured into other realms, and noted the close correlation, archeologically, between the emergence of agriculture, fermentation and often accompanying religious artefacts / symbology.

    The fact that related origin myths, to use your term, and resurrection stories and all that can be traced throughout tribal migrations and histories does not make a significant impact upon my faith (I’m not a YECist…). The dealings of God with our, lets say Neolithic, ancestors do not have to presented as a clear and definite narrative. What Genesis, from the beginning of Abraham’s story, offers is a specifc dealing of God with humanity. If one is not a YEC’ist, and reads the first chapters of Genesis as a tying in of the origin of all things with the God of Abraham etc., the fact that other origin myths are used should not be astounding. We can see throughout Scripture that God uses what people know and understand from the world around them – whether this corresponds 1:1 with our current knowledge or not is irrelevant.

    If you were comfortable with God using biological evolution, why aren’t you comfortable with Him using the evolution of myth, narrative, cosmic perceptions and human awareness within the same evolutionary process? This is of course not an argument for or agisnt that process, I am only pointing out that there is an inconsistency in you abandoning the faith at the point of, to put it simplistically, archeological discovery and the evolution of origin myths etc.

    BTW, I’m trying to be preachy here, but to make a contribution to the discussion, should it appear otherwise.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Louis, the problem is that (as far as I can tell) if you believe that Genesis represents one specific dealing of God with humanity, then it is not perfectly true for all humans at all times, which is what I take you to be saying (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Christ, then, can also be taken as being a specific dealing of God with man, as could the Quran, Homer, Confucius, the Buddha, and perhaps even Darwin himself. If all human religious beliefs are true within the context of their locations and times, why should we in the modern era follow any of them? Perhaps instead we should seek to find our own path to God, in a way that is meaningful in accordance with our modern conception of the universe.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Louis, the problem is that (as far as I can tell) if you believe that Genesis represents one specific dealing of God with humanity, then it is not perfectly true for all humans at all times, which is what I take you to be saying (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Christ, then, can also be taken as being a specific dealing of God with man, as could the Quran, Homer, Confucius, the Buddha, and perhaps even Darwin himself. If all human religious beliefs are true within the context of their locations and times, why should we in the modern era follow any of them? Perhaps instead we should seek to find our own path to God, in a way that is meaningful in accordance with our modern conception of the universe.

  • Digital

    Tim@85
    I don’t understand. Your holdup is that the earth and culture is too consistent? So because if this consistency in creation it must be that we fabricated the Deity of Christ?
    From everything you have said (I’m enjoying reading the depth in your answers) It only seems to confirm that with taht much consistency that God placed His grace in Creation and made it evident for all to see. In particular The whole of Psalms 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…” is essentially an expansion on your post in #85. How does this not strengthen your faith in Christ?

  • Digital

    Tim@85
    I don’t understand. Your holdup is that the earth and culture is too consistent? So because if this consistency in creation it must be that we fabricated the Deity of Christ?
    From everything you have said (I’m enjoying reading the depth in your answers) It only seems to confirm that with taht much consistency that God placed His grace in Creation and made it evident for all to see. In particular The whole of Psalms 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…” is essentially an expansion on your post in #85. How does this not strengthen your faith in Christ?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital,

    Not exactly. In my view, the surest path to truth is to find an explanation that best fits all available data (based on Kuhn’s paradigm theory).

    The agricultural cycle and myths arising from it do not actually reflect creation as we know it today. They reflect instead to very limited perception of creation available to early agricultural societies. The zodiacal constellations, for instance, only exist as patterns when viewed from our particular corner of the universe.

    So, the patterns in creation that resulted in (or were designed after, to take the Christian view) the messianic story only exists as patterns when viewed from the perspective of an agricultural society living in a nonequatorial, nonpolar region on Earth (and the religious dates only match in the northern hemisphere). So, if those patterns exist to tell the story of the coming Christ, then God designed the universe specifically to reflect a certain story when viewed from a certain point.

    That in turns requires the belief that God created the whole vastness of the universe for our benefit. That was a logical conclusion back when the universe consisted of the Earth and the celestial spheres, but the situation has changed. If you were to meet a person who claimed that God created the entire earth for his personal benefit, you’d dismiss him as an egotist and narcissist. Is it so different to look at the absolutely mind-boggling scale of the universe, compared to our little speck of a planet, and say that God made all of that for us?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Digital,

    Not exactly. In my view, the surest path to truth is to find an explanation that best fits all available data (based on Kuhn’s paradigm theory).

    The agricultural cycle and myths arising from it do not actually reflect creation as we know it today. They reflect instead to very limited perception of creation available to early agricultural societies. The zodiacal constellations, for instance, only exist as patterns when viewed from our particular corner of the universe.

    So, the patterns in creation that resulted in (or were designed after, to take the Christian view) the messianic story only exists as patterns when viewed from the perspective of an agricultural society living in a nonequatorial, nonpolar region on Earth (and the religious dates only match in the northern hemisphere). So, if those patterns exist to tell the story of the coming Christ, then God designed the universe specifically to reflect a certain story when viewed from a certain point.

    That in turns requires the belief that God created the whole vastness of the universe for our benefit. That was a logical conclusion back when the universe consisted of the Earth and the celestial spheres, but the situation has changed. If you were to meet a person who claimed that God created the entire earth for his personal benefit, you’d dismiss him as an egotist and narcissist. Is it so different to look at the absolutely mind-boggling scale of the universe, compared to our little speck of a planet, and say that God made all of that for us?

  • Louis

    Tim – no that is not what I’m saying. Note my use of the Word ‘humanity’ and not Jews, for instance. What I’m saying is that God’s dealing with humanity, in a historic context, starts specifically, and in the argument above, it starts with Abraham, or to be correct Abram. Thus we have general dealings, and then specific intervention, if you like.

    Also, from a philospohical, psychological and sociological point of view, the “own path” thing is hogwash. We are creatures of community. We need external guidance, because self deception is so easy, because of our biological selves (see the other discussion re liver shivers). “Own path” is but code words for Incurvatus in se ipsum.

    The argument then becomes this one or that one. Sure – but that is a different argument, and I’m not sure if I want to go into that (very big) one here.

  • Louis

    Tim – no that is not what I’m saying. Note my use of the Word ‘humanity’ and not Jews, for instance. What I’m saying is that God’s dealing with humanity, in a historic context, starts specifically, and in the argument above, it starts with Abraham, or to be correct Abram. Thus we have general dealings, and then specific intervention, if you like.

    Also, from a philospohical, psychological and sociological point of view, the “own path” thing is hogwash. We are creatures of community. We need external guidance, because self deception is so easy, because of our biological selves (see the other discussion re liver shivers). “Own path” is but code words for Incurvatus in se ipsum.

    The argument then becomes this one or that one. Sure – but that is a different argument, and I’m not sure if I want to go into that (very big) one here.

  • Louis

    Tim – another point. God deals with humans in context, not in the abstract. What you are looking for are abstract truths, which is a modernist (ok, derived from Plato’s forms, somewhat) construct. We have a major diference here. Your search for truth presupposes that you can find that truth yourself, in the absolute. That is not how history works, and that is philosophically (and logically, analogous to Godel’s incompleteness theorems) problematic.

  • Louis

    Tim – another point. God deals with humans in context, not in the abstract. What you are looking for are abstract truths, which is a modernist (ok, derived from Plato’s forms, somewhat) construct. We have a major diference here. Your search for truth presupposes that you can find that truth yourself, in the absolute. That is not how history works, and that is philosophically (and logically, analogous to Godel’s incompleteness theorems) problematic.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis, that’s rather my point. Look at Abrahamic (although perhaps Mosaic is a better term) religion and you’ll find a fairly standard Semitic religious base, with a few Egyptian and Mesopotamian elements thrown in for taste–and even what appears to be a book, Ecclesiastes, taken straight out of Sumerian philosophy. It has, of course, one key difference–it’s monotheistic, the second instance of such a belief in recorded history. But even in this it doesn’t take it’s monotheism in a unique way. Judaism elevated the sky-god El to the position of sole divinity in the same way the brief Egyptian monotheism elevated Aten, and Islam would later elevate the moon-god Allah.

    I would be much more inclined to believe Christianity (and therefore Judaism) was the exclusive work of God if I saw any sign of transcendance in their teachings. But, because they’re embedded in their local, cultural contexts, I can’t.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis, that’s rather my point. Look at Abrahamic (although perhaps Mosaic is a better term) religion and you’ll find a fairly standard Semitic religious base, with a few Egyptian and Mesopotamian elements thrown in for taste–and even what appears to be a book, Ecclesiastes, taken straight out of Sumerian philosophy. It has, of course, one key difference–it’s monotheistic, the second instance of such a belief in recorded history. But even in this it doesn’t take it’s monotheism in a unique way. Judaism elevated the sky-god El to the position of sole divinity in the same way the brief Egyptian monotheism elevated Aten, and Islam would later elevate the moon-god Allah.

    I would be much more inclined to believe Christianity (and therefore Judaism) was the exclusive work of God if I saw any sign of transcendance in their teachings. But, because they’re embedded in their local, cultural contexts, I can’t.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Obviously, even if God was actually speaking to a man out in the desert, a la Abraham, Moses, or Mohammed, the transcendant truths would be contextualized by the humans speaking them. Nonetheless, I would expect an element of the transcendant to remain–essentially, something truly new in the world, not just yet more claims of divine guidance, racial supremacy, and collections of civic law (in this case, a mix of Assyrian retributive codes and the Sumerian fine system).

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Obviously, even if God was actually speaking to a man out in the desert, a la Abraham, Moses, or Mohammed, the transcendant truths would be contextualized by the humans speaking them. Nonetheless, I would expect an element of the transcendant to remain–essentially, something truly new in the world, not just yet more claims of divine guidance, racial supremacy, and collections of civic law (in this case, a mix of Assyrian retributive codes and the Sumerian fine system).

  • Louis

    Exactly Tim. You require truth without context. That is the problem. I’m not sure if you had seen my comment at 92 before you wrote yours at 93, but that points to the problem. The root is not archology, or myths or commanility between Christianity (and Hebraic Religion) with other ‘Pagan’ myths.

    The problem is your commitment to the Modernist idea of timeless, abstract, ethereal truths. This is dimatrically opposed to Orthodox Christianity. We do not have primarily a set of truths – we have truth dying on the cross. I see you grasping back to earlier arguments about dying gods etc. No – this is a different argument. No, not argument, reality.

    You see, the enlightenment concept of reality and truth has failed drastically, because we realise that even while arguing these things, that argument takes place within a biological context, of neurons firing and hormones pumping etc etc. We have to (and I had to) get rid of the supposition of dirty reality (Plato) vs ethereal truth. Etherealness is just that – non existent. Truth, and logic, is friendly to matter.

    I can see you shaking your head, thinking that I’m going off on a weird tangent. But I think that is just the problem – your modernist concepts of reality, truth and all that. Think about it!

    I am leaving my computer now, and might only look in tomorrow again.

    Godspeed.

  • Louis

    Exactly Tim. You require truth without context. That is the problem. I’m not sure if you had seen my comment at 92 before you wrote yours at 93, but that points to the problem. The root is not archology, or myths or commanility between Christianity (and Hebraic Religion) with other ‘Pagan’ myths.

    The problem is your commitment to the Modernist idea of timeless, abstract, ethereal truths. This is dimatrically opposed to Orthodox Christianity. We do not have primarily a set of truths – we have truth dying on the cross. I see you grasping back to earlier arguments about dying gods etc. No – this is a different argument. No, not argument, reality.

    You see, the enlightenment concept of reality and truth has failed drastically, because we realise that even while arguing these things, that argument takes place within a biological context, of neurons firing and hormones pumping etc etc. We have to (and I had to) get rid of the supposition of dirty reality (Plato) vs ethereal truth. Etherealness is just that – non existent. Truth, and logic, is friendly to matter.

    I can see you shaking your head, thinking that I’m going off on a weird tangent. But I think that is just the problem – your modernist concepts of reality, truth and all that. Think about it!

    I am leaving my computer now, and might only look in tomorrow again.

    Godspeed.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis, I do understand your objection, and I do believe it is possible to know accurately (if not wholly) truths about the universe. I don’t hold at all to the Platonic ideas of dirty reality vs. some kind of higher Form–I personally think that, practically speaking, this reality, this universe, is all there is or will be for us, and that any God we may find is part of it. I also believe that our brains have evolved in order to find out how this universe works, for the simple reason that knowledge about how the universe works allows us to control the system, and thus survive. It has been said that “consciousness” appears when the brain learns to recognize itself, and thus view itself (subject) as object.

    But even if I didn’t believe that, there’s still a problem. Why should I believe your religion over someone else’s? That’s the point of the comparisons above–not just to say that Judaism was contextual, but also to say that it and Christianity don’t have anything unique to offer.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    @Louis, I do understand your objection, and I do believe it is possible to know accurately (if not wholly) truths about the universe. I don’t hold at all to the Platonic ideas of dirty reality vs. some kind of higher Form–I personally think that, practically speaking, this reality, this universe, is all there is or will be for us, and that any God we may find is part of it. I also believe that our brains have evolved in order to find out how this universe works, for the simple reason that knowledge about how the universe works allows us to control the system, and thus survive. It has been said that “consciousness” appears when the brain learns to recognize itself, and thus view itself (subject) as object.

    But even if I didn’t believe that, there’s still a problem. Why should I believe your religion over someone else’s? That’s the point of the comparisons above–not just to say that Judaism was contextual, but also to say that it and Christianity don’t have anything unique to offer.

  • Louis

    Tim: Why not?

  • Louis

    Tim: Why not?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Louis,

    For the same reason I’m not a Scientologist. It doesn’t explain the universe I see, and it’s not really useful to me in any other way.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Louis,

    For the same reason I’m not a Scientologist. It doesn’t explain the universe I see, and it’s not really useful to me in any other way.

  • Louis

    ” It doesn’t explain the universe I see, and it’s not really useful to me in any other way.”

    Quad erat demonstrandum (both in terms of modernism, and Incurvatus in se ipsum.)

  • Louis

    ” It doesn’t explain the universe I see, and it’s not really useful to me in any other way.”

    Quad erat demonstrandum (both in terms of modernism, and Incurvatus in se ipsum.)

  • Louis

    That should have been quod erat….

  • Louis

    That should have been quod erat….

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    So, if your religion doesn’t explain what you see, and doesn’t do anything else for you, what’s your reason for believing in it over, say, Hinduism? And what’s your reason for believing in a religion at all?

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    So, if your religion doesn’t explain what you see, and doesn’t do anything else for you, what’s your reason for believing in it over, say, Hinduism? And what’s your reason for believing in a religion at all?

  • Louis

    Tim – notice that we have entered another debate. You are firmly into a comparative religion debate here. This indicates that instead of arguing for the existence/non-existence of God, you are now arguing that He doesn’t fill your needs., and that you can’t find another religion that does it for you. Therefore, you want to reject them all, and pick a philosophy to suit you. I regret to inform you, Tim, but you are not an atheist, are a Theist running as fast as you can from the God who doesn’t fit you. But the Hound of Heaven cannot be outrun.

    I entered this discussion pointing out the obvious fallacies and problems of atheism. Your best response is that you do not like the Faith as it is presented to you. It doesn’t fit your understanding. Hence my repeatedly coming back to that modernism tag.

    I hate to sound like an old fogey, but you are still young and idealistic. I’ve been aroud the block a bit, and spent well over a decade in the Earth Sciences. With time you’ll realise that our best theories are but educated guesses, and that most of academia is more concerned with protecting their pet theory than with advancing truth and knowledge. And most of all, consistency is a pipe dream. Leave that to Dawkins and the Taliban.

    The bigger question is always why we do, or say, or choose, or believe, what we do. I’ll leave with that.

  • Louis

    Tim – notice that we have entered another debate. You are firmly into a comparative religion debate here. This indicates that instead of arguing for the existence/non-existence of God, you are now arguing that He doesn’t fill your needs., and that you can’t find another religion that does it for you. Therefore, you want to reject them all, and pick a philosophy to suit you. I regret to inform you, Tim, but you are not an atheist, are a Theist running as fast as you can from the God who doesn’t fit you. But the Hound of Heaven cannot be outrun.

    I entered this discussion pointing out the obvious fallacies and problems of atheism. Your best response is that you do not like the Faith as it is presented to you. It doesn’t fit your understanding. Hence my repeatedly coming back to that modernism tag.

    I hate to sound like an old fogey, but you are still young and idealistic. I’ve been aroud the block a bit, and spent well over a decade in the Earth Sciences. With time you’ll realise that our best theories are but educated guesses, and that most of academia is more concerned with protecting their pet theory than with advancing truth and knowledge. And most of all, consistency is a pipe dream. Leave that to Dawkins and the Taliban.

    The bigger question is always why we do, or say, or choose, or believe, what we do. I’ll leave with that.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Actually, as I believe I said before, I’m not an atheist or a theist. I’m closest to a pantheist.

    You still haven’t answered my question. If our best theories are educated guesses, you can’t trust your senses, and you’re not getting anything out of religion, I ask again: why do you believe in it? You seem to be taking something as assumed that I’m not getting. Are you believing in the God of the Bible because the Bible says he’s God, or do you have a burning in the bosom, or do you have some non-rational conviction that your religion is True? I’m honestly not understanding your line of reasoning here.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Actually, as I believe I said before, I’m not an atheist or a theist. I’m closest to a pantheist.

    You still haven’t answered my question. If our best theories are educated guesses, you can’t trust your senses, and you’re not getting anything out of religion, I ask again: why do you believe in it? You seem to be taking something as assumed that I’m not getting. Are you believing in the God of the Bible because the Bible says he’s God, or do you have a burning in the bosom, or do you have some non-rational conviction that your religion is True? I’m honestly not understanding your line of reasoning here.

  • Digital

    Tim@91
    “So, the patterns in creation that resulted in (or were designed after, to take the Christian view) the messianic story only exists as patterns when viewed from the perspective of an agricultural society living in a nonequatorial, nonpolar region on Earth (and the religious dates only match in the northern hemisphere). So, if those patterns exist to tell the story of the coming Christ, then God designed the universe specifically to reflect a certain story when viewed from a certain point”
    Here I am going to as for citation. I know not what you speak of when it comes to these patterns necessary for the messianic story. But that does not effect the message either, if God wanted to arrange a few stars He could, without interrupting the physics of the universe He created. Much in the same way as Microchip makers used to rearrange transistors to spell out messages without interrupting the use of the chip.
    “That in turns requires the belief that God created the whole vastness of the universe for our benefit”
    Now here you build a bit of a straw man. For one, the idea that God put certain things in certain places for our benefit would not be out of the question if God is God. Two, God DID create the universe with us in mind, darn that omniscience, but that doesn’t mean it was His only purpose. Don’t you ever find it difficult to that we would be THIS lucky in our location in the universe? (See things like “Privileged Planet”).
    “If you were to meet a person who claimed that God created the entire earth for his personal benefit, you’d dismiss him as an egotist and narcissist.”
    Actually, being the person I am I would play the game with them. For if they could prove the earth was created for their personal benefit I don’t think this would be a person to be trifled with, but I wouldn’t push the notion out of my head just due to it being unlikely due to my understanding of creation. Fortunately there aren’t too many of these Joes running around so I don’t waste too much of my time ;)

    I also think Kuhn’s paradigm theory is a bit misused. Rather than being used to describe the methodology in which a Scientist shifts reasoning, it is used as a target. “We don’t want to believe in God, so we need to find something else, Kuhn’s theory demands it!”
    In this case our knowledge is currently covered by the paradigm of Christ’s Death and resurrection, God’s Creation of the Universe, and our sinful nature. However, atheists wont stand for this, no matter the evidence so they look to explain it in any way that precludes a creator or master of the universe. Not because the evidence doesn’t show it, but rather because they ‘Don’t want it to be that way”
    I am still missing where you had to choose between science and Christ. So far what you have said should have strengthened your conviction that the two go hand in hand. But it seems (and don’t take this as an attack) that you don’t believe because you don’t want to, not because atheism/deism is: “[the] explanation that best fits all available data”

  • Digital

    Tim@91
    “So, the patterns in creation that resulted in (or were designed after, to take the Christian view) the messianic story only exists as patterns when viewed from the perspective of an agricultural society living in a nonequatorial, nonpolar region on Earth (and the religious dates only match in the northern hemisphere). So, if those patterns exist to tell the story of the coming Christ, then God designed the universe specifically to reflect a certain story when viewed from a certain point”
    Here I am going to as for citation. I know not what you speak of when it comes to these patterns necessary for the messianic story. But that does not effect the message either, if God wanted to arrange a few stars He could, without interrupting the physics of the universe He created. Much in the same way as Microchip makers used to rearrange transistors to spell out messages without interrupting the use of the chip.
    “That in turns requires the belief that God created the whole vastness of the universe for our benefit”
    Now here you build a bit of a straw man. For one, the idea that God put certain things in certain places for our benefit would not be out of the question if God is God. Two, God DID create the universe with us in mind, darn that omniscience, but that doesn’t mean it was His only purpose. Don’t you ever find it difficult to that we would be THIS lucky in our location in the universe? (See things like “Privileged Planet”).
    “If you were to meet a person who claimed that God created the entire earth for his personal benefit, you’d dismiss him as an egotist and narcissist.”
    Actually, being the person I am I would play the game with them. For if they could prove the earth was created for their personal benefit I don’t think this would be a person to be trifled with, but I wouldn’t push the notion out of my head just due to it being unlikely due to my understanding of creation. Fortunately there aren’t too many of these Joes running around so I don’t waste too much of my time ;)

    I also think Kuhn’s paradigm theory is a bit misused. Rather than being used to describe the methodology in which a Scientist shifts reasoning, it is used as a target. “We don’t want to believe in God, so we need to find something else, Kuhn’s theory demands it!”
    In this case our knowledge is currently covered by the paradigm of Christ’s Death and resurrection, God’s Creation of the Universe, and our sinful nature. However, atheists wont stand for this, no matter the evidence so they look to explain it in any way that precludes a creator or master of the universe. Not because the evidence doesn’t show it, but rather because they ‘Don’t want it to be that way”
    I am still missing where you had to choose between science and Christ. So far what you have said should have strengthened your conviction that the two go hand in hand. But it seems (and don’t take this as an attack) that you don’t believe because you don’t want to, not because atheism/deism is: “[the] explanation that best fits all available data”

  • Digital

    Tim@104
    do you have some non-rational conviction that your religion is True? I’m honestly not understanding your line of reasoning here.”
    Not to jump in here to but I will :)
    I personally have a rational belief in God. The evidence points to it. No one has shown me evidence to the contrary. Pascal’s Wager would be enough but that is not by reasoning. As a mathematician I can tell the difference between coincidence and divine guidance. I have extraordinarily intelligent friends, Many college professors and many many PHDs in hard core sciences. They run the gamut from atheist, to staunch Christian. We have lots of fun reasoning out the scriptures, and battling what can and cannot be true. My atheist friends know that I am open to challenge, I will not threaten or belittle them so I open myself to lots of HARD questions from people a lot smarter than me. So, my faith is tried and true, I do not rely on the idea that my faith needs to be separated from my reason. Rather I have faith that is strengthened by by reason and open mind. I do not fear the truth, I embrace it, and it has only strengthened my Faith that God is my Lord.

  • Digital

    Tim@104
    do you have some non-rational conviction that your religion is True? I’m honestly not understanding your line of reasoning here.”
    Not to jump in here to but I will :)
    I personally have a rational belief in God. The evidence points to it. No one has shown me evidence to the contrary. Pascal’s Wager would be enough but that is not by reasoning. As a mathematician I can tell the difference between coincidence and divine guidance. I have extraordinarily intelligent friends, Many college professors and many many PHDs in hard core sciences. They run the gamut from atheist, to staunch Christian. We have lots of fun reasoning out the scriptures, and battling what can and cannot be true. My atheist friends know that I am open to challenge, I will not threaten or belittle them so I open myself to lots of HARD questions from people a lot smarter than me. So, my faith is tried and true, I do not rely on the idea that my faith needs to be separated from my reason. Rather I have faith that is strengthened by by reason and open mind. I do not fear the truth, I embrace it, and it has only strengthened my Faith that God is my Lord.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Hey again Digital, I don’t actually use Kuhn that way. From what I can tell, the facts of the universe–in particular, the beauty of it’s laws–is best explained by some kind of higher force, thus the pantheism. Point of clarification, I’m seeing pantheism as a sort of lowest common denominator here–I see evidence for a Something, but nothing to specify whether that Something is a singular intelligent being, a group of beings, or even itself a complex but un-self-conscious system not unlike the human brain. There is just no way I can see of saying anything about God beyond His/It’s/Insert Politically Correct Pronoun Here’s existence itself.

    So since we agree on the existence of a Something, the question then becomes the nature of the Something (if you see a church of Somethingism a few decades down the road, remember, it started here!).

    This is where Kuhn comes into play. What explanation–religious entities included–best explains the universe as we see it? And, a corollary question, do we actually even know enough to posit an explanation?

    I’ll clarify the patterns issue. As I said, the risen god myth (pardon my terms) seems to me, and many historians, to come directly from prehistoric attempts to creative narratives from the agricultural cycle. Some of the details are, as you say, just stars–which God, being omnipotent, could easily shift around. But some stem directly from the very nature of the solar system and, by extension, the physical laws of the universe, like the axis of the planet and distribution of solar energy (ie, the seasons).

    The priveleged planet theory would indeed be good evidence, if it holds up–and recent (very recent, it could still go the other way) research shows it likely won’t. We’ve just recently discovered the first Earth-sized planet around a nearby star, and several gas giants, which shows us that planets, at least, are actually rather common. Stephen Hawking is actually getting ready to release a new book, called “The Grand Design,” which is on precisely this subject, and marks a divergence from his previous semi-deistic views of the universe as put forward in “Brief History of Time.” The best (or at least the most fun) analogy I’ve ever heard on the subject is Douglas Adams’ talking puddle story, which can be found in the Salmon of Doubt, and certainly somewhere online.

    So. Following Kuhn’s model, and in all honesty, which explanation best fits the evidence? Did the Judaic deity, with all his human-like passions and apparent late-term shift toward a more merciful treatment of his creatures, create the entire universe we see to reflect a specific historical event in our brief human history? Or is this universe we see the creation of some vast, incomprehensible, and utterly nonhuman entity, a complex system of which we are infinitesimal parts, and in which all of our religions are our merely human attempts to explain and narratize this vast world we live in?

    That was the crux of my decision. I cannot believe the universe is created for us, though I hope our species one day evolves to a point of greater predominance within it. I can’t believe one tribal god of thousands or millions just happened to be the one responsible for all of this. I can honestly say that, in my mind, no human religious story can account for our world. I can only accept many of the scientific theories because they contain vast blank areas which say, “we don’t know this part yet.”

    Thanks for talking, Digital. Usually when I get myself into these discussions I’m kicking myself by comment three and bowing out by comment six. It’s good to have a rational, civil discussion–let’s hope the habit spreads! :D

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Hey again Digital, I don’t actually use Kuhn that way. From what I can tell, the facts of the universe–in particular, the beauty of it’s laws–is best explained by some kind of higher force, thus the pantheism. Point of clarification, I’m seeing pantheism as a sort of lowest common denominator here–I see evidence for a Something, but nothing to specify whether that Something is a singular intelligent being, a group of beings, or even itself a complex but un-self-conscious system not unlike the human brain. There is just no way I can see of saying anything about God beyond His/It’s/Insert Politically Correct Pronoun Here’s existence itself.

    So since we agree on the existence of a Something, the question then becomes the nature of the Something (if you see a church of Somethingism a few decades down the road, remember, it started here!).

    This is where Kuhn comes into play. What explanation–religious entities included–best explains the universe as we see it? And, a corollary question, do we actually even know enough to posit an explanation?

    I’ll clarify the patterns issue. As I said, the risen god myth (pardon my terms) seems to me, and many historians, to come directly from prehistoric attempts to creative narratives from the agricultural cycle. Some of the details are, as you say, just stars–which God, being omnipotent, could easily shift around. But some stem directly from the very nature of the solar system and, by extension, the physical laws of the universe, like the axis of the planet and distribution of solar energy (ie, the seasons).

    The priveleged planet theory would indeed be good evidence, if it holds up–and recent (very recent, it could still go the other way) research shows it likely won’t. We’ve just recently discovered the first Earth-sized planet around a nearby star, and several gas giants, which shows us that planets, at least, are actually rather common. Stephen Hawking is actually getting ready to release a new book, called “The Grand Design,” which is on precisely this subject, and marks a divergence from his previous semi-deistic views of the universe as put forward in “Brief History of Time.” The best (or at least the most fun) analogy I’ve ever heard on the subject is Douglas Adams’ talking puddle story, which can be found in the Salmon of Doubt, and certainly somewhere online.

    So. Following Kuhn’s model, and in all honesty, which explanation best fits the evidence? Did the Judaic deity, with all his human-like passions and apparent late-term shift toward a more merciful treatment of his creatures, create the entire universe we see to reflect a specific historical event in our brief human history? Or is this universe we see the creation of some vast, incomprehensible, and utterly nonhuman entity, a complex system of which we are infinitesimal parts, and in which all of our religions are our merely human attempts to explain and narratize this vast world we live in?

    That was the crux of my decision. I cannot believe the universe is created for us, though I hope our species one day evolves to a point of greater predominance within it. I can’t believe one tribal god of thousands or millions just happened to be the one responsible for all of this. I can honestly say that, in my mind, no human religious story can account for our world. I can only accept many of the scientific theories because they contain vast blank areas which say, “we don’t know this part yet.”

    Thanks for talking, Digital. Usually when I get myself into these discussions I’m kicking myself by comment three and bowing out by comment six. It’s good to have a rational, civil discussion–let’s hope the habit spreads! :D

  • Digital

    Tim@107
    Thanks for talking, Digital. Usually when I get myself into these discussions I’m kicking myself by comment three and bowing out by comment six. It’s good to have a rational, civil discussion–let’s hope the habit spreads!
    Amen! (As a Christian I find it easier to have these conversations when I take the stance of learning and debating rather than trying to convert)

    I was going to comment on this because I had a wrong assumption that you were an atheist:
    “I also believe that our brains have evolved in order to find out how this universe works, for the simple reason that knowledge about how the universe works allows us to control the system, and thus survive”
    But you have said several times you could be considered a pantheist, so I apologize for it taking so long for that to sink in ;)

    “So. Following Kuhn’s model, and in all honesty, which explanation best fits the evidence? Did the Judaic deity, with all his human-like passions and apparent late-term shift toward a more merciful treatment of his creatures, create the entire universe we see to reflect a specific historical event in our brief human history?
    I think, you have a really really skewed version of the God of the bible. Were I a better study of the denominations I am sure I could peg where you learned it from but alas, I fail here. It seems you were lead to believe that God is somehow a shifting entity.
    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8
    God never shifted to “a more merciful treatment of his creatures”
    How could an eternal being that transcends time? How could we possibly think that the blip that is the Human race, change an eternal being? To your credit, it is absolutely insane that God should even care about us in the vastness of the universe. Francis Chan recently came out with a book “Crazy Love” that addressed this very subject. You are 100% right here:
    “Or is this universe we see the creation of some vast, incomprehensible, and utterly nonhuman entity, a complex system of which we are infinitesimal parts, and in which all of our religions are our merely human attempts to explain and narratize this vast world we live in?”
    Except for the existential part, precisely. As humans, we have no concept of the vastness of God except what he has revealed to us. Thus one of my favorite books ‘Flatland’. Is there more to God than revealed in the bible? Oh yes, how arrogant would we have to be to think otherwise? That we, finite creatures, could grasp an infinite God?

    “I cannot believe the universe is created for us…I can’t believe one tribal god of thousands or millions just happened to be the one responsible for all of this.”
    Again, the crux of the matter, the term “I can’t” perhaps you mean that (pardon me for shifting your words) “The evidence doesn’t support one tribal god of thousands or millions just happened to be the one responsible for all of this.”
    With the revised statement even then we are taking the god that you are aware of, and trivializing him as if the Tribe of israel were all there was to him. Rather God is bigger than that. He wasn’t so much a god that a tribe found. Rather He was a God that in His infinite wisdom, took a tribe and brought them up as an example for humanity as a whole to learn from. The whole of the OT isn’t God favoring one tribe and kicking down the rest of the world. It is God taking one tribe and making an example of them. Using them over a vast period of time (by our understanding) to teach us who He IS and who we are. To that end He reveals aspects of Himself to us to help our limited understanding. Do you think that the prophets just got that lucky in predicting the state of the universe? Or do you think God knew beforehand the state of the universe and thought…”you know what? There will be an astrological event that day, that is how I can explain the location of myself to them.” Which is more likely?
    I think you are closer to Christianity than you think. Rather you didn’t have a good Bible teacher growing up. This is evidenced by the comments of an ever changing moody God. Not that they were bad people but finding good Biblical Scholars can be difficult. Your descriptions of Christ and the Bible seem really limited, but we are in a forum so brevity is a necessity. However, as intelligent folk we are really good at filling in holes and researching ourselves. But it is just as easy for us to get odd concepts when we don’t have the shoulders of giant’s to stand on. Just as in Science we learn from our predecessors, we do the same in Theology. A fantastic read for you (I am guessing you have read it but I think you should re-read it) is ‘Mere Christianity’. CS Lewis used to have a similar understanding of God as you, this book is his formulaic approach to going from Pantheism to Christ on the Cross.

    So I will end this post with a question:
    Which is more likely?
    1. That a tribe of people crafted a god through several thousand years to explain their plight and successes. Who were able to predict a set of astrological and political events accurately hundreds and thousands of years in advance. Then thousands of people who met a teacher suffered horrific deaths to defend his divinity?
    Or
    2. An Omniscient and Omnipotent God created a universe and a race on a planet that he took interest in, then set aside a group of them to teach the world who He is?

  • Digital

    Tim@107
    Thanks for talking, Digital. Usually when I get myself into these discussions I’m kicking myself by comment three and bowing out by comment six. It’s good to have a rational, civil discussion–let’s hope the habit spreads!
    Amen! (As a Christian I find it easier to have these conversations when I take the stance of learning and debating rather than trying to convert)

    I was going to comment on this because I had a wrong assumption that you were an atheist:
    “I also believe that our brains have evolved in order to find out how this universe works, for the simple reason that knowledge about how the universe works allows us to control the system, and thus survive”
    But you have said several times you could be considered a pantheist, so I apologize for it taking so long for that to sink in ;)

    “So. Following Kuhn’s model, and in all honesty, which explanation best fits the evidence? Did the Judaic deity, with all his human-like passions and apparent late-term shift toward a more merciful treatment of his creatures, create the entire universe we see to reflect a specific historical event in our brief human history?
    I think, you have a really really skewed version of the God of the bible. Were I a better study of the denominations I am sure I could peg where you learned it from but alas, I fail here. It seems you were lead to believe that God is somehow a shifting entity.
    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8
    God never shifted to “a more merciful treatment of his creatures”
    How could an eternal being that transcends time? How could we possibly think that the blip that is the Human race, change an eternal being? To your credit, it is absolutely insane that God should even care about us in the vastness of the universe. Francis Chan recently came out with a book “Crazy Love” that addressed this very subject. You are 100% right here:
    “Or is this universe we see the creation of some vast, incomprehensible, and utterly nonhuman entity, a complex system of which we are infinitesimal parts, and in which all of our religions are our merely human attempts to explain and narratize this vast world we live in?”
    Except for the existential part, precisely. As humans, we have no concept of the vastness of God except what he has revealed to us. Thus one of my favorite books ‘Flatland’. Is there more to God than revealed in the bible? Oh yes, how arrogant would we have to be to think otherwise? That we, finite creatures, could grasp an infinite God?

    “I cannot believe the universe is created for us…I can’t believe one tribal god of thousands or millions just happened to be the one responsible for all of this.”
    Again, the crux of the matter, the term “I can’t” perhaps you mean that (pardon me for shifting your words) “The evidence doesn’t support one tribal god of thousands or millions just happened to be the one responsible for all of this.”
    With the revised statement even then we are taking the god that you are aware of, and trivializing him as if the Tribe of israel were all there was to him. Rather God is bigger than that. He wasn’t so much a god that a tribe found. Rather He was a God that in His infinite wisdom, took a tribe and brought them up as an example for humanity as a whole to learn from. The whole of the OT isn’t God favoring one tribe and kicking down the rest of the world. It is God taking one tribe and making an example of them. Using them over a vast period of time (by our understanding) to teach us who He IS and who we are. To that end He reveals aspects of Himself to us to help our limited understanding. Do you think that the prophets just got that lucky in predicting the state of the universe? Or do you think God knew beforehand the state of the universe and thought…”you know what? There will be an astrological event that day, that is how I can explain the location of myself to them.” Which is more likely?
    I think you are closer to Christianity than you think. Rather you didn’t have a good Bible teacher growing up. This is evidenced by the comments of an ever changing moody God. Not that they were bad people but finding good Biblical Scholars can be difficult. Your descriptions of Christ and the Bible seem really limited, but we are in a forum so brevity is a necessity. However, as intelligent folk we are really good at filling in holes and researching ourselves. But it is just as easy for us to get odd concepts when we don’t have the shoulders of giant’s to stand on. Just as in Science we learn from our predecessors, we do the same in Theology. A fantastic read for you (I am guessing you have read it but I think you should re-read it) is ‘Mere Christianity’. CS Lewis used to have a similar understanding of God as you, this book is his formulaic approach to going from Pantheism to Christ on the Cross.

    So I will end this post with a question:
    Which is more likely?
    1. That a tribe of people crafted a god through several thousand years to explain their plight and successes. Who were able to predict a set of astrological and political events accurately hundreds and thousands of years in advance. Then thousands of people who met a teacher suffered horrific deaths to defend his divinity?
    Or
    2. An Omniscient and Omnipotent God created a universe and a race on a planet that he took interest in, then set aside a group of them to teach the world who He is?

  • Louis

    Tim – Digital makes some good points, but as you insisted upon a certain type of answer, I’ll attempt to do so (actually, I was answering questions with questions, trying to get you to the negative version of the same answer, but seemingly I’m no Socrates :) )

    You essentialy ask – why this God, and not that one, as you appear to be quite open to the possibility of Theism – and I do apologise, I took you as some sort of moral atheist – liking the rules of the Buddha, but only as moral precepts. So, pantheist of sorts, eh?

    Anyway, what I’m about to give you is not a sngle coherent argument – you can guess my opinion of that. But the thing that makes Christianity the only fit for reality is it’s candid admission that we are all immoral cads, @ssholes (just to rile Grace) of the first degree, and that no amount of rule keeping, behaviour modification or anything is going to change that. As an aside, that is also why I seem to get up in arms every time that somebody seems to preach moralism. Morals are good things. Moralism is the worst thing of all. More than that, Christianity recognises that we will NEVER be good moralists, ever. Thus the Savious who carries the Blame, but also brings eternal Life. Because it is a reality of our human natures that we are aware of our imperfections – either we hide them (denialism), or we ignore them (hypocracy), or we despair (good!).

    That is but one aspect.

    Another can be best explained, also by CS Lewsi, but not in “Mere Christianity”, which is an apologetical work, but in his “Pilgrim’s Regress”, which puts it much better than I can do – I have a great affinity with this book, because I have lived, in a manner, much of what he says there. If you ever read any Christian book again, read that one (sorry Digital, but I inisist ;) ).

    So in a way, one can say that from a scientific, evolutionary standpoint, such as what you are coming from, the argument for Christianity is twofold: First the argument for Transendence, or Theism of whatever variety (pan- , poly or else) lies in the development, evolution if you will, of the religious impulse in humanity. I’m hard pressed to explain that one, other than there is actually a Deity. Second, our accute self awareness, especially of our “fallen nature”, is unique, and does not serve an evolutionary purpose, yet it is there, hypocracy and denialism aside. Despair is a hallmark of humanity. And only Christ speaks to that despair in terms fitting with our Fallen natures.

    This is not all what I wanted to say, but I’ll stop there. Put it in your pipe and smoke it, as they say….

  • Louis

    Tim – Digital makes some good points, but as you insisted upon a certain type of answer, I’ll attempt to do so (actually, I was answering questions with questions, trying to get you to the negative version of the same answer, but seemingly I’m no Socrates :) )

    You essentialy ask – why this God, and not that one, as you appear to be quite open to the possibility of Theism – and I do apologise, I took you as some sort of moral atheist – liking the rules of the Buddha, but only as moral precepts. So, pantheist of sorts, eh?

    Anyway, what I’m about to give you is not a sngle coherent argument – you can guess my opinion of that. But the thing that makes Christianity the only fit for reality is it’s candid admission that we are all immoral cads, @ssholes (just to rile Grace) of the first degree, and that no amount of rule keeping, behaviour modification or anything is going to change that. As an aside, that is also why I seem to get up in arms every time that somebody seems to preach moralism. Morals are good things. Moralism is the worst thing of all. More than that, Christianity recognises that we will NEVER be good moralists, ever. Thus the Savious who carries the Blame, but also brings eternal Life. Because it is a reality of our human natures that we are aware of our imperfections – either we hide them (denialism), or we ignore them (hypocracy), or we despair (good!).

    That is but one aspect.

    Another can be best explained, also by CS Lewsi, but not in “Mere Christianity”, which is an apologetical work, but in his “Pilgrim’s Regress”, which puts it much better than I can do – I have a great affinity with this book, because I have lived, in a manner, much of what he says there. If you ever read any Christian book again, read that one (sorry Digital, but I inisist ;) ).

    So in a way, one can say that from a scientific, evolutionary standpoint, such as what you are coming from, the argument for Christianity is twofold: First the argument for Transendence, or Theism of whatever variety (pan- , poly or else) lies in the development, evolution if you will, of the religious impulse in humanity. I’m hard pressed to explain that one, other than there is actually a Deity. Second, our accute self awareness, especially of our “fallen nature”, is unique, and does not serve an evolutionary purpose, yet it is there, hypocracy and denialism aside. Despair is a hallmark of humanity. And only Christ speaks to that despair in terms fitting with our Fallen natures.

    This is not all what I wanted to say, but I’ll stop there. Put it in your pipe and smoke it, as they say….

  • Digital

    Louis@109

    Someday you will learn that ALL my points are good points :)

  • Digital

    Louis@109

    Someday you will learn that ALL my points are good points :)

  • Digital

    Haven’t read pilgrim’s Progress, I will take your word for it :)

  • Digital

    Haven’t read pilgrim’s Progress, I will take your word for it :)

  • Louis

    Digital – very important: NOT Piligim’s Progress, but Pilgrim’s REGRESS. The first is by an anabaptist with good rhetorical skills, but theological baggage. The second is by a pipe smoking, beer drinking atheist-turned-anglican, and friend of Tolkien. I know which one I’d prefer….. :)

  • Louis

    Digital – very important: NOT Piligim’s Progress, but Pilgrim’s REGRESS. The first is by an anabaptist with good rhetorical skills, but theological baggage. The second is by a pipe smoking, beer drinking atheist-turned-anglican, and friend of Tolkien. I know which one I’d prefer….. :)

  • Digital

    Louis@112
    Sorry about that, one of those things where my brain filled in the holes. I need to read more carefully!
    Beer and Theology go hand in hand in my world. To this end I have a small group that meets weekly to drink a good selection of beer (Hoptoberfest on tap right now at our bar) and discuss theology. I get a variety of people coming in and out, there is a very new facebook group for it as well. Veith’s blog has been fodder for conversation lately.

  • Digital

    Louis@112
    Sorry about that, one of those things where my brain filled in the holes. I need to read more carefully!
    Beer and Theology go hand in hand in my world. To this end I have a small group that meets weekly to drink a good selection of beer (Hoptoberfest on tap right now at our bar) and discuss theology. I get a variety of people coming in and out, there is a very new facebook group for it as well. Veith’s blog has been fodder for conversation lately.

  • Louis

    Digital – I’m envious. I brew my own (limited beer budget), but have extended this to wine, mead, cider etc. I’m dead serious when I say that I doubt the faith of teetotallers – because it generally indicates moralism, which is diametrically opposed to True Faith. I’m not saying they are not going to heaven though. But…….

  • Louis

    Digital – I’m envious. I brew my own (limited beer budget), but have extended this to wine, mead, cider etc. I’m dead serious when I say that I doubt the faith of teetotallers – because it generally indicates moralism, which is diametrically opposed to True Faith. I’m not saying they are not going to heaven though. But…….

  • Digital

    Louis@114
    Limited budget here as well, I need to brew a good fall ale.
    I plan on greeting the teetotallers with a pint of heavenly ale as they arrive to heaven…might have to start them on a lager to ease them in…

  • Digital

    Louis@114
    Limited budget here as well, I need to brew a good fall ale.
    I plan on greeting the teetotallers with a pint of heavenly ale as they arrive to heaven…might have to start them on a lager to ease them in…

  • Louis

    Digital – I have just tasted the first of my latest pale ale – and it’s one of the best I’ve done. Plus, last night I had the last of my previous brew – a stout.

    Lagers – definitely a beginner’s beer…..

  • Louis

    Digital – I have just tasted the first of my latest pale ale – and it’s one of the best I’ve done. Plus, last night I had the last of my previous brew – a stout.

    Lagers – definitely a beginner’s beer…..

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Hey guys, back again, Hurricane Earl briefly knocked out my internet here.

    Amen to beer and religion–I actually had a chance to have a pint in the Eagle and Child in Oxford, which I highly recommend. Also, if you ever get a chance, take a trip to Georgia (the country, not the state). Best mix of interesting faith, hospitality, architecture, and a nine thousand year old winemaking tradition I’ve found yet.

    I’ve read Pilgrim’s Regress, which honestly struck me as somewhat too guilt-ridden, but I read it a long time ago, so maybe it’s due another visit. Mere Christianity is on the list–I’m reading through Dawkins’ “Selfish Gene” right now, so maybe it’d make a good balance. ;)

    @Digital, I know the arguments you’re talking about. I actually studied the Bible fairly extensively–to the point of learning Koine Greek and familiarizing myself with Hebrew–but it was almost entirely self-taught, and it’s certainly probable that I missed some things. The same evidences you’ve quoted were very strong for me as well. I’ll tell you the conclusions I came to so you can see where I’m coming from on those points.

    1. Prophesy. The two really convincing prophesies in the old testament I’m aware of are the political predictions in the book of Daniel, and the prophesies about Christ. Daniel’s actually seem to me to be the strongest, but I know there are some controversies about the dates involved, and they aren’t enough in themselves to convince me.

    The prophesies about Christ I would say are actually easier to explain, if you again go back to the risen god myth. There are several non-Biblical historical references to Christ, but all of them except Josephus say something along the lines of, “there was in Judea a cult who believed Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.” Many of them also point out that Jesus was crucified, though none save Josephus claim the resurrection actually happened. Josephus actually says Jesus was the Messiah, but as Josephus was a Jew, and never became a Christian, I hold with the view that the line about the resurrection in Josephus’ account was added or modified later.

    So the only details we have about the life of Christ–the details, in other words, which seem to confirm the old testament prophesies–are only found in the Christian account, which would, of course, have fitted all prophesies relating to the prophetical figure Jesus was supposed to have been. I actually suspect that the NT figure of Christ may have been culled from two actual historical figures–one the pacifist, non-nationalist Jesus other historical accounts talk about, and one a more nationalist, revolutionary messiah claimant, the one who tells his followers to beat their plowshares into swords. But that, of course, is a whole different issue, and I’ve done far from enough research on the topic.

    The gist is that the historical figure of Christ was filled into the mythic archetype of the risen god, much in the way many historians believe the god Odin to have been formed from a Roman-era Norse king. You can see this also in the non-Biblical details of the Jesus story. For instance, the “three wise men,” never mentioned in the Biblical account by number, were a common element of the risen god myth, caused by the three stars of Orion’s belt, which point to the sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice, December 25th. Between those three stars and the sunrise is Sirius–the “star in the east.” So the astronomical event you referred to wasn’t a prediction, it was a yearly observation. If you have any doubts about that, just look at a map. The “magi” were the Magian sect of Persia, a Zoroastrian sect, possibly looking for their own risen god, Mithras. They were based in modern day Iran. They may, of course, have been in Syria, Mesopotamia, or Egypt. In none of these cases could they have arrived in Bethlehem or Nazareth by “following a star in the east.” The astrological explanation simply makes more sense.

    Finally, there is the argument that people wouldn’t have died a lie. That, unfortunately for the rest of us, just doesn’t hold up. This moves into the field of cult psychology. It’s something I don’t understand yet, but which can at least be demonstrated by looking at any number of modern cults. Aum Shinrikyo, Jim Jones, David Karesh–the list goes on. If you want a particularly striking example, look up James Randi and the Carlos cult. The truth is, in small religious cults, people can and will believe almost anything. it’s possible that this is the one new, small religious group whose claims were actually true, but again, I find it rather unlikely.

    Anyways, like I said, I’ll look up “Mere Christianity.” If you have any other good books on these topics, I’d certainly be interested.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    Hey guys, back again, Hurricane Earl briefly knocked out my internet here.

    Amen to beer and religion–I actually had a chance to have a pint in the Eagle and Child in Oxford, which I highly recommend. Also, if you ever get a chance, take a trip to Georgia (the country, not the state). Best mix of interesting faith, hospitality, architecture, and a nine thousand year old winemaking tradition I’ve found yet.

    I’ve read Pilgrim’s Regress, which honestly struck me as somewhat too guilt-ridden, but I read it a long time ago, so maybe it’s due another visit. Mere Christianity is on the list–I’m reading through Dawkins’ “Selfish Gene” right now, so maybe it’d make a good balance. ;)

    @Digital, I know the arguments you’re talking about. I actually studied the Bible fairly extensively–to the point of learning Koine Greek and familiarizing myself with Hebrew–but it was almost entirely self-taught, and it’s certainly probable that I missed some things. The same evidences you’ve quoted were very strong for me as well. I’ll tell you the conclusions I came to so you can see where I’m coming from on those points.

    1. Prophesy. The two really convincing prophesies in the old testament I’m aware of are the political predictions in the book of Daniel, and the prophesies about Christ. Daniel’s actually seem to me to be the strongest, but I know there are some controversies about the dates involved, and they aren’t enough in themselves to convince me.

    The prophesies about Christ I would say are actually easier to explain, if you again go back to the risen god myth. There are several non-Biblical historical references to Christ, but all of them except Josephus say something along the lines of, “there was in Judea a cult who believed Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.” Many of them also point out that Jesus was crucified, though none save Josephus claim the resurrection actually happened. Josephus actually says Jesus was the Messiah, but as Josephus was a Jew, and never became a Christian, I hold with the view that the line about the resurrection in Josephus’ account was added or modified later.

    So the only details we have about the life of Christ–the details, in other words, which seem to confirm the old testament prophesies–are only found in the Christian account, which would, of course, have fitted all prophesies relating to the prophetical figure Jesus was supposed to have been. I actually suspect that the NT figure of Christ may have been culled from two actual historical figures–one the pacifist, non-nationalist Jesus other historical accounts talk about, and one a more nationalist, revolutionary messiah claimant, the one who tells his followers to beat their plowshares into swords. But that, of course, is a whole different issue, and I’ve done far from enough research on the topic.

    The gist is that the historical figure of Christ was filled into the mythic archetype of the risen god, much in the way many historians believe the god Odin to have been formed from a Roman-era Norse king. You can see this also in the non-Biblical details of the Jesus story. For instance, the “three wise men,” never mentioned in the Biblical account by number, were a common element of the risen god myth, caused by the three stars of Orion’s belt, which point to the sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice, December 25th. Between those three stars and the sunrise is Sirius–the “star in the east.” So the astronomical event you referred to wasn’t a prediction, it was a yearly observation. If you have any doubts about that, just look at a map. The “magi” were the Magian sect of Persia, a Zoroastrian sect, possibly looking for their own risen god, Mithras. They were based in modern day Iran. They may, of course, have been in Syria, Mesopotamia, or Egypt. In none of these cases could they have arrived in Bethlehem or Nazareth by “following a star in the east.” The astrological explanation simply makes more sense.

    Finally, there is the argument that people wouldn’t have died a lie. That, unfortunately for the rest of us, just doesn’t hold up. This moves into the field of cult psychology. It’s something I don’t understand yet, but which can at least be demonstrated by looking at any number of modern cults. Aum Shinrikyo, Jim Jones, David Karesh–the list goes on. If you want a particularly striking example, look up James Randi and the Carlos cult. The truth is, in small religious cults, people can and will believe almost anything. it’s possible that this is the one new, small religious group whose claims were actually true, but again, I find it rather unlikely.

    Anyways, like I said, I’ll look up “Mere Christianity.” If you have any other good books on these topics, I’d certainly be interested.

  • Digital

    Tim@117
    Glad you made it through ok, here in the Midwest we just have to worry about those tornadoes and harsh ice storms :)
    1. Prophecy:
    While I love Daniel, my favorite prophecies are as follows:
    Psalm 22: No way David knew of the method of death.
    Amos 8:9: I have read accounts that there may have been an eclipse coinciding with Christ’s death as one was due around that time.
    Micah 5:2: It is not argued (that I am aware of) where Christ was born.
    “I actually suspect that the NT figure of Christ may have been culled from two actual historical figures–one the pacifist, non-nationalist Jesus other historical accounts talk about, and one a more nationalist, revolutionary messiah claimant, the one who tells his followers to beat their plowshares into swords. But that, of course, is a whole different issue, and I’ve done far from enough research on the topic.”
    I have a hard time believing that the scriptures could have been altered in such a fashion with such consistency. That would take quite the leap of faith and would have drastic consequences for our view of the authentication of non-biblical texts we have. The texts were written pretty darn close (within 100 years) of Christ’s life. Authority of the texts is a far reach in my opinion, but as you said, another topic for another day.

    You do keep eluding to issues with Christ’s story being repeated throughout civilization. There is no problem with that. In fact most of the Old Testament is pointing out that particular foreshadowing. It would only suffice that similar situations would arise in cultures. Also being that religions branched from Judaism it would be rational that they would echo the Jewish beliefs in other fashions. Again this makes the case for Christianity, not against it.

    “Finally, there is the argument that people wouldn’t have died a lie. That, unfortunately for the rest of us, just doesn’t hold up. This moves into the field of cult psychology.”
    The examples you give are valid, but just a piece of the puzzle. MANY more people died than any of those cults. But with Christ unlike Jim Jones, you had predictions leading to his life. You had lifelong teachers baffled by his knowledge, you had witnesses of miracles. With the modern cults you have one guy claiming superiority. I would say the best example we have to support your argument is Mormonism. To that argument I have no answer, Mormons baffle me.

    As for studying the bible extensively. Many intelligent people have done so and come to erroneous ends. Calvin, Wesley, Luther..just to name some. I am relatively these three spent more time with it than any of us in this thread :) They still needed correction and help.
    I think that to be where you are is quite incredible, you have used your reason and kept an open mind that there is a bigger design out there that is evidenced by science. But, as an academic, you are in a world where it is…uncomfortable…to be a Christian, so it is easier for your intellect to justify not believing in Christ as the God. For all intensive purposes it would be much easier for you to be apathetic, but you actually research and look for the truth, a rare quality indeed even amongst Christians.
    I maintain with the evidences you are having issues with that it points more TO Christ than away.
    Take everything you have said separately, Prophecies, Consistencies in Culture, Cult Psychology. It is easy to dismiss them. But put them together, along with the historical events, and you start painting a really big picture that looks a little too smooth. How do you reconcile the whole picture? As a physicist at heart I love dividing things up and then putting them back together to form a coherent understanding of a bigger item. With Christianity, when I focus on one or another I can easily dispel and explain things. But when I put them all together..prophecy, cult following, historical reference, personal experience, etc. I just cannot by my own reason or strength believe otherwise.
    So my final quesiton here is how do you reconcile the whole picture? Coincidence? Leave it as it’s parts? Or are you still working on it?

    No more books, “Mere Christianity” is my go to book for intellectual apologetics. I rarely recommend it for the non-academic or light reader :)

  • Digital

    Tim@117
    Glad you made it through ok, here in the Midwest we just have to worry about those tornadoes and harsh ice storms :)
    1. Prophecy:
    While I love Daniel, my favorite prophecies are as follows:
    Psalm 22: No way David knew of the method of death.
    Amos 8:9: I have read accounts that there may have been an eclipse coinciding with Christ’s death as one was due around that time.
    Micah 5:2: It is not argued (that I am aware of) where Christ was born.
    “I actually suspect that the NT figure of Christ may have been culled from two actual historical figures–one the pacifist, non-nationalist Jesus other historical accounts talk about, and one a more nationalist, revolutionary messiah claimant, the one who tells his followers to beat their plowshares into swords. But that, of course, is a whole different issue, and I’ve done far from enough research on the topic.”
    I have a hard time believing that the scriptures could have been altered in such a fashion with such consistency. That would take quite the leap of faith and would have drastic consequences for our view of the authentication of non-biblical texts we have. The texts were written pretty darn close (within 100 years) of Christ’s life. Authority of the texts is a far reach in my opinion, but as you said, another topic for another day.

    You do keep eluding to issues with Christ’s story being repeated throughout civilization. There is no problem with that. In fact most of the Old Testament is pointing out that particular foreshadowing. It would only suffice that similar situations would arise in cultures. Also being that religions branched from Judaism it would be rational that they would echo the Jewish beliefs in other fashions. Again this makes the case for Christianity, not against it.

    “Finally, there is the argument that people wouldn’t have died a lie. That, unfortunately for the rest of us, just doesn’t hold up. This moves into the field of cult psychology.”
    The examples you give are valid, but just a piece of the puzzle. MANY more people died than any of those cults. But with Christ unlike Jim Jones, you had predictions leading to his life. You had lifelong teachers baffled by his knowledge, you had witnesses of miracles. With the modern cults you have one guy claiming superiority. I would say the best example we have to support your argument is Mormonism. To that argument I have no answer, Mormons baffle me.

    As for studying the bible extensively. Many intelligent people have done so and come to erroneous ends. Calvin, Wesley, Luther..just to name some. I am relatively these three spent more time with it than any of us in this thread :) They still needed correction and help.
    I think that to be where you are is quite incredible, you have used your reason and kept an open mind that there is a bigger design out there that is evidenced by science. But, as an academic, you are in a world where it is…uncomfortable…to be a Christian, so it is easier for your intellect to justify not believing in Christ as the God. For all intensive purposes it would be much easier for you to be apathetic, but you actually research and look for the truth, a rare quality indeed even amongst Christians.
    I maintain with the evidences you are having issues with that it points more TO Christ than away.
    Take everything you have said separately, Prophecies, Consistencies in Culture, Cult Psychology. It is easy to dismiss them. But put them together, along with the historical events, and you start painting a really big picture that looks a little too smooth. How do you reconcile the whole picture? As a physicist at heart I love dividing things up and then putting them back together to form a coherent understanding of a bigger item. With Christianity, when I focus on one or another I can easily dispel and explain things. But when I put them all together..prophecy, cult following, historical reference, personal experience, etc. I just cannot by my own reason or strength believe otherwise.
    So my final quesiton here is how do you reconcile the whole picture? Coincidence? Leave it as it’s parts? Or are you still working on it?

    No more books, “Mere Christianity” is my go to book for intellectual apologetics. I rarely recommend it for the non-academic or light reader :)

  • Digital

    Oh and when you read Mere Christianity I recommend a good Brown Ale or a porter.

  • Digital

    Oh and when you read Mere Christianity I recommend a good Brown Ale or a porter.

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    You bring up some good points. I still have a lot of learning to do. As to Mere Christianity and a good porter, it’s a plan. Cheers!

  • http://www.goodandlost.org Tim Raveling

    You bring up some good points. I still have a lot of learning to do. As to Mere Christianity and a good porter, it’s a plan. Cheers!

  • Louis

    Tim – one last recommendation: Sometimes it is easier to few these issues of science, faith, evidence etc through the lens of fiction. In this vain I would heartily recommend the novel Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn.

  • Louis

    Tim – one last recommendation: Sometimes it is easier to few these issues of science, faith, evidence etc through the lens of fiction. In this vain I would heartily recommend the novel Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn.

  • alfC

    If there were a God, there would be no Christians

  • alfC

    If there were a God, there would be no Christians

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  • Tom Hering

    Yes, if God were a God of justice only, there would be no Christians – or anyone else. But God is love, so here we all are.

  • Tom Hering

    Yes, if God were a God of justice only, there would be no Christians – or anyone else. But God is love, so here we all are.

  • alfC

    If there were a God, there would be no rapist
    Yes, if God were a God of justice only, there would be no rapist – or anyone else. But God is love, so here we all are… with the rapist.

  • alfC

    If there were a God, there would be no rapist
    Yes, if God were a God of justice only, there would be no rapist – or anyone else. But God is love, so here we all are… with the rapist.

  • http://www.Toddstadler.Com tODD

    AlfC (@124), yes, here we are, with the rapist … and even with the likes of  you!

  • http://www.Toddstadler.Com tODD

    AlfC (@124), yes, here we are, with the rapist … and even with the likes of  you!

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