The rational genius of Christianity

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I have zero interest in converting anyone to Christianity, be it “my” version of the faith or otherwise. Why would I? As long as your beliefs don’t in any way contribute to the oppression of others (such as, oh, gosh, I dunno—gay people or women), then what you believe is nobody’s business but yours.

Business I do accept as mine, though, is defending the sheer, clear, tight-as-a-frog’s-butt rationality of what I believe. As a logical construct, core Christianity has always been as solid as a Roman arch. It is simply not vulnerable to the accusations of being intellectually untenable. And I must admit that I find exasperating the constantly proffered assumption that it is.

If it’s true that God exists (and the chances are exactly even on that either way; so choosing to vote that there is a God hardly represents a failure of reasoning), then the traditional, old-school, Gospel-based story of Jesus Christ is perfect. It works. It makes sense.

It’s just … genius, to say the least.

God made and sustains us and the world in which we live; God gave us free will; an inevitable consequence of free will is guilt (because being free to make so many choices means that we necessarily make a lot of bad, wrong, and selfish choices, for which—what with our being imbued with a conscience, and all—we are then bound to feel guilty); guilt and shame are the first and most enduring cause of human suffering; God yearns to relieve our suffering; God’s love for us also prohibits his violating our free will; God simply appearing to all people simultaneously and announcing that he/she is real and that Everything Is Going To Be Okay would eradicate human free will (since free will is grounded in the unknown open-endedness of life); God needs a way to at once preserve our free will and demonstrate in the strongest possible way that he/she is real and that Everything Is Going To Be Okay (which is to say that we are all fully and absolutely forgiven for our sins—meaning that we no longer have to feel guilty about them); God incarnates him/herself as Jesus Christ; since Jesus Christ is mortal, anyone has grounds for choosing to believe that he was not, in fact, divine; human free will is minimally, and only temporarily, compromised.

And voila. Perfection.

To boil it down to its absolute essence:

God → us → free will → guilt/shame → suffering  → Jesus → Jesus on the cross → forgiveness  →  reconciliation → peace. (And, for an extra-special bonus, the Holy Spirit!)

Two thousand years later, and here we are. A lot of people believe that Jesus Christ was God made mortal who came to first prove that he was God (raise people from the dead much?) and to then, in about the most dramatically unforgettable way possible, absolve us of our sins. And a lot of people don’t believe that.

Which of course is cool. We all have the right to believe what we want.

But say what you will about the core story of Christianity, you can’t say it doesn’t make sense. If you start with the reality of God, then the story of Jesus Christ follows, as inevitably and naturally as can be. The basic, unadorned, unembellished story of Christianity is so perfect that I personally don’t see how anyone could have simply made it up.

Sure, much of what people have done with Christianity is ridiculous and disastrous. But that’s just people screwing up. Given the inevitably negative byproducts of free will, that’s only natural.

I don’t like a lot of what Christianity has become, and feel compelled to do my best to help bring it back to what I believe it was meant to be. And just because I don’t put a lot of energy into selling the core of what Christianity is doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend the Christian way. I most certainly and unreservedly do. But I also understand and respect why anyone who thinks that believing in Christianity would in any way limit their free will or compromise their identity would flee from it like a rabbit from a lion.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com Keshia W

    Can you explain the implications of Jesus’ command that we die to self? I like myself, and I don’t want to die.

    • vj

      My own understanding is that Jesus is asking us to put His commandments (love God, love one another) ahead of our own concerns – not a literal, physical death, but an acknowledgement (by our words and actions) that to love is more important than to pursue riches or career or family or friendships or status, etc. The Bible tells us to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added’. So, it’s not even that desiring these other things is necessarily bad, but we should try to not allow our pursuit of them to impede our ability to demonstrate love…

      • http://thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com Keshia W

        Thank you. Truly.

        • vj

          Glad I could help :-)

      • gregory

        As Jesus’s basic commandment, that we love our neighbor, as our selves … he is actually summoning us to an approach to live our lives, and measure our well-being .. by first putting away greed,selfishness, instant gratification, and live thru the lens of lifting up a real, and a spiritual “common good”. A sense of living for the larger purpose of goodness and shared humanity. To make choices of free will, based upon this “higher good” .. or “Kingdom of God”, at times making immediate sacrifice, in the interest of long term, shared lifting up toward a goal of living with a Divine intention, being fulfilled and uplifted thru the gratification of lifting up the blessings and bounties of life with consideration of all others, with a higher, selfless motivation beyond our own personal interests, or abilities… and being empowered by being a participant in God’s Kingdom. Perhaps a commitment to an emotional, spiritual commitment to live, and make each day, and decision … with the consideration, “What would Jesus do”.

      • Soulmentor

        I always thot of it that way too, but you said it very well.

    • Anne

      Keshia W I recommend you read the book “Immortal Diamond; discovering your true self” by Father Richard Rohr, this will answer your question completely.

      • DR

        YES! This book is incredible!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The graphic makes it look like the foundation is johnshore.com! :-)

    • James

      wait. it’s not? ;)

  • Ronald

    Dear John,

    It seems you’re struggling to find a way to believe in your Christian god. Maybe it’s time to accept there is no god and truly enjoy this gift of nature.

    In your text there are many assumptions that are not in line with reality and seem to be invented by you to create a god.

    You say that the chances are exactly even if there is a god or not. I don’t want to be rude but that is a very simple way of looking at it. That like saying at a lottery the chances are even because you either win or not. But we probably both learned in math class that the chance is the number of tickets you have divided by the total number of tickets. So if you have 1 of 1 million tickets the chances are 0.0001 %. If you really want to calculate the chances there is a god that’s not so easy to calculate of course. But I can tell you for sure it’s even less than the one lottery ticket. Even if there was A god you will need to be lucky it is your Christian god. Since mankind started around 100.000 years ago we have had around 2000 gods so the chance it is the Christian one is 1/2000 (if there would be one).

    You also write that Christianity is so perfect that you personally don’t see how anyone could have simply made it up. Couldn’t you say that about any made up story, movie or book??? They are all so perfect they have to be true?? There must have been people who told you these bible stories are all copies of previous folklore stories. They are always about good and evil, about the rich and the poor or the beauty and the ugly. Since people were able to communicate there have been stories about gods and angels. Have you ever read the Greek stories??

    I hope you don’t dislike me for pointing these things out. I know you probably need to believe in a god just for your peace of mind. But lately things have become very clear to me and I need to share it with you!

    I think the most important thing you should keep in mind is the enormous amount of knowledge and information that has been collected the last couple of hundred years. After the church stopped killing anybody busy with science and biology mankind has found out so many things. Can you imagine how much we would have known now without the 1000 years of oppression by the church?? If you compare the knowledge in the time of the Jesus stories and now it’s like a drop of water and an ocean of water. Like one grain of sand and a beach of sand.

    Unfortunately your bible is the drop of water and the grain of sand…

    Come to the light John!

    It’s the Sun!

    Ronald

    P.S. Maybe you can help me out with this little question; are the Christian god and Muslim god the same god?? If they are there has been so much bloodshed for nothing (crusades) and if they are not I am curious which 1 billion of followers have been following the wrong god their whole lives for the last 2000 years. And maybe if they are not the same god there is an even greater chance there is No god.

    • Donald Rappe

      I appreciate your well thought out statistical analysis of John’s basic premise. I personally cannot accept any theology (in distinction to faith) which begins with the premise: “If it’s true that God exists …” because it lowers God to the level of one of his creatures. I do agree with John that his thoughts on the subject are highly rational. This is as it should be for all of us creatures to whom god has given a reasonable soul. In the past, when I was in need of theological thinking, I received quite a bit of comfort from the three volumes of Systematic Theology by Paul Tillich. I recommend them to anyone who is concerned with a non superstitious approach to the Christian faith.

      Ronald, I would call your attention to your easy acceptance of the myth that Christianity has delayed modern science. It is no accident that its founders like Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Gauss, Faraday, Maxwell and Darwin were brought up and trained in the christian tradition. There are many other christian names to numerous to mention. I only mention these so you can see that your notions about Christianity retarding the growth of knowledge form a much more nonsensical blindness to the obvious than John’s theological assumptions. It is characteristic of Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, to hold knowledge of God’s creation in high regard.

    • James

      Hi, Ronald,

      I’m not John but, hey, that’s never stopped me from speaking for him before! ;)

      I can tell you a little bit from the field of semiotics (yes, that’s a thing) that it’s not so much either the Christians or the Muslims have been following the “wrong” God but that they’ve both been following an internal word-picture of God that places them at odds with one another rather than in harmony. In John Shore’s word-picture of God, all faiths everywhere that have a deity are based in some part on the same God that Christianity follows. But those followers being human, speaking numerous different languages and coming from many diverse cultural backgrounds definitely do not all form the same word-pictures in their minds when they hear “God” spoken or see “God” written.

      Does that help?

      • Jill

        I like that James. :)

        • Anne

          James, well said. That way of explanation is very helpful, than you!

          • Anne

            oops again! (should be “thank you” :)

        • vj

          ditto

      • Elizabeth

        Semiotics are complicated. It is funny how people misinterpret clearly-written text. I think the idea of different cultural word-pictures is brilliant. You might try reading Gilgamesh as an über-source.

        • Elizabeth

          I mean, I read it at 10.

    • Anne

      Let’s just have less dialogue and more knowing. That’s what Truth/God is, after all (and it isn’t in human intelligence that this “knowing” exists, it just IS).

      • DR

        Love this. Agree.

    • DR

      It’s so weird to see those of you who are atheists – who incessantly complain about evangelism – try to convert others to your own way of thinking with condescending, “come to the light” statements. Human beings are fascinating.

      • vj

        Exactly – I have atheist family members who are also vegetarian. They never miss an opportunity to [sometimes-not-so-]subtly impugn the moral uprightness of people who continue to eat meat (and drink hard liquor, although they themselves are more than happy to imbibe wine and beer!) – but would be most put out if they were similarly ‘confronted’ with someone trying to persuade them to accept that there is a spiritual dimension to life…

        • DR

          It’s just a different side to the “arrogant” coin and it’s just as patronizing, distancing and annoying as Fundamentalists who insist on inserting their faith at any given moment. There is zero difference.

    • brmckay

      @Ronald

      What would the Emergent Property of Infinite Potential be like?

      Just look around.

      Where do you think the finite comes from?

      What is the prototype for your sense of self?

      What aspect of this self dies when the body associated with it dies?

      After contemplating the first question presented above? Is self finite or infinite?

      If your answer is finite, then carry on as you are.

      @everybody

      If the nature of self is infinite. As Jesus demonstrated, would the self really be like the “pseudo” infinities of unending mathematical sets? Or…truly infinite. The single “I am”. The Self. God.

      What does “resurrection” mean?

      • Anne

        Resurrection means, knowing the above…the demonstration of it ?

      • brmckay

        @Ronalds reply to my reply

        Sorry Ronald it got purged. I suspect because of the ridicule factor. (Seemed sort of irrational for someone who wants to be thought of as rational.)

        I did suggest that orienting yourself to the finite (quantifiable) aspects of the universe is fine for someone who needs to do it that way. It is hardly the whole picture though.

        I’m curious, when you present your own list of questions about facts such as the speed of light, number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy, etc., are you saying that these are more “meaningful” than the questions I presented above?

        Because, later you go on to say that knowing the answers to those types of questions means knowing that the earth is a very small part of the Universe. And because it is small it is “meaningless”? Is the Universe also meaningless? Is the knowledge we gain through science meaningless as well?

        The Universe without the Earth, would of course fall apart at the seams.

        What is gravity?

  • Brian W

    John,

    I liked your post, but I do have a question, if every Christian had the same attitude you did about evangelism ( “I have zero interest in converting anyone to Christianity”) How is it then that anyone will come to believe? Didn’t some one share the Gospel with you, didn’t some person influence you in your conversion? Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach (proclaim to all) the Gospel. There is example after example in the Gospels after a person is converted they immediately went to the people they knew to share what Jesus had done for them (salvation).

    As a Christian we have a duty to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ when the opportunity presents itself and we are to certainly “proclaim” the Gospel in how we live, no doubt, but also in word, since the Gospel is the Good News…news we should share with the world

    • Barbara Rice
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Brian: This isn’t 1 A.D. Everybody’s now gotten the news about Christianity. It’s time for Christians to stop worrying about the Great Commission, and start worrying about the Great Commandment.

      • Christy
      • Brian W

        John,

        Agreed, but like you noted many people have a mis-understanding of Biblical New Testament Christianity really is and if we don’t openly and honestly engage people (in word and deed) when the opportunity presents itself, we are missing an opportunity that someone took with YOU and someone took with ME. Frankly, there are still many, MANY people I come across in our multi-ethnic society that are completely clueless as to what Christianity is and who Jesus Christ is. Our actions certainly speak volumes to the unbeliever, but that doesn’t negate the spoken word to people regarding the Good News of the Gospel. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” Rom 10:17

        • Christy

          I think there is a world of difference between being a Christian and telling people about why they need to become a Christian, and, from my experience, being is so much more effective and well received than telling. It also comes from a deep place of authenticity rather than from a motive of needing to help fix or change someone. It is a shift in mindset and seeing. Accepting people where they are is part of building an authentic relationship built on mutuality and respect and trust. Looking at others as potential recipients of and in need of what you have to offer is a very inauthentic, one-sided point of view that usually does not foster healthy nor effective relationships. Caring about someone involves a deeper sense of commitment found in the first example that is usually missing in the second. And people know it.

          • Brian W

            Agree 100%

        • DR

          Multi-ethnic? I’m confused, is it just white people who are Christian? Last time I checked, there is a tremendous amount of people of color who are Christian.

      • Leslie Marbach

        Bravo, John. Too often we see people so concerned with the Great Commission that they forget all about loving people.

    • vj

      There is a difference between having an experience (whether of God or cheesecake) and being so excited/moved by that experience that one wants to share that experience with friends/family/anyone who will listen (or follow us on Twitter), and thinking that we must convince those we share with to also try to have the same experience.

      While John has expressed no interest in converting anyone to Christianity, he certainly does a most wonderful job of telling people, on an almost daily basis, what he has experienced, what he understands of God and following the way laid out for us by Jesus, etc. Of course we are called to live out our faith, but our primary calling is to love, and to hope that that love will draw people to Christ – ‘sharing’ the Gospel with the intent of ‘converting’ someone very often ends up not being loving, and of chasing people away from Christ, because we become focused on whether our ‘efforts’ are producing ‘results’, and not on how we can best love an individual in a particular situation.

      • Jill

        Can I have God *and* cheesecake?

        • Matt

          Of course not! Don’t you know Bible and Paul and verses and somesuch? Where is Leviticus when I need it…

          • vj

            ;-)

          • Jill

            No wonder I didn’t make it as a fundie. I want it all.

        • Don Rappe

          You really have very little disagreement with John. Your problem is with your own naive interpretation of the God who spoke through the Biblical prophets.

          • Don Rappe

            Thanks to he wonder of modern technology, I dropped this comment to Bruce in here, where i only intended to remark that cheesecake is not an abomination if you can learn to eat it without bacon.

          • Jill

            I have now learned something new and enticingly dangerous… bacon cheesecake.

            Don, it’s only half as fun without you around! :) :) :)

    • Elizabeth

      I was baptized as a baby. I was fire-and-brimstoned into getting saved again while visiting a Baptist church at 8. Then at 16 a group at camp ambushed me in the woods and laid hands on me. I got off my knees, pushed them off, and ran. I couldn’t stop shaking for an hour. They never even asked if I’d been “saved” before.

      Three times saved was enough, for a long time. That’s how it feels from the other side: an attack. There is nothing charitable about conversion doctrine. People ask when they’re ready.

      • Jill

        Holy fright, Elizab! Maybe one day conversion doctrine will be viewed like old-time cocaine drops for toothaches– sounds like a good idea, but wholly unnecessary.

        • Elizabeth

          Cocaine drops aren’t a good idea? o_0

          • Jill

            Technically speaking.

          • Matt

            Fun fact: Cocaine-soaked swabs are excellent vasoconstrictors (narrows blood vessels). You can still spot them in your local ER being used to stop up stubborn nosebleeds.

          • Elizabeth

            Nasal vasoconstrictors? You don’t say.

          • Matt

            Yup. The things you learn growing up with a trauma nurse for a mother!

          • Elizabeth

            Another fun fact: Ritalin is thisclose to pharmacy-grade cocaine. That’s right, we’re overprescribing it to children. Thumbs up, Matt.

          • Elizabeth

            Molecularly, I mean. No judgment.

          • Jill

            Matt, I love all your hidden gems of knowledge. You make learning fun! ;)

      • Brian W

        Hyper-Fundamentalism is what you experienced, scary indeed

        • Elizabeth

          I was friends with those kids. I’m still friends with those kids. Two are Buddhist and one’s New Age. I didn’t self-identify as a Christian for a decade. I humbly ask if you aren’t missing the point, Brian. Everyone loses.

        • DR

          You’re missing everyone’s point Brian, because you continue to only see Christianity through the lens of your specific choosing.

      • Kathy in KC

        That’s what scares the pookie out of me about Christianity. That’s why I’m an agnostic theist. Meaning, MAYBE there is something bigger than we are, and I don’t know what it is. I will never know what it is. So please don’t whack me over the head with the Bible or God or Jesus or anything else. If you are not “saved” that does not mean you are going to hell. At least that is the belief of most mainstream denominations. So don’t worry, study all the different beliefs of denominations similar to (or very different from) yours and decide what makes sense. You will find peace somewhere in the middle, is my guess. Best wishes.

      • Allie

        People do ask when they are ready. I had a conversion experience when I was in college, and at first I believed I was duty-bound to bother other people with details of what had happened to me. I’m sure I was a lot of fun at parties.

        But then I was fortunate enough to have a second experience. Basically it was made clear to me that not everyone received the same gifts, that although I had a personal experience of God, I had not been given the gifts of an evangelist, and that God was perfectly capable of doing for others what he had done for me.

        Since then my policy has been to try to live my life as well as I can and to tell people what my secret was only if they asked. And they DO ask! Over thirty years or so, dozens of people have asked, and listened, and been infinitely more likely to hear and believe me than if I had tried to bully them at random with details of my subjective experience of God.

        I think the first rule of speaking to others about God, indeed, this is my understanding of the commandment “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain,” is to try not to make God look like an asshole.

        • vj

          Awesome!

    • Jill

      For what it’s worth Brian, having once been one of those people knocking on your door on a Saturday morning trying to convert all those inside, it is SO not necessary to convert anybody. Nor is it effective.

      Does anyone enjoy being force fed? Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard something of Christ. You could probably close your eyes, walk into someone, and find a Christian with whom to converse freely. They’re kinda everywhere by now.

      If a person is ready, the teacher will arrive. This is the book that answers you completely: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/my-books/im-ok-endorsements/

      I like your last point– I prefer seeing the example of the Gospel in a person’s life too. That’s always been what has informed me of what God is capable of creating.

      • Brian W

        Hi Jill,

        I wasn’t really talking about door knocking per se, more of when a person, because of your actions and behavior, asks you why you seem different and you have the chance to share with them the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how He changed you from within. An unbeliever should first see our love for our fellow man/woman before getting all up in thier grill and asking “if you were to die today would you go to heaven, hell or don’t you know…blah…blah….blah”

        • Jill

          Well I don’t really see people like John Shore and the commenters here hiding their light under a basket.

          Genuinely I have yet to see or experience a conversation where that dialog would not be in some way scripted or seem forced. It comes across as arrogant and overreaching. And I’d walk away from anyone who’d even consider asking me about the status of my afterlife.

          Again, not my way of finding Jesus, but hey, we’re all individuals, aren’t we?

        • Christy

          BW said “grill.” Smiling.

          So, yes. *That* version seems to be more effective. The: “Hey, you seem to be a Christian – y person but you don’t seem to want to chase me down in the woods and lay hands on me to cast out demons. What gives?”

          That seems…normal.

    • Anne

      In my experience Brian W, to “preach the gospel” is more about ‘being’ than ‘doing’ anything. If you a living the life of Christ, like Jesus, the people will come to you, to find out “what you have” ( that they are looking for). It was those that were receptive, that came to him, that were able to embrace the truth that Jesus was teaching and demonstrating.

      • vj

        Yes – we are called to have a ready answer for our faith, which seems to imply WHEN SOMEONE ASKS YOU ABOUT IT, not some random stranger you go up to ‘cold’ and start foisting stuff on…

    • DR

      Do you really believe that God is so limited that He couldn’t figure out a way to get the word out if we didn’t have tracts and people yelling on streets about Jesus? Or even you bringing it up in ordinary conversation when you feel compelled to do so? I find it so arrogant to suggest that the Holy Spirit can’t make a move without Christians telling someone that God has a wonderful plan for their life.

      • Jill

        Oh yeah. Exactly.

  • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

    John,

    You say it is 50/50 God exists. I think you are incorrect. You assume there is equal evidence for God existing and equal evidence for God not existing. Is there some evidence that God exists? Perhaps. But 50/50? Not a chance. :)

    You use the word God but what you really mean is the Christian God. (That is unless you are a universalist, then why bother?) There is a huge difference between saying, it is “possible” a God of some sort exists and saying the Christian God, the virgin-born, resurrected from the dead Jesus, is the one, true living God. Unless you think all Gods are equally God, then you need to be precise about which God you are talking about.

    As an agnostic on the God question, I can intellectually understand how someone might believe a God exists. However, when someone suggests that God is the God revealed in the Christian Bible…I say, show me the evidence. Show me the bridge that gets me from A God to THE God. As of this moment, I am confident such evidence does not exist.

    I understand, you WANT your beliefs to be viewed as rational, as making sense. However, your belief system requires supernatural faith, and such a faith, by definition (Hebrews 11) , is not rational.

    I respect your beliefs. I respect you as a person. But, you have a lot of talking to do to convince me your beliefs make sense. This will require evidence you can’t produce.

    Bruce

    • Elizabeth

      “The question of whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the Universe has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed.” –Charles Darwin

      “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” –Albert Einstein

      “I have looked into most philosophical systems and I have seen that none will work without God.” –Physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell

      “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” –Cosmologist Allan Sandage

      “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” –Sir Isaac Newton

      Sorry, my college roommate studied philosophy of science, and I can’t Google the Descartes.

      • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

        Here’s the problem with these quote. None on them address the issues I have raised. John isn’t writing about the deistic, creator God these quotes are talking about. John’s God is a specific God, one God out of all the gods in the panoply of gods. His God is the Christian God, the God revealed in the Bible.

        I hope you can see the HUGE chasm between these two understandings of God. The former I can understand. The latter? I see no evidence for. To say it is “possible” a deity of some sort created the universe, most atheists/agnostics would agree. Possible, yes. likely, no. It is all about probabilities.

        To say the Christian God is this creator? A very different proposition, and based on my long years in the Christian church and study of theBible, an unlikely proposition. If John is holding some secret, unknown evidence, I’d love to see it. :)

        • Elizabeth

          John, and these scientists, are saying the Judeo-Christian concept of God is rational and probable. You’re on your own for secret, unknown evidence.

          • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

            Last try at this. The concept of a creator God of some sort certainly is possible. (Since there can be no certainty on the matter) However to conclude that that God is the Christian God revealed in the Christian Bible is a huge leap in logic and is not a leap that I think is supported by the available evidence.

            It doesn’t matter that millions believe in the Christian God. Billions of people believe in all sorts of deities, and if the Christian God is the one, true God then all these other deities are no gods at all. This means billions of people believe a lie.

            Now if John is really the universalist I suspect he is, then he needs to say then. Then I have no problem with his God since it doesn’t matter.

            Can’t say any more on this so I will let this be my last comment.

          • Elizabeth

            You’re not really talking to me, you’re talking to John, so I agree: there’s no point in arguing. I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that while John respects all faiths and all opinions, he’s not a universalist.

            It is funny, if it doesn’t matter, that you bothered trying to ‘reason’ with me.

          • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

            Ah, I just like an argument. :)

            At the end of the day I don’t care. I consider John a friend and he knows this. I just don’t buy his logic. :)

          • Elizabeth

            John’s the best. He puts up with me. (:

          • Gary

            Actually Einstein was a pantheist and mocked the idea of a persinal god.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com brmckay

            Did Einstein call himself a pantheist?

            Personal God?

            Is it personal if one such as Jesus demonstrates absolute identity with Universal Self? Not just “his” but “yours” and “mine”?

            And, by this, demonstrates that forgiveness has never really been in question?

            Or, that death of our True Self is impossible?

            People should stop referring to the “Christian god”, the “Muslim god”, the “Hindu god”, the “Pantheist god”, the “Atheist no god god”…. it is just plain silly and blocks awakening.

            All of these copyrighted god’s represent the universal impulse towards knowing. The impulse itself is God, our own True Self; Both calling out to us, as well as hearing and sometimes, even heeding the call.

            It can be nothing other than Personal. Both the dilemma and it’s resolution. Nothing other than God. Universal and Self Aware.

            And now, I’ve used way too many words to say something so utterly simple.

          • Jill

            Absolutely. I SO get that we all have our own style, drawn to our personal flavor of the Divine, hence the outpouring of 10,001 different ways to name it. It’s in the copyrighting of it that adds just more layers of ego-separation between You and Me, between Me and the Source. Separation = NOT the point.

            If I get there through something resembling Christianity, good, great, cool. If not, okay then. Learning slowly that life has too many layers to make any assumptions.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com brmckay

            Yes! Ego-separation….sanskrit is ahamkara, which means “i maker”.

            Not a problem in and of itself, until we forget to open the windows and doors to let in light and fresh air.

            Doesn’t Christian mean “Christ Like”.

            One who has broken down the walls.

    • Anne

      To me in all comes down to ones concept of “”God”. The God I believe in is very different to popular Christian belief, or the God that atheists don’t believe in. I think this is where all the contention lies. John, why do you feel you have to “defend” your beliefs? Truth is it’s own defence. It’s not our job to put our “beliefs” out there and try to convince others the logic of them, we are all quite capable of “knowing the truth”.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Anne: I’m not defending my belief system. I’m presenting it for anyone who might find it beneficial to them. BIG difference.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Brooooooooce!

      Okay, that was fun. But more to your points:

      You said, “Is there some evidence that God exists? Perhaps. But 50/50? Not a chance.” Obviously, I feel differently. I don’t see how anyone can look around at the world–much less look around at the phenomenon of their own existence–and NOT see direct evidence of God. But of course that’s just a matter of subjective perspective. Maybe there’s a God; maybe there’s not. I think it’s reasonable to give even odds on that bet.

      You said, “You use the word, God but what you really mean is the Christian God.” that’s not actually what I wrote. I started out with the one big Generic God, and then said that from that God inevitably flows the incarnation of Jesus. I didn’t say that was the only thing the Big God might have done; I made no claims at all about the exclusivity of the Christian way. I said … exactly what I said, and no more.

      You said, “Show me the bridge that gets me from A God to THE God.” I did. That was the whole POINT of this post. Did you miss the part with the arrows? That’s the bridge.

      You said, “I understand, you WANT your beliefs to be viewed as rational, as making sense.” Wrong. I couldn’t care less if what I believe makes rational sense; I have a very limited respect for what can be apprehended rationally. But the theology in which I believe does make perfect rational sense, and I don’t see any reason to pretend it doesn’t.

      You said: “I respect your beliefs. I respect you as a person.” Thank you! I feel the same way about you.

      You said, “You have a lot of talking to do to convince me your beliefs make sense. This will require evidence you can’t produce.” A. To repeat from this post: I have zero interest in convincing you or anyone else of … anything at all, and especially anything about God. B: I’ve never for a moment argued that the kind of “evidence” you’re asking for is possible; in fact, I’ve made the strongest case I know how for why such evidence is not only not possible, it’s not even desirable.

      • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

        And I agree with you to some degree. I can certainly understand how someone can look at the natural world and wonder if there is a God. Believe me, I do it myself. I certainly don’t think science has come anywhere near answering the origin question, contrary to what my blathering, filled with certainty, atheist cohorts might suggest.

        For me, the problem comes when people suggest, imply, or directly state that that God is the Christian God or any other sect’s God for that matter. When people take this approach I want to know how they get from A God to THE God. As you may or may not know, I have written a good bit on this subject.

        Now does this matter? Hell no. Let’s go have a beer. :) The real enemy is Fundmentalism in all of its shapes, sizes, and nuances.

        As always, I remain your friend.

        Bruce

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          As you may or may not know, I have a group called Unfundamentalist Christians. It’s eighth tenet reads in part: “It is much more reasonable—and certainly more compassionate—to hold that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different cultural streams, than it is to believe that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God … ”

          So clearly you’ve got no bone to pick with me. Or … not that bone, anyway.

          Thank you for your graciousness, which I appreciate.

        • Aggie

          Bruce, enjoyed the comments and thoughts. I really enjoy John’s blog– but it sounds like you and I come down at about the same place. I benefit from a lot of Christian insights I think, but I don’t think the supernatural elements ring true. Great mix of folks in this group.

          • Anne

            Aggie, in response to “I don’t think the supernatural elements ring true” is because their not “supernatural”…their divinely natural. but we are trying to understand this phenomena with our “little” human mind (which of course can’t be done). In time as our understanding expands, we will see “things” as they really are and I believe this is the “truth” that Jesus came to teach and demonstrate. At the moment it seems though that we are largely “missing the mark”, so are coming up with all these human theories to try to explain this, as yet, misunderstood aspect of Christianity.

    • Allie

      Gotta take issue with “unless you’re a Universalist, then why bother?”

      It’s true that Universalism, the belief that everyone gets into heaven, means there’s no fear-based reason to believe in or follow God. But surely there are motivations based on emotions other than fear? Surely it’s possible to believe in God because he’s real, and to follow him because he’s good?

      • Anne

        I agree Allie, if you ‘re believing in God based on “fear”, then you’re actually “worshiping” the wrong god. Our God being Love is the opposite of fear…”perfect love casteth out fear” (I’m not talking about the human version of love here though).

  • Diane U.

    John,

    Dude, you’re like a modern-day C.S. Lewis.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      In boxers!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        (no, but thank you, Diane, for that very fine compliment.)

  • http://readingseisho.wordpress.com friendly reader

    I know I got into deep doodoo for bringing this up on another thread… but my problem is with the “free will” point. It seems to assume that free will is an obvious thing. I’ve never felt that it is.

    What do you mean by “free will”? That our decisions are ours to make, that they’re not determined, right?

    Well, how are our decisions not directed and determined by everything that has come before us? When you make a decision, isn’t it based on everything you’ve experienced, everything you know, as well as your personality and mood at the time? If these things were different, wouldn’t you likely make a different decision?

    And if you don’t make a decision based on everything you’ve experienced etc., then what are you making your decision on? Eenie meenie miney moe?

    So maybe free will is the idea that you can’t foresee what decision we’ll make. First, how is that different from randomness? Second, why are human beings free from the basic law of A causes B?

    Is there some other definition of free will that you have that answers these questions and I’m just missing?

    I know that a firm insistence on free will is often a stand against the kind of Calvinist idea that God micromanages the universe and damns and saves people based on whim, and I think it has some use for people who feel like nothing in their lives matter if their choices aren’t completely independent of everything that came before… but I’ve never been able to see how that is possible. And sure, sometimes it stresses me that I’m being buffeted about by forces that I can’t control, but sometimes it also reassures me that everything I do also determines the future and affects and alters other people.

    I guess I also don’t see God as so completely separate from creation as that, so hands off (I consider myself a Christian panentheist). It also opens up the possibility of God basically letting us go to hell because he can’t “compromise” our free will, which I refuse to accept (I’m a universalist).

    I know you see it very differently, and we may not be thinking of free will the same way. But it seems to me that “free will” is the big column holding up your theology and you haven’t offered any defense or explanation of it.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      The concept of “free will” is a rather tough one to grasp. And that being said, there are various schools of thought on the matter.

      True we are contained within parameters not of our making, when it comes to decision making, such as experiences, culture, personality, etc. Yet even within those boundaries we still end up with loads of choices. For example your decision to post here, and mine to respond. No one coerced us to do that, or to even read John’s blog. We chose that completely on our own. Just as we chose whether to get up and go to work, or head back to bed, or what shoes we were going to put on, or whether we were going to treat the cashier at the coffee shop nicely, even if we were running late and she was in slow mode.

      We will make mistakes, we will also have some pretty cool successes, because we are not held only by one thing, instinct. Ok, I’m slightly wrong, breathing, heart beat etc. are examples of instinct, but deciding to run a mile will effect the rate and intensity of both. We can choose just to watch others do that to themselves while we sip that coffee from earlier.

      I don’t see God as completely hands off, as I think that we are given insights, feelings, purpose by God. I also don’t buy the letting us go to hell…well cause I don’t buy into hell. I see a lot of problems with that aspect of Christian theology.

      Freedom to make choices, good or lousy, is part of Christian theology, or some people’s theology. It being the BIG column? I don’t think its that at all.

      • Anne

        Free will…God’s will. I guess it all boils down to “who” you are listening to (or for that matter, how much listening is being done). In the day to day choices we make, deciding whether to go to work or stay in bed or even what shoes to wear, to me, has little to say about “will”…there just our every day, non-important mechanisms.

      • http://readingseisho.wordpress.com friendly reader

        Sure, I *chose* to post… but I can directly tell you why, and know that if circumstances were different, I would have chosen differently. If it was just “I chose,” then that falls back into “choice is random.” We choose “because” and it’s that “because” that determines what we choose.

        You use the word “coercion,” which I didn’t but I knew might come up. “Coercion” means compelling someone to do something by threats, violence, or force. There’s different levels to that. You can literally squeeze someone’s finger on the trigger, but that makes it *your* choice and action, determined by *your* past and *your* temperament. Their finger pulled the trigger only in a technical sense. You’re not coercing a choice, you’re coercing a finger…though you’re also helping to determine what choices they will make in the future.

        You could drug someone, hypnotize them, make them suggestible. But that actually feeds into my idea that our actions are determined by things past. Our bodies are pumping full of hormones and chemicals that determine our moods, our personalities, and thus the decisions we make. Our upbringings condition us and make us more likely to listen to certain arguments and reject others. The only reason drugs and hypnotism feel different is because they’re sudden and unnatural. They transform us into someone other than who we normally are, so that we feel disassociated. Non-human factors can do the same thing – mental illness is a big one.

        You could also threaten someone. Threaten their life, threaten their family. Compel them to make a decision… though of course if you play it the wrong way they may choose death or sacrifice the ones they love. This kind of coercion isn’t wrong because it somehow disrupts free will, but because, well, putting a gun to someone’s head or to the head of their child is just an awful, awful thing to do.

        I’m willing to accept the idea of not coercing people the way I talked about above, in the sense of making people feel disassociated. God isn’t about making people do things regardless of whether it feels in keeping with who they are. God is about about making the world a place that causes people to do the right thing – and thus making people into people who do the right thing without a feeling of coercion. It’s gradual, it’s subtle, it’s not “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!”

        I think people *do* make choices, even if they’re determined by the past, and I think the choices that we make do matter, because they determine the future. But I also think if you were completely omniscient, yes, you would know the choices that people will make.

        Of course, to be completely omniscient you’d have to exist outside of time and space, at which point using the future tense, or any tense for that matter, doesn’t make any sense!

        “Free will,” “determinism”… if these ideas have any value at all, it’s not for talking about God, but for us making models of how to live. And I’ve found far more sense, looking at my life, to see myself as one ever-changing element of a stream of interconnecting causes and effects rather than as a completely free agent. It explains the mix of powerlessness and purpose that I feel in my everyday life. It gives me a strong sense of social ethic, since responsibility is shared. But I also know a lot of people prefer the idea of free agency for their own reasons… I just don’t get it, and I can’t build an explanation of Christianity based on something that doesn’t speak to me.

        Thanks for engaging me without accusing me of turning God into an awful tyrant. That’s where it went pretty quickly last time. >_< I don't believe in the idea of hell either, but I was thinking of this post: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.jp/2013/04/love-and-freedom-conditionalism-vs.html

        • http://readingseisho.wordpress.com friendly reader

          By the way, if we’re talking about “why we’re Christian” accounts, this is all part of why I keep coming back to Jesus, even though I love and have gained so much from other religious traditions around the world. Jesus – the incarnate God, 100% human and 100% divine – his life, message, death, and resurrection, all embody this message about God. God’s not coercive – he’d rather die than destroy his enemies; he’s not distant – the universe is so connected to him, he can physically be part of it. He’s with you always, he will transform you, he will transform the world, and nothing, not “death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

        • Christy

          Hi, friendly reader,

          You wrote: “I’ve found far more sense, looking at my life, to see myself as one ever-changing element of a stream of interconnecting causes and effects rather than as a completely free agent.”

          I hear you, but I think where we are missing each other on what free will is has to do with how we are defining as influences – both interior and exterior influences. You seem to be attributing things like hormones, past experiences, personality, mood, upbringing as factors that “influence” our choices and decisions and therefore, as an influencer, means our will is not really all that free. I understand what you are saying, but I have to disagree as these are all internal things that most people consider to be a part of ourselves.

          Vereses external influencing factors like coercion, threats, manipulation, drugs and hypnosis. These all require influence by other people to act on us in ways that subjugate our free will and self-determination to another.

          Therein lies the difference. It seems you are attributing internal influences that most people would include in what we call our “self” to a category of “other than self” and likening it to an outside influence. I think this is a mistake to try to separate the gestalt of our experiences and our biology from who we are in order to achieve an abstract notion of a “pure” sense of “free will” that is completely absent any internal influence of “self” whatsoever in a blank vacuum. It’s just not possible.

          Learning, by its very nature, is meant to build on past experiences to better influence future choices and outcomes. The free will of the kind you seem to want to notionally suggest would mean decision making would be based on what? This kind of free will or choice-making is non-existant. Free will, in the way most people refer and understand it means: free from external to oneself coercion or manipulation or influence or threat.

        • Tim Northrup

          Hi,

          I guess you and the others here cover determinism and absolute free-will pretty well here, but I have another viewpoint and an observation.

          Some will say Free Will is not necessarily about not being coerced but about you being the one deciding–influenced by your past or independent of it. this is typically called compatibilism–the thought that if you made the decision in that moment, causes don’t matter because we have captured the important thing in you making the choice. It is hard for me to defend that view (me being an absolutist in this regard on the pro-free-will side) but it needs to be out there.

          I guess the main reason why people say one has to have free will (the free ability to choose in spite of all other temporal consideration, along with the assumption that the choice one makes is in principle unknowable because we are free) comes from that dislike of the Calvinist-type theology in most Christians, but there are those strains of thought in all religions and the relevant sciences as well, and the debate is always about two things. 1) if we don’t have free will, we have to change so many other societal assumptions about punishment, guilt, treatment, etc. In other words, we have to treat transgressors differently (and I would say better, but that isn’t here or there).

          and 2) If it is possible to predict based on the current state of the universe that i will choose to wear a red shirt and eat at Burger King tomorrow, it really ceases to be a choice from the effective perspective for many (including myself). Now I’m not an autonomous individual, I’m a robot executing my programming. Not to say that we aren’t all that to some extent, but fully would be disconcerting and have its own moral issues.

          These consequences are important. I forget where I heard the first one, but there are two things I think of when I ask myself these philosophical questions. One is to paraphrase: ‘there are some things one believes that are so important one must continue to believe them even if they aren’t true: the good guys win, all will be well in the end, etc.’ the other is from my favorite video game, and I’m pretty sure I’m quoting directly here: “To be wise means having an answer ready when you ask yourself the question. Knowledge is knowing which question is the right one to ask”. On both accounts, I think philosophically and religiously free will is important, prior to considerations of theology.

          • Anne

            The allegory of Adam and Eve, I think is a good example of the merits of free will as opposed to something better, ( that they already had, but didn’t realize). Tim your philosophical statements at the end of your post regarding “believing something to be true that isn’t” and your examples listed #1… we will have to actually wait until the end to know, don’t you think? and #2 the same consciousness that asks the question, is the same consciousness that answers it…so good luck there! :) God’s will might be the better option after all? Can’t hurt trying.

  • clevedotoner

    Hi,

    Can someone explain to me why Islam or Hinduism are more irrational as compared to Christianity?

    Thanks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Did anyone say they were?

      • clevedotoner

        Sorry, I dont know how to quote:

        John Shore said – “Did anyone say they were?”

        No. But a logical follow up to this post would be, what is so great about Christianity then? It is just like any other religion. It is not any more or less rational than other religions out there.

        • Elizabeth

          A fully-human man lived a short life teaching the poor, the criminal, the marginalized. Then he died painfully on a cross. All so you would be forgiven, forever, for making petty, inflammatory remarks and whatever other sins you commit: we all commit. That’s what makes it a great worldview, at the very least.

          • clevedotoner

            A fully-human man lived a short life teaching the poor, the criminal, the marginalized.

            Was JC the first human to teach the poor, criminals and the marginalized?

            Then he died painfully on a cross. All so you would be forgiven, forever, for making petty, inflammatory remarks and whatever other sins you commit: we all commit.

            I dont get this. Sorry. This – someone dying for someone else’s sin – is NOT rational.

            That’s what makes it a great worldview, at the very least.

            I am not disputing that the story of JC will be moving for Christians. But the story of Mohammed is moving for Muslims, the story of Buddha is moving for Buddhists and the story of Krishna is moving for Hindus. Are you saying that Muslims/Buddhists/Hindus do not have enough in *their* scriptures to provide them with a great world view?

            My point is this – there is nothing in Christianity that is special as compared to other religions. Mulsims/Buddhists/Hindus are moved by their scriptures just as equally as Christians are moved by theirs.

          • Elizabeth

            You will find many parallels in the four religions you compare. I’m moved by all of them. And no, shutting up and letting people scourge, taunt, and pierce them is not rational. It’s holy patience. That’s why He’s in the Bible, and I’m talking to you.

          • vj

            “I dont get this. Sorry. This – someone dying for someone else’s sin – is NOT rational.”

            It is rational if we accept the premise that God is love – that he loves us with a magnitude of love that we don’t truly grasp in our finite experience and understanding. Motivated by love, it is conceivable that even humans would make the decision to take upon themselves the punishment due to someone else, because they consider it a worthwhile sacrifice to make. If firefighters, soldiers, etc, can choose to sacrifice their own lives so that others might live, it doesn’t seem too much of stretch to accept that God incarnate would give up Himself so that we all might be spared too.

          • clevedotoner

            @vj:

            the premise that God is love – that he loves us with a magnitude of love that we don’t truly grasp in our finite experience and understanding.

            What happens to non-Christians in the afterlife as per your faith?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            That depends on whom you ask within the body of Christianity. Catholics will have a different answer from Evangelicals, Quakers from Pentecostals. Some make it a Christian or else answer, others think that there is no hell, (myself included) and still others, don’t worry about a supposed afterlife, considering this life a greater importance, letting God sort out whatever will happen, and trusting him/her to act in a compassionate manner for everyone. (I’m in that camp too.)

          • vj

            Yes, I tend to favor that last option too (if there even is an afterlife, which we simply cannot be 100% sure of until we die).

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

          Why would you think any religion is irrational? Is it just because there is a certain level of intangiblity in religion? Why one more irrational than another?

          • clevedotoner

            Why would you think any religion is irrational?

            The point is that not all religions can be simultaneously rational. There are irreconcilable differences between them. Either Krishna is God or Jesus is God or neither are God. Krishna and Jesus can not simultaneously be God. So, if Christianity is true then Hinduism is false and vice versa.

            I take issues with the article above because whether Christianity is rational or not, depends on being able to prove that all other religions are irrational. If all other religions are as rational as Christianity, then Christianity is nothing special. So, I am waiting to see an argument as to why Christianity is more rational than other belief systems.

          • Christy

            RE: “Krishna and Jesus can not simultaneously be God.”

            Why not?

            Re: “So, if Christianity is true then Hinduism is false and vice versa.”

            Why?

          • clevedotoner

            @Christy:

            Why not?

            Well, JC said” “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

            Krishna said “Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.”

            Now, these are contradictory messages. Dont you agree?

          • Christy

            Only if you take them literally and with a limited view.

          • clevedotoner

            Only if you take them literally and with a limited view.

            Hmm…what figurative and broad view would make the message of JC compatible with the message of Krishna?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Cleve: surely you’ve something better to do than play “Trick the Christians”?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            He’s trying to “trick the Christian?” Well, if that is the case, I’ve yet to see any tricks. Maybe there needs to be more substance to the act. You know, flying tigers, flaming half sawn boxes, with feet sticking out, and spandexed costumes with lots of glitter.

          • Christy

            I am more than willing to admit that my knowledge of Hinduism is significantly limited, however in that limited study it seems to me, at least in my view, that Brahman and Atman are perfectly compatible with Christianity and dying to oneself in order to follow the way of Jesus and be at oneness with God.

          • brmckay

            @clevedotoner

            “what figurative and broad view would make the message of JC compatible with the message of Krishna?”

            Non-difference from God. Both cases identical.

            How would the words sound if they came out of your mouth?

            Finger pointing at the moon.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            I disagree. They could very well be talking along the same lines about the same thing, but presenting it in different framework.

            Christian and Hindi thoughts on the divine some differences, but Jesus and Krishna are each considered divine by the adherents of that faith. I find it interesting that both said quite similar things to their devotees. Both pointing to God, of which they are both considered.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            There is rationality in all religions, as well as combatability. There is also irrationally and incompatability there. I don’t see it as an either or, or a need to discredit one for the sake of others. All John was saying is that Christianity has some pretty out there teachings, irrational ones in fact, yet it still contains validity, meaning and purpose for its adherents. Trying to prove other religions as irrational is really a waste of our time, because we got our own silliness within our own.

          • Tim Northrup

            I’d like to take a minute here to confirm something. If by “rational” you mean “true” then you might have an argument–(and I’m one of the few on here who will tend to agree with you, though I dare say what we do with that opinion will be very different). But, a stickler for language (especially philosophical terms like “rational”) I have to point something out. Rationality/Validity are secondary questions after you prove the premises of an argument true–so, something can be rational and false. In this vein, if you accept the truth of their premises, all religions are rational (including Scientology, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Church of Satan, and as one of my friends has as his facebook “Religious views” “Tom Brady’s Right Arm”.

          • vj

            I think you may be onto something here – ‘true’ and ‘rational’ are not necessarily synonymous…

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            Rational/true can be a bit subjective. For example I am afraid of spiders. I don’t mind them doing thier spidery things, as long as they do it outside and have no near contact with me. Being touched by one, or its webbing is something I dread, so based on that rationality I am diligent in avoiding them, and scream loudly if in contact (or close proximity) with anything spider related.

            Such a thing is true to me, and quite rational. To others I may be percieved as a person who has an irrational fear of spiders. It is however all perception. Religion so often falls in the “perception of rational/irrational” category when looking at how others do faith.

          • Elizabeth

            Rational and false. This dichotomy is better than Diet Coke for waking up my tired little brain. Thank you.

          • Tim Northrup

            Yes, it was when I was in intro logic for me. The thought that an argument or point had to be both valid/rational and that all its premises had to be true to work took some time to wrap my mind around, but made sense once it set in. However, this isn’t a forum on AEIO Logic, so I’ll leave it at that.

  • Hannah Givens

    Needed this.

  • Lesley Maynard-Pegg

    I always enjoy what you write and love how you explain things. Amazing what honestly and earnestly seeking the Truth instead of truth can do for you. Jesus was right, the Truth will set you free.

  • Bill Rogers

    Excellent argument!

  • Steve

    Sin and evil are not an inevitable result of free will. I’d just prefer my free will to be able to choose either chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

  • Amy

    Um … I like this

    God → us → free will → guilt/shame → suffering → Jesus → Jesus on the cross → forgiveness → reconciliation → peace. (And, for an extra-special bonus, the Holy Spirit!)

    BUT, where is resurrection? Or is it unnecessary in your model?

    • Christy

      Well, technically, in a substitutional atonement model this was accomplished on the cross, not in the resurrection.

    • vj

      From a Christian perspective the resurrection is what gives us hope that we, too, will one day be resurrected (because death has been defeated), but it is not ‘necessary’ for the forgiveness and reconciliation part of the equation, which is what impacts on us in the here and now…

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        yes. thank you.

      • Tim Northrup

        A lot of the divining of the importance of resurrection depends on the believer. I don’t think many would argue it required for salvation in the effective sense, but in the sense that it is the clearest, simplest, most believable way for people to latch on to that hope of both resurrection and (depending on your denomination) power, guidance, or faith itself, I must say it was quite elegant.

        Psh! you thought all those resurrections of other people were a big deal?!? I’ll just resurrect MYSELF now! Now, what are you going to do, kill me again? (as Jesus might have put it if he had John’s sense of humor.)

        • vj

          ;-)

  • clevedotoner

    @John:

    Cleve: surely you’ve something better to do than play “Trick the Christians”?

    John. This is your blog. I do not want to engage in any “trickery”.

    Au revoir!

    • Elizabeth

      Honestly, he was barely any fun. Let’s get back the one that intones like Charlton Heston.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Cleve: To be clear, I don’t mind sincere and respectful queries; I more than welcome them. But if you’re just here to … essentially argue, then I’d appreciate you going elsewhere. If I’ve misread the tone of your questions here, and you’re genuinely interested in respectfully exchanging thoughts and ideas, I apologize for that, and invite you to continue.

  • brmckay

    @gregory

    “As Jesus’s basic commandment, that we love our neighbor, as our selves ”

    Inch by inch…. we approach it.

    our neighbor is our self.

    • Anne

      Spot on !

  • Lamont

    “I have zero interest in converting anyone to Christianity, be it “my” version…”

    If it’s your “version” of Christianity John… it’s not Christianity at all.

    It’s Christianity, or it is not.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Right. Because if history’s taught us anything, it’s that everyone agrees there’s only one version of Christianity.

      • Barbara Rice

        Zing!

      • Jill

        I want a Like button right here.

        • Aggie

          Very good point.

          According to David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia, there are over 30,000 Christian denominations in the world today. (I think the most recent version says 38,000– but last edition that I looked at said 32,000 as I recall.) Of course, this doesn’t count denominations and sects that have come and gone over the last couple millenia. And of course, many denominations have very similar theological frameworks and some denominations have a wide range of opinions. Hopefully if there is a God “up there,” he won’t be too strict about theology. Lord knows it’s pretty mind-boggling…

          http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0195079639

  • http://www.atheistgeeknews.com/ Isaac J. Harris

    John, I appreciated your post at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2014/01/why-atheists-win-arguments-with-christians/. (I would have commented on it, but I can’t seem to leave a comment over there for some reason.) I read this article to see how you would build an argument for the reasoning behind Christianity since you mentioned that in the first article. Especially since, on the surface, they seemed to contradict one another. This only made me more curious about what you might have to say about this.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe this article works nearly so well as the first. I’m not sure how you connect the points you have cited (the story elements of Christianity) with the conclusion that Christianity is logical perfection. The idea that God revealing himself would somehow impede free will is, to me, an extremely weak point I’ve heard other apologists make. Just one example of the issues it raises: Satan met God personally, yet he rebelled and seems to retain his free will. Why couldn’t we?

    I didn’t write this comment to belittle you or your article or to even give you a hard time about your beliefs, but to ask for more and to point out that – to a non-Christian, at least – it falls far short of supporting the idea that Christianity is perfectly logical. I am also curious if you’re already aware of the problem as it would be seen by a non-Christian (especially skeptical atheists, like myself). If not, maybe my comment will help you write a better article that will speak louder to non-Christians. If yes, then it would seem you are merely preaching to the quire, so to speak. In which case, I can just move on since this wasn’t an article meant for someone like me. :)

    I don’t suppose you would care to elaborate on the points raised any further? It might give you fuel for another article that could appear on Patheos. :)

    Have a good day.

  • maturallite

    You say that suffering is caused by guilt and shame, but what about the suffering of a child with cancer? It doesn’t seem that they have anything to feel guilty or shameful about, so why would Yahweh allow them to suffer? Is that all part of the plan too?

    • Marcion

      Don’t you see? Curing cancer would destroy all free will everywhere
      forever! If god didn’t let us die of cancer, we’d immediately be reduced
      to mindless zombies! That’s why Jesus never healed anyone: The risks were just too great.

      • maturallite

        Touche!

        • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

          OR we have no right to ask God to help us cure cancer until we’ve actually and truly dedicated ALL of our resources–like, say, those we now spend on unnecessary wars, or using resources we don’t really need to–to curing cancer. MAYBE there was, say, a five-year Indian boy who was born to cure cancer, and that boy starved to death.

          • Marcion

            Of course! Preventing that boy from starving to death would have been the death knell of free will on a cosmic scale! That’s why Jesus never used his powers to create food to feed the hungry.

            Until we dedicate every resource to ending the tragedies god has afflicted us with, they’re truly our fault. So when a roman who died of cancer goes to heaven (god’s perfect realm where nobody suffers from cancer or starvation), god would no doubt tell them “Yeah, I watched you die in agony and I could have destroyed every single cancerous cell in your body if I wanted to. But really, your death was Vespasian’s fault for not investing enough in medical research. Now check out what’s about to happen to Pompeii: Titus is gonna be real sorry that he didn’t dedicate ALL of his resources into stopping volcanoes from erupting!”

            EDIT: Maybe this comes across as too sarcastic, but do you have any idea how callous you make god sound when you say that he expects us to fix the problems he created? By this logic he condemned millions throughout history to die from causes that wouldn’t even be understood for centuries after their deaths, let alone be solvable. The fact that this theodicy completely contradicts christian mythology is just icing on the cake.

          • maturallite

            Marcion – This is
            great. Thank you for getting at the heart of my argument. There is no free will
            argument you can make that justifies unnecessary suffering from
            things outside our own control. What kind of all knowing and all loving god
            would create natural disasters that kill children by the thousands?

  • MNb

    “God’s love for us ”
    What does this mean, god loves us? If you say “I love my wife” I understand you. You have the means to express this love: language, behaviour, facial expression and body language. These are all thoroughly material. God at the other hand is defined as an immaterial being. How is he supposed to express this love? How can you know that god loves you, compared to your wife knowing that you loves her?
    Without answers to these question your god is meaningless. The statement “the roof of my house loves me” makes just as little sense for exactly the same reason – the roof hasn’t language, behaviour, facial expression and body language available.
    So as a logical construct theism, including christianity, doesn’t make sense at all. I say it here and now, with Dutch philosopher Herman Philipse, who brought this point up in his God in the Age of Science.

    • BobBobson

      Wow, so if someone does not feel love but shows signs of love in Language, Behavior, Facial expression, and body language to manipulate someone, then that is love? What a great argument!
      If it is only material, then fake love is real love. Acting is love. Lying and deception is love. And that just isn’t true.

      Defining an emotion as “material” means that emotion does not itself exist. Because an emotion is not material. Arguing that it is just makes you dishonest.
      Have you ever read ANY objections to Philipse? read them before asserting his points.

      • MNb

        “If it is only material, then fake love is real love.”
        Nice logical error. A depends on b doesn’t imply b hence alway a. Even if I grant you that love can be faked (there are some practical problems) it by no means follows that love does not depend on these four material things.
        I understand that asking (let alone answering) the right questions is not your strong point. So it’s not unexpected that you never wondered “how do we distinguish real love from fake love if not by material means?” You can’t, so your argument is irrelevant.
        “Have you ever read ANY objections to Philipse?”
        Yes. Totally unconvincing.

        “Because an emotion is not material.”
        Prove it. If you can’t you’re providing a circular argument: emotion is not material, hence love is not material, hence emotion is not material. That makes you the one who is just dishonest.
        Thanks for not answering my question: how can you know that your god loves you? Thus you confirm you are the dishonest one.

  • Michael Brown

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”(Matt 28:19-20) How do you fit this verse into your opening statement, and justify it as being rational, or even biblical? I’m not looking to be rude, but I truly cannot understand that perspective on the relationship between those who believe in the gospel, and those who do not.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Because that was Jesus talking to his disciples back when very few people had heard of him: if they didn’t go spread the word about him, everything he did, was, and stood for would disappear. “No one knows about Jesus and/or Christianity” is hardly a problem we have today, is it?

      • Michael Brown

        It is definitely still an issue. I’m an American who has been to a decent amount of countries, and I am in Scotland now. But, if I was looking for a student who had never heard the term “born again”, l would only need to look at an American high school(or, even better, a young girl who was born into slavery and working the streets of Amsterdam) The world isn’t anywhere near knowing Jesus Christ. It will sometimes know of the concept, much like I am familiar with the traditions of Islam to some degree. But being conscious of the existence of Christ, is not the every corner of the earth truly being show the love of God, and then allowing them to receive it or to reject it.

  • Matthew Alton

    “If it’s true that God exists (and the chances are exactly even on that either way; so choosing to vote that there is a God hardly represents a failure of reasoning)”

    Thesis: There is a 50/50 chance that a god exists.

    Supporting evidence provided by author: None.

    Fallacy: False dichotomy. To wit, there is either a 9-foot tall one-legged woman with moose antlers singing Italian opera on the roof of my building or there is not. Therefore the odds are 50% that she is up there.

    Correction: While the sum of the probabilities of a proposition and its negation is 100%, there is no indication of the actual numerical value of either probability in this information. Splitting the difference is an unwarranted assumption.

    No, seriously, present my analysis of your rock solid argument to a professor of philosophy or mathematics at an ivy league college. Make sure its a professor who teaches formal logic or at least critical thinking. Somebody with some chops — a legitimate authority on logic and formal argumentation. Don’t take my word for it. See what the professor says. You’ve made a rudimentary error in reasoning here.

    Exercise for the reader: find several other such errors in Mr. Shore’s argument. Trust me. They’re there.

  • Matthew Alton

    “If it’s true that God exists … then the traditional, old-school, Gospel-based story of Jesus Christ is perfect. It works. It makes sense.”

    You will admit that, given the existence of God, Judaism and Islam are also similarly “perfect”, yes? Are the immortal souls of the Jews and Muslims also going to go up to heaven on the basis of logical consistency? If not, what makes the Christian doctrine right and the others wrong? Mormons believe in God, too. Their version has Him being a 6’2″ human male who resides “near the planet Kolob.” (I’m not making this up.) If their God exists, and by your own logic there is a 50% chance that He does, then Mormonism is “perfect” too. Unless God’s real name is Xenu. Then Tom Cruise was right and we should all feel stupid for making fun of him when he hopped up and down on Oprah’s couch.

    • Tom Paine

      Matthew – saying something is not relavent doesn’t make it so. If I can posit in my finitude that something can occur in my life, it is not illogical to basically assert, “If this happens in my life it surely could happen with someone infinitely more complex than me.” If the power is on in my house, it’s more than possible it is on in the rest of the city as well (although it is no proof). I’m just saying if I know what my son is going to do without negating his choices, surely that could be true for God as well. As for your story from Numbers, is it your assertion that no truth can be learned from symbol or metaphor? I hope not. How sad it would be to walk away from the story of Balaam and say, “This story is of no worth to me because I don’t believe in talking donkeys.”

      • Matthew Alton

        Matthew – saying something is not relavent [sic] doesn’t make it so.

        No, but arguing cogently that something is irrelevant might do the trick. Believers rarely speak to my arguments. Mostly they prefer ad hominem attacks or, in this case, diversion.

        “If this happens in my life it surely could happen with someone infinitely more complex than me.”

        Flat wrong. Just flat out wrong. Try “Reducing my finite bank account by 90% makes me poorer. Ergo, reducing a god’s infinite bank account by 90% would make him infinitely poorer.” See how we can’t extrapolate from finite quantities to infinite ones? Same with entities. The free will dilemma has been pondered by the best minds in philosophy for thousands of years. There is no refutation. Oh, and for the mathematically unsophisticated, infinity divided by ten is still infinity.

        Again, the claim is made that your god is infinite in his capacities of knowledge and effectual power. This is the cause of the dilemma. You and I are not infinite in these capacities. In the case of your example of your son’s choice of activity, the fact is that you do not know what he will do. You know what you would bet $100 what he would do, but you can only say that you strongly suspect what he will do. He might surprise you. You might pose the choice to him and threaten him with punishment if he plays video games. This may influence his decision, we don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.

        God, on the other hand, does know. Right from the very start he knows, it is claimed, precisely what is going to happen at every point in space at every moment in time for all eternity. He has, in his infinite wisdom, constructed billions of people who will sin and fry in hell forever. He knew this when he made them. He set them up to fail. He constructed these people, me included, in precisely a manner as to fail and be given an infinite punishment for finite transgressions. He does not have to wait and see. He already knows how it all plays out. And yet somehow we make Him angry when we sin. There is no room for personal choice in this matter. God winds us up, turns us loose, we sin, and He fries us forever. Because He loves us.

        • Tom Paine

          Oh Matthew, you are so sure of yourself. Neither God, nor we, are math problems. We are constructing analogies, which scientists and logicians have done for ages and you can push any analogy to the point of absurdity. You act as if in academia it is a closed question – all settled on – that an infinite God is an impossibility and it is not so. I respect that in your mind it is logically a closed question but that is as far as I’ll grant you. In Scripture metaphor and analogy are frequently offered for our benefit. The same is true in so many spiritualities and literalizing metaphors for the sake of argument turns the whole discussion into an exercise in absurdity. As for the burning analogy, perhaps the only hells that exist are the ones we place ourselves in.

          • Matthew Alton

            Very well. I’ll leave you with a purely emotional objection to the Christian God. I find Him to be evil and revolting on ethical grounds. To wit: I once met a Jewish man who was incarcerated in the Auschwitz concentration camp in WWII. He said that one of the SS guards picked up his little brother, a toddler, by the ankles, swung him in an arc like a baseball bat and smashed his head against a concrete wall. This obliterated the little fellow’s skull and splattered his brains. Now, I don’t think that there is any wiggle room on the claim that this was an act of purest evil. I defy anyone to justify such an act on any grounds whatsoever.

            Here’s one example among many of what your god ordered his followers to do:

            Psalm 137:9

            Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

            Unless you’re interpreting the entire Bible as metaphor, Yahweh is credited with exterminating on the order of 2.5 million people, most of them perfectly innocent. Satan kills about 10 people. God is evil. Satan is less so. Fortunately neither of them actually exists.

          • Tom Paine

            Matthew, I’m sorry that that is your experience of faith and people of faith. Psalm 137:9 is absolutely a metaphor to say, “It is going to be bad, very bad, to be in enslavement again. It might be better for our little ones never to be born into that.” What the Nazi guard did was abhorrent evil. A believer believes that what God has done has come among us and suffered for us – he is the baby – not that God ordains such activity. In the Hebrew Bible, God finds Israel at times abhorrent because they are practicing child sacrifice (a firm “no” to this is offered when God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac). Our God is a God of mercy, justice, and grace. All the best to you. You and I might agree on more things than you might imagine even if we come from a different philosophical/theological approach. Tom

          • Matthew Alton

            1 Samuel 15:3
            Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

          • Tom Paine

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt 5:38-44).

            Matthew, that is the theology we are called to live by – not 1 Sam 15:3. Jesus, we believe, gave us a clearer picture of God.

            I honestly don’t understand some verses/stories like that in the Bible. I am at peace saying that that is not how God typically is in the Bible – the same God who urges compassion on the widow, the alien, and the orphan. The God who desires mercy – not sacrifice.

            But the Bible is a library of ancient books. It is inspired but also written by many authors and comes from different time periods living through many different events/joys/tragedies. It is not a unified book with a single author making a single point. And, all I know is that presentation of God is simply not the part that I believe reveals who God really is (or what God wants from us).

            All the best, Tom

          • My inside voice

            Hi Tom. I appreciate your effort to find the valuable teachings among the many things said in the bible.

            In your quote from Matt 5, above you’ve hit upon one of my main objections to Jesus’ teachings. “Do not resist an evil person” is a really terrible idea to my mind. My guess is that, like me, you’ve heard someone say “all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” and nodded in agreement. How do you square a lifetime of stories about heroes fighting evil with “do not resist an evil man”?

          • Tom Paine

            Hi ‘Inside Voice’ In Proverbs 25:21-22 it says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” It says the same thing in Romans 12:20. What I take from this is the real enemy isn’t the person but the mindset. The evil a person does is not the person. If you can “flip” the person to being a friend and an ally – you have defeated evil without defeating the person. That’s why – even on the cross – Jesus is up there praying for the people who put him there. He never breaks from his own philosophy. We do have “powers and principalities” to fight against – no doubt. And some people will never leave their allegiance to those. But our goal is to get them to see that we are all in this together.

          • My inside voice

            I appreciate the thought about being the change you want to see, which I agree with. However… that seems like a somewhat torturous interpretation of some pretty clear language: If someone sues you let him win, if someone slaps you don’t defend yourself. That seems a pretty clear message of passivity.

            On the other hand, I’m happy to note that you and I appear to be in agreement about what is right and wrong. Evil should be resisted, and mercy is a virtue. We are only in disagreement about whether that’s what the bible actually says. :-)

          • Tom Paine

            Voice – was Jesus passive as presented in the Gospels? That, in the end, is the question, isn’t it? When Jesus was arrested, accused, and even beaten – speaking very very sparingly – was that just passivity or was he doing it intentionally?

            Couldn’t he have instead have been holding up a mirror to them all? If someone strikes you and you stand there – not cowering – but looking them in the eye – aren’t they (the initiator of the violence) bearing witness to their own evil?

            I just see Jesus having a remarkably counter-cultural message. And I don’t view him, or MLK, or Ghandi or many others as being passive because they refused to ‘fight fire with fire.’

          • My inside voice

            Nobody said anything about fighting fire with fire. It could be that this is what Jesus was doing, and he is instructing all his followers to do the same. What I am saying is that this is a terrible idea. If someone is doing you evil, you should resist. i teach my children that, my father (despite being a christian) taught me that, it is the foreign policy of the US, the principle of humanitarian intervention at the UN, etc. To let yourself be beaten to make a point is one thing, but to say that’s what everybody should do always is just a really bad idea.

            FWIW, what I understand Jesus saying is: I am god himself. I am not resisting evil, and nor should you, because this world will pass away and your true reward is in the next world. Don’t worry about being unjustly sued and losing your shirt (literally) – let your oppressor take it, and take your cloak, too, because what happens in this world is only important insofar as it has implications for your life in the next one. Why do the good suffer? Because those that suffer in this world will receive rewards for their suffering in the next world. The clear implication is that this is the true “meaning” of suffering. It is not pointless, but is the toll to be paid in this world for reward in the next one.

            I don’t think this is an unreasonable interpretation of what Jesus is teaching. I think there are many mainstream interpreters who have agreed that this is the fundamental message. What do you think?

          • Tom Paine

            Voice, I don’t think Jesus was fighting fire with fire at all. I think that is what we tend to do, even Christians. I especially think that tends to be our response as Americans. I don’t mean by that that we respond to injustice with injustice but we absolutely want to hit back with overwhelming force if someone hits us. We, as a society, don’t even go for the the ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ approach. We like Lamech (from Genesis 4:24). If somebody hits us seven times, we want to hit back 77. Look at all our heroes in our adventure movies. Take something like Die Hard. How many does old Bruce Willis take out by the end of the movie? He doesn’t do it without being provoked. He had a good reason. Nevertheless, he takes out all those ‘bad guys’. I just lift this up as very very different from the approach of Jesus that he advocates in the Sermon on the Mount.

            All that said, I absolutely sympathize with what you are saying. It seems like in our fallen world it wouldn’t go well for us, But, then again, those who have followed the path of non-violence have made some lasting impact in this world.

            I do not think Jesus is calling on us to suffer in this life for a better life in the after life. We have no image of Jesus anywhere but in this world. I think we should live accordingly. We should work for the Kingdom of God here, not elsewhere. I do believe in life after this life. But I don’t think our morality should be based in some other world but in this one.

            It is not easy. But I do think Jesus wanted us to try what he was advocating in our lives. The dividing line for me is suffering – I won’t for a philosophical position advocate the suffering of others. That’s why I still believe there are just wars, and police forces, etc. Nevertheless, the bottom line to me, is not our money, our stuff, or what will pass away but the state of our, and our neighbor’s, souls.

            Have a great 4th.

            Tom

          • Bones

            Psalm 137 has nothing to do with God.

            Not much of the OT does.

            A lot of it was made up.

  • Matthew Alton

    How does God’s omniscience square with our free will? Does God already know what we are going to do with each and every one of our free choices or does he not? If he is omniscient then he already knows what we are going to do at the moment of our conception. So where is our free will in this picture? Everything seems fore-ordained by definition. If God does not know what we are going to do — if all he can do is hope for the best and yearn to relieve our suffering — then he can’t be called omniscient, can he?

    In philosophical circles this is called the problem of free will. The simultaneous assertion that God is omniscient (not to mention omnipotent and omnipresent) is logically negated by the assertion that we mere mortals have a free will. Nevertheless, both assertions are indeed being made here, right? The acceptance of mutually exclusive assertions is irrational by definition.

    Faith is belief in the absence of rational cause for belief. It is in some important ways the opposite of reason. You can be a person of faith or you can be a person of reason. You can’t be both.

    • Tom Paine

      If I leave my 11 year old son in a room this summer and tell him he can watch any movie, play any game, or read any book – I know what he will do, he will play Minecraft. My knowledge of this does not effect his decision of what to play. You are right that faith and reason are fundamentally different but it’s just not true that people of faith don’t use reason all the time. Sight and hearing are fundamentally different but a healthy person, if able, uses both.

      • Matthew Alton

        If I leave my 11 year old son in a room this summer … – I know what he will do.

        Irrelevant. You do not claim omniscience or omnipotence. The paradox in question arises from the claim of the perfection and totality of the qualities of the purported god. If you cease to project your limited personal attributes and processes on the notion of the god in question and instead reason from the claims being made, the paradox will present itself quite clearly. Read my questions again and speak directly to them, please.

        … it’s just not true that people of faith don’t use reason all the time.

        I am making no such claim. I claim that religious believers sustain a perpetual state of cognitive dissonance by carefully avoiding the application of their faculty of reason to their religious beliefs. You are perfectly capable of scrutinizing a proposition and rendering a reasonable opinion on mundane propositions. If I claim that my donkey, now deceased, once spoke with a human voice, I’m guessing that you would not believe me. But your holy book makes precisely this claim and you believe it. Why? Why do you not subject the claims of your book to the same scrutiny that you use in all other phases of your life?

        Numbers 22:28
        And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

        • Tom Paine

          Sorry, my reply to this is after your next comment. The hazards of finger typing responses with my smart phone. :)

        • Andy

          A lot of us don’t take the bible literally. You’ve posted on here enough that you should know that by now.

          • Matthew Alton

            A lot of us don’t take the bible literally.

            Who decides which parts are literal history and which are metaphorical? Is it the same people who decide which verses to completely ignore? If these people are the final authority on the matter, aren’t they really your gods?

          • Andy

            No. Did you ever think of your teachers as gods? I suspect not.

            It’s fine to look to teachers. But you shouldn’t just take their word for something absolutely. Intelligent people don’t do that; they question things. Most people around here don’t blindly accept everything they’re taught.

            Stop trolling, please.

        • mike

          Not irrelevant. He knows what his son would do, not because he has psychic powers, no. He knows what his son will do because he KNOWS his son. And the same goes for God. He knows what we will do and the decisions we will make because he knows us. All of us.

          As for the second argument, you’re using the term cognitive dissonance incorrectly, likely because you’re regurgitating something a fellow atheist said that you thought was clever. In reality, cognitive dissonance is a psychology term used to reference people who have an uncomfortable tension stemming from 2 conflicting ideas, beliefs, or behaviors. This means you’re employing circular reasoning to say that religion and reason don’t mix because the two ideas are conflicting, which is redundant and of course a logical fallacy.

          • Matthew Alton

            You miss my point entirely. If you will not recognize the distinction between a human and a purportedly omniscient god then I’m afraid that my argument, while perfectly sound, is wasted on you.

            I mean by cognitive dissonance, for example, the simultaneously held beliefs that donkeys and snakes cannot speak and that these animals can speak… depending on whether the report comes from your favorite magical exempted-from-reason book. Subject the Bible to simple preschool scrutiny and it falls apart immediately. More convenient for determined believers to avoid any scrutiny at all.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    So you made a discus account just to rant on an article that is just over a month old? I fail to see the purpose, other than to show everyone that you have this rather large chip on your shoulder.

    • BarbaraR

      You didn’t make a point other than being pissed off.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        And I missed all the fun trying to work…sigh

        • BarbaraR

          To sum it up: we’re bullies and she has a right to say whatever she wants and she isn’t going to leave. (Insert muffled sounds of angry person being bound and gagged while being dragged offstage.)

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I knew we needed to install a trap door, but its just not in the budget.

          • BarbaraR

            Annnnd I just got a Facebook friend request from her, but then in classic harassing troll manner, she blocked me. Great. The crazy is out today.

          • BarbaraR

            Jeez. AND she gets her crazy friends involved too.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            See what happens when you are popular?

          • BarbaraR

            I feel very, very special.

          • Jeff Preuss

            I’m going to friend request you, then send you links to a million cute pictures of our cats, then block you. Will that help?

          • BarbaraR

            That made me laugh out loud.

          • Jeff Preuss

            Good. Then my work here is done. :)

  • BarbaraR

    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      *needs to get paper towel to clean off laugh induced spew from monitor*

      • BarbaraR

        I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

        • BarbaraR

          I’m going to lose my “most patient mod” award here.
          Anita: you came to a Christian site and are now pissed off because – hey! surprise! it espouses pro-Christian ideas. It’s okay for you to come here and be abusive toward people you’ve never met, but not okay for people to respond?

          You don’t have coherently thought-out responses: you’re just mad. You aren’t making any points – you’re just venting in sixteen directions.

          There are many sites where your views will be welcomed and applauded, but if you can’t present views other than “Waah, someone was mean to me on the internet because they disagreed with me,” then perhaps this is not the place for you.

          • BarbaraR

            You are done here.

        • BarbaraR

          Also, you’re thisclose to being banned. Watch it.


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