Success without my emotional crutch (aka God)

August 21, 2008 at 12:01 am 99 comments

Do you remember that climatic scene at the end of Dumbo? It’s time for his big performance. He’s poised on a ledge, clutching the magic feather that gives him the ability to fly in his trunk. He jumps and WOOSH, the magic feather flies out of his grip! He’s plummeting toward the ground when his little mouse friend says to him, “Dumbo! Open dem ears!” Dumbo opens his ears and WOOSH, takes off like a hang glider. He learns that it wasn’t the magic feather that gave him the power to fly, but rather his special ears. The power to do extraordinary things was within him all along.

Much like Dumbo, all of my life I have been plagued by low self-confidence, but I too had a magic weapon: I called mine God. Dumbo was told that the magic feather would make him fly. I was told “with God all things are possible.” I believed that God had a plan for my life. Not only that, but I was told that God wanted me to be happy and successful, that he had “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I was sure that I was special to God, that I was one of his children, and that my status granted me privileges that I could not earn on my own. I was sure that where others failed, I would succeed, because I had God on my side and he would help me accomplish anything I set my mind to.

When I was 13 I tried out for a spot on a highly competitive club volleyball team. I was incredibly nervous and sure that my skills weren’t enough to qualify me for the position. I had only played one season of school volleyball in 7th grade, while several of the other girls had been playing club for two years. They were taller than me, stronger than me, and more experience than me. I was so sure that I wouldn’t make the team that I considered asking my mom to take me home before warm-ups were even over. But then I remembered that I was a child of God! I knew that if it was his will for my life that he would help me make the team. With a new sense of peace and confidence I completed tryouts, giving it my very best, and leaving the rest in God’s hands. When I found out that I made the team I said a quick prayer of thanks and ran off to tell my mom the good news.

When I was grappling with the decision to de-convert from Christianity, losing this source of self-confidence was one of the largest obstacles. As I considered what it would mean to no longer be a Christian, instances like the volleyball tryouts came to mind. I was a person who suffered from low self-esteem, and what small self-esteem I did have came from my belief in God. I had been taught that I was nothing without God—that all people are weak in mind, spirit, and will, but that God intervenes and is the source of all of our positive traits. That is why we give him the glory, and not ourselves. I was told so often that it was God who makes us strong, who gives us faith, who helps us persevere, and who helps us overcome. I was afraid that without God my life would fall apart, and that I wouldn’t have the confidence to get out of bed in the morning, let alone accomplish the lofty goals I had in mind for my future.

I used God as an emotional crutch. I thought that it would be impossible for me suffer through day to day life if I was unable to take my burdens and “lay them on the cross.” I couldn’t imagine tackling a problem or dealing with an emotionally stressful situation without having God to rely on. I was already dealing with rather severe depression and was convinced that my relationship with God was the only thing keeping my head above the water. I was afraid that without him I would sink so far into depression that I would never find my way out again.

Despite my fears for my emotional wellbeing, I couldn’t maintain belief in the Christian God the face of mounting evidence. I renounced my faith and waited for the avalanche.

That avalanche never came. Instead of finding myself bogged down further by depression, I found myself coming out of it. Having the courage to reject my religion also gave me the courage to change my life in other positive ways. I ended up taking the reins instead of waiting for God to intervene, and I took myself to a better place where I could find happiness. Knowing that I was capable of making positive changes, that I was the one responsible for my own happiness, increased my self-worth. I had removed myself from emotionally detrimental situations. I had cured my depression.

This increase of self-worth lead me to realize that I could be making more out of my life. I had always planned on attending the most prestigious college I could get myself into, and I was always a dedicated student, but my bout with depression came during the last few years of high school and caused my grades to slip well below Ivy League levels. I didn’t even attempt to apply to any of my dreams schools, opting instead just to go to my state university, which had admissions standards so low that they had actually been mocked on an episode of The Simpsons.

After my first year of college I had brought myself up to the good emotional place I mentioned and I was excelling in my schoolwork. I decided to start thinking about those dream schools again, and applied to three as a junior transfer.

As I was waiting to hear back from the schools my old self-confidence problems crept back into my life. I found myself wishing that I was a Christian again so I could pray to God for comfort and have the confidence that he had a great plan for my life. I was nervous that my grades weren’t good enough, that my essays weren’t good enough, and that I didn’t have what it takes intellectually. On top of that, the odds for being admitted as a junior transfer were much lower than those for being admitted as a freshman. I wanted to feel special like I did at volleyball tryouts. I didn’t feel special, and worse than that, I felt alone. These schools were evaluating me based on my merits and scholarly ability. They were either going accept me or reject me, and it was me alone. There was no God to intervene on my behalf or to guide the admission board’s decisions, there was no Divine Will. I had simply either worked hard enough to get in or I hadn’t.

I was accepted into all three schools, and chose to attend my first choice, UC Berkeley. I currently have a 4.0 and am in the top 4% of my class, and I did it all on my own. Just as Dumbo learned that he could fly without his feather, I learned that I could be successful without God. It turns out that the key to self-confidence, emotional stability, and perseverance was within me all along.

- orDover

[Cross-posted on The Art of Skepticism]

Entry filed under: orDover. Tags: , , , .

Religulous – Bill Maher The Religious Delusion

99 Comments Add your own

  • 1. clarissanash1  |  August 21, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I can relate to everything you are saying. I am not in the process of de-conversion, I’m just taking another route of my faith and journey with God.

    It’s funny, because Jesus is thought of and created to be this magical person that fixes all things and makes us feel better. Almost like the cure for all things gone bad.

    I believe, however, we go through things because it tests our faith in Him.

    Every death, every disappointment, every success, tests our faith.

    I’m not trying to “stop” your de-conversion, but I just wanted to let you know, you relate to a lot of Christians out in the blog world.

    I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know really what I’m saying, an I’m not going to pretend I do.

    Hopefully, I can give you a little bit of encouragement.

  • 2. ordover  |  August 21, 2008 at 2:00 am

    It’s funny, because Jesus is thought of and created to be this magical person that fixes all things and makes us feel better. Almost like the cure for all things gone bad.

    I don’t know if you’re talking about my story directly, but I never thought of Jesus as a magic cure-all. Rather I had confidence that he wanted me to prosper and be happy, just as it says in the Bible. I didn’t think, for example, that having “Jesus in my heart” would help me make the volleyball team or get me into a good college, but knowing that he had a plan for my life, that he was in charge, and leaving my life in his hands gave me peace and confidence. For example, if, as a Christian, I would have been rejected from one of the colleges I applied to, I would have been very disappointed, but I also would have been sure that it was just part of God’s plan, and that it would all work out for the better. But as an atheist, If I hadn’t been accepted into a good school I would have been much more upset and blame my shortcomings, without any assurance that somehow my life would end up being better despite the rejections.

    I’m pretty sure that’s the right attitude to have, as a Christian, to trust that God is in control and, no matter what, even if bad things happen, has a good plan for your life. That’s all I thought. No magic band-aids.

    I’m not trying to “stop” your de-conversion, but I just wanted to let you know, you relate to a lot of Christians out in the blog world.

    Well, you couldn’t stop my de-conversion, even if you were indeed trying to, because it happened several years ago and is throughly complete.

  • 3. ordover  |  August 21, 2008 at 2:05 am

    I should add that I realize “magic weapon” is used in the post, but that’s an allusion to Dumbo, not what I really thought.

  • 4. Yurka  |  August 21, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Was it ever a part of your Christian walk that Jesus died for your sins? That your nature by itself was wicked and Jesus was holy, and had redeemed you by his sacrifice? That you were born again and therefore hated your sins and had faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior?

    Unfortunately, it sounds like you were brought up in the ‘Word/Faith’ tradition …

    I disagree with almost everything that comes out of Marcus Borg’s mouth, but he did once come up with a nifty book title: “Meeting Jesus again for the first time” – which you should consider doing.
    Can I humbly suggest you slog through Acts, Romans and the gospels once more, and bracket the assumptions of the Word/Faith/Osteen camp until you are done?

    I think even ‘low’ self confidence involves a kind of pride that must be killed in order for us to submit ourselves with God. A
    kind of belief that we are entitled to this or that which is simply not true. With Job we must say, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

  • 5. Ubi Dubium  |  August 21, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Yurka, you are forgetting the crowd you are talking to here. You’re preaching, and we’ve heard it before. Please read the posts linked to beside the Red Exclamation Point on the right of your screen.

    Or dover, thanks for the post. I think a lot of us can identify with your experience. The “magic feather” of religion some of us were desperately clinging to never actually had any magic. Everything it brought out of us was already there in the first place.

  • 6. Lorena  |  August 21, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Wow! The first two paragraphs could have been extracted, word by word, from a Sunday morning pep talk, also known as a sermon.

    Great post!

  • 7. truthwalker  |  August 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    That was beautiful.

  • 8. Joan Ball  |  August 21, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I love coming here. I always find myself on the same journey in a different direction. I did everything on my own. I was the president of the class and the prom queen. I went to the Air Force Academy on a primary Congressional nomination. Doing it on my own served me well.
    Then I had some dark years where things didn’t go as planned (drinking/drugging/bad marriage, etc). Doing it on my own didn’t serve me well in those years.

    Then I finally “pulled myself up by my bootstraps” and got back on track. Got into recovery–power greater than myself came on board–and I became a VP at a PR agency, made a 6-figure salary, had a great house, great husband (who also made six-figures) a fantastic family, loads of dough, vacations in Europe, loads of happiness and contentment–and no stinkin’ Jesus. Doing in on my own with some free-floating self-defined spirituality served me well in those years.

    Had an unlikely conversion experience that I cannot deny (and I cannot explain, so no need to tell me that I had a delusion or indigestion). Since then I have lost almost everything I had. No more lucrative job. No more big house. In many ways my life has fallen apart–not the best marketing for Christianity…seems like doing it with Jesus didn’t serve me well there.

    And yet, in the process, something in me changed profoundly. I spend more time with my kids, I am definately less selfish and short tempered, I am more comfortable in my own skin and I have allowed myself to step out of the rat-race long enough to recognize that it was my identity. I won’t go too much further into the changes, because it might sound trite and preaching, which is not my intention. Suffice it to say, I’ve come to believe that I may never have had a true sense of what would or would not serve me well.

    Anyway, I can’t imagine carrying all of the doctrinal baggage that the people who grew up in church appear to carry. What a bummer. I read the Bible and have lots of questions–but, thankfully, I don’t see where it says that I can’t ask them. I also don’t think I will ever get them answered or that my inability to answer them means that they are not true. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from you guys.

  • 9. ordover  |  August 21, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Was it ever a part of your Christian walk that Jesus died for your sins? That your nature by itself was wicked and Jesus was holy, and had redeemed you by his sacrifice? That you were born again and therefore hated your sins and had faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior?

    Of course. As Ubi Dubium pointed out, we contributors are serious former Christians, not the shallow sort who go to church once a year and call themselves “Christian” out of convenience.

    Unfortunately, it sounds like you were brought up in the ‘Word/Faith’ tradition …

    I was not.

    I think even ‘low’ self confidence involves a kind of pride that must be killed in order for us to submit ourselves with God.

    Wow. How does low self-confidence involve pride? That makes no sense. I can only assume that you have never felt that kind of crippling lack of self-worth before, because if you had you would realize it’s a million miles away from pride. In my former opinion, I was a lowly worm before God who didn’t deserve his love and mercy. I was a terrible sinner who didn’t deserve his sacrifice. I was worthless and nothing and in all of my accomplishments I gave God the glory, not myself. How is there any pride in that?

  • 10. Oleander  |  August 21, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    I was accepted into all three schools, and chose to attend my first choice, UC Berkeley. I currently have a 4.0 and am in the top 4% of my class, and I did it all on my own. Just as Dumbo learned that he could fly without his feather, I learned that I could be successful without God. It turns out that the key to self-confidence, emotional stability, and perseverance was within me all along.

    Thanks for the senitments. I recently saw the New England Patriots and New York Giants being interviewed. A huge majority of them are born-again Christians. They also interviewed the coach of the Indianapolis Colts (Super Bowl champs just a year or two back). Funny how these “Christians” were able to be so successful. Many Christians are in very successful positions in successful areas of life.

    orDover—Your experience may have been one of relying on God and doing nothing. But that is not the case for many other Christians. They rely on God, but realize he has given great gifts that they can use—they realize that THEY must make the steps to use those gifts. I really dislike it when I see Christians being thrown into some box of people with low self-esteem, who never succeed because they are using God as a “crutch”. That is just so untrue in so many cases!!

  • 11. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 21, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Oleander-

    orDover—Your experience may have been one of relying on God and doing nothing.

    Did you… did you even read the article?

  • 12. arensb  |  August 21, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    FWIW, you’re not the first to use the Dumbo analogy: Tracie Harris talked about it on an episode of The Atheist Experience, probably either #548 or #552.

    I had been taught that I was nothing without God—that all people are weak in mind, spirit, and will, but that God intervenes and is the source of all of our positive traits.

    In other words, religion provides the cure for the disease inflicted by religion :-)

  • 13. Oleander  |  August 21, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Snuggly—

    Yes I read the article. Here is another excerpt:

    There was no God to intervene on my behalf or to guide the admission board’s decisions, there was no Divine Will. I had simply either worked hard enough to get in or I hadn’t.

    The way I interpret the article is that she is saying she is further ahead now, and has far more self-esteem than when she relied on God. She has now learned she can “do it alone”. What I am trying to say is that one can in a sense “do it alone” (act on what you have at your disposal) while greatly relying on God at the same time. It is not a “crutch” to rely on God. Many successful athletes, business owners, etc. are Christians—they didn’t need to stop believing in God to realize their own potential.

  • 14. ordover  |  August 21, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Oleander-

    I get that it’s fun for you to play psychoanalysis, but you’re just flat out wrong. I never once said that I sat around and did nothing, waiting for God to intervene and take care of things. I was still actively perusing my future. For example my volleyball story: I didn’t trust that God would help me make the team and then go about tryouts lackadaisically, I trusted that, if it was his will, God would help me make the team, and I worked as hard as I could.

    What I am trying to say is that one can in a sense “do it alone” (act on what you have at your disposal) while greatly relying on God at the same time.

    I never once suggested that a person can’t act on what they have at their disposal and rely on the God at the same time. What I’m actually saying is that taking and active role in your life is EASIER if you have a God to rely on, because you have the inner peace that, even if you encounter failure, it will all work out for your benefit in the end.

    I know there are successful Christian people, and I never once said or hinted at the idea that a Christian can’t be successful. You’re putting words in my mouth and I’m finding it one degree away from infuriating.

    The way I interpret the article is that she is saying she is further ahead now, and has far more self-esteem than when she relied on God.

    This is true, but you’re not understanding the reasoning behind it. Frankly, I don’t think you’re capable of understanding, so I don’t know why I’m wasting my time typing this. I had low self-esteem because I was painfully aware of how I was nothing but a lowly sinner, and because I believed that all good things in my life were a result of God working through me, not a result of my own efforts. It’s not that I didn’t try, that I didn’t put forth effort, but that I have the glory to god and not to myself. I believed that I would be unable to attain mental stability and emotional health, let alone any kind of success without relying on God. I feel like a broken record.

    I think that maybe I should have prefaced this post with this:
    This article is not written for Christians. It is not intended to show that a Christian can be more successful without God. It is not written to convince any Christian that they should no longer believe in God. It is written solely for fellow de-converts who have gone through similar experiences, who have struggled to rebuild their life after religion, who have had to redefine who they are, who have feared that life without religion is empty, who hope that they can find happiness and fulfillment after coming to terms with reality, and who need to know that they aren’t alone in their journey.

    That, after all, is the purpose of this site, believe it or not.

  • 15. Obi  |  August 21, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    arensb said, “In other words, religion provides the cure for the disease inflicted by religion.

    Quite true.

  • 16. Oleander  |  August 21, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Frankly, I don’t think you’re capable of understanding, so I don’t know why I’m wasting my time typing this.

    orDover—

    Thanks for the explanation. I guess patience isn’t one of your strong points huh? :)

  • 17. ordover  |  August 21, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I think I should also add preemptively that I don’t believe that religion fosters low self-esteem, and that I don’t think it was the cause of mine. I tried to make it clear in the original post that religion was, in fact, my one source of self-confidence, and that is why I was so afraid to lose it.

  • 18. ordover  |  August 21, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for the explanation. I guess patience isn’t one of your strong points huh?

    You try writing a heartfelt exposé about your personal weaknesses and see how happy it makes you when someone comes along and attempts to read between the lines, despite the fact that you’ve tried very hard to be clear and despite the fact that there isn’t even anything between the lines to be read.

    I don’t think you’re unable to understand my position because you’re not intelligent or lack general empathy, but because asking to Christian to understand what an apostate has gone through is like a bird asking a fish to understand flying. The fish is never going to get it, because it’s so far removed from the real of its experiences. The fish can’t even believe that anyone could live out of the water.

  • 19. Oleander  |  August 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t think you’re unable to understand my position because you’re not intelligent or lack general empathy, but because asking to Christian to understand what an apostate has gone through is like a bird asking a fish to understand flying. The fish is never going to get it, because it’s so far removed from the real of its experiences. The fish can’t even believe that anyone could live out of the water.

    I accept that and truly see your point. I really was being tongue in cheek though about patience. You took the time to write a several paragraph response—-so you obviously DO have patience! :) Thanks for the explanation—you’re right–I’ve never apostasized, so there is no way for me to fully understand it. Good point.

  • 20. LeoPardus  |  August 21, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Oleander:

    You did properly grasp that you can’t understand our position. I know that I could not possibly have understood my current position a couple of years ago. I know you’ll think this a bit mocking, but it really is as if “I once was blind, but now I see”.

  • 21. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 21, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    One should always be careful not to try so hard to read between the lines that you cease reading what was actually written.

  • 22. Oleander  |  August 21, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    One should always be careful not to try so hard to read between the lines that you cease reading what was actually written.

    Yes—one should most likely do this when reading the Bible also.

  • 23. Elias  |  August 21, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Interesting that you quote Jeremiah. The “plans to prosper and not to harm you” passage.

    June Hunt uses this bit time and time again when she is counseling people on her “Hope in the Night” radio show. I admit, I still listen. It can be entertaining late at night (or sad, depending on how you look at it).

    Anyway, it always irks me when she throws out this passage. First, and correct me if I am wrong, the quote was intended for the people exiled in Babylon. Yet she and others just pull it out of context and apply it to any Christian and her/his personal life. Of course this is easy to do, and it is done all the time with pleasant sounding passages and biblical “promises” regardless of where they are found.

    I believe that such passages are used in an indiscriminate way and in a way that borders on dishonesty, providing people with false hope and a sense of security that is ineffective.

    God has a plan for your life? Yes, I spent most of my life believing that, as well, and counting on it. I was going to be protected and blessed…well, eventually. Ultimately. Which is great until you consider what is really happening in the world, and how Christians don’t really seem any more immune to suffering adn tragedy than anyone else.Plans? For our individual lives? How about all the starving people half a world away? Or the unfortunates who were not born into the culture and religion, and time that you were born into? We Christians were chosen over them, for some reason?

    There are many bible passages that speak of protection, safety and providence. So often they appear on calendars, greeting cards, or posters, along with some beautiful scene or image. But then there is the reality. Like what happened to the Chapman’s adopted daughter. Or like what happened to a lovely older woman in our church, who was always a model believer, devout, faithful, mother of several children and a sweet person. Some years ago the family car broke down at the side of a highway, they got out and moved off the shoulder, and somehow she was struck by another vehicle and killed. Now I’m sure her family and the other church members convinced themselves that there was a good reason for this happening, but I can’t imagine how that could possibly be. Where was the protection of the Lord? Is this the act of a loving Father?

    It was similarly disheartening to learn of the Chapman tragedy or about the death Greg Laurie’s son.

    It just does not add up. It only suggests an alarming degree of denial in the minds of believers. If the promises are not effective, they are not very good promises, and perhaps (gasp) not inspired words after all. That, or they are being completely and utterly misunderstood. I guess, as is said, there are none so blind as those who will not see. How could it be more obvious?

  • 24. Obi  |  August 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Agh, posts that make sense attract the apologetics like flies. Thanks a lot, Elias.
    ;)

  • 25. kjelllee  |  August 22, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Imagine, using time and energy talking about something you do not believe exist. If you do not believe in God why not rather attempt to disprove that Santa Claus is real? This is an extreme
    waist of time, is it not?

    Check out my PODCAST: http://www.kjelllee.org

    Sincerely, Kjell Lee, Fair Lawn, NJ

  • 26. ordover  |  August 22, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    It’s actually a waste of time responding to comments like kjelllee’s but, what the hell. I don’t really have anything better to do right now.

    Imagine, using time and energy talking about something you do not believe exist…This is an extreme waist of time, is it not?

    Imagine, using time and energy to empathize and commune with fellow humans who have had similar life experiences! Why would anyone do that? Yeah, it probably is a waste of time to communicate with other cognizant beings through story-telling.

  • 27. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 22, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Can we have kjelllee’s posts removed, on the basis that it looks like he’s just advertising for his podcast and blog?

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  August 22, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Oh no! Leave Kjell’s post in. They really help to show what a waste of time it was for him to go to school.

  • 29. Paula  |  September 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Hi, it is true that the power to be successful is just within us. We cannot depend our success on God alone. He cannot answer our prayers if we don’t do anything about our goals. We cannot just wait for Him to do everything for us. We should be the ones doing it and let God guide our path.

  • 30. Blue Nine  |  September 3, 2008 at 2:24 am

    On August 22, 2008 at 6:25 pm, kjelllee wrote:

    Imagine, using time and energy talking about something you do not believe exist. If you do not believe in God why not rather attempt to disprove that Santa Claus is real? This is an extreme waist of time, is it not?
    Maybe people come here for the community and support that they did not get from your religion.

  • 31. jflower36  |  April 29, 2009 at 11:37 am

    It seems as if you saw God as a “jeanie in the bottle” who would be there to fix everything. True saving faith believes in God despite trials and difficulties in life. Coming to God because of emotional difficulties is common, but it’s not the main reason for having a belief in God. The real reason is that we have sin, and a need for a savior. One day we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and we will need a mediator, Jesus Christ.

  • 32. orDover  |  April 29, 2009 at 11:56 am

    It seems as if you saw God as a “jeanie in the bottle” who would be there to fix everything.

    Really. Where did I say anything about that? I didn’t say God would magically make things happen, I said that I believed he had a plan for me, to fill my life with prosperity as it states in the Bible. I also talked about the love of God giving me encouragement and self-esteem.

    True saving faith believes in God despite trials and difficulties in life.

    I didn’t stop believing in God because of trials or difficulties.

  • 33. LeoPardus  |  April 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    It seems as if you saw God as a “jeanie in the bottle”

    Hmmmm….. that would be a weird way to see one’s deity; as a girl in a bottle. How very odd.

  • 34. Jeffrey  |  April 29, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    The real reason [to believe in God] is that we have sin, and a need for a savior.

    I love how the real reason is not even a reason. As evangelists always do, you have described a position without giving a reason to think it is actually true.

    Why does sin mean we need a savior? I don’t need someone to save from my grammar mistakes. Why do I need someone to save me from my sin? Maybe I’ll just always be flawed.

  • 35. jflower36  |  April 30, 2009 at 12:16 am

    orDover, my apologies for misunderstanding you and not explaining myself clearly or eloquently! Let me explain my reference to the “Genie in the bottle”. Some people view their relationship with God much like the fairytale of asking for wishes from a Genie. If their wish is granted they are satisfied but if not, then something must be wrong with God. I spoke/wrote to quickly this morning without much thought, and for that I am very sorry. I can’t say that you saw God this way, as I don’t know you. I think what you wrote reminded me of others who have seen God this way.

    Jeffrey,
    A grammar mistake doesn’t fit into the category of sin. The biblical sense of the word sin is to disobey the law of God. You asked, “Why do I need someone to save me from sin?” The bible says that the wages of sin is death. We will all stand before the judgment seat of God one day and account for our lives. Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross and if we believe in Him we will be saved.

    Elias,

    You seem disheartened by the tragedies in life and you seem to question God’s goodness, such as the situation with the older woman who was hit by the car. It’s very sad when we are faced with tragedies or even injustices, but those things in no way reflect on the goodness of God’s character. If that older woman was a believer in God, she is in heaven now. All of us will eventually die, and death can come in a variety of different ways. None of us knows how or when…we only know that it will come….and that each day is another opportunity that God shows us His mercy in giving us chance after chance to make ourselves right with Him.

  • 36. BigHouse  |  April 30, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Jeffrey,
    A grammar mistake doesn’t fit into the category of sin. The biblical sense of the word sin is to disobey the law of God. You asked, “Why do I need someone to save me from sin?” The bible says that the wages of sin is death.

    What makes you think the Bible is accurate on this?

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  April 30, 2009 at 10:38 am

    jflower:

    Methinks you don’t know the crowd you’re addressing. If you had read the BIG, RED EXCLAMATION POINT posts near the top of the page, you might save yourself the waste of trying to “inform” us of Bible basics. We know the drill. Most of us know it better than you. Kindly go read those posts.

    It’s very sad when we are faced with tragedies or even injustices, but those things in no way reflect on the goodness of God’s character.

    If such a being as the God you speak of existed, then, yes it would reflect on his character. Anyone who wants to be called “good” has to show that they are good. A strong man who stands by and watches a child beaten to death is not good. Ditto an all-powerful being who claims to be “good” and “loving” but does nothing about abused children, raped women, etc. Otherwise it’s like someone who thinks they deserve respect just because they are president. NO. One must earn respect, worship, etc.

    I know. I know. God’s ways are higher than ours. We can’t understand His deeper, long-term purposes, and so on. Again, NO. You can’t behave evilly and claim the title good. You can’t demand of humanity that they behave rightly and then behave inhumanly. You can’t have it both ways.

    each day is another opportunity that God shows us His mercy in giving us chance after chance to make ourselves right with Him.

    Tell you what. How about this uncaring, stand by and watch deity of yours actually puts in an appearance (No. 2000 year old stories don’t count.) and works a little at making himself right with us?

    You set forth a do-nothing, ineffective deity. You have a church full of people who are no different from those outside of it. You wave an old, odd collection of myths from a primitive people and claim it has all the answers. You represent a thoroughly divided church that fights to the death with its own parts. You claim a deity with all power who can work miracles, but you can’t show anything of the sort. Sorry. You have nothing. So pardon us for believing in that nothing, when it’s all you can show.

  • 38. Blue  |  April 30, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Jflower36 said
    You asked, “Why do I need someone to save me from sin?” The bible says that the wages of sin is death.
    But so is the salary of righteousness.

  • 39. orDover  |  April 30, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    What makes you think the Bible is accurate on this?

    Or what makes you think the Bible is accurate at all? Before you base an argument on “the Bible says…” you first have to establish the authority of the Bible by proving that the Bible is actually the word of God.

  • 40. Amy  |  April 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Instead of finding myself bogged down further by depression, I found myself coming out of it.

    I am finding myself in this very position now, after years and years of trying to believe something (the Christian story) and finally facing the fact that I just don’t and likely never will. Wonderful post.

  • 41. Jeffrey  |  April 30, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    jflower,

    Lots of Christians believe for absolutely no reason. If you’re one of them, well, fine. Your mind is lost, and I can’t change that.

    But when you say you have a reason, I expect you to produce an actual reason. Your attempt was to say the reason to believe in God is that we need a savior. We need a savior because the Bible says so, and we should care what the Bible says because God wrote it. But I don’t believe in God in the first place.

    For what reason should I enter this circle?

    You have two ways to argue this:

    1. Argue for the existence of the Christian God without assuming the Bible is true.
    2. Argue for the truth of the Bible without assuming the existence of the Christian God.

    If you have an actual reason, please tell us what it is, and which of these two categories it fits into.

  • 42. Jeanine  |  April 30, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Leo, you sound a little bitter. I had no idea my comments would stir up this much! I assumed that there would be a variety of different backgrounds and thought I’d add a few stray comments. If the group doesn’t want me to give input I’m o.k. with that. If you would prefer to discuss these issues without the comments of christians, just say the word. I have no intention in getting into any fights with anyone. As far as comparing what you know with what I know…that is senseless. You have no idea what I know and I don’t know what you know…so lets cease with comments about who is more knowledgeable. For me, its not about winning an argument. It’s more about having an exchange. Leo I’m a little confused as to why you are angry with God if you don’t believe that He exists? Maybe you can clarify that for me.

    Leo, you said:

    “You set forth a do-nothing, ineffective deity. You have a church full of people who are no different from those outside of it. You wave an old, odd collection of myths from a primitive people and claim it has all the answers. You represent a thoroughly divided church that fights to the death with its own parts. You claim a deity with all power who can work miracles, but you can’t show anything of the sort. Sorry. You have nothing. So pardon us for believing in that nothing, when it’s all you can show.”
    Hold up buddy! :) You have no idea who I am, where I go to church…in fact you know nothing about me. Take a deep breath :) I’m not your enemy….I come in peace.

    As far as proving the bible, I’m sure you didn’t expect me to write an essay in a couple of comments. Come now….that’s asking a bit much. I would be happy to discuss the validity of the bible further if I am welcomed here. If anyone wants to discuss it, then just throw out a question.

  • 43. Quester  |  April 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Jeanine/jflower,

    I had no idea my comments would stir up this much! I assumed that there would be a variety of different backgrounds and thought I’d add a few stray comments.

    A little bitterness might be expected. We average about one theistic visitor every four days who makes nearly the same comments you have without first making any attempt to learn anything about us or having any understanding why their words might be insulting. Have you followed Leo’s advice yet and read the ‘Attention Christian Readers’ threads marked by the big, red exclamation point in the right hand sidebar?

    You have no idea who I am, where I go to church…in fact you know nothing about me.

    He knows you are a Christian. If you have some evidence that demonstrates that the Christian church is not “a thoroughly divided church that fights to the death with its own parts”, or that Christians are somehow different than non-Christians, or that there is a Christian understanding of God that actually does something in the world today, please present it. Otherwise, what more does Leo need to know in order to say what he has said?

    I’m sure you didn’t expect me to write an essay in a couple of comments.

    Not at all. We might hope that you’d see that a Bible that needs an essay to support it is a very poor source to derive any sort of authority from, but perhaps that, also, is asking a bit much of you.

  • 44. paleale  |  April 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Jeanine,

    Of course you are welcome here. Although yes, you did stir up a bit of a hornet’s nest :-)

    I don’t think that Leo was referring to your own personal church that you attend every Sunday, rather the mystical church as a whole– which is “thoroughly divided and fights to the death with its own parts.”

    While some of our remarks may seem bitter, the bitterness (if any is there) is not necessarily directed at our former god. You posed an apt question when you asked us how we can be angry at God when we no longer believe he exists.

    For my own part, I hold no particular bitterness towards any one particular deity. I do, however, have bitterness towards the society of religion which perpetuates the myths of deities and their interactions with humanity.

    The cost of de-conversion is high, Jeanine. I no longer have a career and have no applicable job skills to offer the work force because all my adult life was spent making a living within the church as a musician, a youth pastor and an overseas missionary. I no longer have the social cushion to fall upon in times of hardship that I once had. I do indeed feel like a fish out of water.

    I now have to start my life over completely from nothing because I had given my whole life, up until recently, to serving a non-existent deity. I dropped out of college because I was convinced by people I trusted that God wanted– even needed– my own unique talents and energy in converting thousands of non-believers to Christianity. Now that I am no longer a Christian I am angry that I wasted the money I could have spent on my education on pursuing a primitive myth that is no different from the myths of any other primitive culture.

    My sob-story aside, it just gets old hearing the same arguments that we used to give others directed at us. We know all the tricks of the trade, Jeanine. We know the rhetoric, the scriptures, the Romans Road, all of it. We know it because we studied it and found it to be full of holes.

    So. If you wish to discuss it, then perhaps you should throw out a question yourself instead of assuming you have all the answers. There’s quite a bit you could learn from this community. :-)

  • 45. jflower36  |  April 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Quester,

    Yes, I can understand that some bitterness would be expected. I do have compassion for the emotions that many are feeling in regards to this issue. As far as a divided church, yes there is division, but there is also a lot of unity. Christians are not perfect or sinless, so if you look in the church you will find sinners. Even the early church experienced arguments, as seen in Paul’s letters to the churches.

    You said:
    “Not at all. We might hope that you’d see that a Bible that needs an essay to support it is a very poor source to derive any sort of authority from, but perhaps that, also, is asking a bit much of you.”

    That doesn’t make sense to me. I said essay, but in actuality a real discussion of the bible would take much much more. It would be expected that any source that has more than a few statements would need a lengthy discourse. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you meant.

    Paleale,

    I’m really sorry that you are in the situation that you are in. I’m sure that you have other talents and I hope the best for you in future endeavors. Can I ask you what brought you to the point of walking away from the faith? Was it intellectual doubts or a change in lifestyle that brought you to that point?

    I think I will wait for someone to ask me a question because I don’t want to force myself upon anyone here. If someone wants to discuss an issue I would be happy to. By the way, I have never assumed that I have all the answers and I “get it” that you all have a background and knowledge of the bible. If anyone wants to discuss any particular issue I’m game. But like I said, I don’t want to force myself upon anyone.

  • 46. Quester  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Paleale,

    Well phrased! I suddenly want us to have some sort of recognition for best comment of the arbitrary time period so that I could vote for #44.

    And as an ex-pastor (for 13 months) now on month 10 of a three month contract, still hoping for some sort of permanent work outside of the ministry, I empathize with you. Any luck at all on the job front?

  • 47. Quester  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Jeanine,

    It may help us follow the conversation if you stick to one username, please?

    That said, let’s strive for some clarity. What value do you ascribe to the Bible?

  • 48. jflower36  |  May 1, 2009 at 1:02 am

    I believe it to be the authoritative word of God.

  • 49. Quester  |  May 1, 2009 at 3:19 am

    Thank-you, Jeanine. Now, if the Bible is the authoritative word of God, what sort of lengthy discourse is needed? Surely the authoritative word of God could speak for itself, without needing any sort of essay or substantial discussion to clarify or support it.

  • 50. paleale  |  May 1, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for the warm wishes, Jeanine

    As for my reasons for walking away from Christianity, well there are many. Short version: Intellectually, it just doesn’t hold water. The only thing you have to go on is someone else’s opinion about an ancient text and subjective experience (warm fuzzy feelings) which are the same things any other religion has going for it. So what makes Christianity so special that a Christian’s experiences are more valid and correct than a Hindu’s or a Muslim’s or someone who worshiped Baal or Odin or Athena?

    And there have been personal experiences which have further widened the gap between explicit scripture and reality — Which brings up your view of the Bible as the authoritative word of God.

    Why do you believe that it is the authoritative word of God?

    As far as a lifestyle change goes, what do you even mean by that? Are you asking if I’m gay? Do I ‘sin’ more than I used to? I believe you are asking if I de-converted so I could live a ‘free’ life of debauchery and wickedness. No. In fact, I would venture to say that I am a more honest, compassionate and moral person since my de-conversion. Funny how that works.

    Still looking for work, Quester. Wish me luck!

  • 51. BigHouse  |  May 1, 2009 at 11:39 am

    As far as a lifestyle change goes, what do you even mean by that? Are you asking if I’m gay? Do I ’sin’ more than I used to? I believe you are asking if I de-converted so I could live a ‘free’ life of debauchery and wickedness.

    And of course, depending on your sect or denomination, and their attendant scripture interpretation, you could be “free” or ‘entangled” of many different sinful acts.

    I deconverted so i wouldn’t have to stone adultering women in the town square, for instance. I think this was a noble choice :-).

  • 52. jflower36  |  May 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Quester,

    You said: “Surely the authoritative word of God could speak for itself, without needing any sort of essay or substantial discussion to clarify or support it.”

    Yes, that is true. But I assumed that since I’m speaking to an audience that does not believe it is true, a discourse would be needed…and much more than a comment could give.

    In fact,

    Leo stated:

    “you first have to establish the authority of the Bible by proving that the Bible is actually the word of God.”

    So it is clear that most people want an explanation. Most things that claim to be true will be investigated. If a doctor diagnosed someone with an illness, would the person not investigate this in some manner? Even the claim in the scientific community that evolution is true, is full of lengthy discourse in explanation of the theory of evolution. So I’m not sure why you would think that the bible itself would not be investigated. I would assume that you investigated the claims of the bible before you decided it wasn’t true.

    Paleale,

    you said:

    “As far as a lifestyle change goes, what do you even mean by that? Are you asking if I’m gay? Do I ’sin’ more than I used to? I believe you are asking if I de-converted so I could live a ‘free’ life of debauchery and wickedness.”

    Yes, I was asking if there were things that you wanted to participate in that the bible forbids. I’ve had friends that walked away from the faith and they walked towards something such as a sexual relationship or lifestyle that the bible says is sin. Specifics such as if you are gay did not occur to me. I’m not trying to offend you. I’m assuming that if you don’t believe in the bible, you won’t be embarrassed or offended by having a new lifestyle. And to clarify, I’m not saying that you do have a new lifestyle….I’m just asking.

  • 53. jflower36  |  May 1, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Bighouse,

    You said:

    “I deconverted so i wouldn’t have to stone adultering women in the town square, for instance. I think this was a noble choice”. As anyone who actually did this would be sent to prison, I’m assuming you mean that you did not want to condemn someone who committed adultery? I’m trying to understand what you meant. Are you saying you think adultery is okay or not okay?

  • 54. BigHouse  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Adultery is “not ok’ in my book. Neither is stoning them to death my divine decree in a public square. Does that make sense?

  • 55. jflower36  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Yes it does and I would agree with you. And Jesus would agree with you as well.

  • 56. Quester  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Jeanine,

    Yes, that is true. But I assumed that since I’m speaking to an audience that does not believe it is true, a discourse would be needed…and much more than a comment could give.

    I’m a little confused. Are you saying that the authoritative word of God can speak clearly for itself, but only to an audience that believes it is true?

  • 57. jflower36  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Quester,

    I’m saying that the bible speaks for itself, just as a scientist would say that science speaks for itself. But just as a scientist would publish information explaining science, a scholar of the bible may publish information explaining the bible.

  • 58. LeoPardus  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    jflower:

    As some others have said here, yep, there may indeed be some bitterness. The waste of so many years believing, studying, trying to live by something that is just wrong can cause a little bitterness. I will give credit though that the faith will always form part of who I am. And the years in it give me an understanding of what motivates those who are still in it. Like most things in life, it has good and bad, bitter and sweet, yin and yang to it.

    I’m a little confused as to why you are angry with God if you don’t believe that He exists?

    You are confused there. Do you think I’m angry with Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or Thor? That’s silly. Now I do get bothered by people who believe in nonsense and insist on spreading it. You know the sort. People who want to insist that the Holocaust never happened, or that the American Indian was nigh to perfect before Europeans showed up. People who want to live in fantasies and foist them on others can anger me. Fantasy beings however do not.

    So to the issue that has arisen now. The Bible is the “authoritative word of God”. What does that mean? Unpack the phrase. It gets used a lot of Christian circles, but what happens when the phrase isn’t just accepted?

    By way of some specifics to unpack:
    -What parts of the Bible are authoritative for telling you how to live? How do you pick and choose among all that?
    -Does the Bible tell you how to run a church or church service? Or how to set up authority structures in church?
    -Does the Bible tell you how to interpret the Bible and how to know when someone else is getting it wrong?
    -What do you do when your divinely-inspired, authoritative source contradicts itself? (Yes it does.)
    -If it’s authoritative, why aren’t all its directives being followed? (Try women keeping silent in church for just one.)
    -Is it authoritative for running a government at any level?
    -Which reading do you use to be sure you have the authoritative one?

    There are just a few for starters.

  • 59. LeoPardus  |  May 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    jflower:

    Just some notes about this place.

    As it says at the top, it provides resources for skeptical, de-converting, or former Christians. Those resources may be input on how to talk to family and friends, books to read, thoughts on where a person is in their journey, and so on. The list is quite long.

    We have people come in here in all stages. Some are just having some doubts or questions. Some are looking right down the barrel of de-conversion. Some are out of the faith and trying to rebuild. These are the people we are really here for. For them we can provide thought, empathy, possible direction, fellowship, and so on.

    Apart from that, we get plenty of Christians in here. A few simply add their thoughts and give a “Christian” viewpoint on matters. That’s all well and good, and provides some balance.

    Other Christians think their mission is to come here and “represent the truth of God” or some such. This class tends to get landed on. We can go into why if you want. For now I’ll just say that they come in with the old, bankrupt, wrong silliness that we all wasted so much time with, and that we now see so clearly for what it is.

    In truth we’d love to lead any Christian who comes in here to see the truth. To find the real freedom that comes from seeing the cosmos as it is. And we do try. But of course we all had to find our own paths to reality and so likely will any theists who wander in here.

  • 60. BigHouse  |  May 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    ,i>55. jflower36 | May 1, 2009 at 12:25 pm
    Yes it does and I would agree with you. And Jesus would agree with you as well.

    But the practice is condoned by your “authoritative word of God”.

    See the pickle you’ve already got yourself into?

  • 61. Quester  |  May 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Jflower,

    I’d think a scientist is more likely to say that reality speaks for itself, but that science helps us understand what reality says (though perhaps that’s more anthropomorphic than an actual scientist would be). The comparable theistic concept is that God speaks for Himself, and that the Bible helps us understand what God says. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to help much, so biblical scholars have written many tomes on what God really means and wants. Luckily, the Bible is both incoherent and contradictory enough that biblical scholars can argue that God supports almost any point of view imaginable.

    Instead of adding my own questions, I’ll let you answer Leo’s. What he asks in #58 is substantially similar to what I would.

  • 62. jflower36  |  May 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    BigHouse,

    There’s no pickle here. The bible is a long unfolding story. The practice of stoning is an old testament directive, directed to the Jewish people of the time. It was part of the Jewish civic and moral law. When Jesus came, He came in fulfillment of the law. It’s kind of like a puzzle piece that was missing a part. The new testament was the missing part. The new testament makes it clear that we are no longer bound by the law, but we are free in Christ. That doesn’t mean that we are no longer accountable to the law. The book of Galatians points out that the law is a tutor to point out our sin, and Jesus is the one that frees us from the “curse of the law”. Jesus said that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill. Jesus actually stopped the religious leaders from stoning a woman caught in adultery. He had compassion on her, but he also told her to “sin no more”.

    Jesus stepped it up a notch by saying that someone is guilty of adultery if they lust in their heart. The new testament also states that those who don’t repent from adultery will incur the wrath of God on judgment day. There are many laws in the old testament that were rendered null and void. For example, the practice of eating only “clean foods” in the old testament no longer applies, as seen in the book of Acts. Or even following the Sabbath, as Paul also makes it clear that we are not to allow anyone to hold us to that principle any longer.

    Leo,
    I answered the following questions quickly and give further explanation if anyone wants that.
    By way of some specifics to unpack:
    -What parts of the Bible are authoritative for telling you how to live? How do you pick and choose among all that?
    All parts of the bible are authoritative, but it must be understood in light of the old and new covenants, as well as having an understanding of the culture of the time.

    -Does the Bible tell you how to run a church or church service? Or how to set up authority structures in church?
    Yes, the bible talks about how to choose elders and deacons. The bible does give principles for running a church service, although it gives a lot of freedom here as well, because the bible doesn’t condone ritualistic practices.

    -Does the Bible tell you how to interpret the Bible and how to know when someone else is getting it wrong?
    An easy way to tell if someone’s interpretation wrong is to look at the interpretation and see if it contradicts other passages in the bible. If it does, then that interpretation is not correct, because the full message of the bible is in full agreement with itself. How do bible scholars interpret the bible? They look at the meaning of the original languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic). Sometimes wrong interpretations are given based on the English meaing, which may not give the full meaning of the original language. It’s also important to look at context of a verse. Taking a verse out of context could give an incorrect interpretation. Looking at a verse in the context of the chapter and book it is in sheds light on meaning. For example, a verse may appear to mean one thing, but if you look a few verses up you may find that the writer was speaking of an entirely different subject.

    -What do you do when your divinely-inspired, authoritative source contradicts itself? (Yes it does.)
    Where an apparent contradiction exists one must again look at the original language, and also compare accounts of different books. To use the example of a crime scene, there may be witnesses that give different accounts, and those accounts may on the surface appear to contract each other, but they may really just be separate accounts that when put together fill in the whole picture. If you mean something different, please clarify.

    -If it’s authoritative, why aren’t all its directives being followed? (Try women keeping silent in church for just one.)
    Looking at the context of that passage, when keeping silent in the church had to do with women disrupting the service. If there is a church were women are disrupting the service, then the directive is not being followed. But going back to the original question, “why aren’t all directives being followed in the church”, the same question could be asked of individuals and the same answer could be given to both…..because of sin. If an individual or church is truly trying to be obedient to God then God will convict them of areas that need change.

    -Is it authoritative for running a government at any level?
    Are you asking if Christians should run for government and put into place biblical laws? I don’t believe the bible every advocates that anywhere in scripture. The bible says to respect your leaders, whoever they are, knowing that God has allowed them to be in authority (and He can take them out).

    -Which reading do you use to be sure you have the authoritative one?
    Some translations are word for word, while others summarize the message. The message is authoritative, but if someone is confused about a specific meaning then they would need to look at a word for word translation.

  • 63. LeoPardus  |  May 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    God is the same yesterday and today and forever, yet it used to be a stoning offense to mess with the Sabbath and now it’s OK. It used to be OK to have slaves, but now every Christian I know of would say it’s not OK. And some of those old laws carry through while others don’t. Boy this “time and culture” thing is sure a convenient way to dodge the dodgy parts of ‘ye old holy book’.

    One wonders: What is some poor schmuck to do if he doesn’t know ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek and doesn’t have access to the original texts (which no one does by the way, so this whole “in the original” schtick is shot from the get go) and doesn’t have a substantial background in ancient Jewish culture? Should he just trust someone else to know all that for him? If so, who? A priest, a bible study leader, a Sunday school teacher? … No.. Let me guess. The Holy Spirit. No two, true believers could ever trust the HS and come to diametrically opposed, irreconcilable, fundamental differences.

  • 64. LeoPardus  |  May 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    the bible doesn’t condone ritualistic practices.

    Au contraire. Haven’t you read the rather elaborate rituals prescribed in the OT. And haven’t you studied enough church history to know that high liturgical/ritualistic practices were all that happened in Christian churches for the first several centuries. These rituals being derived from scripture.

    look at the interpretation and see if it contradicts other passages in the bible.

    Which it can always be seen to do. And you can find Bible scholars to back any interpretation you want and to supply plenty of verses to back up their position.

    Re contradictions: TAKE THE RESURRECTION CHALLENGE

    when keeping silent in the church had to do with women disrupting the service.

    You got this from exactly where??? It isn’t in the Bible. There are NO historical sources from the time. Where the heck did it come from? (I know the answer.)

    If there is a church were women are disrupting the service, then the directive is not being followed.

    Men never do this? Why wasn’t there a specific directive for men to “keep silent” (i.e., don’t be disruptive)? I mean ‘sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    The bible says to respect your leaders, whoever they are, knowing that God has allowed them to be in authority

    So comforting to know when the authorities of Imperial Japan or China, or Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany, or Pol Pot’s Kmer Rouge, or ………. are beating on your door and shooting your neighbors. You can turn to the person next to you and say, “Be respectful now. God put these guys in place.”

    if someone is confused about a specific meaning then they would need to look at a word for word translation.

    I though you told us one had to look at the original languages?? And where have you seen a “word for word” translation? The only thing even close would be an interlinear text version.

    At least the Muslims are clear about this silliness. Read the Koran in Arabic or you’ve got it wrong. If you don’t know Arabic, learn it.

    But of course there’s the other problem of what text to use to start with. The original autographs don’t exist. The closest we get to them (for the NT) is a couple hundred years, by which time there are many, variant texts. (I’ve got a Greek NT with marginal notes delineating variants. The marginal notes take up half a page quite often.) And it’s far worse for the OT.

    You can’t even come up with an authoritative text in the original languages. The near-temporal historical sources are scanty to say the least. And on THIS you want to say you’ve got a Bible on your home shelf that is “authoritative”?????????

    And after weaving through all that, you’ve still got nothing. Your deity can’t do anything. And if you look at your “authoritative” book, that’s not what’s supposed to happen.

  • 65. paleale  |  May 1, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Jeanine

    I know you don’t mean to offend with your inquiry regarding lifestyle change. Yet it is a bit offensive nonetheless to imply that one’s primary reason for leaving Christianity is just so one could go off and do something “the Bible forbids”. More than that, it’s insulting and presumptuous. Again, I know you didn’t necessarily mean to come across that way and I’m not angry at you. I’m just letting you know so that you don’t have to walk into your next atheist forum with the same set of presuppositions.

    To touch on a previous question I posited, you’ve given us lots of information about what you believe about the Bible but you still haven’t told us why.

  • 66. paleale  |  May 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Further, regarding what the Bible forbids. I could get into a LOT more trouble doing what the Bible condones than what it forbids–

    And making the distinction between Old and New doesn’t cut it. It’s like saying that Hitler turned over a new leaf.

  • 67. jflower36  |  May 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    There was a lot to respond to, so I did my best to catch most of the questions. If I missed something feel free to ask the question again or ask for clarification.

    Leo

    “God is the same yesterday and today and forever, yet it used to be a stoning offense to mess with the Sabbath and now it’s OK. “

    Yes, God is the same yesterday and today and forever. How God views sin is the same, which is why He provided Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus paid the price for sin. God’s sense of justice means that sin must be punished. He punished Jesus as a way of atoning for our sins. Galatians says that there is a “curse of the law”, but Christ frees us from that curse. The sin is equally offensive today as it was in Old Testament times….but now we have someone who took the payment. This wasn’t a change in plan by the way. The Messiah was prophesied about in the beginning.

    “And some of those old laws carry through while others don’t. Boy this “time and culture” thing is sure a convenient way to dodge the dodgy parts of ‘ye old holy book’. “

    What was the purpose of the law? The purpose of the law was to create a standard, and to point out our sin. Romans 3:20 says “because by the word of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin”. Many people mistakingly think that if they are able to keep the whole law they will find favor with God. All the law does is show that we are sinful. Galatians 3:24 says that the law is a tutor to lead us to Christ, that we would realize that favor/justification with God is only found through faith. As far as “time and culture”, how can the context of the time the bible was written and the cultural backdrop be ignored? They both give great insight, that if ignored would be lost. Just about any book that is written is seen in light of the time and culture in which it was written.

    “One wonders: What is some poor schmuck to do if he doesn’t know ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek and doesn’t have access to the original texts (which no one does by the way, so this whole “in the original” schtick is shot from the get go) and doesn’t have a substantial background in ancient Jewish culture? “

    If someone has a question regarding a particular passage in the bible, and wants to find out how the original language was written then all that person would have to do would be to go to a store and buy a Hebrew or Greek dictionary. Nowadays it’s even easier, as you can look it up online. But besides that, many churches and schools provide classes teaching Hebrew and Greek.

    “Au contraire. Haven’t you read the rather elaborate rituals prescribed in the OT. And haven’t you studied enough church history to know that high liturgical/ritualistic practices were all that happened in Christian churches for the first several centuries. These rituals being derived from scripture. “

    The bible is actually pretty clear about that.

    1.God hates ritual when someone’s heart before God is wrong. This is shown even in the old testament, such as Isaiah 1:11-17. I won’t quote the entire thing, but to make the point, here are a few verses:
    “What are you multiple sacrifices to me? Says the Lord. I have had enough of burnt offerings…” “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to me…” “Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good” God hates ritual when the heart is hardened.

    Ritual usually involves some kind of chant or saying. God hates that. Isaiah 29:13 says, “Because this people draws near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their heart far from Me”.

    2.Many of the rituals in the old testament were to atone for sin. Once Jesus atoned for sin, the elaborate rituals were no longer needed. Hebrews 7:26, 27 “For it was fitting that we should have such as high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for sins of the people, because this He did once and for all when He offered up Himself.”
    3.Many of the rituals were symbolic, to point to the coming Messiah such as the passover.
    4.As far as church tradition, anything that is not specifically called for in scripture is man-made law that can be abandoned. Even Jesus accused the church leaders of the day of holding people up to tradition that was wrong, and man-made. Speaking of history, Martin Luther had a lot to say to the church in regards to these kinds of things.

    “And you can find Bible scholars to back any interpretation you want and to supply plenty of verses to back up their position. “

    I agree. But that doesn’t make them all right. There is only one true answer…wouldn’t you agree? Everyone can’t be right.

    “So comforting to know when the authorities of Imperial Japan or China, or Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany, or Pol Pot’s Kmer Rouge, or ………. are beating on your door and shooting your neighbors. You can turn to the person next to you and say, “Be respectful now. God put these guys in place.”

    The biblical response is to (1 Peter 3:13) “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors…” This does not mean that you can’t buck the system. Paul used his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar. If the system asks you to do something that is wrong, then obeying God is the right choice, such as when John and Peter disobeyed the council (who told them to no longer preach the gospel) and they choose to obey God instead. There will always be tyrants in power…..but they will be held accountable by God. But the basic principle still remains that we are to respect authority, and God will take care of the rest. He can punish evil much better than we can.

    “If someone is confused about a specific meaning then they would need to look at a word for word translation.”
    I though you told us one had to look at the original languages?? And where have you seen a “word for word” translation? The only thing even close would be an interlinear text version.

    The bible has been translated from the original languages. Are you resorting to semantics? One can either look at the Hebrew or Greek, or read a translation (from the Hebrew and Greek) into their own language. Someone using a NIV translation may get a paraphrased version, while the NASB will provide word for word.

    “But of course there’s the other problem of what text to use to start with. The original autographs don’t exist. The closest we get to them (for the NT) is a couple hundred years, by which time there are many, variant texts. (I’ve got a Greek NT with marginal notes delineating variants. The marginal notes take up half a page quite often.) And it’s far worse for the OT. “

    The majority of variants are unintentional errors, such as misspellings. The variants actually help scholars tell when the text was most likely written. There are some parts of the new testament where it is unclear what the original writing said. There are about 400 words that fall into this category and the content of these verses have no basis for any essential doctrine of the christian faith. As a result, scholars can recover 97-99% of the original content of the NT with certainty (From book Christian apologetics by Doug Powell)

    “And after weaving through all that, you’ve still got nothing. Your deity can’t do anything. And if you look at your “authoritative” book, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. “

    God isn’t able to do anything? That’s a pretty bold claim and are you ready to say that to His face one day. Job 34:13,14 “Who gave Him authority over the earth? And who has laid on Him the whole world? If He should determine to do so, If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust”. God is patient though and gives rain and sun, and good things, even for the atheist who shakes his fist at Him. God is patient hoping that man will repent.

    Paleale

    “I know you don’t mean to offend with your inquiry regarding lifestyle change. Yet it is a bit offensive nonetheless to imply that one’s primary reason for leaving Christianity is just so one could go off and do something “the Bible forbids”. More than that, it’s insulting and presumptuous. “

    If you look back at what I said, I stated, “And to clarify, I’m not saying that you do have a new lifestyle….I’m just asking.” When is it offensive to ask a question? I’m asking because of my own personal experience with people that I know who have walked away for reasons related to lifestyle. And why would it be offensive to imply that one’s reason for walking away may be due to lifestyle issues? If someone doesn’t believe that a moral value can be attached to such “lifestyle issues” then one can be proud of leaving for those reasons. Again, I’m not saying that about you….we’re just talking generally.

    “And making the distinction between Old and New doesn’t cut it. It’s like saying that Hitler turned over a new leaf.”

    So you are comparing God to Hitler?
    Having an image of God, true or false, does not stop Him from being God. Can man being sinful correctly judge God who is without sin? No. You can defy Him but you won’t win.
    Job 9:2-4 “In truth I know that this is so, but how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to dispute Him, He could not answer Him once in a thousand times. Wise in heart and mighty in strength, who has defied Him without harm?”

    Those who are angry with God will have the opportunity to be angry with Him for all eternity. Or….they can accept His love and sacrifice.

  • 68. Quester  |  May 3, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Jflower,

    I appreciate the time you put in writing all that, but I’d like to look at just a few of your statements.

    1) (from #35 above) The biblical sense of the word sin is to disobey the law of God.

    2) All the law does is show that we are sinful.

    3) Many people mistakingly think that if they are able to keep the whole law they will find favor with God.

    4) God’s sense of justice means that sin must be punished.

    5) He punished Jesus as a way of atoning for our sins.

    6) Can man being sinful correctly judge God who is without sin? No.

    Does this really make sense to you? Sin is breaking God’s law. The law is only there to tell us we’re sinful. Keeping the law would not stop us from being sinful. There is no way for us to be anything other than sinful. God’s sense of justice caused Him to take the only person who ever lived without sin and punish that person because everyone else is/was/will be sinful (even though there is no way for them to be anything other than sinful). Any human king or ruler who set up a system like this would be considered evil, but we can’t judge God the same way, because God is without sin and we’re not.

    This is ignoring the absurdity that the sinless man was also God, which does not make anything better. God has placed us in a situation where we can not win. This is not obvious in the Old Testament, but it comes out loud and clear in the New. God blames us for this situation He put us in. Then God torments Himself horribly, and blames us for that, too. Then God tells us that we are free from the curse of the law (the price of the sinful nature we had no choice in having), but still have to do everything He says, out of gratitude for God torturing Himself gratuitously. Of course, God doesn’t speak clearly to people any more, so we have to listen to his human representatives who are so happy to tell us what to do now that the law is fulfilled.

    This is good news?

  • 69. paleale  |  May 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    When is it offensive to ask a question… And why would it be offensive to imply that one’s reason for walking away may be due to lifestyle issues?

    There’s often a subconscious motive in asking whether a “lifestyle change” was the reason for walking away from one’s religion. It’s easy and safe for one to point to a person who walked away from Christianity because they wanted to be free to commit sins x,y and z. It allows the observer to maintain a comfortable grip on his or her own faith by enabling them to say that the apostate ‘knows the truth, but just wanted to live a sinful lifestyle’. There was no careful consideration by the apostate. There’s no challenge to the system. It’s the difference between a deserter and a conscientious objector.

    Another safety net is emotional trauma. Again, no real challenge to the system. One experienced something horrible and blamed it on God and so turned his or her back on God, all the while knowing the truth but just couldn’t hack it like good ol’ Job. Or maybe they just went crazy. At any rate, one can believe that both the rebellious sinner and the trauma victim both know the truth deep down inside– that God exists and Jesus is the way.

    I was always told that atheists didn’t believe in God because they didn’t want to be held accountable for their sins. I was told they were just proud, rebellious people who refused to submit to God’s authority. So when I encountered an atheist, this was my preconception of who that person was. He or she presented no threat to my worldview because it’s inconceivable that someone could actually come to an intellectual conclusion after study and consideration that there is/are no god(s) because only “the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” The atheist is automatically an idiot.

    When a person of faith allows themselves the possibility of someone de-converting because he or she comes to a rational, well thought-out conclusion that leads them to de-convert for intellectual reasons it presents (or should) a great challenge to the believer. A chink in the armor, if you will. Firstly, it allows the possibility that atheists aren’t foolish idiots after all. And secondly, it engages the possibility that one’s beliefs are unfounded or worse, untrue; thus forcing a deeper investigation into one’s reasons for belief.

    So when you ask me about life-style changes, because of my own experience, I interpret it as that you’re looking for that ‘ah-HA!” moment to point to as a fatal flaw in the process of my de-conversion, invalidating any intellectual conclusions I may have reached because I’m either rebellious, crazy or a proud, stuffy idiot.

    So you are comparing God to Hitler?

    It’s not a direct comparison, but I was pointing out that there are strong similarities in the genocidal, tyrannical behaviors of Der Fuhrer and Old Testament Yahweh.

    And you still haven’t said why you believe in the Bible.

  • 70. LeoPardus  |  May 4, 2009 at 11:47 am

    God isn’t able to do anything? That’s a pretty bold claim and are you ready to say that to His face one day.

    Look in the archives for my article, “The God Challenge”. When you have a deity who, like the one depicted in your “authoritative text” can actually DO something, good or bad”, let me know. Until then all you have is the mythology of a primitive people. It has no more “authority” than stories about Thor.

  • 71. SnugglyBuffalo  |  May 4, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    …even for the atheist who shakes his fist at Him.

    You seem to be stuck on this idea that atheists are angry at God.

    Most of us are no more angry, no more “shaking our fists at Him,” than we are shaking our fists at Zeus, Thor, or fairies.

  • 72. jflower36  |  May 5, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Leo,

    I read “The God Challenge”, and Jesus had a response that is much better than anything I could ever say.

    Luke 16:19-31

    “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
     “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
     “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
     “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
     “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
     ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
     “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

    Quester,

    God created us with the ability to choose Him or refuse Him. Let me ask you….do you believe that mankind is sinful? If yes, what is the solution? If no, why is there evil in the world? At the end of the day, whether or not you think God is a tyrant, He is still God…all powerful, knowing everything, and capable of doing whatever He wants. Is this good news? Sure it is…if you accept His offer of reconciliation.

    Paleale,

    You stated, “So when you ask me about life-style changes, because of my own experience, I interpret it as that you’re looking for that ‘ah-HA!” moment to point to as a fatal flaw in the process of my de-conversion, invalidating any intellectual conclusions I may have reached because I’m either rebellious, crazy or a proud, stuffy idiot. “

    If you go back to when I originally asked the question, I asked, “Can I ask you what brought you to the point of walking away from the faith? Was it intellectual doubts or a change in lifestyle that brought you to that point?” I actually asked about intellectual doubts first, but for some reason you got stuck on the lifestyle stuff. I’m not sure why that is, and I wouldn’t begin to guess, since you are the only one that can answer that. But regardless of the answer, lifestyle issues is just as valid a reason as intellectual ones. There are people who walk away from the faith and they are upfront that they are leaving for lifestyle changes. Since I don’t know you at all, it’s not strange that I would ask. I’m guessing that anyone who walks away from a biblical faith would choose to no longer follow biblical commandments. Please let me know if I am incorrect in assuming that.

  • 73. paleale  |  May 5, 2009 at 12:37 am

    As an aside, I’ve been pondering why most of us tend to bring up Zeus and Thor more than Vishnu or Odin or Athena. Is it just more fun to say? I, for one, think that Thor kicks ass. He even had a recurring appearance in the Amazing Spiderfriends cartoon. And that hammer just rules. However, for some reason the idea of Thor just seems more preposterous than an eight-armed, elephant-headed goddess that eats her young. Perhaps it’s because of the cartoon caricature depicting the Norse god of thunder in such an absurd fashion that it’s become more of a cliche of the idea of outdated divinity. Thoughts?

  • 74. Quester  |  May 5, 2009 at 12:53 am

    ”He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

    Baloney. If stories won’t convince a person, than neither will evidence? Provide some evidence, and we’ll see if that really is true.

    Let me ask you….do you believe that mankind is sinful?

    Give me a coherent definition of sin, and I’ll give you an answer. So far you’ve said that sin is breaking God’s law, but that keeping God’s law wouldn’t make you sinless. Something other than the law must be at play, then. What is it?

    If no, why is there evil in the world?

    Because we’re animals who have evolved much faster than our social systems. In turn, I ask you: if evil in the world is caused by sin, why is there still evil after the price of sin has been paid?

    At the end of the day, whether or not you think God is a tyrant, He is still God…all powerful, knowing everything, and capable of doing whatever He wants.

    So it doesn’t matter if God is evil, so long as no one is powerful enough to do anything about it but submit or be damned? Might makes right: is this truly the moral principle you want to support?

    Is this good news? Sure it is…if you accept His offer of reconciliation.

    From what you’re telling me, God is the ultimate extortionist. He tells us we have a problem, makes us an offer we can’t refuse, promising to fix the problem, then charges us every day of our lives for the so-called fix, even though we’re still subjected to the problem? Are you even reading what you’re typing?

  • 75. Quester  |  May 5, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Paleale,

    I’ve been pondering why most of us tend to bring up Zeus and Thor more than Vishnu or Odin or Athena.

    I think that Thor has been brought more into movies, comics and other popular fiction than the others, so he comes more quickly to mind. Frankly, I’m curious as to how long it will be before a heathen Asatru who has dedicated his or her life to Thor drops by to have a say.

  • 76. paleale  |  May 5, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Jflower

    Just got through reading your post. Sorry that I got defensive. You’re absolutely right. I did get stuck on the lifestyle change. I guess it’s because most people I enter into a discussion about this with automatically assume it’s because of some sort of trauma-induced, moral polar flip or something. Perhaps it’s atheist snobbery on my part, perhaps a bit protectionist for the given apostate, but I’d rather see someone walk away for their philosophy than for their lifestyle. I’ve seen people walk away for their lifestyle and suffer lifelong guilt and insecurity as a result.

    Again, I apologize for jumping the gun and getting all defensive on you. On with the show! :-)

  • 77. paleale  |  May 5, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Jflower,

    Regarding following biblical commandments:

    May I posit that it doesn’t necessarily require a biblical commandment in order to live in compliance with a biblical commandment?

  • 78. jflower36  |  May 5, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Quester,

    “Baloney. If stories won’t convince a person, than neither will evidence? Provide some evidence, and we’ll see if that really is true.”

    Are you saying you would believe if God did a miracle in front of your eyes? Jesus did miracles in front of people of his day, and they were still unbelieving. I think Jesus was pointing out that it is an issue of the heart and one’s willingness to commit.

    “Give me a coherent definition of sin, and I’ll give you an answer. So far you’ve said that sin is breaking God’s law, but that keeping God’s law wouldn’t make you sinless. Something other than the law must be at play, then. What is it?”

    I believe that the actual word “sin” means to “miss the mark”. You made a correct distinction above. It’s true that obeying God’s law won’t make you without sin, because to be without sin would mean that you are perfect. No one is able to perfectly keep God’s law. Do you know anyone who is perfect? No one besides Jesus has ever been perfect. Someone can attempt to keep God’s law perfectly but they would fall short.

    “In turn, I ask you: if evil in the world is caused by sin, why is there still evil after the price of sin has been paid? “

    There are 2 issues here.

    1)Sin has a price and that price is eternal death (hell). The price being paid has to do with not going to hell.
    2)When someone gives their life to Christ, they are transformed on the inside, which means that he or she is no longer a slave to sin. This however does not mean that they won’t continue to sin.

    “So it doesn’t matter if God is evil, so long as no one is powerful enough to do anything about it but submit or be damned? Might makes right: is this truly the moral principle you want to support? “

    My point was not to say that God is evil, because I don’t believe He is. The point I was trying to make is that anyone can make accusations against God but that doesn’t change that He is God. Like Him or don’t like Him, He is who He is. You can accuse Him of being evil but that doesn’t mean that He is. We can debate that back and forth, but it still doesn’t change anything.

    “From what you’re telling me, God is the ultimate extortionist. He tells us we have a problem, makes us an offer we can’t refuse, promising to fix the problem, then charges us every day of our lives for the so-called fix, even though we’re still subjected to the problem? Are you even reading what you’re typing? “

    I’m not sure what you are saying here. What do you mean “charges us every day for the so-called fix”?

    Paleale,

    No problem at all. I’m sure I’ve had my own instances of being defensive. I appreciate your kindess.

    Yes, it is possible to follow biblical commandments without there being biblical commandments. I would also say that Romans says that those who don’t have the law do instinctively the things of the law, as they have the law written in their hearts, and a conscience that tells them right from wrong.

    I’d just like to check in with everyone. I’m sure we can debate back and forth forever. I’m willing to continue the discussion if you want to continue but I don’t want to wear out my welcome. I won’t be offended if everyone would like to let it rest. I also am willing to continue.

  • 79. Quester  |  May 5, 2009 at 2:01 am

    Jesus did miracles in front of people of his day, and they were still unbelieving. I think Jesus was pointing out that it is an issue of the heart and one’s willingness to commit.

    Stories in a book tell us that, but we have no reason to think they are true. Have God do something that is clearly an action of God here and now, and we’ll see what happens. I’m trying to point out that this is an issue of sense and one’s willingness to respond to reality.

    No one is able to perfectly keep God’s law.

    So we deserve punishment for being unable to do what God did not create us capable of doing?

    Sin has a price and that price is eternal death (hell). The price being paid has to do with not going to hell.

    Does sin have anything to do with why there is evil in the world, then?

    We can debate that back and forth, but it still doesn’t change anything.

    Debate can change minds if both parties are willing to let their minds be changed by reason.

    What do you mean “charges us every day for the so-called fix”?

    I mean that God requires our submission and obedience (or faith) for freeing us from the price of sin, despite our lives not actually being different than if God had not acted, or indeed if there were no God.

  • 80. paleale  |  May 5, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Romans says that those who don’t have the law do instinctively the things of the law, as they have the law written in their hearts, and a conscience that tells them right from wrong.

    Then why do we need this collection of laws in the first place? If it’s ‘written in [our] hearts’ then what’s the point of giving the law (which we apparently already have) when the law won’t even change anything? It’s just silly and redundant. I know, the law is supposedly given to show us that we’re imperfect and sinful and we need Jesus. But as Quester has been pointing out, even with Jesus, we’re still the same imperfect and sinful people we were before; we can just feel better about it because now we get to go to heaven where we’ll REALLY be perfect and sin-free despite the fact that we’ll still have free will and the same personalities that we have now that would in essence enable us to continue to make the same choices and mistakes we do now. What’s to stop it from happening all over again? Nothing.

    There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza.

    checking in

    So far this has been a very one-sided discussion, with you saying something from the bible and us countering with questions about certain points and you countering with more answers from the bible (which you still haven’t given your reasons for believing in the first place). I’d like to hear some questions from you. If you’re just in here to re-convert us then I’m really not interested in ‘discussing’ further. However, if you have a legitimate curiosity and interest in our points of view and a willingness to ponder I would love to continue. I would enjoy the discourse. Preaching, however, is not welcome. If you have not yet done so, I recommend reading through the post next to the big red exclamation point entitled “Attention Christian Readers”. This will give you a better idea of whether or not you wish to continue.

  • 81. LeoPardus  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:14 am

    So what you’re saying jflower, is that any request that God actually DO anything is to be met with an apologetic for why He never does anything. That way the double-think of “My god is all-powerful” and “My god never does anything” can be maintained. Wonderful. Of course I spent 25 years engaging in this double-think, so I can’t really blame others too much. I do however want to free others from this crippling enslavement. I’ve found truth and freedom and honesty in life. I’d love others to enjoy it too.

    Since your deity can’t rise to any challenge, perhaps you will. I mentioned the Resurrection Challenge earlier. How about you give it a try. Here it is briefly (copied and slightly modified from another site):

    [[ Tell me what happened on Easter. I am not asking for proof. Just tell me exactly what happened on the day that your most important doctrine was born.

    Believers should eagerly take up this challenge, since without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Paul wrote, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." (I Corinthians 15:14-15)

    The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul's tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.

    Since the gospels do not always give precise times of day, it is permissible to make educated guesses. (Additional explanation of the narrative may be set apart in parentheses.) The important condition to the challenge, however, is that not one single biblical detail be omitted. Fair enough?]]

    Care to try?

  • 82. LeoPardus  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:16 am

    If it helps you to try, I will agree to try it myself. I did start a couple times, but got bogged down pretty fast. If it helps you to take up the challenge I will promise to print out all the 165 verses and sit down with pen, paper, scissors, tape, etc and make my very best attempt.

  • 83. LeoPardus  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:19 am

    jflower:

    Are you saying you would believe if God did a miracle in front of your eyes? Jesus did miracles in front of people of his day, and they were still unbelieving.

    Dealt with this too. Look in the archives for my article, “The Call for Miracles”.

  • 84. LeoPardus  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I don’t want to wear out my welcome. I won’t be offended if everyone would like to let it rest. I also am willing to continue.

    My opinion on this: Our primary purpose for this blog is to provide thought, support, camaraderie, resources, etc. for skeptics, doubters, de-converts and that like. Engaging in discussions on theological issues probably helps many readers to think through such matters. As such it serves the purpose of the site. So there’s no reason why this discussion can’t go on.

  • 85. jflower36  |  May 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been really busy and I’ve been dealing with some family issues. Sure, I will take the challenge, although I’m not naive to the reasons behind it. As far as where I’m coming from….I’m not doubting my faith. On the other hand, I don’t believe that I can convert anyone. I would like to continue the discussion but I have to preface that by saying that I don’t have tons of time and there is only one of me and several of you…hahaha Anyway, I will look at the challenge and get back to you all. I hope everyone has been doing well :)

  • 86. paleale  |  May 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Hooray! We’ve missed you Jflower!

    Glad to see you’re back. Hope everything is ok with your family.

  • 87. LeoPardus  |  May 13, 2009 at 10:54 am

    FYI to all interested parties:
    I did the Resurrection Challenge yesterday and this morning.
    I recall when I was a believer that I’d noticed some of the problems and thought that someday I needed to sit down and go over the different accounts to reconcile them. Little did I know they weren’t reconcilable.

  • 88. orDover  |  May 13, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Will you be making a post about your efforts? I’d love to see the various things you tried.

  • 89. LeoPardus  |  May 13, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I just might. Have to figure out how though. It presents best as a flow diagram, but that’s impossible here.

  • 90. orDover  |  May 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Yeah, I can see how that would be a logistical nightmare. I’m not really sure if this would work because I have no idea what your research looks like, but maybe you could pick your top three best attempts to unify the idea, presented as one coherent narrative, i.e. “Jesus is on the cross, Mary and Matthew are there, two angels appear in the tomb, then he appears in Emmaus,” and then show how the different accounts make that coherent reading impossible?

  • 91. Quester  |  May 13, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    If a flow diagram works best, it wouldn’t be the first picture posted here for us to respond to.

  • 92. BigHouse  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Leo, at least share what you think the major “smoking guns” are, if the whole analysis is difficult to post.

  • 93. LeoPardus  |  May 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I’ll see about getting some of the biggest, impossible to reconcile messes up here in the next week.

  • 94. Joe  |  May 13, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I am a Christian, but stumbled upon this article on an ex-christian site, and thought it was very well written. I thought I would share it—if it has already been posted somewhere on this site pardon me. It explained to me the “gradual process” deconversion takes—and how it happens—in much clearer terms:

    http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2005/11/how-to-become-non-christian.php

  • 95. Joe  |  May 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I must emphasize that I do not agree with the article—but it explains a lot about how someone who deconverts comes to their final decision and “state” so to speak in a point by point progression. I still don’t understand how one can do it, but it gives me a better understanding.

  • 96. RLWemm  |  May 13, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Leo, I’d be interested to see when scholars think the details you are trying to fit together were actually written, and by whom.

    Paul comes first. What did he say happened? Next is Mark. How does his differ? Then there are gospels who relied on Mark. Then there are various additions, some of them more questionable than others.

    Finally, how does the changing picture compare with the mythology of the Jewish people and the mythology of the surrounding Greek and Roman cultures. Do the newer bits seem to be there to answer some Jewish concern or belief about the Messiah or to answer some requisite for divinity which is usual in Greek or Roman culture and mythology?

    Then, of course, there is the problem of which translation of scripture the gospel writer is familiar with, the one in Hebrew or the one in Greek? Does the wording make equal sense in in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, or only one of them?

  • 97. Jennifer  |  March 9, 2010 at 12:32 am

    Hi there, found this old post based on giving up God in order to actually get past my insecurities…
    Read some of the comments, blah blah blah.
    So I’ve reached the conclusion for myself I’m an apostate, and a Christian. I’ve had to completely reject love [God, based on an experience with an ex-boyfriend who used God to control me emotionally] in order to understand life better, my own capabilities, people, but especially God Himself. I don’t read the Bible anymore but, Paul didn’t have the New Testament anyway, and look where he got. As for heaven and hell, I think they’re here on earth as well as after life. The Bible’s called the book of Life because dead people can’t read. Falling in love is the greatest and most difficult way God blesses and curses us because it’s so precious. When we put a part of our insecurities down and pick up another piece of life to use for someone else we learn a little more about the grace of God. When we put down what we originally thought love was and give more others learn how beautiful God really is, cause life is more beautiful without what we originally thought He was.

  • 98. Laura  |  March 23, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I feel really sorry for you. If u don’t trust God you will fail. And when you do you will fall flat

  • 99. Quester  |  March 23, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Same thing happens when you do trust God. Only way not to fail, is not to try.

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Attention Christian Readers

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

de-conversion wager

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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