The Outsider Test for Faith

cross-sunJohn Loftus proposes that religious insiders should test their own religious beliefs with the outsider test. He recently presented this argument to the Evangelical Philosophical Society, which is a brave deed. I’m amazed he got out alive.

What is the outsider test? It’ll take you 13 paragraphs to get to it, so I’ll highlight it for you:

The outsider test is simply a challenge to test one’s own religious faith with the presumption of skepticism, as an outsider. It calls upon believers to “Test or examine your religious beliefs as if you were outsiders with the same presumption of skepticism you use to test or examine other religious beliefs.”

Its presumption is that when examining any set of religious beliefs skepticism is warranted, since the odds are good that the particular set of religious beliefs you have adopted is wrong.

This is how religious people evaluate other religions. It’s why they think they are all absurd — well, all except for their own.

When we are on the outside of a religion, we see its errors and absurdities as obvious proof of its falsehood. But when we are on the inside, we attribute those same errors and absurdities — if we admit them at all — to our own limitations.

Here is the challenge of the outside test to Christians:

To the Christian theist the challenge of the outsider test means there would be no more quoting the Bible to defend the claim that Jesus’ death on the cross saves us from sins. The Christian theist must now try to rationally explain it. No more quoting the Bible to show how it’s possible for Jesus to be 100% God and 100% man with nothing left over. The Christian theist must now try to make sense of this claim, coming as it does from an ancient superstitious people who didn’t have trouble believing Paul and Barnabas were “gods in human form” (Acts 14:11; 28:6).

The Christian theist must not assume prior to examining the evidence that there is an answer to the problem of horrendous suffering in our world either. And she’d be initially skeptical of believing in any of the miracles in the Bible, just as she would be skeptical of any claims of the miraculous in today’s world supporting other religious faiths.

Why? Because she cannot start out by first believing the Bible, nor can she trust the people close to her who are Christian theists to know the truth, nor can she trust her own anecdotal religious experiences, since such experiences are had by people of all religious faiths who differ about the cognitive content learned as the result of these experiences. She would want evidence and reasons for these beliefs.

Christian, just ask yourself whether the initial reasons you had for adopting your faith were strong ones. Just think about the problems you’ve experienced in your churches along with the intellectual problems you wrestle with in meetings like these. If you could go back in time knowing what you know now about how Christians behave in the church would you still choose to believe? And those initial arguments that convinced you to believe would surely be thought of by you as simplistic and unworthy of your consideration today. Just ask yourself if you would’ve become a Mormon instead, had a joyous friendly Mormon group approached you at that same vulnerable time in your life.

Most all of us, most all of the time, do not have good initial reasons to accept our religious faith, which from that time forward acts like a set of blinders with regard to how we see the evidence. We just end up believing what we were taught to believe by people we trust in a Christian dominated culture.

If more people were willing to honestly submit themselves to the outsider test, I think our debates and conversations would be far more intelligent and productive. Don’t you?

  • http://www.curefiath.com Infidel

    Really nicely put together challenge, I think I’ll have to forward it to some religious friends of mine to get a reaction. I hope some take it seriously – might just be the start of a train of thought that changes their life forever. It’s asking so much though, if there was an “Outsiders test for Atheism”, I’d have a very hard time thinking from that different point of view. How do you shake years of indoctrination? Slowly, I suppose is the answer.

  • bubbaj30

    As an aside…I want a debate between John Loftus and William Lane Craig!

  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    What I personally want from religious people is for them to understand that reasonable people can quite justifiably disagree with their beliefs (conversion to atheism, not so much): maybe an explicit outsider test can help with this. On the other hand, roundabout arguments that are implicit outsider tests don’t seem to work so well: some people just cannot realize their own special pleading.

  • Steve Jeffers

    Perfectly reasonable – and it’s enshrined in the Christian faith that it’s good to try to see yourself as others see you, that you do unto others as you would wish done unto you and so on.

    There are two types of Christians, I think, and they already operate by this standard, but in radically different ways:

    The Christians I know are smart, troubled and questioning. They already do this. They are aware of the problems and logic issues with their religion – they see them as puzzles to be meditated on. I think that’s quite healthy, even if I think there’s a whopping great false premise behind a lot of their questions.

    There’s another group of Christians, and they do they same thing, in reverse. They desperately want atheists and scientists and ‘progressives’ and Muslims and gay people and … well, everyone they don’t like to *act like they do*. Scientists, in their view, are irrational, faith-based, agenda-driven.

    Note that the ID lot never really talk about elevating creationism to science, they always want to reduce evolution to a religion.

  • God’s Only Comic

    An excersise in honesty that will trip up our friend John. This sort of self examination is not what blind belief is about and will probably cause some heads to explode.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    No more quoting the Bible to show how it’s possible for Jesus to be 100% God and 100% man with nothing left over.

    This was only even possible because those early Christians who believed that J.C. was only 100% God, and those who believed that J.C. was only 100% man, and those who believed that J.C. was 100% God and 100% man, but not at the same time, got declared heretics and their writings, including the Gnostic gospels, got left out of the New Testament.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    “The Christian theist must not assume prior to examining the evidence that there is an answer to the problem of horrendous suffering in our world either.”

    Th Christian is not to assume there is an answer, indeed. Instead, scripture teaches that the Christian should become the answer.

    The more applicable test would be to actually attempt to live out the teachings of the Scripture.

    “It is not the Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It is that is has been found difficult and left untried.”
    — Chesterton

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    it^

  • anti-supernaturalist

    . . . xians will claim with Luther that “reason is the Devil’s whore” but really. . .

    ** Christianity is the practice of nihilism — Nietzsche **

    For 2,000 years one vile hallmark of xianity has remained its hatred of natural science (world) and of skeptical philosophy (reason). The Stoics and Epicureans of Athens laughed at Paul of Tarsus when he spoke to them (50-60 CE). Paul’s anti-intellectual rejoinder is still holy writ:

    20-Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21-For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22-Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23-but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles . . . . 1Cor1 20-23 NIV

    In short, Paul and his fellow slum dwellers created a god glorifying their nihilistic valuations.

    27-But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28-He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are . . . . 1Cor1:26-28 NIV

    Xianity still appeals to those who believe themselves mistreated. To those in whom resentment surges. To those who must punish their guilty selves.

    “Xianity is the practice of nihilism.” Directed inward, hatred of self. Directed outward, hatred of others and of nature.

    Unquenchable hatred arises not from some peripheral ideological source — it spews from Paul’s life-negating worldview, tarted up as the religion of “love”.

    anti-supernaturalist

  • Barry

    I can see John’s previous life as an apologist shining through in his article that outlined the outsider test. I think he has basically used presuppositional worldview apologetics, but his point is that the lens of skepticism is the surest way to truth. His point is that this helps open rational inquiry by removing “blinders”.

    The whole article was interesting, but if you go to the objections that’s where the rubber hits the road, because he tries to answer those objections preemptively.

    He freely admits that we filter reality through our cultural lenses and that the reason we have the beliefs we have is a matter of geography in the majority of cases. This is something I’ve thought about a lot and I think what John has said concerning the topic has much merit, but I think it holds true for all people not just religious ones. What I mean is that there is an assumption by many here that all atheists are free thinkers and skeptics with an ability to think critically. But I’ve found that to be far from the case with many interactions with atheists who didn’t have a grasp of the questions let alone the answers. They were as much a true believer as an evangelical just with a different creed. I would suspect that if you went to a country that was now nominally atheist you would find that the majority of those people struggle with philosophical and scientific arguments in the same way that the typical evangelical does.

    In short the paper is an address of an epistemological issue. Skepticism as a tool is good, skepticism as a worldview has a conclusion in Deconstructionism, and most atheists don’t like idea that their reliance on rational inquiry is just another meta-narrative to be evaluated.

    I’ve read a lot of Loftus’ blogs and I appreciate his willingness to interact with a group such as ETS, a daunting task for anyone. An atheist should aspire to be more like Loftus rather than someone like Sam Harris.

  • Brian

    I was discussing with my wife (now a christian with many doubts) something like this:

    Imagine you are born and since you are born you are not told anything about religions or gods from anybody. You grow up and go to school minding your own business. And then at the age of maturity (16, 18, or 21 whatever), you decide to attach to a religion believe system, but since you are smart, you go to an office building where there is a religion office for any religion in the world, you go to each office and listen to the belief system they have, they explain to you what they believe from the basics.

    After talking for a while about what religions around the world believe, she acknowledged that geographical and historical circumstances have a lot (if not all) to do with her beliefs and none of the belief systems, including Christianity and all its branches make any sense.

    I think that fear and laziness to confront their own set of beliefs is what keep people in their faith.

  • DarkMatter

    “My Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is just one of several arguments I use to demonstrate that when examining the evidence for a religious set of beliefs the predisposition of skepticism is warranted. There is overwhelming, undeniable and non-controversial evidence for the test itself that can be found in the sociological, anthropological, and psychological data. I’ll start with some of this data that forms the basis for the test.”

    For a beieving christian to take an OTF test, he has to have some knowledge of skepticism, the aspects or details of skepticism in thinking, reasoning and argument. He also need to aquire some knowledge on sociology, anthropological and psychology. He might even ask “Do I need to be skeptical of skepticism”? It is almost a non-starter for him, there are exception.

    Not only that he need to have some knowledge on dogmatism. If he has been subject to derogatory attacks on his belief, he has to learn dogmatism without derogatory connotations. All these involve time and money and study.

    “There is a great deal of discussion among Christian apologists over Bayesian “background factors,” which play a significant role in assessing the truth of Christianity in general, the likelihood of the resurrection of Jesus, the probability of miracles, and the problem of evil. But the most important background factor of all for cognitively assessing the truth claims of religious faith is one’s sociological and cultural background.”

    I think this is arguable that a person becomes christian is based on probability, it’s is more an argument with atheist.

  • Michael

    I really can’t understand how a Christian could possibly explain the importance of the death of Christ (in adherence to the “test of faith” thingy) without referencing the Bible, since the death of Christ was, in a sense, Gods solution to the spiritual death caused by the sin of Adam. Or did I misunderstand the post?

  • Brian

    @ Michael:

    None of the base tenants of any religion make any sense.

    Talking snakes, virgin births, original sin, Mahomet flying to the sky, 144000 going to heaven, Native Americans coming from Middle East, jesus resurrection. You name it, it does not make any sense and won’t withstand the OTF.

    Probably one religion is less crazier than the other, but that depends who you ask.

  • Jason

    While I like John’s test and do believe that if more people were willing to put their beliefs to these tests we would all be better off…I don’t think it’s accurate that all Christians need to do is approach their own religion like they approach others.

    Let me explain. I’m personally skeptical that many Christians (especially evangelicals) do skeptically evaluate other religions. I mean there’s the common use of the word skeptic and there’s the actual state of being a true skeptic. I just don’t see evidence that evangelicals do anything other than dismiss other religions out of hand. This isn’t being skeptical. This just means they’ve been brainwashed to not only believe every word of their ‘sacred’ book but to also disbelieve and hate other religions. They aren’t taught why Judaism or Islam or Hinduism are wrong based on critical thought or logic. They’re taught that Christians are right, they will be persecuted by the unbelievers, and that is that.

    This is not to say that there aren’t a great many Christians who are rational and skeptical in other parts of their lives and some how manage to compartmentalize their thinking. Those people would be prime targets for John’s challenge because they know how to think critically, they’ve just not done it to their own religion. But the challenge would be meaningless to the ones who don’t even know what it means to think critically about something and to evaluate evidence on it’s merits.

  • http://recolongod.blogspot.com JPark

    I’m a Christian but I understand your views. Everytime I listen to someone preach I think “what will a non-Christian think about this?”

    I’m trying to read the Koran to see how Muslims justify their views but I don’t have much time..

    Well, the reason that I think that Christianity might be different from other religions is that Christianity is the only religion where a God has come down to Earth in human form. Which is Jesus.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Michael – sounds like you believe the bible contains parables or illustrations, not literal truth. How do you know that the story of Jesus is not also an illustration only? Do you believe that people are fallen/born sinful? If you don’t believe genesis, on what basis do you form your belief? Do you believe that jesus died on the cross for your sins? How do you choose which stories to believe literally and which ones are just stories with meanings?

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Hi again Michael – don’t mean to harp on this subject! But it’s interesting getting your honest viewpoint because it’s so different from mine. But I still don’t get how you think the story of jesus is literally true from the context of the bible? Maybe you get your belief from what parts you have been TOLD are true by your specific denomination of christianity and not from the bible? Otherwise you still have not clarified how you know which stories are true. Does the fact that the adam and eve story diverges wildly from scientific fact bother you at all? We now know the world is approx 14 billion years old so clearly it isn’t 6000 years old as the specific geneology in the OT would have us believe…

  • http://www.zeekeekee.wordpress.com isnessie

    Daniel, in response to your final question, I think it would be helpful to debates and discussions – unfortunately, I don’t know many Christians who would dare rise to the challenge of that test. It’ll be a cry of “That’s from the day-ville”. Anything that comes close to questioning what they ‘know’ is from satan, and just the fear of being the doubting man to whom God gives nothing is enough to stop them from taking that step. The only Christians I know who would do this are those who are already struggling to match the Bible to the truth of what they see and know about life.

  • http://www.debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com John W. Loftus

    Thanks for your comments on the Outsider Test. I’m editing a new book of essays for Prometheus Books with authors like Drs. Hector Avalos, Jim Linville, Richard Carrier, Robert Price, David Eller, Valerie Tarico, and also Ed Babinski, Joe Holman, Jeffrey Mark, Matthew Green and a few chapters from yours truly. In the first three chapters were going to hit believers hard. Eller will defend the Outsider Test from an anthropologist’s perspective and Tarico will do so from a psychologist’s perspective. Then I’ll write one on the Outsider Test Revisited, where I’ll expand on it and deal with additional criticisms. We’re going to make believers squim I think, and for good reason.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Note that the ID lot never really talk about elevating creationism to science, they always want to reduce evolution to a religion.

    A lot of “the ID lot” are young earth Creationists, some of whom backed previous “Creation Science” efforts. The lack of a positive case for ID is more about legal strategy than an accurate reflection of the beliefs of proponents. They avoid making a case for a young Earth, or a Noahic flood, etc. because those claims have already been rejected under binding legal precedents.

  • Steve Jeffers

    Yeah … I’ve read The Genesis Flood. A friend of mine likened it to the Star Trek Technical Manual – I don’t think anyone involved, deep down, means it to be a science book. It’s only meant to *look* like a science textbook. But you see the stuff on ‘flood geology’ and it’s exactly like a detailed description of how a transporter ‘really’ works.

    If it was meant as a science book that means, by definition, that they’re happy for peer review. And they’re not.

    I don’t know, though. I can never work out how sincere creationists are in their beliefs. The people who file lawsuits and try to change the law are dishonest and manipulative … but do the everyday people going about their lives think of Adam and Eve as ‘science’ or ‘story’? Do they think all that hard about it at all?

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    Thank you for that polarizing and misunderstood generalization based on a non-holistic exegesis. I’m now an atheist. I repent of my Nihilistic ways.

  • Framtonm

    And if you read between Paul’s lines (as I’ve said somewhere else on this site) it would appear that Paul was gay, couldn’t accept that, and turned his frustration outwards. And how did the collection of essays called the Bible ever get to be regarded as (no pun intended) Holy Writ?

  • Michael

    @ Brian

    I think that the majority of religions are an attempt to describe the one real God and establish a spirit of the law – that default position that motivates us and gives us strength to do good in the absence of any other compelling reason to do that which is good. In my subjective opinion, no religion does this better than Christianity.

    When a Christian kills people because they believe differently, it is hypocrisy, but when Muslims do the same, it is jihad. Paul informs us in Ephesians that our war is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and the spirit of evil, but the idea of spiritual conquest appears to be absent in Islam. Instead, there is only provision for physical conquest, but no one can physically force another into spiritual acceptance. I am not saying that all Muslims are prone to act violently against ‘the infidel’. Fortunately, it is a rare individual who follows through on any philosophy, taking it to its ultimate end. I AM saying that those who fully devote their minds to the God of Mohammed cannot be called hypocrites when they act according to Mohammed’s revelations. There are no mitigating verses in the Quoran with which to dispute the morality of jihad. You won’t find the words, “Love your enemy” anywhere in the sacred writings of Islam. Its scriptures generate a harsh religion, completely different than the spirit of Christianity. It’s easy to see this harshness reflected in the modern laws of Islamic theocracy when compared with modern laws that stem from Judeo-Christianity.

    Hinduism tries to break down godly attributes into different gods. Some of them are good, others not so good. The idea of there being only one God is to create a standard and polytheism thwarts this basic concept.

    Buddhism teaches a person how to directly experience God, but it doesn’t define Him. It does generate a kind spirit of the law, but in the same instant, relies on over 250 spiritual laws to obtain the spirit of the law.

    It is my belief that people of any culture who have been made aware of their own nature, would intellectually recognize Christ as the better choice of god, if they could overcome their society’s influence and their own psychological attachment to the traditions of their heritage.

  • LRA
  • Question-I-thority

    What would your holistic interpretation of Paul’s argument be? It appears that he is taking an anti-intellectual position here.

  • exrelayman

    “…that their reliance on rational inquiry is just another meta-narrative to be evaluated”

    Evaluated how? By some non rational means?

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is right. Try to live Janism and not kill any living creature. That’s difficult. But it has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the religion.

    Following all the rules of Islam is very difficult. Are you saying that to find out if Islam is true, we should try to live out it’s teachings?

    Personally, I see no correlation.

  • LRA

    “It is not the (insert religion of your choice) has been tried and found wanting. It is that is has been found difficult and left untried.”

    So, religion can’t fail us? It is we who fail religion?

    Do you not see the problem with this statement?

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Wade – actually, I think living a life without god is more challenging. We can’t attribute anything to god – forces us to look inside ourselves. For example, if an addict prays for healing, he is trying to take a shortcut. The truly difficult way to live is to realize that this is not god’s problem – it’s the addict’s problem. It’s a lot harder to deal with past issues; go to therapy; go through the painful process of “feeling your feelings” instead of medicating them; etc. This is only one example. But don’t assume christianity is the “hard road”. I think an honest life is much more difficult. And this means being honest about the shortcomings in the bible and the christian religion too.

  • Question-I-thority

    Your are making an argument from consequences here — The results are better if one believes in the Christian god, therefore the Christian god is real (one should believe in the Christian god).

    Secondarily, the argument presupposes that morals are objective (and that Christian morality is a substantively unique mirror). Which brings us back to the Outsider Test.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I think that the majority of religions are an attempt to describe the one real God…

    It may depend on what counts as a “religion” – do you consider each Protestant Christian sect to be a different “religion”? If not, then I suspect that the majority of religious systems developed by man were polytheistic.

  • cello

    You are overlooking segments of Eastern thought that call for complete selflessness (overcoming ego and self) to achieve enlightenment and break the karmic system. There is a reason why some people claim Jesus learned from the Eastern sages – there is a similarity in the thought of being reborn as someone new to achieve heaven . You are free to your outlook but I think you are coming with some inherent biases in your interpretations.

  • Elemenope

    I think the follow-up point is that it needs to be tried and then one must take a critical look at the results. It’s not merely “difficult and therefore correct”, but rather “difficult and therefore untested”. Once it is tested, one might have a better idea if it is correct.

    Personally, I think that Chesterton’s point is a good one, but nonetheless bad advice, because I believe it in this world impossible to internalize and act according to the dictates of Jesus’ advice. Call it the Nietzschean rejoinder: “The last Christian died on the cross.”

  • Elemenope

    When did “anti-intellectual” become in all contexts a priori bad?

    I understand it being bad as a general attitude towards everything, but there are many things in human experience which are not effectively analyzed with empiricism or logic.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    That within the historical context of Paul’s letter there were basically two ways of looking at The Gospel, the Jewish way which was waiting for a second Moses. The Jews, for the most part (pardon the generalization), were looking for a Messiah that would be a second Moses. They were looking for an Exodus from Roman occupation in the same way the ancient Israelites were in Egypt. They had a notion that the Messiah would come as Moses, with plagues and signs, and parted seas to drive out the gentile oppressors. Jesus wasn’t this. The thought of Jesus being the Messiah was repugnant to them (a stumbling block, rock of offense.)

    The Greco-Roman (gentiles) on the other hand, were the empiricists of the age. They were the pinnacle of scholarship and education in the World at the time and were very aware of this. The cult of The Way was laughable to them, because it did not fit into their ontology, or ideology. To them, Caesar was lord, and that was rational and logical. Caesar made things happen. To make a fuss over Jesus (a man whom, not even Caesar, but one of his governors did away with so easily) was just ridiculous to the Greeks.

    The propaganda of Rome was Caesar is Lord. The mantra of the early Christians was Jesus is Lord. To be a Christian in the Roman Empire was treason. The Greeks saw it as foolish to risk life and limb to follow a Nazarene who had been executed years ago.

    The irony of all of this is that in verse 20 Paul states “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” and if you follow the historical time-line 150 years after Paul writes this letter, Christianity becomes the dominant belief of the Roman Empire, which has moved the heart of the empire to Greece. So in a way, the wisdom of declaring Caesar is Lord, became foolish in a just a few years.

  • Michael

    Not only an argument from consequences, but I was also arguing that the Christian worldview, assuming I was ‘religionless’ and deemed all religions equally valid, would seem to me, able to define God better.

    I feel that the spirit of God is the personification of love, justice, and uncompromised, selfless truth. I feel that this spirit, although fully represented in Yahweh, is more clearly defined in Christ. I also perceive that the New Testament authors, especially Paul, were selfless men, made that way through faith in Jesus, and that their writings are also representative of truth. But thats just me.

  • Barry

    I wasn’t claiming that post-structuralism was internally consistent, just that it is logical conclusion of the presupposition of an impersonal, chaotic, and chance driven universe.

  • DarkMatter

    Was Saul selfless before his conversion?

  • Michael

    “Was Saul selfless before his conversion?”

    - Nope.

  • DarkMatter

    So his zeal for judaism was selfish, but his zeal for christianity was not.

  • Michael

    Well, I wouldn’t immediately assume someone who was not totally selfless to be totally selfish.

    But I doubt someone who persecuted Christians violently could be called selfless, so I’m sticking with my previous answer.

  • DarkMatter

    Can I agree with you that Paul was not totally selfless?

  • Michael

    If it makes you happy.

  • DarkMatter

    I can accept your complement.

  • Michael

    @ Brian

    Have you tried making sense of it? I believe evolution is a fact (unlike other bible-thumpers),but If someone oversimplified the theory of evolution for me, I don’t think it would make sense too, at first glance: Monkeys, slowly after millions of years turned into men.

    Although I was born a Christian, I never really believed any of it, until I sincerely tried making sense of it.

    Ok, this I’m getting preachy, this is all just my opinion, you don’t have to believe any of it.

  • claidheamh mor

    I think that’s one of the slickest psych-out tricks, to twist it so that something isn’t wrong with it; something is wrong with you. Instead of it being tested for its effects on your life, and failing, it must be that “you just didn’t do it right”.

    I’ve heard a friend challenge that line as used in psychotherapy. He said, “If your mechanic (or perhaps doctor) told you, ‘Wellll, I think work on this’ll take about 5 to 10 years, and it might work and it might not, an’ ef it don’t work none after that, it’s ’cause you didn’t put everything you had into it. It’s ’cause you didn’t believe in me hard enough’, you’d leave and look for a competent professional, wouldn’t you? Well, why let a therapist get away with that? If they are in business to help you, isn’t saying that admitting that they are ineffective?”

    He also said religion, or anything applied to people, should be examined for the effect or mal-effect it has on people.

  • Elemenope

    Personally I think they are both missing half the point. It is not what effect religion has on people or what ability people have to cleave to ideas. There’s a hidden distinction in there that is false; that somehow, ideas and people can ever be separate.

    To my mind, it is more like a feedback loop system. A person adopts an idea, the idea changes how they behave, how they behave has consequences, those consequences change the idea, and so forth. “Christians make poor people” and “People make poor Christians” are equally sensible, and related, but not interchangeable, notions.

  • trj

    As an aside, I’ve asked several Christians how Jesus saves us. Does he save us from original sin? Does he save us by granting us eternal life in heaven? Does he save us from our own destructive nature? What exactly does “salvation” mean?

    The answer depends on which denomination you subscribe to, but what I found interesting is that several devout believers simply didn’t know what it means when they say Jesus saves us. They never really thought about it. It’s the most essential part of Christianity, yet they didn’t go beyond being told that Jesus saves, to asking what this salvation involves.

    It may be that my small sampling is not representative, but never the less it has provided me with a suspicion that many believers simply use their faith as a mere convenience. It gives them something they want, but they don’t give the actual issues of Christianity much thought.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    “The last Christian died on the cross.”

    I wish more Christians understood that.

  • DarkMatter

    So it seems you are saying God made the wisdom of the world foolish by declaring Caesar as Elohim, I never heard of that.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    no. *sigh*

  • Elemenope

    Darkmatter -

    Short, short version.

    1. Romans called Caesar “Lord”.
    2. Christians called Jesus “Lord”.
    3. Romans laugh at Christians’ “Lord” on account of his being dead and puny.
    4. Roman Empire falls.
    5. Christians laugh last.

  • Ty

    Only after a Roman emperor saw the poliltical expediency in making Christianity his empire’s official state religion.

    If he hadn’t, the Mithraists would be laughing last, and Wade would be here arguing over such subtle theological points as what the Raven represents when he brings the message to the bull that it must be sacrificed.

    Can you really claim victory when the people you are claiming victory over are the ones who picked the winning side?

    Seems pretty circular to me. Also Caesar did make things happen. For instance, YOUR RELIGION.

  • Brian

    I tried to make sense of it and christianity doesn’t hold scrutiny, nor any religion.

    I can’t believe in god and passing over all the tenants or basic teachings of any religion. I can’t just read the bible and still belive in god.

    I don’t even try anymore. I have read a few apoligetics and still seems non-sense.

  • John C

    Michael…

    With all due respect, nobody is “born” a Christian. You may have been the offspring of “believers” but that in itself does not make us His.

    One must be re-born a second time spiritually, it’s an unseen , internal event, Jn 3:3. Like the old, true saying…God has no grandchildren, only children.

    We must be careful not to confuse spirituality (Christ’s true offer) and a mere “belief” system.
    One is a spiritual matter of the heart (inner man) while the other is a matter of the “head” only.

    One “must” be born a second time, this time OF the spirit kind, not the flesh.

    All the best…

  • Marley

    Ok, this I’m getting preachy, this is all just my opinion, you don’t have to believe any of it.

    If only all christians were like you. It’s fine if you have your beliefs, keep them to yourself, and admit that they don’t make sense 100% of the time. If every christian would just do those things and let their faith be an internal part of who they are, I think the world would be a better place for it. It’s when christians join together in an effort to remake the world in their image that things fall apart.

    Ok, I’m getting preachy, this is just my opinion, you don’t have to believe any of it.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    @michael – how can you be a christian AND believe in evolution? Isn’t that mutually exclusive? If adam and eve were not created like genesis states, then there was no fall and no need for salvation. What is the basis for your faith if you don’t believe the bible about the foundation of christianity?

  • claidheamh mor

    @ Michael

    Have you tried making sense of it?

    That’s a simpleton’s argument, the kind i see Christians making. (Besides being wrong, that is.)

    Many regular posters here have been Christian. They, and our blog host, have told their stories about this.

    So
    (1) Yes, they have tried making sense of it. It FAILED them. Don’t stupidly ask how; read their stories and background. Read the answers to how Christianity fails people all over this blog. And other blogs.

    (2) That’s just such a retardedly stupid simpleton question. I think if you have the mental capacity, you know the answer to it, and pretend not to.

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Wintermute: very well said! “it is 100% bread and wine, and 100% Jesus-flesh” Transubstantiation… lol crazy as it sounds but there are actual approved miracles where it did in fact turn into flesh!

    “Despite the fact that that miracle took place almost 1300 years ago you may still see the flesh in a monstrance which is exposed every day and the blood in a glass chalice.”

    http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/years_abc/corpus_christi.htm

    After 1300 years the flesh has not decayed. Tough question for just a young kid like Miguel. Hopefully he’ll read the book “Logic for First Graders” BEFORE taking it to the book burning.

  • http://catacombsubculture.com Wade

    How could someone study Paul’s writings so deeply as to claim to have deciphered the author’s repressed sexuality, yet display a complete ignorance regarding the development of the Canon?

  • Michael

    Whether we are offsprings of believers or not, John, we are His. I don’t see anything wrong with calling a child a “Christian” (I heard this irks Richard Dawkins, but I don’t see why it should). This is not to say that the child has a complete understanding of what it means to be a Christian, but I think he is entitled to that if thats what he wants even at a young age.

    Ofcourse, at a certain point, when one is mature to make decisions on his own, he can choose to rescind or confirm his Christianity – being
    “reborn a second time”.

    I would agree that spirituality isn’t merely a belief system, but I would go further and say that one word encompasses the other.

    I was baptized a Catholic, but I guess your right, I never really was a Christian. I never chose to be called a Christian then, I never gave it any thought growing up. Until I sincerely tried to make sense of my own religion and invited God into my heart.

    My belief in God is based on a primary perception of Him, the perception of truth in His Word, a perception of my own true nature that came about through reading His Word and an intellectual conclusion based on these perceptions. It is true that we are subject to being deceived by our perceptions. We are also subject to being informed by them.

  • Michael

    No I don’t consider them to be “different religion[s]“. They are denominations of ‘Christianity’ which is the Christian religion. The God of the different Christian denominations are all one and the same; the God of Abraham and Jacob; the God f the bible. So, No, I don’t think it is polytheistic – if that is what you meant by that.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    I love the comparison of “The Genesis Flood” to the “Star Trek Technical Manual”!

  • Michael

    “Does he save us by granting us eternal life in heaven? Does he save us from our own destructive nature? What exactly does “salvation” mean? ”

    – Well, you essentially answered your own question and yet your not a Christian. My nephew who is 9 years old likens what Jesus did to what Bruce Willis did in the movie Armageddon.

    I guess the deeper question is why he chose to do that, instead of just literally willing us to be saved without need for any human sacrifice. The answer to that would be a long theological one which, obviously, not every Christian would immediately be able to explain.

    Any Christian knows the answer and can tell you that ‘Jesus suffered and died for us that we may be free from sin’ – or something to this effect, which understandably is not a complete answer for an atheist since it begs the question : Couldn’t he have done something else to achieve the same end? A question that, if someone attempted to answer, would immediately put the discussion in the theological and Philosophical realm.

    “The answer depends on which denomination you subscribe to ”

    – Unless there is a radical Christian denomination out there that is teaching a highly deviated form of the fundamental teachings of the bible, the answer is no.

    “but never the less it has provided me with a suspicion that many believers simply use their faith as a mere convenience. It gives them something they want ”

    – I can’t disagree with you here. This is true. But such can also be true for any other religion or ideology.

  • Elemenope

    It is possible. People often study the aspects of things that interest them, and usually very little else unless the “else” happens to be irreducibly fundamental.

    But I agree it isn’t likely. More likely is that it was a rhetorical question.

  • Francesco Orsenigo

    Your suggestion is great!
    I’d *LOVE* to see such a test for Atheists.
    But then again, the problem with Atheists is that they are non-belivers, so there wouldn’t much belief to target…

  • Jabster

    Very true … there’s a big difference between studying/researching the subject as a whole and just reading the bits that you find interesting. If you’re reading for a ‘hobby’ then you’re not going to look at areas that you may considered hard going.

  • trj

    Many Christians, especially the somewhat deistically inclined or those who accept evolution, don’t buy into original sin. To them, the salvation Jesus provides is a promise that they can be close to God in the afterlife.

    But I suppose we can generalize the whole salvation thing: We’re supposed to overcome our inherent human deficiencies, whatever form they may be, through Jesus, who acts in some kind of intermediate way, thus saving us by bringing us closer to God somehow. I believe almost all Christians would be able to agree with this, even though it’s a very general statement. Then again, it seems many Christians think of their religion in a very general way, never really analyzing what it is they believe.

    However, I agree that this can be true for people belonging to any other faith or ideology. It’s just kind of ironic for faith in particular, as the presumed consequences are so immense.

  • GBM

    “Well, you essentially answered your own question and yet your not a Christian. My nephew who is 9 years old likens what Jesus did to what Bruce Willis did in the movie Armageddon.

    I guess the deeper question is why he chose to do that, instead of just literally willing us to be saved without need for any human sacrifice.”

    I think that the problem here is much deeper than you seem to be giving it credit for on at least three fronts;

    (1) Given that Jesus is God, and both are omnipotent–choosing this particular method of salvation would seem to be an act of gratuitous self-mutilation. I.E. the dis-analogy between Jesus and Armageddon is that Jesus prima facie seems to have been capable of choosing another method whereas Bruce Willis was a limited mortal who could not have achieved his ends by any other means. Jesus’ actions seem more in line with a case where Mr. Willis’ bomb had a timer or a remote detonator, but he elected to remain on the asteroid anyway for no clear reason.
    That action would be something that I, for one, find unworthy of praise.

    (2) This one depends a bit more on the specifics of your particular brand of Christianity, which I am unsure of, but I’ll throw it out there anyway. Given that at least some Christians seem to think that suicide is a sin, and given that at least prima facie Jesus/God could have chosen another method, why isn’t this an instance of divine hypocrisy?

    (3) Is obvious, but I think it needs to get said–how exactly is Jesus’ mutilation supposed to make things better? In Bruce Willis’ case, the answer to that question is pretty clear–somebody needs to set off the bomb, or else the asteroid continues on its course and the earth is destroyed. His death isn’t itself a mechanism for good, only something that happens to be necessary thanks to some unfortunate empirical details. In Jesus’ case, however, it is not obvious at all how exactly his crucifixion helps. If it makes us closer to god, how does that work? If it relieves us of original sin, how does that work? Especially given his, or at least his patron’s status as omnipotent, if it does work, why was this method necessary, or at a bare minimum, sensible?

  • DarkMatter

    Your reply to trj is like throwing the ball out of the playing field and playing soccer without the ball.

  • GBM

    @ Michael

    I’m sorry if you took my use of the Bruce Willis analogy to be flippant, I didn’t intend to offend; but I do think the major points stand.

    Jesus chose to solve a problem, that he could have solved otherwise, by dying. He did use other people as his instruments, but I do not think that this is a plausible response to the suicide objection–consider the case of a man who, during wartime, dresses up in an enemy uniform and walks into an army base carrying a fake weapon, shouting “I’m gonna kill you all!” at the top of his lungs. I would say that this man has committed suicide, no less than that man who jumps off a cliff–both men knew that the probable outcome of the action that they proposed to take was their own death, and then went ahead and took those actions. One used gravity and one used people who were obligated to respond in a predictable way.

    As for your ‘resurrection’ response; that might be plausible if it were an actual difference between Jesus and normal people, but those people will also come back to life in some sense on the christian view, either in heaven or hell. The simple fact that suicide is recognized as possible by Christians indicates that resurrection itself is not viewed as making suicide impossible. Moreover, even if you do not view that response as effective think of the the definition of the word. Sui means self and cide means killer, so it would seem that a person who causes herself to be dead fits the definition–regardless of what happens to her after she dies

    Now it has been awhile since I have read the gospels, but I know that in John at least, Jesus knows precisely what is in store for him, moreover he seems to have the power to cause the whole detachment or Roman soldiers to fall to the ground. Thus insofar as he is on the cross, he is there because he chose it. Jesus makes it easy, it is not a borderline case–he knew that the actions he took would lead to his own death, there were other means to attain the end he desired, he had it within his power to use those other means–but he chose to die. That is suicide plain and simple.

    Please do explain the metaphysics of it, because i have never heard this salvation through torture cashed out in a plausible way.

  • GBM

    @ michael

    sorry it took me so long to respond, but it was 2 AM my time at my last post, so I wasn’t about to continue at that time anyway as to the meat of your response

    (1) Are you accusing me of hyper literalism with regards to the bible or with regards to suicide? If it is with suicide–fine; I don’t see any other way to proceed then checking Jesus actions against the definition of suicide and seeing whether or not they fit.

    If you are accusing me of hyper-literalism with regards to the bible, however, I think I should point out that you could get stuck on the horns of a dilemma here;
    Jesus’ actions in this situation are the very crux (lol) of Christianity, and so I think you are obligated to believe a few things about it, if you are a Christian and you believe in an omnipotent, omniscient God, and this subsitutionary atonement thing. Anyway the dilemma is this, either Jesus was God, or he was not. If you hold, with John, that Jesus was God, then his death was a suicide. If you hold that Jesus was not God, but his death was planned by God in order to somehow atone for the world’s sins, then you hold that God committed homicide. Either way, literalist or not, God is still committing an action that he himself forbid, which is as clear an instance of hypocrisy as you can get.

    As for the subsitutionary atonement–that is exactly what I am talking about when I say that this act of sacrifice is utterly senseless. That is for at least two reasons, first it seems unclear why wrong actions should be treated as analogous to debts in the first place (why shouldn’t I adopt a utilitarian view of punishment?). Second and more importantly, even if they are like debts, his action still makes no sense because he is omnipotent, and debts are forgiven without suffering all the time. Governors and Presidents hand out pardons all the time, and no one has to take the punishment, why should an omnipotent god be unable to do the same? You could respond by saying that I am not working with your wrong-as-debt notion; surely when there is a debt someone must pay! But that is false, even false by Biblical standards (the year of jubilee anyone?) and especially false when dealing with an agent like God who has perfect counter factual control over everything. That is to say that if there is some sort of weird metaphysical rule floating around out there that requires suffering for wrongdoing–God made that rule, knowing exactly how it would effect his creation, thus he is still responsible for its consequences.

    As for your comment “For your argument to hold water, you have to show that there was a better way to get the same end.”

    Frankly I find that a little comical–are you arguing that God is not omnipotent? If he is, then it would seem necessary that there are an infinite number of possible solutions to his problem that do not involve hypocrisy and are therefore better. If you deny omnipotence, then we don’t really have that much of a disagreement.

    Also (sorry this has been so disjointed) the substitution argument you linked me to relies on the existence of a non-physical self,

    “The second part of man is the soul. This is the real you and me…There is a third part of man called the spirit…”

    but provides no argumentation for that claim (except for a rather idiotic appeal to freud’s authority)–this is part of what I am talking about when I say that I’ve never seen this system cashed out in a plausible way. As a philosophic naturalist, not only do I not believe that the concept of ‘sin’ (as distinct from wrong) is plausible but I do not believe in the sort of thing that could be a vessel for ‘sin’

    Anyway hope that I’m not too late for you to actually see this, and nice talking to you

    peace

  • LRA

    Actually, I believe in the Hindu religion, God came down to earth as Krishna.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Jpark – I applaud your courage in trying to think outside your belief system. Most christians I know only expose themselves to influences that reinforce their beliefs.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    It’s so interesting how christians find islam so hard to believe, but at the same time buy everything christianity sells. If only they could look outside of that belief, objectively, and see that the two religions are equally unbelievable.

  • Michael

    GBM,

    I don’t think that the sacrifice Jesus made was like the sacrifice Bruce made in the movie, those were the thoughts of my 9 yr old nephew. I agree with all your explanations on how the two acts are different. I was merely pointing out my 9 year old nephew’s general idea of what Jesus did.

    I could explain to you (but it will be long and will sound preachy), theologically, why Jesus died the way He did. There is a reason for it. Yes He could have done it another way, but there is a reason why He chose to do it that way.

    “Given that at least some Christians seem to think that suicide is a sin, and given that at least prima facie Jesus/God could have chosen another method, why isn’t this an instance of divine hypocrisy?”

    - Jesus didn’t commit suicide, people killed him, big difference there. For arguments sake, lets say Jesus, instead of dying on the cross, chose to jump off a cliff, If Jesus is God, then He is the giver of life, heck that cliff wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Him – sounds like a very stupid idea, but, doesn’t seem like suicide if you are all powerful and can come back to life any time you want.

  • Elemenope

    @Michael

    Jesus didn’t commit suicide, people killed him, big difference there. For arguments sake, lets say Jesus, instead of dying on the cross, chose to jump off a cliff, If Jesus is God, then He is the giver of life, heck that cliff wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Him – sounds like a very stupid idea, but, doesn’t seem like suicide if you are all powerful and can come back to life any time you want.

    The same argument works in reverse. It *couldn’t* have been murder because, hey, he’s all powerful, he can come back to life any time he wants.

    Usually the dividing line between suicide and other forms of death is the intentionality of the person becoming dead. Jesus could have averted his death in any number of ways (he is, after all, *all-powerful*), and was aware by foreknowledge that if he didn’t do those things he would die. That’s as close to suicide as a God can get. It’s kinda like “Suicide by Cop”, where you know if you do a certain thing (like wave a gun at a police officer) you will get shot, and knowing that, you do it anyway.

  • Miguel

    “The same argument works in reverse. It *couldn’t* have been murder because, hey, he’s all powerful, he can come back to life any time he wants. ”

    – Nevertheless, it was their intention to commit murder. Where we live, intentions of such can get you in jail.

    “Jesus could have averted his death in any number of ways (he is, after all, *all-powerful*)”

    – Yes, but doing so would’ve undermined his plan for our salvation. I’ve posted why this was the best way for our salvation, its somewhere below.

    “That’s as close to suicide as a God can get. It’s kinda like “Suicide by Cop”, where you know if you do a certain thing (like wave a gun at a police officer) you will get shot, and knowing that, you do it anyway.”

    -Hypothetically speaking, If waving a gun at a police officer with the intention of getting shot would get millions of people saved, is it still considered suicide? Subject the concept to rigid hyper literalism, then yes you could still argue it was suicide.

  • Janet Greene

    Elemenope – why did jesus have to “shed blood”, be tortured, and die to save humans? If god is god, and god is loving, why would he do something like that? As someone else said, 6000 years seems a long time to still be p*ssed about eve eating the fruit. Seems like it’s time for some forgiveness on that count. Why can’t god forgive without the torture? (Answer – it’s because the NT was written around the time that Constantine was trying to make christianity the official religion – most people were still pagan – the pagan belief was that you have to shed blood to appease the gods – the Jesus story is a rip-off of ancient stories that are almost identical – and the necessity of shedding blood is created by superstitious humans, not god).

  • Miguel

    “Elemenope – why did jesus have to “shed blood”, be tortured, and die to save humans? If god is god, and god is loving, why would he do something like that?

    - He did it precisely because He was loving. The natural effect of sin is separation from God. God is holy and moral. Sin is a transgression and an immoral act – the natural effect of which is separation from holiness and morality. The solution for sin is ‘atonement’. Holiness and morality is dependent upon free-will. This was my example a while ago : we have good and bad bacteria, we do not call bad bacteria immoral, because bacterium does not have the ability to ponder the rightness and wrongness of an act. Therefore, atonement (of our free-will) is the ONLY possible way to go back to holiness and morality. Therefore atonement was needed. And Jesus served as the substitutionary atonement.

    God therefore showed He was just and merciful. Merciful by setting into motion our salvation thru Jesus, and Just by requiring ‘atonement’.

    (I’m Michael by the way, sometimes I use the name Miguel. Especially since there seems to be another Michael commenting at the other post. )

  • Janet Greene

    Miguel (aka Michael) – I wonder what would happen if we showed our love through torture and death. That is a wierd way to show how loving you are. If god is such a “parent”, count me out. There’s enough abusive parents right here on earth.

  • Miguel

    “Miguel (aka Michael) – I wonder what would happen if we showed our love through torture and death. That is a wierd way to show how loving you are. If god is such a “parent”, count me out. There’s enough abusive parents right here on earth. ”

    – You missed the point Janet.

    Lets say I had a child who was drowning. The only way I could save him was to jump in the water. And lets say that I knew if I did, I would die in the process but my child would live. My child then says to me:

    “That is a wierd way to show how loving you are. “

  • Janet Greene

    Miguel – Actually, I thought Jesus WAS God’s son. He sent him to earth to be tortured. He also ordered various fathers in the OT to kill their children. Here’s a list of more stuff God did – and this is only up to the book of Joshua. Plenty more where that came from. Man, I wish this guy GOD was MY dad!!!!

    Genesis

    God is angry. He decides to destroy all humans, beasts, creeping things, fowls, and “all flesh wherein there is breath of life.” He plans to drown them all. 6:7, 17

    God repeats his intention to kill “every living substance … from off the face of the earth.” But why does God kill all the innocent animals? What had they done to deserve his wrath? It seems God never gets his fill of tormenting animals. 7:4

    God drowns everything that breathes air. From newborn babies to koala bears — all creatures great and small, the Lord God drowned them all. 7:21-23

    God sends a plague on the Pharaoh and his household because the Pharaoh believed Abram’s lie. 12:17

    God tells Abram to kill some animals for him. The needless slaughter makes God feel better. 15:9-10

    “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”
    I guess God couldn’t find even ten good Sodomites because he decides to kill them all in Genesis 19. Too bad Abraham didn’t ask God about the children. Why not save them? If Abraham could find 10 good children, toddlers, infants, or babies, would God spare the city? Apparently not. God doesn’t give a damn about children. 18:32

    Lot refuses to give up his angels to the perverted mob, offering his two “virgin daughters” instead. He tells the bunch of angel rapers to “do unto them [his daughters] as is good in your eyes.” This is the same man that is called “just” and “righteous” in 2 Peter 2:7-8. 19:7-8

    God kills everyone (men, women, children, infants, newborns) in Sodom and Gomorrah by raining “fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven.” Well, almost everyone — he spares the “just and righteous” Lot and his family. 19:24

    Lot’s nameless wife looks back, and God turns her into a pillar of salt. 19:26

    God threatens to kill Abimelech and his people for believing Abe’s lie. 20:3-7

    Sarai tells Abraham to “cast out this bondwoman and her son.” God commands him to “hearken unto her voice.” So Abraham abandons Hagar and Ishmael, casting them out into the wilderness to die. 21:10-14

    God orders Abraham to kill Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham shows his love for God by his willingness to murder his son. But finally, just before Isaac’s throat is slit, God provides a goat to kill instead. 22:2-13

    Abraham shows his willingness to kill his son for God. Only an evil God would ask a father to do that; only a bad father would be willing to do it. 22:10

    “The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them.” 35:5

    “And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him.” What did Er do to elicit God’s wrath? The Bible doesn’t say. Maybe he picked up some sticks on Saturday. 38:7

    After God killed Er, Judah tells Onan to “go in unto they brother’s wife.” But “Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and … when he went in unto his brother’s wife … he spilled it on the ground…. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; wherefore he slew him also.” This lovely Bible story is seldom read in Sunday School, but it is the basis of many Christian doctrines, including the condemnation of both masturbation and birth control. 38:8-10

    God brought a seven year, “very greivous” famine on the whole earth for no apparent reason (except maybe to make Joseph wealthy). 41:25-32, 54
    Exodus

    Moses murders an Egyptian after making sure that no one is looking. 2:11-12

    “I will … smite Egypt with all my wonders.” 3:20

    God threatens to kill the Pharaoh’s firstborn son. 4:23

    God decides to kill Moses because his son had not yet been circumcised. 4:24-26

    God will make sure that Pharaoh does not listen to Moses, so that he can kill Egyptians with his armies. 7:4

    “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” Who else could be so cruel and unjust? 7:5, 17

    God tells Moses and Aaron to smite the river and turn it into blood. 7:17-24

    The fifth plague: all cattle in Egypt die. 9:2-6

    The sixth plague: boils and blains upon man and beast. 9:9-12

    “For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” Who else but the biblical god could be so cruel? 9:14

    The seventh plague is hail. “And the hail smote throughout the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast.” 9:22-25

    These verses clearly show that the mass murder of innocent children by God was premeditated. 11:4-6 (see 12:29-30)

    God will kill the Egyptian children to show that he puts “a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” 11:7

    God explains to Moses that he intends to “smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. 12:12

    After God has sufficiently hardened the Pharaoh’s heart, he kills all the firstborn Egyptian children. When he was finished “there was not a house where there was not one dead.” Finally, he runs out of little babies to kill, so he slaughters the firstborn cattle, too. 12:29

    To commemorate the divine massacre of the Egyptian children, Moses instructs the Israelites to “sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix” — all the males, that is. God has no use for dead, burnt female bodies. 13:2, 12, 15

    After hardening Pharaoh’s heart a few more times, God drowns Pharaoh’s army in the sea 14:4-28

    “The Lord is a man of war.” Indeed, judging from his acts in the Old Testament, he is a vicious warlike monster. 15:3

    God’s right hand dashes people in pieces. 15:6

    If you do what God says, he won’t send his diseases on you (like he did to the Egyptians). But otherwise…. 15:26

    Joshua, with God’s approval, kills the Amalekites “with the edge of the sword.” 17:13

    “The Lord has sworn [God swears!] that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” 17:14-16

    Any person or animal that touches Mt. Sinai shall be stoned to death or “shot through.” 19:12-13

    Like the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, nobody can see God and live. 19:21

    God gives instructions for killing and burning animals. He says that if we will make such “burnt offerings,” he will bless us for it. What kind of mind would be pleased by the killing and burning of innocent animals? 20:24

    A child who hits or curses his parents must be executed. 21:15, 17

    An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 21:24-25

    If an ox gores someone, “then the ox shall surely be stoned.” 21:28

    If an ox gores someone due to the negligence of its owner, then “the ox shall be stoned, and his owner shall be put to death.”. 21:29

    If an ox gores a slave, the owner of the ox must pay the owner of the slave 30 shekels of silver, and “the ox shall be stoned.” 21:32

    “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Thousands of innocent women have suffered excruciating deaths because of this verse. 22:18

    “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.” Is it really necessary to kill such people? Couldn’t we just send them to counseling or something? 22:19

    “He who sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” If this commandment is obeyed, then the four billion people who do not believe in the biblical god must be killed. 22:20

    If you make God angry enough, he will kill you and your family with his own sword. 22:24

    “The firstborn of thy sons thou shalt give unto me.” (As a burnt offering?) 22:29

    God promises to “send his fear before the Israelites” and to kill everyone that they encounter when they enter the promised land. 23:27

    Moses has some animals killed and their dead bodies burned for God. Then he sprinkles their blood on the altar and on the people. This makes God happy. 24:5-8

    Get some animals, kill them, chop up their bodies, wave body parts in the air, burn the carcasses, and sprinkle the blood all around — in precisely the way God tells you. It may well make you sick, but it makes God feel good. 29:11-37

    Have your killed and offered your bullock for a sin offering today? How about the two lambs you are supposed to offer each day? 29:36-39

    Wash up or die. 30:20-21

    Moses burned the golden calf, ground it into powder, and then forced it down the throats of all the people. 32:20

    Whoever puts holy oil on a stranger shall be “cut off from his people.” 30:33

    Those who break the Sabbath are to be executed. 31:14

    God asks to be left alone so that his “wrath may wax hot” and he can “consume them. 32:10

    God orders the sons of Levi (Moses, Aaron, and the other members of their tribe that were “on the Lord’s side”) to kill “every man his neighbor.” “And there fell of the people that day about 3000 men.” 32:27-28

    But God wasn’t satisfied with the slaughter of the 3000, so he killed some more people with a plague. 32:35

    If you can’t redeem him, then just “break his neck.” Hey, it’s all for the glory of God. 34:20

    Whoever works, or even kindles a fire, on the Sabbath “shall be put to death.” 35:2-3

    Leviticus

    God gives detailed instructions for performing ritualistic animal sacrifices. such bloody rituals must be important to God, judging from the number of times that he repeats their instructions. Indeed the entire first nine chapters of Leviticus can be summarized as follows: Get an animal, kill it, sprinkle the blood around, cut the dead animal into pieces, and burn it for a “sweet savor unto the Lord.” Chapters 1 – 9

    “Flay the burnt offering; cut it into pieces.” 1:6

    Burn the head, fat, and entrails for “a sweet savour unto the Lord.” 1:8-9

    “Kill it and sprinkle blood round about.” 1:11, 3:2, 3:8, 3:13

    “Cut it into pieces and burn it for a sweet savour unto the Lord.” 1:12-13

    “Wring off its head and burn it.” 1:15

    “For a sweet savour unto the Lord.” 1:17

    “Part it in pieces… it is a meat offering.” 2:6

    “It is a thing most holy of the offerings of the LORD made by fire.” 2:10

    What to do with the fat, kidneys, and liver of your burnt offerings. 3:3-4, 3:9-10, 3:14-16

    “Kill the bullock before the Lord and take of the bullock’s blood.” 4:4

    “The priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle the blood seven times before the Lord.” 4:6, 4:17

    “Pour all the blood at the bottom of the altar.” 4:7

    What to do with the fat, kidneys, liver, skin, head, entrails, and dung from your burnt offerings. 4:8-11

    “The bullock shall be killed before the Lord.” 4:14

    “Kill it and pour out the blood.” 4:24-25

    “Slay it for a sin offering, pour out the blood, and burn the fat for a sweet savour unto the Lord.” 4:29-31

    Slay it for a sin offering, put the blood on your finger, and pour out the blood at the bottom of the altar. 4:33-34

    Wringing off the heads of pigeons for God. 5:8-9

    Kill the sin offering before the Lord. “It is most holy.” 6:25

    The holy law of trespass offering: Find an animal; kill it; sprinkle the blood around; offer God the fat, rump, kidneys, and caul; burn and eat it in the holy place, for “it is most holy.” 7:1-6

    The priest must sprinkle the blood of the peace offerings. 7:14

    Be careful what you eat during these animal sacrifices. Don’t eat fat or blood — these are for God. (And he doesn’t like to share!) 7:18-27

    God gives instructions for “wave offerings” and “heave offerings.” He says these offerings are to be made perpetually “by a statute for ever.” Have you made your heave offering today? 7:30-36

    Moses does it all for God. First he kills an animal; wipes the blood on Aaron’s ears, thumbs, and big toes. Then he sprinkles blood round about and waves the guts before the Lord. Finally he burns the whole mess for “a sweet savour before the Lord.” 8:14-32

    More killing, sprinkling of blood, waiving animal parts, and burning carcasses “before the Lord.” 9:2-21

    Kill the calf, dip your finger in the blood, sprinkle the blood round about, burn the fat and entrails, and wave the breast for a wave offering before the Lord. 9:8-21

    Two of the sons of Aaron “offered strange fire before the Lord” and “there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” 10:1-3

    If priests misbehave at the tabernacle by uncovering their heads, tearing their clothes, leaving with holy oil on them, or by drinking “wine or strong drink”, then God will kill them and send his wrath on “all the people.” 10:6-9

    After a woman gives birth, a priest must kill a lamb, pigeon, or dove as a sin offering. This is because having children is sinful and God likes it when things are killed for him. 12:6-8

    God’s law for lepers: Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one. Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly off. Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear, thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally kill a couple doves and offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 14:2-32

    God “put the plague of leprosy” into the houses of the Canaanites. 14:34

    God explains the use of scapegoats. It goes like this: Get two goats. Kill one. Wipe, smear, and sprinkle the blood around seven times. Then take the other goat, give it the sins of all the people, and send it off into the wilderness. 16:6-28

    Sprinkle the blood and burn the fat for a sweet savour unto the Lord. 17:6

    If you upset God, he’ll cause the land to vomit you out. 18:25

    “Whosoever shall commit any of these abominations … shall be cut off from among their people.” 18:29, 19:8

    Don’t eat sacrifices on the third day or God will cut you off from among your people. 19:6-8

    Kill anyone who “gives his seed” to Molech. If you refuse, God will cut you and your family off. 20:2-5

    “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” Couldn’t we try spanking first? 20:9

    Both parties in adultery shall be executed. 20:10

    If a man has sex with his father’s wife, kill them both. 20:11

    If a man “lies” with his daughter-in-law, then both must be killed. 20:12

    If a man has sex with another man, kill them both. 20:13

    If you “lie” with your wife and your mother-in-law (now that sounds fun!), then all three of you must be burned to death. 20:14

    If a man or woman “lie with a beast” both the person and the poor animal are to be killed. 20:15-16

    People with “familiar spirits” (witches, fortune tellers, etc.) are to be stoned to death. 20:27

    A priest’s daughter who “plays the whore” is to be burned to death. 21:9

    God gives us more instructions on killing and burning animals. I guess the first nine chapters of Leviticus wasn’t enough. He says we must do this because he really likes the smell — it is “a sweet savour unto the Lord.” 23:12-14, 18

    Don’t do any work on the day of atonement or God will destroy you. 23:29-30

    A man curses and blasphemes while disputing with another man. Moses asks God what to do about it. God says that the whole community must stone him to death. “And the children of Israel did as the Lord and Moses commanded.” 24:10-23

    Anyone who blasphemes or curses shall be stoned to death by the entire community. 24:16

    God tells the Israelites to make slaves out of their neighbors and their families. The “heathens” and “strangers” are to be their possessions forever. 25:44-46

    God tells the Israelites to “chase” their enemies and make them “fall before you by the sword.” He figures five of the Israelites will be able to “chase” a hundred of their enemies, and a hundred will be able to “put ten thousand to flight.” 26:7-8

    God describes the torments that he has planned for those who displease him. The usual stuff: plagues, burning fevers that will consume the eyes, etc. but he reserves the worst for the little children. He says “ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it,” “I will send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children,” and “ye shall eat the flesh of your sons and daughters.” 26:16-39

    All “devoted” things (both man and beast) “shall surely be put to death.” 27:28-29
    Numbers

    God shows his hospitality with the admonition: “The stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” 1:51, 3:10, 3:38

    Two of Aaron’s sons are killed by God for “offering strange fire before the Lord.” 3:4

    Don’t touch or “go in to see when the holy things are covered.” God kills people who touch or look at covered holy things. 4:15, 20

    God tells the people to expel from camp “every leper, every one that hath an issue, and whoever is defiled by the dead.” So by God’s instructions, the sick are abandoned and left to suffer and die alone. 5:1-4

    “And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it.” (He had his hearing aid on.) He then burned the complainers alive. That’ll teach them. 11:1

    “And wile the flesh [of the quails] was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague. “The Bible isn’t too clear about what these poor folks did to upset God so much; all it says is that they had “lusted.” 11:33

    Miriam and Aaron (Moses’ brother and sister) criticize Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman and thus breaking the law of God. But God makes it clear that his rules don’t apply to his favorites, and he strikes Miriam with leprosy. Notice that only Miriam is punished, though both she and Aaron complained. 12:1, 9-10

    More plagues and pestilence sent by God. God repeats one of his favorite promises: “your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.” 14:12, 29, 14:32-37

    God punishes the children for the failings of their great-great grandfathers. 14:18

    God killed those that murmured against him with a plague. 14:36-37

    God gives more instructions for the ritualistic killing of animals. The smell of burning flesh is “a sweet savour unto the Lord.” 15:3, 13-14, 24

    The Israelites find a man picking up sticks on the sabbath. God commands them to kill him by throwing rocks at him. 15:32-36

    Because of a dispute between Korah and Moses, God has the ground open up and swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.” Then, just for the hell of it, God has a fire burn to death 250 “men that offered incense.” 16:20-35

    After God killed Korah, his family, and 250 innocent bystanders, the people complained saying, “ye have killed the people of the Lord.” So God, who doesn’t take kindly to criticism, sends a plague on the people. And “they that died in the plague were 14,700.” 16:41-50

    God threatens to kill those who murmur. To which the people reply, “Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish …. Shall we be consumed with dying?” 17:12-13

    Stay away from holy things and places — like churches. God might have to kill you if you get too close.18:3, 22, 32

    God shows us how to make new friends by saying : “The stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” 18:7

    God describes once again the procedure for ritualistic animal sacrifices. such rituals must be extremely important to God, since he makes their performance a “statute” and “covenant” forever. 18:17-19

    The purification of the unclean. These absurd rituals, cruel sacrifices, and unjust punishments are vitally important to God. They are to be “a perpetual statute” for all humankind. 19:1-22

    “And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities.” This verse demonstrates the power of prayer: If you ask God, he will destroy entire cities for you. 21:3

    God sends “fiery serpents” to bite his chosen people, and many of them die. 21:6

    God delivers the Amorites into Moses’ hands. (You’re in God hands with Moses.) So Moses does the usual thing, killing everyone “until their was none left alive.” 21:34-35

    God’s people will kill like a lion and then “drink the blood of the slain.” 23:24

    God, who is as strong as a unicorn, will eat up the nations, break their bones, and then pierce them through with his arrows. What a guy! 24:8

    After the people “commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab,” Moses has them all killed. Then God tells Moses to hang their dead bodies up in front of him; God says that this will satisfy him. 25:1-5

    When one of the Israelite men brings home a foreign woman, “Phinehas (Aaron’s grandson) sees them and throws a spear “through the man .. and the woman through her belly.” This act pleases God so much that “the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.” But not before 24,000 had died. 25:6-9

    For impaling the interracial couple, God rewards Phinehas and his sons with the everlasting priesthood. 25:10-13

    God tells Moses how to care for his neighbors by saying: “Vex the Midianites, and smite them.” 25:16-17

    The ground swallow Korah and his companions and a fire consumes 250 men. 26:10

    “And Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange fire before the Lord.” When you go camping avoid making any unusual fires. 26:61

    In these chapters, God provides ridiculously detailed instructions for the ritualistic sacrifice of animals. The burning of their dead bodies smells great to God. Eleven times in these two chapters God says that they are to him a “sweet savour.” 28 – 29

    Under God’s direction, Moses’ army defeats the Midianites. They kill all the adult males, but take the women and children captive. When Moses learns that they left some live, he angrily says: “Have you saved all the women alive? Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” So they went back and did as Moses (and presumably God) instructed, killing everyone except for the virgins. In this way they got 32,000 virgins — Wow! (Even God gets some of the booty — including the virgins.) 31:1-54

    God killed all the Egyptian firstborn. 33:4

    God tells Moses to exterminate the residents of Canaan and destroy all of their religious symbols and possessions. 33:50-52

    But if the Israelites don’t kill them all, then God will make them pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides. And he will do unto the Israelites as he planned to do to the inhabitants of Canaan. 33:55-56

    “The revenger of blood” must murder the murderer just as soon as he sees him. 35:19, 21

    When a murder is committed the blood pollutes the land. The only way to cleanse it is to spill more blood by killing the killer. 35:30, 33
    Deuteronomy

    “The Lord destroyed them before them” — the general treatment of the people who were supposedly displaced by the Israelites. 2:21-22

    All nations shall be terrorized by the followers of Yahweh. 2:25

    God hardened the heart of the king of Heshbon and so that he could have him and all of his people killed. 2:30

    At God’s instructions, the Israelites “utterly destroyed the men, women, and the little ones” leaving “none to remain.” 2:33-36

    The Israelites, with God’s help, kill all the men, women, and children of every city. 3:3-6

    When going to war, don’t be afraid. God is on your side; “he shall fight for you.” 3:22

    God destroyed the followers of Baalpeor. 4:3

    God brought the Israelites out of Egypt “by war … and by great terrors.” 4:34

    If someone makes an image of anything (like a bird or flower) then God will destroy the entire nation. 4:25-26

    If you worship the wrong god, God will get jealous and kill you. 6:15

    God instructs the Israelites to kill, without mercy, all the inhabitants (strangers) of the land that they conquer. 7:2

    If you do show any mercy to such strangers, “give your daughters to any of them, or “take” any of their daughters, then you’ll get God so angry that he’ll “destroy thee suddenly.” 7:4

    God will kill those who hate him. 7:10

    God commands his people to “consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity on them.” 7:16

    God will send hornets to kill your enemies, “for the Lord thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.” 7:20-23

    “If thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods … ye shall surely perish.” 8:19-20

    God is “a consuming fire” that destroys people. 9:3

    “The blood of sacrifices shall be poured out … and thou shalt eat the flesh.” Isn’t this the sort of thing that Satanists are accused of doing? 12:27

    After God kills those of other faiths, be sure to reject their beliefs and do not learn about them. Otherwise God will have to kill you too. 12:30

    Prophets and dreamers are to be executed if they say or dream the wrong things. 13:1-5

    If your brother, son, daughter, wife, or friend tries to get you to worship another god, “thou shalt surely kill him, thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death.” 13:6-10

    If you hear of a city where another god is worshiped, then destroy everyone in the city (even the cattle) and burn it down. (Watch out Salt Lake!) 13:12-16

    Kill everyone who has religious beliefs that are different from your own. 17:2-7

    Anyone who will not listen to a priest or a judge must be executed. 17:12-13

    False prophets are to be (you guessed it) executed. How do you know who is a false prophet? By whether or not their predictions come true. (Watch out Jehovah’s Witnesses!) 18:20

    Murderers and perjurers are to be executed — “and thine eye shall not pity” them. 19:11-13, 18-21

    “And thine eye shall not pity. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” 19:21

    God travels with people and fights in their wars. 20:4

    In the cities that god “delivers into thine hands” you must kill all the males (including old men, boys, and babies) with “the edge of the sword …. But the women … shalt thou take unto yourself.” 20:13

    “But of the cities … which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.” Kill the old men and women, the sick and the dying, the blind and the lame, pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, infants, toddlers, and babies. 20:16

    If you find a dead body and don’t know the cause of death, then get all the elders together, cut off the head of a heifer, wash your hands over its body, and say our hands have not shed this blood. (That’ll do it!) 21:1-8

    If you have a “stubborn and rebellious son,” then you and the other men in your neighborhood “shall stone him with stones that he die.” 21:18-21

    Hang on trees the bodies of those who are “accursed of God.” They make nice decorations. 21:22

    If a man marries, then decides that he hates his wife, he can claim she wasn’t a virgin when they were married. If her father can’t produce the “tokens of her virginity” (bloody sheets), then the woman is to be stoned to death at her father’s doorstep. 22:13-21

    “If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die.” 22:22

    If a betrothed virgin is raped in the city and doesn’t cry out loud enough, then “the men of the city shall stone her to death.” 22:23-24

    Legal disputes are settled by a judge who determines guilt or innocence. No lawyers or jury are needed. Those found guilty will be beaten with 40 stripes. 25:1-3

    If two men fight and the wife of one grabs the “secrets” of the other, “then thou shalt cut off her hand” and “thine eye shall not pity her.” 25:11-12

    God commands the Israelites to “blot out the rembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” A few hundred years later God orders Saul to kill of the Amalekites “both man and woman, infant and suckling.” (1 Sam.15:2-3) 25:19

    If you don’t obey all of the laws that are given in the Old Testament, God shower you with the curses that are given in the next 52 verses. 28:16-68

    “Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body.” 28:18

    God will send you “cursing, vexing, the pestilence, consumption, fever, inflammation, extreme burning, the sword, blasting, and mildew.” 28:20-22

    “And thy carcass shall be meat to all the fowls of the air.” 28:25-26

    “The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and the emerods [hemorrhoids], and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst be healed. The Lord will smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.” 28:27-28

    “Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes.” 28:31

    Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people.” 28:32

    You will be enslaved and driven mad in another country. 28:33-34

    “The Lord will smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.” 28:35

    You will be ruled by other nations, forced to serve other gods, become a laughingstock among your neighbors, have your crops destroyed by locusts, your vines eaten by worms, and have fruitless olive trees. 28:36-40

    “Thou shalt begat sons and daughters, but thou shall not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.” 28:41

    “All these curses shall come upon thee … and upon thy seed for ever.” 28:48-49

    God will enslave you and destroy you with hunger, thirst, hardship, and all kinds of deprivation. 28:48-52

    “And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters.” 28:53-55

    “The tender and delicate woman” will be forced to eat her own children “that cometh out from between her feet.” 28:56-57

    If you don’t do as God says he’ll send plagues to torment and destroy you. 28:58-64

    “The LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.” 28:65-67

    God will have you sold to your enemies — but even they won’t buy you. 28:68

    If you serve the gods of other nations, “all the curses that are in this book” will fall upon you. 29:18-20

    “And the Lord will put all these curses upon thine enemies.” See Dt.28:16-64 for some of the curses God has in mind. 30:7

    Moses tells the people that God will destroy all the inhabitants of the lands that they pass through. 31:3

    When God gets mad — watch out! He’ll starve you to death, burn you with fire, and send vicious beasts to devour you. He’ll “destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.” Not even the helpless and innocent are spared by this psychotic God. 32:21-26

    God says, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense … for the day of their destruction is at hand.” 32:35

    God says, “I kill … I wound … I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh.” Someone should take his sword and arrows away, at least until he’s feeling better. 32:39-43

  • Janet Greene

    That last post was copied from Skeptic’s Annotated bible – http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html

  • Michael

    It wasn’t my intention to clarify why Jesus died the way He did, but rather why Christians would have a difficult time answering the question to the satisfaction of an atheist (or to themselves for that matter) – since answering the question for the latter’s purpose requires a deep understanding of, firstly, the bible, and certain theological and philosophical notions. Thus, Christians would give general explanations – which are, by itself, true, but incomplete.

    Substitutionary atonement, the generally accepted explanation for Jesus’ death (ofcourse, there have been many variations of this explanation, but essentially, all involve the same elements) basically works like this: If you are in debt, and can’t pay, you have 2 choices: get someone else to pay, or get the bank or other person that is owed to forgive the debt.

    The way God forgives our debts, is by arranging for their payment — by applying the value of his Son’s sacrifice on their behalf. In this way, the Bible teaches that God “can be just — and yet the justifier of those who come to Him by Jesus.”

  • DarkMatter

    An unintentional reply on your part will not be seen as debt for the sake of argumment.

    Original sin, sins and “debts” are different entities in biblical arguments even from your prospective about faith.

  • Michael

    hmm.. You lost me there.

  • DarkMatter

    Let me know where.

  • Michael

    “Original sin, sins and “debts” are different entities in biblical arguments even from your prospective about faith.”

    - a Sin is a transgression.

    A debt is something owed.

    Atonement is reparation, or debt payment.

    Atonement for a sin = paying of sin.

    I don’t mean to treat you like a child here, But does this answer, what I’m presuming your question is?

  • DarkMatter

    It is still an interesting argument even though original sin and sins are messed up in your argument.

    You owe me one in your intention.

  • Sara

    True fact. And many of the great heroes of ancient India were actually incarnations of gods — Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana, etc. And, crap, then you’ve got the Greek & Roman mythologies, where nearly everyone was part-deity or deity-in-disguise.

  • Michael

    Hey, I didn’t get offended, thats fine.

    Well, ok, if you subject the concept to a sort of hyper literalism than maybe we could consider it suicide. For your argument to hold water, you have to show that there was a better way to get the same end.

    When I said there was “another way.. but He had to choose this way because it was best” I meant exactly that. Perhaps the link could explain this better.

    http://www.leaderu.com/isr/articles_resources/whydidjesusdie.html

    Perhaps this website will give you some insight on the matter. Again, it is another variant of the concept of ‘substitutionary atonement’, there are many variations of the concept, but generally, all variations contain, more or less, the same elements.

  • Elemenope

    At the risk of reopening old arguments, Atheists can use the “outsiders test”. Every person’s viewpoint is informed by assumptions; start with different assumptions, and you end with different viewpoints. (I know the word “beliefs” in this context causes problems, because while Atheism is technically a belief in the philosophic sense, it bears little resemblance to the word as it is used in common parlance, so let’s go with “viewpoints”).

    An Atheist can choose to adopt the assumptions of another viewpoint and see where it leads, and as many Atheists used to be something else, the outsider’s test should be even easier (because it just requires *remembering* how you thought and felt when you weren’t an Atheist).

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Michael – “I was baptized a Catholic” … “Until I sincerely tried to make sense of my own religion and invited God into my heart.”

    Since you’re Catholic I’m curious about what you believe the holy communion is? Catholics today believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus. Yes LITERALLY. Do you believe that this food and drink is actually, physically God? If you do, I’m curious why you would not crawl on your belly, face down in abject adoration and unworthiness when receiving this piece of God, the creator of the universe…. It always struck me as odd how nonchalant people would chomp down the wafer, which was supposedly God himself.

    A strange ritual indeed when you think about it – and actually predates Jesus by many hundreds of years. Just as you are given redemption in the form of a wafer biscuit, believers in Dionysus were given makaria (blessedness) in the form of a cake. Followers of Mithras were offered a sacrament of water mixed with wine and bread or consecrated wafers bearing the sign of a cross.

    When you study your faith Michael, maybe you should also study where IT came from…..

  • Michael

    They do? Really? I don’t think the molecular structure of the “wafer” changes and turns into flesh and blood.. hmm. literally huh? Nah.. not me.

  • Michael

    I always thought that the Holy Eucharist was simply a commemoration of the ‘last supper’ as well as the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

    But now your telling me that We believe that it literally turns into flesh and blood. “YES LITERALLY”. Hmm… Have you heard of any Catholic subjecting the wafer under scientific scrutiny since he truly believed it was now flesh and blood? Oh none? Why do you think thats so?

    Maybe you should actually study “where IT came from” too and not just rely on snippets from ‘the Davinci code’.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    They do? Really? I don’t think the molecular structure of the “wafer” changes and turns into flesh and blood.. hmm. literally huh? Nah.. not me.

    Catholic dogma is not that it changes on a physical level (because that is obviously testable), it remains physically bread and wine, but it literally and actually takes on the immaterial essence of God.

  • Janet Greene

    I don’t care that it’s not physically blood and flesh – cannibalism is disgusting even in symbolic form. Funny how christians don’t see that. Christians – please get educated about the stories that predate Jesus and are almost the same. (An easy way to research is to check out youtube “Zeitgeist – the movie – religion”. It’s mostly accurate. Please don’t preach until you’ve done your research. And if you haven’t, you will be shocked that the bible simply copies the ancient stories.

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Michael – “simply a commemoration of the ‘last supper’” ?? lol you obviously haven’t even studied your own religion very well. Tell ya what, read up on your religion a little bit more then get back to me um k?

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Christ_in_the_Eucharist.asp

    oh and next time you eat your little bread wafer treat it with the respect it deserves, after all it is God.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Janet Greene,

    A lot of people would dispute exactly how accurate Zeitgeist may be. For me, it raises a lot of red flags. Be skeptical.

  • Janet Greene

    Teleprompter – thanks for the warning re zeitgeist. Yes, I have read critical reviews of the facts in that movie, and maybe I shouldn’t have recommended it. But the general idea is right – that christianity is simply a repackaged myth – and I thought it was more likely that a christian would look at a youtube vid than any book I recommend:)

  • Miguel

    Thanks for adding the words “immaterial essence”. Because to say that “the wafer turns into Christs body and blood, literally!” is wrong. If you interpret that sentence ‘literally’ then that would have to mean that the wafer changes its molecular structure.

    Christ gives himself in the Holy Eucharist to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing for all time the sacrifice of the cross.

  • Miguel

    “Michael – “simply a commemoration of the ‘last supper’” ?? lol you obviously haven’t even studied your own religion very well. Tell ya what, read up on your religion a little bit more then get back to me um k? ”

    - Er, no, I suggest you read what you just said. And then ask me to interpret that “literally”. I suggest you look up the word “literally”.

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Miguel/Michael (whatever your name is) “I suggest you read what you just said. And then ask me to interpret that “literally”. I suggest you look up the word “literally”.”

    When i said literally i meant literally. Yes literally. Read up on it. They are not talking about material essence, they do in fact believe it physically changes ok?? Comprende??? Read up on your own religion. I put that link there for a reason. Read it.

  • Miguel

    Vidlord, perhaps we started on the wrong foot.

    I don’t have to read up on it. You are mistaken. We believe that the ‘essence’ of the body and blood of Christ literally takes up on the “wafer”

    Ofcourse, perhaps for shortcut purposes, they will just use the words “body and blood”.

    If you think we think it would literally turn into body and blood, I just have to say that your wrong buddy.

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Miguel ” If you interpret that sentence ‘literally’ then that would have to mean that the wafer changes its molecular structure.”

    Funny how a wafer magically changing it’s molecular structure strikes you as logically impossible but yet feeding thousands with a few fish and some bread, a virgin giving birth, water turning to wine, walking on water, and rising from the dead is perfectly and obviously possible. Not only possible but actually happened.

    Maybe you should apply your critical thinking to some of the fairy stories you believe as well as to the wafer turning into flesh, which you obviously don’t think is possible.

  • Miguel

    Miguel ” If you interpret that sentence ‘literally’ then that would have to mean that the wafer changes its molecular structure.”

    Funny how a wafer magically changing it’s molecular structure strikes you as logically impossible

    - Funny How you’ve inferred that that was what I meant by that statement, about wafer changing its molecular structure as being logically impossible. Whats also funny is that you , again, missed my point.

    That statement was to show what your sentence “literally” meant – which you did in fact say, you did literally mean. To which I’ve pointed out to you, proved your ignorance.

    “Maybe you should apply your critical thinking to some of the fairy stories you believe as well”

    – Maybe you should use your powers of inference to better use. Like, say, debating 3 year olds perhaps.

  • Janet Greene

    Miguel, you did not answer any of Vidlord’s (rather good) points. You just insulted him. I would be interested in hearing your answer – why do you think literally turning a wafer into flesh is silly (OBVIOUSLY metaphorical), but Jesus being born of a virgin, guided by a magic star, being perfect, walking on water, healing the blind, raising the dead, feeding a loaf and 5 fishes (?) to thousands of people; dying and coming back to life, then ascending to heaven. This is all very logically possible to you.

  • DarkMatter

    Left, wrong, left, wrong, ok let’s start again:
    left, right, left, right, left right wrong, right wrong left, now, this make sense.

  • Miguel

    “Miguel, you did not answer any of Vidlord’s (rather good) points. You just insulted him.”

    - As far as I can tell, I was apologizing, and then he insulted me, which made me retaliate.

    “I would be interested in hearing your answer – why do you think literally turning a wafer into flesh is silly (OBVIOUSLY metaphorical), but Jesus being born of a virgin, guided by a magic star, being perfect, walking on water, healing the blind, raising the dead, feeding a loaf and 5 fishes (?)”

    - Don’t stop there, ask me why I think flying donkeys is silly. Or why believing in the power of a rabbit foot is silly. Why should it be silly? I believe in virgin births and magic stars right?

    Really? Thats what boggles your mind?

  • Janet Greene

    Miguel, you don’t need to get defensive. I you believe in virgin births, rising from the dead, etc, then why is it so silly to believe that the wafer & wine can LITERALLY turn into Jesus flesh? That’s what vidlord and I were asking you…you still didn’t answer…but I don’t want to p*ss you off either, so if you are offended by my question just ignore it. I know that the question is hard to answer.

  • Miguel

    “Miguel, you don’t need to get defensive. I you believe in virgin births, rising from the dead, etc, then why is it so silly to believe that the wafer & wine can LITERALLY turn into Jesus flesh? That’s what vidlord and I were asking you…you still didn’t answer…but I don’t want to p*ss you off either, so if you are offended by my question just ignore it. I know that the question is hard to answer. ”

    – Well, Janet, firstly, that was not the point of what I was previously arguing.

    Anyway, I don’t believe that the bread and wine literally turn into body and blood, because everytime the priest does it, I don’t see any ‘body and blood’. Vidlord said, that Cathlolics, literally believed that a physical transformation takes place, he asserts it many times “literally” – which is wrong. For his statement to be true, he has to prove that Catholics believe that the wafer changes its molecular compositions, which they do not. So he is wrong on that. Thats the simple answer.

    winterminute got it right when he said:

    “Catholic dogma is not that it changes on a physical level (because that is obviously testable), it remains physically bread and wine, but it literally and actually takes on the immaterial essence of God.”

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Indeed. But this doesn’t mean that the eucharist isn’t literally the body of Jesus, any more than the fact that Jesus was a human being meant that he wasn’t literally god. it is 100% bread and wine, and 100% Jesus-flesh. It has the appearance of bread and wine, but the essence of Jesus.

    The Catholic Church refers to this as “The Real Presence of Christ“, and they’re quite serious when they say that the eucharist literally becomes the body (and soul!) of Jesus, but not in any way that could be measured or demonstrated. This is, in fact one of their Big Three mysteries.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute
  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    No, I agree with you. Every viewpoint is underlined with certain assumptions which one can suspend or rearrange as a form of “outsider test”.

  • Jabster

    Although an atheist could adopt a different viewpoint I don’t think that is really the purpose of the test. With atheism there aren’t really alternative choices of atheisms to believe in — you either believe in god(s) or you don’t. For someone of faith the question being asked is why is your version of faith correct and others aren’t and this is fundamentally different to asking an atheist to say take the viewpoint that say allah is the one true god etc. etc. and interpret the world from this view point. I should add that this doesn’t mean that it can’t be used as a tool to further understanding between believers and non-believers — well at last some of them anyway as there is a certain brand of holy text thumpers which I believe I will never be able to fathom.

    As a slight aside it seems to me that many of the posters here did see where the assumptions of their religion led them and it wasn’t to a comfortable place and that’s why they are ex-believers.

    Of course I may have made my own assumptions here!

  • Michael

    GBM,

    You raise many points. please forgive me if I’m unable to express myself as articulately as you,english is only a second language to me.

    I was accusing you of hyper literalism with regards to the concept of suicide. It is easy to see the difference between our hypothetical and ordinary human suicide.

    Isn’t suicide or homicide applicable to physical life? If so, If I had the power, anytime I wanted to come back to my ‘physical life’, would it still be considered suicide If other people killed me for a greater purpose (but to which I knew the outcome of my actions would result in such a death) but I was all powerful and could come back anytime to my physical life – and I even was the one who created life itself? (Phrased sloppily, but you get the point anyway)

    Ofcourse, if you subject the concept to hyper literalism, you will always find a way to logically argue that the event was still suicide. But, come on now, aren’t we being just a little intellectually dishonest with ourselves?

    “first it seems unclear why wrong actions should be treated as analogous to debts in the first place (why shouldn’t I adopt a utilitarian view of punishment?). Second and more importantly, even if they are like debts, his action still makes no sense because he is omnipotent, and debts are forgiven without suffering all the time.”

    – logically explain to me why it shouldn’t. You seem to be blurring the lines between sin against God and sin against Man. Remember God wants to create a moral and holy people, these attributes are dependent on ‘free will’ We have good and bad bacteria, but there is a reason why we don’t call the bad bacteria ‘immoral’. A bacterium does not have the ability to ponder the rightness and wrongness of an act. Generosity for example, is an act of holiness and morality, which is dependent on ‘free will’, a tree that provides fruit for its owner cannot be called generous because its not like it could withhold its production of fruit. You have to understand that what God wants from us is different from what Society wants from us. If God chose to be utilitarian, how does that make us Holy and Moral? While society, for example, may forgive weed smokers because it doesn’t have the funds to pay for their imprisonment – God does not do this because, like I said, He wants to create a holy and moral people.

    “surely when there is a debt someone must pay! But that is false, even false by Biblical standards”

    - When the end is to derive holiness and morality from an individual, the individual must seek ‘atonement’. Simply forgiving the individual does not allow him the ‘option or choice’ to be holy and moral. You mentioned the Jubilee year – there is still atonement involved here. There is always atonement involved, in fact its not as simple as asking forgiveness and then you are forgiven, atonement is required. Some Christian denominations believe that Jesus already died for us, thus simply being sorry for your sins is atonement, enough to be holy and moral again – I certainly don’t know about the theology behind this though, I’m planning to study it better.

    “Frankly I find that a little comical–are you arguing that God is not omnipotent? If he is, then it would seem necessary that there are an infinite number of possible solutions to his problem that do not involve hypocrisy and are therefore better. ”

    – Your going to have to logically argue how one of the infinite number of possible solutions would be better, having a particular end in sight: creating a holy and moral people.

    ” but provides no argumentation for that claim (except for a rather idiotic appeal to freud’s authority)–this is part of what I am talking about when I say that I’ve never seen this system cashed out in a plausible way. As a philosophic naturalist”

    - Come on now, I could supply argumentation by citing Freud, but I suspect this wouldn’t be satisfying to you as you would rather I provide evidence for the existence of a soul. If I was able to do that, there wouldn’t be any atheists in the world. I’ll readily concede that I cannot do this.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    a tree that provides fruit for its owner cannot be called generous because its not like it could withhold its production of fruit.

    But it would be right to punish it if it selfishly chose to withhold its fruit out of season, no?

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Your going to have to logically argue how one of the infinite number of possible solutions would be better, having a particular end in sight: creating a holy and moral people.

    That’s kind of what “omnipotent” means. God can just arrange things so that the universe conforms to his desires. If he cannot make the world be entirely composed of holy and moral people just be snapping his fingers, then his power has obvious limits.

    Of course, one could also ask how well Jesus’ death achieved his aims: How much more holy and moral have people become in the last two thousand years, and how much of that is due to the influence of Christianity, rather than in spite of it?

    I’m inclined to believe that most of our moral progress has been strongly resisted by the religious establishment, suggesting that Jesus’s suicide was counter-productive.

  • Miguel

    “But it would be right to punish it if it selfishly chose to withhold its fruit out of season, no? ”

    – We are not in the position to make that call, unless we are morally entitled to his produce. But we can very well say that he is “selfish” and therefore not moral.

  • Miguel

    “That’s kind of what “omnipotent” means. God can just arrange things so that the universe conforms to his desires. If he cannot make the world be entirely composed of holy and moral people just be snapping his fingers, then his power has obvious limits. ”

    – I’ll answer this by answering another question, hopefully you would see the parallels.

    Do you think God can make a rock he cannot carry? answer: Since He is all-powerful, he can. But you can bet your life that He never would, so that being said, in a sense we can say that He can’t. He never would make a decision like that because that would be an illogical decision. Perfect entities do not make illogical decisions, therefore such an act would devolve him into being ‘imperfect’ .

    “Of course, one could also ask how well Jesus’ death achieved his aims: How much more holy and moral have people become in the last two thousand years, and how much of that is due to the influence of Christianity, rather than in spite of it?”

    – Jesus’ act was not done to make us “holy and moral”. God showed he was merciful and just. Merciful and forgiving, when He set into motion Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. And just, in his requirement of ‘atonement’ – which Jesus was the substitutionary atonement for our sins.

    “I’m inclined to believe that most of our moral progress has been strongly resisted by the religious establishment, suggesting that Jesus’s suicide was counter-productive.”

    – Again, the sacrifice was not to make us holy and moral. The teachings and the life of Jesus were supposed to guide us into being holy and moral, but the sacrifice does not magically make us holy and moral. The natural effect of sin is separation from God, atonement was needed – to which Jesus performed the substitutionary atonement for us.

  • Janet Greene

    Wintermute – good argument. A strong case can be made that christian communities have lesser morals in terms of violent crime such as rape and murder (including serial), incarceration rates, employment, and civil rights. This is apparent in the “red” states vs the “blue” states, as well as secular countries like Sweden vs. the United States. In addition, history is clear that religious people have almost universally tried to block progress (ie women’s suffrage, abolition, women’s “liberation” movement of the 1960′s) – these movements were considered of the devil by christians who could quote passages from the bible to support their views. Same thing is happening today with civil rights for gays.

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Wintermute: “That’s kind of what “omnipotent” means. God can just arrange things so that the universe conforms to his desires.”

    Just want to clarify that an omnipotent being would desire nothing. Absolutely nothing would be more important or interesting or special to such a being. Nothing.

  • Janet Greene

    So Miguel, let me get this straight. You’re saying that christians are not supposed to have better character/morals than atheists? That was never the intent? What about christ living inside christians? What about “you will know a tree by its fruit”?

  • DarkMatter

    If the benignity of the gospel is what christianity is, though churches throughout history preach otherwise, then this blog might be unneccessary if there is a change of attitude in the churches (christianity) I am unware of.

  • Janet Greene

    Vidlord – seems like the omnipotent being of the bible desires quite a lot. He is jealous and requires our utmost devotion – and I was taught that the whole reason for our creation was to worship god – that (he) made us for his “pleasure”. I think he might be a sadist (or I would think this if I believed he existed) because he seems to get an aweful lot of pleasure out of the suffering of humans. the majority of the earth is either war-torn, under the thumb of drug cartels, or starving, etc. The big G must be getting a good chuckle out of the violence at the violence at the Mexican/US border…

  • Miguel

    “So Miguel, let me get this straight. You’re saying that christians are not supposed to have better character/morals than atheists? That was never the intent?

    – I don’t quite understand where this came from. But ok, I’ll try to answer it. We all have a moral compass, Jesus did not come to teach us radically new ideas on morality, but more like He was reminding us of a standard of morality that we were failing to meet. The ‘golden rule’ resonated with the hearts and minds of the people because it was already in their hearts and minds to begin with.

    “What about christ living inside christians? What about “you will know a tree by its fruit”? ”

    - I honestly don’t know what dogma you are referring to here.

  • Janet Greene

    Miguel

    1. In response to the following:

    “So Miguel, let me get this straight. You’re saying that christians are not supposed to have better character/morals than atheists? That was never the intent? (my question)

    I don’t quite understand where this came from. But ok, I’ll try to answer it. We all have a moral compass, Jesus did not come to teach us radically new ideas on morality, but more like He was reminding us of a standard of morality that we were failing to meet. The ‘golden rule’ resonated with the hearts and minds of the people because it was already in their hearts and minds to begin with. (your response)

    The reason I asked this is because you said:

    “Again, the sacrifice was not to make us holy and moral. The teachings and the life of Jesus were supposed to guide us into being holy and moral, but the sacrifice does not magically make us holy and moral. The natural effect of sin is separation from God, atonement was needed – to which Jesus performed the substitutionary atonement for us.”

    In other words, the “sacrifice” doesn’t make us “holy or moral”. You are saying that christians don’t have a higher moral ethic than atheists.

    2. In response to the following:

    “What about christ living inside christians? What about “you will know a tree by its fruit”? ” (my question)

    “I honestly don’t know what dogma you are referring to here.” (your response).

    My answer to you is:

    It isn’t dogma. It’s from the bible.

    Luke 6:44 – “For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.”

    and

    Matthew 12:33 – “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”

    Most evangelical christians I know use this to support the idea that christians have higher morals because the “fruit” of Jesus living within them. Clearly you disagree. That’s ok – I don’t think christians have higher morals either.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    We are not in the position to make that call, unless we are morally entitled to his produce. But we can very well say that he is “selfish” and therefore not moral.

    Do you think Jesus was morally justified in cursing a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season (Matt 21:18-20, Mark 11:12-14)? Was the fig tree truly acting in a way deserving of punishment?

    Do you think God can make a rock he cannot carry? answer: Since He is all-powerful, he can. But you can bet your life that He never would, so that being said, in a sense we can say that He can’t. He never would make a decision like that because that would be an illogical decision. Perfect entities do not make illogical decisions, therefore such an act would devolve him into being ‘imperfect’

    If he is truly all-powerful, there’s no such thing as a rock he can’t lift, therefore the question is logically meaningless. It falls into the same category of married bachelors and square circles; such things are logically impossible and even an omnipotent being cannot create them.

    Why should the same apply to god bringing about his aims without a blood sacrifice? That is clearly not in the same category of logical impossibility.

    Jesus’ act was not done to make us “holy and moral”. God showed he was merciful and just.

    Because nothing says “merciful and just” like bringing about the painful murder of your own innocent child, right? There’s no way anyone could find something unmerciful or unjust in that, is there?

    Merciful and forgiving, when He set into motion Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. And just, in his requirement of ‘atonement’ – which Jesus was the substitutionary atonement for our sins.

    Why is any sacrifice necessary for this atonement? Why can’t god just say “guys, I forgive you” without needing someone to die?

    For that matter, do you believe that Jesus’ death paid for everyone’s sins? Has his atonement paid for my “sin” of not believing in him? What about Hitler, or Pol Pot? Did Jesus’ sacrifice let them into heaven, too?

    Again, the sacrifice was not to make us holy and moral. The teachings and the life of Jesus were supposed to guide us into being holy and moral, but the sacrifice does not magically make us holy and moral.

    Again, god does not seem to have succeeded in this aim. The main moral advances we’ve made in the last 20 centuries (abolishment of slavery, women’s rights, democracy) have all been fought, hard by the religious authorities who claim the right to interpret Jesus’ teachings. Had Jesus not died, and the Christian churches not become so powerful, who knows how much more “moral” and “holy” we might be? Doing nothing would surely have been a better way to advance our morality than murdering an innocent as an example.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Just want to clarify that an omnipotent being would desire nothing. Absolutely nothing would be more important or interesting or special to such a being. Nothing.

    Well, such a being could have aims, but they’d be trivially satisfied.

    I suppose that it might be possible for such a being to have aims so vast and incomprehensible that they would prove challenging even for an omnipotent being, but there’s no reason to suppose this would be the case, or even to suppose that such an aim could possibly exist.

  • Miguel

    winterminute,

    I promise to answer every single one of your points. But I’m sleepy at the moment. Its 3 am here. Maybe tomorrow then.

  • miguel

    “Do you think Jesus was morally justified in cursing a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season (Matt 21:18-20, Mark 11:12-14)? Was the fig tree truly acting in a way deserving of punishment?”

    – “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done”

    Seems to me, He was showing his disciples the power of faith in God. He might as well moved a mountain, or turned a cat into a dog to prove His point – to which, your question would’ve been, “did that mountain deserve to be uprooted? Did that Cat deserve to be transformed into a dog? that was insane!” You have to read the text in context.

    “If he is truly all-powerful, there’s no such thing as a rock he can’t lift, therefore the question is logically meaningless. It falls into the same category of married bachelors and square circles; such things are logically impossible and even an omnipotent being cannot create them.”

    – Interesting point. This could very well be the case. But I’m sticking with my previous answer: God isn’t only logical, He is also perfect. I think He would be able to create a rock that He couldn’t carry, but such would be an imperfect decision. Perfect entities do not make imperfect decisions.

    “Why should the same apply to god bringing about his aims without a blood sacrifice? That is clearly not in the same category of logical impossibility.”

    – Actually, If we will assume your position on “logical impossibilities”, then you’ve just made my point: It isn’t logically possible for someone to be holy and moral, if he is in a state of sin. The only recourse for sin is ‘atonement’. God wants to create a holy and moral people. When you simply forgive someone, you remove ‘choice’. The choice that someone could make to be ‘holy and moral’ after having committed sin is TO CHOOSE to do ‘atonement’. Simply forgiving the sinner removes his option to ‘atone’. Therefore simply forgiving the sinner will not be good for him in the very end, because the sinner does not become holy and moral, and therefore cannot be with a holy and moral entity – God. Again, God showed his mercy by setting into motion Jesus’ atonement for our sins. He showed his justness by requiring ‘atonement’ for sins. God therefore showed that He is merciful and Just.

    “Because nothing says “merciful and just” like bringing about the painful murder of your own innocent child, right? There’s no way anyone could find something unmerciful or unjust in that, is there?”

    - It was an expression of love. Jesus loved us that He submitted himself as the substitutionary atonement for our sins. Logically argue another ‘way’ He could’ve opted for.

    “Why is any sacrifice necessary for this atonement? Why can’t god just say “guys, I forgive you” without needing someone to die?”

    - Morality is dependent upon choice. We cannot be moral if we don’t have free-will. We have to choose to be moral. If we sinned, we have to choose to atone, to be able to be moral again. He can snap his fingers and just forgive us immediately, but that would be removing our choice to ‘atone’ since we were already forgiven. That would be removing the ability to be ‘moral’ again. Someone had to ‘atone’ and Jesus volunteered.

    “For that matter, do you believe that Jesus’ death paid for everyone’s sins? Has his atonement paid for my “sin” of not believing in him? What about Hitler, or Pol Pot? Did Jesus’ sacrifice let them into heaven, too?”

    - It paid for everyone’s original sin. Even Hitlers and Pol pot’s. But some people deny Jesus’ sacrifice as atonement for their sins. Then they can never be free from their state of sin (having original sin). But God is a just and merciful God. If you don’t know Him because of your circumstance – He will be just. To those who would accept His sacrifice – He would be merciful. Those who know Him and believe of his sacrifice and yet deny it, sadly, can never be saved (such people do exist, some televangelists for example). The Bible therefore is the good news of salvation.

    “Again, god does not seem to have succeeded in this aim. The main moral advances we’ve made in the last 20 centuries (abolishment of slavery, women’s rights, democracy) have all been fought, hard by the religious authorities who claim the right to interpret Jesus’ teachings. Had Jesus not died, and the Christian churches not become so powerful, who knows how much more “moral” and “holy” we might be? Doing nothing would surely have been a better way to advance our morality than murdering an innocent as an example.”

    - I can see where your coming from. But you would have to prove to me that we would indeed become a more “moral and holy people” in the absence of what Jesus did (or Christianity in general). People do bad things because they love themselves. They will also justify such acts to the very end. If religion wasn’t used to justify such acts, they would use something else.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Seems to me, He was showing his disciples the power of faith in God. He might as well moved a mountain, or turned a cat into a dog to prove His point – to which, your question would’ve been, “did that mountain deserve to be uprooted? Did that Cat deserve to be transformed into a dog? that was insane!” You have to read the text in context.

    So, if you’re doing something to prove how powerful you are, you don’t need to worry about the ethical considerations of that action?

    Your original point, I’ll remind you, was that it didn’t make sense to praise a fruit tree as being generous, as it has no choice but to provide fruit. Doesn’t that mean it also makes no sense to curse a fruit tree for not providing fruit? Even if Jesus wanted to make a point as to how powerful faith is, the actual miracle he chose makes him kind of a dick.

    Also, can I just point out that Jesus is saying that no-one other than him has faith. By his “being able to move mountains with your mind” definition, there has never been a single individual on the planet since him with even the tiniest grain of faith in god. He’s saying that you, personally, don’t believe in god enough. Doesn’t that worry you?

    Actually, If we will assume your position on “logical impossibilities”, then you’ve just made my point: It isn’t logically possible for someone to be holy and moral, if he is in a state of sin. The only recourse for sin is ‘atonement’. God wants to create a holy and moral people.

    So, my sin has been atoned for, and I am no longer in “a state of sin”? Does that mean that there’s no need for me to believe that god exists, as I don’t need to do anything myself to “atone” for my sins?

    Besides, none of this answers the main question: Why does sin need to be atoned for, instead of merely forgiven? Why does this atonement need to take the form of blood sacrifice?

    For that matter, if Jesus’ “atonement” was a couple of days of torture, followed by living in heaven forever, and that paid for the sins of billions upon billions of people, that means my share of that punishment is approximately a small paper cut, right? I’ll be happy to pay that myself, without needing someone else to suffer for me. On the other hand, if my personal atonement would have to take the form of me being tortured in hell for all time, why did Jesus get off so lightly?

    It was an expression of love. Jesus loved us that He submitted himself as the substitutionary atonement for our sins.

    And why does a merciful, loving, just god accept this sacrifice? Or rather, why does he insist upon it?

    Logically argue another ‘way’ He could’ve opted for.

    It all depends on the premises that you start with. You’re starting from the premise that the murder must be required, or a moral, just and loving god would not have demanded it. Therefore, there can be no logical argument that there could be another option, as that would contradict your premise.

    However, if you don’t start with that premise, then god could have just forgiven all sins without needing to kill someone, and that’s exactly as logical.

    Can you demonstrate that the murder of an innocent actually was required? Why could there not have been another way (any other way) to “atone” for our sins?

    Morality is dependent upon choice. We cannot be moral if we don’t have free-will. We have to choose to be moral. If we sinned, we have to choose to atone, to be able to be moral again. He can snap his fingers and just forgive us immediately, but that would be removing our choice to ‘atone’ since we were already forgiven. That would be removing the ability to be ‘moral’ again. Someone had to ‘atone’ and Jesus volunteered.

    And how does this help free will? I didn’t volunteer to be atoned for. I had no choice in the matter; no more than if god had simply snapped his fingers.

    Doesn’t the free will argument mean that every individual has to choose to atone themselves, making Jesus’ sacrifice only valid for Jesus himself?

    Why can’t someone just freely choose to let god take away their sins (god can know who made that choice, right?), rather than forcing everyone into that state just because one person (who, being born for that very purpose, didn’t really have a lot of choice in the matter) sacrificed himself to himself.

    It paid for everyone’s original sin. Even Hitlers and Pol pot’s. But some people deny Jesus’ sacrifice as atonement for their sins. Then they can never be free from their state of sin (having original sin). But God is a just and merciful God. If you don’t know Him because of your circumstance – He will be just. To those who would accept His sacrifice – He would be merciful. Those who know Him and believe of his sacrifice and yet deny it, sadly, can never be saved (such people do exist, some televangelists for example). The Bible therefore is the good news of salvation.

    So, Hitler, being a devout Christian, is now in heaven, while the Jews that he murdered are in Hell because they didn’t accept Jesus? Is that right?

    Basically, what you’re saying is that “not believing in Jesus” is a sin that Jesus’ death did not atone for. Why was this one sin missed off the list of things being atoned for? Why is it more special than rape or murder, that it needs to be treated separately?

    If I want to atone for my own sins without needing a third party to intercede for me, why can’t I do that? If a third party decides, against my wishes (and knowing that it’s against my wishes), to intercede for me, why does the fact that I don’t think it really happened, or was really necessary count against me? Did god murder someone for everyone, or for the subset of people who would sing him songs and tell him how great he is?

    Bear in mind that Jesus says you don’t have even a mustard-grain of faith, so his sacrifice probably doesn’t count for you, either. You need to believe so hard that you can wilt plants with your mind before Jesus’ sacrifice counts for you, right?

    I can see where your coming from. But you would have to prove to me that we would indeed become a more “moral and holy people” in the absence of what Jesus did (or Christianity in general). People do bad things because they love themselves. They will also justify such acts to the very end. If religion wasn’t used to justify such acts, they would use something else.

    Obviously, I can’t show you a world in which there is no Christianity for you to compare against. True, people would use other justifications to perpetuate slavery, war and inequality. But the point is that the churches that claim to represent Jesus, that people look to to help them interpret what Jesus wants them to do are the single largest roadblock we have to a moral society. They have deliberately retarded every single moral advance that the world has taken (and they still are) on the grounds that their religion teaches them that such things are evil.

    Would the leaders of these churches be so opposed to equal rights, or abolition, if they hadn’t spent their childhood being told that their religion taught that these things were wrong?

    Few motivations have the emotional power of religion, and people who hold a “moral” position because their religion requires it of them are far less likely to give it up than those who hold other motivations.

    In South Africa, where apartheid was primarily supported by the state rather than by the church, where a privileged minority held power only by oppressing the majority, it only took a little shove to topple the system. And now, barely a decade later, very few white South Africans feel that apartheid was a “moral” situation. Had religion been involved, and people thought that giving black equal rights would imperil their souls, it would not have been so easy, nor so well accepted once it actually happened.

    But, if the only defence you can offer here is “well, our moral development might have been just as slow if Jesus hadn’t come”, then you’re basically conceding the point that Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t achieve it’s stated aim of teaching us to be more moral.

    Can you demonstrate that, in a world without Christianity, our morality would have advanced even more slowly? What justifications do you think people would have used for denying women a voice? Or for denying homosexuals basic civil liberties? Would these motivations have been as strong, or as hard to overcome as religion? If you can provide real-world examples of non-religious motivations that have significantly impeded moral advances, that would help.

  • Miguel

    “So, if you’re doing something to prove how powerful you are, you don’t need to worry about the ethical considerations of that action?”

    - Exactly what ethical considerations? The withering of a fig tree has ethical considerations? We use logs for fire (and sometimes to pierce little marshmallows), can’t Jesus use a fig tree to make an important point?
    “Your original point, I’ll remind you, was that it didn’t make sense to praise a fruit tree as being generous, as it has no choice but to provide fruit. Doesn’t that mean it also makes no sense to curse a fruit tree for not providing fruit? Even if Jesus wanted to make a point as to how powerful faith is, the actual miracle he chose makes him kind of a dick.”

    - Phrased that way makes it sound so sinister. He made an example of how powerful faith can be. “Have faith in the Lord your God, look I can do a hoedown, come see the power of faith!” The point being made was very important, which, in Jesus’ opinion, needed an equally important demonstration. Just out of curiosity, what miracle would you had wanted instead?

    “Also, can I just point out that Jesus is saying that no-one other than him has faith. By his “being able to move mountains with your mind” definition, there has never been a single individual on the planet since him with even the tiniest grain of faith in god. He’s saying that you, personally, don’t believe in god enough. Doesn’t that worry you?”

    - What? Me? Worry? I’m not in the position to compare my level of faith with Jesus’. I’ve had doubted many times. I still continue to doubt a lot of things. And, yes, I don’t think any serious Christian would find that the notion of Jesus’ having more faith than them to be appalling. The ‘tiniest grain’ was used as a metaphor, faith cannot be measured, it would be wrong to assume that, by our human standards, that tiny grain of faith would literally be a tiny amount of faith.

    “So, my sin has been atoned for, and I am no longer in “a state of sin”? Does that mean that there’s no need for me to believe that god exists, as I don’t need to do anything myself to “atone” for my sins?”

    - I’d really like to avoid sounding preachy, but you’ll have to excuse me for this one (I’ll use the word ‘me’ instead): There is a need for me to accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for my sins. If I don’t then I’m essentially saying “No, I can pay for my own sins” – which I cannot. I cannot pay for original sin by myself. This was a sin inherited from ‘first man’. (Some theologists argue that only ‘first man’ can pay for it, I certainly don’t know.)

    “Besides, none of this answers the main question: Why does sin need to be atoned for, instead of merely forgiven? Why does this atonement need to take the form of blood sacrifice?”

    - Atonement is the only recourse for sin, that is, if I wanted to become holy and moral. Like I said, morality is dependent upon free-will.
    God told Adam that the moment he eats from the tree of life, he dies, for “The wages of sin is death” (spiritual death), atonement needs to take the form of spiritual death. We are all marred by the consequences of Adams actions – we were all destined to be spiritually dead, which necessitated atonement. I’ll explain more of this below.

    “For that matter, if Jesus’ “atonement” was a couple of days of torture, followed by living in heaven forever, and that paid for the sins of billions upon billions of people, that means my share of that punishment is approximately a small paper cut, right?”

    - Who do you think feels more pain? Madoff, who is headed for prison, or some bum lying on the sidewalk who is also headed for prison? It’s interesting because there’s this story I’ve read about this ex-con who couldn’t get a job, was sleeping on the streets and was begging the police to let him back in his cell, and here we have Madoff who is probably thinking “Oh.. I am so fu_ked..”

    If Jesus was God, how painful do you think it was for him to lower himself (infinite and glorious) to our (finite and un-glorious) level and endure all that? Jesus’ divine identity made him a personal being due the highest honor by nature- not infinite of necessity, but the highest. The reversal of this value upon Jesus, and the experience of status degradation — his public humiliation in the eyes of others, and thereby loss of ALL honor status — undermines and makes irrelevant the question, “Could he have suffered enough for all sins?” Jesus was undergoing something extraordinary (a god willingly being shamed) in their stead.

    This was necessary for a number of reasons (which I’m sure you already know of, being as well-read as you are, let’s get to the main points if you don’t mind), but most importantly, He Physically and spiritually died for us (atoned for our state of sin wrought to us by Adam). The sky goes dark and Jesus cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!” The Son is separated from the Father for the first time in eternity (spiritual death!)…this continues for only three hours…and at 3.00pm Jesus wills himself to death. He cries ‘it is finished’. And then he decides to die and gives up his spirit. So those three HOURS are the only slice of time in all of eternity that the Son experiences brokenness in his relationship with his Father. Jesus dies a spiritual death so that we may be able to have a spiritual life – atonement was needed to reverse the spiritual death that we were given by Adam.

    When I then try to understand 3hrs vs. eternity issues, I quickly run across the problem of how God ‘experiences’ time…The old crusty Scholastics sometimes argued that God experienced time all at once, much as a entire landscape is visually experienced simultaneously, even though it is quite distributed. If, as they suggest, universe-time is like a mural on a wall that God experiences ALL AT ONCE, and experiences it ETERNALLY (not the old ” I’m through with that day, I’ll move on to experience the next day”), then the Father is still “experiencing” that grief now…it’s a bit heavy, and we tread on shaky ground here (logically speaking), but this experience is slightly mirrored in humans (made in the image of God) when we recall a past experience and ‘re-feel’ the pain or joy therein…

    You don’t have any share in his suffering, that’s not the way it works.

    Assuming your concept of ‘logical impossibilities’ : God cannot change His nature so that sin can remain in His presence, when someone is spiritually dead – he cannot be in the Lords presence, it is logically impossible- that’s what the Atonement is all about! In Christ, God HAS created a situation that allows us to enter His presence!

    “And why does a merciful, loving, just god accept this sacrifice? Or rather, why does he insist upon it?”

    - First of all, God didn’t insist upon it. He could’ve, if He wanted to, just allowed Adam (and us) to be separated from Him eternally. Or He could’ve simply annihilated Adam. But He loved Adam so much that He essentially created a solution that tactically circumvented His own rule of not interfering with free-will.

    It was the only logical way He can deliver us from the state of sin. (Here I will get Biblical, I believe the Genesis account was figuratively true. ) God created Adam, He wanted Adam to be holy and moral so Adam could be with Him. For Adam to be holy and moral, he had to have a ‘choice’ to be moral or immoral (like I said, morality is dependent on free-will). Adam chose to disobey. The moment he did that, he knew ‘sin’. Because Adam sinned against God (take note, Adam sinned against GOD, the creator of the universe. We commit transgressions on other people, which, in a way, is a transgression also against God, because He is the God of all things. But you have to realize the gravity of Adam’s sin, it was a transgression directly hurled at God. [let’s not take the ‘eating of the fruit’ literally’ ] There is a reason why Christians believe that the worst sin one can commit is a sin against God himself. )- the natural effect of this was ‘spiritual death’ (wages of sin is death); separation from God. Adam essentially brought sin to our world. There was absolutely nothing God could do about this, this shows how much God respected his free-will.

    Adam was destined to be eternally separated from God because of the choice he made, which some theologists argue had a sort of domino effect – we knew sin, and thus propagated it. All you have to do is look around your world, sin is all around. We were all marred by Adam’s choice. (I know, I’m begging a lot of questions, but there is no way I could explain everything in this platform, please just see the logic of what I’m saying.)

    “Can you demonstrate that the murder of an innocent actually wasrequired? Why could there not have been another way (any other way) to “atone” for our sins?”

    - Read up on ‘substitutionary atonement’, a theologist would be able to explain it better. I can give you a general idea, but I think it would be better if you googled it.

    “And how does this help free will? I didn’t volunteer to be atoned for. I had no choice in the matter; no more than if god had simply snapped his fingers.Doesn’t the free will argument mean that every individual has to choose to atone themselves, making Jesus’ sacrifice only valid for Jesus himself?”

    - You really had no choice in Adam sinning because you weren’t there. Is it really hard to believe we sometimes have no choices in our circumstances? If you swam in a radioactive pond, your kids would look like mutants with 3 eyes, 4 legs etc, they had no choice in that. They are suffering because of the choices that you made. The good news is that we now have a choice, Jesus died and atoned for our sins. We are no longer chained to the sin of Adam because of His spiritual death. Your eternal destiny is now of your own volition. Remember, God does not owe us anything, he very well could’ve left us to waste away in this world separated from him for all eternity.

    “So, Hitler, being a devout Christian, is now in heaven, while the Jews that he murdered are in Hell because they didn’t accept Jesus? Is that right?”

    - Hitler a devout Christian? All one needs to do is read the communist manifesto and Hitler’s writings to realize that it was all a ruse. But, I’ll overlook this for now. Saying Hitler was a devout Christian is like meeting Warren Buffet for the first time in the twilight of his years and saying “Marry me, I love you, I don’t care about your money”. Do you think the creator of the universe can’t tell who’s pretending or being a hypocrite?

    “Basically, what you’re saying is that “not believing in Jesus” is a sin that Jesus’ death did not atone for. Why was this one sin missed off the list of things being atoned for? Why is it more special than rape or murder, that it needs to be treated separately?”

    - No, that’s not what I’m saying. You are already saved (no more ‘separation from God’ thingy), doesn’t matter if you believe in Zeus or Thor. But that’s not saying that you are welcome to kill all the babies you want. Remember, God is ‘just’ and ‘merciful’. If you believe in the sacrifice of Christ, he will judge you mercifully, If you, because of circumstance, have never heard of Christ or are still worshipping Baal, He will judge you justly. Your eternal destiny is not based on your circumstance, but of your own volition.

    “If I want to atone for my own sins without needing a third party to intercede for me, why can’t I do that? If a third party decides, against my wishes (and knowing that it’s against my wishes), to intercede for me, why does the fact that I don’t think it really happened, or was really necessary count against me? Did god murder someone for everyone, or for the subset of people who would sing him songs and tell him how great he is?”

    - Maybe if you were able to create a time machine and are able to stop Adam from committing the transgression, then maybe. The fact that you ‘think it didn’t really happen’ does not count against you – this is your circumstance, there are reasons for you being in this circumstance, whether they are valid reasons or not, I cannot answer that – only God can. If you knew and believed it really happened, but are deluding yourself (for some reason) that it didn’t, so you could go about living as you please, you are thus denying his sacrifice – Jesus gives the gift of life, but cannot force people to accept it (free-will remember). Only God can judge these things, I honestly cannot answer these, maybe a real theolgist could.

    “Bear in mind that Jesus says you don’t have even a mustard-grain of faith, so his sacrifice probably doesn’t count for you, either. You need to believe so hard that you can wilt plants with your mind before Jesus’ sacrifice counts for you, right?”

    - Irrelevant.

    “Obviously, I can’t show you a world in which there is no Christianity for you to compare against. True, people would use other justifications to perpetuate slavery, war and inequality. But the point is that the churches that claim to represent Jesus, that people look to to help them interpret what Jesus wants them to do are the single largest roadblock we have to a moral society. They have deliberately retarded every single moral advance that the world has taken (and they still are) on the grounds that their religion teaches them that such things are evil……”

    - Non-sequitur to the sacrifice of Jesus. But I would argue that you are speaking emotionally. This is your opinion. Anyone can argue otherwise. The fact of the matter is, a lot of good has come from religion in general, even the constitution of America was largely drawn from religion. Lets not argue about this because it is futile – it can be argued extensively both ways.

    “Can you demonstrate that, in a world without Christianity, our morality would have advanced even more slowly? What justifications do you think people would have used for denying women a voice? Or for denying homosexuals basic civil liberties? Would these motivations have been as strong, or as hard to overcome as religion? If you can provide real-world examples of non-religious motivations that have significantly impeded moral advances, that would help.”

    - The argument that ‘Christianity is the problem of the world’ is a bit oversold. Again, it would be futile to argue about this since it can be extensively argued both ways.

  • Michael

    I don’t think the Genesis story was literally true. I believe the Bible must be literally interpreted in the truth it wants to reveal. Whether a person does or doesn’t choose to believe that a whale literally swallowed Jonah is totally irrelevant to the truth being revealed in the story of Jonah.

  • Michael

    Janet,

    No, I said it should be interpreted literally in the ‘truth’ it intends to reveal.

    Thinking that the story of Jonah is about a man being swallowed by a whale is a rather superficial and inadequate summary. It would be the equivalent of saying that the story of Romeo & Juliet is about two disobedient kids who have no respect for their parent’s wishes. While both summaries are true, they both miss the entire point of the stories involved. The story of Jonah is about a man who hears God quite plainly, but tries to escape his duty as God’s prophet because he knows that God’s message will not be well received.

    There are parts of the bible that would obviously have to be taken metaphorically, there are parts that obviously have to be taken literally. Yes, in some instances, there are parts that aren’t so obvious, which is why multiple interpretations have spawned. I believe that the life of Jesus obviously has to be taken literally. There is symbolism in his death, ofcourse, but undoubtedly, reading the bible in context as a whole with the story of paul, acts of the apostles, early Christian writings, the story of Jesus should be interpreted as being real. I would doubt the reading comprehension of anyone who would argue otherwise.

    Yes I believe people have ‘original sin’, if thats what you were asking.

    How do I know which ones should be taken literally which ones should be taken metaphorically? Like I said, some were obviously meant to be taken metaphorically, like the ‘tower of babel’ story, some are obviously to be taken literally, like the story of Jesus, the acts of the apostles etc. I’ll concede that some instances of the bible are not obvious.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Michael, thanks for a well thought-out answer. However, the things you take literally, like the fall (which means you believe in the story of adam and eve literally) and the story of jesus, sound just as wild as the story of jonah. Jesus, being the son of god, but also being human, born of a virgin, the magic star signalling the birth, being perfect, walking on water, 5 loaves and 2 fishes feeding thousands, healing the blind, resurrecting the dead, then dying himself and coming back to life 3 days later. Why is it obvious to you that this is literally true? I guess it’s not very obvious to me.

  • Michael

    I don’t think ‘the fall’ should be taken literally. But I believe there is literal truth to the story. Did Eve come from the rib of Adam? I honestly don’t know, but that is not important to the truth the story intends to impart – which is Man sinned against God which necessitated the sacrifice of Jesus.

    I don’t think the story of Jonah is as Wild as the story of Jesus. While the story of Jonah could be interpreted literally,if you wanted to, it isn’t important that it should be so, since the literal truth of the story is fairly obvious – there is no need to interpret it literally. The story of Jesus on the other hand obviously has to be interpreted literally once you read it in context with the whole Bible. I don’t know how to explain it any further than that.

  • Jabster

    Which assumptions do you believe that an atheist has made — and by atheist I mean someone who has thought about their ‘viewpoint’. I wanted to add a clarification about the assumptions that could be considered invalid but that may be missing the point of the test somewhat!

  • LRA

    Sara– for a theist, you pretty much rock!!!

    ;)

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Isnessie, I agree with you. In my experience, most christians only expose themselves to “in-bred” materials. Anything else would be of the world, or of the day-vil. (I remember being told that meditating was evil because when our minds are open satan will come in!!!) But then there are the christians like those who participate in discussions like this. And most christians on this site don’t SOUND like they are questioning their faith – they sound pretty sure they are right. But I respect the fact that at least they debate. My opinion of christians did go up a tad after I found this site.

  • Michael

    “But I still don’t get how you think the story of jesus is literally true from the context of the bible? Maybe you get your belief from what parts you have been TOLD are true by your specific denomination of christianity and not from the bible? Otherwise you still have not clarified how you know which stories are true. ”

    – Well, If you read the Bible in its entirety, Jesus was the fulfillment of the OT prophecies. The Early Christians, like Paul, held Jesus life to be literally true that they lived according to it, they preached it, and were seemingly transformed by its truth, and died for that truth. Why would I interpret Jesus’ life to be metaphorical then, that being the case?

    Everything in the bible has ‘literal truth’, but we also know that they are heavy on metaphor (isn’t this the case with any literary device?) If you asked a handful of people to describe to you a concert which they all were able to attend, you will undoubtedly get different descriptions of the concert – because of their different cultural backgrounds, and perhaps different ways of experiencing things (maybe some are more visual than others, or more kineasthetic etc.). Even still, we can agree that, assuming none of them are liars, there is literal truth to each of their descriptions of the concert. The same can be said of the Bible. With regard to some scripture that obviously come out as being metaphorical, the important thing is to understand their ‘literal truth’.

    If you read the bible, I’m quite sure you can point out the ones that are intended to be interpreted literally, and the ones that are intended to be interpreted otherwise.

    “Does the fact that the adam and eve story diverges wildly from scientific fact bother you at all? We now know the world is approx 14 billion years old so clearly it isn’t 6000 years old as the specific geneology in the OT would have us believe…”

    – It would bother me, If I believed that the ‘Adam and Eve’ story should be interpreted ‘literally’ – which I don’t believe it should. Jonah’s being swallowed by the whale would bother me if I assumed the story should be interpreted literally. There is a difference between ‘literal truths’ and something being literally true.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    michael – I agree that literature, art, etc is open to interpretation. But we don’t base our lives on it. How can you base your entire belief system on a book where YOU have to make the decision as to which parts to believe? Wouldn’t a perfect book written by god (which is supposed to save our eternal lives) be pretty clear on that so that there is less risk of misinterpretation that would lead billions of people to burn in hell (due to their misinterpretation or disbelief)?

    re adam and eve – if you don’t take it literally, on what do you base your belief that we are born in sin and need a saviour? Does that not require a literal belief in genesis? What is the “literal truth” that should not be taken literally in that story?

  • Michael

    “But we don’t base our lives on it. How can you base your entire belief system on a book where YOU have to make the decision as to which parts to believe?

    – I believe everything in the bible to have ‘literal truths’, the bible doesn’t claim to be a scientific book or a book that explains the natural order. It also doesn’t claim to be a book literally written by God. It was divinely inspired, and their are literal truths, but you have to understand that the writers are humans that come from different cultural backgrounds and time periods. Furthermore, He wouldn’t be much of a God if he could easily be defined in crayon words now would he? Its also conceivable that there were many things/words lost in translation – but the literal truths remain, which is what is important.

    Why stop there? Why shouldn’t the bible have been written in some language everyone understands too? Why wasn’t the bible written in such a way that even people with the lowest educational achievement would be able to understand too? It can always be scrutinized to the point of absurdity. I hope you get the point

    (I don’t think misinterpreting the Bible can lead anyone to hell by the way, this would be another topic. I’d be glad to clarify this one if you want.)

    “re adam and eve – if you don’t take it literally, on what do you base your belief that we are born in sin and need a saviour? Does that not require a literal belief in genesis? What is the “literal truth” that should not be taken literally in that story?”

    – It does not require taking the Genesis account literally. The literal Truth is that the first Man sinned against God, whether he ate a piece of fruit, whether he engaged in conversation with a snake is irrelevant to the ‘literal truth’ the story is trying to impart.

    btw, excuse me if I’m unable to articulate myself eloquently as you are able to. There may have been times when I phrased my words or sentences sloppily, english is only a second language (as I always tell the people here). But I’m trying my best to explain my side.

  • http://deleted Janet Greene

    Michael, you are doing a wonderful job of explaining yourself. In fact, I rarely have the privilege of a real conversation with a christian like this. You are obviously a “thinker”. Your post deserves a thoughtful response and I’m tired! I will respond in the next few days. Thanks again. (In spite of your heroic efforts, the answers are not satisfactory – not because you did not explain it well, but because I believe christianity does not make sense – but that’s my belief and I respect yours).

  • Michael

    Thank you very much for the compliment =)

  • Janet Greene

    Maybe Jesus (if such a person existed) did have some of that view. However, he was not very enlightened in many ways. He had no female desciples (unless you believe Dan Brown lol), he encouraged his followers to leave their families and follow him (the word used in the bible is “hate” your families), he had temper tantrums, etc. He said he came “with a sword”. Clearly the writers of the NT were trying desperately to connect it with the OT as fulfillment of prophesy. But what happens then is that Jesus reflects the generally poor character of the OT god (who got his thrills through genocide, rape, and killing babies). NOT a nice guy. I think Ghandi or MLK are better role models than Jesus, actually. Why do we have to follow the teachings of a person who lived thousands of years ago, when the “recordings” of his life happened many years after the fact (the gospels) and we have so many inspirational people around today?

  • Miguel

    “You are overlooking segments of Eastern thought that call for complete selflessness (overcoming ego and self) to achieve enlightenment and break the karmic system. There is a reason why some people claim Jesus learned from the Eastern ”

    – No, I was describing religions that tried to define ‘God’ and was explaining why one religion seemed to describe ‘God’ better than the others.

    “segments of Eastern thought that call for complete selflessness” do nothing to describe God, but attempt to describe the transcendental aspects of the self.

  • DarkMatter

    Actually it is the worst , her decendants can’t really understand or fully explain the definition of their “God” even after 1 thousand over years of reading the book.

  • Miguel

    “Actually it is the worst , her decendants can’t really understand or fully explain the definition of their “God” even after 1 thousand over years of reading the book ”

    – A comment for the sake of being contentious? Or was it serious? But we can describe Him, ofcourse. Maybe not “fully” though. He wouldn’t be much of a God if we could easily comprehend him now would He?

  • Janet Greene

    Uh, yeah, that’s all I did for 15 years. Read the bible and everything on theology I could get my hands on. Now, when I see that question, I see “Have you tried making sense of santa claus? I know it’s unlikely that he can REALLY get to EVERY HOUSE on christmas eve (well, I guess only the christian children), with flying reindeer, with assistant elves, climbing down chimneys and not getting stuck. But have you REALLY HONESTLY TRIED to make sense of this? I think you need to read your santa facts more. You clearly are lacking in faith.

  • Miguel

    “That’s a simpleton’s argument, the kind i see Christians making. (Besides being wrong, that is.) ”

    – I didn’t know that regular posters here were former Christians.

    “Yes, they have tried making sense of it. It FAILED them. Don’t stupidly ask how; read their stories and background. Read the answers to how Christianity fails people all over this blog. And other blogs.”

    Ok, but that takes time, I mean reading all that stuff about them. I’ve been to this blog just a couple of times and have only read the previous posts. Should I read all of it and get back to you with a better question? I didn’t know that that would be the un-stupid thing to do, I apologize.

    “That’s just such a retardedly stupid simpleton question. I think if you have the mental capacity, you know the answer to it, and pretend not to.”

    - Ok, so all atheists, according to you, have tried making sense of their religion. So its stupid to ask if they did. As sweeping as that statement seems, if you say so, I’ll keep that in mind.

  • Janet Greene

    Hi Miguel – Yes, since Daniel Florien is a christian-turned-atheist I believe this site attracts a lot of us who grew up in christianity but it didn’t work. I’ve said this many times on this site, but for your benefit my dad was an evangelical pastor, and I believed in christianity until I was about 35 years old (I’m 44 now). I did A LOT of reading trying to find answers. The bible had too many atrocities committed by god, too much magic, too many scientific falsities. For me, the belief was very, very ingrained but it eventually fell away. It was a belief that could not sustain itself. On the plus side, I am much happier as an atheist than when I was a christian. For one thing, I’m not worried about my salvation (faith, works, repentance, which is it???), the rapture, hell, or god’s wrath. Life is, for the most part, what WE make of it.

  • Miguel

    Janet,

    I’m only 22, who knows when I get older I’ll realize its all crap. But at the moment, I don’t.

    I’m not going to preach to you the many ways I’ve found and felt God work in my life and all that preachy stuff. Viva la difference. I’m just defending what I believe, however pitifully inadequate.

  • Janet Greene

    Miguel – you are way ahead of me. At age 22, I assumed christianity was absolutely true, but I wasn’t really thinking much about it at that age. You are already on a journey of searching. I admire and respect that. I’m impressed that you are willing to think about things that may not be that comfortable for you.

  • Miguel

    “After 1300 years the flesh has not decayed. Tough question for just a young kid like Miguel. Hopefully he’ll read the book “Logic for First Graders” BEFORE taking it to the book burning”

    – Thats fine Vidlord. Ok, I’ll read that book, oh so logical Vidlord, you master of inferential thought you. Very awesome debating skills there lil slugger!

  • http://www.vidlord.com VidLord

    Miguel – I admit I can be a real a-hole from time to time. I just get a little pissed off when someone intentionally dodges my questions. But hey no big deal. Please accept my apology. I respect you greatly for being here and corresponding with us. I admire you for that. Without you here, there would be nothing to debate so thank you, and please, come back often. We just lost JC, it would be a shame to lose another Christian strong enough to argue their faith here.

  • Michael

    Thank you. no problem at all. It seems we can be both a-holes.

  • LRA

    Yeah- that argument applies to all of literature. I get “truths” about the human condition out of many, many non-literal works. Lately, I’ve been reading Jorge Luis Borges.

  • miguel

    “Yeah- that argument applies to all of literature. I get “truths” about the human condition out of many, many non-literal works. Lately, I’ve been reading Jorge Luis Borges. ”

    - Then we agree then.

  • LRA

    I suppose so, in a ‘reader response theory’ sort of way.

  • Janet Greene

    Hi Miguel & LRA – the difference is that entire religions are not based on other literary works. Without (literal) genesis, the entire foundation of christianity falls. It’s based on the fall, without which we would never need salvation. And if we evolved, who sinned? At what point in our evolution? When we were amoebas? Or maybe something resembling a homosapiens such as a baboon? How do we know we are fallen at all? How do we know we’re not just like everything else in nature – capable of wonderful works & great beauty as well as terrible evil. How are we different from the ocean, the weather systems, or other animals in these ways? When we are so close in DNA to other animals (apparently we are almost identical to the pig) would God demand that we be PERFECT but nothing else in nature needs to be? It’s just a continuum – from us down to less complex beings. Clearly I’m missing something here.

  • Sara

    :) What can I say, birds of a feather…


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X