Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reading the Bible as non-literal truth

Before the comments veered off into the minefield of homosexuality, Chris wrote (Jan. 27, 11:29 a.m.):

"It brings up the point: can there be moderates in religion? You can’t pick and choose, in my opinion, what parts of the Bible you like and don’t like to believe in. You accept the Bible as the word of God – or you don’t."


Yes, there can be moderates in religion, because accepting the Bible as the word of God doesn’t necessarily mean reading it as a science or history textbook – or even as a rule book. You don’t have to take it literally to take it seriously.


If you believe that "word of God" means that it was dictated by the Almighty, with every word perfectly preserved to say exactly what God intended, then yes, it would be hypocritical to pick and choose.


But I, like many Christians, believe that although the Bible was inspired by God, it was written by men – men who, like all of us, were limited by their culture, biases and world view. Reading it from this perspective, we can see evidence not just of God’s self-revelation to humanity but also of humanity’s stumbling attempts to understand God.


We don’t have to try to reconcile the timelines of two creation tales or four gospels, because each story reveals its own truth.


We don’t have to choose which arcane regulations we must follow (or enforce) because we take our marching orders from the overarching theme: that God is with us and calls us to respond with love for God and neighbor.


We internalize the stories of scripture by reading them, by hearing them, by re-enacting them in liturgy. And their wisdom then guides our lives in a way that a rulebook never could.

179 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with the fact that men wrote the Bible and based it on their own world views. But at the same time it seems like you are picking and choosing in what you believe, while disregarding some of the other points made within the text from which you pulled your believes from.

Chris said...

I think that many Christians still hold that the Bible must be literally obeyed. Maybe the majority? However, I do see some factions trying to move away from that and adapting to modern times. I also see some religions (Islam, for example) holding fast. I think Sam Harris really baselined the position on moderates in his book The End of Faith. Certainly a lot better than I can/did.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I personally don't see how you can just pick and choose. Because if you don't accept parts of the Bible, in my mind, it sort of invalidates the other parts. Also, the more you change it, the further you get away from the teachings. At some point, doesn't it get far enough away that the original lesson is lost?

As I've mentioned in the forum before, I'm an Atheist. However, I'm genuinely interested in understanding the thought process of those of believers.

And I didn't mean to sidetrack the previous discussion. Well, I didn't sidetrack it...but I thought I raised some good points! Seems like we got hung up on one, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Joseph Campbell said, "Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble."

Edie said...

Right on Jane.

Anonymous said...

You know it doesn't really matter what any individual Christian or non-Christian believes the Bible really says. The only thing that matters is what God meant when he dictated it. He said, "Man can only get to God through me, the Son." (paraphrased) And he said, "Every knee will bow" (meaning to worship him). And if when God says, "Games Over", and you haven't figured out what those things mean, then it's too late. My question is how much are you willing to gamble that you're right about what God is saying?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the term "non-literal truth"
an oxymoron? Sounds like something Bill Clinton would say in a deposition.

Consider for example the Bible's directive to kill witches. Is this a "truth?" How do you take it "non-literally?"

If you think your God doesn't really want you to kill witches, why would he "inspire" someone to write that he did? After watching thousands of his innocent people being exterminated by his faithful, why wouldn't God "inspire" somebody else to correct his holy book?

If infallible, wouldn't he foresee that this passage would be misinterpreted with disastrous results? Or,if he really wants you to kill witches, why didn't (or doesn't he now) "inspire" someone to write an explanation of how to identify them?

pornstudent said...

Jane, I don't find the Bible inspiring. Please give me a verse or two where God reveals himself to you.

Anonymous said... "You know it doesn't really matter what any individual Christian or non-Christian believes." According to John 3:16 it does, "... whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Danbo59 said...

pornstudent wrote, "Jane, I don't find the Bible inspiring. Please give me a verse or two where God reveals himself to you."

This from a man whose profile lists porn as one of his interests/hobbies.

I guess porn must be inspiring.

Anonymous said...

More and more Young People dont like the chains that religions put on People; Its like a mind control that only People in the Church are to enjoy; The WORLD is turning dark because they would rather have worldly goods . Capitalism does this to People by temping their carnal needs like paper money a new CD , a new car; Charlotte is a city of VANITY just go to another city like washington D.C. and you will not see this many NEW CARS like Charlotte. Its a feel good religion here you drive into a Church with your new car and new clothes to show People what you achieved. Just look at the amount of HOMELESS here some 8000 thousand while D.C. only has 12,000 for 7 million People ,why?

Anonymous said...

Why Jane? why 8000 homeless here in Charlotte? Charlotte has the most Churches per capita. Are People being told to come here because of all the help waiting for them. When they get here they find out different; I find Charlotte has to many Homeless and it should be distributed across the States better to better serve those first class citizens. Jane is it because we all drive shiny new cars and dont have anything left for our brothers or a house that is over our heads each month and we are the next foot in the soup line here.

Danbo59 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo59 said...

pornstudent said, "Please give me a verse or two where God reveals himself to you."

Easy.

How about Mk 1: 9-11 -- "It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. And at once, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.'"

God reveals Himself in the act of sending His only begotten Son. Born a man like us in all things except sin. Our true and loving God takes equal station with His creation -- living and breathing amongst us.

Laughing, crying, living, dying. Tempted by the devil -- as we all are. Yet He knows His Father is with Him in all things. Instead of speaking to us as if we were His servants, our God comes to serve us -- as an example to us all.

Inspiring?!?!? What better example is there!?!?!

Anonymous said...

Danbo,
Who do you believe created the devil? Does that entity have the ability to uncreate him?

Christian Apologist said...

First of all, what does not reading it as a science or history book mean? If the Bible was historically unreliable, why should we trust it? The fact is that it is historically reliable. There are a dozen or so extra Biblical, (some NON-Christian sources) that talk about the main points of Jesus life and ministry, even that the people that followed believed He rose from the dead...and that they would die for it.

Almost all of the cities in the Old Testament have been uncovered, an others have not yet because archeology is a relatively new practice.

Most of all, I have a huge problem with your sentence “you don’t have to take it literally to take it seriously”. This is similar to your title “Reading the Bible as non-literal truth”. I would pose the question to you...do we have to read your blog literally to take it seriously? If I choose to not take it literally, is it not as serious? Does it lose meaning?

Can we read your blog as non-Literal truth? If so, then I guess this discussion is over, because the words you typed were meaningless.

Also, there is a philosophical problem with your statement “with every word perfectly preserved to say exactly what God intended”. How could an individual ever find out if what the author actually intended was what was written? All we have is what was written.

We could say the same thing about your blog. How do we know any statements you make are truthful unless they’re exactly what you intended to write? I have no way of ever finding that out, and if I asked you if it was what you intended, you’d have to say or write something again…and that begs the next question…is THAT what you intended? This is circular logic. We can never know the intent of an author, but on intent’s effect. Thus, the Biblical Text is the effect...you have no way of knowing what God "intended" to write.

Also, you imply that because the authors were human and they were ”limited” by their culture, biases and world views we cannot interpret what they wrote literally? The words they wrote are not literally trustworthy?

Jane…have you been influenced by your culture or your biases? Can we not trust what you say and read it literally because of this?

You also say that as "Christians" we don't have to "try to reconcile the timelines of two creation tales or four gospels, because each story reveals its own truth."

We don’t have to try to reconcile these things? Interesting. So what did Paul mean when he said in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”?

Also, the problem with the points you bring up is that the two examples in the 2 creation accounts and the 4 gospels are reconcilable, you most likely have not had any training in how to do so and feel the need to voice your horribly wrong and self defeating opinion on Scripture for all the world to see instead. But don’t be mad at me, I didn’t mean that literally…couldn’t you tell?

Also, how does each story reveal its own truth? Not to poke the bear here Jane but do different parts of your blog reveal their own truths that contradict each other as you propose the Biblical text does? You’d be quite a hypocrite if that was the case, so would God.

When you discuss not choosing which arcane regulations to enforce, do you mean thou shalt not lie, steal, or murder? I would bet that if someone did that to you and members of your family you’d be upset. But, actually…they just claimed that the 10 commandments weren’t literal and they “revealed their own” truth…you couldn’t’ really be that upset then could you?

The "arcane law" you refer to is the Law of Moses, which the New Testament authors said was meant to show us that we are all guilty before God...which is why Jesus died. He died to pay the fine for our sin (breaking the Law of God), not to help the homeless and love our neighbors. Those things are great, but they do not redeem a soul from Hell, only the death of Jesus Christ does that for those who believe.

I would love to dialog more on this if you are willing. Thanks.

JayCee said...

If you treat everything in the New Testament (or Old Testament, or Koran or Book of Mormon or Apocrypha or Gnostic Gospels) as the literal directive of God, you’re mixing the word of man with the Word of God, thereby diluting God’s real message. (Or is this forum only for Christians?)

For example, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 11: 2-10 are seemingly misogynistic verses that direct women to play a subordinate role in church and home. Many religions, denominations and sects have interpreted these and similar scriptures in other religious texts as God’s directive. But these verses are man’s mere temporal laws. They were appropriate for setting guidelines for early Christians. Religious conduct requiring women to take a subordinate, submissive role was appropriate for that time and place. But it ceased being important some time ago, and in any event is not a spiritual directive from God. These verses are the “word of man”.

If I were a Christian examining the New testament for the “Word of God”, I’d pay closer attention to what Paul makes profoundly clear in Corinthians 11: 11-12. There he states that Christians are not to infer that women should be subordinated, because “…in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” Here Paul offers spiritual guidance as one truly inspired by his God. These really are the “Words of God”.

What Paul says there reinforces my understanding that Christianity is not obsessed with “The Law”, the rules, the apostles’ opinions or their guidance on how early churches should conduct themselves. What’s primo to an authentic Christian is the love of Jesus Christ and what He stands for, and Jesus’ love for His believers. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all thy heart and soul is Christianity’s key directive. All the rest is rabbinic “word of man” commentary.

Iztok said...

"Almost all of the cities in the Old Testament have been uncovered"

Which proves exactly nothing. Just because parts of the Bible might have some historical value it doesn't mean whole Bible has. I've challenged one of the associate pastors at one of the new churches in Charlotte once that claimed that unless Jesus is who he says he is he couldn't perform all the miracles attributed to him. I've asked him to pick top 5 and prove they really happened and go from there. Guess what, silence. You need to understand that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If you can accept on no evidence, you can dismiss on no evidence.

Let's see how historical this is. Read Luke 23:7-11 and then take into an account Herod died in 4 CE.

Slaughter of the innocents by Herod? No historical records.

A star in the east? No historical record at that time.

Not to mention that no migration was really needed for census.

Israeli archaeologists have yet to discover any proof of 40 year wondering in the Sinai desert.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous asked, "Who do you believe created the devil? Does that entity have the ability to uncreate him?"

Pardon me, the "entity" [sic] you refer to is God. Please capitalize references to Him.

Per the teaching of the Catholic Church (other Churches' teachings may vary), in the beginning God created the spiritual (angels; cherubim, seraphim) and the corporeal (life on earth, excluding man). God then created man -- a mixture of both corporeal and spiritual. Essentially we are angels in a corporeal shell.

Sometime after The Creation -- but before the fall of man -- one of the angels, Lucifer, led a group of prideful angels in revolt against their Creator. The armies of angels loyal to God (Michael, among them) defeated Lucifer and his armies. God cast them out of heaven. This is detailed in Apocalypse 12:7-9 --

"And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

God created Lucifer, an angel. Lucifer became Satan, the Devil, of his own free will. And by his own free will does Lucifer now reign in Hades. God does not destroy the (spiritual) life He freely gave.

Before you argue that it is uncompassionate to "allow" Satan to exist in such exile, you must remember that it is/was Satan's choice, not God's.

I hope this answers your "loaded" question.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Plato does not condemn homosexuality in general, but specific forms of homosexuality. In another dialog, the Synposion, he praises the love between two men as the highest form thereof.

And to those Christians who cite Leviticus against homosexuality, I say, "Put down that ham sandwich."

Anonymous said...

Some parts of the Bible were written for a particular place and time, and are of just historical value now.

Others contain God's word for all time.

The problem is discerning which passage is which.

We Christians depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the use of our God-given intellects to make that discernment. We use Jesus as the 'lens' for looking at Scripture; that is, "Does this particular passage show us the same God as is revealed to us in Jesus?" is the first and last question we ask. Not the only, mind you--there are lots of questions to be asked inbetween.

Chris said...

Above poster^

But that goes back to what myself and some others have said -- once us humans start trying to interpret which is which and then using that to make rules, we run into issues about what is right and wrong. It creates a gray area like we talked about before around things such as:

- Homosexuality
- Eating pork (Islam)
- Women's rights

And modern interpretations of things like stem cell research.

Your lense is much different than mine because of it.

I don't see how you can accept this. Especially given how we know that the Bible is inaccurate historically and, by your own admission, open to interpretation by the reader.

JayCee said...

Iztok, the reason the Hebrew People wandered 40 years in the desert was because Moshe wouldn't stop and ask directions!

Anonymous said...

The Bible is a mirror we look into and see what we want to see, for we see the world, NOT as it is, but as WE are and the Bible is a physical creation of this world.

The Bible is a book of great light and great darkness, both truth and non-truth. It is an imperfect creation because it was filtered by and written by humans. I will not debate that the words may have originally been inspired by God, but like a 6000 year long "telephone game", who the hell really knows what the original intent was for most of it?

In my opinion, the same applies to God. Isn't it quite likely that God is just a little bit bigger than our narrow descriptions of "Him"? I've been told the bible says not to make or worship any graven images of God, but the Bible has become such a thing to people that believe it is literally true, which is a choice they made.

They choose to believe it and I have no problem with that. Believe what you want. But why the tit-for-tat, back and forth in this blog? If someone chooses to believe the bible, then I would posit that they aren't given to logical reasoning when considering the bible because faith implies they have chosen to accept something as true without reason. That is their right.

If you believe in an evil world, where humans are born dirty and guilty of great sin and in a God of retribution and punishment, you will probably see and act upon the parts of the bible that dictate the judging and punishing aspects of God.

If you believe in love and forgiveness you might see the parts of the Bible that say God is love, etc.

In my opinion, the Bible is a collection of so many things, altered over time for good and nefarious reasons, that I simply cannot believe in it literally. Read as metaphor, it may provide spiritual insight and comfort to a weary soul on Earth.

But in the end, it doesn't matter. The Bible may very well be NONE of these things. My point is simply that the Bible is a mirror, through which we see a reflection of a portion of man's best hopes and worst fears and we filter that individually and collectively based on our experience.

Finally, to posit logical arguments to an audience who willfully choose non-logical faith, is a lot like whacking a hornet's nest with a stick. All it proves is you have a stick and nothing productive to do with it.

JayCee said...

Anonymous, back to Theology 101: In the Old Testament are many myths. I don’t mean to say that these are fairy tales as in the modern sense of that word. I mean that the ancients used this form of literary expression to develop their theology - how the early people of Israel saw the terms of human life under God. The important thing then and now is not whether the Creation myth, Adam and Eve myth, the Expulsion from Eden myth and the Flood myth are literally true or untrue, or metaphors. What’s important is the theology expressed therein. The myths say that “we believe God is the Creator, that mankind are God’s children, that we regularly sin and stray from God’s purpose for us, that when we sin we are judged by God, and yet by God’s grace he can redeem us as he did Noah.

That’s basically how the Hebrew people saw their life in relation to God: As an ongoing cycle of creation, sin, judgment and redemption. Frankly, I think that theological viewpoint is just as valid today as it was when developed eons ago.

Let’s say a plane carrying most of the Marshall University football team and many fans crashes. All are killed. Why would God allow such a thing to happen? Well, my theology says maybe God had nothing to do with it.

One could theologically state that since we are the children of God, created in His image, we are like God, but never will be God. As was the case described in Genesis, man often oversteps his bounds, and those myths also express the view that God gave us freedom to choose good or evil. So we stand on the river bank for centuries, wishing we could fly across it like God’s winged creations. After all, nowhere does our mythic theology say we can’t fly. The myths just say that only God can create with perfection, and that we humans must be wary of overstepping our bounds. We are free to overstep, but any consequences are due to our human foibles, not the fault of God.

One day the Wright Brothers figure it out, and man takes off flying. Unfortunately, we forget that God’s perfectly created birds don’t lose engines in flight or crash in a rainstorm. Sometimes we just mess up. But that doesn’t mean God despises us for our overstepping attempts or that he didn’t redeem those souls on that Marshall flight. (And it doesn’t mean that if God had wanted us to fly He would have told us so in the Bible).

Understanding the underlying purposes of myths, legends and sagas in the Old Testament results in gaining a theology. The New Testament, written in the current era, expresses both enduring Christian theology and temporary historical commentary. That’s why you’ve got to read it carefully and intelligently. Your quest should be to find the theology within it that is true for all ages, and not just some set of outdated rules and regulations.

D.J. said...

Jane,

A question. Do you believe that Christ literally and bodily rose from the dead, and why?

Based on your post, I'm curious.

Soli Deo Gloria

D.J. said...

"If you believe in an evil world, where humans are born dirty and guilty of great sin and in a God of retribution and punishment, you will probably see and act upon the parts of the bible that dictate the judging and punishing aspects of God.

If you believe in love and forgiveness you might see the parts of the Bible that say God is love, etc."

How about a third option to break up your false dichotomy (and represent the actual view of evangelical Christianity). What if you believe in both?

Soli Deo Gloria

Christian Apologist said...

Dear Itzok,
I appreciate your comments about my post. I think there might be a philosophical difference here, so I'll try to discuss it the best I can...

You seem to say with confidence that there is "no evidence" for the things you mentioned, similar to scholars who said that about the Hittites in the Old Testament...until they found a Hittite civilization in 1884.

My point is…You mentioning a few things from Scripture and saying there is no evidence for them does not make the Bible untrue. Are you all knowing? How do you know there is no evidence for these things? Have you dug up every single square inch of sand in the Middle East? You cannot imply something is false based on things you yourself do not have.

There are mountains of extra-Biblical evidence for things in Scripture, including the life of Jesus, the reliability of the New Testament, etc. I could list out pages of "evidence" and talk about all the issues you brought up, but I'm not sure that's the issue….

If I may ask, why did you “challenge” this pastor like you said you did? Did you do it in person? If so…why were you at a church if you don’t believe the Bible? If you did it through an email…why attack someone’s belief if it isn’t true?

If you are seeking and trying to figure things out, I would love to help. Please let me know and I will post any information that you would like. Have a blessed day.

Anonymous said...

DJ,

You commented about a false dichotomy and there being a third viewpoint of inclusion. I agree. I wasn't making a definitive statement that belief goes one way or the other. I was attempting to illustrate that it is our own internal pathos which determines not only what we "believe", but what we value in biblical teachings and therefore act upon.

I had an interesting encounter that might better illustrate what I'm trying to say. It was the day that Matthew Shephard's body was found. A radio announcement said there would be a candlelight vigil. I went. A few hundred people walked with candles and when we got to the destination for a prayer, you couldn't hear the minister over the people shouting and waving signs that said things like.... "Got AIDS Yet?" "God's Judgement on You", "Burn in Hell FAGS", "God Hates Fags", etc.

My brother died from AIDS. He was a good and beautiful person who got a blood disease. These people didn't know him and they didn't care, they were just spewing hate and quite confident they were backed up by the God of the Bible. in fact, they were almost giddy and gleeful. I was astonished. They put themselves directly in the path of the vigil and one young man, assuming I was gay because I was holding a candle light vigil for a torture and murder victim, started screaming in my face. I balled up a fist and went to throw the first punch.

A little tiny nun, a Catholic nun of about 90 pounds grabbed my fist and held on so tight the force of my swing sort of pulled her around right in front of me. She was part of the vigil. She said, "No son, this isn't the way, these people are lost and mislead". She pulled me to the side and we talked a bit. I wanted to pummel the hell out of that guy and part of me still does.

So, here are two active Christians, both read the same bible, one is reveling in the murder of a gay man and taunting mourners, the other walking in honor of the life that was violently taken. One picking a fight, the other trying to heal. They both read the same Bible, they both believe in the same God, AND the Bible supports both of their positions (old testament, new testament). The difference is the individuals and what they do with their faith because of what they bring to their faith.

That's the point I was trying to make about debating logical arguments of historical validity and the Bible's supposed self-contradictions. The Bible supports slavery!!! Slavery!!! It also calls us to treat others as we would treat ourselves. Talk about DICHOtOMY!!!

It is a book of great evil AND great love and that is not a false dichotomy.

My point was, that choosing to believe something as true without any logical reasoning indicates that logical arguments with such a person about their religion are probably a waste of time or a form of "blogerbation", where the blogger posts arguments for his/her own pleasure.

DJ, I'm not telling you that you are incorrect in your beliefs, nor passing judgement on them. Hell, I don't know what you believe expect of what I've read in this post and have no beef with you. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear in my first post, so I hope this clears it up.

Iztok said...

"You seem to say with confidence that there is "no evidence" for the things you mentioned, similar to scholars who said that about the Hittites in the Old Testament...until they found a Hittite civilization in 1884."

You do know that there is a dispute weather the biblical Hittites and discovered ones are one and the same?

We can start at the beginning I guess, can we?

Any evidence showing immaculate conception? We know that women can be self sufficient nowadays of producing offspring, however they only have X chromosomes so how does woman produce a male offspring w/o male? Many apologetics like to use probability when comes to evolution. So let me ask you, what is more probable, that women gets pregnant by a man (technically she can still be virgin if there is no penetration and semen is deposited outside) or that it is a true miracle of pregnancy w/o man involved?

Herod died in 4 BCE, so when was Jesus born? Any records of alleged killings of kids (outside the bible)? We also know that census wasn't a true reason for a move. So it looks like it is a make up story to fulfill certain prophecy to me. Sounds like someone was desperate to make up a cover story.

You are right about one thing, there is no way of proving universal negative. There is no such being as "all knowing" (it would be contradictory term at the first place).

"There are mountains of extra-Biblical evidence for things in Scripture, including the life of Jesus, the reliability of the New Testament"

No there are not. You know that, I know that, we all know that. Once again, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Just because certain names of towns and people match it doesn't mean the rest is true. Walking on the water, changing water to wine, healing people etc... all that requires evidence. Amazingly miracles from the past are not repeating nowadays. Since people learned more about the universe we live in we see far less (if any) what we would call miracles. Just mere fact that more people are different religious orientation then yours should speak to the fact that at minimum god is a poor communicator and unable to make up it's mind which religion to endorse. Mere fact that one can be persecuted for thought crimes is enough for a reasonable person to determine this is at best a dictatorship. As we are responsible for our deeds we should count god responsible for his. It is responsible for all the evil around us (he created Satan and he can destroy it but chooses not to do it, so it is responsible for his non-actions). (Example: If I see an accident and I can help person and choose not to, I am responsible for his/her death.)

Catholic said...

In response to Christian Apologist and Iztok's spirited debate: "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. ...But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Hebrews 11:1,6)

Iztok said...

Catholic, but isn't that circular logic?

Evidence of things not seen? What you can accept on no evidence you can dismiss with no evidence.

Why do you dismiss the faith of Muslims or Mormons? Because they are not rational to you? Or because of something else? Obviously you do dismiss faiths of others for a reason, don't you? Can you apply the same reason on your faith? If not, why not?

JayCee said...

Some of you can’t see the forest for the trees; your devil is literally in the details. If a detail (when was Jesus born, the Hittites, etc.) doesn’t pass your scientific litmus test, you erroneously conclude it invalidates the entire text. Folks, this isn’t Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. It’s religion – theology.

Rising from the dead after three days wasn’t anything new. Worshippers of one of the Egyptian gods claimed their patron did that long before Jesus. Hercules was born a man and became an immortal through his works. The book of Deuteronomy (The “Second Law”) was “miraculously” discovered in the Jerusalem temple at the time of King Josiah. The angel Moroni miraculously loaned Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Jr., a set of golden plates with the history of God’s work among the North American native tribes. Virgin births, miraculous rescues (see the Red Sea parting and the legend of baby Moses and the Pharoah’s daughter), super-novas in the sky, and sundry and assorted miracles have been a part of most, if not all, major religions. Throughout history there have been at least twenty Jewish men who were either self-proclaimed Messiahs or promoted as such by their followers, the latest having died in 1994.

All these doubtful details (the trees) disturb many modern readers because their mindsets are geared to logical, rational scientific thought. But the theological purpose of these miraculous events is merely wave a flag to get one’s attention. They say, “Something unusual and noteworthy is going on here”. These trees don’t invalidate the underlying beliefs (the forest – the big picture) of the religion being studied.

For example, what was important to the ancient Israelites wasn’t the detail about whether or if the Red Sea actually parted, and how. One point of this myth: God is present in their lives and keeping his part of the Old Covenant with his children. What’s important to Mormons isn’t whether Joseph Smith actually found some ancient scriptures and the means of translating them. What’s important is that the Book of Mormon reinforces their belief that God through Jesus Christ didn’t end his dealings with mankind in the third or fourth decade of the first century, current era. What’s important to Christians is not the mechanics of how one escapes death. It’s the belief that death can be escaped through belief in God.

Catholic said...

1 Welcome anyone who is weak in faith, but not for disputes over opinions.
4 Who are you to pass judgment on someone else's servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 (For) one person considers one day more important than another, while another person considers all days alike. Let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind.
19 Let us 4 then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another. (Romans 14)

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy)

Catholic said...

A definition of FAITH from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

To commit oneself to act based on self experience to warrant belief, but without absolute proof.[1] Mere belief on the basis of evidence is not faith. To have faith involves an act of will.

Christian Apologist said...

Itzok,
I will say that 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that say 99% the same thing from reliable authors who had nothing to gain except death and persecution for their belief in Jesus is pretty good evidence to start with, but I supposed you have an excuse for that one as well.

What about in 1 Corinthians 15 where paul said 500 people saw Jesus after He was resurrected? What did Paul have to gain by lying? He eventually was a martyr for his faith in Christ.

I would say extraordinary evidence would be the specific prophecies he fulfilled, specifically Daniel 9:24-27 which proclaimed the day the Messiah would die on 600 years ahead of time.

If you would like, I could type out all the extra Biblical references to Jesus from his day, even from non-Christian sources that talked about Him. Anything you're interested in hearing more about I will type.

There is PLENTY of evidence and I will send it to you if you like.

Check out "I dont have enough faith to be an atheist" by Norman Geisler,...great book for these types of things. God bless.

Iztok said...

JayCee, "If a detail (when was Jesus born, the Hittites, etc.) doesn’t pass your scientific litmus test, you erroneously conclude it invalidates the entire text."

Are you claiming that details in the Bible about Jesus birth are correct or not? If they are not, do you still claim the Bible is infallible? If it is not infallible, how can you believe anything in it without independent confirmation for everything (in form of science tests)?

Writer954 said...

ok itzok, if you don't believe the Bible, why don't you be brave and spill what you believe and we'll see if it stands up to any and all litmus tests. Lay it all out for us here.

Go ahead....

pornstudent said...

JayCee,

Is the existence or nonexistence of God another insignificant detail? Wouldn't our human tendencies, eg, to be warlike and love our children, be the same whether God exists or not?

I think the details of religions point to our nature, not God's. It is part of our nature to want a God and imagine His existence.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok wrote, "Amazingly miracles from the past are not repeating nowadays."

Au contraire, mon frere.

The Catholic Church has validated various "miracles" throughout the years. It's *your* choice not to see them for what they are.

Iztok said...

Danbo, what did Catholic Church really validate? Perhaps "miracles" of Mother Theresa? I distinctly remember her first step to sainthood was obtained by false witnesses. Counter evidence was present and dully ignored by the church. So now lady who is responsible for millions of deaths is considered a saint.

BTW: I am hearing infallible church changed it's mind about limbo which they once claimed it exists. I guess now they are ready to be infallible again? (Until forced to change their minds by science again?) Just imagine the horrors of parents whose kids died and were told they ended up in limbo. What an emotional damage they've suffered.

Christian Apologist: Which Bible are we really talking about? You probably know (or should have) that there were several major editions throughout the history and even nowadays different branches of Christianity use different books that are included in their particular book. In the past vote took place which books were supposed to be included in the holy book and which not. Perhaps revision is in order?

BTW: Just because certain books survived it doesn't make them any more legitimate. We all know that several book burnings were staged in the history to erase it (some even by Christians at that time). Several books were eradicated by Christians and were only preserved due to the fact that they were translated to Arabic beforehand and preserved by people not under influence of Christianity.

Writer954: What do I believe? The question is much to broad. I am not a mind reader to know what you have in mind here. I would like to answer but we could go days with such a broad question. I'll start a couple and you can ask more specific ones later if you wish.

What do I believe about mortality? I believe that death is final. Humans (same as other animals animals) die and join the circle of life by decomposing and becoming food for microorganisms and plants and animals etc...

What do I believe about origin of the universe? I believe that universe always existed. It is always changing environment we are discovering as we speak.

Feel free to ask what I believe. I would rather discuss that then other topics we've covered. It also would be more helpful and less confrontational to others here.

BTW: It is Iztok, not Itzok.

Danbo59 said...
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Danbo59 said...

Iztok droned, "Danbo, what did Catholic Church really validate? Perhaps "miracles" of Mother Theresa? I distinctly remember her first step to sainthood was obtained by false witnesses. Counter evidence was present and dully ignored by the church. So now lady who is responsible for millions of deaths is considered a saint.

BTW: I am hearing infallible church changed it's mind about limbo which they once claimed it exists. I guess now they are ready to be infallible again? (Until forced to change their minds by science again?) Just imagine the horrors of parents whose kids died and were told they ended up in limbo. What an emotional damage they've suffered."

Iztok, the list of ignorant statements made by you grows larger by the hour. One only hopes you are merely misinformed as opposed to willingly distorting facts.

1. First of all, Mother Teresa can't perform miracles. Only God can. Miracles must be accepted by the Church as to having occurred after praying to the candidate for sainthood for their "intercession" on our behalf. In other words we ask Mother Teresa to pray "for us" to God, adding her voice to ours -- just as others ask their fellow faithful on this Earth to pray for them in troubling times. Of course, you can't understand any of that because you are too egotistical to believe that there might be anything or anyone more important, more powerful than you.
2. Her first step to sainthood based on a false miracle? The Church is charged with examining all evidence in support of a miracle. There are always naysayers who will dispute a miracle’s authenticity, but the Church is careful to make sure that all available scientific explanation fails to explain the miracle. If you’d take your head out of your own….sand, you’d know that the Catholic Church dismisses miraculous claims by a ratio of hundreds to one.
3. Counter-evidence of the miracle was never duly (or dully) ignored?!?! Refuted above.
4. Mother Teresa responsible for the death of millions!?!? You have to stop smoking whatever it is you're hooked on kid. I guess you’d rank her right up there with Adolph Hitler.
5. The Church (which is the People of God) is not infallible -- never has been. I believe that was established in The Garden of Eden. The Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals and only when he speaks ex Cathedra; that is, from The Chair of St. Peter. Ex Cathedra statements don't happen every day. Just another example of a person's ignorance of The Catholic Church. Put that in your bong and smoke it.
6. As to Limbo, instead of spouting misinformation and outright lies, read this excerpt from the Catholic Catechism – “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism." (CCC 1261) Limbo has never been dogma.

Again, Iztok, stick to your own beliefs and stop telling others what their faith is and is not. You have enough issues of your own to deal with. I second the suggestion made earlier -- tell us, Iztok, what do you believe? We could all use a laugh.

Jane Pope said...

I would like to remind everyone to talk about beliefs, not individuals. Danbo59, you are stepping over the line in calling Iztok an egotistical drug user whose beliefs are laughable. You have a lot to offer the conversation, so please tone down the insults. There are plenty of disagreements to discuss without making it personal.

D.J. asked me: "Do you believe that Christ literally and bodily rose from the dead, and why?"

I do believe that, because it best fits the evidence of the disciples' newfound courage and determination to spread the gospel.

But if I found out for certain that the post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus were not in a bodily form but were spiritual manifestations to his followers, that wouldn't shake my faith. I don't believe in reanimated bones but in a living Christ who continues to inspire and guide those who seek Him.

Anonymous said...

Pick-n-go said...

How do you all have so much time to spend responding to these blogs? Isn't it abvious that nothing ever gets accomplished here because of all of the back and forth bickering? Jane, you might want to rethink this blog. You start out as a wishy washy wannabee Christian with no real backbone and you basically open the doors for non-believers to bash your (if you have it) faith.

Where do you stand?

Iztok said...

Jane, it is hard to talk about beliefs w/o being personal. Each individual has its own set of beliefs that are different (even within same religion, let alone amongst different religious sects).

I think that "What do you believe?" is a fair question, however it is way to wide to even start answering. It is much better if asked specifically.


What do you believe in regards to abortion?

I believe each individual women should have the right to choose. While I don't agree with abortion it is not my place to tell someone else what to do (unless I am willing to step up to the plate and take care of the consequences). Good example was when one of my friends was few weeks pregnant (less then 4) and considered abortion. I told her that we would adopt her baby if she thinks she can't take care of it once it is born (and my wife and I would have done that). However I would not do this for just anyone so I don't feel I have the right to impose such thing to them.

What do you believe in regards to death penalty?

I am against it. I feel that risk of executing wrong person is to big. I also think that long prison sentences are more appropriate. Plus there is an issue with people lacking mental capacity that should be put into a hospital instead.

What do you believe in regards to adoption?

I believe that there is far too little people in this country and state that are willing to step up to the plate when it comes to already born kids while they have plenty to say about abortion. I believe that person not willing to adopt an already born child has no right to tell others not to do abortion. I am outraged that there are several thousand kids in NC alone that are awaiting adoption and hardly anyone steps up to the plate.

Danbo59 said...

Jane Pope wrote, "Danbo59, you are stepping over the line in calling Iztok an egotistical drug user whose beliefs are laughable."

Point taken, Jane. But where were you on January 30, 2008 at 10:44 AM when Iztok wrote, "Danbo, I will go ahead and say it out loud, you are a bigot?"

I don't mind playing by the rules so long as everyone is subject to the same response I get when the lines are crossed.

For Iztok, it's a one-sided win-win situation. He believes in nothing, so he is able to ridicule everyone and everything.

It's time people of faith (especially Christians -- the last acceptable target of accepted mainstream hatred and discrimination) stood up and said that some things are simply unacceptable. Jesus was compassionate but he was also adamant about what was right. He wasn't into appeasing.

Compassion, yes! Tolerance of what is wrong, no.

I agree, in principle, with a recent comment -- that it would be nice, Jane, if as a person of faith you'd weigh in on your own blog now and again in regards to your opinions on these matters.

Danbo59 said...
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Danbo59 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo59 said...

Point taken, Jane. But where were you on January 30, 2008 at 10:44 AM when Iztok wrote, "Danbo, I will go ahead and say it out loud, you are a bigot?"

I don't mind playing by the rules so long as everyone is subject to the same response I get when the lines are crossed.

For Iztok, it's a one-sided win-win situation. He believes in nothing, so he is able to ridicule everyone and everything.

It's time people of faith (especially Christians -- the last acceptable target of mainstream hatred and discrimination) stood up and said that some things are simply unacceptable. Jesus was compassionate but He was also adamant about what was right. He wasn't into appeasing.

Compassion, yes! Tolerance of what is wrong, no.

I agree, in principle, with a recent comment -- that it would be nice, Jane, if as a person of faith you'd weigh in on your own blog now and again in regards to your opinions on these matters.

Jane Pope said...

Danbo, you are right: I should have called Iztok down for calling you a bigot. That slipped past me. That, too, is an example of non-helpful debate. I apologize for missing it.

I'm puzzled, though, at your request that I "weigh in on your own blog now and again in regards to your opinions on these matters." Every post I have made is my opinion. I will not respond to every off-track argument that pops up, because I consider many of them to be fruitless and unimportant.

And I do think it's ironic that the post just after the one in which I urge an end to insults calls me "a wishy washy wannabee Christian with no real backbone." If I had no backbone I certainly wouldn't be putting my beliefs out here to be knocked about by both believers and non-believers. And, unlike others, I sign my name.

Iztok said...

Danbo, your intolerance to homosexuality is why I describe you as I did. I think you made it very clear that you are intolerant when it comes to homosexuality.

"He believes in nothing, so he is able to ridicule everyone and everything."

That is really not true. I've mentioned several things I believe in when it comes to certain topics. I just don't believe in mythical beings. If you have specific questions in regards to my belief, don't hesitate to ask (I brought few up in my previous posts as examples).

"It's time people of faith (especially Christians -- the last acceptable target of accepted mainstream hatred and discrimination) stood up and said that some things are simply unacceptable. Jesus was compassionate but he was also adamant about what was right. He wasn't into appeasing."

I think you are bit behind time. Active persecution of people of different religion (or non-religion) is well on its way in many Muslim countries. It was active in Christian history as well. It is active in US as we speak. Non-religious people are not allowed to hold office in this state (according to NC constitution). Pledge of allegiance was altered to appease Christians, so were our coins and bills. Christians are on their path to move this secular country towards being a theist country. You are not being persecuted for your religion, you are being persecutor of others who do not share your religion orientation and dare to point out the truth and compare you to other religions (like Mormonism and Islam).

JayCee said...

Iztok said: “Are you claiming that details in the Bible about Jesus birth are correct or not? If they are not, do you still claim the Bible is infallible? If it is not infallible, how can you believe anything in it without independent confirmation for everything (in form of science tests)?”

You need to more carefully read what others are writing, rather than trying to read something into their writing. I’m not a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. And unless they’ve just come down from the hills, or have been frozen for a few hundred years, even the fundamentalist, evangelical Christians who do post to this blog realize that it’s very unlikely Jesus was born Dec. 25. Since pagans celebrated a number of rites around that date, the early church figured they might as well turn Saturnalia into a Christian holiday to gradually tune the new converts into Christian themes.

Nor would any but the most ignorant of Christian theologians claim to know in which year Jesus was born. IT’S NOT IMPORTANT! When Jesus was born or if Noah really went to Australia to get two kangaroos for his ark has nothing to do with the THEOLOGY BEING PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE. But apparently this is beyond your level of comprehension.

Here’s another example: It’s not important that you, Iztok, can’t walk on water or can prove that it is humanly impossible. What’s important is that this attribute of Jesus was used in the New Testament because what it really says theologically is that God - whether Father, Son or Holy Spirit- rules all, even Mother Nature. God is in control. And yes, I think those who take some of the statements literally rather than theologically are the same fools handling those rattlesnakes up in Ashe County.

What is important in the Christian Bible, the Torah or in any other sacred book of any other religion is how people perceive God and how they perceive themselves in relation to God. Don’t get sidetracked on what you mis-identify as critical details. It’s the big picture you’re missing. Capice?

There seem to be three types of posters to this blog: (1) Those who don’t understand the nuances of ancient theological writings and take everything literally; (2) those who don’t understand the nuances of ancient theological writings and waste time trying to disprove things that have nothing to do with the theology being presented; and (3) a few who know what it’s all about.

JayCee said...

Pornstudent wrote: “I think the details of religions point to our nature, not God's. It is part of our nature to want a God and imagine His existence.”

Great questions and observations you have! But to me the God of the Judaic-Christian Bible has some characteristics that just don’t jive with our human nature. For example, the Old Testament says that the nature of God is both transcendental (separate from his creation) AND immanent (nearness to us), not just one or the other. If we define God or a religion by pointing to our human nature, as you suggest, then the result would be a God who would be entirely immanent and constantly involved with us, because that’s our nature. (Some, such as the pantheistic Stoics of the early Christian era, thought that’s the way it is anyway). Conversely, if we define God by not pointing to our own nature, we have a entirely transcendent God who would not be accessible, let alone worshipped.

But I believe that a transcendent/immanent God explains a lot of the “unknown” that troubles non-believers. The fact that some folks eons ago came up with this remarkable conclusion is one of the reasons I believe in God and that those people were divinely inspired.

Iztok said...

JayCee, so let me paraphrase what you said. It doesn't matter if anything int he Bible is actually right (historically or otherwise). I just "know" that the whole message is true because Bible (and theologians) say it is. I will continue to believe in this because no one else can prove universal negative.

Now if you put it the way you did. It makes perfect sense! (Well not to anyone with critical thinking but more of an insight to the lack of it.) There is no point in arguing such a statement as there is anything you say can have completely different meaning from what anyone else says. Shifting definitions of God (i.e. God is love vs. God is all powerful, all knowing ...) make any debate perfectly impossible.

Iztok said...

JayCee: "The fact that some folks eons ago came up with this remarkable conclusion is one of the reasons I believe in God and that those people were divinely inspired."

Fols eons ago also came up with Thor. Do you believe them to be divinely inspired? After all it was eons before your God. So it must be true as it is even more remarkable. Plus, we seem to celebrate this once a week every Thursday.

pornstudent said...

JayCee,

There are three reasons, that I can immediately think of, why we have created a God that is both, transcendental and immanent.

We want a God that is immanent, yet, because this God does not exist, He must be transcendental.

We make God transcendental because that is the reason we give ourselves for God not speaking to us as clearly and as often as we'd like, for not really feeling His hand in ours, for not understanding why He allows bad things to happen, etc.. We must imagine God as transcendental, no matter how much we wish He weren't, in order to imagine any immanent relationship with Him.

Our different life experiences, from each other and throughout our own lives, would cause us to imagine different Gods. Within a day we could feel as close to God as our breath and then feel He has forsaken us. When we feel close to God, He is immanent; when we don't, He is transcendental.

Anonymous said...

Do we need any more proof that the Charlotte Observer is a liberal rag that isn't even fit to line a bird cage?

This is what I call a "cafeteria" Christian. You do not have the right to pick and choose which pieces of the Bible are true for you and not. You can choose to deliberately disobey, but you can not dismiss the truth. This is what has led to the murder of one third of my children's classmates by mother's who were focused on convenience and themselves, and not the love professed in God's word.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous opined, "Do we need any more proof that the Charlotte Observer is a liberal rag that isn't even fit to line a bird cage?

This is what I call a "cafeteria" Christian. You do not have the right to pick and choose which pieces of the Bible are true for you and not. You can choose to deliberately disobey, but you can not dismiss the truth. This is what has led to the murder of one third of my children's classmates by mother's who were focused on convenience and themselves, and not the love professed in God's word."

Where to begin...?

1. "You do not have the right to pick and choose which pieces of the Bible are true for you and not." -- You must be careful with blanket statements like this. The Bible (in the OT) prohibited the eating of pork. Am I disobeying by doing so? No, because Jesus (NT) said that it wasn't what went into a body that made it unclean, it was what came out of a body that made it unclean (e.g., thoughts, words, deeds, etc.). The prohibition of pork was most likely a "law of the times" given trichinosis and the lack of food safety; it was a rather high food risk. Does that make anyone wrong for continuing to abstain? No. As I've said before, you must read the entire Bible to come away with the instruction manual for a Christian life. It's not contained in one verse; although the closest I've come to finding it is in "The Great Commandment."

2) "You can choose to deliberately disobey, but you can not dismiss the truth." Yes, you do have a choice -- it's called freedom of choice (aka free will). Of course, we must accept (or at least face) the consequences of our actions in the exercising of our free will. But I agree with you that it does not change the truth.

3) "This is what has led to the murder of one third of my children's classmates by mother's who were focused on convenience and themselves, and not the love professed in God's word. I'm not sure about the one-third and where you got that number from, but let's not forget the fathers' roles in these decisions. For almost every abortion chosen by a woman there is a father coaxing her along whether by his presence or absence. A father who abandons a woman after impreganting her is just as responsible (maybe moreso) for her sin of despair.

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok,
"Fols eons ago also came up with Thor. Do you believe them to be divinely inspired?"

Comparing the Bible to thor is a little silly. Let's look at why...

Part of the reason people think the Bible is divinely inspired is because there are more than 40 authors of 66 books over 1500 years that have a consistent theme. That's unique among ANY BOOK THAT'S EVER EXISTED. The Bible also has a common theme..The Old Testament prophesied about a coming Messiah.

Micah 5:2 says he would be born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 7 said he would be born of a virgin.

Daniel 9 said the day he would die on.

Psalm 22:16 said he would pierced in his hands and his feet and people would cast lots for his clothing.

2 Samuel 7 said he would from the lineage of David.

Genesis 49:10 said that the Messiah would come before the scepter departed from Judah, meaning they would lose the ability to administer their law (capital punishment). This happened in 6-7 AD when "you know who" JESUS was a little boy. So the Messiah (Jesus of Nazareth) was here, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Jewish commentaries even say the Jewish Rabbis went out into the streets in 7 AD and said "woe unto us for Messiah has not come" because they knew Genesis 49:10, so when Rome took this away from them...they thought they had missed him.

But oh no, he was just a little boy at the time...living right with them. Sound like someone you've heard of? Survey says!!!!....Jesus of Nazareth.

And no...people couldn't have written those prophesies in after He was born, because the Dead Sea Scrolls (which were written before Jesus was born), say the same thing.

And yes...I can read Hebrew, so please don't start a debate about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Iztok...please think about these things. Jesus is the one in whom all those promises are fulfilled. You can be forgiven of all you've ever done wrong...with simple childlike faith in Jesus of Nazareth.

I BEG you to think about these things and let your conscience be your guide. Read the book of Romans and see what you think. Please?

I truly care for you and am not trying to fight.

JayCee said...

Pornstudent:

Last I heard, you and I are both finite. And I haven't seen anything you've written in this blog that says you want to be anything but that. So if someone says "God is infinite", how do you rationalize that?

And Iztok, just what are Thor's attributes? How do they stack up against the God revealed in the Old and New Testament?

Iztok said...

Nick, "How do they stack up against the God revealed in the Old and New Testament?"

First of all it would help if you would refer to your god by his name he chose for himself - Jealous. Why would you call a god by any other name but one he chose for himself? Don't you think that it is pretentious to name your deity by your name vs. name he gave for himself? (Unless of course you feel that it is human invention after all and since it is human invention humans have all the right of naming him.)

Second, Thor is just one example. There are literary hundreds of other possibilities that pre and post date your particular deity. I would think it is absurd and childish to play "my daddy is bigger then yours and can kick his butt" game. You really have no way of knowing that for sure. For the same reason religious people (priests, pastors, popes ...) have no real way to ensure delivery nor is there any way to enforce accountability when it comes to their promises of afterlife. Enticing with heaven and threatening with hell is something no one can really be hold accountable for in case of non-delivery. So from all we know it is a cheap trick to scare and scar our kids.

I see natural progression from multiple deities of our ancestors to monotheisms (well actually most of monotheisms do have two powerful figures of good and evil and battle is not decided yet there so at this point evidence shows they are at least two all powerful beings in that culture). Tens of millions of people in US alone (way more then those who consider themselves religious but non-Christian) and way many more in the rest of the world too this one step further and abolished the last of series of deities.

Danbo59 said...
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Danbo59 said...

ChristianWhoCares wrote, "...Bible is divinely inspired is because there are more than 40 authors of 66 books...."

Actually, before the Protestant Reformation and the likes of The Very Reverend Editor Martin Luther, the Catholic Church set the Canon of the Bible at 73 books -- the same as today. Not only did Luther's contemporaries hatchet seven books out of their version of the Bible, they also sat by as Luther edited select verses (e.g., Romans 3:28) to build himself a new religion.

pornstudent said...

JayCee - "So if someone says "God is infinite", how do you rationalize that?"

Are you saying that because we are finite we can't imagine and create an infinite God? You are right. We want an infinite God and tell ourselves that He is infinite, but it's out of our reach. Sooner or later believers realize this. But they want to keep believing, so they have God say stuff like, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." Those who fancy themselves more mystical are encouraged in their faith with, "All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon..."

JayCee said...

So do you guys (Iztok and Pornstudent)really expect me to believe that you, on your lonesome, could come up with a God who demands only that we be true to him and he'll be our God, or a God who redeems us through his grace? I can see how you two would come up with a Thor, or Mother Nature, or maybe even a golden calf, but not the complex God of the Bible, which is even more reason to believe in Him. When you two get your theology together, when you can concoct a God who interacts with mankind like the one in the Bible, come see me. Because then we'll be talking about the same God. Adios.

Iztok said...

Jaycee, if your god (Jealous) is so complex. How do you explain such complexity? Obviously one of the main arguments of religious is argument from design (that so complex universe had to be designed). So care to explain where complexity of your god came from? If you can't explain that, then why do you feel the need that complex universe had to be explained (with more complex being)?

pornstudent said...

JayCee,

All humans, together, over thousands of years created God.

christianwhocares said...

Iztok...you still didn't answer my reply on all of the Messianic prophecy that Jesus fulfilled. Please reply and stop going off into these tangents on your personal thoughts on theology. Thanks.

pornstudent said...

The Gospel writers often say of Jesus, "He did this in order that the prophecy would be fulfilled." (eg,Matthew 2:23) I could have been the Christ if I lived my life to fulfill prophesies.

Iztok said...

christianwhocares, what fulfilled prophecies?

Do we really have evidence of it? It is obvious there was really no need to move from Nazareth to Bethlehem for census. It is also obvious that pregnant woman couldn't ride a donkey on such a long journey. It is also obvious that census closest recorded census was held in 6 CE (well after Jesus was supposedly born).Jesus came from Galilee (if at all) not from Judea. Archaeological evidence shows that Bethlehem didn't exist between 7 and 4 BCE.

This should be enough on dealing with dismissing first prophecy. You would still have to present undisputed evidence for all the rest (something outside the Bible). I've heard the sermon at one of the churches here when one of the pastors was making calculations about fulfilled prophecies but somehow failed to mention the fact that in order to make such calculations about probability one would have to first prove all alleged prophecies really were fulfilled. If my memory serves me right, Jesus did mention he'll be back (again) during a lifetime of people he talked to. Many Christians still believe that it will be in their lifetime, yet it keeps on going... and going... and many generations die in vain waiting.

Perhaps you could take top 5 prophecies of your choosing (by importance to you) and we can see what true evidence is there they really happened?

pornstudent said...

If Jesus agreed with Jane and JayCee that it doesn't matter whether the events in the Bible really happened but that what is more important is that people understand the larger concept of God, then he and his followers would have had good reason to make up the stories and details of his life.

Danbo59 said...

I don't see why Jane allows pornstudent and Iztok a continued voice in this forum. This forum is supposed to revolve around faith, not the lack thereof.

These two people are wasting our time and preventing meaningful discussions.

Jane Pope said...

I would prefer not to ban anyone from these discussions. Although I didn't envision this blog as a forum for constant debate over whether God exists, that is certainly a faith-related question.

If you don't want to continue that debate, don't take the bait. Iztok and pornstudent, please consider backing off a bit. Consider how you would feel if passionate evangelicals crashed an atheist blog and turned every post into an attempt to convert you. That is how you come across sometimes.

That said, I welcome all the comments, from believers and nonbelievers alike, as long as they aren't personal attacks.

pornstudent said...

Jane,
OK, I'll back off a bit. My comments have usually been pertinent to the subjects of the posts and I've been more polite than the evangelical who said your blog is "proof that the Charlotte Observer is a liberal rag that isn't even fit to line a bird cage."

When I wrote, "Jesus had good reason to make up stories", I wasn't criticizing him. I would lie, as I think most people would, if I thought it would lead to billions of people loving one another. How far can we stretch a "non-literal truth?"

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok,

To answer your one question: They had to move from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census because that's where Joseph would have been from (the man's lineage).


Now, you want historical evidence? Here is some of it.

Ancient NON CHRISTIAN historians who discussed Jesus:

Cornelius Tacitus (a Roman historian). He wrote the "Annuls" and the "Histories". He wrote that Jesus was crucified and that from his followers something "broke out" in Judea. Sounds like people saw him risen from the dead, or they wouldn't have given their lives and tortured after he died on the cross.

Source: Tacitus 15.44


Suetonius (a Roman historian)

He said that these "Christians" had a new "mischievous religious belief" and they were tortured for it. Not many would do that for a lie, because if he didn't rise from the dead...no one would have ever believed it!

Source: Suetonius, Nero, p.16.


Thallus (a Non Christian who wrote about the history of the Mediterranean world around 52 AD)
He said that when Jesus was crucified "On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darknes; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea were thrown down."

More NON christian sources are: Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, The Talmud (Jewish source), Lucian, Mara Bar-Serapion, and Phlegon.


Extra-Biblical Christian Sources:
Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Quadratus,...


Now, Iztok, don't you think that if all these people that are written about from sources OUTSIDE THE BIBLE followed Jesus as the Messiah from the OLD TESTAMENT, that they could have checked out the prophecies for themselves and made sure he fulfilled all of them?

I'll repeat myself on the prophecies:

Micah 5:2 says he would be born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 7 said he would be born of a virgin.

Daniel 9 said the day he would die on.

Psalm 22:16 said he would pierced in his hands and his feet and people would cast lots for his clothing.

2 Samuel 7 said he would from the lineage of David.

Genesis 49:10 said that the Messiah would come before the scepter departed from Judah, meaning they would lose the ability to administer their law (capital punishment). This happened in 6-7 AD when "you know who" JESUS was a little boy. So the Messiah (Jesus of Nazareth) was here, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Jewish commentaries even say the Jewish Rabbis went out into the streets in 7 AD and said "woe unto us for Messiah has not come" because they knew Genesis 49:10, so when Rome took this away from them...they thought they had missed him.






Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled all these things, and more.

Now, you have some historical evidence with references, Scriptures from the Old Testament, and everything else we've talked about.

It seems like a pretty solid case to me.

If you don't believe it yet, ask for more evidence and I'll give you more.

I am praying for you and care about you.

Thanks again for your time.

Iztok said...

ChristianWhoCares, there was no requirement for people to move for census. You need to come up with something better then that.

Tacitus, 2nd century CE. Hardly someone who would experience this in his lifetime. So all he had to go on was second or third hand story.

Suetonius, he spoke of Christians, not of Christ itself. People die for their beliefs all the time, we see it in recent history as well. That doesn't make them true, does it? Because if it makes, then Heaven's Gate cult would be true?

Thallus, wonder why darkness would be noted only one person. Other historians fail to mention such a monumental event. There is no record of walking zombies (certainly an event that should have been noted) either.

Can we have some Jesus contemporary historians perhaps? Someone who actually could have first hand knowledge not hearsay?

"I am praying for you."

No need for offense.

Sincerely,
Iztok

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok, yes first hand accounts are in... the New Testament! All the authors were eyewitnesses to the events that transpired. Just read it some time with an open mind. 1 Corinthians 15 might help.

Good luck with everything...

P.S. If you want much more elaborate evidence and arguments, read Norman Geisler or Ravi Zacharias.

Iztok said...

ChristianWhoCares, supporting Bible with Bible is circular logic at its best. You know that the books were written way after. At minimum several decades later. So they can't be first hand writings. I've asked several times for outside Bible support by Jesus contemporary historian. No go. Closest is a known forgery and disputed document.

Timings just don't add up. Just look at the star that supposedly was so bright. No other records at that time. Records for child slaughter don't add up either... so how can you claim they are reliable documents if they are not supported by anything else?

Tom Lowe said...

There seem to be a lot of Ad Hominem attacks on this subject, particularly from "Christian Apologist".

This is when Person A (Jane) makes claim X.
Person B (Apologist) makes an attack on Person A (the literal nature of her blog).
Therefore A's (Jane's) claim is false.

I don't believe any Christian should be attacking another for simply stating (admittedly) their own viewpoint. Please lighten up on Jane. After all IT IS A BLOG! It doesn't have to be literal or true for that matter. But I am with Jane in the fact that truth can be found in non-literal sources. These are commonly called allegories.

Iztok said...

ChristianWhoCares, "Isaiah 7 said he would be born of a virgin"

Are you saying you believe in virgin birth?

What about immaculate conception?

I find out that most people I talk to don't even know the difference.

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok,
No I do not believe in immaculate conception. Scripture does not indicate Mary was without sin, Scripture says all men have fallen short of the glory of God...plain and simple. Jesus was the God-man though, so he did not sin. He is the exception. This is why his death was the acceptable sacrifice for our sin...he was a "spotless lamb" that was slaughtered once and for all.

I do believe in the virgin birth. Isaiah said in 7:14 that "a virgin will conceive and bear a Son" and in 7:13 it says that this promise is to the "House of David".

Then, 600 or so years later Matthew 1:1-17 gives the genealogy showing that Jesus was related to David through his earthly father Joseph. (Mary's genealogy is in Luke 3). Then in Matthew 1:23 Matthew even quotes Isaiah saying that Jesus was born in such a way.

Is there any more information you would like? Please let me know and I would be glad to type it here for you.

Also..One thing I will say is that I wasn't supporting the Bible with the Bible previously...I was giving you Non-Christian sources to show you some of the evidence OUTSIDE the Bible. I can give you Christian sources at and shortly after the time of Jesus' death and resurrection if you like.

I know you raised some other questions in your previous post, but there's a lot of typing going on here...so why don't we handle one at a time. Is this ok? Thanks again.

ChristianApologist said...

Tom,
Thanks for your comment. I do appreciate what you're saying, and understand the point you raise with allegory and other types of literary devices.

The point I was trying to make was that it is a very slippery slope to start saying every word was not preserved so therefore it is not hypocritical to pick and choose.

As Christians, we should hold each other accountable to these things.

Jane I apologize if anything came off the wrong way...I did not mean to attack you. Its just that when Non Christians read the kinds of statements you made, it may hurt the cause and be interpreted improperly.

Thanks again for your comment Tom.

Iztok said...

ChristianWhoCares,

OK, so whose genes did Jesus carry? Josephs and Mary's or just Mary's? Either way, does sin transfer through mother and father or just through just father? At one point the original sin line has to be broken and has to be broken before Jesus was conceived by Holy Spirit, otherwise Jesus would be conceived with original sin, right? This would mean Mary was cleared of original sin at one point in her life. So unless she sinned again she wouldn't be punished for her sin by death, right? We know that Mary died. What does this mean? At what point did she became a sinner again?

Tom Lowe said...

Thanks for your response, Christian Apologist. I do understand your point.

May you have a peaceful Lenten Season now and for evermore.

God bless you!

Tom Lowe

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok,
Well, I know he didn’t carry Joseph’s because he was born miraculously, but as far as Mary’s…well, in the Gospels there are times where the writers refer to his “mother and brothers”. So, he could have carried Mary’s genes (it won't matter in a minute...).

I think the disconnect here is this idea that sin is transferred down genetically. Sin is a spiritual problem, it is in our spiritual “DNA”. The Bible doesn’t say that sin is passed down through a biological process (in the strictly biological sense).

The original sin problem doesn’t have to be broken. Sure, Jesus was conceived through a sinful woman, but that doesn’t mean it follows that he therefore then was a sinner. He was tempted in all points as we are, yet did not sin (Luke 4, Hebrews 4:15) because he was fully man and fully God.

As far as Mary…she couldn’t be cleared of her sin at one point in her life. It doesn’t matter if she sinned again or not….James 2:10 says that if we are guilty in one point of the Law, we’re guilty of all. It gets worse…Deuteronomy 27:26 says that if we do not follow the Law, we are cursed. Paul uses this verse in Galatians 3:10-14. So Mary was in the same boat as everyone else.

What’s the point? There’s only one way Mary or anyone else can be completely “cleared” of sin…. Jesus took the curse of us “breaking the Law” (lying, cheating, lust, etc.) on His own body when he died on the cross so we could go free, but he wouldn’t have been qualified to do so if he sinned…because God required innocent blood be spilled to pay this fine for our transgressions.

I hope this made sense. If not, just ask again and I will type more. Thanks for the reply.

Iztok said...

ChristianWhoCares, thanks! This is good discussion! While I am not buying what you are selling I am still happy that I have more understanding what you are saying. Not many people I know can explain things.

Ok, so if sin is spiritual and is not passed by mother (or father). Then where does the newborn gets sin from?

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok,
Yes, a great discussion! Well, Romans 5 discusses this sin problem. If you get a chance, read the book of Romans, it is great for this topic of sin.

All I can say is Scripture says we are simply born with a tenancy to sin because of the fall of Adam. This is obvious in our own lives isn't it? We know we've done wrong, at least I do...it is part of my conscience, which God also gave us.

David say this in Psalm 51, where he notices that "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother did conceive me".

Paul even said in Romans that he realized "nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh (7:18). Jeremiah the prophet said that "the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is the importance of Jesus, he took this curse on his own body for us on the cross. It makes sense if you think about it...

God is just in that we have broken His law and deserve to be punished, but he is also loving in that He provided a way for us to have our "record wiped clean". He is a just judge, but also merciful.

So, I only claim to have the knowledge that Scripture itself teaches and anything more would be conjecture.

Does this make sense? Any more questions? Thanks!

Iztok said...

"All I can say is Scripture says we are simply born with a tenancy to sin because of the fall of Adam."

So we are not born sinners but with tenancy to sin?

So if newborn is not born with sin but with tenancy. At one point he/she becomes a sinner and not one with tenancy to sin? Obviously I would think that only sinner would be punished for sin, not one with tenancy to sin?

"He was tempted in all points as we are, yet did not sin"

I think we are disconnected here with the definition of temptation. Do you mind defining it when it comes to your statement here?

Here is what I think. I if I am not interested in something I can't be even tempted, but if I am tempted then at least I am interested in something but not acting upon it. So if Jesus was tempted, then he was at least thinking about acting upon it but chose not to. Am I right?

Temptation: the desire to have or do something that you know you should avoid

The above is my understanding of the temptation. So in this case Jesus had desire to do things if he was tempted. As far as I know desire itself is a sin.

ChristianWhoCares said...

"All I can say is Scripture says we are simply born with a tenancy to sin because of the fall of Adam."

So we are not born sinners but with tenancy to sin?


Please don't misunderstand me. I gave you a few verses from Scripture that shows we are sinners. I was using the word tenancy to show that while we are "born sinners" (which sounds very theological sometimes) there is also a practical aspect in that....well, we do it! I guess I misspoke.

One thing you're doing is reading in your definition of temptation into the Bible, which isn't fair. We need to examine what the authors meant when they said these things. Who are you to say what sin is?

One good source is 1 Corinthians 10:6-13. Here Paul says that "No temptation has overtaken you...God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able". In other words, if a "sin" carrot hangs infront of you and "tempts" you, God will provide a way out (metaphorically speaking).

An example of Jesus being tempted in the same way is in Luke 4 where he was "tempted" for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness...this is where Satan temps Jesus 3 separate ways with 3 different things...but Jesus didn't break.

By temped the Bible just means...Jesus was "offered" the chance to sin but he never did. Its nothing more complicated than that...and because He did not sin and he was fully God and fully man, he was qualified to be the sufficient payment for our sin with his death. A substitutionary death if you will, so anyone who believes in Him can go free.

write back if you wish my friend, I would love to discuss any other things you would like.

Iztok said...

OK, I still don't quite get it.

So newborn child is a fully qualified sinner and Jesus when newborn was not. So either something puts sin into a newborn or sin was somehow taken away from Jesus. So which of the two is correct and how or what does this?

Obviously we've established that mere genes don't pass the sins to the newborn and sinning mother can somehow produce non-sinning offspring at one point. To me it seems that God took sin out of Jesus at one point, am I right?

So bible temptation is not the same as we think of in modern days temptation? Like for me presented with a room full of men with who I could have sex with is not considered a temptation, but in Biblical terms it is considered temptation? On the other hand, being presented with room full of women with the same "deal" for me it would be a temptation and in biblical terms it also would be a temptation. So you are saying that Jesus was presented with lesser form of temptation - with something he wasn't really interested of taking at the first place? Or was he presented with temptation as I see it (something one is interested/attracted to do)?

BTW: I am going to re-read Romans as soon as I finish with my current book, which should be in a week or so.

ChristianWhoCares said...

Its ok, sometimes these things are hard to get at first.

I think the thing that might be tripping you up a bit is the biological aspect of it all. Just throw that out the window if that's ok.

Sin being "inherited" is not visible in the scientific sense, it is a spiritual problem. There are other parts of us that are not visible scientifically as well. Our "mind" or "conscience" is not visible in this way, but you know you have a conscience. You also know other people have them, but you can't see them or touch them.

Things outside our body are invisible as well. Take the laws of logic. The law of non contradiction which says two things that are opposite at the same time cannot both be true is a "law", but it is invisible, intangible,...you can't "touch" or "feel" it, but it is a self evident first principle of logic. It exists.

Sin is the same way. It is present for all humans, but we cannot see it in our blood or DNA.

Babies are born into sin, that's what David said in Psalm 51.

Since Jesus was God and man, he wasn't like us. He did not have this problem that we have.

The next thing...Jesus' temptation. He was tempted in all "points". So, 1 John 2:16 says "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." So Jesus was tempted in these three areas...the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Interesting how in Luke 4, the devil temps Jesus 3 times with 3 different things huh? They fall into these 3 "buckets" of types of sin.

So, Jesus wasn't tempted to buy a more expensive blackberry, but today, us being tempted to do that would fit into a type of "lust". I think you're going backwards trying to fit your idea of sin into the Bible, instead...let the Bible tell you what sin is.

God didn't take sin out of Jesus, Jesus was God in the flesh. He was just "planted" into Mary as the "vehicle" to become a human just like us.

I think reading Romans would be a great idea,chapters 2 and 3 are very clear on this thing we're talking about. The clearest in the Bible. (Sin, salvation, etc.)

Does this make more sense?

Iztok said...

Sorry, still confused.

What causes newborn to be born in sin? If it is not inherited from mother (not biologically but by some other means) then why didn't Jesus have it. If it is not inherited from mother but from father, then the story is clear since Jesus didn't have real father (well Bible is bit off as it claims Jesus was descendant from David which was on father's not mother's side).

So are you saying that sin is inherited from father but not mother?

If it is not inherited by neither then how sin gets to the newborn?

Your comparison to mind is not really valid since we obviously have the way of verifying this beyond just "we know". Same goes with "laws of logic". A and !A are simply a description of real life math situation that can be tangible and detected.

I just feel that once you start redefining the meaning of "temptation" then there is no way we can have any meaningful debate. It is simple, for being tempted one has to have a desire to do certain thing. So did Jesus have desire to do things that are sinful or not? If he didn't have desire, then we can't talk about temptation but just about some form of presentation of opportunity. So was Jesus desiring flesh or not? If he wasn't desiring but was presented with it then this is not temptation. It would only be temptation if he would be desiring flesh. But for anyone to desire flesh is sin by itself.

ChristianWhoCares said...

well Bible is bit off as it claims Jesus was descendant from David which was on father's not mother's side

Mary was actually a descendant of David. The Genealogy in Luke is Mary’s genealogy, and notice Luke 3:31 it says “the son of Nathan, the son of David”. Then read the other genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:6 it says “David begat Solomon”.

So, here we have the split in David’s house…Nathan’s side goes on down to Mary, and Solomon’s side goes on down to Joseph.

That’s why in Luke 3:23 it said Jesus as the son of Joseph “as was supposed”. It’s a Jewish culture thing because men were listed in the genealogies, so 3:23 was Joseph’s father in law. Otherwise Luke would have just said “Mary”.

Be careful how you throw things around about how "the Bible is a little bit off" when you may not know what you're talking about.

About sin…
Yes, sin is not “inherited” in the biological sense, it is “inherited” because we are human beings. Jesus
did not have it because Mary was supernaturally impregnated by God. Jesus was NOT a regular baby, he was God with human flesh on….therefore he had he ability to never sin.

The thing about Jesus was that he was “offered the opportunity” to sin by Satan, but he didn’t. It’s that simple. I don’t know why you’re saying we can’t have a “meaningful” debate. I’m quoting Scripture to you out of the Bible and you’re trying to define all these Biblical terms in your terms and fit them in your box. The New Testament clearly says he didn’t sin.


Maybe instead of arguing about the Bible (like with Mary's genealogy), you could just read Romans front to back one day and let me know what you think.

I'll be glad to answer any more questions you have though...

pornstudent said...

ChristianWhoCares - "Be careful how you throw things around about ... when you may not know what you're talking about."

Explanations for discrepancies between Matthew and Luke

Iztok said...

Hm... this doesn't make sense.

Num 1:1-2,18 clearly says it passes by the house of their fathers. Since Jesus didn't have an earthly father (adoption wouldn't count as bloodline, would it?)...

However even if we twist Luke 3 into genealogy of Mary (which we really have no writings in the Bible that it is it, am I wrong?), you still have to have descendant from David's son Solomon (not Nathan) to produce a valid descendant. (Psa 132:11-12)

So first we need to throw out Josephs genealogy altogether as irrelevant as Jesus is not his bloodline (Psa 132:11-12). Then we need to find supportive claim that second genealogy is truly the one of Mary. And lastly we need to account for Solomon's bloodline (1 Chron 28:5-7).

Only then we could possibly account this as a valid prophecy. Don't you agree?

ChristianWhoCares said...

Iztok,
Thanks for the reply.

Num 1:1-2,18 – what do you mean “it” passes by the house of their fathers? It says in 1:2 “according to the number of names, every male individually”. In 1:18 it says “they recited their ancestry by families, by their father’s houses”. What’s the problem here?

Psa 132:11-12
Why do you need a descendant from David’s son Solomon? All the prophecies (Isa. 7, 2 Samuel 7) say that the descendant will be from the “house of David”, not Solomon. Nathan was the older brother of Solomon, he was David’s son. Therefore if Mary was related to Nathan, she is related to David. Therefore…Jesus is from the house of David.

1 Chron 28:5-7
You’re taking 1 Chronicles 28 out of context. This is in the context of Solomon building the Solomonic Temple. It says in 28:5 that Solomon will “sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel”, but it does NOT say “forever” like the other prophecies.

If you keep reading, in 2 Chronicles 1-7 Solomon builds God’s house and sits on the throne of Israel…just like it said he would. Then in 2 Chronicles 9:30 it says “Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years”, just like it says in 1 Chr. 28:5-7.

Then…Solomon fell. The parallel account in 1 Kings 11 shows how his heart turned from the LORD. 1 chr. 28 never says Solomon or his line would reign forever.

Conclusion: It looks like we have valid grounds to account this “Jesus from David’s house” as a valid prophecy.

If you have any more questions, I would be happy to answer them. Thanks again my friend.

Danbo59 said...

Original sin is not the presence of something on our soul when we are born. Original sin is a condition into which all men (since Adam) are born.

It is a condition characterized by the separation of the soul from God. Adam and Eve separated themselves from God in sin. From that moment, all new human life was born into a world "separated" from a perfect union with God. This is original sin -- it is a LACK rather than a PRESENCE of any one thing. That is why questions relating to "inheritance" are irrelevant.

As for Christ, He was conceived of the Virgin Mary -- conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is, of course, without sin as He is one with God the Father.

As for Mary, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On that day we celebrate God's intervention in the conception of Mary, where He granted her conception outside the condition of original sin.

Again, it becomes easier to understand -- but never totally understandable if you think of orignal sin as a condition denoted by the lack of perfect union with God rather than as a "blot" on our souls.

Danbo59 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo59 said...

ChristianWhoCares wrote, "Jesus was NOT a regular baby, he was God with human flesh on….therefore he had he ability to never sin."

The only diferences between Jesus and man were 1) He was born without original sin and 2) He is God.

You and I have just as much ability "not to sin" as did Jesus. Jesus had no special defense against Satan; at least no more than do we -- that is, both we and He have our Father in Heaven.

Remember, when Jesus was in the desert He specifically refused to call upon His Father or His Father's angels for help. He Himself told Satan, "Begone."

We have that same ability. Let's use it! If we find it too difficult on our own, God will still help us.

Anonymous said...

Thanks danbo, good comments. Appreciate the feedback....apparently everyone else just won't reply anymore.

Just don't forget 1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."

But thank goodness for Jesus!

apparently we can't just type in an ID name we want anymore...looks like the blog changed. This is ChristianWhoCares.

Iztok said...

Danbo, from your reading it seems that human creation was created with plan for failure and loving god had to scapegoat Jesus for it. (god could have just as easily forgive us w/o scapegoating Jesus so I see such an act very barbaric and dare to say immoral.) (Well granted barbaric tribes inventing such God didn't see anything immoral about sacrifice and scapegoating another human being so they didn't worry about how such God would look like nowadays (petty, vengeful, jealous ...).

So let us recap, someone messed up his creation and set up Adam and Eve for a failure. That wasn't good enough, he has to flood the whole earth and destroy just about every living being on a planet for human sins (like animals were to blame). Then scapegoats another of his own creations in sacrifice to himself (like he lacks ability to just forgive at the first place). Further more, all descendants are also found guilty for the sins of their ancestors. All in all makes such being perfectly loving and just.

I am sorry, but punishing descendants for sins of their ancestors is NOT moral no matter how you try to justify it.

On the same topic of morals, I think you Dambo were asking me about standards for morality. (If there is no god where do the morals come from.) One thing to ask yourself is the following: Are our morals good because god gave them to as or did god gave them to us because they are good? If later, then it seems there is no need for god as morals were good thus chosen by god. If former, then god could pick up different set of morals, like ones that would declare murder is good. Would the hypothetical fact that murder is good make you murder things?

Anonymous said...

this is ChristianWhoCares

Iztok,
You still didn't reply to what I wrote about the prophecy of Jesus lineage, it seems like you avoided it.

Why do you continually attack the Bible, but do not answer back when people write reasonable answer to you? That's unfair. Stop criticizing Scripture and Jesus until you reply to what I wrote about your 2 Chronicles posting on February 11th.

Catholic said...

The Immaculate Conception

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.

When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference may be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.

The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter"). The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit. In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.


Fundamentalists’ Objections

Fundamentalists’ chief reason for objecting to the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s consequent sinlessness is that we are told that "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23). Besides, they say, Mary said her "spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Savior.

Let’s take the second citation first. Mary, too, required a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, she was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way—by anticipation.

Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been "saved" from the pit. Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: She was not simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained by the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired in original sin and its stain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that she was "redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son" (CCC 492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do, because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!

But what about Romans 3:23, "all have sinned"? Have all people committed actual sins? Consider a child below the age of reason. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. This is indicated by Paul later in the letter to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11).

We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb. 4:15). So if Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an exception for the New Adam (Jesus), one may argue that an exception for the New Eve (Mary) can also be made.

Paul’s comment seems to have one of two meanings. It might be that it refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to the mass of mankind (which means young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out). If not that, then it would mean that everyone, without exception, is subject to original sin, which is true for a young child, for the unborn, even for Mary—but she, though due to be subject to it, was preserved by God from it and its stain.

The objection is also raised that if Mary were without sin, she would be equal to God. In the beginning, God created Adam, Eve, and the angels without sin, but none were equal to God. Most of the angels never sinned, and all souls in heaven are without sin. This does not detract from the glory of God, but manifests it by the work he has done in sanctifying his creation. Sinning does not make one human. On the contrary, it is when man is without sin that he is most fully what God intends him to be.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was "invented" at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.

Actually, doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; cf. Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already-existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine. In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her.


The Assumption

The doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others had been before her. It’s also necessary to keep in mind what the Assumption is not. Some people think Catholics believe Mary "ascended" into heaven. That’s not correct. Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.

The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, "after the completion of her earthly life" (note the silence regarding her death), "was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven."

The possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming is suggested by Matthew 27:52–53: "[T]he tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Did all these Old Testament saints die and have to be buried all over again? There is no record of that, but it is recorded by early Church writers that they were assumed into heaven, or at least into that temporary state of rest and happiness often called "paradise," where the righteous people from the Old Testament era waited until Christ’s resurrection (cf. Luke 16:22, 23:43; Heb. 11:1–40; 1 Pet. 4:6), after which they were brought into the eternal bliss of heaven.

from www.catholic.com/library/Immaculate_Conception_and_Assum.asp

Catholic said...

Hey Danbo (and anyone else), Thought you may be interested:

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Saturday, March 8th 10:00am-3:30pm (St. Thomas Aquinas Church)

Iztok said...

The Luke 3 genealogy never mentions Mary anywhere in it or in the surrounding text.
There is no scriptural support for the claim that Mary was "of the House of David".
There is no genealogy of Mary, or of any woman, identified anywhere in the Bible.
Kingships and titles are passed exclusively through males and tribal affiliation is assigned by paternal genealogy(Num 1:18), not through maternal genealogy. (It talks about heads of the tribes so it talks about paternal genealogy.) It says "by the house of their fathers" (no female mentioned).

"You’re taking 1 Chronicles 28 out of context. This is in the context of Solomon building the Solomonic Temple. It says in 28:5 that Solomon will “sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel”, but it does NOT say “forever” like the other prophecies."

Are you sure? Read 1 Chron 28:6-7 "He said to me: 'Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time."

So it is required that Jesus is descendant of both David and Solomon. Clearly that is not true. Adoption wouldn't make it a bloodline (Psa 132:11-12 "fruit of the body").

pornstudent said...

This stuff gets complicated. It reminds me of when someone gets caught telling a lie and then having to come up with more and more lies to explain the original lie. It would be easier for me to accept that "God is Love" if the Bible weren't read as a science or history textbook. Obviously, most people aren't satisfied with a simple, three word theology.

Anonymous said...

ChristianWhoCares

So it is required that Jesus is descendant of both David and Solomon.

Iztok, you're exactly right...God would have established Solomon's kingdom forever if he was "unswerving", just like you said.

Now read the very next verse...

1 Chr. 28:9 - "If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever..."

So, God did not establish SOLOMONS kingdom forever, because eventually...he fell.

Psalm 132 - Why do you need a descendant from David’s son Solomon? All the prophecies (Isa. 7, 2 Samuel 7) say that the descendant will be from the “house of David”, not Solomon. The "fruit" of David could be any of his sons, it would logically IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to come from all of David's fruit because he had more than 2 kids!!!!!

So, yes its true, the kingdom to be established forever did NOT come through Solomon's line. It came through David, his fathers, through David's other son Nathan. Mary was related to NATHAN, not Solomon.

So it is required that Jesus is descendant of both David and Solomon.

No it is not, its just David. Read 2 Samuel 7...

2 Samuel 7:15-16 "But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.””

So, because of Luke 3 we know Jesus was related to David through Nathan and eventually Mary.

Does this make more sense now? Please let me know if you have other questions. Thanks.

-ChristianWhoCares

Bill Van Fleet said...

There are and have always been many religions on our planet. They have been our best efforts to try to live right and well. But all of them have had their origins in our infantile, nonrational history as a species. As we have grown as a species, we have increasingly become aware of the possibility of living better than chimps. We have become talking, hi-tech chimps, but unfortunately very angry ones. Language and science have been wonderful tools, but in our hands we do not only wonderful things but also horrible, tragic things. It will take religion to help us to do otherwise.

Our religions are still quite primitive, and though they have really beneficial contributions to our lives, they also tend to have aspects that promote pain, suffering, disability, and early death. Our religions need to improve.

I am a Christian Humanian. My religious tradition is Christianity. My more fundamental religious identification is with Humanianity. All religions are somewhere in the traditions of Humanianity.

I am in the process of writing my second book, entitled For Everyone: Humanianity: The Most Important Religion. It is available free at HomoRationalis.com.

The first book, free at the same website, is a "textbook" the title of which is For Everyone: Rational-Ethical Living and the Emergence of "Homo Rationalis": The Most Important Book. It is somewhat more "technical," but it gives a good foundation for the second book.

Both of these books are also freely obtainable in the "Files" of the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group (Meetup.com).

I am hoping to do my part to help Christianity to become more and more Humanian. I believe in promoting not only the survival of our species but also the good life for everyone, now and in the future, and by "good life" I mean nothing more than as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible.

Please join me in helping Christianity grow to its full potential.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Iztok said...

ChristianWhoCares, you didn't answer the following claims:

The Luke 3 genealogy never mentions Mary anywhere in it or in the surrounding text.
There is no scriptural support for the claim that Mary was "of the House of David".
There is no genealogy of Mary, or of any woman, identified anywhere in the Bible.
Kingships and titles are passed exclusively through males and tribal affiliation is assigned by paternal genealogy(Num 1:18), not through maternal genealogy.

So where does it say this is Mary's genealogy you are speaking of?

Bill Van Fleet said...

Does the following make sense?

(1) Our initial response to ancient religious literature is more concrete and therefore literal, with efforts to show that the literature is internally consistent and also reasonable in the light of what we know today.

(2) We begin to resolve contradictions and nonreasonable elements by a metaphoric interpretation of those elements, thus not taking them to be literally true.

(3) Ultimately, we take an analytic approach, with an effort to understand the religion within the context of the nature of ourselves and our cultures, as acquired and understood through our scientific methods, in order to enhance the underlying efforts and values of the religion while neutralizing some of its grimmer ingredients.

From literal to metaphoric to analytic?

And do we go from belief as an act of obedience for group solidarity to openness of mind in behalf of increasing accuracy of belief and thus effectiveness in making the world a better place?

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

pornstudent said...

Bill Van Fleet - "... we do ...horrible, tragic things. It will take religion to help us to do otherwise."
We don't need religion.

Iztok - "So where does it say this is Mary's genealogy you are speaking of?" Some say Luke 3 is Mary's genealogy in an attempt to explain the discrepancies between Matthew and Luke.

Bill Van Fleet said...

PornStudent,

We do need religion, broadly defined.

Science without religion is dangerous; religion without science is dangerous.

Science tells us how to do things. Religion tells us whether to do them or not.

But the bad elements in our current religions are dangerous (promote pain, suffering, disability, and early death). That's why we need to improve our religions.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Iztok said...

pornstudent, I am looking for where in the scripture it is said this is Mary's genealogy. If it is not in the scripture how can anyone claim that such premise is even remotely valid? Luke says Jesus was son of Joseph. Not son of Mary. So is someone pretending to know more then it is written?

pornstudent said...

Bill,
Then you disagree with the Humanist view that we have "without theism and other supernatural beliefs, the ability ...to lead ethical lives?"

Iztok - "So is someone pretending to know ..?"

Yes.

Bill Van Fleet said...

Pornstudent,

"Then you disagree with the Humanist view that we have 'without theism and other supernatural beliefs, the ability ...to lead ethical lives?'"

No, I do not disagree with that view.

It appears to me that you believe that all religion must necessarily be theistic and/or have supernatural beliefs. If you define religion that way, then my statements would not be correct.

However, I believe that when we take a look at all religions, all those things that we have called religions, and try to find the common characteristics of them, neither theism nor belief in the supernatural are such characteristics. I talk about this in the textbook.

No, you can be a Humanistic Humanian, or an Atheistic Humanian, or a Christian Humanian. The book on Humanianity clarifies that.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Iztok said...

Bill Van Fleet,

"Science without religion is dangerous" Care to elaborate on this?

Once again, our morals do not derive from religion but are evolved throughout the time. For religious it is important to ask ourselves if we have morals we have because god decided they are good or did god give us morals we have because they were good. If later then there is no need for god to give us morals at the first place, if former then we need to ask ourselves if murder would be moral if god would decide that it is. (At one point in the scripture genocide in the name of god was perfectly acceptable and endorsed. Since then we realized that genocide is just bad practice.)

"Science tells us how to do things. Religion tells us whether to do them or not."

Is that so? Science doesn't tell us just how, it also tells us why. For one thing it tells us why religion came to be.

Bill Van Fleet said...

Iztok,

Your comments are in bold.

"Science without religion is dangerous" Care to elaborate on this?

Sure. Nuclear bombs, Anthrax, etc. Global warming. Epidemic obesity secondary to technologic enhancement of food (adding fat to almost everything we eat). Computer viruses.

Once again, our morals do not derive from religion but are evolved throughout the time.

I do not use the term "morals." I use the term "ethics." Ethical beliefs are, as I use the term, beliefs about what we "should" do. Both our ethical beliefs and our religions have indeed evolved throughout time. Our religions have been the social institutions most specifically devoted to working on how we should live our lives. And we sure need to do that. In fact, doing so is becoming increasingly urgent, I believe.

For religious it is important to ask ourselves if we have morals we have because god decided they are good or did god give us morals we have because they were good. If later then there is no need for god to give us morals at the first place, if former then we need to ask ourselves if murder would be moral if god would decide that it is. (At one point in the scripture genocide in the name of god was perfectly acceptable and endorsed. Since then we realized that genocide is just bad practice.)

Yes, I agree with all of that. But it is also possible to believe that there are certain things that we should do even if we do not believe that a deity exists.

"Science tells us how to do things. Religion tells us whether to do them or not."

Is that so? Science doesn't tell us just how, it also tells us why. For one thing it tells us why religion came to be.


I agree. And it will help us to improve it.

Part of the problem is that you are assuming that I am meaning certain things that I am not. Reading the book would help. One can't simply condense a book into a few paragraphs and have it be understood adequately.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"Nuclear bombs, Anthrax, etc. Global warming. Epidemic obesity secondary to technologic enhancement of food (adding fat to almost everything we eat). Computer viruses."

This is argument why science w/o religion is dangerous? Science itself is rather neutral. It is up to the ethics and morals of the people who use it to determine how to use it. We've already determined that religion is not required for us to have good ethics and good morals so far. I would further argue that religion with science is dangerous combination. When you have mass of people who are looking forward to "life after death" and are actively working towards hastening of "Armageddon" in possession of modern day weapons, now that is dangerous! (There are Christians actively working in Israel to produce perfect red calf. It is beyond me why someone would actively working towards what he believes is going to be part of the mass destruction of our planet?)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Bill Van Fleet said...

Iztok,

I am in bold.


"Nuclear bombs, Anthrax, etc. Global warming. Epidemic obesity secondary to technologic enhancement of food (adding fat to almost everything we eat). Computer viruses."

This is argument why science w/o religion is dangerous? Science itself is rather neutral. It is up to the ethics and morals of the people who use it to determine how to use it.

Exactly my point. And our religions are supposed to help us do that.

We've already determined that religion is not required for us to have good ethics and good morals so far.

We don't have good ethics so far. At least not good enough. Read the newspapers. Look around. Leave your stereo in your car. Religion is not required, but it is supposed to be helping us with this. It needs to do a better job. Our religions need to improve.

I would further argue that religion with science is dangerous combination. When you have mass of people who are looking forward to "life after death" and are actively working towards hastening of "Armageddon" in possession of modern day weapons, now that is dangerous! (There are Christians actively working in Israel to produce perfect red calf. It is beyond me why someone would actively working towards what he believes is going to be part of the mass destruction of our planet?)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Again, you make my point. There are bad things still in our religions. Sometimes really bad things. So our religions need to improve. They need to approach Humanianity (my word for the ultimate planet Earth religion, toward which all religions hopefully are tending and should be tending). You seem to be looking only at the bad things in the religions. You don't see the enormous good that is there also. And the potential for good. But we have to help our religions move away from the bad stuff. If you do read the book, I think you will no longer be attributing to me beliefs that are the opposite of what I have.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

pornstudent said...

Bill,
Maybe you think the common characteristic of all religions is our search for, and learning of, what is ethical. Would an Ethics class at UNCC be considered a religion? Would you agree with the Christian fundamentalists that humanism is a religion?

The most common characteristic of religion is God. The most common and useful definition of religion includes the belief in God.

In your last post to Iztok you said, "Religion is not required..." I agree.

Bill Van Fleet said...

Pornstudent,

My responses are in bold.


Maybe you think the common characteristic of all religions is our search for, and learning of, what is ethical

In the sense that people generally partipate in religions to get an idea of how they should live their lives. Don't they?

Would an Ethics class at UNCC be considered a religion?

I don't think so. Neither is a family, even though families help their members to figure out what they should do, especially in child rearing. But what is and is not a religion is not a matter of empirical fact to be discovered by experimentation and observation, but instead is a matter of definition. I took a look at all the things people consider to be religion, and that is what I came up with. Religions are those social institutions the primary function of which is to help people determine what is important in life and how they should live their lives. You can define "religion" differently. Then you would come up with different conclusions. I believe my definition is quite useful, as I talk about in the two books.

Would you agree with the Christian fundamentalists that humanism is a religion?

According to my definition, I believe it would qualify as a religion. According to other definitions it probably would not.

The most common characteristic of religion is God. The most common and useful definition of religion includes the belief in God.

I don't think that is really accurate. I believe you mean that the thing most shared in religions is a belief in God, but I believe the thing most shared is what I have already said. There are some religions that don't believe that there is a god, but instead that there are many of them. And there are religions that do not include a belief that there is a god. And then if you take a look at all the religions in which there is a belief in a god, you will find that the meaning of the word "god" varies such that according to one religion the other does not believe in a god. Pantheism, theism, deism, polytheism, etc. are different concepts regarding a deity or deities. For some, god is "all there is," or "love," or "the great mystery," etc. I believe Stephen Hawking said that when we finally accomplish having the theory of everything, we will know the mind of God. All that is a lot of dissimilarity.

In your last post to Iztok you said, "Religion is not required..." I agree.

I'm glad you do. I think many people only see the bad in religions and think that the task is to get rid of religions, rather than make them better.

I don't believe there is a sentient superpower watching me, making arrangements for me, and either liking me or getting mad at me. But I consider myself to be very religious, and I consider my two books to be religious books, at least in part.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

pornstudent said...

Bill,
The definition of words is important, especially in societies that are governed by the rule of law. The US Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..." When you attempt to redefine religion from what is normally accepted the meaning becomes vague; hence, so does the Constitution.

As much as possible, I'd rather not have judges finding "non-literal truths" in the law.

Anonymous said...

you will find that the meaning of the word "god" varies such that according to one religion the other does not believe in a god. Pantheism, theism, deism, polytheism, etc. are different concepts regarding a deity or deities. For some, god is "all there is," or "love," or "the great mystery," etc.

Bill...do think all religions are equally as truthful? Do you think they can all be right?

Bill Van Fleet said...

Pornstudent,

I am in bold.


The definition of words is important, especially in societies that are governed by the rule of law. The US Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..." When you attempt to redefine religion from what is normally accepted the meaning becomes vague; hence, so does the Constitution.

As much as possible, I'd rather not have judges finding "non-literal truths" in the law.

There is no law governing definitions. Ideally, if a law is passed or the Constitution is updated, definitions for that purpose would be included. When not, the function of the courts is to do the interpretation of the law. I don't think what I have to say about the religions threatens the Constitution.

Most words have numerous definitions. They are used differently by different people and at different times. The most important thing is to define key words for specific discussions, if mutual understanding is important. This is clarified in the chapter on "Basic Methods In This Book" in the textbook free at HomoRationalis.com and at the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group (Meetup.com). Much of communication breakdown is because of people using different definitions of the same words, without realizing it. But definitions are not something to be found in the world. There is no "true meaning" of words. Definitions are something to be agreed upon for the purposes of a discussion, to foster communication. There is a tendency for common usage, but it is not perfect.

Again, when I look at all the things that we call religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian Atheism, Unitarian Universalism, Humanism, Confucionism, New Age Religion, etc., what all have in common is not a specific explanatory worldview, but instead the effort to help people to figure out what is important in life, how we should live our lives.

You are focusing on the tendency for many religions (but not all) also to require belief in their outdated explanatory worldviews as an act of obedience (outdated since the advent of science). I agree that this is a bad, even dangerous, aspect of many of the religions. But the religions also have much good in them. The religious organization that I belong to is made up of really good people trying successfully to do a lot of good. The fact that they have an outdated explanatory worldview does not alter this. They and I have interesting dialogue. Rather than attack and try to destroy the religions, I believe that we should try to improve them, preserving and enhancing the good that they already perform. I believe that that is what is going to happen. I don't think the Atheists will defeat the Theists and cause them to close their buildings.

You probably are a Humanian. Why not do your part to advance Humanianity?

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

This is ChristianWhoCares

Bill...I'm wondering about your comment....

Again, when I look at all the things that we call religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian Atheism, Unitarian Universalism, Humanism, Confucionism, New Age Religion, etc., what all have in common is not a specific explanatory worldview, but instead the effort to help people to figure out what is important in life, how we should live our lives.

are you implying that all religions are equally as valid and truthful? Thanks...

Bill Van Fleet said...

CWC,

You write, "are you implying that all religions are equally as valid and truthful? Thanks."

I was not implying anything about relative validity or truthfulness with regard to the religions.

I would need to know what you mean by "valid" and "truthful," and what kind of beliefs you were referring to in order to answer well. Are you talking about ethical beliefs (about what we should do) or about existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, or will be)?

For existential beliefs, I look primarily to the sciences, that follow the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. Insofar as we are talking about existential beliefs, those religions that honor the findings of science are probably going to be more valid and truthful.

Insofar as we are talking about ethical beliefs, I would say that Humanianity stands out among the rest, and that insofar as a religion came closer to Humanianity, the more valid it would be.

But I don't look at the religions as being in competition with each other. There would be much variation of belief within any of the religions, and just looking at formal positions that the religions take on specific topics probably would not do justice to the individuals within those religions.

I think those religions that turn us against ourselves and each other because of our natural makeup, rather than help us rise above it in a positive manner, are manifesting an unfortunate tendency. And I believe that some of the religions are prone to produce unfortunate ethical beliefs with regard to certain groups, such as women, homosexuals, untouchables, prostitutes, atheists, etc. I believe that Jesus probably tried to intervene in some of this discrimination, and thus became a victim of the culture he was trying to change. But the same religion that has bad things in it like this may also have very good things in it.

And I don't see it as the fault of the religion. It is we humans that create our religions out of who we are, and so our religions are as flawed as we are. But we have the possibility of using our newly acquired ability to use rationality (legitimating our beliefs with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence) to help ourselves become much better, such that we are promoting not only the survival of our species but also the good life for everyone, now and in the future. That is what I most want to do, and that is what makes me an Humanian. I happen to be a Christian Humanian.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

This is ChristianWhoCares

Bill,

When you say "I happen to be a Christian Humanian"...I'm just curious, what do you think about John 14:6 where Jesus says "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me."

Also, Acts 4:12 that says" Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”


Just curious on your interpretation, considering there are many verses like these. Thanks!

Bill Van Fleet said...

CWC,

I'd like to try to read between the lines as to why you ask your question. Are you saying, essentially, that in order to call yourself a Christian you have to believe certain things, and are you therefore putting me to the test to see if I qualify as being a Christian, your suspicion being that I do not qualify?

Also, do you have an opinion about the Jesus Seminar?

Thanks.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

ChristianWhoCares

...that in order to call yourself a Christian you have to believe certain things

Yes Bill I'm asking you to see if you think Jesus is the Son of God like he claims to be to see if you're a Christian. Nothing tricky here. You do have to believe certain things to be a Christian according to the New Testament. If you don't think the New Testament is true, and the term "Christian" comes from the book of Acts...then we've got a little circular logic problem here.

As far as the Jesus seminar goes:
They admit to having a goal of creating a new "fictive" Jesus that is created in their own image.

It is based on the "Gospel of Q", which has never been found.

It is also based on the Gospel of Thomas from the second century, which comes from gnostics.

Their conclusions are based on presuppositions that include the rejection of miracles. That's a slight problem for well...the belief in God in the first place.

They also give unjustified late dates for the four Gospels, which gives them room for the supposed "myths" created about Jesus.

This has been dealt with extensively in the past by many scholars. If you're interested in any other material or specific citings here, just let me know.

Thanks for the reply.

Danbo59 said...

Catholic wrote, "Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio; Saturday, March 8th 10:00am-3:30pm (St. Thomas Aquinas Church).

Yes, I had heard. I am hoping to make that one with a number of people from my parish.

Bill Van Fleet said...

CWC, I am in bold.

Yes Bill I'm asking you to see if you think Jesus is the Son of God like he claims to be to see if you're a Christian. Nothing tricky here. You do have to believe certain things to be a Christian according to the New Testament. If you don't think the New Testament is true, and the term "Christian" comes from the book of Acts...then we've got a little circular logic problem here.

I certainly agree with you in your implied assertion that I am not a Christian, using your definitions. However, do we not both know that there are many opinions as to the best definition of “Christian”?

One of your assumptions appears to be that the first time a word is used determines its definition for all time. A second assumption appears to be that ancient religious literature is not a collection of opinions of individuals at that time, but that whatever is written in that literature cannot be questioned, even if it is at variance with the findings of science.


As far as the Jesus seminar goes:
They admit to having a goal of creating a new "fictive" Jesus that is created in their own image.

I would like that quote.

It is based on the "Gospel of Q", which has never been found.

Right, but do you not agree with the logic that has led biblical scholars to believe that such a document existed, as evidenced by certain similarities in Matthew and Luke? If you don’t agree with their logic, what are their assumptions that you disagree with, and why?

It is also based on the Gospel of Thomas from the second century, which comes from gnostics.

And you are assuming that the exclusion of certain gospels from the canonical Bible by group vote of Constantine’s selected group of religious leaders is good reason to assume that they have no value in understanding the times back then?

Their conclusions are based on presuppositions that include the rejection of miracles. That's a slight problem for well...the belief in God in the first place.

And the acceptance of miracles represents a slight problem for people well educated in the sciences today. But it is not my observation that anyone who does not believe in the likelihood of miracles, but instead is scientifically grounded, necessarily believes that there is no God. My observation is that almost any combination of opinions is possible, and actually exists.

They also give unjustified late dates for the four Gospels, which gives them room for the supposed "myths" created about Jesus.

And you believe that verbatim conversations can be remembered and passed along intact for decades with no deterioration in accuracy, right? Despite scientific findings to the contrary, demonstrable in psychology classes and even parlor games?

This has been dealt with extensively in the past by many scholars. If you're interested in any other material or specific citings here, just let me know.

Thanks for the reply.

So it appears that you believe that there is a correct set of beliefs, which you fortunately have, but which the majority of people in the world do not have. And I gather that you believe that people should have that set of beliefs as an act of obedience, failure of such obedience being punishable by everlasting torture by a loving God? Of course I may be entirely wrong in my assumptions here, but this is to give you some feedback as to the impressions I have gotten, so that you can correct me.

I come from the Christian tradition more than any other. I believe Jesus was doing a good thing for us, and sacrificed his life in an effort to help us live better lives. I believe that he was poorly understood, and that our natural tendency to require belief as an act of obedience took over, obscuring what he was trying to accomplish. I believe Paul especially contributed to this, as well-meaning as he was.

I believe we have very little reliable information regarding the historical Jesus, and that almost all that we have is the mythical Jesus. But I consider the mythical Jesus to be an important legacy, because it represents our best efforts to help ourselves to become better than chimps with regard to our interactions with one another. (And we have a long way to go.)

I don’t know of any area of knowledge or opinion that has demonstrated the existence of inerrancy. What we seem to be achieving, more and more, is an openness of mind and respect for diversity of opinion, with evaluation of difference of opinion using the rules of logic and the rules of evidence.

Have I understood your opinions correctly? Or have my beliefs regarding them been errant?

I want to thank you for this dialogue, and hope that you will continue.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

Bill, this is CWC

I tried to answer all your questions in summary, if not, write back but these things below are the essentials...


I would like that quote (from the Jesus Seminar).

No problem: See Forum, vol. 1 (March 1985), 7, 10.
The Jesus seminar is made up of some atheists, wouldn’t you say they’d be quite biased given their presupposition that God doesn’t even exist? I think so.


And you are assuming that the exclusion of certain gospels from the canonical Bible by group vote of Constantine’s selected group of religious leaders is good reason to assume that they have no value in understanding the times back then?

Bill, are you assuming Constatine’s group was the first to call the books canonical? That’s not the case. All the church fathers sorted out the different literature before Constantine.

Also, if we cannot trust Constantine’s “selected group” because they didn’t understand the times…why should we trust you or your book?



And the acceptance of miracles represents a slight problem for people well educated in the sciences today. But it is not my observation that anyone who does not believe in the likelihood of miracles, but instead is scientifically grounded, necessarily believes that there is no God. My observation is that almost any combination of opinions is possible, and actually exists.

What is your definition of science? Acquiring knowledge through the scientific method? There are plenty of things that are true that the scientific method cannot prove:
1 - math and logic, science actually assumes them.
2 – metaphysical truths (i.e. there are minds other than mine that exist)
3 – The assumption that the scientific method discovers truth cannot be proven by the scientific method itself!

Darwinist Richard Lewontin of Harvard in an article “billions and billions of demons” in The New York Review of Books (jan.9, 1997) on page 31 admits that Darwinists purposely suppress the evidence for a Designer. There are many quotes like this.

So, people “well educated” in the sciences actually suppress the evidence for God and admit to it. This evidence includes:

1) Genetic limits in the animal kingdom (dog breeders seem to run into “limits” then they intelligently try to create new species of dogs)
2) Irreducible complexity of the design in microbiology
3) Nonviability of transitional forms
4) The fossil record – All the major groups of animals appear in the fossil record abruptly and fully formed from the Cambrian period


I believe we have very little reliable information regarding the historical Jesus, and that almost all that we have is the mythical Jesus. But I consider the mythical Jesus to be an important legacy, because it represents our best efforts to help ourselves to become better than chimps with regard to our interactions with one another. (And we have a long way to go.)

Very little reliable information? There are more copies of the New Testament books than any other book in ancient history. We currently have 5,700 manuscripts of the 27 books of the New Testament. Nothing else even comes close:

Other manuscript copies: Homer’s works – 643 copies. Demosthenes – 200. Plato – 7.

The gap between original and surviving copies:
New Testament – 25 years
Homer – 500 years
Plato – 1,200 years
Caesar – 1,000 years

So we have:
-early testimony
-eyewitness testimony
-testimony of multiple, independent sources in the New Testament authors
-Corroborating evidence from archeology and other writers
-enemy attestation
-events embarrassed the authors (they have no good reason to lie)


I would just say we need to deal with these major issues (science vs. God, reliability of the Bible) before moving on.


Anonymous said...

"There are plenty of things that are true that the scientific method cannot prove:
1 - math and logic, science actually assumes them.
2 – metaphysical truths (i.e. there are minds other than mine that exist)
3 – The assumption that the scientific method discovers truth cannot be proven by the scientific method itself!"

1. No, science doesn't assume math and logic.

2. Just because we are aware of existence of others and actually can thin in such a way is not something that needs proof.

3. Huh?

"So, people “well educated” in the sciences actually suppress the evidence for God and admit to it. This evidence includes:

1) Genetic limits in the animal kingdom (dog breeders seem to run into “limits” then they intelligently try to create new species of dogs)
2) Irreducible complexity of the design in microbiology
3) Nonviability of transitional forms
4) The fossil record – All the major groups of animals appear in the fossil record abruptly and fully formed from the Cambrian period"

1. ? I don't get this one. People breed new breeds in past couple of centuries or so. Before breeds were unknown. This is still actively going on and it is obvious what active selection can achieve.

2. Example? So far most of the "irreducible complex" things were proved reducible. Even if there are things that we can't explain now it doesn't mean there is no explanation. This is argument for your god of gaps.

3. ?? What do you mean by that? We've seen transitional forms. Obviously they are successful. You can observe their viability in action in the aforementioned dog breeding if you wish.

4. ? We do have fossils in Precambrian era. Issue is that we are talking on a scale of billion years and more here. Even single fossil older then few ten thousand years alone would be enough to show that Bible with claims of 6000+ year old universe is simply wrong there.

"here are more copies of the New Testament books than any other book in ancient history."

Mostly because historically Christians were actively destroying other books. There surviving books have a lot to thank for their survival on the Arabic translations. We are lucky that way back then Arabs did good job preserving knowledge.

Still waiting on where you get the claim that Luke 3 is Mary's genealogy. (Since there is no other genealogy if women in the Bible and Mary is not mentioned in Luke 3 I say you are taking it out of context here.)

Sincerely,
Iztok

(P.S.: Seems that name/url method is not working.)

Anonymous said...

this is ChristianWhoCares

Iztok,
I told you about the genealogy before, but here it is in other words. Hopefully this helps...

read Matthew 1:16 "Jacob begot Joseph"

now read Luke 3:23 "Jesus...AS WAS SUPPOSED the son of Joseph, the son of HELI".

Joseph couldn't have had Jacob and Heli as fathers, which is why there is the language in Luke that says "as was supposed". it was THAT cultures (not yours) way of giving a genealogy and showing us this was Mary's side. If you go back through those 2 genealogies, they are CLEARLY completely different people, but both Mary and Joseph are related to David.

So, even if I argue successfully for this, I'm sure you will bring up something else. Just tell me honestly....what would be sufficient for you to put your faith in Jesus?

I have a hunch this isn't about genealogies or anything in the Gospels. I read on another blog that you had some grandparents die? Is it that you have a problem with evil or bad things that have happened and you wonder why God would allow such things? If so, I understand and would love to discuss.

Anonymous said...

CWC, you are right genealogy wouldn't convince me as it is obvious that whoever wrote it was wrong. It is much simpler explanation that book is mistaken vs. trying to find excuses. But lets go past that.

"I read on another blog that you had some grandparents die? Is it that you have a problem with evil or bad things that have happened and you wonder why God would allow such things? If so, I understand and would love to discuss."

3 out of my 4 grandparents are dead yes. I don't have problem with that honestly. They have legacy and they did their role in passing their genes down the generation. Which is more that I can say about my legacy. At lest as far as bloodline is concerned. It looks like bloodline stops with me. Some people would find that scary but I don't. There is more to legacy that just bloodline. There is also a legacy of those whose lives I've touched and will remember the deeds I've done and hopefully they will pass some traits (not biological as honestly my biological traits are not that great) to their children (I have no biological kids but 4 daughters call me dad never the less - and this title was earned, not forced.)

I also really don't have a problem between good and evil. These are just description of the life and universe around us. I see there is no purpose in our universe and things just are. It actually makes much more sense that way. I don't understand is that some people feel the need for purpose either in their life or life after in order for their life to matter. Way I look at it, if my life wasn't worth living and didn't make a positive impact in others then I see no need to live in after life. If I can't make a positive change in some during my life why would I even pretend I'll do better in afterlife?

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

ChristianWhoCares

Iztok,
Thank you for your sincere reply, I guess we don't need to talk about New Testament issues anymore. If there are any questions you ever have about the Bible in the future, just let me know and I'd be glad to help you answer them.

I would really give anything for you to put your faith in Jesus. I know you're not interested right now...but please, I BEG you, please think about all the things we've talked about. If what I've said is true, we will all meet a Holy God on Judgment day that we've all sinned against...and faith in Jesus is the only way to have our guilt removed and be blameless before God.

Thank you so much for talking to me thus far, and I appreciate you telling me what you told me about your daughters...that is great! Continue to be a great father to them.

Anonymous said...

CWC,

it is not that I am not interested. Thing is that I don't see neither evidence nor need for such thing. The way I look at it if my good deeds are not good enough, then so be it. I don't see a need to be coerced into submission by some vague promise of heaven and threat of hell (in case I don't accept Jesus). If my good deeds are not good enough to get me there then I don't want to be there at the first place. If mere acceptance is enough then heaven must be full of scoundrels that got sudden change of heart at the last minute and lack of people like Einstein, Darwin, Paine, Adams, Jefferson, and list goes on. And honestly I would rather spend eternity with the later then the former. However as I said, I don't believe in cruel god that is responsible for creation of hell. One can reasonably say that chances of heave and hell are minimalistic at best.

What I am trying to say is that since I don't subscribe to hell I am not even remotely worried about me being dead. I was dead before I was born and since I don't remember it must have been really unimpressionable thing.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

ChristianWhoCares

Iztok,
Just a question...if you broke the law, like say the speed limit, would your good deeds get you off from being guilty?

Could you tell the judge ... "listen judge, I know I broke the law, but I'm a really good person".

No, you couldn't do that. Why would God do that if you broke His law? You broke His law. You know lying is wrong, but you've lied. Looking at another woman that you're not married to is wrong, but we've all done that...but God provided a way for you to be forgiven. Why is that such a bad deal?

Bill Van Fleet said...

CWC, I’d like to respond to your comments to Iztok, which were:

Just a question...if you broke the law, like say the speed limit, would your good deeds get you off from being guilty?

Could you tell the judge ... "listen judge, I know I broke the law, but I'm a really good person".

No, you couldn't do that. Why would God do that if you broke His law? You broke His law. You know lying is wrong, but you've lied. Looking at another woman that you're not married to is wrong, but we've all done that...but God provided a way for you to be forgiven. Why is that such a bad deal?

I would like to challenge you to take a profoundly different view, even from that of Iztok, at least long enough to evaluate it. If you go to HomoRationalis.com and download the (free) second book and read the chapter on Punishment and Revenge, you may realize that we humans make some assumptions and behave in certain ways that just come naturally to us as chimpanzee-like animals (who have learned to talk and to use the rules of logic and the rules of evidence), but that those assumptions and ways of behaving are not necessarily good for us and are not the only things to believe and do.

More specifically, you are taking for granted that of course we are basically prone to do bad, and that the appropriate response to that is punishment. Not only do we believe in it, we raise our children that way, and when we create the image of a deity, we attribute to that deity the basic belief that it is okay, right, and natural to engage in punishment. And so we come up with concepts such as an angry god that will torture people for all eternity just because they didn’t believe he existed, etc., or perhaps also because they told a lie or “looked at” a woman that they weren’t married to.

What I am proposing is something that almost all of my fellow humans would consider preposterous, namely, that we should stop punishing. I maintain that this is one of our worst tendencies, and that it (among other things, of course) lies behind the dysfunction that so many of us have serious problems with, even at times leading to murder and suicide.

In the first of the two (free) books, the chapter on Rational-Ethical Child Rearing presents a model of child rearing that avoids punishment and promotes the skilled use (not that which comes naturally) of the three higher levels of child rearing (reward, teaching, and modeling for identification), that helps parents turn around the awful, escalating vicious circle of punishment and vengeful rebellion that occurs so often in families and sometimes even makes the newspapers. And in the chapter on Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention, I present an anger prevention paradigm that can drastically improve the odds of a good outcome in a situation in which anger has arisen. Our lives would be so much better if we studied, learned, practiced, and got good at the paradigm.

I think Jesus was suggesting to us that we get away from punishment and revenge, and that this was his major contribution before we killed him. I think that few people could understand such an approach to life, and that later evangelists lost track of his main message. But even if that is not so, I still believe that our species can do drastically better than we have ever done, by changing some of our natural chimp assumptions and by training ourselves to do different than our basic animal nature otherwise will cause us to do.

But you will have to overcome a natural tendency to believe what makes you feel good, what gives you a sense of belonging to your group, what makes you feel obedient to and liked by a powerful deity, in order to conscientiously consider what I am proposing, and what comes much more naturally is to avoid exposing yourself to any ideas that threaten those beliefs. So if you don’t read those things, I will understand. But I sure would like to know what you think about the ideas. (I would like to know Iztok’s responses also, but he would have much less difficulty reading the material.)

I may be wrong in what I have written. But I don’t claim any higher authority that presumably has pronounced me correct. I also don’t refer you to a list of things that others have written. What I have written is just my own opinions, based upon observations we all can make, but I think that anyone who reads conscientiously what I have written in the first book, in the order written (because of the method used in the book), will agree with me. But I could be wrong.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

This is ChristianWhoCares


Bill,
I’m not reading any of the things you suggested until you reply to what I wrote back to you saying Jesus was a myth, your definition of science, and the Jesus Seminar.

I know you keep referring to people as “fellow humans” and “chimpanzee like animals”. We share much of our DNA with apes…sure. We also share 50% of our DNA with bananas, so the DNA argument is kind of out the window.

Evolution is simply a myth. Life coming from Non Life has never been observed. Non Living chemicals assembling themselves into DNA which contains 1,000 volumes of information worth of encyclopedias…with NO INTELLIGENT INTERVENTION…is absurd.

Here’s something to think about: If evolution is true, which came first:
The digestive system, the food to be digested, the appetite, the ability to find and eat the food, the digestive juices, or….the body’s resistance to its own digestive juice. Hmm.

Which came first? Bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, or muscles to move the bones.

How could fish change into amphibians? They would have died…and still would today. Transitional forms would not be feasible.

“I think Jesus was suggesting to us that we get away from punishment and revenge, and that this was his major contribution before we killed him.”

Well...why do you think we killed him then? If he was doing such a great thing...there wouldn't be a good reason to kill the poor guy, right?


If you can…

1) prove evolution
2) prove that Jesus did not fulfill the multiple prophecies written hundreds of years before he was born
3) prove the New Testament authors were NOT reliable
4) prove that the New Testament is not reliable history

…then I will read your website or anything else you like. Thanks!

Bill Van Fleet said...

CWC,

I did not think you would read what I have written, and presenting an impossible task to me before you would be willing to read it is a good way of avoiding doing so.

See, I believe you have a very basic misconception about the nature of science. This is written about in my first book. The problem is that I can’t do a good job of clarifying this in a few paragraphs. But I will try.

The problem has most to do with the concept of “proof.” There is an appropriate use of that word within a particular setting.

In logic, one proves a particular proposition by showing that it is consistent with other propositions, as demonstrated by the rules of logic, the other propositions being accepted as “true.” An example would be Euclid’s geometry. But all this does is give you a set of propositions that are consistent with one another. Science does something else.

We have beliefs about the world. These beliefs constitute a model. (In the book there is a discussion about what models are.) If the model is accurate, then predictions made on the basis of that model will most likely turn out to be what happens. So the scientific methods involve not only the rules of logic (that provide for internally consistent models) but also the rules of evidence, that increase the confidence that the models are accurate.

One does not prove things by the scientific methods. One obtains models that one is increasingly confident are increasingly accurate. The world is a probabilistic place. Our beliefs are only probably accurate. True, some beliefs we have very great confidence in, and science has indeed achieved extremely accurate models of the way the world really is. But these models are never proven. And there is always the possibility that models currently considered accurate will turn out to be less accurate than newer models that have been thought up. This is the history of science.

At one point, we believed that Euclidean geometry was indeed a good model of the space we live in. We have come to realize that at great distances and high speeds and near large masses the Euclidean model indeed does not produce predictions that turn out to be accurate.

Science builds upon itself by testing its models. Predictions are made as to the outcome of experiments or natural observations, and to the extent that those predictions turn out to be what is observed, the confidence in the accuracy of the models increases. But this is not proof of anything.

Charles Sanders Peirce put it like this, according to my memory: Truth is that opinion toward which all opinion would tend if it tended indefinitely toward fixity. Truth then could be considered the asymptote toward which a curve was approaching though never reaching. The curve would be current opinion, and the axis along which it was proceeding would be time. This would be a definition of truth that would be more consistent with the effort to understand how the world really is, as opposed to what would be true in a system or set of propositions according to the rules of logic.

So there is no way that anyone, ever, could “prove evolution.” However, individuals educated in the relevant sciences almost 100% agree that evolution has occurred on this planet. None of them believe that there was suddenly a human being formed out of nothing a few thousand years ago.

It certainly is true that there are still mysteries that science has not figured out yet. But there is no reason to expect scientists to have figured out everything yet. And maybe they never will. But there has been tremendous progress. The understanding produced by the scientific methods has evolved enormously. And this can be to our great benefit if we can extend such education outward to everyone and if we can overcome our tendency toward closed mindedness and belief legitimated by how such belief makes one feel, rather than by how accurately it allows one to predict. Defense of belief through closure of the mind means avoiding discussion, avoiding becoming acquainted with another’s ideas, avoiding individuals who believe differently, and ultimately fighting and killing those who believe differently. Achieving openness of mind is an enormous achievement for us humans.

So I would recommend that you allow yourself to be exposed to the ideas in the two free books, Then we could have much more satisfactory dialogue and friendly debate.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

CWC,

"If you can…

1) prove evolution
2) prove that Jesus did not fulfill the multiple prophecies written hundreds of years before he was born
3) prove the New Testament authors were NOT reliable
4) prove that the New Testament is not reliable history"

#1 How does one prove facts? I think you might be confusing evolution (fact) with evolution theory (theory describing evolution). Two different things.

#2-4 If you can provide the same amount of scientific evidence to those 3 claims as there is for evolution theory, then we can actually debate.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

CWC, "Just a question...if you broke the law, like say the speed limit, would your good deeds get you off from being guilty?

Could you tell the judge ... "listen judge, I know I broke the law, but I'm a really good person".

No, you couldn't do that. Why would God do that if you broke His law? You broke His law. You know lying is wrong, but you've lied. Looking at another woman that you're not married to is wrong, but we've all done that...but God provided a way for you to be forgiven. Why is that such a bad deal?"

You are confusing being guilty with punishment. In our penal code we ave all sorts of provisions for reduced penalty for people who did break the law but are otherwise model citizens.

Secondly, there is no clear and universal "God's law" in this universe. If such all knowing being actually really wanted for us to be clear on this he could and should have communicated it much better then he did. So let me assume for a second that such being does exist (with characteristics as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient), the following comes to a conclusion:

1. We don't and can't have free will.

2. God cant have free will.

3. Should God want us to follow rules he would have clear and universal rules across the board. (We wouldn't see different rules for people of different religions if there is only one God. Even different rules within the same religion in different times.)

So at its best your God is poor communicator of his rules.

On top of that you've just described your God as vengeful score keeper.

Last but not least. Punishment should fit the crime. Disproportionate punishment is definitely not a sign of merciful and loving God.

Plus, why does God need a scapegoat (Jesus) to forgive our sins? It is cruel at best.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

CWC, "Which came first? Bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, or muscles to move the bones."

There is nothing preventing simultaneous evolution of all of the above. In fact that is exactly what was going on.

Perhaps we should actually write down what theory of evolution with natural selection really is:

# Common sense shows that living things within a species show natural variation: some are taller or shorter, sing more or less sweetly, resist drought or waterlogging, and so on.

# Common sense shows that this variation makes a difference in which individuals succeed in life, that is, which ones have the most offspring.

# Common sense shows that plant and animal breeders can select from natural variations to create new breeds.

# The hypothesis is that selection occurring by natural means, given time and the right environment, causes new species to arise.

Science has confirmed each one of these points: biologists have found that life on Earth today acts exactly as if evolution were true.

Notice that this theory addresses how new species arise, not how life came to be in the first place. The question of the origin of life is not part of evolutionary theory.

Hope this helps your understanding of evolution theory.

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Common sense shows that what you said is pretty simple. The strongest survive...no kidding. That doesn't prove anything. Yes, there is "variation" within a SPECIES. Bigger and smaller horses...but horses have never been observed changing into another genus .

You act like "how life came to be in the first place" is not a big deal. Well who cares if we talk about small variations in plants and animals...where did they all come from?

The other issue is that there has never been observed a case where genetic information is added to make something more complex. How could the genetic information for humans "add itself" to the last "transitional form". That has never been observed and is irrational. Instructions in genetic code add themselves to less complex organisms to get "stronger"? Come on.

You cannot (or can anyone else) explain the origin of life in terms of natural causes with equal or more certainty that I can prove Jesus rose from the dead. Looks like we're both putting "faith" in something...

Anonymous said...

"Bigger and smaller horses...but horses have never been observed changing into another genus . "

Do you know how many different dog breeds have been created in last 200 years? Just about every single one. Now can you imagine such change on a time scale of million of years?

Scientists have created new species of plant crops, bacteria, and the famous examples of fruit flies. We can also see speciation in ring species. Ring species are distributed in more or less a straight line, such as around the rim of a valley, which forms a ring of the organism’s distribution. Each population of organism can breed with its neighbors, but they cannot breed with the organisms at the other end of the ring. Major changes take too long for us to observe directly, but we can deduce them from living organisms and from fossil remains.

"The other issue is that there has never been observed a case where genetic information is added to make something more complex."

Another argument from incredulity?

No, there are actually plenty of transitional fossils. It’s just that creationists ignore them. There is Archaeopteryx, with reptile and bird characteristics, Tiktalik is a fish with land animal characteristics, and Australopithecus is a human ancestor that walked upright. When given an example of a transitional fossil, creationists claim that it is just not transitional enough. It’s like having two cups sitting on a table. You have a gap between the two. Now put a third cup in between. Now you have two gaps. This is what creationists do with fossils.

"You cannot (or can anyone else) explain the origin of life in terms of natural causes with equal or more certainty that I can prove Jesus rose from the dead. Looks like we're both putting "faith" in something..."

You do know that origin of life is not part of the evolution theory, right?

If we stick to evolution theory alone. We have tons of observable facts all around us that fit the theory (or that theory explains). We have yet to find facts that negate the theory. So can you point us to equally fact supported creationist scientific theory?

Seriously, according to your scripture our world is about 6000 years old. That is about time when brewing beer was invented and after domestication of dog. We can observe light generated millions of years ago by distant stars and galaxies and people like you claim universe is only 6000 years old. What is next? That Earth is flat (circle)? Surely you are not going to go that far are you? I am sure you will find an excuse for an obvious error in the Bible (claiming that hebrew didn't know word for a ball/sphere or something equally funny).

Sincerely,
Iztok

pornstudent said...

Imagine a science textbook saying the earth is 4.54 billion years old and the teacher telling students to look for the "non-literal truth" in that statement. "Class, what do the scientists really mean by 4.54 billion years?"

Christians must read the Bible as "non-literal truth" when it says "the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array" in seven days or have a total disregard for science. If they believe the Earth is 6000 years old they are ignoring science.

It's hard to take seriously those who read the Bible literally and then try to be scientific in their defense of it or their criticisms of evolution.

pornstudent said...

CWC - "If you broke the law, like say the speed limit, would your good deeds get you off from being guilty?" Could you tell the judge ... 'listen judge, I know I broke the law, but I'm a really good person'".

Yes, you could ask the judge to be lenient. The more merciful the judge, the more lenient he will be.

But, if my friend paid the fine, say $200 for speeding, then I wouldn't have to pay it. I wouldn't even have to know the fine was paid. I wouldn't even have to know I broke the law. I wouldn't even have to know my friend exists.

Anonymous said...

ChristianWhoCares

Iztok,
I thought we settled that no matter what I say, you will not believe the Bible. Didn't we just do that a few days ago? Why would I respond to anything you just said?

I can't resist though...

What is next? That Earth is flat (circle)? Surely you are not going to go that far are you? I am sure you will find an excuse for an obvious error in the Bible (claiming that hebrew didn't know word for a ball/sphere or something equally funny).


Actually, the Bible says the earth is round in Isaiah 40:22, centuries before science discovered it.

Maybe you and pornstudent should relax with your Bible criticism, since you just put your foot in your mouth.

pornstudent said...

Isaiah 40:22 says, "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth ..."

A circle is flat.

Why did Isaiah use the word "circle" and not the word "sphere?" He could have just said, as we would, "He who sits above the earth." It seems to me he thought the earth flat. We can better understand and appreciate the Bible if we don't believe everything in it is literally true and correct.

Anonymous said...

CWC, "Actually, the Bible says the earth is round in Isaiah 40:22, centuries before science discovered it."

Care to tell us which particular version says that? I searched BibleGateway.com and I couldn't find it. As far as I know they all use the word "circle". We all know that Hebrew did (and does) have the word for ball/sphere so that is not an excuse for using a flat object.

So unless you can show us one of the mainstream versions that actually mention Earth is round (not circle!) it is you who stuck your foot in the mouth.

Plus, I wasn't responding to you. I was responding to nonsense about evolution someone brought up.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

ChristianWhoCares

Iztok, you were responding to me in your post...you were quoting me!

It refers to the heavens or the horizon, both of which are CIRCULAR and not flat.

This would be compared to "scientists" who said that the earth was flat and we could fall of the edge. This does not make the Bible false.

Also, I did not describe God as a "vengeful score keeper." I described him as the Bible does...both just and loving.

He is just in that he will punish law breakers...all of us who have broken His law. Think about it as the Ten Commandments.

He is loving in that he provided the opportunity of forgiveness for breaking the law through the death and resurrection of his son Jesus.

Its that simple. We can argue about evolution and all this all day, at the end of the day you must ask yourself who Jesus is.

If he is who the Bible claims he is, it is essential to put your faith in him before you die and go into eternity...you wouldn't want to die without having your sins forgiven.

pornstudent said...

CWC,
Your insistence that Isaiah knew the earth is a sphere makes your testimony about Jesus unbelievable. It seems you don't really care about knowing and accepting the truth.

Anonymous said...

CWC, just for the record, CIRCLE is a FLAT object. No matter how you can twist and turn you can't get out of this. "above circle of the Earth" is simply as that (plus there are other references that writers of the Bible considered Earth flat - i.e. that someone was able to go high enough to see all the Earth, which would only be possible if it was flat). No matter how you twist and turn, authors of the Bible believed Earth was a flat object.

Yes it would be compared to the "scientists" who believed one could fall off the edge of the earth. With one exception, no real scientist would ever claim that his theory is end all be all. Scientific theories are all falsifiable theories and they get challenged on a regular basis (yes that includes theory of evolution and so far no better theory exist about evolution of life on this planet - in fact it seems so universal that it would easily explain any life in our universe, which is not what we could claim for creationism).

Which Ten Commandments? The ones that are actually labeled "Ten Commandments" or the ones most of us consider when we talk about them? God gave Moses the commandments 3 times and they changed during that time. But that doesn't matter. You still have to deal with the fact that punishment is highly just and yes if you go by the commandments you do reduce your deity to a vengeful score keeper.

So lets go (I am using "standard" ten commandments here, not the ones that are labeled as "Ten Commandments in the Bible):

1. Do not worship any other Gods.

If there are no other Gods this seems irrelevant statement. So unless God is really concerned with other Gods this doesn't make sense. It goes against what you believe that there is only one God.

2. Do not make any idols.

Hm... are we expected to destroy large proportion of our art here? Makes no sense - again.

3. Do not misuse the name of God.

This strikes to me rather odd, you?

4. Keep the Sabbath holy.

If God would really mean that wouldn't you think he would specify which day it is if this was so important? On top of that, what should we do with those who can't afford to keep this commandment? Are they punished with hell or stoned? What if they are forced to work due to their economic situation? Do they get punished for being responsible? Or is this an optional commandment one can break?

5. Honor your father and mother.

What if your father is a drunkard whose role was reduced to inseminating your mother and failing to pay child support. Does one have to honor such father?

What if your mother is a crack whore whose parental rights were terminated by DSS because of child neglect? Do you still have to honor such mother?

Perhaps this too is optional and have some "excuse" clause built in?

6. Do not murder.

This one is good but only if you can distinguish murder from killing. Most of the societies have pretty good norms about that, however there are no clear rules and we tend to fudge from time to time. Were people in Vietnam killed or murdered by US troops? What about the victims of religious wars in Balkans in 1990s? Or religious wars in Northern Ireland? Were they killed or murdered in combat? Is zygote already something one can murder? What about embryo? Blastocyst? Fetus?

What should we do when God commands to break these rules by slaying pregnant women? What should we think when he "orders" drying up their wombs?

7. Do not commit adultery.

Is this only for married women and men? As far as I could see in the Bible it was perfectly OK to have more then one woman. Is that an adultery too or not? If it is not, how could God consider those people good? Or do we get into the relativity of the Bible again?

8. Do not steal.

Easy to find a good example where stealing wouldn't be considered a major crime in our penal system and one could go free even if admitting it in front of a judge. But in your case, it seems one goes straight to hell!

On a bit of a side note, this obsession with hell really does scorch our kids! I had a discussion with my daughter when she claimed she is going to hell no matter what she does because she did steal, drink, smoke ... in the past (mid it she is only 16!). So at such tender age she is already abused by religious upbringing with threats of hell. It took me a while to snap her out of this mood for now but I need to undo the harm it was done to her by such a horrible idea of hell. She had to steal to feed herself because her parents (which she supposed to honor?) were not providing her what she needed.

9. Do not lie.

Obviously this one we can stretch as well. What if it is our job to lie and twist the truth? Our religious leaders do it all the time. Telling the followers promises they have no way to deliver or be held responsible for delivering is a big lie to me.

10. Do not covet.

Funny one. Our society is based on this. The whole capitalism is based on the fact that we covet to get more for ourselves. Perhaps this is advocating communism where one gets just what they need and gives what they can?

Again with death and resurrection... Do you seriously think that all powerful God would need a scapegoat for his forgives? If yes, then is he all powerful? If no, why such a barbaric gesture?

Is it loving gesture to condemn people to hell for relatively minor infractions? Like not honoring parents that are not worth the honor? Or working on Sabbath when one has to because of financial situation?

Or we can pick and choose out of ten commandments what we want at certain time and we are OK?

So I would be loving if I would offer my daughter the opportunity of forgiveness for breaking the law and if she doesn't take it it is perfectly loving to torture her forever because she stole something in order to survive? She was drinking due to peer pressure so she must be condemned to fire and brimstone?

I am sorry, but you do believe in a vengeful scorekeeper, you just fail to see it.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

p*rnstudent and iztok,
Nice try, we all know you're exaggerating the case here. You're being completely unreasonable. I've given plenty of other evidence as a good case for putting your faith in Jesus throughout this blog. You're arguing just for the sake of arguing.

It does not seem like I'm much help here...sorry to waste your time. No need to keep going around in circles, it looks like we just disagree. Good luck with everything.

Iztok...read Romans like we talked about and see what you think.

-CWC

Bill Van Fleet said...

Pornstudent & Iztok,

I call it "cultural victimization," when the culture causes pain, suffering, disability, and/or early death, but the victims cannot see that they are victims, because the culture says that what is happening is right. Only by looking outside your own culture into another can such victimization be apparent, as, for instance, in female genital mutilation, etc.

So subcultural victimization would be an extention of that idea. And the demand of a subculture to maintain belief as an act of obedience would be an example. CWC has to leave the discussion because he is caught in the dilemma that his subculture demands that he believe certain things, no matter how irrational they can be shown to be. I think we have to be kind and understanding toward the victims and recognize that we are all in some ways victims of our cultures. I believe we can work toward reducing and ultimately eliminating such victimization. Openness of mind and friendly debate are certainly central procedures to be advocated for.

And regarding religions specifically, my effort is to promote Humanianity, as clarified at my website.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

pornstudent said...

Bill - You are quite the promoter!

CWC - Read Jane's original post. She would agree with Iztok and me that Isaiah thought the earth was flat. You insist on reading the Bible as a science or history textbook - Jane doesn't. She doesn't believe that the Bible was "... dictated by the Almighty, with every word perfectly preserved to say exactly what God intended." It isn't required to believe in the Bible to believe in Jesus.

Iztok and myself are like many who will not believe just because the Bible says so. We look at what is happening in our lives and in the world and try to make sense of it. We see love. We see a lot of sadness. We see death. We know some Christians who really do care and we know many who are mean.

You may really care. If so, you can believe that everyone is saved. Yes, the Bible says you must believe in Jesus to be saved. I think the Bible is wrong because this isn't how I experience the world. Stuff happens in the world whether I believe they happen or not. If Jesus saved us from Hell, then it is a fact whether we believe it or not.

Anonymous said...

"I think we have to be kind and understanding toward the victims and recognize that we are all in some ways victims of our cultures."

I agree. But we shouldn't allow victims to become perpetrators should we?

My soon to be adopted daughter was exposed to child abuse in many forms in her life. From neglect to probably physical and perhaps even sexual abuse. She came a long way since she came to our home. However just yesterday another abuse from her past surfaced. She was exposed to extreme mental abuse with threats of eternal hell. It will probably take long months and perhaps years to work on this one as well.

It is time we stop abusing our kids with threats of hell.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Bill Van Fleet said...

Of course. But I would stop thinking of the victims as perpetrators. They are doing what they believe to be the right thing to do. I believe the people who flew into the WTC were probably really good people who gave their lives for what they felt was the right thing to do. But they made a terrible mistake. They were victims of their culture, as were we. We need to understand the nature of the problem.

Rats can live happily in an enclosure. Start making the enclosure smaller and smaller, and before long the rats start attacking each other. Each rat knows what the problem is--that other rat. So the rat needs some to be on his side to attack those other bad rats, right?

Bill Van Fleet
Humanianity
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

P*rnstudent,
Are you sure you're thinking about all this clearly?

You don't agree with me, but you agree with Jane because she said the Bible was not "perfectly preserved to say exactly what God intended."

Please tell me how you know what God intended? We only have what was written. Its illogical to ever talk about an authors intent. I don't know if what you wrote is what you "intended" either. Jane's statement makes no sense.



Then you say...."It isn't required to believe in the Bible to believe in Jesus."

well, how do you know about Jesus unless you read about Him in the Bible?

I just don't understand what you guys are getting at. You hound me over one word in Isaiah....then use completely circular logic with everything else you say and want people to hear you out on all your opinions.

-CWC

pornstudent said...

CWC - "We only have what was written."

We have our life experiences and intelligence.

CWC - "how do you know about Jesus unless you read about Him in the Bible?"

If Jesus is alive, you can have a personal experience with him.

Anonymous said...

p*rnstudent,

Two quick questions...

I'm sorry I'm not sure if what you just said is true in your posting...is what you wrote exactly what you intended to say?

Second...Are you saying Jesus might be alive?! where'd you find that out from?


I'd appreciate answers to these two questions. Thanks!

-CWC

pornstudent said...

CWC,

I'm not sure if what I wrote is exactly what I intended to say. I probably could have made my thoughts clearer if I were a better writer.

I'm pretty certain Jesus is dead. If he were alive, maybe you can experience him personally rather than needing the Bible to tell you about him.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty certain Jesus is dead. If he were alive, maybe you can experience him personally rather than needing the Bible to tell you about him.


P*rnstudent,
Thanks for the reply. Well, why do you have this "either or" idea...instead of "both and". If Jesus is alive, why couldn't you experience him personally and have the Bible tell you about him? The Bible tells you how to experience him personally.

If Jesus is alive, that means he rose from the dead. Now, if God raised Jesus from the dead, why couldn't he get you a book in your hands to tell you about him?

It seems pretty reasonable to me that if God exists, he could...

-become a man
-rise from the dead
-get you what you need to know about him through a book

I will humbly beg and plead with you to think about these things. After all, just like you said before...if its true, its true whether you believe it or not! If it is true (which of course I think it is), I would like to see you in heaven someday rather than just argue with you on a blog.

I do really care, I promise you that.

-CWC

pornstudent said...

I said it isn't required to believe in the Bible to believe in Jesus so that you would be able to discard the parts of the Bible that say faith in Jesus is needed to get to Heaven. I thought you might like to know that no one is going to Hell. If we have sinned and Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, I will see you in Heaven. All of us will.

Anonymous said...

P*rntsudent,
John 3:18 says:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

Acts 4:12 says:

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

If you don't think that's as clear as can be, nothing will ever be. Jesus paid the penalty for sin so you would have the opportunity to be forgiven...the forgiveness is only applied if you do what John 3:18 says.

You do not have the authority to pick what you want out of the Bible and disregard the rest. I can only imagine how you would feel if someone did that to what you wrote...even on this blog!

-CWC

pornstudent said...

"You do not have the authority to pick what you want out of the Bible and disregard the rest."

Yes, I do.

John was written by John and Acts by Luke. I don't agree with them. So? Why do you? You claim to care about people yet you choose to believe they are going to Hell.

pornstudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

P*rnstudent,
I care about people, so I choose to stand up for the truth of the Gospel and share with you the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

You seem kind of mad and flustered, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to start a fight...good luck with everything my friend.

I will be praying for you because I care about you.

-CWC

pornstudent said...

Don't worry, I'm not mad and flustered. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

CWC, "You do not have the authority to pick what you want out of the Bible and disregard the rest."

You can so why can't anyone else?

If you don't pick what you want then you MUST accept earth is flat. You must accept the whole universe was created in 6 days. You must accept that order between Gen 1 and 2 are messed up, you must accept that Bible doesn't say anywhere that Luke 3 is Mary's genealogy. You must accept that Jesus came to separate families for kids to hate their mothers and fathers etc...

Yet you don't accept that. You don't accept that God of the OT was vengeful scorekeeper either.

You do pick and choose yet you don't allow others to do the same when they point out the bad and ugly parts of your Bible.

BTW: Mark, Mattew, Luke, and John were not the ones who wrote the gospels.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Bill Van Fleet said...

CWC, you are a good person and are trying to do a good thing. You believe in what you are doing, and you are standing up for what you believe in.

And that would be only good, except for the fact that those who flew into the WTC did also. There has to be a way to prevent people from making such mistakes.

How can a person tell whether or not he or she is making a mistake?

Bill Van Fleet
Humanianity
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

CWC, "You seem kind of mad and flustered, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to start a fight...good luck with everything my friend.

I will be praying for you because I care about you."

The way I see it people who object your view are doing it to educate you to try to get you see your delusion because they care about you. We don't want to see you living in a god fearing manner only to find out that there is nothing after death and your efforts were wasted. We would like you to live and enjoy what you have right now. To celebrate your life and make most of it you can. Imagine how many hours of potential good deeds have gone by while you pray and go to church? You could have dedicated that time to help a kid in foster care for example.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Bill Van Fleet said...

Iztok,

You write: "The way I see it people who object your view are doing it to educate you to try to get you see your delusion because they care about you. We don't want to see you living in a god fearing manner only to find out that there is nothing after death and your efforts were wasted. We would like you to live and enjoy what you have right now. To celebrate your life and make most of it you can. Imagine how many hours of potential good deeds have gone by while you pray and go to church? You could have dedicated that time to help a kid in foster care for example."

We both know there is more to this issue. From what you say, you wish to help this individual, who actually has not asked for your help. And what you are trying to do may have some unintended consequences.

My observation is that many individuals have beliefs in their religions that provide enormous relief. In addition, the religions act in such a way as to produce much stress in anyone contemplating imperfection in the religion. There is the mandate to believe as an act of obedience, with the threat of extreme punishment if one disobeys. There is the implication of acting in a disloyal manner to the group that may be the most important in one's life, giving the person a sense of purpose and belonging and acceptance, such that questioning of belief required for membership in the group threatens the individual with disapproval and excommunication, and possibly even critical conflict with the individuals most important in the person's life, such as spouse. And the individual may have dealt with major life stress, such as an important death, by maintenance of comforting beliefs provided by the religion, such that the questioning of those beliefs could reactivate such stress. I have heard some say that loss of belief would make suicide a reasonable option.

Now you could say that you are only carrying on a conversation with someone who obviously is requesting it, by his or her continued replies. But we both know that a person could be doing so out of the belief that to stop doing so would be some sort of admission of doubt, so that the person is driven to continue, despite the stress involved.

So you could be saying that you care about and are helping a person by taking his or her pain medication away, even though he or she has a great need for it. That is assuming quite a bit of responsibility that no deity has given you.

All of this stress is an example of what I refer to as cultural victimization. The villain is the culture, which turns people against each other and in many ways causes pain, suffering, disability, and early death. And you and I are victims in the same way. To have a minority view with regard to such a highly valued issue means a certain sense of isolation and a limitation in the number of meaningful relationships that one can have. And there is the sense of dishonesty and lack of integrity that goes along with pretending to believe the same as others.

Our religions do an enormous amount of good, but also an enormous amount of harm. It is quite an oversimplification, in my opinion, that the answer is just to defeat the religions and get rid of them, whereupon everyone will be better off. I believe instead that perhaps we can help ourselves by suggesting that all the religions have both good and bad in them, just as all of us who devise them do, and that just as we can all work toward self-improvement and becoming a better person, we can also work on improving our religions from within, gradually moving beyond the unfortunate, non-optimal legacies from the past, and promoting and growing the good that is also present. This is my reason for promoting Humanianity, as I do at my website.

Incidentally, I am not sure I have ever found an atheist who did not have some important beliefs that involved pseudoscience. And for the vast majority of us, the ability to tell the difference between science and pseudoscience is very poor. So we are dealing with phenomena that are perhaps easy to see in others but very difficult to see in ourselves.

And if you are questioning another's use of his or her time in his or her religious activities, could one also question the use of one's time involved in conversations such as these, as opposed to studying, just for an example, the anger prevention paradigm in that chapter in my book? (I mention this only because I care about you and want to help you.)

Bill Van Fleet
Humanianity, free at
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

"From what you say, you wish to help this individual, who actually has not asked for your help. "

I never ask to be prayed for yet some people feel that they have the need to pray for me and even being smug to tell me that they are praying for me. Not only I never asked for, there is no need for anyone to pray (evidence shows that prayer simply doesn't work but people refuse to accept that) let alone pray for me. Which one is worse? One is pointing out facts, another is wishful thinking. People involved in wishful thinking don't really believe in it either and know that they actually have to do some work to get things done in real life or have others do the work. Either way any real work is being done by humans.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Bill Van Fleet said...

Perhaps prayer is for the person praying, and is the exercising of benovolence toward and concern for the person prayed for. And if the person doing the praying believes in what he or she is doing, then the person who is praying is exercising and strengthening the capacity to care for another. If someone prays for you, it doesn't do anything bad to you. I see nothing to be gained from taking offense. It is the effort to wish you well, within the belief system of the praying individual. Taking offense actually may foster the stereotype of the atheist as angry, angry at Christians, angry at social convention, angry at God, etc. I understand the anger at being regarded as evil within a society that demands belief as an act of obedience, belief in the nonbelievable, but I don't think the answer to the problem is motivated by that anger.

Bill Van Fleet
Humanianity, free at
HomoRationalis.com

Anonymous said...

Interesting. However experiment showed that people who knew they are being prayed for are doing worse then those who didn't ().

So in telling people that you pray for them you actually do worse to them according to the researchers.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Bill Van Fleet said...

You will be happy to know that I am going to make a specific point of avoiding praying for you.

If you wish, I will even pray against you.

My best wishes.

Bill Van Fleet
Humanianity, free at
HomoRationalis.com