What was Sacrificed?

I’ve been reading The Absurdity of the Atonement, the late Ken Pulliam’s entry in John Loftus’ The End of Christianity. Pulliam is attempting to dismantle the “penal substitutionary theory” of the atonement. Briefly, the theory state the God sent his son to be punished for our sins so that He might forgive us and make us right with His will.

This was one of Pulliam’s specialties, and his article is filled with the logical flaws that scholars have found in the PST. But I can’t help feeling that the logical problems are only half of the story.

The PST is most popular among the evangelicals, and Evangelical Christianity is at least partially emotional. Less so than the Pentecostals, but much more than the staid main-line protestants that the evangelicals replaced in America. There’s definitely a stream of emotionalism running through evangelical culture, from the revival to the personal relationship with Jesus.

While the PST can be expressed in a bloodless way, by talking about justification and propitiation, it’s usually heard as an emotional appeal. Jesus died for YOUR sins. Jesus was humiliated, tortured and died just for YOU. That hits the guilt buttons pretty hard.

I think most people are familiar with the feeling of not measuring up. We’re all aware that we’re not perfect, and I suspect that most of us harbor that little pocket of guilt over things we’ve said and done. The PST plays on that guilt and offers the release of redemption.

Logic won’t do much here. Maybe the best way to defang the PST on emotional grounds is to ask what was really sacrificed? What does a days worth of suffering matter to an immortal being? And can a being that transcends humanity really suffer like a human?

Most of all, I think we have to point out that Jesus went in with no uncertainty about his eventual fate. Unlike us limited mortals, Jesus could know that there was a heaven, a God, salvation and the whole nine yards. Even if he “emptied himself” and thus did not know the eventual time of the apocalypse, surely he knew that he was part of the trinity and that a place beside God’s throne was awaiting him.

  • FO

    It seems to be common among Christians to give much more importance to this tiny speck of finite life than to the eternal life that awaits them in the Heavens.
    I wonder why.

    • Sajanas

      And its weird too, since it presumes that the 100 years or less is enough to determine whether a person is worth infinite reward or punishment. It begs the question of why people couldn’t screw up in heaven or redeem themselves in hell, and why, if mortal is *such* an important deciding point, God doesn’t simply reveal himself unambiguously to people… otherwise it is just judging people on rules that are deliberately unclear.

  • blotonthelandscape

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s a big ol’ guilt trip, and dressing it up with big words and legal jargon doesn’t actually address the claims of evangelical types. Undermine the emotions it is trying to inspire.

    This is why Hitchen’s response to the appeal is most effective to me. No, I don’t want ANYONE to die for me. If I was there, I would have stopped Jesus from doing that, I would have thought him stupid, and that his actions were meaningless. His death cannot possibly have any ounce of value to me or to any god worthy of worship. And now for some upstart preacher to demand that I feel guilt for something which I do not consent to, which I would have tried to prevent, and which may not even have happened! How dare he!

    • kholdom0790

      That was in God Is Not Great, wasn’t it? I underlined it.

      • blotonthelandscape

        I heard it used in an interview he had with an evangelical radio host.

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com GDad

    A much more meaningful sacrifice would have been for an immortal being to give up its immortality. But then the story becomes ridiculous.

    • Thin-ice

      You mean Aslan “dying” on the stone table is made up?

  • http://www.conepost.blogspot.com justin

    Off topic, I wonder what you think of Jonathan Merritt and his strain of Christian.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      1) Never heard of him.
      2) Goofy hairdo.
      3) I see no reason to take his imaginary friend any more seriously than anyone else’s.

  • Veritas

    I always wondered why it was a huge sacfice for god to “send his only son to die …blah blah blah” when he got him back in 3 days.

    • FO

      Indeed. oO
      What is the standard apologist answer for this?

      • blotonthelandscape

        Something along the lines of the fact that Jesus didn’t just die, but died on a cross! He also spent 3 days (if we’re generous) in hell, where he suffered for us, “defeated death” etc.

        This was always the part in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” that never made sense to me… obscure appeals to a “deeper magic” which have no precedent and jar with the narrative.

        • FO

          Jesus went to Hell!?!?!?!??!

          • busterggi

            Yep, even though it is in an apocryphral book, the Gospel of Nicodemus, Christians liked the story so much that it is part of their dogma – its even included in the Apostle’s Creed.

            • Bill

              Was he the boxer in Rocky?

  • Mike de Fleuriot

    “Even if he “emptied himself” and thus did not know the eventual time of the apocalypse”

    Another this does, is swing yet another hammer blow against the concept of free will. It seems to all of us, that once we start attacking religion, there is no where for it to hide, because there is no where for it to hide.

    How many of you here, would be willing to take Jesus’s place on the cross, for a Full two weeks, if you got the retirement packet that he was supposed to get? I know that I would.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    NPR reports:
    Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve

    Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, says that rebellious choice infected all of humankind.
    “When Adam sinned, he sinned for us,” Mohler says. “And it’s that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior.

    Wow, I didn’t realize it was so easy. The next time I sin, it will be for Daniel Florien. He can take the rap. Enjoy Hell. Send a postcard.

    • Len

      So Jesus’ substitutionary atonement was to balance Adam’s substitutionary sinning? Thanks a bunch, Adam.

      Seems to me it could have been done much more easily.

      • FO

        Yeah, basically a guy I don’t know took the punishment I deserve for something I didn’t do anyway…

        • Igor

          …which was done by a guy who never existed (Adam). There are threads unraveling all over the place here.

  • Leo

    “Logic won’t do much here.”

    It’s very important first because it will help corner the apologists and other ‘intelectial’ figures that at the end are the ones that do much of the emotional manipulation on false logic, if they are completly rebutted fewer evangelicals apologists will emerge and the ones that remain will loose confidence in their argument if we really get a complete refutation. But this is also important to the emotionally manipulated as you can elaborate on Ken’s work to justify the person is being emotionally manipulated, you can expose it. I agree further work needs to be done on this but this is great as it’s half the way.

  • Bruce Wright

    This never made sense to me. Big deal, a god who cannot die pretended to be dead for three days.

    It’s my problem with all superhero stories as well. Look at the new Captain America movie for a rich example. They give the man with all the superpowers a supershield and super armor. And the rest of his ragtag team are fighting world war two (and dying, just as the real heroes of WWII did) without any magic armor or super powers.

    So who are the real heroes? The man who cannot die, or those who CAN, and do, and yet willingly fight to protect others?

    • Sajanas

      One of my friends once asked a minster why Jesus shouldn’t stay in Hell forever to be a proper sacrifice, and the answer was along the lines of ‘but that’s not what happened’. Practically, I think its because people need a happy ending, and because Gospel Jesus absorbs a lot of the traditions of other earlier deities.

      Interestingly enough, Persephone I think has a sadder story, since she remains in Hell for half the year.

      • busterggi

        Well at least Persephone keeps warm during the winter.

  • Brian M

    Before she became a fundamentalist Christian (maybe while on the road there), Anne Rice wrote a “novel” (not much of a plot, more of a “discussion” or essay) called Menoch The Devil in which The Devil basically asks this fundamental question. You are immortal, all powerful, what can dying on the cross really mean for you? Unless you give up your immortality, what does it even mean? Another role playing game?

    From the Wikipedia summary of the novel:

    “Memnoch is awed and shocked by God’s sacrifice. Nevertheless, he argues that God did not put himself through enough. Unlike a regular human, when God died on the cross, he knew that he would survive and thus could never have known the true suffering of Man. Man does not know his soul will survive and thus suffers. God knew he would survive death and could not truly know what it was to be a human. For God, this complaint is the last straw, he declares Memnoch as his adversary and commands him to rule Sheol and Earth in a devilish form, preparing souls for Heaven in his own fashion.”

    I might also recommend Evangelical Realism, which has a detailed “logical” analysis of the various subforms of atonement preeminent in Christian apologetics.

    http://realevang.wordpress.com/

  • Thin-ice

    Another piece of bullshit I heard innumerable times from the pulpit: “no man ever suffered such physical torture as Jesus when he died.”

    I guess slowly cutting off fingers one by one, hands and other appendages by the taliban doesn’t count, or the amazingly awful tortures that the Inquisition priests invented, don’t really compare to hanging from a piece of wood and being poked in the side with a sword. (Heck, when I was recovering from open heart surgery, they shoved a steel tube through my ribs without anesthetic to quickly drain some fluid from my lungs that was suffocating me. As painful as that was, it was over in 10 seconds or so!)

    • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

      Chest drain, huh? Technically they’ll have gone into an intercostal space (under your armpit?) with a scalpel, sliced through to your thoracic cavity, then popped a cannula through your parietal pleura and thrown a couple of stitches into you to hold it all in place. Never seen that done without anaesthetic, but I can only imagine it hurt like a mofo.

      • thin-ice

        Well, Dr. Custador, you got that experience nailed (ba-da-boom)! I never knew the technical terms or noticed the nuances of what they did, but yes, it hurt like hell there for a bit! My wife just told me they did do a local, but didn’t wait for it take effect because they were in a big hurry to get it drained.

    • Yoav

      Since crucifixion was a popular way of execution for centuries it is likely that there were millions who suffered exactly the same pain as jeebus.

      • Ty

        I’ve known someone who died of bone cancer. That looked like a rough way to check out, and it only took about nineteen months to finish her off. One day on a stick sounds like a walk in the park.

        • Bill

          This.

          Plus – if xians are to be believed – jesus could stop the whole dying from bone cancer thing but lets it happen anyway.

        • Noelle

          Yes. Slow metastatic cancer is a horrible way to go.

      • Igor

        Actually, most folks lasted a lot longer than 3 hours on the cross, so their suffering was much more extended.

  • Brian M

    My mom would love you guys.

  • Hamish Milne

    So: God creates mankind with curiosity. God says: “Don’t eat this fruit on this tree I created, regardless of the advice of that snake I created. Even if it might give you a little bit of power (and I made it that way), still minuscule compared to mine of course. No reason, just don’t do it. Because I say so.”

    “WHAAAAAT?! One of you ATE the fruit?! I f*cking HATE both of you! And all your descendants! Children will burn in the fires of hell for all eternity for your crimes! Piss off! Who said I have to be fair? I do what I want B*TCH!”

    Later, God changes his mind: “Ach, I had a bit of a tantrum the other millennia. I’d better fix this. I didn’t know they would expand this much and all be worshipping me and stuff! Not like I’m omniscient or anything…”

    So God makes his plan: “Right, I’m gonna take a part of myself and send it down to earth to spread a new message that I just thought of now and didn’t put down in the other book I personally wrote. I will then have this separate, sentient part of me mercilessly tortured and executed to somehow redeem mankind for one of them eating THAT GODDAM FRUIT! Because this part of me will be a man, and even though I’m instructing him and he’s a demigod It’s still redemption, ’cause he looks human. Yeah, I know it’s complex and redundant, but c’mon, I don’t make the rules! Not like I’m omnipotent or anything…”

    • thin-ice

      GREAT stuff! When you re-phrase it like you did, Hamish, it’s sounds all so batshit crazy! I thought it made such perfect sense when I was getting my Bachelor of Theology. And reading another re-telling, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, it seemed so gloriously brave and majestic. Now it only seems like the plot of a very badly written piece of science fiction when the author was high on acid.

    • John C

      Not the story, not even close.

      • Ty

        At this point you’re a drippy faucet. You know that, right?

        • John C

          Still choosing the believe the lie Ty? Why?

          • John C

            *Still choosing to believe the lie Ty? Why?

            • Ty

              *drip* *drip* *drip*

        • Bill

          More like a neighbor’s dog that just barks and barks and barks. Never gets brought in to the house. Never takes a nap. Just barks.

          • thread_of_fire

            another dog comes to mind. http://www.lynchnet.com/angrydog/dog6.jpg
            the Angriest Dog in the World. It’s a comic. It comes to mind…

          • Melody

            Or the dog that keeps barking as you walk by. Even though you clearly don’t care and just ignore him, he keeps on barking like he thinks he has an impact on you. Oh wait, he does. It’s called annoyance.

          • Yoav

            That’s why they invented neutering.

      • thin-ice

        So dear John, what is this story that all of us ex-missionaries and ex-pastors and ex-theologians are so confused about, eh? The your God is so damn confused that he can’t seem to make up his mind on how we are supposed to punch our tickets to heaven? Laws? Statutes? Animal sacrifices? Rituals? Atonement? Believing in the Atonement? Accepting Jesus? Saying the Rosary? (Oh, sorry, Catholics aren’t Christians.)

        Your God has had 6000 years to figure it out and he still can’t get his shit together.

      • Hamish Milne

        I have read Genesis, and that’s basically how it goes. I might have added the odd Christian anecdote, but It’s nothing a lot of people don’t believe. But I’ll be fair. What’s your explanation?

      • CoffeeJedi

        But John, that IS the story that mainstream Christians believe. I know you have your transcendental internal nirvana Jesus that’s way off from that story, and that’s great for ya.

        But can’t you at least agree that the story as presented right there is wacky and nonsensical? Hamish DOESN’T believe that story any more than you do. Why did you feel the need to contradict him like that?

  • vasaroti

    Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t mean much because it wasn’t his idea. He was fulfilling his destiny, so there’s no need for any human to feel personal guilt for the actions of a maniac father.

  • lauram

    Thanks for talking about this. I’ve always wondered what the big deal is for suffering for an immortal god who knows after the 1-3 days (depending on how you look at it) of suffering, they’re back in heaven w/dad and the angels. How many medieval women have suffered in gut-twisting agony to deliver a breach child only to die in blood and gore – only to give mortal life to ONE child. That’s selflessness.

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  • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

    Jesus didn’t die for anyone’s sins. He didn’t go in to it knowing what the eventual outcome would be. I imagine he knew that his message would meet with widespread disapproval, because he was telling a fundamentally flawed religious system that theirs was not the way to re-connect with God, and never had been!

    Perhaps some way into his ministry he realised that his life might be in danger, and he recognised that Isaiah had been right on the money when he warned that suffering and death might be the result of boldly speaking the truth. It certainly didn’t fulfil any legal obligation. All of that “ransom sacrifice” stuff was draped over Jesus after his death as a result of the Messiah fervour that overtook everyone.

    Jesus wasn’t preaching anything new. He was trying to show men and women something only a small handful of people had understood in the scriptures – a hidden message of sorts.

    • Bill

      “He didn’t go in to it knowing what the eventual outcome would be.”

      The magic book says otherwise.

      (Luk 18:31-33) Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

      (Of course that requires the magic book have any credibility.)

      • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

        Luke wrote that forty years later. It is unlikely that Jesus would have said. The closest thing he might have said would have been some sort of reference to Isaiah’s words about the servant suffering – but those words were not prophetic, they were simply a canny statement about anyone who stands up for the truth. Forty years later, Luke puts his own spin on it. I posit another example inThe Repentance of Jesus.

        Everything in the “magic book” is an interpretation of an event. Things have to be seen from the point of view of the writer, not the characters in the script.

        • Nzo

          Luke wrote that forty years later. It is unlikely that Jesus would have said.

          That’s your basis for dismissal? That it was written after the fact? F*ck history, eh?

          The closest thing he might have said would have been some sort of reference to Isaiah’s words about the servant suffering – but those words were not prophetic, they were simply a canny statement about anyone who stands up for the truth.

          You have documentation showing your version is more likely than Luke’s?

          Forty years later, Luke puts his own spin on it. I posit another example inThe Repentance of Jesus.

          Two thousand years later, Rory puts his own spin on it. <— works just the same, besides, who would read that wall of text about a magical book that has no more truth to it than any other work of fiction.

          Everything in the “magic book” is an interpretation of an event.

          False. I’ll let you figure out how to reword this sentence to make it anything but.

          Things have to be seen from the point of view of the writer, not the characters in the script.

          Why?

          • blotonthelandscape

            Whilst I don’t fundamentally disagree with mister Sullivan (his version could be a correct one), given that canon and a few surviving heretical texts are all we have to go on regarding the actual life of Jesus (assuming for a second that this is uncontroversial), I fail to see how he can back any of this up.

            Much like your blog Rory, your post demonstrates unscholarly “thoughts, musings, feelings and convictions”. I’m afraid that doesn’t cut it here.

            I note that, although he dismissed Luke here, in the link he provides he cites him almost straight away as an example of the life of Jesus. Show some consistency please!

            As to your argument, the hypothesis that Jesus was some sort of gnostic jew is not a new one, but it’s not convincing. It’s not that it’s unlikely (many such mystical cults were around in Judea and Rome at the time of Jesus), it’s just that the evidence and claims we have for the life of Jesus don’t bear it out.

            I would hazard a guess and say that you’re projecting your own opinions and beliefs onto the stories, in order to make them relevant. Perhaps you think you have also found a “hidden message of sorts”? Again, that kind of rationalisation doesn’t pass for justification around here.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              Nzo, I am not the first one to see the Bible as a series of events interpreted. It has always been the case. The history of the Israelite nation up to the time of David is an interpretation of the events. The history of the nation up to the time of the exile, also, was written/compiled by someone looking back at events. This isn’t a new thought.

              Additionally, even within the scriptures there are those who take events in the scriptures and give it their own interpretation. Look for example at Steven’s interpretation of Moses calling in Acts chapter 7. Look at the two different ways Paul and James use the events from Abraham’s life to support their differing theologies. It is okay to look at the scriptures and interpret them according to the day you live in – that’s the beauty of the Bible, it allows for that.

              Surely now, 2000 years further on in time, we need to go back and take another look at it. And, it’s only an opinion, there really is no need to get heated up about it.

              blotonthelandscape, I appreciate you taking a moment to go and check out my “unscholarly” work. Doesn’t everybody really only ever have “thoughts, feelings, musings and convictions”?

              I think there is consistency…I go on to suggest, again, how Luke’s account might be understood, as opposed to taking it on face value further down the page.

              I’m not sure I just look at Jesus as any other gnostic Jew (but I’ll certainly give that some thought), he was obviously an outstanding man that saw something no-one else did at the time – and very few did after the event, either.

              Also, I must apologise – I think I might have contravened the Comment Policy. Thank you for not coming down hard on me.

            • Sunny Day

              Interpretation of events?
              Just like the stories of Spiderman, Paul Bunyon, & the Odyssey?

            • Nzo

              It is okay to look at the scriptures and interpret them according to the day you live in – that’s the beauty of the Bible, it allows for that.

              Seeing as how the bible is a straight-up standalone work of fiction that doesn’t specifically ‘allow for that’, you’re going to have to do better on your sources indicating that it’s open to interpretation. Namely, start an archaeological dig to find the missing ‘open to interpretation’ documents. Not that even those would wind up meaning much, but it’s a start.

              FYI, possible tradition/word-of-mouth proof was dismissed by you for a measly 40 years over the Luke thing – not that it REALLY matters, but you can’t have it both ways.

              I am not the first one to see the Bible as a series of events interpreted. It has always been the case.

              Sorry, but it has definitely NOT always been the case, nor is it the case according to most christians today. Seriously, go out on the street and ask them – don’t try to force your views on them, just ask them.

              The history of the Israelite nation up to the time of David is an interpretation of the events. The history of the nation up to the time of the exile, also, was written/compiled by someone looking back at events. This isn’t a new thought.

              History has little to do with the bible, save that it was written in the past, and may give us a smidgen of insight about the primitive thought-processes of the writer at the time, so your point here is irrelevant.

              Surely now, 2000 years further on in time, we need to go back and take another look at it. And, it’s only an opinion, there really is no need to get heated up about it.

              Heated? Yeah, we’re nowhere near ‘heated’ about this.

            • Bill

              “Doesn’t everybody really only ever have “thoughts, feelings, musings and convictions”?”

              No.

        • Bill

          OK – you don’t like Luke, let’s try Matthew:

          Matthew 16:21-28

          ” 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

          22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

          23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

          Look, it’s not my magic book. I think the entire thing lacks credibility.

          It appears to me that you are engaging in the common tactic of picking and chosing which parts of the bible you claim are “true” and which aren’t. I agree that the gospels suffer from major credibility issues (really major problems), but that doesn’t mean your musings about what actually happened are true. Please provide some evidence supporting your recitation of events, not merely what might have happened.

    • John C

      ‘Jesus wasn’t preaching anything new’

      To the contrary friend, everything He said and did was radically new and different from what they knew, ie the law. JC arrives on the scene saying things like ‘the kingdom of God has come is found within you’ (Luke 17:21) and ‘My Father and I are one’ (John 10:30). There are so many more I could list that are radical departures from the mindset of the day (which was more like a night, ie spiritual darkness).

      There is much more to see friend, all the best.

      • thread_of_fire

        “found within you”

        chakras come to mind. unless you’re talking about a kingdom with houses and courtyards and anywhere between one to three thrones.

        it is easy to preach something new to people who knew so little about the ideas around the globe. there was some things presented which were different from their set of ideas, but the ‘new’ ideas were not significantly original/unique in the world (arising near and far from thinkers and groups of other times). I think that is what people are trying to get at.

  • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

    Nzo, what are you getting so angry about, really?

    I didn’t get it before that you’re coming from the whole “bible is a straight-up standalone work of fiction” angle. I understand that, now. If you don’t believe it at all, why have you got such a problem with it being open to interpretation? Surely it doesn’t matter a jot to you whether people interpret this “work of fiction”, or not.

    You seem to be all over the place with rage.

    • Bill

      I’ll come to NZO’s defense here.

      1. I don’t see rage. (I’ve seen rage here. This aint it.)

      2. The disagreement (I think) centers around the fact that the bible itself provides no provable foundation for the religion it allegedly supports. If the text doesn’t actually say what it is alleged to say with regard to Jesus knowing about his death/resurrection, it is also entirely unreliable on other issues. (Say for instance the divinity of jesus at all.)

      The bible is really the singular source of “evidence” supporting Xian beliefs. It’s unreliability – and therefore the utter stupidity of believing Xian doctrine – is glaringly shown by cherry picking. It’s an admission by the believer that their “beliefs” boil down to “this feels good so I will believe it.”

      • Nzo

        @Bill – Eloquently written, and entirely correct. Thank you.

        @Rory – Your insistence that I am somehow displaying “rage” seems to be some psychological deficiency on your part.

        Are you projecting this rage on me?

        Do you require me to be emotionally distraught in some form?

        Does your pride dictate that anyone able to render your arguments null, and indefensible must be some out-of-control maniac?

        I’d actually much appreciate it if you’d stick to the argument, and not make patently absurd ad-hom assumptions about the tone of my writing.

        As Bill said in point #1, “…rage. (…This aint it.)”.

        • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

          Thank you, both of you, for putting me right on this. We only have text on the page to go on when it comes to discerning people’s emotions, and I am not as practiced at it as you guys – I appreciate the readjustment.

          I see the Bible as a whole piece – the NT following on from the OT and not just replacing it. Those who study Bible history are interested in when these things were written, and who by. Scholars such as Martin Hengel place the gospels in about 70CE. They talk about believers at the time finding meaning in verses in the OT and attributing them to Jesus – it’s the whole Christological angle. By the mid-seventies (CE) they were trying to convince the Jewish community that this Jesus was the Christ, the “prophet like Moses” that Deuteronomy spoke of, so they presented this man in spectacular fashion, fulfilling prophetic scriptures and doing miraculous works.

          The Bible is not a book of prophecy. Whatever is taken as prophetic actually had meaning for the time it was written in. Jesus understood this. He saw the truth about man’s broken condition from the scriptures, and that is what he was trying to preach to people. Read the likes of James D. Smart’s Interpretation of the Scriptures and see that this is not some radical new thought I am expressing.

          So yes, I will also say regarding the verses in Matthew that you ask about, Bill. Jesus would not have said that. He wouldn’t have said that he was going to be raised up on the third day. Like any of us, he had no real idea what happens after death, but he had faith in God, which means he was completely free of any anxiety over the matter.

          It isn’t a case of cherry-picking, it is a case of taking the whole lot as a body of work, and trying to understand it.

          • Nzo

            Those who study Bible history are interested in when these things were written, and who by.

            All too often, not interested enough to realize that these books were completely separate works, edited together to flow as one by the powerful in order to create a state religion.

            The Bible is not a book of prophecy.

            While I agree that the bible has no prophetic value, a great deal more of those considering themselves ‘christian’ would beg to differ. I say this not as an arguing point of my own, but I do wonder why you’re bringing your flavor to this site instead of convincing those that already believe much the same as you, that your version is the right one.

            Whatever is taken as prophetic actually had meaning for the time it was written in. Jesus understood this. He saw the truth about man’s broken condition from the scriptures, and that is what he was trying to preach to people. Read the likes of James D. Smart’s Interpretation of the Scriptures and see that this is not some radical new thought I am expressing.

            So you’re passing the buck on your beliefs to someone that wrote a book. This someone happens to be an apologist, which, by definition, must ‘interpret’ (read: twist, cherry-pick, or completely lie about) facts to make the case he wants to make.

            Nobody here is saying you’ve got some ‘radical new thought’. It’s the same thought, just repackaged with a pretty bow. Even Mr. Smart is nothing more than a second-hand know-it-all when you get right down to it. Without independently verifiable evidence about even the existence of the man Jesus, you, and Mr. Smart, and the rest of christianity, are stuck still trying to prove he even existed, and wasn’t an amalgamation of previous gods/children of gods/saviours/etc., much less that anyone has any clue whatsoever about his thoughts, or what he would, or would not, have done.

            So yes, I will also say regarding the verses in Matthew that you ask about, Bill. Jesus would not have said that. He wouldn’t have said that he was going to be raised up on the third day. Like any of us, he had no real idea what happens after death, but he had faith in God, which means he was completely free of any anxiety over the matter.

            So, from reading an apologist’s book, from less than 100 years ago, you presume to know what the Jesus of the bible would, or would not have said, 2,000 years ago. Please, explain to me how this works, but remember, you’re caught having to explain not only the basis for this claim, but for your dismissal of Luke, too.

          • blotonthelandscape

            Rory, whilst I appreciate that you’re trying to be skeptical about the bible, what you are failing to do is to realise the implications this has for christianity. Given the lack of evidence, and the weight of theology against your position, “Jesus wouldn’t have said that” sounds a lot like “that doesn’t sound right to me, therefore Jesus wouldn’t have said that”. Something called Self Projection. From our (skeptical) point of view this is the simplest explanation for your beliefs, and it lies with you to provide evidence.

            In response to your above comment about musings etc. being “all we have”, well, no. Tim Minchin said it best in his beat-poem ‘Storm’, and I’ll paraphrase: When deciding to leave your house, do you ever “feel” like using the second-storey window? Is it a mere “conviction” that you use the door? It’s not so much that we all lack assumptions, but we have logic, reason, evidence to back those assumptions up. Justification for our beliefs, not “because it feels right”.

            Regarding history, in the 70′s A.D I believe there was this little thing called the Jewish Wars, hence our knowledge of anything that may have happened around then in Judea is sketchy at best. I suggest reading work by Richard Carrier, found via the link below:

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/#history

            He is the most fair, balanced skeptical historian I’ve read, as well as being transparent, and you may come to a different opinion of what was and wasn’t unique or special about Jesus, or more accurately early christians. Of particular interest may be his “Kooks and Quacks” or “The Formation of New Testament Canon”. Another good one is “Some Godless Comments on McFall’s Review of On Jesus” and the subsequent rebuttals. “Was Christianity Too Improbable to Be False?” is also good from a general historical perspective.

            Again, christians weren’t the only ones abusing messianic prophetic messages in Isaiah, but they were (and most still do) treat the OT as prophetic, as the geneology in Matthew which attempts to tie Jesus into the Davidic blood-line is a blatant example of. Note also the Jewish allocation of books as “The (Major/Minor) Prophets”. This doesn’t originate with christianity; the novelty is the interpretation of those prophets as foreshadowing Jesus. So to say that the OT isn’t intended to be prophetic is really false on two fronts.

            As Nzo said, “…these books were completely separate works, edited together to flow as one…” And this was largely done according to the doctine of the editors (although not necessarily to create a state religion as Nzo supposes, again read Carrier’s Formation of the New Testament). You have to treat these books as seperate except where one can tie them together through sourcing (e.g. Luke using Mark, Matthew and Luke hypothetically using a lost source Q). More important than the author’s intent is the editor’s intent, especially given how little we know about the original writers.

            • Nzo

              Ack! I was certain I’d read something about it being for a state religion (or something like it) at some point. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks!

          • Bill

            “So yes, I will also say regarding the verses in Matthew that you ask about, Bill. Jesus would not have said that.”

            Great, so we agree that the bible is an unreliable source.

            Now – without citing the bible – please prove to me the existence of god or the divinity of jesus.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              Ach, hell – you’d think I’d know to leave well enough alone, but it’s like poking a hornet’s nest around here. I still mean my words of thanks, earlier. You taught me a good lesson in not being distracted by any perceived anger, and just stick to the point, and I appreciate that.

              No, Bill, I can’t. I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, and you wouldn’t be able to see God if he was in the same room as you. You simply don’t want to see him. What you fail to understand is that it is all about feelings, and emotion.

              When Nzo de-constructs a comment sentence by sentence he is unconsciously tearing a person limb from limb. His capitalising of key words are meant to be BODY BLOWS. (I rather think this is done consciously, but we’ll give the benefit of the doubt). His last most measured response was positively dripping with disdain. He doesn’t even remember who it is he is tearing limb from limb, but it certainly isn’t the commenter. But, of course, it’s not really about feelings, or aggression, because he knows that you check your feelings at the door when you come to this website. A big tell was the inclusion of the word “primitive” in one of his comments. Talk about pride. You’ll say it took millions of years to evolve, and yet 3000 years ago is considered primitive. It is nothing. And even these “primitive thought-processes” understood something you are simply too afraid to acknowledge – that it is all about the human condition. Rage it might not have been, but this community is shot through with aggression.

              When John C calls someone “friend” twice in five lines, he is not laying a pastoral arm around a shoulder. His “friend” is one letter short of being Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. It is “pal”, or “buddy”, or “mate”, and it is passive-aggressive shorthand for, “I’d rather not be interacting with you, but I suppose I have to (and the sooner I can kill you with this cattle gun, the better.)”

              This is not paranoia, it is living in the real world. We are human. We feel. Even evolution wanted it this way. Why would the evolutionary process shatter us into 6 billion independent, emotional “apes” who only flock together during times of supercharged feelings, from mourning to bloody violence? By wanting to disregard emotion, you want to disregard that step in the evolutionary process. You want to be unemotional monkeys trying to figure out how life got here.

              You have to read the likes of Gerhard Von Rad and Leszek Kolakowski to see that wise men appreciate the psychology of the Bible. That is where the real strength lies because it addresses the human condition, and it did so hundreds of years before anyone else, and thousands of years ahead of its time. When you chastise people for their emotional involvement you are being dishonest to yourselves. You want it to be all about reason and rational thinking, but that in itself betrays an emotional involvement. You have no place questioning the existence of God when you don’t even know yourselves. You haven’t reached your conclusions based on sound reason, you have arrived at them through personal life experiences and your interpretation of those experiences. But, you are too blind to see it.

              Do you really want to believe, Bill? Then, get to know yourself, first. Leave all the soothing skeptical jargon, like “Self Projection” in the corner, it’s just a distraction anyway, and ask yourself: Do I really want to believe in God? If the answer is No, then ask why not. If the answer is yes “but there is no evidence” then ask yourself why evidence is so important to you. Then keep asking why until you catch a glimpse of your own misery. At least then you’ll be in the vicinity of God.

            • John C

              No, I really do mean friend, friend. :)

              All my best to you on your journey Rory.

            • Bill

              “No, Bill, I can’t. I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, and you wouldn’t be able to see God if he was in the same room as you. You simply don’t want to see him.”

              Really, beacuase one of the main reasons I became an athiest was because of those decades I spent going to church. Desperately wanting – begging – god to reveal himself to me – to no avail.

              “What you fail to understand is that it is all about feelings, and emotion.”

              You can’t feel something in to existence. If I told you I strong feel that there is a purple dragon living in New York City – and the only evidence I had for its existence was my feelings – you woudl rightly tell me that’s not sufficient evidence for its exitence.

              “Do you really want to believe, Bill? Then, get to know yourself, first. Leave all the soothing skeptical jargon, like “Self Projection” in the corner, it’s just a distraction anyway, and ask yourself: Do I really want to believe in God? If the answer is No, then ask why not. If the answer is yes “but there is no evidence” then ask yourself why evidence is so important to you. Then keep asking why until you catch a glimpse of your own misery. At least then you’ll be in the vicinity of God.”

              You can’t critique others for “disdain” and then come back with this. This is unbelievably condescending.

              First, evidence is important because that’s how rational peopl measure the existence of things. (And the truth of things) Belief in things for which there is no evidence is at best fiction writing and at worst mental illness. It leads to negative consequences, including allowing people to control you.

              Second, please tell me more about the my “misery.” Since I’m the person who would be feeling it, and I am perfectly content and happy with my life, I’m really intrigued how someone who doesn’t know shit about me could possibly tell I’m miserable.

              Third, I have no need for god. I should have left imaginary friends behind in my childhood, but unfortumately I wasted a chunk of my adult life trying to find the non-existent god. I tried your way – that was the path to misery.

            • Nzo

              Let me see if I have this straight:

              1)You use the bible as the source of your religion
              2)You use apologist books to rewrite the bible to your liking
              3)You realize there are no contemporary works that could possibly support your apologists’ views
              4)You disagree with a vast majority of those using the bible as the source of their religion by claiming Jesus isn’t divine
              5)You claim that it’s all about your ‘feelings’
              6)You’re on an atheist website attempting to prove your version of religion is real, when you’d have a better chance of trying to convert the christians that you seem to think got it wrong

              When Nzo de-constructs a comment sentence by sentence he is unconsciously tearing a person limb from limb. His capitalising of key words are meant to be BODY BLOWS. (I rather think this is done consciously, but we’ll give the benefit of the doubt).

              Clarification needed.

              His last most measured response was positively dripping with disdain.

              Honestly, you’ve gotten much less than you probably deserve, but the pretty gift-wrapping around your beliefs is still entertaining for the time being.

              He doesn’t even remember who it is he is tearing limb from limb, but it certainly isn’t the commenter.

              This still doesn’t really clarify the above. What it does clarify is that you seem to feel the need to pseudo-psychologically analyze my posts in an attempt to belittle them. Though it might make you feel better on the surface by doing this, you know that it’s just a pathetic ad-hom attempt.

              But, of course, it’s not really about feelings, or aggression, because he knows that you check your feelings at the door when you come to this website. A big tell was the inclusion of the word “primitive” in one of his comments. Talk about pride. You’ll say it took millions of years to evolve, and yet 3000 years ago is considered primitive.

              Your first sentence really makes little sense in the context you’ve given.

              Two thousand years ago is primitive compared to today’s standards. Science has given us a world that the bible’s publication staff couldn’t possibly imagine.

              And even these “primitive thought-processes” understood something you are simply too afraid to acknowledge – that it is all about the human condition. Rage it might not have been, but this community is shot through with aggression.

              Those primitive thought-processes didn’t understand much of anything. You’re grasping at straws here, and it’s not working. At no point does anything biblical refer to ‘the human condition’. Honestly, you’re starting to lose your grip on reality.

              Also, expanding your pseudo-psychological diagnoses to the community just highlights your desperation. You’ve been fractally wrong, constantly, about the nature of those you’re debating. Indeed, I think I was correct to have mentioned that you have some psychological need to feel superior. I wasn’t sure which of my questions about your rage-projection was correct, but I’m almost certain that your attempt to paint ME as the prideful one points directly at a defense mechanism for an inferiority complex.

              See, I can do the psychology thing too!

              The fact that you’re slipping into your fantasies and painting the community here as aggressive really just means that your arguments are sh*t, and you know it.

              Enjoy.

            • Sunny Day

              “At least then you’ll be in the vicinity of God.””

              I’ve been saying this for years.
              Religion makes people miserable.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              You don’t stop at “misery”, Bill. And, it is no attempt to say you are miserable. It is just that all of us carry some measure of guilt and shame – whether we want to acknowledge it or not, it has more of an impact on our life than we might want to realise. Getting to the bottom of that is the answer.

              You’ve been right for years, Sunny Day, religion does make people miserable – probably because they have religion for the same reasons atheists have atheism. They make no attempt to answer the “why”, either. And, you’ll have to fill me in on what SPAG means. I tried looking it up but all the acronyms didn’t seem applicable.

              Is this really an atheists website, Nzo? Does skepticism absolutely mean there is no God? Is it not closer to agnosticism?

              I don’t have feelings of superiority, far from it. I can’t deny getting a little over-excited. It’s probably nervous energy – coming in to this arena feels a bit like bare-knuckle fighting. And, of course a lot of it is projecting my own whatever. But, I don’t think I’m wrong in the aggression department. It can’t not be, really. The whole subject is quite emotive. I read and re-read your six-point break down of my position, and there is more in it to agree with than disagree, so props to you.

              And, could one of you explain the current position on why the evolutionary process should opt for self-awareness?

            • Jabster

              “And, could one of you explain the current position on why the evolutionary process should opt for self-awareness?”

              I’ll tell you what – why don’t you explain why you think we have self-awarness and I expect this to be backed up with real evidence.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              Oof! You’re not called “Jabster” for nothing, eh?

            • Jabster

              So are you going to aswer the question or just try and deflect ….

            • Jabster

              @Rory

              I’ll take that as I no then … but me being a nice chap I’ll let you try and remove my cynical feeling that you didn’t ask that question if good faith – see here’s a second question for you to answer (or ignore if that’s the case), what do you think “the current position is on why the evolution process should opt for self-awarness”?

            • Nzo

              *comment awaiting moderation* /cry
              **If the server monkeys could please delete one of these when they log in, I’d be grateful!**

              (I wrote, in a comment-moderated fashion)

              Is this really an atheists website, Nzo? Does skepticism absolutely mean there is no God? Is it not closer to agnosticism?

              I think your knowledge about the word ‘agnosticism’ is lacking, given the context you’ve presented it in.

              Agnosticism has nothing to do with skepticism, as skepticism is actually functional, while agnosticism is merely a philosophical stance on whether or not we can actually KNOW anything.

              So no, any real skeptic is going to be an atheist, and anyone pretending to be a skeptic who is a theist is obviously mistaking the definition of ‘skeptic’.

              It is just that all of us carry some measure of guilt and shame

              Complete, and utter bullsh*t. You can carry all the guilt and shame you want, I have none, and I’m sure many others here do not. You’re more than welcome to apologize for this, not only because it’s completely false, but because you even presented this as part of an argument.

              It’s YOUR religion, and a few others, that make you feel inadequate about your natural urges, and really, just for being alive. I have none of that, and it’s irritating to have to correct someone pretending to know something they obviously don’t, and could not know. Perhaps this could be a wonderful selling point for Atheism… something like:

              “Not only does it have the advantages of being… … right, but you don’t feel like your natural urges are something to be ashamed of! – Oh, and you’re just fine the way you are, there’s nothing eternally sh*tty about your existence.”

              Anyway, I admit I’m a rather abrasive person when it comes to arguments, and if you were in my shoes, you’d have trouble arguing, in a completely civil manner, that your equivalent of santa clause doesn’t exist to another adult that swears up-and-down that he does. Honestly, what would it take to convince you that santa clause (the magical one) exists? Think about that for a moment.

              Actually, it might be a fun little game to see if you can think of any reason someone could come up with to make you believe in santa clause. I mean, would you believe in him, even if you saw him fly across the sky? Or would you think you were just an extra in a Chevy Chase movie? Would it need to be backed up by hundreds/thousands/millions of witnesses? Would that convince you? Or would you still think something was amiss?

              *here’s to hoping it won’t be comment-modded!*

              [Teh Srvr Munkeh Sees All] – Teh Srvr Munkeh

            • Nzo

              WHY was that last one comment-moderated? 8( GRRR

              I demand a refund!

            • Nzo

              I don’t know which Srvr Munkeh that is, but I love you. I laughed hard when I read that.

            • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

              I think it was Bobo. He’s a cheeky munkeh.

            • Nzo

              Any idea why the second one was also comment-moderated? I’m not as familiar with the mechanics of the filter.

            • http://ohmatron.wordpress.com/ Custador

              Looking at the time stamps I think it was probably just because you posted so much in such a short period.

            • Nzo

              Someday I’ll break these chains that bind me!

              Thanks for the heads-up

            • Jabster

              “I think it was probably just because you posted so much in such a short period.”

              My god, Nzo broke the Internet!!!

            • Bill

              “Then keep asking why until you catch a glimpse of your own misery.”

              “And, it is no attempt to say you are miserable.”

              Please compare these to statements. Do you even read what you write?

              “It is just that all of us carry some measure of guilt and shame – whether we want to acknowledge it or not, it has more of an impact on our life than we might want to realise. Getting to the bottom of that is the answer.”

              The answer to what? Just saying random shit does not amount to an actual argument.

              Also, how on earth does any of this support the idea that god exists?

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              It is not meant to support the idea that God exists. This isn’t an attempt to prove the existence of God. I told you I wasn’t able to do that. And, like you said before, you can’t “feel” something into existence. That is why this place is such a safe haven. The scientific method won’t prove the existence of God. You put yourself here because you know it is a place you can’t be reached.

              You have to find the answer yourself…within yourself. Embarking on that “random sh*t” is the only way you will find the answer to God’s existence. Look up the Czech word litost, maybe you’ll come across the Milan Kundera quote about it.

              Jabster is trying to do the same thing with me. He won’t present evidence about man’s self-awareness, he wants me to. Then, when it looks like I’m avoiding the issue, he asks, “What does that say about your character?” So, the same method is being used for proving the non-existence of God.

            • blotonthelandscape

              The reason why we “hide behind science”, if you don’t mind my paraphrase, is to protect us from ourselves. If you have any understanding of psychology, you understand the effects of confirmation and recall bias, of informational social influence, mob behaviour and conditioning. To “[search] within yourself” is to discover what you already believed to be true, what has been introduced and reinforced by external factors from culture to parents to the time of day. The only way to discover new things, and to evaluate what is “within ourselves”, is to subject those beliefs and assumptions to scientific rigour.

              If the only way to “find God” (or not) is to remove our critical faculties (to refuse to acknowledge our humanity), then we can’t really say we’ve found anything reliable. We’re stuck at an impasse, with no new knowledge, a decaying paradigm, a cul-de-sac.

              Jabster isn’t a biologist (I don’t think?). To ask him to provide evidence that you could find with a quick google search (or asking the experts here like Ursa and LRA) is pointless, because that’s exactly what he will do.

              His riposte, I believe, was meant to point out that your paradigm provides no substantial reason to believe we are self-aware (by substantial I deliberately exclude an assertion that god created us self-aware; such a claim would need evidence of god, and evidence of a mechanism that god used to imbue apes with it).

              Hence your claim, one which I find a bit insulting, “You put yourself here because you know it is a place you can’t be reached.”, is false. I find myself here because I seek the truth. If God has made himself inaccessible to the only reliable epistemology for establishing existence, then I will never conclude that he exists. This is a consequence, not a cause, of accepting science.

              I looked up “litost”, I can’t say it has any application to me. Seems consistent, however, with the frequent christian stereotype of a nihilistic atheist, so I can understand why you would think it applied. Word to the wise, that stereotype is wishful thinking and projection, and has no basis in reality, beyond the normal human variation in emotions. Sometimes I feel like shit, the rest of the time, I don’t.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory

              (I suppose one question that springs to mind is, “Why do you seek the truth?”)

              But here’s what I really wanted to ask: Why can the two not co-exist? Can’t God be the meeting place between the spiritual and the physical? Can’t we self-analyse whilst at the same time knowing the danger of those elements you mention (very helpfully, I might add.) Or are we a slave to those dangers, and we’re going to be affected by them whether we like it or not? Is the existence of God not at least a viable hypothesis when it comes to the suggestion of the unconscious and our (questionable) self-awareness, and what helped kick it into action in the first place?

              Perhaps we are hindering the evolutionary process when we refuse to acknowledge the existence of God? Perhaps its aim is the connection between the physical and spiritual – the ultimate aim being God in physical form. I’m not trying to be dramatic here, I’m just trying to see a way of reconciling both sides.

              You talked earlier about the implications for Christianity. I have no problem with saying that they got it wrong. Your note about that “little thing called the Jewish Wars” was most enlightening. It helped me to consider that writers in the 1st century simply carried on the tradition from their earlier scriptures. The nation of Israel concluded that God was with them because their insubstantial nation survived while those around them did not. When the Northern tribes of Israel were dominated by the Assyrians while the South survived, they concluded that God must be with the royal line of Judah. It all seemed to be going wrong when that kingdom was curtailed in 587BCE, but when Babylon was overthrown by Medes/Persians, and the Israelites returned from exile, it rekindled their belief that God was with them. Surely, when the Jewish Wars resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the Christians assumed that this was a sign of God’s favour upon them. As a result, we get gospel accounts replete with Moses-like parallels!

              Personally, I think the Bible needs to be prized from the cold, dead hands of Christianity. 2000 years is surely long enough to prove that it has completely bodged the job.

              Jesus wasn’t seeking followers – he wanted all people to be able to say, “I and the Father are one.” That connection between the physical and the spiritual – God and man.

              Bill talked about spendeing several decades “desperately wanting – begging – god to reveal himself to me – to no avail.” Richard Carrier made a similar point when he talked about his disbelief in Christianity because “God is silent.” I would suggest that anyone who feels this way might be helped by going back and re-reading Acts 8:9-25. Cut through all the miracles clap-trap and home in on verses18-23. I don’t hear Peter being as brutal as he is on the page, but that’s just me. But I think a lot of mileage can be got from Simon’s plea to, “Give me also this ability…” and Peter’s encouragement for him to “Repent”. A hateful word, I’m sure. But all it really means is to look inwards, to look back, to get to know ourselves first. To Simon to ask, “Why do I want this ability?” Why do I want God to talk to me?

              Maybe God is in there all along, buried beneath a mountain. Maybe that’s what Jesus understood, maybe that’s what he wanted other people to understand, too.

            • Jabster

              “It says, sometimes I’m only grabbing a moment at the computer while we’re doing something else – like getting ready to go away for a couple of days.”

              Looks at date of posts … *coughs*

            • blotonthelandscape

              You’re speculating, grabbing at straws, throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping some of it sticks. In what context is self-awareness “questionable”? Our collective understanding of neuroscience has largely explained the sub-conscious (I presume you didn’t mean unconscious? God is not the one causing my heart to pump), so we already have a viable naturalistic explanation that rules out the god hypothesis.

              Even if we didn’t, the only way to make god a “viable hypothesis” is to make testable, falsifiable claims about god, and the mechanism it uses to interact with our subconscious. This is scientific language you’re using, and if you’re willing to do the above, then we can engage in a consideration of the god hypothesis. Until then, you have nothing to stand on.

              “I suppose one question that springs to mind is, “Why do you seek the truth?””

              You’ve stumbled on a small subset of a minority (atheist truthseekers). We all have individual reasons, mine stems from my christian upbringing and the culture that still surrounds me, and that I find it intellectually stimulating and makes me a better person.

              Many live their lives without considering the existence of god, and many aren’t willing to give it the respect we do; we’re not representative.

              We are always subject to those aspects of our psychology. We have to make deliberate, concerted efforts to avoid them, or else use broad language to convey the uncertainty of our position. What you would propose is directly opposed to this effort; that is, that we should indulge our biases, elevate them to the level of arbitors of truth.

              You seem so close to reason, then you shy away back to your speculations about “What Jesus wanted”. The fact is that the only reliable documents we have from that period were written by Paul to the Roman churches. Paul never met Jesus. Neither, for that matter, did Luke. It’s biased speculation based on biased authors of works which were preserved by biased clergy. You have no hope of being right.

              “But all it really means is to look inwards, to look back, to get to know ourselves first.”

              By your definition, I’m already repentant, but rather than find God’s voice, I find not only silence, but a reason to check myself in to the local psych ward if I start hearing voices.

              Most christians I know would consider introspection as an inherently humanistic, selfish thing to do. They would also define repentance as an acknowledgement of sin and a commitment to obey God’s commands; somewhat different to your definition.

              A line I used to like from a “Faithless” song: “The Lord is in here, his voice is small.” That’s what you’re getting at. As I implied above, anything less than a clear and unambiguous message from god is reason to doubt my sanity. He knows this (I’ve told Him); anything less is indistinguishable from my own fallibility. To say otherwise is to fall prey to arrogance; it is to say “the voice in my head really isn’t my own.”

              “You talked earlier about the implications for Christianity”

              I was talking about the implications for YOUR christianity as much as any other. Wrestle the bible from whomever you like, it’ll just end up in your hands. As I’ve been trying to point out, it’s vanity (to get ecclesiastical)!

              Just think about it. Might I also suggest taking a break from introspection, and studying others for a while. You’d be surprised at how much you learn about yourself by studying the behaviour of other people, as individuals or as a population.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory

              Sheesh, Jabster, ya cheeky wee bampot – look at the timestamps. Hopefully they’ll indicate I went away one morning and came back the next evening! Blimmin’ ‘eck.

              And, Blot, my “questionable” reference was a jokey dig – but, I appreciate your clarification. I’m going to need a bit of time to think about what you have written. Thank you.

              No talking behind my back!

            • Yoav

              @Rory

              But here’s what I really wanted to ask: Why can the two not co-exist? Can’t God be the meeting place between the spiritual and the physical? Can’t we self-analyse whilst at the same time knowing the danger of those elements you mention (very helpfully, I might add.) Or are we a slave to those dangers, and we’re going to be affected by them whether we like it or not? Is the existence of God not at least a viable hypothesis when it comes to the suggestion of the unconscious and our (questionable) self-awareness, and what helped kick it into action in the first place?

              If you want the existence of god to be considered a viable hypothesis it should be able to stand the same scrutiny as any other hypothesis otherwise it’s nothing but hand waving and wishful thinking.

              Perhaps we are hindering the evolutionary process when we refuse to acknowledge the existence of God? Perhaps its aim is the connection between the physical and spiritual – the ultimate aim being God in physical form. I’m not trying to be dramatic here, I’m just trying to see a way of reconciling both sides.

              This is a common misconception among theists, the evolutionary process doesn’t have a goal or an ultimate aim. Humans are not more evolved then bacteria. You’re basically suggesting some form of theistic/guided evolution which is not supported by anything resembling evidence.

            • Jabster

              @Rory

              No it just indicates the type of character you have …

              I see you’ve stilled failed to answer any questions that don’t suit you. It’s called acting in bad faith. Lets face it what you’re most interested in is in “proving” that your ideas are correct and that’s why you just ignore anything that doesn’t anything that you feel doesn’t advance that agenda or try and change the subject. I’ll let you prattle on now as quite frankly I have better things to do than engage in conversation with someone who is clearly not interested in any form of debate.

            • blotonthelandscape

              Take your time ;) Can I suggest that if you want to carry on this conversation, you take it to the forum. It’s difficult to keep track of threads like this.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory

              I want to thank you for your warm response, Blot. I printed out your answer so that I could read and re-read it over the last (glances furtively at the datestamp lest Jabster be skeptically tapping his wristwatch) couple of days.

              All I can suggest is that you keep the headphones on and turn the music up to 11. Your “small subset of a minority” would seem to be just the sort of compassionate pool into which God would plunge unannounced, if you’re not careful. If that does happen, hopefully the splash will be loud enough for you not to end up in the psych ward! If Paul had possessed an mp3 player, we might never have had his letters to the Roman congregations.

              I’m from a subset myself: Non-Christian proponents of the Bible (current membership, 1-ish, as far as I know). Funny how our two subsets should cross paths like this. The more romantic might carelessly call it serendipity. Perhaps in a few years time we will look back and file it under “predestination.”

              If ever you have a change of view, for whatever reason, please let me know. You know where to find me.

              Jabster, I don’t really know what to say. I really was asking because I didn’t know what the answer was. I thought somebody would take the opportunity to put in a few sentences what the current position was. Instead, I got you. That’s okay, it’s just the way the chips fall. I’ll happily go away and do my own research on it. I don’t even feel like I’ve got anything to “prove” necessarily. But, you also have given me something to think about, and I appreciate that.

              Before any of you start to “clap your hands raw,” let me just say that I know when I’m being run rings around. Blot was right way back aways when he said, “that kind of rationalisation doesn’t pass for justification around here.” This isn’t the place for me to debate. I do belong in the pipe-smoking, hand-waving crowd. And that, too, is okay.

              (One final thing: What is it with the spaghetti? Spaghetti thrown at the walls, flying spaghetti monsters, SPAG (which I never did get a definition for). Is it the tangled chaos? String theory? Nodes? The inherent danger of receiving unwanted messages in the alphabetti variety?)

            • Nzo

              I can only assume the answer you’re looking for is The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or FSM. I have no idea what SPAG is though.

            • http://jonmarke.blogspot.com JonJon

              Self Projection As God. A badly presented and fairly obvious concept: that people who believe in God will tend to believe in a God who thinks exactly as they do, who values exactly the same things they do, and who is in various other ways just like them. The concept, as far as it goes, is almost certainly correct. The reason that the presentation of SPAG is generally silly is that people who are really into the concept will attempt to wield it like apologists. It is typically presented as a slam-dunk answer to all religion. Which is stupid, even though the concept is probably on track.

            • blotonthelandscape

              @Nzo and Rory, SPAG is discussed in a couple of much older posts here on UF. I agree with JonJon that it’s too easy to put a believer’s opinions down to self-projection, although it’s got a ring of truth in many cases. Should be avoided. My reference to spaghetti was not related. Nor is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You get beer volcanoes and stripper factories whether you want them or not.

            • Nzo

              @blot + JonJon

              Thanks for the clarification. I see how it’s a useful acronym, and I also see how it’s not a useful catch-all.

  • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

    I really appreciate that link, blot, it is going to give me many an hour of enjoyable reading. Just a cursory glance has certainly piqued my interest.

    I don’t really think I had much doubt as to the implications for Christianity, but I don’t think there is much I was expecting to do about that. Even devastating essays from the likes of Richard Carrier isn’t going to make Christianity go away. I had already come to the conclusion that I wasn’t a “Christian”. My interest lies in other aspects of the Bible.

    Sorry we got off on the wrong foot (Nzo). It has been a most enlightening couple of days.

    • Nzo

      So… you’re not a christian, what are you? Your blog seems typically ‘old story, new wrapping’ to me. Am I missing something?

      • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

        I think you must have done.

      • Sunny Day

        Meh, hes just another SPAG.
        Points to scripture when it suits their purposes and when it supplies some kind of authority to their way of thinking. Discards it when they need to tell us what it really means and how we can’t let ourselves be tied down to old ways and bad interpretations.

  • Nzo

    I don’t have feelings of superiority, far from it. I can’t deny getting a little over-excited. It’s probably nervous energy – coming in to this arena feels a bit like bare-knuckle fighting. And, of course a lot of it is projecting my own whatever. But, I don’t think I’m wrong in the aggression department.

    You might want to take a gander at our forum. There’s a post there called “My name used to be William….” you might find enlightening.

    I can almost guarantee that you’re feeling exactly what he felt.

    • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

      I will do that, Nzo. It all helps.

      • Nzo

        I’m sure Transformed wouldn’t mind answering any questions you have, fyi.

  • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

    No, I don’t want to deflect it, I simply don’t understand the need to answer. It seems to me to suggest that there is no good hard evidence to prove that we are self-aware. If there is, and you know about it, but I don’t, you are saying, go off and find out for yourself. I have no objections to doing that – and when I do, I find that it is another area where various ideas for and against are batted around ad infinitum.

    It all ends up being an academic exercise. The irony of it, to me, is that the proof of self-awareness ends up in being found in the very convoluted discussion asking whether there is any proof that we are self-aware. Or, is that called something else?

    It seems to me that the journey down that road ends up in, well, I believe this and you believe that, and all the rest is just mental stimulation. I have no problem with that, it’s just that people end up dead over it.

    • Nzo

      I have no objections to doing that – and when I do, I find that it is another area where various ideas for and against are batted around ad infinitum.

      Good sources wouldn’t do this. Try sources that aren’t there to push an idea, but instead take the evidence, and make the best explanation of ‘why’ possible using just data.

      As for ‘asking whether there is any proof that we are self-aware’, you’re delving into a deeply philosophical thought-process that really has no functional use in the real world. Everyone could just sit around smoking pot and saying “man, this sh*t ain’t real”, but I’m pretty sure that any productive member of society has to make certain assumptions, including “I am self-aware, others are self-aware”. Well, some don’t have to assume the last part, but that’s a different story altogether.

      It seems to me that the journey down that road ends up in, well, I believe this and you believe that, and all the rest is just mental stimulation. I have no problem with that, it’s just that people end up dead over it.

      I’m not sure what you mean by the last sentence, but “I believe this and you believe that” doesn’t exactly work in a functional environment. What would happen if you told your employer that you believe your job is to browse facebook all day? What would happen if you hopped in your car and just believed that it would take you where you wanted if you pressed on the gas pedal and didn’t steer?

      I’m not sure why you’re wanting to delve into such deeply non-functional philosophical ideas, but the truth of the matter is that your objections at this point are, taken to the logical next-step, useless.

    • Jabster

      “No, I don’t want to deflect it, I simply don’t understand the need to answer.”

      I don’t want to deflect but I’m going to anyway – good answer.

      ” I have no objections to doing that – and when I do, I find that it is another area where various ideas for and against are batted around ad infinitum.”

      Well then present what your understanding is … is that so much to ask?

      “It all ends up being an academic exercise. The irony of it, to me, is that the proof of self-awareness ends up in being found in the very convoluted discussion asking whether there is any proof that we are self-aware.”

      Oh dear, so I was right – you didn’t answer this question in good faith. Nice to know the type of person you are.

      “It seems to me that the journey down that road ends up in, well, I believe this …”

      So what do you believe … why do you think we have self-awarness, why do you think people have to answer your questions but you are just allowed to answer “I simply don’t understand the need to answer.”?

      p.s. The reply button is there for a reason … please use it.

      • Nzo

        x.x

        I started a new nest because the last one was nestlimited. Improper netiquette?

        • Jabster

          My comment was to Rory … ?

          • Nzo

            I dun the same thang!

            • Jabster

              … ah yes, I see now. Personally I think it’s best to keep to a sub-thread even if it can no longer be nested. It was more to do with Rory S not answering a question by, what seemed to me, starting a new sub-thread.

            • Nzo

              Ahh, gotcha. It was the possible evasion-tactic that really bothered you. Guess we’ll see how this pans out 8)

            • Jabster

              Yessss indeedyyyy … I get bored with the type of believer who comes here and seems to think that if someone can’t answer a question about evolution (not that they’ve bothered to educate themselves to see what it does say) to their own satisfaction then it “proves” that their own brand of woo is true.

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              Heeeey…I’m right here!!

            • Jabster

              … and still not answering questions I see – so what do you think that says about your character?

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              It says, sometimes I’m only grabbing a moment at the computer while we’re doing something else – like getting ready to go away for a couple of days.

              But, in a way, you’re right. What does it say about my character? S’funny you should ask me that, given the exchange a bit further up. If I follow that line of questioning, I might even catch a glimpse of my own misery, eh Bill?

      • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

        But…(adopts “whiny” voice) I asked the question in the first place! (And it was a genuine question, in good faith.) And then you came back to me with a question…and then you say I’m not asking in good faith and make a further insinuation about my character. (I think I’ve already demonstrated what a fine stand-up guy I am by going off the deep end a bit further up this discussion.)

        What does constitute “proof”? (And, that is another question “in good faith”.) I know experimentation has shown all sorts of species to demonstrate self-awareness (whatever that might be.) So, are you saying, Present your evidence that humans are any more self-aware than other species?

        Yeah, sorry about the “reply” button – I think I’ve done that twice so far. It catches me out when the reply thread is quite long.

        • Nzo

          Actually, if you just type in your question into google, it seems to come up with some pretty decent articles written by actual psychologists, or people belonging to fairly reputable learning institutions.

          I think there was a debate here not long ago, that what we actually (usually) mean when we say ‘proof’ is ‘evidence’, but I tend to like my evidence as an elegant explanation of a phenomenon that works, and has facts to back it up.

          • Jabster

            The problem is that he’s perfectable capable of doing that so one can only assume that his question was what he believes is a “gotcha” moment.

            If asked asked a question about why has evolution “used” death and sex, it’s because I’m intrested in the repiles. Rory S has failed to show that is true for him.

            • Nzo

              Ahh, sorry I butted in.

            • Jabster

              Not a problem … it’s just seems to be that there is a certain brand of believer who comes here, not in good faith, and is only interested in applying one standard of evidence to what they don’t believe and another standard of evidence (if you can even call it that) to what they do believe. Maybe I’m wrong with Rory S but so far I don’t see it.

        • Jabster

          “But…(adopts “whiny” voice) I asked the question in the first place! (And it was a genuine question, in good faith.)”

          So then a) answer why you think we are self-aware and b) say what you think evolution says about self-awarness.

          What I have to go on as far as you character is what you have posted here. You inability to answer a question, and also stating that the answer just ends up in “convoluted discussion”, suggest you made a statement that wasn’t in good faith. Now here’s you chance to prove me wrong …

          • Jabster

            Well bugger me with a fish fork … Rory has run away as he was asked a question. Now there’s a surprise.

            • Nzo

              I have the feeling he’ll be back. Probably went to sleep, then to work, and hasn’t gotten around to showing us Atheists who’s right, and who’s wrong!

            • Jabster

              He’s home page shows his address as Sudbury … I presuming that’s in England so he had all down to think about it. I also expect him to be back and just ask the same questions again and act as though the previous posts weren’t made.

            • Jabster

              *day* not “down” …. !

            • UrsaMinor

              Might I also suggest “his” not “he’s”?

            • http://theascendancymemoirs.blogspot.com/ wazza

              I thought Sudbury was in Canada, pretty sure there’s an impact crater near there, or something…

              According to GooWikiglepedia, yup: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Sudbury

            • Jabster

              @Ursa

              Jesus H fecking christ … :-)

            • http://acarpenterfromnazareth.com Rory Sullivan

              I take it you’re being ironic, Jabster.

            • Jabster

              So then a) answer why you think we are self-aware and b) say what you think evolution says about self-awarness.

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