Modern Christianity: Believe in a loving God in spite of the Bible

June 13, 2007 at 7:07 am 35 comments

Open Bible

On my previous blog Martha Mihaly made the following comment:

I must agree that it would appear the root of much evil in the world seems to be the mis-interpretation of religious belief. Zealots of any kind will always be dangerous. As with anything, I suppose the conflict comes from literal interpretation/implementation of dogma.

In my early days of questioning my Christian faith, I started down the path of classing fundamentalists as “mis-interpreting” the Bible. In my view, they just did not grasp what Christianity was all about. They did not truly understand God as the loving, compassionate father in heaven who sent Jesus to correct the obvious false view the Old Testament painted of him and to demonstrate his love and compassion towards the world. They somehow believed God was as the Old Testament portrayed him.

Of course, once I opened my mind to the belief that the Bible was not the inerrant Word of God, the floodgates of inconsistencies and contradictions began to present itself. Prior to that I could so easily parrot this statement:

The Bible is 66 books written by 40 different authors over a span of 1500 years by people of varying backgrounds – shepherds, fishermen, doctors, kings, prophet, and others – containing a variety of different genres – history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, letters, and apocalyptic just to name a few – written in 3 different continents, in 3 different languages, yet tells a consistent story without contradiction or error.

However, I began seeing inconsistencies in the storyline. I began seeing glaring contradictions. After believing the Old Testament did not accurately describe God, my next step was to believe that the early church somehow corrupted the New Testament. For example, they added Jesus being mean and nasty to the Pharisees. They added Paul’s bigotry towards women and a host of other “doctrines” that were inconsistent with my version of Christianity.

One of my big disappointments came when I sat down to attempt to pull out the “real” teachings of Jesus out of the Gospels and only came up with a single page of teachings. When I began the exercise, I fully expected to only have to drop a few verses here and there. I then began to find the verses in the Old Testament that misrepresented God. I expected to find a handful but discovered verse upon verse upon verse. Pretty soon, the entire Bible was falling apart for me.

I could no longer hold to the view that fundamentalists were misinterpreting the Bible because the overwhelming evidence was in their view of God. I came to the conclusion I was the one misinterpreting the Bible. The God of the Bible is not a kind, compassionate, loving Father in heaven. Jesus was not a peace-loving, compassionate, kind, merciful savior of the world.

For me it came to a point that the only option was to take the Bible as God’s Word or throw the whole thing out as the creation of man. I, of course, over time chose the latter.

So, for the Christians who hold to the view that God is kind and merciful in spite of the picture the Bible paints of him or that Jesus was truly came to bring peace and demonstrate God’s compassion for the world in spite of the picture the Gospels paint of him, I can relate. However, I must warn you it is a very difficult to keep that egg in the spoon as you’re running through the realities of life. I sincerely hope you have better luck than I did.

- The de-Convert

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Evangelism at Its Best I still have beliefs, do you?

35 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jonas Lundström  |  June 13, 2007 at 4:38 am

    I am not sure how you mean when you say that Jesus was not a peace-loving saviour. Maybe your concept of “peace” is incoherent? If we for the sake of argument take Jesus as only a character in a story, what exactly is it about this character that is not peace-loving and merciful? Please give a few examples… Is it the hard words to the religious and political establishment? If that is the case, I think your concept of peace is unfruitful. A merciful person has to confront unjustice in a sharp way, else she/he will leave people in the hands of evil, I think. Jesus did not force his way upon the unwilling masses, he invited people to come along. And on the cross, he chose to forgive those punishing him, not returning evil with evil. To me, this is very peace-loving indeed.

  • 2. mahud  |  June 13, 2007 at 5:51 am

    I stopped reading the Bible for a few years. There was a brief period, when more open to the possibility that Christianity was true, but with my liberal attitude to the Bible, it was kind of doomed to failure.

    For a while I maintained prayer, God, and Jesus, but the Bible just became alien to me, and I no longer trusted it for guidance in my life. I wasn’t comfortable just picking and choosing the bits that did speak to me, mostly from Jesus teachings and some of the epistle stuff, and ignoring the other stuff.

    Jesus for me is a teacher of his time, influenced by his culture’s perception of the cosmos and the bliss beyond, as are all other great historical teachers that pop up every so often and attempt to elevate the thinking of their contemporaries. And the same goes for those who develop and interpret their master’s teachings.

    But as we view the cosmos differently than past humanity, our ethics change, and I believe that no ancient teacher of the past can be fully relied upon to provide the perfect answers for living.

    I still have a strong believe in God, but It is no longer compatible with out-dated Christianity.

  • 3. epiphanist  |  June 13, 2007 at 6:35 am

    That line about Jesus being mean and nasty to the Pharisees (and Sadducees) is interesting. It shows some acceptance and empathy for the P’s and S’s. While this is a commendable and necessary part of the process which can lead to acceptance and forgiveness, I wonder if it is linked to a fundamentalist mindset? Fundamentalists are locked in to a literal and rigid interpretation of the Old Testament like the Pharisees and Sadducees were. Jesus, of course, came to upset this ridiculous insistence on ritual worship. The P’s and S’s fought back by trying to trip him over continually with all the weird mosaic laws, and eventually succeeded in a worldly sense. Our Fundamentalists somehow find a way around this conflict of interest. This is a piece of the puzzle which I admit I cannot understand.

  • 4. Martha Mihaly  |  June 13, 2007 at 6:50 am

    I stand corrected in my choice of wording. Mis-interpretation should likely have been interpretation

    Thank you.

  • 5. Martha Mihaly  |  June 13, 2007 at 6:51 am

    Well, I think I also need correcting in the editor usage!

  • 6. agnosticatheist  |  June 13, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Martha,

    I think using either word in your statement would mean the same thing. Even if you use the word “interpretation,” I believe you would disagree with their “interpretation” hence wouldn’t that be a “mis-interpretation?”

    aA

  • 7. astudent  |  June 13, 2007 at 8:35 am

    “They did not truly understand God as the loving, compassionate father in heaven who sent Jesus to correct the obvious false view the Old Testament painted of him and to demonstrate his love and compassion towards the world. They somehow believed God was as the Old Testament portrayed him.”
    I guess I just don’t understand. It seems to me that the Old Testament view of God is correct. The Old Testament was commissioned by God. Why would He commission a Book that had a obvious false view of Him? If you believe the Old Testament has a false view of God then I can understand why you believe there are inconsistencies.

    “They added Paul’s bigotry towards women and a host of other “doctrines” that were inconsistent with my version of Christianity.”
    I guess there are two ways to look at the Bible. One can view it as absolute truth and when something doesn’t seem true look for the clue that gives understanding. The other way is if one already has a version and he, or she finds something that does not fit their way of interpreting, decide that the Bible is wrong instead of that they are wrong. (Kind of like saying God is wrong and I am right) After all it is God’s Book, perhaps one should write their own book instead of declaring a book that they did not write is wrong.

    “One of my big disappointments came when I sat down to attempt to pull out the “real” teachings of Jesus out of the Gospels and only came up with a single page of teachings.”
    I wonder how you determined what the “real” teachings were and what disqualified any teaching.

    “The God of the Bible is not a kind, compassionate, loving Father in heaven. Jesus was not a peace-loving, compassionate, kind, merciful savior of the world.”
    If there is a God, you breathe His air, with the lungs He created, and you use the mind that He gave you. He created everything that is. If He is not kind, compassionate, and loving why did He create everything? Keep in mind that he even allows anyone to rail against Him (for now). Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified for the worst of sinners and you say He was not compassionate! What more could He do? Even if one doesn’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, one would have to admit that the story depicts one who is compassionate.

    I would be interested to hear how Jesus reacted in a way that was not kind. Even when He seemed He was being mean and nasty to the Pharisees it was for their own good. If you do not consider that if they did not change they were headed for condemnation, then perhaps it would seem mean and nasty. If you keep the main thing the main thing it was the correct thing to do.

  • 8. Heather  |  June 13, 2007 at 11:23 am

    I think what’s interesting is how many read the Bible with ‘bible blinders’ on. DagoodS had a recent post where in the early process of his deconversion, he asked for the opinions of other Christians in Sunday School on the following scenario: the Qur’an had a passage where Allah gave the Palistine land to the Muslims, as well as permission to kill all the non-Muslism. The Qur’an also claimed that those who were not Muslims were infidels, and those who remained unconverted , the Muslims could attack the non-Muslims, kill them, and keep the women and children as rightful rewards.

    The Sunday School people said that such behavior was wrong, and why wouldn’t anyone see otherwise? DagoodS than said that the passages weren’t from the Qur’an, but actually from Deut 20:10-18, and it was the Hebrews. Eventually, the response was that it was a different time, yet two minutes ago, they were condemning the actions.

    But his example just serves to show that in any religion, the benefit of doubt is given to the creeds or the books or the followers, than wouldn’t be given to another religion, or to anyone outside one particular religion.

    And that’s basically how I read the Bible. I ask if I’d accept the actions or statements in another context. Say if I were reading a historical document, or reading the Qur’an. I wouldn’t, and in order to do so, I’d have to change the standards applied to evaluating the validity. Which is why I approach the Bible as people’s response in trying to explain something beyond our perception.

    **For example, they added Jesus being mean and nasty to the Pharisees. ** Does anyone know if the Pharisees were acurately portrayed in the Gospels? It doesn’t seem so, especially when watching the evolution from Mark to John. Read in that order, the attitude slowly creeps to the anti-semetic side.

  • 9. agnosticatheist  |  June 13, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Jonus,

    I am not sure how you mean when you say that Jesus was not a peace-loving saviour. Maybe your concept of “peace” is incoherent?

    It’s a struggle for me to answer this since I do believe that if Jesus existed, he probably was a peace loving individual. However, the Gospels do not portray him as such. In fact, they attribute the very opposite even to his very words:

    Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’

    aA

  • 10. agnosticatheist  |  June 13, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Heather,

    Does anyone know if the Pharisees were acurately portrayed in the Gospels? It doesn’t seem so, especially when watching the evolution from Mark to John. Read in that order, the attitude slowly creeps to the anti-semetic side.

    Personally, I do not believe they were accurately represented. For example, if you read the teachings of the Pharisees from the century prior to the birth of Jesus, you’ll realize that Jesus used much of their teachings in his message.

    Another point to notice is that Paul, writing his letters prior to the Gospels being written, did not seem to know that the Pharisees were bad guys since he was very proud of his heritage. He also didn’t know of the virgin birth and lots of other Gospel myths but that’s for a later discussion :)

    Here’s a book on the subject I plan to read someday:

    aA

  • 11. Heather  |  June 13, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    aA,

    **Another point to notice is that Paul, writing his letters prior to the Gospels being written, did not seem to know that the Pharisees were bad guys since he was very proud of his heritage. ** That’s the other reason why I’m suspect of the portrayel. Paul saw it as an advantage, and didn’t seem to have the dislike that is throughout the Gospels.

  • 12. Justin  |  June 13, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    aA quotes: Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’

    There have been several interpretations of this scripture, the main of course being that ‘although the ultimate end of the gospel is peace with God, the immediate result of the gospel is frequently conflict. Conversion to Christ can result in strained family relationships, persecution, and even martyrdom. Following Christ presupposes a willingness to endure such hardships. The sword is a metaphor of struggle, and Jesus Demands total commitment from his followers.’

  • 13. tobeme  |  June 13, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    A very interesting conversation!

  • 14. pbandj  |  June 13, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    i would like to speak in an allegory for a moment:

    there is a man who has a wife and children. he is a loving husband and father. he is also kind and compassionate. he always invites strangers into his home, and goes out of his way to meet all of his neighbors. one night, he is asleep in bed, when he hears the window downstairs shatter. he jumps out of bed and picks up a baseball bat. he creeps out of his room and sees a man with a mask on holding a pistol. the man in the mask instantly runs down the hall into the children’s room. the father, knowing what might happen chases the man with the baseball bat. he then yells at the top of his voice and swings the bat wildly. the man who was about to run into the children’s room, suddenly swerves and dives out the hallway window.

    a couple questions:

    why did the father appears so unkind to the burglar if he was really kind?
    was the father loving by scaring the burglar away? or should he have stopped to ask him to kindly leave the house?

    peter

  • 15. DagoodS  |  June 13, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    pbandj,

    I think your allegory was right on point. Obviously, if the burglar had utilized the principles that Jesus taught in Mark 3:27, he would never been in danger of being hit by the homeowner. Point taken!

    Seriously, as to the Pharisees:

    According to Josephus, the Pharisees were helpful, kind, just, contemplative on the law, and were so popular with the people that the Sadducees (the ruling religious class) were forced to align themselves with the Pharisees at times, to get the people to do what they wanted. (Of course ol’ Josephus himself was a Pharisee, so he might be a bit prejudiced in that regard.)

    Curiously, though, Luke records the Pharisees as warning Jesus (Luke 13:31) and when it came to persecuting Christians, the author of Acts records the Pharisees as being empathetic to Christianity. (Acts 5:38-39 & 23:6-7)

    As Heather was quick to perceive, by the time the last canonical Gospel was written, we come across the term “Jews” in addition to “Pharisees,” demonstrating the greater rift between Gentiles and Judaism.

    But the thing that is the most bothersome to me, is the fact that the Pharisees enjoyed discussing and contemplating the law, the prophets and the histories. We even have a term—“midrash” to describe how they would attempt to derive different principles and concepts out of the same story. These are the guys who defined “making a mountain out of a molehill.” It is what they did.

    Yet time and again, we see Jesus recorded as shutting down the Pharisees with just a clever phrase. Sometimes, such as “Love God, love your neighbor” with phrases they already knew! This is so atypical of what Pharisees would be like, I question it.

    (And on a personal note, I am often told by distant relatives and strangers how they appeared in court, and by virtue of their masterful skills, were able to run rings around the other attorney, and how the judge was so impressed she wanted to sponsor them to go to law school. “My Cousin Vinny” if you will. Yet oddly, in all my years, I have not seen that happen, nor have I had it happen to me. Yes, people without lawyers have beaten me. On the facts. Never on some wonderful skill. I get this same tingly feeling with Jesus.)

    Further, a common Greek tool of developing a principle of philosophy was to have a “fop” or the proverbial straight person debating with the vastly more intelligent philosopher, who is able to deliver their pithy statement in response to the impish questions of the fool.

    A Greek literary item that we see played out in the Gospels between Jesus and the Pharisees. Who conveniently “pop up” in stories in houses and fields where Jesus is, ask a silly question, receive the masterful foil by Jesus, and then immediately disappear.

    Too packaged. Too easy. Too unlike reality, more like a story.

  • 16. societyvs  |  June 13, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    “However, I must warn you it is a very difficult to keep that egg in the spoon as you’re running through the realities of life. I sincerely hope you have better luck than I did.” (AA)

    Thanks for the encouragement. I can understand a lot of the blog written about inconsistencies within the texts – again as you mention the 40 authors and varieties of aspects of life (and era). But it’s really not that bad of a faith all things considered.

  • 17. agnosticatheist  |  June 13, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    societyvs,

    All things considered :)

    Actually, if you’re a Christian who doesn’t believe the Bible, I would agree.

    Justin,

    Jesus Demands total commitment from his followers.

    The question I would ask is this – total commitment to what?

    aA

  • 18. Justin  |  June 14, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Hi aA,

    the “total commitment” refers to the commitment to the revolation that Jesus had brought. Before Jesus, there was great hyporcisy among synagogue leaders and followers of the Temple – committment to God had become only surface, and not in spirit (we see the same today) – they were just professing it with their mouths but not living it; it had become corrupt. As you likely know, Jesus warns that this type of behavior will not be good enough if you are to follow Him and His teachings, Matthew 7:21-23 and Matthew 8:21 are just two examples.

    God Bless,
    Justin

  • 19. Heather  |  June 14, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Justin,

    **the “total commitment” refers to the commitment to the revolation that Jesus had brought. Before Jesus, there was great hyporcisy among synagogue leaders and followers of the Temple ** Is this stated, though, anywhere outside of the four Gospels?

    I would agree with you that we see many following a form of legalistic Christianity today, though.

  • 20. agnosticatheist  |  June 14, 2007 at 11:21 am

    This is really an impasse.

    The Pharisees were supposed “bad guys” because they cared about their Holy Scriptures much like Christians do today. Jesus judged them for their love for the scripture and trying to follow every bit of it – because he said they missed the point.

    My question is this – “Do modern day Christians get the point?”

    Jesus defied the laws, the rituals, the scared cows of the Holy Scriptures. Yet, Christians judge the “liberal Christians” who do the very same thing about the stuff written in the N.T. (which really went back to a version of the O.T. law).

    Of course, as I stated earlier, I tried to stay in this place and cling to my Christianity but it’s really not sustainable (at least not for me).

    aA

  • 21. epiphanist  |  June 14, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    DaggoodS says “Further, a common Greek tool of developing a principle of philosophy was to have a “fop” or the proverbial straight person debating with the vastly more intelligent philosopher, who is able to deliver their pithy statement in response to the impish questions of the fool.”
    This is an atheist technique too! Lampoon the scripture, portray the fundamentalist or theist as the “fop” and have the vastly more intelligent atheist deliver the pithy statement. The same trick is used by Dawkins. Nice try, but all you have proved is that there is nothing new under the sun.

  • 22. societyvs  |  June 14, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    “My question is this – “Do modern day Christians get the point?”” (AA)

    I think they don’t in a lot of areas – but that’s what good old awareness campaigns are all about – and blogs for that matter are good at this. I see a very divergent Christian faith out there and one where the Christian right slings rocks (allegorically) at the Christian liberals – yet the best teaching I can see comes from liberal camps (ie: here and now meaningful stuff).

    I think both sides need to sit down and start to deliberate the ideas within this faith and be honest one with another – in discussion – to hash out doctrine and dogma from yesteryear – that needs to change – and deal with a society around it they can proactively help (ex: feeding the poor, re-hab clinics, education programs, etc). I think the discussion had begun and will continue until that monstrous Christian right realizes their Phariseetical path they have trodden – and seek change.

  • 23. pastorofdisaster  |  June 14, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks for this post. I really appreciated it filling in some of your story. I am sure that it will keep me thinking for the next couple of days. I may not agree in totality, but my canon within the canon has shrunk dramatically over the years. A lot of people want to redeem the texts, instead of rejecting them. Bravo for having the courage to move yourself away from what you considered destructive and abusive.

  • [...] 15th, 2007 In my last post, “Modern Christianity: Believe in a loving God in spite of the Bible,” I made reference to the inconsistent beliefs within [...]

  • 25. astudent  |  June 15, 2007 at 8:13 am

    “I think what’s interesting is how many read the Bible with ‘bible blinders’ on.”
    Do you really think that you do not have ‘blinders’ on? That is one of the things that I have learned living this long. If someone is accusing others of a particular error you better watch them. The man who cries thief often, is usually stealing.
    I have a question. Why is it so important that you try to prove the Bible wrong? I have to admit that it safer than trying to prove the Koran wrong. If you really don’t believe in a God then why don’t you try to prove the Koran wrong? Or any other holy book wrong?
    Do your ‘blinders’ hide other religions and other books? Or is it just safer to malign the Bible?
    Woops, that’s five questions! Well, you know how dumb we are. I had my blinders on and couldn’t see the other four. Dang, it’s six questions.

  • 26. Heather  |  June 15, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Astudent,

    Go re-read why I said people read with ‘bible blinders’ on, and thus what I based this claim on. When people thought the story came from the Koran, the behavior was wrong and the people following that book should know better. When people found out that he actually pulled the story from the Bible, the story was no longer considered wrong but excused away. How would you explain the shift in behavior and the sudden justification for the story? Those are usually along the lines of reading something with blinders on.

    **If you really don’t believe in a God then why don’t you try to prove the Koran wrong? Or any other holy book wrong?** Because I don’t live in a country lead by people who rule according to the Koran. I live in a country where Christianity dominates.

    **Do your ‘blinders’ hide other religions and other books? Or is it just safer to malign the Bible?** Ah, but now you’re changing the topic. I’m not maligning the Bible, I’m commenting on how it is used and interpreted.

  • 27. astudent  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Heather,
    I get a kick out of you. I don’t mean to disparage you in any way, but does it really matter what you based your claim on? I meant that you read the Bible with blinders on. You only see what you want to see and then you accuse anyone who believes the Bible of the same thing.
    You do understand the concept of reading with blinders because you can see it in others, but you can not recognize that you do the same thing.
    You are correct in that you do not live in a country lead by those who rule according to the Koran. I don’t have to tell you what they do to those who disagree with their holy book. What makes you think that you live in a country where Christianity dominates? It is my impression of your statement that you think you do. Our country did not get this way overnight, and it did not get this way following Christian principles.

    “Ah, but now you’re changing the topic. I’m not maligning the Bible, I’m commenting on how it is used and interpreted.”
    Well, you could have fooled me. I believe you are also interpreting the Bible and with blinders. Your interpretation or unfounded guess that Paul was very proud of his heritage leaves out the confession of Paul (1 Tim 1:13-16) He was a Pharisees when he persecuted Christians.

  • 28. DagoodS  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:43 am

    astudent: Do you really think that you do not have ‘blinders’ on?

    I agree that I have blinders on. But realizing that is not enough. For me. The question, then is how to create a method by which as much bias can be removed. To both recognize the blinders, and frame, as best as possible, a question to remove the possibility of the bias affecting my answer.

    And one such way is to talk to other people. Talk to people who have no such bias. Who have no stake in the matter. Of course, finding such “neutral” people is not always easy. So I tried seeing what those who would not have any stake in whether the Qur’an was true or not would say. And they found this command to be evil.

    What method do YOU propose to utilize to remove one’s blinders?

    astudent: If someone is accusing others of a particular error you better watch them. The man who cries thief often, is usually stealing.

    Hmmm. And you accuse us of maligning the Bible. Therefore, by use of this method…

    I agree with the premise that we often assume others have the same faults we do. As you say, a thief presumes others steal. Which brings me back to the same question—rather than fling statements back and forth as to who has the thicker blinders—what method do you propose that we all can remove our blinders?

    astudent: If you really don’t believe in a God then why don’t you try to prove the Koran wrong? Or any other holy book wrong?

    Because, as heather states, I live in an environment that is overwhelmed by Bible-believers. Plus I know a great deal more about the Bible. Plus it interests me.

    Oh, and Paul did not write 1 Timothy, and his claim of being a Pharisee is not exactly clear in Phil. 3:5. He may have been explaining his position on the Torah (as compared to other Jewish sects) OR he may have been saying he was a Pharisee.

    See, it is not so much that we “malign” the Bible, as that we consider the possibilities available.

  • 29. agnosticatheist  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:44 am

    astudent,

    We would disagree w/you here and believe Heather is reading the Bible with an open mind and you’re reading the Bible with blinders on.

    For example: Would you say that God is a genocidal murderer? If you say no then how do you explain all these verses unless you put a “blinder” on…

    http://literalbible.blogspot.com/search/label/Killings?&max-results=100

    aA

  • 30. Heather  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Astudent,

    I would be happy to address your other points, if you would explain the following: in my example that I used to support my statement, how do you account for the defense of the situation when it was discovered that the example was actually from the bible? When the speaker said the story was from the Koran, the audience thought it was horrible. When the speaker revealed that it was actually from the Bible, the audience excused it saying that it was from another time.

    Please don’t answer this saying that I have my own blinders on — that doesn’t address my situation, but changes the topic. In any other circumstance, we could call that a double-standard.

  • 31. astudent  |  June 15, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Heather,
    It is really pretty simple if and when you consider what the Christians knew about Deu 20:10-18. Let me try to lay it out for you.
    First the people who lived in the cities were enemies (Deu 20:1)
    Second their enemies were to be given a chance to surrender. It is true that they would be slaves; however that is not a bad offer when you consider the alternative and don’t forget that they were enemies.
    Third if they did resist only the men were to be destroyed, as only men were soldiers in that day. The women and children could not offer much resistance.
    Forth in the cities that God gave Israel everything was to be destroyed and God told them why. It was not out of meanness, but for the good of God’s people (Deu 20:18).
    The Christians at the Bible study knew nothing about the Koran. What did you think they would say believing that the god of the Koran is not God? If I said go and kill all of the people in a city they would say my behavior was wrong, because I don’t have the right to give such a command. God, because He made everything and owns everything does have the right to give that command, or any command. God did not give the Israelites permission to kill as in the scenario; He gave them an order to kill.
    Now I have answered you and I expect you to “be happy to address” my other points. That was the deal.

    Agnosticatheist,
    Of course not. As I said to Heather, God made everything out of His material, with His equipment, and His time, so He has every right to do with it as He pleases. We think we are self-sufficient, but no one gave themselves life. God takes every ones life one way or the other and He will take mine and yours also. So He definitely is not a genocidal murderer, nor is He any kind of murderer. The definition of the word murder is, “The unlawful killing of one human being by another, especially with premeditated malice.” God is not a human being there for He can not murder.

    DagoodS,
    Now there is an honest statement and a darn (I shouldn’t say damn) good question.
    I don’t think you can find anyone who is not biased. You may find some who claim to be unbiased. Everyone has a stake in the matter.
    Perhaps one could take the position of “Devils Advocate” it wouldn’t remove blinders, but it might force one to look around them.

    “Hmmm. And you accuse us of maligning the Bible. Therefore, by use of this method…”
    Now that is funny and I had to laugh. However the definition of malign is “To make evil, harmful, and often untrue statements about; speak evil of” and I am not doing this.

    “I live in an environment that is overwhelmed by Bible-believers”
    God’s people have always been a small percentage of all the people. Actually it is we who are overwhelmed.

    “Oh, and Paul did not write 1 Timothy”
    (1 Tim 1:1&2 NIV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

    “See, it is not so much that we “malign” the Bible, as that we consider the possibilities available.” To malign the Bible. Read the definition again.

  • 32. Heather  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Astudent,

    **What did you think they would say believing that the god of the Koran is not God? If I said go and kill all of the people in a city they would say my behavior was wrong, because I don’t have the right to give such a command. ** So the entire matter, according to this reasoning, becomes subjective. The action itself never changed, but you categorize it as good because it’s in the Bible, not because the action is good in itself. If in the Koran, the action is bad. If in the Bible, the action is good. The action wasn’t accepted on its own merit, but because it was in the Bible. When the action was in another book, it wasn’t accepted. Even the definition of ‘good’ becomes subjective here. Again, to many, this comes across as a double-standard.

    **I don’t mean to disparage you in any way, but does it really matter what you based your claim on?** It always matters what one bases a claim on. When you make a claim about God, doesn’t it matter what you base that on? As with here, I made a ‘thesis’ and then said this is why I say that. If you made a ‘thesis’ about God, you would then back it up with support.

    ** What makes you think that you live in a country where Christianity dominates?** Because, as DagoodS states, we live in a country that is heavily populated by Bible-believers. These are believers that have a strong voice in politics, that can heavily affect women’s reproductive choices (and I’m not talking about abortion, I’m talking about birth control and sex education), events in the Middle East, and science, just to name a few. Evangelical Christians make up a hefty percentage of the Republican base, and evangelical Christians are played a role in electing our current President.

    **(1 Tim 1:1&2 NIV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.**

    Except that’s using the letter to Timothy to prove the letter true, and I believe that is known as circular reasoning. There are a lot of scholars who have compared this letter with what is determined to be the genuine ones, and based on elements such as content, grammer, and word choice.

    **However the definition of malign is “To make evil, harmful, and often untrue statements about; speak evil of” ** This would depend on perspective. To us, Paul didn’t write the letter Timothy. In those times, it was common practice to write something and attach the name of a famous person to it. Based on what we’ve studied in terms of the creation of the Bible, it’s not an untrue statement. As stated, we are considering a variety of viewpoints and interpretations.

  • 33. astudent  |  June 16, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Heather,
    Thanks for honoring your word and addressing my other issues.
    Yes, the action is subjective. If there is a God then He has the right to command everyone to be executed. The Bible is the Word of God. Just the return of the Nation Israel in our time should convince anyone of this. The action was good when taken from a Biblical view. If you understand death as separation, instead of the end of everything, you can see that the second death is much more important than the first. The first death is separation from the earth and everything in it, but the second death is separation from God and it lasts for eternity. I have no double standard. My standard is the Bible. How many standards do you have, about God, and if you have more than one would any of them be a standard?

    “It always matters what one bases a claim on. When you make a claim about God, doesn’t it matter what you base that on?”
    Well, I may have been too quick to make that statement. I’ll agree with you it does matter.
    Wasn’t your thesis based on deception? The account was Biblical yet presented as from the Koran. Can you really find truth in deception or have you just proved we can be deceived?

    “Evangelical Christians make up a hefty percentage of the Republican base, and evangelical Christians are played a role in electing our current President.”
    Heather, you have nothing to worry about! I suppose that by evangelical Christians you mean, “Of, relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible”. Well the Bible says God appoints the authorities and if you are truly evangelical you believe your vote doesn’t count at all. I am as evangelical as one can get, at least that is my goal, so I will leave the perceived responsibility to you. Your problem is with those who only think the Bible is their sole authority.

    “Except that’s using the letter to Timothy to prove the letter true”
    Who wrote the letter can not be “proved” either way. I merely accepted what it said and of course you did not. Your statement attests to that “To us, Paul didn’t write the letter Timothy”. That was based on “There are a lot of scholars who have compared this letter with what is determined to be the genuine ones”, but there are a lot of scholars that disagree with that result.

    “This would depend on perspective.”
    I’ll agree with you about that also. Because I believe the Bible to be the Word of God many of your statements malign it in my eyes. However I don’t believe that you do it on purpose. If you do not question the Bible you will never truly believe it. I did not always believe the Bible, but when I began to really think about this world and how it came about I found that I had to believe in a God. My belief in the God of the Bible was only a natural result of searching for the truth. I apologize if I seem to try to tie your hands. If it would mean that you would reach the same conclusions as I have then by all means malign away.

  • 34. DagoodS  |  June 18, 2007 at 9:06 am

    astudent,

    I am glad you recognize the question of how to remove one’s bias as a difficult prospect. I was hoping you could provide some insight as to how you particularly, propose to do so. Unfortunately, often when I bring this topic up, the other person proclaims, “Oh, we are all bias” and leaves it there. While I agree, I would like to see a method even proposed as to how to remove it.

    Interestingly, before we even get to the question of what to do to remove the inherent blinders we all have, the first question is whether we want to remove the blinders. Part of the point of my sharing that story about using the Qur’an was that people don’t want to remove the blinders.

    They never pursue the question of how to remove bias, because they have no interest in doing so in the first place. How many of those people paused, even for a second, and thought, “Hmmm…maybe I ought to re-look at how I handle the stories of the Tanakh”? Answer: None. I know it. They know it. We all know it.

    If you truly believe I (or any other person) has blinders; I can tell you I have already answered the question of whether I would like to remove those blinders. I do. I am now looking at the what as to how to do so. What (again) do you propose?

    A good example of this is Paul’s authorship of 1 Timothy. I didn’t just mention that to engage in the debate—I was more curious as to the length and breadth of your own study in that regard. I was curious as to how you would respond to that claim?

    Do you understand the different Greek words used in the Pastorals as compared to Paul’s agreed genuine writing? Do you understand the advanced church structure, unseen in the other letters of Paul? Or the placement of Timothy in the wrong city (if you hold Acts to be historical.)? Or the difficulty in placing the writing of Timothy within a specific year of Paul’s life? Or the historical convention of a disciple writing a work in their leader’s name?

    To be honest, it is not easy for me to take seriously someone accusing me of having “blinders” when they haven’t engaged the study as I have. If you had replied, “Oh, here is why I hold Paul to be the author of Timothy” and provided more than its internal claim, then I would appreciate the effort.

    The only scholars left, that I can tell, who hold Paul as the author of Timothy reside in the Conservative Christian sector. In other words—those with (Ta-da!) a bias toward having Paul be the author of Timothy.

    Study up on it, and then tell us why we are being bias as to agreeing to very well-supported arguments by persons who hold no stake in whether Paul wrote 1 Timothy or not.

    astudent: If there is a God then He has the right to command everyone to be executed.

    Interesting choice of words. “Right.” Look, astudent, we realize that you have as much ability to verify as to what God has a “right” to do as we have. None. For example—if God can kill us, can God lie to us too? Can God withhold salvation if we believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord? Can God kick someone out of heaven? Can God bring someone out of Hell?

    The reality is, that if God is God, He can do any of these things, up to and including executing us. Which is a bit terrifying to Christians, I think. So they create (with their own blinders, I fear) a curious bit of God. One that can kill at whim, but cannot lie. One that can see the future, but cannot prevent it. One that MUST do what the Christian demands (asking for salvation) and MUST provide heaven if the right levers are pulled and buttons pushed. But can somehow decide who gets a shot at those levers and buttons.

    Simply put, they create a massive, awesome creature and then confine it to their own wants and desires. (Reminds me of the Genie in Aladdin “Phenomenal Cosmic Power! itty-bitty living space.”)

    What, exactly are the “rights” that God has and, more importantly, what “rights” is God denied?

  • 35. astudent  |  June 20, 2007 at 8:41 am

    “Interestingly, before we even get to the question of what to do to remove the inherent blinders we all have, the first question is whether we want to remove the blinders.”

    You are quite correct we don’t usually want to remove the blinders. We earned our blinders by much study and it seems such a waste of time and effort to remove them. I have a vested interest in my belief. If I am correct I will live forever and even be happy forever. It is very difficult for me to understand why an atheist wants to believe there is no God, or a Muslim wants to believe in a God that couldn’t care less about him.
    No, I don’t believe just because I want to. I knew you would jump on that.

    “I would like to see a method even proposed as to how to remove it.”

    Well, because blinders are acquired over a period of time I think one would have to go all the way back to the beginning of their erudition and start to relearn everything. One would start with the question, “Is there a God, or not?” The answer to this question is not found in the Bible. Surprisingly I believe science would answer this question and that there is because there has to be a designer. You and I can see and admit that we have blinders (I thought you did), but most scientists will not admit they have blinders. So you have to reach your own conclusions from scientific evidence. You said, “Hmmm…maybe I ought to re-look at how I handle the stories of the Tanakh?” You would not start with this question, because it is not the starting point. Too many points have been accepted as true before one acquires a way of viewing the Tanakh. Kind of like starting to build a two story house on the second floor.

    It seems to me that you built your understanding without first answering the basic question “Is there really a God”. It is only logical that if you do not believe there is a God that you would not accept the Word of God as truth.

    “Do you understand the different Greek words used in the Pastorals as compared to Paul’s agreed genuine writing?”

    Suppose Paul is writing to someone who would better understand if he used different words. Pharisees were very intelligent men and Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, so if Paul were writing to a person of much less intelligence, or from a different environment, perhaps he would use different words (A slightly different language: something like English and American). The truth is we don’t know and we do not have all of the information that would enable us to be sure if Paul wrote it, who this Timothy is (could be a different Timothy), or much of the background that might influence the questions you presented.

    “If you truly believe I (or any other person) has blinders; I can tell you I have already answered the question of whether I would like to remove those blinders. I do. I am now looking at the what as to how to do so. What (again) do you propose?”

    “To be honest, it is not easy for me to take seriously someone accusing me of having “blinders” when they haven’t engaged the study as I have.”

    Sorry, I thought you admitted that you had blinders.

    I didn’t start this blinder thing, but it is true the story that started it actually has three answers and they depend on one’s beliefs.

    The Christian that was told the god of the Qur’an made such a command would answer that it was wrong, because they believe the god of the Qur’an is not God. I do not see any double standard here at all. Their answer changed when the conditions of the story were changed. It was not the same scenario. It was deceptive and designed to be so.

    The Muslim would answer that there is no story like that in the Qur’an, and the atheist would just say that there is no God so it was just to justify killing and plundering.

    Perhaps it is not blinders, but merely the angle it is viewed from and that angle changes with what one believes.

    “Look, astudent, we realize that you have as much ability to verify as to what God has a “right” to do as we have. None.”

    You disagree with me and then you agreed by saying, “The reality is, that if God is God, He can do any of these things, up to and including executing us.”

    Of course I have the ability to verify what God has a right to do. You are mixing the right that God has to do something with what God will do.

    God never kills at whim, nor does He do anything at whim. He explained why those that were to be destroyed were to be. It is true that God can not lie, because if He were to say something was true it would become true and it would have always been true. Why do you say God can not prevent something in the future? Of course He can, because He does not, doesn’t mean that He cannot. He can do anything including making time reverse. (You know the story) You are right God MUST grant salvation if the right levers are pulled and buttons pushed, because He said He would and God is no liar. He would be if He reneged. It is not an obligation that man assigned to God, but one that is self-appointed. God made the levers and buttons.

    “What, exactly are the “rights” that God has and, more importantly, what “rights” is God denied?”

    God has all rights and no one can deny God anything. If He can be denied anything then He is not God. The idea and the question are absurd, but then they were meant to be.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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