A Look at Liberal Christianity

March 5, 2009 at 4:50 pm 366 comments

I came across an interesting post written by a thoughtful Christian who has moved beyond a literalist, fundamentalist mindset regarding the Bible as the inspired, revealed word of God. Here are some highlights (although you probably should read the whole post, in order to understand the context from which these bits are excerpted – the comments are worth reading too):

The question of whether the Bible is God’s word is not a new one…. There are certainly a number of things which seem “wrong” if we are to take a literal understanding….Yes, genetics has confirmed that we are all related through mitochondrial DNA – but this does not mean one person; it means one small group of people (who were located somewhere in Africa). It also assumes that humanity is hundreds of thousands of years old, which means we need to accept, at least in part, the theory of evolution….

*************

Suddenly, we find ourselves in the position of looking at the Bible and deciding which parts are to be taken literally, which parts are to be taken allegorically, and which parts are to be understood as no longer applying to us because they have “been fulfilled in Christ.” This is a very dangerous thing to do. Once we start doing that, what difference is there between Christianity and any other man-made religion?

**********

…the Bible has been used to say whatever man wants it to say…and so justify anything we want it to.

His conclusion is this:

The Bible is not The Word of God; it is commentary on The Word of God. It is fallible and open to interpretation. It gives us a historical understanding of how men and women have understood God and salvation. It must continue to change and evolve. If it doesn’t, then – as all things which do not change and grow – it is dead and has no power.

I applaud this author’s honesty in recognizing that certain portions of the Bible, taken literally, do not comport with what we in the 21st century understand about the world. He is rational enough to recognize that the fundamentalist “old time religion” simply doesn’t make sense in the contemporary world. On the one hand, I applaud his recognition that the theory of evolution must be taken seriously. On the other hand, I don’t know which parts of the theory he wants to keep and which parts he wants to discard, nor do I know why he wants only bits and pieces of the theory rather than the whole. I also applaud his honesty in acknowledging that people have used the Bible to justify things that simply are not justifiable (except, it seems, under the auspices of religion).

Having said all that, I must note that his conclusion expresses – unintentionally, I’m sure – precisely what is wrong with liberal Christianity. What does it mean to say that, rather than being the direct word of God, the Bible is simply commentary on The Word of God? How can the Bible make any sense as commentary unless one has an original “word” to compare with it? Moreover, if one accepts his premise, then why is the Bible any more authoritative than anyone else’s commentary? To take another tack, if the author is obliquely referring to Jesus as the real Word of God, his sentiment is still nonsensical.

The Bible is our only source for learning anything about the alleged life, acts and words of Jesus. If it is only commentary, rather than revelation, then we are no closer to getting direct communications from God, either through scripture or through Jesus. Furthermore, the Bible itself cannot “change and evolve over time.” It is a set collection of writings. It is interpretations of the text that have evolved, not the text itself. Let me amend that. Scholarship in the past couple of centuries has revealed – to the chagrin of many believers – that the biblical texts have changed over time (although they shouldn’t have), which is one of the reasons that the question of infallibility arises in the first place. Still, comparatively speaking, the biblical text has remained relatively static for two millenia, while interpretations of the text have changed substantially throughout that period.

I agree with the author that the Bible is fallible and open to interpretation. I also agree with him that the Bible simply “gives us a historical understanding of how men and women have understood God and salvation.” If one accepts those things, then how does one determine whether those understandings are right, meaningful, misguided, dangerous or evil? How can the author support claims that his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, but another interpretation, i.e., a misogynist one (which he rejects), is wrong? The reality is this: when one seeks to determine which biblical interpretations trump the others, one inevitably turns to sources other than the Bible. That being the case, why not simply dispense with the Bible completely, or at least relegate it to a much lower level of authority?

If the foundational book upon which a religion is founded is acknowledged to be nothing more than a collection of human writings, then the answer to the author’s question, “what difference is there between Christianity and any other man-made religion?” is simple: there is none. Christianity, like all other religions, is solely the product of human imagination, a completely human phenomenon. Once one dispenses with the notion that the Bible is a specially inspired, direct revelation from God – and one must, given the numerous textual and factual errors, as well as contradictions, that litter the Bible from cover to cover – then one must accept that the Bible’s teachings are no more authoritative, inspired or inspirational than the teachings that have come from the pens of many others. This author is free, of course, to continue his pursuit of god-belief and understanding of his Christian creed, but, I can’t help wondering why he bothers. Life is plenty rich and fulfilling without the clutter of religious dogma. Maybe, if he’s willing to be honest with himself, this Christian author will discover that for himself.

- the chaplain

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Why I Stopped Believing In God Taste and See the Mystery

366 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lauradee24  |  March 5, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    yes, this realization is one of the factors in my de-conversion. I realized how MUCH we really do pick and choose. I realized how MUCH we justified away with the flimsiest of excuses and reasons. The truth is, NOBODY takes the Bible literally. They only take certain parts literally. And you can come up with books upon books for the reasons why, and for a few of them, you can say okay, sure. But when you study it deeper, you find that there is nothing there, and some of it is an outright story–ie, many Christians get around some of the strange OT laws by dividing it into moral law and law that was just for the Jews during that time period. But the Jews made no such distinction, and no such distinction is even hinted at in the OT. It is simply a fabrication made up by man to excuse why he follows some parts of the Bible, but not others.

  • 2. LeoPardus  |  March 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    DIng ding ding ding! Lauradee has got it.

    I’ve been saying for years now, “Everyone is just making it up as they go along.”

  • 3. the chaplain  |  March 5, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    lauradee and leopardus:

    My realization that I was constructing a god to fit my ideals was a major factor in my deconversion.

  • 4. orDover  |  March 5, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    I’m really intrigued by liberal Christians who admit that the Bible is not infallible, or even that much of it is not literal, but allegorical. How do they justify still using the Bible as an authority? I’ve never heard anyone answer that question. I haven’t read the full post, the but author cited raises the problem, but doesn’t seem to offer any solution.

    If the Bible isn’t the literal, inerrant word of God, how do we tell it apart from other texts which claim to be holy? How do we tell that Christianity is a true religion, even? It seems like this author, and others like him, admit that there are problems with the text, but still hold that the religion itself is true. How can they do that? There doesn’t seem to be sufficient historical or natural proof for the Christian God outside of the Bible. If the Bible cannot be taken on complete authority, how can anyone believe in Jesus?

  • 5. New Belgium 'Mighty Arrow' Seasonal PaleAle  |  March 5, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    OrDover,

    The point which you just brought up was one of the more significant realizations that brought about my de-conversion. Towards the end of my days as a believer, I had become a very liberal Christian (eg. I was accepting of homosexuals, I had always kept evolution in my back pocket but had finally begun to wear it on my sleeve). But rather than hold on to the Bible as authority, I recognized the inconsistencies of that position and took the Bible down from its pedestal. When the Bible came down, all that was left was a collection of principles that were shared by religions and cultures all over the world and were hardly unique to Christianity. And there was a refreshing lack of bullshit. ;-)

  • 6. Joshua  |  March 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    You know, I was going to try and come up with a way a liberal Christian could justify his beliefs and just realized that I couldn’t do it.

    Yeah, it doesn’t make sense.

    Either its true or its not. If its man-made there is no reason to call it revealed. And if its not revealed then this explains why so much of it is not true. And if so much of it is not true then why believe any of it?

  • 7. paleale  |  March 5, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    By the way, that last comment was really just me. I just happened to find a really, really good pale ale and tried to include it in my identity. Failure.

  • 8. orDover  |  March 5, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I’d guess for serious thinking liberal Christians it must just all go back to personal revelation. “Yeah, the Bible’s not really true, but I just feel deep down inside that Jesus is real, and that he is God. Believing this helps me live a better life and makes me happier, so I’m just going to keep doing it, as baseless as it is.”

  • 9. orDover  |  March 5, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    paleale,
    We all know you drink your favorite microbrew in a sad attempt to fill the void in your heart left by Jesus. Give up your sinful ways and return into the fold of the Good Shepherd!

  • 10. Erudite Redneck  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Well, as a former Southern Baptist turned Congregationalist-UCC, I’d say that the Bible’s authority and sacredness rest in its existence and its place in Christian history-experience, not in its alleged origins; that, rather than it being THE revelation of God to man, it’s a record of Jewish-then-Christian searching for and encounters with what they considered to be “the Divine,” and that it includes revelations that can spark epiphanies in the reader.

    I’d say that scholarly efforts to rank the sayings of Jesus, distorted as they are, in order of likely authenticity are worth paying some attention to, to try to get closer to what it was Jesus was trying to get across.

    I’d say that the earliest hopefully likely authentic sayings by Jesus seem to have him denying, or at least downplaying, his own divinity and pointing to God, which he, as a first-century Palestinian Jew, perceived in a first-century Jewish way.

    And I’d say that efforts to imitate him and his ways, which include trusting God, are the thing — not any list of propositions that one is expected to assent to intellectually. In other words, what one believes means less than how one behaves, although I’d say that trusting that God, and in God, is in there somehow.

    Oh, and I’d say that what Jesus is said to have said about God is more important than what people have said about Jesus.

    Oh, I’d also say that any religion dating to antiquity whose modrn adherents or followers based it presently on a text, had been demoted seriously from hat it started out as.

    All off the top of my weary head, as I head off to bed.

    A more quippy answer is: I try to follow Jesus and let Jesus worry about God. I’ll see any responses anon. Peace.

  • 11. Chris  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:31 am

    “people have used the Bible to justify things that simply are not justifiable (except, it seems, under the auspices of religion).”

    Without religion, how do you condemn ANYTHING? On what objective basis?

    ” Scholarship in the past couple of centuries has revealed – – that the biblical texts have changed over time. Still, comparatively speaking, the biblical text has remained relatively static ”

    Out of one side of your face you complain they changed, and the other side you say they are relatively static. Hmmm.

    ” while interpretations of the text have changed substantially throughout that period.”

    Well, churches like the Eastern Orthodox would say their interpretations have not changed, and that changed interpretations are a heresy.

    “I agree with the author that the Bible is fallible and open to interpretation.”

    It can be interpreted in more than one way, but that doesn’t mean it is “open” to interpretation. It’s always been historically acknowledged by the Church (even in the bible itself) that the bible can be misinterpreted. But traditionally Christianity has asserted that the bible must be joined to the mind of the Church to be interpreted correctly.

    “The reality is this: when one seeks to determine which biblical interpretations trump the others, one inevitably turns to sources other than the Bible. That being the case, why not simply dispense with the Bible completely, or at least relegate it to a much lower level of authority?”

    Historically the tradition of the Church is the “other” source of authority. That source of authority does not allow “relegating it to a much lower level”.

  • 12. paleale  |  March 6, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Chris

    I understand where you’re coming from. I converted from an independent, charismatic protestant faith to an orthodox faith based on the reasons that you stated above. I was so disillusioned with the thousands of denominations all claiming to have the ‘Truth’ when you could only trace the majority of their doctrines back to the 60’s. What, God’s gonna start up this church, let it fall into darkness for approximately 2000 years and then some surfer is going to finally get it? Right.

    But being joined to the ‘mind of the church’ doesn’t cut it for me anymore. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches claim direct lineage to the apostles. Not to mention the early sects that never gained as much popularity. Whose ideas are we to follow? Even the Bible itself gives reports of schisms and dissections of established groups of believers.

    Tradition is just as fallible as reading the Bible as being ‘open to interpretation’. All that Tradition means is that once upon a time it was open to interpretation and a group of men fought and argued over who’s interpretation was more palatable. I’m sure that it was all guided by the Holy Spirit ;-)

    It’s still just man’s opinion in the end Chris. And just because that opinion is part of a centuries old tradition it doesn’t mean that it’s not bullshit. It’s just really old bullshit.

  • 13. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    umm… good interp. as a progressive Christian i’m happy that this discussion has been opened up. the notion i get around here is that when the word Christian is used (largely with contempt) it is being used with an assumption of conservative or fundie overtones (like Yurka the Jerka).

    but i see Xn and the bible very differently. why read it or hear it preached every Sunday? because it’s still relevent. humans, despite being removed culturally, socially, and centuries, we do similar things and think in similar ways.

    the bible is a mythic substrata of a community and their experience with “God”. i will define God as the most basic level here as “what a community holds to be it’s most important values” and for the Judeo-Christians it’s love, forgiveness, power, and reversal of human methods of thinking (at the most simple level and there are HUGE nuances to these terms). hense the Jews and Xn’s in the bible largely fail to measure up to these lofty goals and insist they need divine support.

    now the bible is by no means monolythic in it’s approach to these goals nor even in the definition of what value is placed at the highest for their image of God. in short, it’s a theological mess and hense LauraDee is right in claiming that all believers have a “canon within the canon” because NO ONE can hold all stories together because they are radically different!

    so why believe in God at all? i think that humans are an story-animal. we LOVE stories and narratives as they provide us with history, identity, and symbolic values of our group. this mythic substrata are communicated through the ethos of the community, through figures of speech, through everyday behavior, through tone of voice. The implicit mythology is often more powerful than the explicit one.

    so why study the scripture since it’s no more inspired than anything else? it’s prevasive and it colors the waters in which we swim. we can never fully be free of it as it is endemic to our culture and history. for example: how are we communicating all with an understood language? i posit it’s because of the King James Bible which solidified and unified the up-until-then fractured language of english.. just as the Luther bible did the same for german.

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Without religion, how do you condemn ANYTHING? On what objective basis?

    Or, conversely, how do you condemn or justify anything objectively with religion? Which religion do you use? Which sect of that religion? Which holy book(s)? Which school of interpretation? Which era of belief/interpretation?

    Study history. There is nothing remotely objective or lasting about what religion (Christianity, Islam, or any other) condemns or blesses. Everyone just makes it up as they go along.

    churches like the Eastern Orthodox would say their interpretations have not changed, and that changed interpretations are a heresy.

    And the EOC would be the only sect to even come close to being able to get away with that claim. But even they have changed positions through the centuries. Try slavery for a big one. Or try birth control. Or try the EOC vs the OOC (oriental orthodox church). Granted the EOC has the least change of any Christian sect I know of, but they aren’t flawless.

    It can be interpreted in more than one way, but that doesn’t mean it is “open” to interpretation.

    That doesn’t even make sense.

    But traditionally Christianity has asserted that the bible must be joined to the mind of the Church to be interpreted correctly.

    Great. Which “church”? EOC, OOC, RCC, St. Thomas churches, etc…???

    Historically the tradition of the Church is the “other” source of authority. That source of authority does not allow “relegating it to a much lower level”.

    It perforce subjugates the scriptures to the magesterium.

    Are you coming from an EOC perspective?

  • 15. orDover  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    why read it or hear it preached every Sunday? because it’s still relevent. humans, despite being removed culturally, socially, and centuries, we do similar things and think in similar ways.

    What do you do with all of the negatives aspects of the Bible that are NOT relevant because they are now considered immoral? Just pick and chose which old stories are still relevant? The same claims can be made about Dante. Should we all be going to a Dante Mass and being read to from the Divine Comedy once a week?

    so why believe in God at all? i think that humans are an story-animal. we LOVE stories and narratives as they provide us with history, identity, and symbolic values of our group.

    Okay, but how to you decide which religious story to believe, and which group to identify with? Does it even matter?

  • 16. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    we must look at the negatives as our lives are filled with them! we must seek to find the lesson here and also the hope. i think it’s too easy to despair and much harder to be positive… in the words of Harvey Milk “you gotta give ‘em hope!”

    which religious story to believe is the one that’s in your culture. the one you were raised with because that is where your baises will lay. i tried buddhism but found that i had a TON of Christian assumptions and was told by Pema Chodron to stick with the tradition i was raised with. and for me, it matters! not for my eternal soul, but to recognize the communal assumptions and praxis. UU’s drive me nuts because they’re all over the place, picking and choosing (largely fitting other traditions into their intellectual and affluent baises) and fundies make me even more crazy as they are too narrow in their interp. the United Church of Christ works for me as they are Christocentric yet challenge and explore and question. there’s a lot of freedom there.

    could we go to a Dante mass? sure! we could also gather and talk about radio lab (which would be ideal for me)! or aesop’s fables. or even talk about movies for that matter.. my church does all the time! but there is a common collection of stories we’re always comparing, challenging, and talking about and those are the biblical stories… even the nasty parts, because that’s where i think we’ll learn the most.

  • 17. orDover  |  March 6, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Okay Luke, I get it. But I have another question. How do you, personally, deal with being a part of a community that does think the Bible is the word of God, and does think it matters very much to your eternal soul what you believe? Are you a loner (if so, does that defeat the purpose of the religious community)? Do you go to a liberal church with others who share your views? Do you go to a regular church and just deal with those bordering on fundamentalism?

  • 18. Lucian  |  March 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Paleale said: I converted from an independent, charismatic protestant faith

    I knew there was something wrong with You. Now I know what. (Catholics don’t understand verses like Matthew 17:20 the way You did: they might lose their faith when faced with something like the ordeal You’re going through, but Matthew 17:20 most certainly wouldn’t have been part of the equation).

    To tackle the subject of this post a bit: Christ is the Word of God.

  • 19. orDover  |  March 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    To tackle the subject of this post a bit: Christ is the Word of God.

    How does that address the subject of this post? How did you establish that Christ is the Word of God? What do you use for evidence, to support your conclusion?

  • 20. BigHouse  |  March 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    And how do you know you have an accurate depiction of Christ, given the only source is this book you are downgrading in importance?

  • 21. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    i go to a progressive church.. the way we look at the bible is how Karl Barth put it “When we read the bible we aren’t reading THE word of God, rather, we read FOR it.”

    “and does think it matters very much to your eternal soul what you believe?”

    we’re universalists.. well not all of us.. but largely, that’s what’s preached from the pulpit. no hell, or if there is a hell, it’s self-imposed exile.. but that’s not the focus of my theology, it’s on praxis.

    “Christ is the Word of God”

    the meaning of this translated “WORD” or logos in a very nuanced idea and term. we all can be the word/logic/spirit/breathe of God and “wisdom is determined on action” and “you can judge a tree by it’s fruits” and all that jazz.

    accurate depictions of Christ? hard to say.. i usually put Xns in three categories: 1. Friday 2. Saturday and 3. Sunday Xns. this model determines the focus and praxis of the community. friday xns love the cross and passion of christ, and their theology and praxis shows this (slash and burn christianity). then there’s Sat xns which have a dead god in a tomb. easy to figure out, leaves us with more answers than questions, and is very clear what we should do (slash and burn with a vengence!) and then there’s easter sunday christians who have a live God out there breaking through the chaos and establishing order and is extremely hard to figure out.

    i’m of the sunday variety.. if you haven’t guessed already. Christ is not an accurate depiction but a relationship.. just as your relationships will vary from friend to friend based on how and where you connect. it’s like if we were siblings… we would all have a different connection to our parents. so accuracy is not the focus, per se, but experience is… and sure the source comes in part with the Bible.. but i throw in other people’s experiences (some i value more than others!) and noncanonical versions like Thomas and Nag Hammadi texts.

  • 22. BigHouse  |  March 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    No offense, Luke, but it sounds like your church could just as easily be based on puppy dogs and ice cream.

    Seriously, is there anything there of substance at all?

  • 23. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    sure! what’s the context you’re looking for? narrow your question and i’ll do my best! all churches sound like they’re about puppy dogs and ice cream until you’re sitting in the pews or talking to the congregation and then you get hit with the specifics. what sounds good on the internet sounds like slash-n-burn Christianity in reality.

    so focusing more on your question of Christ, and how do i know i’m following or not… here’s my take.

    I focus on the life of Jesus and view his mission as showing the power of inclusion and radical love of God, neighbor, and self. Jesus best put out a life to lead. Not because he died for others, anyone can do that, but to live for others, to LIVE for OTHERS the way Jesus did, to reach out beyond social stigmas, beyond barriers, and enter into a radical sense of community of ALL and no OTHERS in it. That is a life worth following. There is atonement here, but that is neither the focus nor the point of Jesus for me. What that shows is that God takes the initiative towards reconciliation both horizontally and vertically.

    that leads me to include people i would rather not.. like those unlike myself.. the atheist, agnostic, fundie (ugh!), homosexual, leperous, samaritan, pharisee, the whatever! religion is not the opiate for me but the catalyst for praxis, for justice, and for dialogue.

    how do i know i’m doing it? i don’t. but i believe i am but no answer is set in stone.

  • 24. Erudite Redneck  |  March 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Re, “given the only source is this book,” in referring to Jesus. I’d say the Jesus as depicted in the book points to Others as expressions of himself, at least in a place or two. An important place or two, to me. And so, I’d say I see him in Others, and I meet him whenever I try to meet their needs. Another source of expressions of him is any group of people who come together in his name, trying to discern his purposes, and trying to imitate him. All of which is about as solid as the steam from a tea kettle. Sorry

    Luke: We could hang out!

  • 25. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    hey ER, i’m digging your description of #24.

    it’s like trying to prove i love my wife. i can’t show you the love nor perfectly describe my feelings, and all you can see is the fruits of this feeling.. but not the feeling itself. just gonna have to take my word for it.

  • 26. orDover  |  March 6, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I feel like you guys are skirting the real issue, which BigHouse brought up in #20, “… how do you know you have an accurate depiction of Christ, given the only source is this book you are downgrading in importance?”

    Erudie Redneck claims to answer the question, but only does so through vague personal philosophy and a bit a twisting semantics. I want a REAL answer.

    Luke, we’re not asking you to prove you love Jesus or why you love Jesus, but only to prove how you know that the Jesus you love is a real thing, a historical thing, a deified thing? How do you know who Jesus is and what he is all about if you do not put a great deal of faith in the words of the Bible and their accuracy?

  • 27. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    through the flawed and baised cultural documents of the canonized gospels as well as the noncanonical gospels. as well as the tradition built around it and the theologians deconstructing those traditions and scriptures. through my entirely subjective and relative relationship and personal experience of an imaginary person in my head i call Jesus/God. through reinforcement from the consquences of actions that i feel caused by my relationship with said imaginary person (namely loving others, self and God and teachings of said imaginary/mythic/deified/historical person).

    the short answer: experience is how I know.

    praxis = reflection = praxis and so on.

  • 28. Erudite Redneck  |  March 6, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Oh, I’ll put it plainly, if you insist, orDover.

    I don’t have a damn iota of proof of anything. And I don’t claim to “know” jack. But I did answer your question to the best of my ability.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  March 6, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Luke/ER, based on these responses “Jesus” is as worthy of your following as Ghandi, or Mother Teresa or “insert good example human being here”. I don’t see anything theistic about it.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow what you think is “Jesus”, just that I don’t understand why you lend this particular old story the extra “authority” if you will, over your life.

  • 30. Erudite Redneck  |  March 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I might lose Luke here, but I’d say mainly because I was born in Arkansas, lived in Oklahoma, then Texas, and now Oklahoma again. He’s the One I grew up with.Now, I admire Ghandi, Mother Teresa and some others similarly. Were I raised elsewhere, I might very well adore the others and strive to imitate them. But Jesus is the one I’m most familar with, whether by happenstance or “God’s plan” or both. No, I don’t declare that those who’ve never heard the name of Jesus are doomed, damned or dumb. It’s his Way that matters most — and maybe that’s all that matters. I’m not gonna declare that others aren’t also on the same Way.

  • 31. Lucian  |  March 6, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    To tackle the issue even a bit further: John is primarily a human being, not a book. To be even more sadistic: Abraham did not have a Bible. Andrew did not write a single line. Nor did Thomas. They left behind other types of letters. (2 Corinthians 3:3)

    In any case, the Word of God is Christ. If someone wants to understand the word of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then he has first to understand the Word of God as revealed in Christ. I am suspicious of Christians whose Christianity begins not with Christ, but with Moses; and whose “Gospel” begins not with the Four Gospels proper, but rather with the Book of Romans.

    Christ is the Word of God, and as such He should be the Light (John 1:9, 3:19, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46) through which we read the Scriptures. (John 5:39) Christ is the one Who literally”exegetes” God to us (John 1:18) and Who is Himself the very Image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and to see Him means to see the Father (John 14:9), Whom no-one else save Him has ever seen (John 1:18). Christ is the key to properly interpret the Holy Scriptures (John 5:39).

    If someone’s “God hates fags”, then that God cannot be the One that has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:8, 11, 16; John 3:16). If someone plans on stoning people with another Stone save the One that the builders rejected (Matthew 21:42), and upon which the Church is build (Matthew 16:18), then he errs grievously. If someone’s take on the Book of Revelation reveals not Christ (Revelation 1:1), but rather anything from Satan Saddam Hussein to Gorbaciov and September 11, then that certain someone is severely mistaken.

    To quote Sir Thomas More,
    I trust i make myself obscure.
    — just kiddin`… :D

  • 32. LeoPardus  |  March 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    In any case, the Word of God is Christ. If someone wants to understand the word of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then he has first to understand the Word of God as revealed in Christ. who is only talked about in the Scriptures, which you can only understand if you understand Christ, who you can only know through the Scriptures, which can only be understood if you understand and know Christ, who is to be known by what is in Scripture, which………………………………………………………….

  • 33. Erudite Redneck  |  March 6, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I mustr confess: “I am suspicious of Christians.” Yet, I am one …

  • 34. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    “just that I don’t understand why you lend this particular old story the extra “authority” if you will, over your life.”

    to me Jesus is the archtype which all things are measured against. Some of us get closer to being Christ than others… some surpass Christ’s example. Jesus sets this up in John when he says “These things I can do, you can do, and greater than these because I am going to my Father’s home.” Traditionally this is read as “you guys are going to do more in NUMBER than i am cause i’m gonna die.” whereas i read “you guys are going to do better in NUMBER AND QUALITY! things i haven’t even dreamed about! cause i’m gonna die, but i’ll be with you” which is how Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Erasmus of Rotterdam read this (namely 2nd, 3rd and 14th centuries i.e. NOT new).

    I go with ER as well in his reading. no hell, no nothing. Jesus established THE WAY and everything else is a variation on it… IMO. that’s why i follow. that’s why i try to lead a life like Christ because in that way of living is something Divine.

  • 35. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    i think what is being assumed here is an all or nothing view of scripture.. either it’s all God’s word or none of it. this is a bias extremely prevelent in fundie churches and theology. this is not what i’m operating with here.

    i operate that when i read the bible i’m not reading THE word of God but FOR it. (paraphrase from Karl Barth).

  • 36. BigHouse  |  March 6, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    i think what is being assumed here is an all or nothing view of scripture.. either it’s all God’s word or none of it.

    How do you know which is which? Is it open to individual interpretation?

  • 37. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    but now let me tell you about the true way! dinosaur theology!

    you’re either a meat eater who holds a “eat or be eated” mentality or a plant eater who wants to coexist with the world.

    meat eaters worship the evil rock in the sky who will come to destroy us all.. plant eaters reject this evil god in favor of the Unidactyl God of the green trees who waters all.

    now this is words of woe to you Pastafarians here! drop your heresy of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and get with the Unidactyl or be destroyed!

    RAWK!

  • 38. Erudite Redneck  |  March 6, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Another assumption is that one can find the word of God *only* in the Bible. But I don’t hold that assumption — and I’ll whoa now, lest someone forget that I do remain skeptical, in self defense. :-) I thimk maybe I’m an agnostic Christian, sort of. … In my imagination, sometimes I see myself in the crowd of those hanging around Jesus, sometimes up close, sometimes whispering in the back, but stumbling along. Luke, Ill check out yer place. You’re welcome to do likewise — anyone, actually. It can be a rough-and-tumble joint. :-)

  • 39. Luke  |  March 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    and i’ll second that. i’ve been called an agnostic Christian as well… another way to say it.. i’m a hopeful agnostic follower of Jesus and you can too!

  • 40. Luke  |  March 7, 2009 at 1:53 am

    “How do you know which is which? Is it open to individual interpretation?”

    no. hermeneutics, criticisms, and all sorts of other fancy theological tools can be used.

    i use the Paul Ricoeur method which describes a three-phase hermeneutic where stage 1. the preacher encounters the text naively and assums validity of text. stage 2: puts text into the fire of critical reflection, discerning the distance in culture and worldview between text and contemporary community and the points where text is problematic. and stage 3: preacher returns to text with second naivete and presents text to frame the world and present experience of congregation, and acknowledging the limitations.

    but that’s just for preaching. for daily life? I question the truthfulness of beliefs which may be considered absolute. we are. we do. we exist. i need no proof than that.

    Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise. The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.Anything that contradicts experience and logic should be abandoned.

    there is a war going on for your mind.. if you are thinking, you are winning. fight with tools, whether be science, religion, philosophy, action, or at best all of the above.

  • 41. paleale  |  March 7, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Wow. I’ve been at work all day and you guys are having all the fun!

    Lucian,

    In response to post #18

    There’s probably myriad things wrong with me, HA! :-) But I never really bought into the whole ‘name it claim it’ type of belief that can be associated with that particular verse in fundie-land. Maybe when I was in high-school or something. But I was always turned off by trying to use scripture as a spell book to obligate God to do my bidding, as some Christians do. It seemed rather audacious to try to point to scriptures and say “There! You said x, y and z so you have to honor what (I interpret) you promised.” I understand that many protestant Christians have that view of scripture, especially that specific verse, but to me it just seemed arrogant and irreverent. Perhaps that was why I was drawn to the Catholic faith.

    Regarding Christ as the word of God, it’s easy to say that and leave it but what does it really mean? Especially in light of what we know of God from the Old Testament, it seems a bit flippant to claim that Jesus is what God really wanted to say all along. ‘Sorry for all those centuries of ridiculous laws and bloodshed! It’s all about love and forgiveness now.’ It’s almost parallel with Douglas Adams take on God’s last words, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

  • 42. paleale  |  March 7, 2009 at 3:12 am

    And Luke,

    in response to post #21

    “but that’s not the focus of my theology, it’s on praxis.”

    Umm… Praxis blew up in Star Trek VI, The Undiscovered Country. I wouldn’t focus on that. ;-)

  • 43. Lucian  |  March 7, 2009 at 6:00 am

    who is only talked about in the Scriptures

    Have You been paying any attention to what I’ve said? (Were my ancestors given any Scriptures by St. Andrew? Were the Indians given any Scripture by St. Thomas?). And for the sake of stating the obvious: Scriptures don’t “talk”; people do. (Guns don’t kill people either: people kill people).

    Now, this Christ that I was telling You about entered history and was revealed to men. These men went out to preach Him. Some of these men even wrote some things, but the vast majority of them wrote nothing. The idea is that there can be no higher or closer revelation of God to man than the Incarnation, by which God became man. The Word of God “written” in flesh overtrumps the word of God written with ink. (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Baruch 3:35-37, or 3:36-38).

    Now, one doesn’t need to write anything down in order to preach Christ: one’s words and deeds are more than enough to do just that. BUT from all the things that WERE written down, four are above any others: namely the four Holy Gospels. Proper Christian interpretation of *Scripture* begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the Gospels. Not with the Books of Moses, as exalted as they might be; nor with the Book of Romans, as important as it might be. This was the point I was trying to bring home here.

    P.S.: Paleale, thank You for Your further clarification.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  March 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Proper Christian interpretation of *Scripture* begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the Gospels.
    who is only talked about in the Scriptures, which you can only understand if you understand Christ, who you can only know through the Scriptures, which can only be understood if you understand and know Christ, who is to be known by what is in Scripture, which ………………………………………….

  • 45. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Proper Christian interpretation of *Scripture* begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the Gospels.

    So, proper interpretation of the gospels begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the gospels?

    You’re not even trying to make your argument sound like it’s not circular.

  • 46. ArchangelChuck  |  March 8, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I’m probably going to lose all of the liberal Christian readers, but here goes.

    Liberal Christianity, it seems to me, is a mere observance of Christian ritual and tradition. Perhaps this is because they are meaningful, and perhaps it is only because we enjoy and appreciate those rituals and traditions. Though many do retain belief in the mystical and supernatural god of the bible, many do not and are instead “religious naturalists.”

    We are indeed storytellers. The same way that Aesop’s fables gave us lessons, so can select stories from the bible (if critically analyzed). Liberal Christians use the bible as a source of enlightenment because it is familiar, because it is culturally relevant, and because it does contain a real and powerful message. That message is contained in the character of Christ, and whether or not he was a real historical figure is completely irrelevant.

    Of course, to generalize liberal Christianity in a paragraph like that is admittedly silly, but those are my observations.

  • 47. Erudite Redneck  |  March 8, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Your observations are sound, for what you’ve observed. … For others, the exalted Christ, as opposed to the man Jesus, is closer to irrelevant. Christology runs the gamut. … One of the things that prompted me to come back here for awhile, under the skeptical Christian rubric, was that I just devoured this book, by the pastor of my UCC church, who pretty much demolishes the whole idea of “Christ” — and, it turns out, I think I have to have a little more juice to my Jesus than that. The thing is, agreement is not what defines our congregation. Thank God, so to speak. Here’s the author, talking about it. I’d be interested in seeing what others think:

    http://www.mayflowerucc.org/newsletter/mar2009/090301_rm.html

  • 48. ArchangelChuck  |  March 10, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I’d be really interested to read your pastor’s book. It looks fascinating.

    I suppose that superfluous would have been a better word than irrelevant. Asserting the real existence of either the exalted Christ or the man Jesus is simply unnecessary. Whether we admit it or not, it is only the character with whom we are familiar. What need is there to take it any further than that?

  • 49. Timothy Shaw-Zak  |  March 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    LeoPardus
    “There is nothing remotely objective or lasting about what religion (Christianity, Islam, or any other) condemns or blesses. Everyone just makes it up as they go along.”

    Herein lies one secondary factor which has basically undermined my devotion to modern progressive rationalism. I have already started going to church. I no longer deny the existence of God. Yet I have not gone back to liberal christianity, with its comfortable smorgasboard of qualifications.

    By what standards are you suggesting religion is shortlived? By those of modern rationalism? By your own? Compared to the Eve of triassic mammals or to archbacteria? Truthfully, temporal resilliance is a defining aspect of religion and of the enduring character of its message. In some respects, it is nothing short of remarkable how noisy their signal can be, and yet still transmit essential truths as clear as the sun.

    Be more critical of your own ability, and the ability of that which you value to survive. We must learn more deeply from religion or our inheritance will not last long. That would be a tragic neglect to continue, for there is so little to be learned from so common a mistake. (Alas, as all religions know, making mistakes again and again is a means by which to repeat their correction.)

    I do not believe that genetic cancer is the only kind that can kill us, or that tissue’s malignance is indistinguishable from its purpose. Nor am I an egalitarian secularist. I am a disciple of Christ.

  • 50. Erudite Redneck  |  March 10, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Timothy, do you mind me asking which tradition, or denomination, you’re a part of now? And which liberal tradition, or denomination, you used to be a part of? Just curious, as a former Southern Baptist turned UCC’er.

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  March 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Timothy:

    I found your post difficult to understand. I think you’re not clear on what I’m talking about, and as a consequence, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

    By what standards are you suggesting religion is shortlived?

    I am not saying that at all. What I said (and you copied) was, “There is nothing remotely objective or lasting about what religion condemns or blesses.” That does not say religion is short-lived. It says that many particular doctrines and dogmas of religions are transient.

    Compared to the Eve of triassic mammals or to archbacteria?

    Not at all sure how this relates to any point.

    it is nothing short of remarkable how noisy their signal can be, and yet still transmit essential truths as clear as the sun.

    What truths are those?

    We must learn more deeply from religion or our inheritance will not last long.

    There are many, and you can find some around this blog, who would contend that religion is divisive, destructive, restrictive, and on balance harmful to human development. Why would your assertion have any more validity?

    I do not believe that genetic cancer is the only kind that can kill us, or that tissue’s malignance is indistinguishable from its purpose.

    I have NO idea what you are trying to say here. [Note: I've done cancer research and I create educational material for cancer professionals now. So be careful should you tread into this topic. I really know this subject.]

  • 52. Luke  |  March 10, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    yeah, that books looks cool! a good look at emergent Christianity (namely the new progressive liberal Christianity) can be read in books like:

    Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis

    Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

    Eric Elnes’ Phoenix Affirmations.

    Also picked up a book that might be relevant to the DeCons… UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.

    peace y’all!

  • 53. Lucian  |  March 11, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    So, proper interpretation of the gospels begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the gospels?

    Proper interpretation of Scripture begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the Gospels.

  • 54. Joshua  |  March 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    “Proper interpretation of Scripture begins with the revelation of God in Christ as recorded in the Gospels.”

    Right. But the revelation of God in Christ is only true if the gospels are accurate in their revelation of this truth.

    If Jesus rose from the dead.
    If Jesus is the Son of God.
    If God exists.

  • 55. Lucian  |  March 11, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Yes.

  • 56. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    It sounds like you consider the gospels somehow separate from scripture.

    So, how does one get proper interpretation of the gospels, then?

  • 57. Lucian  |  March 11, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I consider the Gospels “separate” from the Scriptures in the same way I consider the head “separate” from the body. Beheading is not the way to go, but proper order must be in place. For some reason, certain people seem particularily attracted to either the Old Covenant, Revelations, or the Book of Romans.

  • 58. Erudite Redneck  |  March 11, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    I don’t understand why so many people’s first step away from treating the Bible as “inerrant” or “infallible” is to step away from it totally. I understand how someone could go from the extreme of idolatry all the way to dismissing the Bible totally — but I can’t see how there aren’t some steps in between.

    On the other hand, if it’s seen as a record of Jewish, Jewish-Christian and Christian’s search for God, and their encounters with what they considered to be the Divine, and sacred because of its place in Christianity’s hiistory, not because of its alleged supernatural origins, I don’t know why anyone would want to dismiss any of it at al totally out of hand.

    It’s when the words on the pages, and the Word as depicted on the pages, and the concepts of epiphany and revelation get all tossed together that people want to start throwing the Jesus out with the bathwater. So to speak.

  • 59. Quester  |  March 11, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    ER,

    What makes you think any of us didn’t take those steps?

    First, I beleived that the Bible revealed God’s actions in history, and could be used to discern God’s will for us today.

    Then, I believed that God could reveal God’s self through the Bible.

    Then, I believed that the Bible contained a few interesting stories and a couple of philosophical principles worth following all bundled together with a combination of horror stories and boring recitations.

    This progression took over six years.

    I don’t dismiss the Bible as irrelevant anymore than I would Shakespeare’s plays, but there’s only a few of Shakespeare’s plays that I’d re-read.

  • 60. Erudite Redneck  |  March 11, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Hi, Quester.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you, or anyone here, necessarily made the huge leap from what I consider idolatry to total dismissal of the Bible. I do know that, in my encounters with them, that usually is the false dichotomy proffered by fundamentalists who *do* consider the Bible as inerrant, infallible, etc.: If it’s not God’s Word, then it’s worthless as any kind of Christian text. So, I surmise that among the former fundamentalists who hang around here, some of them made said leap. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. And, I’m sure there were more steps over your own six-plus years than the three in your summary. I certainly would hope there were quite a few, especially between the second and third step, but maybe not.

  • 61. Quester  |  March 12, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Fair enough, ER. And there probably were other steps, but these are the easily describable landmarks.

  • 62. Chris  |  March 12, 2009 at 12:46 am

    paleale:
    “But being joined to the ‘mind of the church’ doesn’t cut it for me anymore. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches claim direct lineage to the apostles. Not to mention the early sects that never gained as much popularity. Whose ideas are we to follow?”

    The one which internally consistent. The bible says hell won’t prevail against the church. Did hell prevail against sects that die out? Are the claims of the Roman Church against the Eastern Churches after the schism consistent with the Church’s behavior before the schism? Glad to be able to resolve this for you.

    “All that Tradition means is that once upon a time it was open to interpretation and a group of men fought and argued over who’s interpretation was more palatable.”

    Not if a particular view can be traced back as a standard belief before it became the subject of fighting and arguing.

    “It’s still just man’s opinion in the end Chris”

    Proof?

    LeoPardis:
    “Or, conversely, how do you condemn or justify anything objectively with religion? Which religion do you use?”

    Presumably you use the one you believe to be true.

    “Which sect of that religion?”

    The true one.

    “Which holy book(s)?”

    The ones defined by the true sect following the true God. See above.

    “Which school of interpretation? Which era of belief/interpretation?”

    That assumes there are multiple eras of interpretation in the true sect, which is fact not in evidence.

    ” There is nothing remotely objective or lasting about what religion (Christianity, Islam, or any other) condemns or blesses.”

    Except you said the EOC comes close. Thanks, I accept your concession.

    “But even they have changed positions through the centuries. Try slavery for a big one. Or try birth control.”

    Please quote the dogmatic statements from the Church on these issues and then explain where you see a contradiction.

    ” Or try the EOC vs the OOC (oriental orthodox church). ”

    Who disagree about… what?

    “That doesn’t even make sense.”

    The existence of multiple interpretations doesn’t mean that all of them are acceptable within the overall scheme of the religion.

    “It perforce subjugates the scriptures to the magesterium.”

    The apostles passed on information by word and by letter. The existence of two kinds of information does not mean one is subject to the other, any more than Matthew must be subject to Luke.

  • 63. Lucian  |  March 12, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Chris,

    are You the same as this guy over here, who goes by the nick-name “Orthodox”?

  • 64. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2009 at 9:22 am

    ER,

    If it’s not God’s Word, then it’s worthless as any kind of Christian text.

    I think it is you who is jumping too far ahead in assuming what we think of the Bible.

    If the Bible isn’t God’s word, it isn’t WORTHLESS period, it’s just worthless as a first, last, and only source of what is true or not. When Christians argue that God is X or wants Y, their source for these statements is the Bible. That is not good enough support if we do not hold the Bible as inerrant God-breathed words.

  • 65. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Lucian:

    That blog “is open to invited readers only”. Did it just become that way since you put the link up?

  • 66. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Chris:

    I’m assuming that you are part of an Eastern Orthodox Church. Yes/No?

    If you want to know about EOC positions on various issues through the ages, do the research. Here are a couple quick bits on slavery and birth control.
    The Romanian and Greek churches both owned slaves in the past. (See works by Voriel Achim and/or Neagu Djuvara.) You can read further to see that the institutions of slavery were accepted and not condemned historically by the EOC.
    Kallistos Ware is widely recognized as one of the EOC’s leading experts on church dogma and history. In “The Orthodox Church” 1963 edition, he said, “Artificial methods of birth control are forbidden in the Orthodox Church.”
    Yet in the 1991 edition he said, “In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries.”

    Anyway, you can do further research yourself. Although, if you don’t know what the EOC and OOC are divided about……….. Hmmmmmm

  • 67. Luke  |  March 12, 2009 at 11:36 am

    this might provide some light.. it’s a version of liberal Xn:

    http://www.tcpc.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=63

  • 68. the chaplain  |  March 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Luke:

    Thanks for the link. I appreciate your honest note that it is “a version” of liberal Christianity. Some readers here may find it useful. Others, like myself, are already familiar with that site and others like it.

  • 69. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Hi, BigHouse.

    Again, if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. I’m trying to understand what other people, fundamentalists but not here, have said to me regarding their understanding of why an approach to the Bible that considers it inerrant and infallible is critical to their own faith, and that they would be totally lost without that certainty. Re, “We” — you can no more speak for all fundamentalists than I could speak for all liberal Christians.

    Re, ” When Christians argue that God is X or wants Y, their source for these statements is the Bible.”

    Too broad of a statement, I think. Not all Christians consider the Bible as the “only” source for their notions about God. To those fundamentalist Christians who insist that without the inerrant Bible there is no way to know God, or know Christ, I wonder: If the only God or Christ you know is the one you’ve read about, then all you know is what you’ve read.

    Re, “That is not good enough support if we do not hold the Bible as inerrant God-breathed words.”

    Be that as it may for fundamentalists, I myself find the Bible a good source, and usually but not always my first source, for how to think about God.

  • 70. Joshua  |  March 12, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Erudite:

    Growing up fundamentalist and going to MBI gave me quite a perspective on your questions.

    We were taught that natural revelation and special revelation would never contradict each other because all truth is God’s truth. Therefore, when there was an apparent contradiction between natural and special revelation, special revelation was supposed to trump our “interpretation” of the natural revelation. So when was the earth created? Obviously it was created 6000 years ago because special revelation confirms this.

    There is a lot of “room” for disagreement here, but the general concensus is to believe that because God cannot lie, then that which the Holy Spirit inspires cannot contain a lie either. Therefore every word in the Bible, being inspired, cannot contain any falsehood. This extends to history and science.

    Now, when a person with these fundamentals of theology encounters historical or scientific “errors” in the Bible, they tend to lose all faith.

    In order to hold on to their faith, they have to resolve how a perfect God can inspire a book that contains blatant errors and propagates falsehoods about natural revelation. Why would a good God, who is about order and telling the truth, permit such discord between natural and special revelation?

    And whooosh… the house of cards come falling down.

  • 71. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks, Joshua.

    Growing up in a pre-1979 Southern Baptist church — and distancing myself from it post-1979, then “wandering” for 20 years — I missed the whole need for that kind fo certainty somehow. I got and accepted Paul’s notion of seeing through a dark glass early on, maybe. I don’t know.

    What’s MBI?

    And, call me ER. :-)

  • 72. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 12, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    ER, I’m curious just why you consider the Bible a good source, or a better source than others (if you in fact do consider it better than other religious texts)?

  • 73. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    It’s the earliest readily available written source for early Jewish-Christian and Christian thinking. Bear in mind that that’s what I look to it for: for human thinking inspired God and-or Jewish and Jewish-Christian and Christian attempts to understand and explain the search for God and encounters with the Divine. I do not look to it as the end-all-be-all “revelation of God to man.” No text can be that, IMHO.

    As to whether it’s “better” than other texts, considering what it is I look to it for (early Jewish and Jewish-Christian and Christian thinking), I’d have to say it’s better for me, since I’m a Christian.

  • 74. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    As to whether it’s “better” than other texts, considering what it is I look to it for (early Jewish and Jewish-Christian and Christian thinking), I’d have to say it’s better for me, since I’m a Christian.

    This is circular reasoning.

    WHY have you lifted Christian tradition writings above othe traditions and thusly “became” a Christian?

  • 75. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Re, “As to whether it’s “better” than other texts, considering what it is I look to it for (early Jewish and Jewish-Christian and Christian thinking), I’d have to say it’s better for me, since I’m a Christian.

    “This is circular reasoning.”

    No, it’s not. “Oh, you drive a Mazda 3! Why do you consider the Mazda 3 owner’s manual a good source, or a better source than others?” “Because I drive a Mazda 3.”

    IN other words, I answered the questioned posed.

    Now, THIS is another question: “WHY have you lifted Christian tradition writings above other traditions and thusly “became” a Christian?”

    I don’t understand the use of quote marks around “became” unless you just mean to diss the idea. …

    In a nutshell, before I owned a Bible or had read a word of it, I heard a preacher talk about God and God’s Great Love; I heard him say that God is so Goddy that human beans couldn’t connect with God; I heard him say that this Jesus person would help me connect with God and God’s love; I heard him say that if I’d rely on Jesus, and try to love people like Jesus loves people, why, that disconnection would get connected. I was 8.

    The God part seemed to make sense to me, since I knew the world was, and it seemed natural that someone or something had to have put it here; the disconnection part made sense, since I didn’t see any way to connect with God on my own; the love part made sense, since I knew my mama and daddy loved me, and I assumed that God had to be some greater version of them.

    I walked the aisle. Preacher came to our house a few times, and early on, among other things I’ve long since forgot, he pointed to the verses: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).”

    It took. I consider myself fortunate that for all my subsequent questions surrounding Scripture, that’s the first one I really “heard.” Because there’s no doubt, as far as I know, that Paul wrote that. Whether it’s “true” or not is a great question. My honest reponse is: I agree with Paul because that seems to have been my experience over the 36 years since I first heard those verses.

    Anyone who cares to read a more involved “testimony” — with more nuts and bolts!(tm) — is welcome to here:

    http://eruditeredneck.blogspot.com/2009/03/testimony-of-sorts-from-er.html

    For another “Why,” please see my comment at No. 30 above, and my caveat at No. 28.

  • 76. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Sorry if I broke the italics, is it fixed?

  • 77. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    ER, I didn’t mean to “diss” your being/becoming a Christian, I was putting it quotations because I honestly didn’t know who to phrase what you did/are because of this chicken and egg phenomenon you are spouting. But your most recent post has shed some light on that.

    In a nutshell, before I owned a Bible or had read a word of it, I heard a preacher talk about God and God’s Great Love;

    Ah, now we are getting somewhere. So your process of becoming a Christian started by hearing a preacher, liking what he heard, and finding reinforcing information in the Bible. I bet a lot of people followd an arc like that and no, it is not circular.

    But then, to your Mazda example, the Mazda owner’s manual is NOT the best source of information on whether or not you own the car right for you.

    So, in essence, you are Christian because you believe/feel things inside of you and found them reinforced/supported by the saying of a preacher and a book, so that’s the direction you are headed.

    Now, back to the Mazda owner’s manual, if it told you you could bake cookies in the engine while idling, would you believe it? I’d start to seriously question the “authority’ of an owner’s manual that told me that. That doesn’t mean that the parts saying I need to change my oil every 3 months are invalid, since I have other sources of support for that claim.

    So, I ask you, how do you determine what parts of the Bible are oil change instructions and which parts are fantasy?

  • 78. Timothy Shaw-Zakk  |  March 12, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Sorry for being unclear Leo. I still have a lot to learn about communicating my ideas effectively. It would be much easier for me to hold by some explicit doctrine, but unfortunately my core beliefs have proved incompatible with my desire for complacent conviction.

    Leo,
    “I am not saying that at all. What I said (and you copied) was, “There is nothing remotely objective or lasting about what religion condemns or blesses.” That does not say religion is short-lived. It says that many particular doctrines and dogmas of religions are transient.”

    I apologize for mischaracterizing your statement. My point is that doctrine is intelligently designed (ahem ahem) in a way that is specifically meant to outlast individual understanding. As I understand it, it is a way to spread and preserve truths for rediscovery.

    “There are many, and you can find some around this blog, who would contend that religion is divisive, destructive, restrictive, and on balance harmful to human development. Why would your assertion have any more validity?”

    Let me freely admit that judging the overall balance of history is beyond my capability. I would add, however, that religion is a part of human development, and that its contributions are directed to an aspect of human life that is hardly dispensable or obsolete: our shared destiny.
    As to restrictiveness, divisiveness, I don’t imagine any society will survive long in a state of homogeneity, nor will it retain it’s homogeneity alongside permissiveness. I could be wrong, but don’t be hasty in attributing only to religion for mistakes that a secular society will inevitably make. We should know better than to believe that we know so much better now.

    “Imagine no religion…living as one” is a paradox, not a resolution.

  • 79. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Re, “So, I ask you, how do you determine what parts of the Bible are oil change instructions and which parts are fantasy?”

    Well, I don’t think anby of its fantasy. I think some of it’s poetry, the creation accounts in Genesis, for example; the Gospels are “theological narratives,” or whatever they call it, that is, a pre-modern attempt to explain, oh, how to say, HOW FRICKING COOL it was for some Jews to meet and hang out with Jesus, sometimes not letting what we consider “facts” to get in the way of the story; the letters are, at best, partial glimpses of one side of the conversations that the writers were having with others, the others’ letters having been lost; the Revelation is something akin to a rock opera; and Paul definitely doubted himself and was prone to hyperbole (we will meet Jesus IN THE AIR! could be an example of that), and I try to keep that in mind.

    Anyway, the point being: while I do rely on biblical scholarship to tell me which books in the Bible are more reliably authentic as to source, I don’t see any need to impose a straitjacket of factuality on the writings to see what the writers seemed to be trying to get across, however richly or however poorly.

    Oil change instructions: Love God, love self, love neighbor; Micah 6:8; work out your own salvation; it’s faith *and* works, not faith *or* works.

    Fantasy: OK, probably the Revelation, actually. :-)

  • 80. Lucian  |  March 12, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    LeoPardus,

    Romanians never owned any slaves. (Romans, probably?)

    No, that blog has been like that for more than seven months now.

  • 81. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 12, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    If that’s true, Lucian, then there’s an entire Wikipedia article that needs to be removed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_Romania

  • 82. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    ER, your #79 is WHAT you categorize those verses as. I want to know HOW and WHY you call certain verses “poetry” or “color” and others “instructions from God”. What’s your secret decoder ring and why is yours “correct” and another’s interpretation not?

  • 83. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    unfortunately my core beliefs have proved incompatible with my desire for complacent conviction.

    I love this statement. :)

  • 84. Lucian  |  March 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    thanks for the interesting link. However, it’s hard for me to tell the difference between the non-Romanian “slaves” and the Romanian themselves, who were “serfs”. (I guess the difference lies in the fact that “slaves” were something like people exercising certain skills around the boyar’s house-hold, whereas “serfs” were more into practicing agriculture on their land, which was officially owned by the boyar, and paying the boyar a certain tax from their products). [Romanians were poor illiterate peasants up till very recent times, so they obviously owned no slaves. But if you want to call various handy-men and craftsmen working for rulers or boyars slaves, then I guess that's OK]. Otherwise, the use of that term seems outright strange (kinda like saying Romanians owned UFOs).

  • 85. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    BigHouse!

    I never characterized anything in the Bible as anything close to “instructions from God.” Look up there. I didn’t.

    I did call these “oil change instructions,” echoing you, after you picked up on the Mazda owner’s manual simile I employed. I indicated that I find them authoritative, but I never said they CAME FROM GOD, quote unquote:

    1. Love God, love self, love neighbor — Jesus said, and I think it’s somewhere in the O.T., too. That others may have said it, too, or something similar, doesn’t take away from the fact that Jesus is said to have said it.

    2. Micah 6:8 — the prophet known as Micah said.

    3. Work out your own salvation — St. Paul said.

    4. It’s faith *and* works, not faith *or* works — James said, although I admit that might be an interpretation of my own as to what James meant.

    I’ve attempted to answer both “how” I generally judge the authenticity of the various books — by relying on scholarly studies — and why. I don’t need the clarity and the certainty and the finality that you seem to be asking me to declare.

    If you’re looking to me to give you something you either couldn’t find, or thought you had once but then later lost or discarded, don’t. Because I don’t have anything for you, and I don’t pretend to have anything for you.

    On some days, I doubt that I have a damn thing for myself. THAT’S WHY I DESCRIBED MYSELF AS SKEPTICAL WAY THE HELL UP THERE.

    Chill, man.

  • 86. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Well, this line from the wiki article is probably the most relevant to this discussion and the point Leo was making:

    “The two other categories [of slaves] comprised ţigani mănăstireşti (“Gypsies belonging to the monasteries”), who were the property of Romanian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox monasteries. . .”

    So, slavery did exist in Romania, and slaves were owned by the orthodox churches in Romania.

    Sure, the average Romanian likely didn’t own any slaves, but that’s not what Leo was talking about anyway.

    Also, reading the first paragraph under “Status and obligations” makes it pretty clear that they were literal slaves, owned by their masters, not just “handy-men and craftsmen working for rulers or boyars.” We’re talking about people who were owned, who were treated as property that could be bought and sold. It’s not something where one could “be OK” with calling them slaves; slaves is exactly what they were.

  • 87. Lucian  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    SnuglyBuffalo,

    everybody was owned by their master. (That’s what autocracy is all about: the king or ruler ownes everything, and he sub-divides it to his boyars, who own the lands, which are inhabited & worked by the peasants). The peasants, being settlers and living together with their families in houses which they have built are not as easily sellable as skilled people, who don’t actually have their own houses, and who by their nature are not settlers, but wanderers (the Gypsies are migratory populations).

    And the monasteries still have lay people working there, helping the monks out (whether your friendly skilled craftsman [Gypsy or not], or simple peasants from the neighbouring villages willing to give a hand…)

  • 88. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    And… that makes a difference how? Slavery existed in Romania, both in the form of serfdom and the more traditional slavery most people think of when they hear the word, and the orthodox churches not only condoned it but owned slaves themselves.

    I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make here.

  • 89. Lucian  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    To clarify my opinion a bit:

    if by slavery one understands (like I do) something like what happened in Brazil, or the US, or in the ancient world (Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, etc), then there was no slavery in Romania, period. (Nor in North-Asia [Russia], Western Europe [until the conquering of the Americas by the English, Spanish, and Portuguese], or Eastern Europe — except of course for the Mediteranean basin: Greece, Roman Empire).

    Nor was there any such social class in Romania akin to the hugenots or slaves, with which one could do as he pleased: (kill, rape, etc), without fearing either the long arm of the law or the rebellion of the people. (Even the article says as much, that the master had no life-and-death right over his servants, slaves, or peasants).

    That’s why I think that the translation of the word meaning servant or slave through the later is un-appropriate. (But it’s OK, I guess, because finding exact synonyms can sometimes be very hard: especially for loaded terms such as ‘slave’).

  • 90. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Chill? Why do I need to chill?

    I’m curious the nature of your skepticism? Given you admit you do not need finality or certainty, what’s there to be skeptical of?

  • 91. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    “Chill, man” retracted.

    Well, dang, man. … Hmm.

    While I don’t need the certainty-clarity-finality that some insist is available within the Christian faith, I admit freely that I have doubts sometimes about the reality of … reality, existence, God, the Universe and Everything. I’m talking “3 o’clock in the morning is the dark night of the soul” stuff…. whether anything matters, whether I matter, whether I AM.

    I don’t think I would believe anyone who said he didn’t.

  • 92. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Some of the supposed giants of the faith went years like that, I hear, including Mother Teresa and St. John the Divine. I keep that in mind, throw myself onto the cosmos, and hope.

  • 93. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Maybe you should read the article a little more closely. Masters had no legal life-or-death power over their slaves, that doesn’t mean this didn’t happen. And really, the simple fact that they could do everything except kill their slaves doesn’t make it somehow not-slavery. Seriously, it reads exactly like American slavery, with the possible exception of the fact that you couldn’t kill your slaves in Romania (I have no idea if such laws existed regarding US slavery). I honestly don’t see the distinction you’re making. If the US had passed laws forbidding a master from killing his slaves, the two institutions would have been nearly identical.

    I don’t see how you could even remotely consider “servant” a more appropriate term for the people that article describes. I frankly find it a little disturbing that you apparently do.

  • 94. Erudite Redneck  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Sorry.

    Strike “St. John the Divine.”

    Insert: “St. John of the Cross.”

  • 95. Lucian  |  March 12, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Because that’s what the word means. And whereas I do know things regarding the history of both our countries, I honestly don’t think You know much about mine. (Which is understandable). In any case, as I’ve said, there’s absolutely no comparison between the two realities, even if in English the same word may be used. (And no, masters could not go around killing their servants and serfs). [Our Dacian ancestors didn't have slavery either].

  • 96. paleale  |  March 12, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Lucian, I lived in Cluj for a while. What city are you from?

  • 97. Lucian  |  March 13, 2009 at 2:39 am

    Arad.

  • 98. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 13, 2009 at 3:09 am

    I’m not talking about the translation of some Romanian word here. I’m talking about what happened: people treated as property of other people – slavery. You have, thus far, not pointed out any significant difference between the American and Romanian forms of it.

    The best you’ve offered is this:

    Nor was there any such social class in Romania akin to the hugenots or slaves, with which one could do as he pleased: (kill, rape, etc), without fearing either the long arm of the law or the rebellion of the people. (Even the article says as much, that the master had no life-and-death right over his servants, slaves, or peasants).

    They were still property that could be sold and traded, or beaten – still slaves. Still a repugnant institution.

    I’m willing to change my mind on this, but what I have read and what you have said has thus far not given me a reason to.

  • 99. Chris  |  March 13, 2009 at 3:19 am

    “f you want to know about EOC positions on various issues through the ages, do the research.”

    Been there and done that, thanks.

    “You can read further to see that the institutions of slavery were accepted and not condemned historically by the EOC.”

    No cigar. You were asked to document the dogmatic position of the Church changing, and you failed.

    Neither does quoting Kallistos Ware do that.

    Neither does throwing the name “OOC” into the ring. Do you know what EOC and OOC bishops have said about it? I’ll bet not.

    Lucian: yes.

  • 100. GaryC  |  March 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    “You couldn’t kill your slaves in Romania (I have no idea if such laws existed regarding US slavery)”

    Wanton killing of a slave in the U.S. was treated as murder under the laws of the individual slave states and was punishable as such. However, juries were of course all-white, and no slave was allowed to testify in court against a white person. In all probability, therefore, murders or other egregious forms abuse of slaves went somewhat underprosecuted and underpunished.

    Defenders of slavery argued that extreme physical abuse was unlikely because slaves were valuable assets, and it would be contrary to the economic interests of the owner to destroy or damage such assets. The argument was true as far as it goes but completely ignored the fact that slaves unable to work were not economic assets, but economic liabilities. States were compelled to pass laws to forbid masters from emancipating “useless” slaves and dumping them on the streets. Indeed, towards the end of the antebellum period, it had become somewhat difficult in most states for a master to emancipate slaves whether able-bodied or not, as free blacks had come to be regarded as a dangerous and subversive element. Just before the Civil War, Arkansas enacted an ordinance that required all free blacks to leave the state at once, or be re-enslaved.

    The whipping of American slaves for acts considered by their masters to be disciplinary infractions was of course normal and expected. These took place entirely outside the legal system, and the master was the sole judge of what constituted a disciplinary infraction. Legal limits were, however, generally placed on the number of lashes that could be inflicted (39 lashes was a typical daily limit for adults).

    Probably more than you wanted or needed to know….

  • 101. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Actually, that’s pretty much exactly what I wanted to know.

    And it makes the distinction between American and Romanian slavery all the more vague. So far, all I actually see is slightly different social status of slaves in both nations, and the kind of work typically demanded of them. I’m willing to grant that there could be further differences I’m unaware of, but the basics of both institutions look identical to me.

  • 102. LeoPardus  |  March 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Chris:

    You were asked to document the dogmatic position of the Church changing, and you failed.

    Fine. I’ll let you then show that the dogmatic position on slavery and birth control has remained unchanged.

    Do you know what EOC and OOC bishops have said about it? I’ll bet not.

    The current talk is considering that the issue of division (monophisitism) may be largely semantical and thus not insurmountable. Hence there is room to consider reconciliation and return to communion.

    Was that more or less what you had in mind?

  • 103. GaryC  |  March 13, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    What I know about slavery in Romania could be inscribed on the head of a pin, but, according to the Wikipedia article on the subject, “The slaves were considered personal property of the master, who was allowed to put them to work, selling them or exchanging them for other goods and the possessions of the slaves (usually cattle) were also at the discretion of the master. The master was allowed to punish his slaves physically, through beatings or imprisonment, but he or she did not have power of life and death over them, the only obligation of the master being to clothe and feed the slaves who worked at his manor.” These two sentences would serve as an excellent summary of slavery in the United States as well, except that in the U.S. in a few places, for legal reasons I do not pretend to understand, slaves were considered in at least some respects real rather than personal property.

    Wikipedia on Romanian slavery again: “Marriage between two slaves was only allowed with the approval of the two owners, usually through a financial agreement which resulted in the selling of one slave to the other owner or through an exchange. When no agreement was reached, the couple was split and the children resulting from the marriage were divided between the two slaveholders.” Here there were differences from the law of slavery in the U.S., where marriage among slaves had no legal standing, period. Regardless of the status of the father, the children of a slave mother were considered slaves and were the property of the mother’s owner.

    ["E]xtra-marital relationships between male slave owners and female slaves, as well as the rape of Roma women by their owners, were widespread, and the illegitimate children were themselves kept as slaves on the estate.” Pretty much ditto in the U.S.

  • 104. paleale  |  March 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Chris I appreciate your rebuttals, terse though they may be. I admit that I know very little about the EOC.

    However, all these arguments about who has the most authentic interpretations of scripture and whose beliefs have or haven’t changed over time is pointless in the end if God does not exist.

    Regarding my query of whose system of belief we should follow you wrote:

    The one which [is] internally consistent. The bible says hell won’t prevail against the church. Did hell prevail against sects that die out? Are the claims of the Roman Church against the Eastern Churches after the schism consistent with the Church’s behavior before the schism? Glad to be able to resolve this for you.

    If you base all of your evidence for consistency on the premise that the bible is the divinely inspired word of God and thus the Church (namely the EOC) was established as a cooperative with the scriptures, what happens to the argument if God simply isn’t real? Your consistency is meaningless. You may as well be consistent in your adherence to the Jedi Code.

    You, despite all of your quick certitude, have resolved nothing.

    You asked me to prove that it’s all man’s opinion. I demand proof that it isn’t.

  • 105. Chris  |  March 13, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    LeoPardus: “Fine. I’ll let you then show that the dogmatic position on slavery and birth control has remained unchanged.”

    There have been no dogmatic statements about these things.

    paleale: “what happens to the argument if God simply isn’t real?”

    I give up, what bad thing will happen to me if God isn’t real?

    And then, what bad thing will happen to you if he is?

  • 106. Lucian  |  March 13, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    SB,

    slavery is not the same as feudal relations. (As I’ve already said before, boyars did not go around killing or raping their serfs, servants, and subjects). Peasants from different villages could also marry only after paying a signifficant sum. Rob is not the quite same as sclav. Romanians didn’t have sclavie. And this goes for very many of the other Indo-European populations as well, such as Slavs or Germanics: we were hardly alone at not having slaves. Other European populations (not of Indo-European descent) didn’t have slavery either (our Hungarian neighbours, for instance).

    Slavery was know in the ancient world in South-Eurasia and North-Africa (around the Mediteranean basin, in the Levant, and Far-East); as well as in West-European colonial times, with the discovery of the Americas and all that (the English, the French, the Spanish, and the Portuguese). [We Romanians are the mix of two ancient Indo-European populations: the Dacians, who owned no slaves; and the Romans, who did].

    Chris,

    I’ve been willing to ask You: what can I do to gain reading-acces to Your blog?

  • 107. the chaplain  |  March 13, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    Chris said: I give up, what bad thing will happen to me if God isn’t real? And then, what bad thing will happen to you if he is?

    It took awhile, but someone finally played Pascal’s Wager.

    Okay, rather than just poking fun (in case you don’t realize it, Chris, Pascal’s Wager is so familiar to us de-converts that it’s really a joke among us and not taken at all seriously), I’ll answer the questions.

    Question #1: What bad thing will happen to you if God isn’t real?

    Probably nothing much, as long as you don’t consider a lifetime spent worshiping a non-existent being, a lifetime trying to please said being, a lifetime giving your time, energy and money to maintain the institution that perpetuates belief in and obedience to said deity and his spokespersons as wasted time. And I realize, with utter respect and sincerity, that you may honestly disagree with me about this. I realize that you may simply take lots of pleasure in all of these activities regardless of whether the beliefs and commitments that underpin them are founded. I realize that you may simply enjoy the fellowship and company of other believers so much that the truth values of the Christian ties that bind you together are not as important to you as the ties themselves. I disagree with such positions, and they may not be yours at all (or anyone’s, for that matter). I’m just saying, that, from your point of view as a believer, there seems to be little to lose by believing – so long as you consider the life you hope is to come to be more important than the life that you have now.

    Question #2: What bad thing will happen to me if God is real?

    If the God in whom you believe is real, then, I’m toast – forever. Badly burnt and miserable, at that.

    Here’s the problem with this wager. It assumes a dichotomy: your God (YHWH) or no God. That’s a false dichotomy because people have believed in thousands of gods over the years. Moreover, those people have all believed that their beliefs were as well-founded as you believe your beliefs are. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not the only religions that have had complex oral and written traditions about their gods, traditions that have been preserved and expanded for thousands of years. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not the only religions to have been preserved, passed on and presided over by priests of one sort or another. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not the only religions that have ever bound people together in cohesive, caring (and, unfortunately, sometimes manipulative and abusive) communities. In short, Christianity just isn’t as unique and special as Christians often think it is.

    I know you think that the Bible is qualitatively different from the Quran, or the Book of Mormon, or the Bhagavad Vita. But, that simply isn’t true. The Christian scriptures have lots of factual, as well as simple scribal, errors. The Christian scriptures have lots of contradictory passages that can’t be reconciled without putting one’s brain into overdrive on the illogical setting. Perhaps the most damning point is that the Christian scriptures provide incoherent portraits of God. In fact, some early Christians believed that the god of the Old Testament couldn’t possibly be the same god as that of the New Testament – they were acutely aware of the inconsistencies of character across both sets of writings.

    So, to get back to your question, Pascal’s Wager is no more dangerous for me than it is for you. The highest probabilities are either a) there is no god, or b) we’re both wrong and whatever god exists, is nothing like you believe he/she/it is.

  • 108. The Wager « An Apostate’s Chapel  |  March 13, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    [...] March 13 by the chaplain I recently cross-posted A Look at Liberal Christianity over at the De-Conversion blog. I do that occasionally, when I think a post might generate some interest with the readers of that [...]

  • 109. LeoPardus  |  March 13, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Chris:

    There have been no dogmatic statements about these things.

    I didn’t think so, but I don’t know all the dogmatic statements in the EOC.
    So does this mean the EOC is free to change their opinion from time to time?

    I give up, what bad thing will happen to me if God isn’t real?
    Nothing most likely. You’ll die and there will be no surprise…. nor anything else.

    And then, what bad thing will happen to you if he is?
    That depends on whether He turns out to be a loving, benevolent deity, or the sadistic SOB that many religious sects seem to like.

    BTW, you didn’t tell me if I was right about what EOC and OOC bishops said.

  • 110. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 14, 2009 at 12:41 am

    And this goes for very many of the other Indo-European populations as well, such as Slavs or Germanics: we were hardly alone at not having slaves.

    There are entire further articles on slavery in eastern Europe, describing institutions that were distinct from feudalism.

    I’m sorry, but you don’t have a leg to stand on here. Sure, murdering and raping your slaves was illegal (same in the US), and slaves could marry (that’d different, I’ll grant). But guess what? It’s still called slavery.

  • 111. paleale  |  March 14, 2009 at 1:10 am

    you guys beat me to the punch on the ‘Pascal’s Wager’ de-bunk. Kudos.

  • 112. GaryC  |  March 14, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Chris asks: “I give up, what bad thing will happen to me if God isn’t real?”

    One possibility is that you could get cancer or something and die a slow, lingering, agonizing death. But of course you realize that this could happen to you even if God is real, right?

    Chris then asks, “And then, what bad thing will happen to you if he is?”

    Quite possibly nothing a bit out of the ordinary. God, if he does exist, is not observed to smite every infidel with a mighty smite, without fail. Right?

    But, suspecting that your questions might be asking rhetorically about what might happen to us “after we die,” doesn’t it all depend on our belief state immediately prior to death?

    Suppose that I become a good Christian before I die. Then, if your God exists, and if he is as you think he is, I will go to heaven. Suppose, on the other hand, that you lose your faith before you die and bcome an atheist. In that case, you will go to hell.

    Now, we like each other, and wish for each other only the best. Accordingly, if you are right, your wish for me should be that I should live a long life, in order to maximize my chances of being saved. And, because I like you, if you are right my wish for you ought to be that you should be run over by a bus today, thus minimizing your chances of being damned.

  • 113. Lucian  |  March 14, 2009 at 8:53 am

    SB,

    there were many problems confronting the populations living in feudalism: mainly hard work and huge taxes: but masters going `round randomly killin’ and rapin’ people (serfs, subjects, and servants) simply wasn’t one of them. The historical realities of two institutions are simply different, the poverty of the English language notwithstanding. I’ve never encountered the words `slave` or ‘slavery’ in all my long [and hard] years of [forcefully] learning Romanian history in school: but if You feel the need to dub as slavery anything non-democratical in human history, then be my guest… [I have the distinct feeling that Djuvara does not use the words in his book either -- but I may be wrong].

  • 114. GaryC  |  March 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Lucian:

    Perhaps you can find this book somewhere:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=_UugAAAAMAAJ&ie=ISO-8859-1&source=gbs_ViewAPI&pgis=1

  • 115. Joshua  |  March 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    “Now, we like each other, and wish for each other only the best. Accordingly, if you are right, your wish for me should be that I should live a long life, in order to maximize my chances of being saved. And, because I like you, if you are right my wish for you ought to be that you should be run over by a bus today, thus minimizing your chances of being damned.”

    Sheer genius, this statement is.

  • 116. Chris  |  March 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

    chaplain: “It assumes a dichotomy: your God (YHWH) or no God.”

    Scientists tell me the universe, including space and time came into being from a big bang. That means God must be…

    spaceless because it created space
    timeless because it created time
    immaterial because it created matter
    powerful because it created out of nothing
    intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
    personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).

    That considerably narrows down your thousands of gods and religions to the ones which fit the facts.

    “The Christian scriptures have lots of factual, as well as simple scribal, errors.”

    Even if we accepted this, and your conclusions are highly debatable, it would not necessarily change anything.

    “Perhaps the most damning point is that the Christian scriptures provide incoherent portraits of God.”

    Did you mean to say contradictory? There is nothing in the scriptures I can imagine calling incoherent.

    “The highest probabilities are either a) there is no god, or b) we’re both wrong”

    If you think there is an equal probability that Thor is God, and he wields a hammer and rides in a chariot, compared to YHWH who creates the universe, from nothing, then I think you are fooling yourself only.

    LeoPardis: “So does this mean the EOC is free to change their opinion from time to time?”

    You can’t change your opinion about something which you have no officially documented stance on.

    “you didn’t tell me if I was right about what EOC and OOC ”

    sounds about right.

    GaryC: “One possibility is that you could get cancer or something and die a slow, lingering, agonizing death. But of course you realize that this could happen to you even if God is real, right?”

    Err, right. So you lost what..?

    “Now, we like each other, and wish for each other only the best. Accordingly, if you are right, your wish for me should be that I should live a long life, in order to maximize my chances of being saved. And, because I like you, if you are right my wish for you ought to be that you should be run over by a bus today, thus minimizing your chances of being damned.”

    That assumes my chances of salvation are maximal right now, which is a fact not in evidence. Maybe that’s an interesting question to ask of certain brands of protestants.

    Lucian, the blog is disabled because I haven’t written to it in ages. If you want to talk about it, email me at default3 at tech.com.au

  • 117. vorjack  |  March 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    “That means God must be…”

    I think you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions. You’re assuming that there was nothing but this entity before the universe, but there might well be a meta-verse behind everything. Perhaps this gives the entity a place and a time to exist in.

    Or perhaps universes are naturally produced in the meta-verse, like bubbles forming in a carbonated drink. Or perhaps there are processes like those proposed by brane cosmology where universes are created and recreated by the actions of (mem)branes existed in higher dimensional space.

    Or perhaps there are multiple entities.

    Or perhaps this entity produces universes regularly as a side effect of its existence, as Aristotle suggested. Such an entity would create the universe(s) through emanation, and may not even be aware of our existence.

    Or perhaps Lovecraft was right about Azathoth, and the creator is an erratic, mindless entity that will create and ultimately destroy without self-awareness.

    And so on. I think the problem is that we just don’t know what lies behind the big bang. Both our reason and our intuition are sharply limited when we approach the subject. I think both honesty and humility compel us to admit that we just don’t know and can’t conjecture in light of the current lack of evidence.

  • 118. Joshua  |  March 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    “And so on. I think the problem is that we just don’t know what lies behind the big bang. Both our reason and our intuition are sharply limited when we approach the subject. I think both honesty and humility compel us to admit that we just don’t know and can’t conjecture in light of the current lack of evidence.”

    And, quite honestly, what would cause us to be so arrogant as to think we *could* or even *should* know at this point?

  • 119. GaryC  |  March 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    GaryC: “One possibility is that you could get cancer or something and die a slow, lingering, agonizing death. But of course you realize that this could happen to you even if God is real, right?”

    Err, right. So you lost what..?

    Original question asked and answered, I think. Lots of bad things could happen to you if God isn’t real. They’re pretty much the same bad things that could happen to you if God is real. Except, of course, those bad things that could be inflicted on you by God (like maybe leprosy) if God is real.

    “Now, we like each other, and wish for each other only the best. Accordingly, if you are right, your wish for me should be that I should live a long life, in order to maximize my chances of being saved. And, because I like you, if you are right my wish for you ought to be that you should be run over by a bus today, thus minimizing your chances of being damned.”

    That assumes my chances of salvation are maximal right now, which is a fact not in evidence. Maybe that’s an interesting question to ask of certain brands of protestants.

    Touche. I amend my original wish for you. You should only live until your chances of salvation are maximal. Then you should be run over by a bus.

  • 120. GaryC  |  March 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    i[God is] intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed.

    “Fact not in evidence,” to coin a phrase. Precisely designed for what?

  • 121. the chaplain  |  March 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Chris asked, “Did you mean to say contradictory?”

    No, I meant to say incoherent, which is exactly what I said. The god of the Bible is incoherent – it cannot be all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing and preside over the universe, particularly Earth and human affairs as they exist, in the manners that Christians claim that it does. Epicurus articulated this problem succinctly approximately 2,300 years ago:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    As Epicurus pointed out, it is logically impossible for God to simultaneously hold all the characteristics Christians attribute to him and preside over the current state of affairs.

    Since you brought up the matter of contradictions, however, you may want to think about why the god who, at Mt. Sinai, commanded his people not to murder, followed up by commanding the Israelite armies to wipe out every man, woman and child in Canaan. Intentionally killing non-combatants is murder. You may also want to think about why the god who wouldn’t accept Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (even though He had demanded it), later accepted Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter (which He had not demanded). You may want to think about how a supposedly just god punished David by killing his infant son. Why should the son have paid for the father’s lust and deception? That is not justice. Finally, you may want to think about why a god that is all-loving and just punishes wayward humans infinitely for finite offenses. Maybe you can’t find anything incoherent or contradictory in the Bible and in the Christian conception of God, but I, and a lot of others at this site, certainly can.

  • 122. Lucian  |  March 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Then whence cometh evil?

    From us? [Gee, see, that wasn't so hard to figure out, now, was it? 8) ] (I’m sorry, but it’s not like we were or are unaware of either Epicur, or his so-called problem). Just like You are not unaware of eitehr Pascal or his bet either: but it probably just doesn’t make any sense to You, and it probably just sounds hollow also: the exact same goes for us and Epicur — and it doesn’t take a child prodigy or rocket-scientist to answer him.

    Regarding the so-called “bet”: for me personally the courage and love that Christ showed to us at Golgotha is uncomparable to anything else: a life like His is the only one worth living, and a death like His is the only one worth dieing. It simply surclasses everything else there is: everrything else just pales and fades away in comparison — it’s as simple as that. To gain these two means to gain everything; and to not gain them means to lose something irreplaceable.

  • 123. BigHouse  |  March 16, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    it’s as simple as that.

    I don’t think this word means what you think it means…

  • 124. paleale  |  March 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Would you feel the same way about Horus? He faced a similar death for similar reasons.

  • 125. the chaplain  |  March 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Lucian – point taken on the Epicurus quote. As for answering him, I suspect we’re at an impasse here. Most of us at this site are familiar with the answers and we don’t find them persuasive – just as you aren’t impressed with our answers to Pascal.

    As for the source of “evil,” we have to be careful not to think of “evil” as an entity. Evil is more like an adjective or an adverb. Moreover, not everything that has “evil” effects is caused by humankind. Humankind is not responsible for tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. But, the effects of those sorts of events are what humans consider evil, because they result in suffering. You imply, correctly, that humans do evil things – we rob, beat, enslave, degrade, kill and do all sorts of things to each other that certainly are not good. Those things are not the result of a “sinful” nature, though – they are the result of a human nature that encompasses virtues and vices in varying degrees.

  • 126. Chris  |  March 16, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    “Precisely designed for what?”

    For order. For life. The number of facts about reality that are needed for life are staggering.

    “s he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.”

    Makes a great deal of assumptions about what God is up to.

    “Intentionally killing non-combatants is murder.”

    Assumes you get to define God’s lexicon.

    “You may want to think about how a supposedly just god punished David by killing his infant son.”

    Assumes that you have a standard for justice outside of God, which you don’t. Also assumes you know more about God’s plans than he does.

    “Finally, you may want to think about why a god that is all-loving and just punishes wayward humans infinitely for finite offenses.”

    Assumes that wayward humans who reject God are not getting exactly what they want – being away from God.

  • 127. Lucian  |  March 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Horus bears no resemblance to Christ, apart from the vague similarity that he got killed — I don’t understand what You find to be so inspiring about him. (There are of course many examples from outside Christianity that impress me in ways similar to what I admire in Christ, like the death of Aesop, or the courage of Gaius Mucius Scaevola; and I’m also a sucker for the various Sybils and Philosophers, including Alexander Macedon).

  • 128. GaryC  |  March 16, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    “Precisely designed for what?”

    For order. For life. The number of facts about reality that are needed for life are staggering.

    What do think is the percentage of the total volume of the universe where life exists? We know that it exists here on earth — that is, on or near the surface thereof (almost all of the volume of our planet appears to be utterly uninhabitable). Scientists think that there may be a lot of “prebiotic” chemical matter even in interglactic space, but so far no extraterrestrial life has been encountered elsehere — not even on Mars as of yet, even though scientists thought there was some chance of finding it there.

    Conceding the possibility that there may be some very primitive forms of life in interstellar space that we have yet to discover, is it your argument that it is that kind of life that the universe might be “fine-tuned” for?

  • 129. paleale  |  March 16, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Lucian,

    I never said that I find Horus inspiring. For that matter, I don’t find Jesus to be particularly inspiring either. And that is just one parallel to add to a very long list of similarities between the two. There is much information that suggests that the story of Jesus is just a Jewish plagiarism of Egyptian mythology.

    Chris,

    Just a suggestion. While you do seem to have a lot of answers (not conceding any of your points, mind you), your presentation could use some work, my friend. Your abrupt manner is just coming off as arrogant and is kind of a turn off.

  • 130. paleale  |  March 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    And didn’t we just have this conversation about God getting to go around willy-nilly killing anyone he wanted and getting away with murder because we’re not allowed to ‘define his lexicon’?

    Sheesh.

  • 131. Chris  |  March 16, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    “Your abrupt manner is just coming off as arrogant and is kind of a turn off.”

    Uh…. I am responding to people who’ve said what I’m saying is “really a joke”, which is their perogative, but I’m not going to be wasting long essays in replying to this kind of thing.

    “What do think is the percentage of the total volume of the universe where life exists?”

    Is that actually relevant? If God wanted to use trillions of tons of matter just to give us some stars to look at, what of it?

  • 132. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:04 am

    It’s not just that there’s no life in most of the universe, it’s that the vast majority of the universe is absolutely hostile to life. It kinda wrecks the whole “fine-tuned/precisely-designed” argument.

  • 133. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:11 am

    i missed the logical leap there… if the whole of the universe is absolutely hostile to life… how does that wreck the fine-tuned argument? that’s the whole point of the argument! if the VAST majority is against life, yet this one planet in a massive amount of lightyears has life… well, that sort of supports the idea there SB.

  • 134. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:21 am

    i think this post points to the larger history of the christian church in america… and worldwide for that matter.

    conservatives get rigid and say the bible is infallible and inerrant but couldn’t agree on which bible and had the problem of an inerrant bible with no inerrant interpretations. these tend to multiply and divide rather than move towards agreement.

    on the other hand, liberal free inquiry left the faith severely wounded, depleted and drained of content. it was like a warpper with no contents, an excuse to gather and hear pleas to be nice folks, good citizens and safe drivers.

    good points: liberals have pioneered in areas of science, ethics, and social justice and conservatives are great with individual conversion, basic discipleship, and community building.

    is there anyway to take the best of both worlds and move on? anyway to look ahead to the new fields of opportunity and challenge and awaken the public to a sense of community and identity?

  • 135. Quester  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:36 am

    i missed the logical leap there… if the whole of the universe is absolutely hostile to life… how does that wreck the fine-tuned argument?

    Because, Luke, if the odds of life are 1 in a milllion- there are a million planets hostile to life to this one that (kind of) isn’t. If the odds are staggeringly higher, no problem. There are a staggering number of places in the universe inhospitible to life, in comparison to this one planet that supports some, on a fraction of it’s surface. You’re not flipping a coin and being shocked that- against all odds- it’s landed heads-up fifty times in a row. You’re flipping a staggering number of coins a staggering number of times and finding that- in accordance with what probability could lead you to expect- one of those zillions of coins landed heads up fifty times in a row at one point in the zillions of times you were flipping it. See the logic now?

  • 136. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:43 am

    what you’re speaking of the theory of eternity at the expense of emergence.

    http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2005/02/18

    also, who’s flipping the coin?

  • 137. Quester  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Paleale,

    And didn’t we just have this conversation about God getting to go around willy-nilly killing anyone he wanted and getting away with murder because we’re not allowed to ‘define his lexicon’?

    Yep. The only possible defences to the problem of evil are to redefine God so that He isn’t omnipotent, omnipresent and loves humans, or to redefine evil to pretend it’s justifiable in some way. But while there are only these limited number of possible logic-distorting “defences”, there seem to be a near infinite number of theists willing to visit this blog and share them with the thought that they’re going to be the ones to show us the light. After a while, it can be healthiest just to ignore them.

  • 138. Quester  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Help me out here, Luke, so I don’t have to listen to a half hour on lightning bugs- eternity (well, infinity anyway) at the expense of emergence (an inability to predict the outcome of something by studying its fine details; an inability that may be possible to overcome) – what’s wrong with that?

    Major and minor forces of physics are flipping the coins. It’s a little boring to watch, so we don’t invite them to any parties any more.

  • 139. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 1:58 am

    “The only possible defences to the problem of evil are to redefine God so that He isn’t omnipotent, omnipresent and loves humans, or to redefine evil to pretend it’s justifiable in some way.”

    this would be process theology, elements of some pomo, Calvin (but not Calvinist) theology, and Karl Barth. found in the book of Job, Eccesiasties, Gospel of Thomas, and Mark. also found outside Christianity in Hindu, Sufi, and Reform Judaism.

    show you the light? nope! just trying to break ugly stereotypes and explain our path. consider it, then take it or leave it, it really is that simple.

  • 140. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 2:02 am

    here’s the point of emergence: why can we do science? how does something come out of nothing? who is flipping the coin? why does math work? where the hell did this coin come from anyway?

    Thomas Aquinas stated that if something is moving than there must be a mover… if there is an effect than there must be a cause.

    plus there’s also a section on infinity on radiolab.. facinating. at least, for me. a lover of science and religion.

  • 141. Quester  |  March 17, 2009 at 2:39 am

    Luke, we don’t know what was before what is, or even if that’s a sensible question once the constraints of space and time are removed.

    I have a lot of respect for Thomas Aquinas, but his argument from motion, argument from the nature of the efficient cause, argument from possibility and necessity, and argument from the governance of the world are all arguments from ignorance. The proper response to ignorance is to learn more, not plop God into the middle. You might be interested in the post I made a year ago on how the “God of the Gaps” response should be opposed by theists and non-theists alike: http://de-conversion.com/2008/03/11/opposing-the-god-of-the-gaps/.

    (The fourth of Thomas’ five proofs for God, the argument from gradation, assumes a maximum that does not necessarily exist in practice.)

    consider it, then take it or leave it, it really is that simple.

    We considered it, left in, came to a site clearly labeled De-conversion so that people would know we’ve considered it and left it, made posts on this blog so people know we’ve considered it and left it, yet it’s followed us here and keeps popping up over and over and over again. To paraphrase Big House’s comment to Lucian, “Simple? I’m not sure that word means what you think it means.”

  • 142. GaryC  |  March 17, 2009 at 8:49 am

    missed the logical leap there… if the whole of the universe is absolutely hostile to life… how does that wreck the fine-tuned argument? that’s the whole point of the argument! if the VAST majority is against life, yet this one planet in a massive amount of lightyears has life… well, that sort of supports the idea there

    I thought that the point of the fine-tuning argument was that some entity supposedly fine-tuned something for some purpose. If the “something” that was fined tuned was the universe, and if the purpose that the entity had in mind was “to support life,” and if life in the whole universe only exists on “this one planet”, then what’s the purpose of 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999(+)% of the universe, and what was THAT fined tuned for? The prevention life as we know it from existing?

    Think of it — if conditions on Mars were only slightly different, life could exist there. Shall we conclude that Mars was fine tuned to be unable to support life? If so, why was it fine tuned that way? Indeed, why did the universe have to be fine tuned to support life in the first place? After all, if God is “alive,” surely you would not wish to argue he can only exist where things have been sufficiently fine tuned to allow deities of his kind to survive! What is the very purpose of “fine tuning”? Why is it necessary?

    Now consider time as well as space. If the purpose of the universe was to sustain life on our little planet, why did no form of life exist on our little planet for most of the 13.7 billion years of the existence of the universe? Given that the life that existed on our little planet over the past 3.4 billion years or so consisted of only the most primitive forms for almost 2.9 billion of those years, does the fine tuning argument have to be adjusted to posit that the universe was fine tuned to support only the most primitive life forms during those 2.9 billion years? If so, what purpose did the “fine tuner” have in mind for the universe during those 2.9 billion years? What the heck was he thinking? Did he entertain himself watching unicellular life for almost 3 billion years before finally developing a hankering for something a little more interesting?

    It seems to me that the whole “the universe was fine tuned to support life” argument leads to a needless multiplication of things in need of explanation. The fact that most of the volume of the universe cannot sustain life now, and the fact that third rock from the sun has only sustained life for a fraction of the universe’s existence, both suggest that the “fine tuning” argument is not merely mistaken, but borders on being an absurdity.

  • 143. Chris  |  March 17, 2009 at 9:20 am

    “it’s that the vast majority of the universe is absolutely hostile to life. It kinda wrecks the whole “fine-tuned/precisely-designed” argument.”

    So if hypothetically science had shown that our solar system was the only one, you would argue that most of universe is hostile to life?

    Miracle #1 is that anything exists at all.

    Matter and energy are the same stuff. Miracle #2 is that some energy forms into matter. That the universe isn’t just an ephemeral blob of radiation.

    Depending on the number of electrons they clump in, the matter has completely different properties. One electron more or less, and it can be a gas, a metal and so forth. Without the full range of elements the universe would be dark, cold, or worse. Miracle #3, the matter isn’t just a blob of clay but has completely different properties.

    Miracle #4, you can combine the elements into infinitely more compounds. Hydrogen is a gas, and oxygen is a gas. But together they form a liquid that is essential to life.

    Miracle #5, Gravity is exactly right to have stable planets and order. Any more, and everything would collapse on itself. Any less and everything would fly apart.

    There are thousands of miracles one could point to, without which life could not exist.

    Astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic said:

    “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. . . . That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

    He went on to say “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

    “There is a kind of religion in science . . . every effect must have its cause; there is no First Cause. . . . This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications—in science this is known as “refusing to speculate.”

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    Athough he found it personally “repugnant,” General Relativity expert Arthur Eddington admitted the same when he said, “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”

    Robert Wilson—co-discoverer of the Radiation Afterglow, which won him a Noble Prize in Physics— observed, “Certainly there was something that set it off. Certainly, if you’re religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.” George Smoot—co-discoverer of the Great Galaxy Seeds which won him a Nobel Prize as well—echoed Wilson’s assessment by saying, “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”

  • 144. Erudite Redneck  |  March 17, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Quester, re: “We considered it, left in, came to a site clearly labeled De-conversion so that people would know we’ve considered it and left it, made posts on this blog so people know we’ve considered it and left it, yet it’s followed us here and keeps
    popping up over and over and over again.”

    Here’s a suggestion: Remove this from this blog: “Resources for SKEPTICAL, de-converting or former Christians.”

    Or, quit assuming that all skepitcal Christians necessarily follow into deconversion.

    Better yet: Keep it as it is, and deal.

    Because as a skeptical Christian — damn near agnostic Christian sometimes — I’ve found these resources — y’alls’ thoughts — useful for trimming back some of the unnecesarry elements of my faith, as well as strengthening the important stuff.

    Yo don’t want Christians to come here? Take down the damned welcome mat.

  • 145. Quester  |  March 17, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Yo don’t want Christians to come here? Take down the damned welcome mat.

    ER, I don’t mind Christians coming here. I don’t mind theists coming here. I was still a Christian when I first came here, struggling with much doubt. There are many theists I’ve had wonderful conversations with. Some, I’ve helped strengthen their faith. I don’t mind that. I’m not against theism. I’m for reason.

    I mind it when Christians or other theists start evangelizing here. I mind it when Christians or other theists (or atheists) post more than they read and thus insult out of willful ignorance.

    Have I implied that some people should be removed from here? My intent was to advise a relative newcomer that it can be healthiest to ignore some people rather than argue the same argument again and again. I am, thus, “dealing with it”, and trying to help others do the same.

    I’m glad you’re gaining something through being here.

  • 146. Erudite Redneck  |  March 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Quester, that’s what I hoped you meant, and I’m sorry I barked.

  • 147. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Questor.. the god of the gaps is not one i follow and you do a nice job of describing the traditional stance the church has taken with modernity. the God i follow is not a god of the gaps but the very thing the whole deal rests on. in an infinite universe with infinite possibilities… this is a possibility.

    now is this how the bible describes God? no. is this how the majority of religions and esp. the Christian denominations view God? aside from a few mystics and most of Hindu’s, no. now does that mean God doesn’t exist? not nessesarily. God exists but not in the way we’ve traditionally understood God (notice i didn’t say HIM as that’s one of the intrinsic problems here).

    i have my problems with Aquinas too, but using the idea of “flipping the coin” then warrents the question, who’s flipping it, when did that start and what’s the deal with the whole thing anyway?! but as you said “we don’t know what was before what is, or even if that’s a sensible question once the constraints of space and time are removed.”

    so we must question! we must push on! and in doing so we must do so for the corporate good of the planet. i’m gaining a lot by being here and hearing the concerns… but we must move beyond a traditional and literal understanding of God and religion. i’d say we have to move beyond science as well in this respect… it’s about application and practice! (not Praxis because that planet blew up in star trek i hear ;-))

    if you can practice not being a jerk without God, you’re better than i… i forget things and need reminders. i need a reminder to question and need others to help me articulate and make some sense of the world. the truth lies between us, we make the road by walking… all that! that’s what i’m getting here and in church. i hope you’re getting something here too and possible will find a forum in real time to discuss these issues, whether it be a church, coffee house, or bar.

  • 148. paleale  |  March 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Chris

    You presented us with a wealth of quotes from the scientific world, none of which are scientific. They are merely opinion. I’m not saying that you presented them as anything other than what I take them to be, mind you.

    When I see supernatural qualities attributed to a certain field of which we have little or no knowledge, to me it begins to stink of modern day sun worship. There is nothing to indicate that we have met something unknowable, only that it is unknown. Obviously we don’t at present possess the means to acquire the level of information needed to form a more specific hypothesis. Perhaps we never will.

  • 149. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    all of our conculsions are preliminary

  • 150. GaryC  |  March 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    “All of our conclusions are preliminary,” he concluded finally.

  • 151. John Evo  |  March 17, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    With not a shred of empirical evidence for the existence of god(s) and even less for any reason to assume one can actually know what the god(s) is and what it expects of human behavior, nonetheless, this conversation goes on and on and on…

    Some people will never be able to internalize the truth of the above paragraph. They will justify and rationalize every argument against wasting their lives in the false knowledge of god(s). So you have to let them go. Maybe they will open up their minds to reason and rationality and reality further on down their road of life. You give it a shot, and you get on with living.

  • 152. Erudite Redneck  |  March 17, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    I think there’s some kind of God wormhole or something. A Godhole/No-Godhole. Something like that. And people come up to it from both sides, some backing away, some taking the leap, either from faith to nonfaith, or from nonfaith to faith, maybe back and forth.

    Because when all the evidence for No-God is in, one still has to decide what to do with it. And when the lack of evidence for God is admitted, one still has to decide what to do with it. (I think it’s circumstantial evidence for No-God, and lack of emperical evidence for God, but I might have tot hink about that some.)

    In any case, some of us like to hang around the hole, seeing and talking to who all is coming and going.

  • 153. Chris  |  March 18, 2009 at 2:07 am

    “You presented us with a wealth of quotes from the scientific world, none of which are scientific.”

    I find it odd that people seem to think that if you slap the sticker “scientific” on it, we must accept it, and if we slap “non-scientific” tag on it, its worthless.

    What is going to constitute science when it comes to the universe’s beginnings? Many scientists are engaged in theorising that comes close to, and in many cases crosses the boundaries of being non-falsifiable. Various mathematical models and concepts and ideas that are we are unlikely to ever have opportunity to test.

    Are these comments any less scientific than other stuff that goes on in the field? Hardly. They express belief in things like cause and effect. Every effect should have a cause. That’s a pretty basic axiom of scientific method. They express a belief the universe started “in a flash of light and energy”. Well, most scientists seem to accept it, so if its not science, so much the worse for science. They express opinion that we cannot hope to discover scientifically what lies behind the big bang. Sounds like a pretty educated guess to me. There are good sound reasons for believing this is likely to be undiscoverable by science.

    “There is nothing to indicate that we have met something unknowable, only that it is unknown. ”

    It’s ridiculous to say there is nothing to indicate these things may be unknowable. The apparent impossibility of time travel is one excellent reason for thinking we can’t know. The impossibility of conducting experments inside a black hole is another reason.

    “With not a shred of empirical evidence for the existence of god(s)…..”

    LOL. Go into any Church and the first person you meet will give you their own empirical evidence for the existence of God.

    “They will justify and rationalize every argument against wasting their lives in the false knowledge of god(s)”

    Please tell us how your life is not wasted compared to someone else’s. Seems to me, if there is no God, your life is wasted and you know it, and my life is wasted but I don’t know it. Some people have reaslised this only too clearly.

  • 154. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 10:41 am

    What is going to constitute science when it comes to the universe’s beginnings? Many scientists are engaged in theorising that comes close to, and in many cases crosses the boundaries of being non-falsifiable.

    Well, Chris, suppose it were to be the case that EVERY scientific hypothesis proposed to account for the origin of the universe does turn out to be unfalsifiable because it is not testable. Many scientists would argue that such hypotheses would not, in fact, be “scientific” at all because of their lack of falsifiability. From the perspective of science, such hypotheses would have the following problem:

    1. They are not falsifiable.

    Consider the alternative, the “God made it” hypothesis. From the perspective of science, this hypothesis suffers from, not one, but (at least) two problems:

    1. It is not falsifiable.
    2. It is not naturalistic.

    On the methodological grounds that define “science,” a hypothesis that is naturalistic but not falsifiable is to preferred over a hypothesis that is not only not falsifiable, but says, “It was magic!” Every time.

    Now suppose:

    1. That a falsifiable scientific hypothesis for the origins of the universe emerges,
    2. That scientists are unable by experiment or observation to falsify said hypothesis, and,
    3. That said hypothesis were to become the widely accepted scentific consensus explanation for the origin of the universe, rising from “hypothesis” to “theory”.

    What would such a development do to your personal religious convictions? Would you give up on Christianity?

    I’m curious as to what extent Christians believe God exists because they they have concluded that the “God did it” hypothesis best explains the origins of the universe, or whether it’s the other way around: they have concluded that the “God did it” hypothesis best explains the origins of the universe because they believe God exists. The latter, I suspect, because after all the “It was magic!” hypothesis does not require that the trick was done by a particular, single magician performing under the stage name of “Yahweh.”

    For that reason, I further suspect that if a well-accepted scientific theory were to emerge that adequately accounted for the creation of the universe, a good many Christians would simply retreat from the no longer defensible position that “God created the universe” to some other position that they believe they can still hold. Do you think you might be one of them?

  • 155. paleale  |  March 18, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Chris,

    without quoting your entire post–

    Perhaps the comments you listed are no less ‘scientific’ than the ideas of other, less theistic scientists. However it is nonetheless a scientific ‘leap of faith’ to step from an impasse of knowledgeable observation to a conclusion that there is a being who has done it all for our benefit.

    Rabbit trail– why do most creationists assume that there is only one creator? Perhaps a team of designers is as plausible a theory? Maybe Douglas Adams was right.

    Regarding knowable vs unknowable

    Your time travel bit is a bit simplistic. I believe that you are stating something outlandish for the sake of argument so I’ll treat it as such. What if there are other ways to observe like phenomena? I’m sure that you are familiar with the idea of multiple universes? Perhaps it is possible to observe ‘creation’ from another vantage point other than our own. This is all conjecture, I realize, and probably influenced by my having read too much science fiction ;-)

    Regarding empirical evidence,

    Hmm… We’ve all been there Chris. We’ve all experienced the ‘empirical evidence’ first hand. The name of this forum is ‘DE-conversion’, in case you missed it. Most of us reached the conclusion that all the ‘evidence’ was misguided and misinterpreted subjectivity.

    I’m rather enjoying the dialogue, by the way. Thanks for making my day more interesting:-)!

  • 156. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Sorry, I messed up the HTML on that last post. The first paragraph was a quote from Chris.

  • 157. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Seems to me, if there is no God, your life is wasted and you know it, and my life is wasted but I don’t know it.

    The time and effort you’re putting into this whole “Christian” thing is wasted, that’s for sure, but on what grounds do you assert that some atheist’s life is wasted? What criteria do you think define a “wasted” life?

  • 158. LeoPardus  |  March 18, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Go into any Church and the first person you meet will give you their own empirical evidence for the existence of God.

    Only if they, like you, don’t know the meaning of “empirical”.

  • 159. LeoPardus  |  March 18, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Maybe Douglas Adams was right.

    Maybe?? Just “maybe”? He was divinely inspired. His revelations are truth. You approach blasphemy with your lack of faith.

  • 160. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:12 am

    [T]he “It was magic!” hypothesis does not require that the trick was done by a particular, single magician performing under the stage name of “Yahweh.”

    Mea culpa. I had momentarily forgotten that at the time that particular trick was supposedly done the magician was performing under the (plural) stage name of “Elohim.”

  • 161. Joshua  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Ok, I honestly don’t get something anymore.

    Why is it that theists are *always* making the point that life is meaningless with out their God? Its so dumb. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

    I would rather have a meaning of my own invention – and know it, than have a meaning that is complete poppycock and insists that I change all my behavior and life and adhere to a set of doctrines etc. etc.

    I just don’t get it anymore. My life is perfectly fine now that I have left the faith. I don’t need some overarching teleological framework imposed on my from outside to be happy and fulfilled.

  • 162. Joshua  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

    And neither do you.

  • 163. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Why is it that theists are *always* making the point that life is meaningless with out their God? Its so dumb. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

    My usage of language tends to be a bit literal. I reflexively insert additional punctuation into the question, “What is the meaning of life?” so that it reads, “What is the meaning of ‘life’?” To which the snappy comeback is, “Look it up in a dictionary. L-I-F-E….”

    I think that what such theists are really saying (and what Chris is certainly implying here) is this: “If I ever came to the conclusion that God did not exist, I’d blow my brains out.” Whether that is in fact true of Chris, only Chris knows.

    I don’t know if there’s any data to suggest that atheists are more likely to commit suicide than theists. I suppose it’s possible, given that the atheist, who presumably does not believe in the existence of hell, has no particular reason to fear death — that is, to fear “the state of being dead” — that is, to fear “the state of non-being.” This is, after all, precisely the state from which most atheists (and most Christians) think we all once came, with no obvious ill effects. On the other hand, the Christian who believes in the existence of hell might be terrified of death because he could be worried that he might, in spite of everything, flunk the final. He might therefore strive to put off the final for as long as possible.

    The assurance the atheist can offer to Chris is this: “Even if you do blow your brains out some day, you won’t go to hell.”

  • 164. LeoPardus  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Why is it that theists are *always* making the point that life is meaningless with out their God?

    Because that gives their God and their belief ultimate meaning. Which of course means they can cheer, “We’re #1 ! We’re #1 !”

    It also legitimizes them telling everyone how they should live.

    It also makes them part of “the inside club”. I.e., the only ones who really know what it’s all about.

    Basically it feeds the ego.

  • 165. Luke  |  March 18, 2009 at 11:45 am

    “I don’t know if there’s any data to suggest that atheists are more likely to commit suicide than theists”

    that’d be something to look into. there is a recent Time issue that covers how theists heal faster than atheists.

    “I would rather have a meaning of my own invention”

    we all have it. however, how do you communicate to others? on what grounds to you establish a community? no person is an island. we are interconnected.

  • 166. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    There is a recent Time issue that covers how theists heal faster than atheists.

    Could be, and obviously there’s a limit. As has frequently been noted, theists with traumatically amputed limbs are no more likely to grow them back than are atheists. The article makes the point that whether God exists or not, religious belief could provide some kind of placebo affect, which I certainly would not dispute. That’s in part what “faith healing” is all about.

    The article says, ” People who attend religious services do have a lower risk of dying in any one year than people who don’t attend.” (Did the data account for the people who were unable to attend church services because they were too sick, I wonder?) In any case, precisely what you believe seems to matter: “People who believe in a loving God fare better after a diagnosis of illness than people who believe in a punitive God.” That’s not too surprising: If you believe in a God who’s trying to make you better, you might be slightly more likely to recover quickly (or at all) than if you believe in a God who’s trying to kill you.

    The article did not cite the now-famous study that found that petitionary prayer for the recovery of sick people had absolutely no effect on their recovery rates — unless they were informed that people were praying for them, in which case there was a slightly negative effect. The suggested explanation for the negative effect is that people who know that others are praying for them might conclude that they must be in really bad shape, and might become more depressed….

  • 167. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Messed up that HTML too….

  • 168. Luke  |  March 18, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    GaryC, i believe we’re on the same page… placebo effect and what not… belief and nonbelief play out in strange and complex ways. gotta keep going after it, critically engaging both sides and the pluses and minuseszes and the science and ethics involved in each.

  • 169. LeoPardus  |  March 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    “I don’t know if there’s any data to suggest that atheists are more likely to commit suicide than theists”
    that’d be something to look into. there is a recent Time issue that covers how theists heal faster than atheists.

    I make my living digging into these sorts of studies. What I can tell you is that there are numerous publications describing numerous studies. Some show one effect, others show the opposite effect, and most show no effect.

    In short, religion or no religion makes no difference to longevity, rapidity of recovery, mental health, or likelihood of illness. If someone cites one study showing that there is an effect, I can easily cite 3 showing the opposite.

    Oh, and TIME is NOT a place to go for scientific anything. They’ve gotten the story screwed up so many times (on topics scientific and otherwise) that I won’t even pick it up and scan it in a library.

  • 170. Lucian  |  March 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Oh, and TIME is NOT a place to go for scientific anything.

    Was that a response to Chris’ remark about the impossibility of time-travel? :-)

  • 171. Joshua  |  March 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    “Basically it feeds the ego.”

    Ironic, since in the eyes of a lot of theists, atheists are the most arrogant people alive.

  • 172. GaryC  |  March 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    “Basically it feeds the ego.”

    Ironic, since in the eyes of a lot of theists, atheists are the most arrogant people alive.

    Christianity feeds the ego because it puts the individual Christian at the center of the universe. God’s purpose is to to serve him, perhaps by helping him out in this life, but, if not that, then certainly by rewarding him with eternal bliss in an afterlife. God is absolutely obliged to do this, provided that the Christian believes the right things and/or does the right things. God owes him.

    No Christian would say this, of course, and very few would admit it even to themselves, but it’s true, at least in Western culture. An impersonal deistic “Creator” who “explains” the existence of the universe but does nothing more is not sufficiently useful psychologically to attract much of a cult following.

    Thus it has been, and thus it shall be: the gods must exist, so that can manipulate them and get them to do our bidding. Sacrifice a goat, sacrifice twenty bucks in the offering plate in church on Sunday morning, what’s the difference?

  • 173. LeoPardus  |  March 18, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    GaryC:

    Good analysis.

    Sacrifice a goat, sacrifice twenty bucks in the offering plate in church on Sunday morning, what’s the difference?

    The goat might offer some perspective on that. :)

  • 174. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  March 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    When I preached, I asked the question: what if there was no eternal reward i.e. heaven or eternal punishment i.e. Hell…how would christians act or live? and I recieved stares. Point being the whole christian religion is based off of a reward system, based on the way you live; you either obtain heaven or hell. The Early church was smart to enact this belief to control the masses. having believers think that they are at the center of the universe.

  • 175. notjameswhite  |  March 19, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Paleale: “I’m sure that you are familiar with the idea of multiple universes?”

    I was wondering when this was going to come up. Now who is completely stepping outside of science?

    So we’ve got religion which is based on something – not something that convinces you apparently, but it is based on stuff that people have experienced both personally and historically…

    versus…

    “hey maybe there are multiple universes” and “Maybe Douglas Adams was right”.

    Who is being rational, and who is living in fantasy now?

    In any case, even if there was multiple universes it would only push the question one step back. Who created the system of universes?

    It seems safest to assume what we can observe which is everything coming into being in one flash of energy and light, as the astronomer described it.

    “However it is nonetheless a scientific ‘leap of faith’ to step from an impasse of knowledgeable observation to a conclusion that there is a being who has done it all for our benefit.”

    There may or may not be a scientific leap of faith…. as I said already, I’m not hung up on the idea we have to design this box labeled “science” and if something can’t be squeezed into the box, we can’t know it.

    Many things we assume to know are based on logical deduction. That the universe comes into being at a specific point in time seems to indicate a being with choice. That the universe has particular properties, that the nuclear binding force is this, or that the gravitational binding force is that seems to indicate choice.

    A being who makes choices would be interested in other beings who make choices. There is a good chance he would have something to say to these beings. There is a good chance he did in fact say something.

    GaryC: “Consider the alternative, the “God made it” hypothesis. From the perspective of science, this hypothesis suffers from, not one, but (at least) two problems:
    1. It is not falsifiable.
    2. It is not naturalistic.”

    What is “naturalistic” if not an artificial construction?

    If it could be shown that earth came about by special creation Douglas Adams style, as was aluded to by PaleAle, by a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, would that be naturalistic?

    What if the pan-dimensional being resides in one of these different universes that PaleAle postulated?

    What if the being’s name is YHWH? At what point does it not become naturalistic?

    “Now suppose:
    1. That a falsifiable scientific hypothesis for the origins of the universe emerges,
    What would such a development do to your personal religious convictions? Would you give up on Christianity?”

    It’s hard to imagine what such a theory might be that wouldn’t only push the problem one more step back. These causes that are proposed, what led to those causes coming into being, and so forth. The problem isn’t merely why a big bang happened where and when it did, the problem is the deeper, “why is there ANYTHING at all?”

    GaryC: “but on what grounds do you assert that some atheist’s life is wasted? What criteria do you think define a “wasted” life?”

    An athiest can’t have even a semi-objective criteria for whether atoms bouncing around one way are superior to them bouncing around in a hardly distinguishable way. The only possible criteria would be a particular person is content with their own life, and since I think statistics are quite clear in saying that theists are more content, that pretty much ends that argument.

    LeoPardis: Only if they, like you, don’t know the meaning of “empirical”.

    empirical |emˈpirikəl|
    adjective
    based on, concerned with, observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic

    You were saying…?

    Joshua: “Why is it that theists are *always* making the point that life is meaningless with out their God? ”

    It seems to me that an atheist made that point clear, not a theist.

    LeoPardis “In short, religion or no religion makes no difference to longevity, rapidity of recovery, mental health, or likelihood of illness. ”

    Studies are hardly going to prove that since you can’t take a random sample of people and give them or remove their religion. At best it could show that people with no predisposition towards religion are happy with no religion, not that religion in general has no effect.

    Not a Church goer: “Point being the whole christian religion is based off of a reward system, based on the way you live; you either obtain heaven or hell.”

    Some have proposed it is an evolutionary trait that is good for the species. So even if there is no God you may be still created to love God. :-P

  • 176. Chris  |  March 19, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Previous post was by me, the name got mucked up.

  • 177. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 19, 2009 at 2:04 am

    The God hypothesis just pushes the question one step back as well. Where did God come from?

    The pathetically weak response that God is the “First Cause” and is therefore uncaused is no more valid than the claim that the Big Bang is the “First Cause.”

    And regarding ‘empirical’, you’re getting into semantics now.

    ‘”Empirical” as an adjective or adverb is used in conjunction with both the natural and social sciences, and refers to the use of working hypotheses that are testable using observation or experiment.’

    In that sense, there is no empirical evidence for God, and this is the sense that just about anyone is talking about when they ask for empirical evidence. If we’re to accept the kind of “evidence” you want us to, we’d also have to accept the “evidence” of all manner of quackery and flim-flam.

  • 178. GaryC  |  March 19, 2009 at 9:24 am

    GaryC: “Consider the alternative, the “God made it” hypothesis. From the perspective of science, this hypothesis suffers from, not one, but (at least) two problems:
    1. It is not falsifiable.
    2. It is not naturalistic.”

    What is “naturalistic” if not an artificial construction?

    If it could be shown that earth came about by special creation Douglas Adams style, as was aluded to by PaleAle, by a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, would that be naturalistic?

    What if the pan-dimensional being resides in one of these different universes that PaleAle postulated?

    What if the being’s name is YHWH? At what point does it not become naturalistic?

    It will certainly have “not become naturalistic” by the point at which one posits that YHWH does not result from, is unconstrained by the limits of, and exists outside the boundaries of, any kind of naturalistic world.

    By that I mean when it is posited that YHWH is unconstrained by anything that we might considered “an external reality,” but is the creator of any and all external realities. In other words, if it has not done so before, it will “not become naturalistic” at the point at which it is asserted that YHWH is “omnipotent” and “omniscient” — he has both the power and the knowledge to bring into being any kind of reality what he wishes.

    A YHWH who exists in some other universe and is constrained by the laws of that universe would be a “naturalistic YHWH.” We could reasonably ask about the ecology of that universe and about what it takes for YHWH to exist there, even if in practice we could never find an answer because we cannot access the data. A YHWH who used some technique available in another universe, under the laws he was subjected to in that universe, to create our universe, would be a “naturalistic YHWH.” We could in theory reasonably ask what (naturalistic) technique he might have used for his act of universe creation, even if, again, we could never find an answer because we cannot access the data. A YHWH living in some other universe, subject to the constraints therein, who created our universe but is subsequently unable to act in our universe precisely because he is limited by some reality external to him in his own universe would be a “naturalistic YHWH.”

    On the other hand, a YHWH said to have been able to create our universe “because he is omnipotent” would not be a naturalistic YHWH. “Because he is omnipotent” seems to mean only that “he has unlimited magical powers.” Once you invoke “magic” as an “explanation,” you have stepped outside the boundaries of any kind of naturalistic explanation whatsoever. A “naturalistic YHWH” is one constrained by a reality external to YHWH. A “non-naturalistic YHWH” is one not so constrained.

  • 179. GaryC  |  March 19, 2009 at 10:17 am

    “Now suppose:
    1. That a falsifiable scientific hypothesis for the origins of the universe emerges,
    What would such a development do to your personal religious convictions? Would you give up on Christianity?”

    It’s hard to imagine what such a theory might be that wouldn’t only push the problem one more step back. These causes that are proposed, what led to those causes coming into being, and so forth. The problem isn’t merely why a big bang happened where and when it did, the problem is the deeper, “why is there ANYTHING at all?”

    True, but that’s not a problem for science alone.

    “SnugglyBuffalo” addressed this by saying, “The God hypothesis just pushes the question one step back as well. Where did God come from?” I’ll allow you to ad hoc your way out of that particular question by claiming, if you wish, that “God always existed” or that “God exists outside of space and time.” As you pointed out, “The problem isn’t merely why a big bang happened where and when it did, the problem is the deeper, ‘why is there ANYTHING at all?'”

    God, if he exists at all, must be one of the “things” included under the “anything” in your question, so that allows us to ask a narrower question: “Why is there God at all?” Or, in other words, “Why does God exist?” Now I’m just guessing here, but I suspect that you have no good answer to that question.
    Do you suppose that, if God exists, even he knows why he exists?

    You didn’t provide a direct answer to my question. I asked whether, if a scientific consensus were to emerge around a naturalistic theory explaining the origin of our universe — rendering the God made it” hypothesis utterly unnecessary — you would give up on Christianity. Indirectly you have indicated that you would do what I think many Christians would do. You would retreat from a position that even you might regard as no longer defensible (“God created the universe”) to a fall-back position that you think you can hold (“Surely God must have created SOMETHING”).

    In just this way, many Christians have already retreated from the details of the Genesis creation myth and are willing to say, “OK, the universe was not created by God 6000 years ago, it was created 13.7 billion years ago.” At the same time, however, they do not give up on the “Elohim did it” premise of the Genesis myth, just on a “detail” considered trivial to the supposed underlying truth of that premise. True, a few people, doubting whether any part of the myth has any useful truth content, have given up on Christianity altogether for that reason. It might not have been the only reason, but some have found it compelling. Sadly, a much larger number of Christians, however, and in particular in the United States, have been “left behind” and have remained faithful to the notion that (1) not only did Elohim do it, but (2) Elohim did it in six literal days, and (3) Elohim did it six thousand years ago, give or take, depnding how you calculate the genealogies.

    Based on what has already happened in terms of the Genesis myth, my guess about would happen if a scientific consensus emerged on a theory accounting for the naturalistic origins of our universe is this: A few Christians would be shaken out of the faith tree and become atheists, a much larger number would refuse to accept the scientific consensus and continue to claim that God created the universe 13.7 billion years ago (or 6000 years ago), and some, like you perhaps, would say that God did not create our universe, but he must have created something.

  • 180. LeoPardus  |  March 19, 2009 at 10:30 am

    empirical |emˈpirikəl|
    adjective
    based on, concerned with, observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic
    You were saying…?

    Fine. You can look up a word in dictionary.com. Now go back and look at what you said, and what I replied. Then apply the definition.

    Though based on your response to what I said about studies, it does not appear that you think clearly at all.

    Ahhh. Forget it. You’ve got your faith and your “I am God and therefore omniscient” thing going. Why try to engage the mind?

  • 181. LeoPardus  |  March 19, 2009 at 10:32 am

    And, yes, I do have a bad attitude toward arrogant “Christians” (read that as “hypocrites”). You don’t like it, try reading the verses about humility and how you’re supposed to respond to insults in your holy book.

  • 182. GaryC  |  March 19, 2009 at 10:40 am

    GaryC: “but on what grounds do you assert that some atheist’s life is wasted? What criteria do you think define a “wasted” life?”

    An athiest can’t have even a semi-objective criteria for whether atoms bouncing around one way are superior to them bouncing around in a hardly distinguishable way. The only possible criteria would be a particular person is content with their own life, and since I think statistics are quite clear in saying that theists are more content, that pretty much ends that argument.

    The argument is ended in your mind, perhaps, but it’s a rather bizarre way to end it. Consider the forum in which you posted your claim. It is a forum primarily of and for the “deconverted” — that is, a forum by and for people who for the most part became discontented with their lives as theists. I suspect that if you asked them, most of them would say that becoming atheists has resulted in their becoming considerably more content, not less. By your peculiar “contentment” criterion, it was their lives as theists that were wasted, and their lives as atheists that are not wasted. A good many of them have now moved on and are cheerfully and contentedly trying to deconvert others.

    So I ask again: “On what grounds do you assert that some atheist’s life is wasted?”

  • 183. Chris  |  March 19, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    SnuggyBuffalo “‘”Empirical” as an adjective or adverb is used in conjunction with both the natural and social sciences, and refers to the use of working hypotheses that are testable using observation or experiment.”

    In philosphy and religion (this blog has a religious title, has it not?), empirical refers to experience. The PER in EXPERIENCE comes from emPIRical (εμπειρισμός). Plato is considered a non-empirical philosopher because his considerations are theoretical, whereas Aristotle is considered more empirical because he places greater emphasis on experience.

    Now in science, repeatability is emphasised because of an assumption of naturalism, or at least because it seeks to enquire into naturalism or mechanistic areas of knowledge.

    Since religion asserts God isn’t mechanistic, he is not a suitable target for scientific enquiry because it does not claim that God does things in a repeatable way, seeing as God is a `person’ rather than a mechanism.

    However, he can still be the subject of empiricism, just not the the narrow scientific repeatable sense. Of course this is rational for how people behave. Our knowledge about my wife for example is largely empirical, but not necessarily repeatable or scientific.

    Nor do I necessarily expect you to accept without question the empirical evidence I have about my wife, but you could potentially acquire your own, if you were motivated to.

  • 184. Chris  |  March 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    GaryC: “A YHWH who used some technique available in another universe, under the laws he was subjected to in that universe, to create our universe, would be a “naturalistic YHWH.” We could in theory reasonably ask what (naturalistic) technique he might have used for his act of universe creation, even if, again, we could never find an answer because we cannot access the data.”

    I fail to how whether YHWH is subject to an external reality in his own universe should have any bearing on how we conduct science here. Would science suddenly become friendly to special creation if we posit that God has an external reality of his own? Even though the factualness of that possibility has no bearing whatsoever on our state here? If so I guess the Mormons will be pleased since that is the religion they propose. According to you, as long as I push the problem one step back, special creation becomes naturalistic. Just sounds to me like we are slapping labels around that don’t change anything.

  • 185. Chris  |  March 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    GaryC: ““SnugglyBuffalo” addressed this by saying, “The God hypothesis just pushes the question one step back as well. Where did God come from?””

    I think the issue for us as human beings is that we need to push the question back until we get answers pertinent to ourselves. Yes, if God created the universe it leaves the question open of “where did God come from”. However it answers the question of “why am I here, and why did God create me and what is my purpose in life”, as well as “why is there ANYTHING in this universe”, which is the question we as human beings need to know. It would also be the end of the line for scientific enquiry, at least as far as life in this universe is concerned. However, scientific explanations of the the big bang, even if it were possible to find, would not result in any such closure.

    “You didn’t provide a direct answer to my question. I asked whether, if a scientific consensus were to emerge around a naturalistic theory explaining the origin of our universe — rendering the God made it” hypothesis utterly unnecessary — you would give up on Christianity.”

    It would depend on what the nature of the explanation is. Let’s say the explanation put forth is that a really really big lump of TNT floating in space collided with a detonator, and bam, there is the big bang and our universe. That would still leave the question of why there was a big lump of TNT floating around. All mechanistic explanations end up being unsatisfactory.

  • 186. Chris  |  March 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    ” It is a forum primarily of and for the “deconverted” — that is, a forum by and for people who for the most part became discontented with their lives as theists.”

    I don’t automatically assume that deconversion resulted in greater contentment.

    I mean, on a basic logical level, belief you will be obliterated soon is not even a desirable personal outcome for a darwinian evolutionist where survival is the motivation of life.

  • 187. Lucian  |  March 19, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Well, I guess the problem with experience is that it’s always personal, and restricted to the ones who experience it: it’s something that happened to me, and eventually to others that were with me ["we"] — it can’t be generalized.

  • 188. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I don’t automatically assume that deconversion resulted in greater contentment.

    I mean, on a basic logical level, belief you will be obliterated soon is not even a desirable personal outcome for a darwinian evolutionist where survival is the motivation of life.

    “On a basic logical level,” atheists have no particular reason to be fearful of what will happen to them after they have been obliterated. Neither, if they are content with their lives, do they have any reason to look forward to their obliteration.

    On the other hand, one would suppose, also “on a base logical level,” that Christians (if they truly believe they are “saved”) would have every reason to wish for death, to long for it, and to pray for it earnestly and fervently. Of course by and large that’s not what one sees. Quite the contrary. I have to say that it’s most peculiar. How do you account for it? Is it best explained by saying that Christians as a general rule aren’t very logical? Or could it be the case that so many of them are secretly terrified that they may not be “saved” after all, but “damned”?

  • 189. Erudite Redneck  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:27 am

    For some of us, GaryC, the poitn of faith is not to get ourselves into heaven, but to bring the heavenly realm — the “kingdom of God” — into the present hereness, as piss-poorly as we are at it.

  • 190. Erudite Redneck  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Have any of y’all who are real regulars hre ever polled to see from whence you came to deconversion? No offense, srsly, but it seems like most were from Christian traditions that require strict adherence and intellectual assent to certain fsctual propositions, as oppsed to a Way of living. Maybe not.

  • 191. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I think the issue for us as human beings is that we need to push the question back until we get answers pertinent to ourselves. Yes, if God created the universe it leaves the question open of “where did God come from”. However it answers the question of “why am I here, and why did God create me and what is my purpose in life”, as well as “why is there ANYTHING in this universe”, which is the question we as human beings need to know.

    You lost me somewhere between “Yes, if God created the universe it leaves the question open of ‘where did God come from,'” and “However it answers the question of ‘why am I here, and why did God create me and what is the purpose of my life.'” Concluding that God created the universe does not answer the “Why am I here?” question. It begs the “Why am I here?” question. You ought to consider whether it’s a good question in the first place. Ask the wrong question, and you’ll get the wrong answer.

    Let’s say the explanation put forth is that a really really big lump of TNT floating in space collided with a detonator, and bam, there is the big bang and our universe. That would still leave the question of why there was a big lump of TNT floating around. All mechanistic explanations end up being unsatisfactory.

    Only if there is as yet no answer to the question of why there was a big lump of TNT floating around and there is some reason to find a question of that kind profoundly disturbing (as you seem to) instead of merely interesting (as I do).

    And, as you plainly admit, “Yes, if God created the universe it leaves the question open of ‘where did God come from.'” Why should the question of why there was a “big lump of God floating around” be any less disturbing to you than the question of why there was a big lump of TNT floating around? It seems to defy all logic.

  • 192. BigHouse  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Why should the question of why there was a “big lump of God floating around” be any less disturbing to you than the question of why there was a big lump of TNT floating around? It seems to defy all logic.

    My guess is because Chris desperately wants to follow “the rules” and the TNT didn’t leave a supposed blueprint for him to follow.

  • 193. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:05 am

    I fail to how whether YHWH is subject to an external reality in his own universe should have any bearing on how we conduct science here. Would science suddenly become friendly to special creation if we posit that God has an external reality of his own?

    I didn’t say that science would suddenly become friendly to special creation. What I said was that a YHWH subject to an external reality would be a naturalistic YHWH.

    Consider the following two “hypotheses”:

    1. “The Great Red Spot on Jupiter was created by Bigfoot by means of some naturalistic technique that we do not understand.”

    2. “The Great Red Spot on Jupiter was created by Bigfoot using his supernatural powers.”

    Science would have no reason to give serious consideration to either one of these “hypotheses.” Nevertheless, they are quite different hypotheses. In the first hypothesis, a naturalistic Bigfoot is implied. In the second, it is a magical Bigfoot that is implied.

    Science has no interest in magic. I’m sure it would be quite interested in Bigfoot — if someone could ever produce a Bigfoot specimen for examination. But it would have no interest in the “Bigfoot created the Great Red Spot” hypothesis unless someone filled in the “By means of some naturalistic technique we do not understand” with “by means of Technique X, which we understand (or at least think we do).” I think we can safely say that ain’t gonna happen.

    In this same way, science is going to have no interest in the “YHWH is a being living in another universe who created our universe” hypothesis unless:

    1. There exists some credible reason for thinking that YHWH actual is a being living in another universe, and

    2. The hypothesis specifies the technique by means of which YHWH was supposed to have created our universe — a technique other than “magic.”

    What I’m trying to get at here is that there’s a difference between “science” and “bullshit.”

  • 194. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:08 am

    For some of us, GaryC, the poitn of faith is not to get ourselves into heaven, but to bring the heavenly realm — the “kingdom of God” — into the present hereness, as piss-poorly as we are at it.

    Just like Jesus?

    And in the end you die anyway, and stay dead forever — just like Jesus?

  • 195. Erudite Redneck  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Just like Jesu. As to your next, I reckon it depends on what your definition of “dead” is. Because I don’t see Mr. Jesus H. Christ sitting in a pew at church, and it might very well be that groupthink is the very way Mr. Christ is present there with us in the same way that “God is in the synapses” — but for one to deny such a presence among we two or three and more gathered in hs name, or God’s Godness in my synapses, is as if one denied that I’m breathing.

    Which brings me back to my question regarding reliance on science when it comes to questions about God: Science isn’t equipped to answer such questions, is it?

    Why is scientific evidence the only type of evidence that should enter into the discussion? Insisting that every question is a scientific question is scientism, not science.

  • 196. BigHouse  |  March 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

    but for one to deny such a presence among we two or three and more gathered in hs name, or God’s Godness in my synapses, is as if one denied that I’m breathing.

    No one denies you “feel” something, we question how you can know what the source of that feeling is.

    If I told you I felt that a Pink Unicorn was up in the sky and loved me and watched over me day after day, would you give this “evidence” the same credence as you would your own feelings about God? More credence than the abscence of physical evidence of Pink Unicorns?

    This is the disconnect that the deconverted see in the Christian mindset. You would treat other relgions and beliefs that are counter to yours EXACTLY the same way and with the same arguments that we turn on Christianity. Why do yours not get the business end of this analysis?

  • 197. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Which brings me back to my question regarding reliance on science when it comes to questions about God: Science isn’t equipped to answer such questions, is it?

    Depends on what those questions are, i suppose. According to Richard Dawkins, if the questions are actually about matters of fact, then in theory science would be equipped to handle them. However, the essential genius (if you want to call it that) of Christianity is that it has removed the most fundamental of such questions from the realm of testability and falsifiability. If science does find itself in a position to test a “Christian” hypothesis and find it wanting, then Christianity generally has no trouble moving the goalposts and says that it was never really a Christian hypothesis int he first place, it was just an honest mistake. The hypothesis that God placed the earth at the center of the universe, and that it did not move — the hypothesis that Galileo got into trouble for doubting — is the obvious case in point.

    Since Jesus H. Christ has absented himself from appearing among us in the flesh ever since that whole “ascent into heaven” thing (other than the occasional vanishing hitchhiker episode, of course), it would seem that the only way for a scientist to make a scientific observation that would verify the facticity of Jesus H. Christ’s existence would be to drop dead. Needless to say, the sceptical scientist would be inclined to argue that, even if he does drop dead, he will not for that very reason be in any position to make any scientific observations of Jesus H. Christ — and even if he could, he’s obviously not going to be able to get his data published unless he’s granted the privilege of a personal resurrection.

    Why is scientific evidence the only type of evidence that should enter into the discussion? Insisting that every question is a scientific question is scientism, not science.

    Perhaps one might say that scientific evidence would be the only kind of evidence that should enter into a scientific discussion. If you’re having some other kind of discussion (a historical discussion, say, instead of a scientific discussion), then some other kinds of evidence (and methodologies) might be perfectly appropriate. Indeed, they might be the only ones available. But even historians, qua historians, aren’t allowed by the canons of their discipline to invoke God and magic. If a historian wants to explain the origins of the American Civil War, he is not allowed to say that, in the end, it was brought about by God to punish Americans for the sin of slavery.

  • 198. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 10:39 am

    No one denies you “feel” something, we question how you can know what the source of that feeling is….

    This is the disconnect that the deconverted see in the Christian mindset. You would treat other relgions and beliefs that are counter to yours EXACTLY the same way and with the same arguments that we turn on Christianity. Why do yours not get the business end of this analysis?

    More to the point, why don’t the synaptic feelings of the deconverted count as counter-evidence to the “Jesus was present” hypothesis?

    If one has a feeling that Jesus is present, perhaps the best thing to do is to lie down until the feeling goes away.

  • 199. Erudite Redneck  |  March 20, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Well, I have a gamed to watch — GO COWBOYS! Beat Tennessee — and work to do after that, but I’ll get back here afterwhall. But:

    Re, “You would treat other relgions and beliefs that are counter to yours EXACTLY the same way and with the same arguments that we turn on Christianity.”

    I’d be careful in assuming anything I might think. If your concept of God — THE GOD — was a pink unicorn, and you knew or came to conclude that you couldn’t do jack shit to connect-commune-communicate-find-whatever God on your own, and you trusted God to take the first step, by siring a young unicorn, or in any other way — then I personally, would not condemn you, and in fact would extend fellowhip to you in the name of the One Whom I call Christ.

    The devil himself is in the details of religion — even the Christian religion. Do not confuse me with orthodoxy.

  • 200. Lucian  |  March 20, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Garry dearest,

    we have hardly removed our “things” from the area of falsifiability, let alone testability. The only problem is that we respectfully agree to disagree. That’s all. Skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, not to mention people of other faiths (such as Islam or Judaism, or other Christian faiths) can hardly be said to be unaware of things like, say, relics, or the Holy Light… but they just don’t believe in them. It’s as simple as that. And rightly so. (After all, why should they?). For skeptics, we’re the uncrowned masters of mass-deception; for the un-believers, we’re masters of the black arts. — Ask LeoPardus here if You don’t believe me: he’s as un-impressed by them as anyone can be (and he has insider-knowledge also ;) ).

  • 201. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    We have hardly removed our “things” from the area of falsifiability, let alone testability. The only problem is that we respectfully agree to disagree. That’s all. Skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, not to mention people of other faiths (such as Islam or Judaism, or other Christian faiths) can hardly be said to be unaware of things like, say, relics, or the Holy Light… but they just don’t believe in them.

    The “Holy Light/Holy Fire” is not your best choice of an example to justify your claim that “you” haven’t removed your “things” from the realm of falsifiability. Of this so-called “miracle,” stage magician and professional skeptic James Randi has written:

    There are many ways this “miracle” can be performed, but since the church won’t let anyone investigate, there’s no point in trying to solve it. Why are they so secretive about it? Because it’s a sham, a trick, a swindle designed to deceive the faithful. The church knows that any investigation will immediately reveal that they’ve been lying to their members.

    He goes on:

    The potassium permanganate + glycerin trick is accomplished by preparing two pharmacy-style gelatin capsules, one with the KMnO4 crystals, the other with glycerin (glycerol) (C3H8O3). They are taped together, then concealed within the cloth, paper, or other flammable material. When the material is crushed so as to fracture both capsules together, the mixed contents produce a powerful exothermic chemical reaction that ignites the package. The permanganate, a powerful – poisonous – oxidizing chemical in the form of dark purple crystals, can be obtained at any store selling water-purifying supplies. The glycerin – a harmless, thick, clear, syrupy liquid, is found at any pharmacy.

    The James Randi Educational Foundation is offering a prize of one million dollars

    to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the ‘applicant” becomes a “claimant.”

    I say, go for it. Be aware of this, however:

    To date, no one has passed the preliminary tests.

  • 202. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    You say you have not removed things from the realm of falsifiability and testability, and then mention the Holy Fire, which is not allowed to tested…

  • 203. Lucian  |  March 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Garry,

    thanks for proving my point.

    SB,

    if You have the time and money (and interest), no one’s stopping You to visit Jerusalem this Easter and test the Holy Light each and every way You like.

  • 204. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Garry,

    thanks for proving my point.

    You’re welcome, for disproving your point. Not that you can actually recall what your point was, apparently.

    SB,

    if You have the time and money (and interest), no one’s stopping You to visit Jerusalem this Easter and test the Holy Light each and every way You like.

    Can he bring James Randi and have Randi test the “Holy Light” any way that he likes? There’d be a million buck in it for ‘em. They just need to fill out a form….

  • 205. Joshua  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    “Can he bring James Randi and have Randi test the “Holy Light” any way that he likes? There’d be a million buck in it for ‘em. They just need to fill out a form….”

    And damn. That’s one hell of a donation! God apparently doesn’t like making money for his people… he’d rather have them give ten percent or something.

  • 206. GaryC  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    And damn. That’s one hell of a donation! God apparently doesn’t like making money for his people… he’d rather have them give ten percent or something.

    Like Christians, atheists are confronted by all sorts of moral dilemmas. But here are a couple that an atheist would never have to deal with:

    Is it morally acceptable to perpetrate an outright fraud on a gullible person, in order to lead him to faith and the salvation of his immortal soul?

    OR

    Is it OK to lie to your kids to keep them from going to hell?

  • 207. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Every way I’d like? Does that include being present with a team far more proficient than I in the testing of such things before, during, and after the candles are lit? I thought the “Patriarch” or whatever has to be alone in the tomb as the candles are lit.

  • 208. dealdoctor  |  March 20, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Lucan in 127 says “Horus bears no resemblance to Christ, apart from the vague similarity that he got killed — I don’t understand what You find to be so inspiring about him. ”

    Hmmmm, might be one or two more than apart from the one vague similarity that he got killed if this website below is correct? I don’t know. What do you guys think?

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5.htm

  • 209. Lucian  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    No, DealDoctor, that article is pseudo-scientific.

  • 210. Erudite Redneck  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    “It boils down to two words: time warps.”

    “Matt Lauer can suck it!”

    Sorry. Just saw the trailer for Will Ferrell’s “Last of the Lost.” Seemed to fit!

  • 211. dealdoctor  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Chris in 116 says.”spaceless because it created space
    timeless because it created time
    immaterial because it created matter
    powerful because it created out of nothing
    intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
    personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).
    That considerably narrows down your thousands of gods and religions to the ones which fit the facts.”

    Time-LESS
    IM-material
    These first two characteristics are worthy as they are apophatic or negative in that it shows God as having no comparison in creation where common things like time and material exist. Yet in being “NOTs” they really do not say anything positive. So provide no REAL information.

    When something is non comparable it sort of fries our brain which insists on comparison in duality. All things in creation can be compared and that is all we know in pictures and images which come prior to our words. To speak otherwise than limited images simply is a big UNKNOWN in our mind. It communicates NO data. It is funny talk. Yet it is the NOT that honors God.

    Powerful(creator),
    Intelligent(design),
    Personal(choice)
    These three characteristics are however positive and clear but then again that lowers “God” into the land of the common. They give the illusion that we have really described the UNBOUND. Powerful is not at all unusual. It could be had by a super creaturely being. What is unique about powerful as it must be in the same set with that which it has power over. Cause and effect have to take place in creation so to speak of that outside of creation as a cause is double talk.

    “Intelligence” also is a common and relative term. Personal demands a comparison with Impersonal. Powerful demands a comparison with powerless. Intelligent invites a comparison with stupid. This is the talk of dualism. Is God really the intelligent,powerful, man upstairs?.. Really.

    Even Tillich knew that to make God a mere being that was intelligent, powerful and personal was to make god a being among other beings. Perhaps the greatest but just one of the boys. Tillich would say God is not “a” being but BEING itself. God must be more than a being (personal or otherwise) God would be a bit weird,strange, “holy” and not common-as the GROUND of Being. This metaphor is not all bad. All comes from the Ground and returns to the Ground but the ground is not just one being above the ground.

    Hey Tillich, this all sounds fine and dandy but we really are not any better off than the NOTs. All we can know is things not NO-things. You imply we can know NOTHING as something. More double-talk.

    For this reason Christian theology has seen a need to go beyond the ‘Persons” of the Trinity to the ” Godhead” whatever God head might mean. Are there various kinds of Godhead to COMPARE with one another? Tillich said it is a heresy to say God exists as much as to say God does not exist. Existence, mere existence, common existence is for THINGS. God is a Spirit, a NO-thing. But what have we said when we say God is NOTHING?

    Well perhaps making any image sorta limits this as images are THINGS. . But hey, where would we be without idols of some sort? The god of images is not worthy. The god who has no image gives us no form to understand at all. Scriptures, Sermons, Experiences, Tradition, all have images or reject images and neither option is satisfies our desire to KNOW. A composite Jesus mixed from all Biblical writers but not by any one of the writers is one more image.

    Bottom line we do NOT-know. And that is not a bad. All description and every theology is junior high and partial. Perhaps we should get beyond the theist-atheist dualism. In fact both are a-gnostic one does not believe, the other believes but neither one KNOWS.

  • 212. dealdoctor  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Lucian in 209
    “No, DealDoctor, that article is pseudo-scientific.”

    Thanks, I always felt that about Horus-scopes anyway. Nice to have it confirmed.

  • 213. Lucian  |  March 20, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Horus-scopes

    LOL! Where did THAT come from? :-)

  • 214. dealdoctor  |  March 21, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Lucian,

    If the silly Horus compares with Jesus at every point including their best friend’s name and the brand of jean they bought and why they both shopped at Wal-Mart is psudo-science. What about this comparison of Jesus with all the other dying and rising saviors in the ancient by the scholar Joseph McCabe? What are your thoughts on it?

    http://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/bible/library/myth.shtml

  • 215. Chris  |  March 22, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    “In this same way, science is going to have no interest in the “YHWH is a being living in another universe who created our universe” hypothesis unless:
    1. There exists some credible reason for thinking that YHWH actual is a being living in another universe, and
    2. The hypothesis specifies the technique by means of which YHWH was supposed to have created our universe — a technique other than “magic.””

    I don’t see why we need both conditions. If it could be shown that earth came about by special creation Douglas Adams style, by a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, then what does it matter if we know what technique they used? The issue is whether it is true rather than whether we know what technique was used.

    If there were a reality in a higher dimension, their interference in this dimension may be essentially magic, in the same way that Agents in The Matrix can interfere with reality without conforming to the rules in that reality. Does Neo accept the fact of the Matrix without understanding the technique? Of course.

    Now if this is true, do you want to continue with naturalistic but false assumptions, just because you have no hypothesis about the technique?

    As to whether there is evidence that it is true, that is of course the whole epistemological question that separates Christians from Atheists.

  • 216. Chris  |  March 22, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    “If I told you I felt that a Pink Unicorn was up in the sky and loved me and watched over me day after day, would you give this “evidence” the same credence as you would your own feelings about God? ”

    According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide, millions of years ago there was a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings who wanted to know about the meaning of life. To settle the issue they built a “stupendous super computer which was so amazingly intelligent that even before the data banks had been connected up it had started from ‘I think therefore I am’ and got as far as the existence of rice pudding and income tax before anyone managed to turn it off…”

    It all comes down to one’s epistemological foundation. It’s possible if that only I had the right epistemological foundation, I would see the truth of the Pink unicorn.

    However, just like the computer supposedly leapt from “I think” to “therefore I am”, I go from “There is”, therefore “therefore there is a creator”. It’s not a bigger jump, nor a less valid or provable one.

    Statistically, roughly 0% of people believe in the pink unicorn, but around 96% of people believe in the creator God. Now I may be a product of my surroundings, and in the future everyone will see the obvious truth of pink unicorn epistemology, and I can’t see it. But with due humility towards my personal intellectual abilities, your starting point of “I can’t see God, therefore I won’t believe in God”, is a very unpopular starting point, and rather hard for you to prove as a correct one.

    That you choose not to make this leap is to me as irrational as no going from I think to therefore I am. And my epistemological system has reasons why you might not want to make that leap.

  • 217. Ubi Dubium  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Sorry, but you seem to be under the impression that “God has not been proven” is some sort of leap. I start with the premise that “things which I can detect and measure are real.” I don’t think there is any “leap” needed for that. The leap is needed for “there is something unseen and unmeasurable, but is real anyway.”

    “Most people believe this” is the old argument ad populam, and it doesn’t work. The vast majority of Aztecs thought blood sacrifice was necessary to make the sun come up each day. The fact that they almost all believed it, and with great intensity, doesn’t make it more true.

    As for the Invisible Pink Unicorn: Unicorn Theory makes several very specific predictions about my laundry: 1) Holes will appear for no obvious reason, 2) White laundry will occasionally turn pink, and 3) Socks will disappear (due to being raptured). I have personally seen instances of each of these things happening.

    This is not to say that I actually believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn. But when I am trying to evaluate competing hypotheses about the universe, I expect that a true one will be able to make statements and predictions about real things, and that I can measure and check their accuracy. Both the IPU and Pastafarianism make specific measurable predictions. (The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pesto be upon him) says that the decline in pirates is causing global warming. Given this, the temperature in North America should drop sharply in the weeks right after “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19. And it does! It also predicts that experminents to establish his existence will be inconclusive, do to meddling by His Noodly Appendage. Right again!)

    Now, the Invisible Pink Unicorn and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are just silly, and deliberately so. But any supernatural claim has got to do better than they do to be worth considering as true. Most fundamentalist xians believe in evil fruit, talking snakes, and an omnipotent god who has to become a sacrifice to himself so he can change a law he made up in the first place. To an outsider, this is really silly stuff.

    If your “god” exists, and interacts with this universe, then I expect there to be some real concrete way of measuring that. If there is no measurable, testable effect of the existence of your god, then I don’t see how his existing is in any way relevant to reality.

    So, if you want to re-convert me – move a mountain, heal an amputee, or predict the epicenter and strength of the next major earthquake. Do something that your holy book predicts you should be able to. Something real. Then we’ll talk.

  • 218. BigHouse  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Statistically, roughly 0% of people believe in the pink unicorn, but around 96% of people believe in the creator God. Now I may be a product of my surroundings, and in the future everyone will see the obvious truth of pink unicorn epistemology, and I can’t see it. But with due humility towards my personal intellectual abilities, your starting point of “I can’t see God, therefore I won’t believe in God”, is a very unpopular starting point, and rather hard for you to prove as a correct one.

    Your appeal to the masses argument is weak sauce.

    And it’s funny how you can trot out the error of ““I can’t see God, therefore I won’t believe in God” yet that is the reason you don’t believe in Pink Unicorns.

    I go from “There is”, therefore “therefore there is a creator”. It’s not a bigger jump, nor a less valid or provable one.

    In your humble opinion, of course..

  • 219. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Re, “Do something that your holy book predicts you should be able to.”

    Therein lies the danger, converted ones, of making an idol of the Bible. Therein lies the irony, deconverted ones, of 1., looking to the Bibl;e as if it were God, then rejecting the Bible as God: Whether embracing it or rejecting it, the Bible was always a dead god. IMHO.

  • 220. BigHouse  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:53 am

    ER, you keep saying that the Bible is not to be “worshipped’ like a God. what is the God-instructed method in which we are supposed to interact with this book, then?

    And from where does the rest of God’s plan for us come from? If it’s from within our own conscience, do you hold that those that don’t have the same ‘God feelings’ as you have equally valid positions upon which to stand and reject him?

  • 221. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Re, “what is the God-instructed method in which we are supposed to interact with this book, then?”

    Use your head, use your heart. Be honest. Study it seriously, as writing, as theological narrative, as all the different kinds of writing it is. Respect it for what it is, and what it is not. To decons, I’d say specifically, if you’ve rejected the Bible as you once knew it, then reject it as you once knew it, and be careful about ascribing to others your own former ways of thinking about it, or holding to hold them to your own erstwhile standards. Look at it wholly differently. Christians are as many-splendored as atheists. Part of the damn problem, on both, or I should say, all sides of the Great Divide, is the insistence that everyone think alike, see things alike and come to the exact same conclusions, whether in faith or outside it.

    “God’s plan” itself is a remnant of something you’ve rejected, isn’t it? God’s plan for me this moment is probably to get off line, get some clothes on and go to work. It’s generally to love God, love others and love myself. I imagine that that’s part innate conscience, and cultural expectations. And, yep, it’s in the Bible. It makes sense. And yep, I for dang sure do use my own judgment, and the scholarly testimony of the centuries, and the testimony of God seekers through the ages, in deciding what in the Bible to take at face value, and what to not take at face value, and what to reject as irrelevant for me, right now, in 2009, in Oklahoma!

    Specifically, as a Christianl I think I’m called generally to love God, neighbor and self and to Micah 6:8 it as I go, which, as best as I can tell, is what it means to “advance the kingdom,” allowing for the antiquated language.

    I keep meaning to spend some time talking about the accusation (pick a less harsh word; I’m in a hurry) of “feelings” I’ve been hit with a few times here; the last time I heard so much about how feelings can be deceptive was from the pastor who was leading the church I grew up in when it went fundie. wth? I’ve not mentioined feelings, I don’t think.

    One thought on “conscience,” and whether it’s all cultural habits and mors, or if it’s more, i.e., some univrersalr God consciouensss: C.S. Lewis noted that no cuoture honors cowardice as a virtue. That sounds reasonable to me. Now, the question remains as to whether that’s an expression of fight-or-fligjht instinct or “God Inside!”(tm). -) But it does suggest that not all conscience is culture.

    Now, I’m really late for work.

  • 222. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

    If it could be shown that earth came about by special creation Douglas Adams style, by a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, then what does it matter if we know what technique they used? The issue is whether it is true rather than whether we know what technique was used.

    How, do you suppose, could it be shown that this special creation came about without showing what technique was allegedly used
    to bring it about? What would that “showing” consist of? Some kind of revelation?

    If there were a reality in a higher dimension, their interference in this dimension may be essentially magic, in the same way that Agents in The Matrix can interfere with reality without conforming to the rules in that reality. Does Neo accept the fact of the Matrix without understanding the technique? Of course.

    Now if this is true, do you want to continue with naturalistic but false assumptions, just because you have no hypothesis about the technique?

    That last sentence seems to beg the question in a variety of ways, but mostly by ignoring that fact that the “magic” invoked in The Matrix is there simply a plot device for a movie story line. It doesn’t pretend to be a scientific hypothesis, and there is no need to try to understand its scientific basis, since it doesn’t have one. Although it is possible to talk about, e.g., the “physics of Star Trek,” science by and large does not concern itself with the plausibility (or lack thereof) of plot devices in the popular entertainmment media.

    A few scientists are indeed concerning themselves with the study of (or at least the theory of) dimensions other than the easily observable four. They do not, however, hypothesize that conscious entities living in those (really tiny) dimensions are somehow interfering in our observable world. No such hypothesis is likely to arise, except precisely in conjunction with a hypothesis about a plausible technique that such entities could be using to interfere. “Magic” proposed as a technique would not cut it, I’m afraid.

  • 223. BigHouse  |  March 23, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Use your head, use your heart. Be honest. Study it seriously, as writing, as theological narrative, as all the different kinds of writing it is. Respect it for what it is, and what it is not.

    Do you believe that different people going through this process honestly could come up with vastly different conclusions? How does that fit into your beliefs about what God wants us to know and do?

  • 224. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    ER-

    But it does suggest that not all conscience is culture.

    I dunno if I’d go that far. Evolution has clearly selected for similar traits, even accross species – just look at how many complex organisms have eyes. If there’s no case where cowardice, praised as a virtue, is culturally useful, we would expect exactly what we see here. The case that there are some cultural aspects that are the same across cultures does not necessarily mean they are not actually cultural; we need a lot more information to make that sort of determination.

    Regarding “feelings” – I don’t think it’s that you’ve mentioned it explicitly, it’s just the term some are using to describe what you’re implicitly talking about. Essentially, subjective experience instead of objective evidence.

    And yep, I for dang sure do use my own judgment, and the scholarly testimony of the centuries, and the testimony of God seekers through the ages, in deciding what in the Bible to take at face value, and what to not take at face value, and what to reject as irrelevant for me, right now, in 2009, in Oklahoma!

    This is exactly what they’re talking about. You are making your determinations about God based entirely on fallible humans. What if the parts you are not taking at face value are the parts God wants you to? There are people who would say as much, but you choose to listen to those who say otherwise, why? In the end, you’re making you’re choices based on what feels right to you, what makes sense to you, all of it completely subjective…

  • 225. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Statistically, roughly 0% of people believe in the pink unicorn, but around 96% of people believe in the creator God. Now I may be a product of my surroundings, and in the future everyone will see the obvious truth of pink unicorn epistemology, and I can’t see it. But with due humility towards my personal intellectual abilities, your starting point of “I can’t see God, therefore I won’t believe in God”, is a very unpopular starting point, and rather hard for you to prove as a correct one.

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Where does that “96% of the
    the people believe in the creator God” come from?

    In the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, to the question, “With regard to the existence of God, do you think…?”

    2.3% answered that “there is no such thing.”

    4.3% answered that “there is no way to know.”

    5.7% answered “I’m not sure.”

    That’s 12.7% who do not obviously fall into the “believe in a creator God” category. Another 12.1% said “There is a higher power but no personal God.” How many of those thought that the “higher power” was a deistic “creator God” is unknown.

    Another 6.1% simply refused to answer the question.

    Of course this data only pertains to the U.S. Worldwide, only a little more than half of the population is estimated to believe in the creator God of the three Abrahamic religions (specifically, about 33% are Christian and 21% are Muslim; Jews make up less than one-fourth of one-percent). In France, in a 2006 poll, 32% of respondents identified themselves as atheists, and another 32% identified themsleves as agnostics; in that country it appears that it is the “I believe in the existence of a god, any kind of god” starting point that is the unpopular one.

  • 226. BigHouse  |  March 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Well put, SB.

    Basically, ER, I just don’t see how your “version” of Christianity is any different that anybody living his life by the codes/ethics he deems works for him. As such, I don’t think it’s worth debating/analyzing/critiquing your worldview as right or wrong. All it is is one man’s life path. You are, of course, entitled to your own beliefs, I just don’t see the relevancy to “Christianity” or a discussion of the truthiness of God etc.

  • 227. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 23, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I’d also like to point out that my atheism had little to do with the Bible and its contradictions. I reject the Bible not because it’s imperfect, but because I have already rejected the notion of a god. It hardly seems worthwhile to find an interpretation of the Bible I’m comfortable with when I can’t find a reason to believe in anything supernatural to begin with.

  • 228. Lucian  |  March 23, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    DealDoctor, if that were true (i.e., Jesus being like all others), it would logically follow that all the others are actually the same Marry, but with a different hat. Which they’re not. (Yes, it’s pseudo-science, and the [not necessarilly "logical", but definitely *scientifical*] error comited by [or 'in'] all those essays is not only well-known, but actually bears a name: it’s called false friends). I’ve burned myself with pseudo-science as well. :)

  • 229. Chris  |  March 23, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    “I start with the premise that “things which I can detect and measure are real.”

    So Julius Caesar is not real. Interesting.

    “If there is no measurable, testable effect of the existence of your god, then I don’t see how his existing is in any way relevant to reality.”

    Of course Christians believe what God has done is measurable, because they testify to what he has done all the time. If you mean measurable in a scientific and repeatable way, then I think we’d find half the things you “know” fail the test. In fact, I can declare you to be not real right now, as far as I’m concerned.

  • 230. Chris  |  March 23, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    BigHouse: “Your appeal to the masses argument is weak sauce.”

    Wrong, it’s not an appeal to the masses, it’s an observation that the vast majority of people have a different set of presuppositions and assumptions and a different epistemological starting point. Their assumption is there can be nothing without an ultimate cause, and an ultimate cause must have choice and reason. Your assumption is there need be no ultimate cause, and things just exist for no reason. Since we both have presuppositions that can’t be proven, I’m just observing that your presuppositions are only slightly more popular than the presuppositions that lead to belief in Pink Unicorns.

    “And it’s funny how you can trot out the error of ““I can’t see God, therefore I won’t believe in God” yet that is the reason you don’t believe in Pink Unicorns.”

    Nobody has claimed anything these Pink Unicorns are responsible for. We’re claiming the whole universe as something God is responsible for. The universe exists and we have one credible hypothesis.

  • 231. Lucian  |  March 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19

    Hey! That’s my birthday! :)

  • 232. Chris  |  March 23, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    GaryC: “How, do you suppose, could it be shown that this special creation came about without showing what technique was allegedly used
    to bring it about?”

    Since the creator in this scenario is very powerful, he would only leave open to us the evidences that he intends to leave. We won’t have a hope of bypassing his intended method and find some accidental forensic evidence that he didn’t intend to be there. Nor would it be a realistic hope to understand how someone that powerful could do something like invent time, or invent matter.

    On the other hand if there is a creator, and he has intentionally left some evidence of this fact, then it would be foolish to deny his intentions and deny his existence, just because it doesn’t suit you or the evidence isn’t of the kind you want.

    “That last sentence seems to beg the question in a variety of ways, but mostly by ignoring that fact that the “magic” invoked in The Matrix is there simply a plot device for a movie story line. It doesn’t pretend to be a scientific hypothesis, and there is no need to try to understand its scientific basis, since it doesn’t have one.”

    Well it does have a scientific basis in that people are in a computer simulated reality, which is at least plausible on some level. But the point is, the computer in theory can deny you hope of discovering this fact, because it controls your reality. As it happens, evidence becomes available about the real truth, but it isn’t of the scientific variety. But it would be foolish to reject evidence just because it doesn’t fit the scientific criteria of repeatability and so forth. If you want to live your life in denial of the truth because truth doesn’t fit into your self-conceived pigeon hole, I think that’s foolish.

  • 233. Chris  |  March 23, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    “Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Where does that “96% of the people believe in the creator God” come from?”

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2009/02/atheism-by-numbers-going-nowhere-fast.html

  • 234. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Where does that “96% of the people believe in the creator God” come from?”

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2009/02/atheism-by-numbers-going-nowhere-fast.html

  • 235. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Where does that “96% of the people believe in the creator God” come from?”

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2009/02/atheism-by-numbers-going-nowhere-fast.html

    The Baylor study has been criticized as being flawed, but without going into that — when did “Americans” become synonymous with “the people”?

    When I look at Baylor’s own web site announcing the findings for the U.S. for 2007, it says, “the majority of Europeans are not atheists. Welll, yeah — according to a 2005 poll, the percentage of Europeans who said that they believe there is a God was 52%, so Europen believers outnumber non-believers by a slim majority. The Baylor site It also says, “a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in God(s).” I’m not sure what poll that was, and they didn’t say — a Christian web site announced last year that “A new government-sponsored survey on spirituality in China has found that the number of religious believers among the country’s 1.3 billion people is far higher than generally known, amounting to as many as 300 million.” So that means that the number of nonbelievers in China is, what, a billion people?

    Rather incredibly, the news release from Baylor says, “Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God.” The Russian government claimed this? When? According to another source, the percentage of Russians claiming belief in God is 47%. According to a poll just carried out by the Russia Public Opinion Research Center, the percentage of Russians who believe that “think that a man is created by God or supreme forces” is 23%.

  • 236. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Since the creator in this scenario is very powerful, he would only leave open to us the evidences that he intends to leave.

    And what evidences would those be, in your scenario?

  • 237. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    From waaay up there, re: “If a historian wants to explain the
    origins of the American Civil War, he is not allowed to say that, in the end, it was brought about by God to punish Americans for the sin of slavery.”

    1. Actually, I’m pretty sure that a historian coiuld very well say such a thing. One with a Ph.D. and membership in the AHA even. But probaby nine would.

    2. Any historian writing anything broad about the causes, and the story, of the Civil War would be bound to consider the role of faith and churches or be considered a hack, I’d think. And one who took the extra step of explicitly dismissing God out of hand would be showing a personal bias, which is a no-no for a historian. I mean, that’s what Manifest Destiny was all about.

  • 238. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Re, “Do you believe that different people going through this process honestly could come up with vastly different conclusions? How does that fit into your beliefs about what God wants us to know and do?”

    I think that, rather than teaching an exclusive, new “truth,” that Jesus taught an inclusive universal truth. Or two. And that that’s what got him whacked. I also think that what Jesus meant for peeps to do was to do, not “believe” this or that.

  • 239. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Re, “Essentially, subjective experience instead of objective evidence.”

    All experience is subjective, including the experience of perceiving objective (?) evidence! So, ya got me. And every other human beans who has ever lived.

  • 240. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    BigHouse, re: “Basically, ER, I just don’t see how your “version” of Christianity is any different that anybody living his life by the codes/ethics he deems works for
    him. As such, I don’t think it’s worth debating/analyzing/critiquing your
    worldview as right or wrong. All it is is one man’s life path. You are, of course, entitled to your own beliefs, I just don’t see the relevancy to “Christianity” or a discussion of the truthiness of God etc.”

    OK. The relevancy to Christianity is that I am a Christian, and that this one man’s life path is a stumbling attempt to live Jesusly. The God part’s part of that, Jesus having pointed to God and all.

  • 241. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    SnugglyBuff, re: “I’d also like to point out that my atheism had little to do with the Bible and its contradictions. I reject the Bible not because it’s imperfect, but because I have already rejected the notion of a god. It hardly seems worthwhile to find an
    interpretation of the Bible I’m comfortable with when I can’t find a reason to believe in anything supernatural to begin with.”

    OK. I find that faskinating. I thought your interpretation of the Bible is that it’s all hokum, and that you’re comfortable with that. :-)

  • 242. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    From waaay up there, re: “If a historian wants to explain the origins of the American Civil War, he is not allowed to say that, in the end, it was brought about by God to punish Americans for the sin of slavery.”

    1. Actually, I’m pretty sure that a historian coiuld very well say such a thing. One with a Ph.D. and membership in the AHA even. But probaby nine would.

    I’m guessing that you meant that “probably none would,” not “probably nine would.” As far as I know, no Ph.D with a membership in the AHA ever has. Certainly not while acting in the capacity of historian.

    2. Any historian writing anything broad about the causes, and the story, of the Civil War would be bound to consider the role of faith and churches or be considered a hack, I’d think.

    Agreed. Indeed, if I were the one doing the writing, I might emphasize it even more than many historians have. I would point out, for example, the complaint in South Carolina’s Declaration of the Iimmediate Causes of Secession:

    “They have denounced as sinful the instituion of Slavery”

    This was virtually a charge of heresy against free-state churchmen (though obviously large numbers of those churchmen were innocent of the charge).

    Of course, to consider the role of the churches and of faith in bringing about the war is a far cry from saying that the war was caused by God — notwithstanding the fact that this very thesis was suggested by Abraham Lincoln himself in 1865:

    “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”

    And one who took the extra step of explicitly dismissing God out of hand would be showing a personal bias, which is a no-no for a historian.

    I can see no reason for a Ph.D and member of the AHA ever to do so — unless the “God caused it” explanation were ever seriously advanced. I think we agree that such a thing is not likely ever to happen within the profession. If it happened outside the profession, my guess is that it would probably simply be dismissed, unless it gained a wide popular following.

  • 243. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Of course, we totally agree on No. 2.

    But this raises a faskinatin’ question!
    “As far as I know, no Ph.D with a membership in the AHA ever has. Certainly not while acting in the capacity of historian.”

    I’d almost wager that one has. But as far as I know, I don’t know! :-)

  • 244. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    As far as I know, no Ph.D with a membership in the AHA ever has. Certainly not while acting in the capacity of historian.”

    I’d almost wager that one has. But as far as I know, I don’t know

    I’d be as suprised to find that one has as you would be to find that one has not.

  • 245. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    You got easy access to J-STOR? I don’t, or I’d do some lookin’. But I might start cross-checking AHA membership with denominational history associations, or with places like Oral Roberts U., John Brown U., Bob Jones U. or even Liberty U.

  • 246. GaryC  |  March 23, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    You got easy access to J-STOR? I don’t, or I’d do some lookin’.

    Aaah, JSTOR. Yes, I checked and quickly located an article entitled “Christian Interpretations of the Civil War,” by William A. Clebsch, pubished in the June 1961 of Church History. Few of the handful writers cited by Clebsch seems to fit the criteria. All were early post-Civil War. Some died before the AHA was formed, and/or they were clearly theologians rather than historians.

    Philip Schaff, a theologian who was also a professor of church history from 1887 until his death in 1893, founded the American Society of Church History in 1888. That body now affiliated with the AHA. Whether it was always so affiliated is not clear. Schaff once described the ACW “as a righteous judgment of God upon a guilt of South and North reaching through several generations.” However, this was written in 1866, in the immediate aftermath of the war and almost 18 years before the AHA was formed. Does that count?

    The article did not reference any specifically “Christian” interpretations of the war after the late 19th century. When I made my bold claim that no AHA member ever attributed the Civil War to an “act of God” while writing in a professional capacity, I did suspect in the back of my mind that if you pushed things back to the very earliest days of the profession in this country, I might be proved wrong. Schaff might be the example that proves me wrong, though that’s not clear.

  • 247. Erudite Redneck  |  March 23, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    :-) … You know I forgot — !! — that I actually have access to the AHA Journal online through J-STOR, because I my own self am a member of the AHA. Ha on me. I do little research at the moment, and I just plumb forgot.

    I did a quick look, but then thought of Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt and old George Bancroft, each a former prez of the AHA, who very well might have written a God-oriented Civil War piece.

    Interesting how the profession has secularized itself over the years, along with the academy in general.

  • 248. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 5:58 am

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

  • 249. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 6:01 am

    I’ve heard the line “95% of the world population believes in God” (or something the like) in the movie Contact — maybe that’s how it became so popular.

  • 250. BigHouse  |  March 24, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Chris,

    Wrong, it’s not an appeal to the masses, it’s an observation that the vast majority of people have a different set of presuppositions and assumptions and a different epistemological starting point. Their assumption is there can be nothing without an ultimate cause, and an ultimate cause must have choice and reason.

    That is a HUGE leap to lump your majority into this exact frame of mind. I bet a ton of people would answer the question with ‘cuz the Bible/My Pastor/My parents tells me so”.

    Nice try, though, to get out of the logical fallacy you strangely continue to defend.

  • 251. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Big Momma’s House,

    I think that most of these people are Christians because of their education (Bible, Church, Pastor, etc) … but not theists because of it… and there’s a difference there.

  • 252. BigHouse  |  March 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Lucian,

    You are still making a big assumption on people having this homogenious epistemology. It’s a smoke and mirrors trick, that’s all.

  • 253. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t think so.

  • 254. Joshua  |  March 24, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    “I think that most of these people are Christians because of their education (Bible, Church, Pastor, etc) … but not theists because of it… and there’s a difference there.”

    I have this experience as a child engrained deeply into my mind. We had always gone to church but I do not really remember considering God much – if at all. Not even as a person or a concept.

    Then my mom handed me a small devotional book. I was super skeptical and dismissed doing any of it. I was just enjoying the life I had.

    I think a lot of people start of non-theists. Why be a theist unless someone tells you there is this Being that you owe something to? I mean, why bother at all? Why even think about it at all? Except that people have invented this weird concept that says:

    We were created by a Being and because we were given life by this Being we owe this Being something.

    Can anyone say WTF? This doesn’t even make any sense. The Being didn’t ask us if we wanted to be created. The Being can never seem to accurately and consistently communicate what we owe it or why. I mean, why would we owe this Being anything? Is it deficient? Does it need us for some reason? And if we have somehow failed as humans, is this Being not to blame for creating a creation that could fail? What kind of design is this?

    So we just start inventing things we owe this being… we owe it sacrifices. We owe it the most precious thing we have – our life. We owe it our money, our time, our relationships, our speech. Damn, we owe it everything.

    But what does it owe us? Nothing.

    We owe it everything. It owes us nothing.

    It might as well not exist at all.

  • 255. Joshua  |  March 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    “And if we have somehow failed as humans, is this Being not to blame for creating a creation that could fail? What kind of design is this?”

    Oh, and the big one: if this being designed a creation that could fail the first time, then wtf makes anyone think he will get it right the next time?

    It hasn’t set a very good precedent….

  • 256. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I have this experience as a child engrained deeply into my mind. We had always gone to church but I do not really remember considering God much – if at all. Not even as a person or a concept.

    Then my mom handed me a small devotional book. I was super skeptical and dismissed doing any of it. I was just enjoying the life I had.

    I think a lot of people start of non-theists.

    Hell, man … you’re a natural born atheist! 8)

  • 257. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I think a lot of people start of non-theists.

    Muslims share a similar belief, you know… :)

  • 258. Joshua  |  March 24, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    “Hell, man … you’re a natural born atheist! ”

    At least I’m not taught by a God how to kill people! (Ps. 18:29)
    :)

    “Muslims share a similar belief, you know…”

    Damn, I’m not only a serial killer, I’m a Muslim! I’m so confused!
    :D

  • 259. Lucian  |  March 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Our little conversation just inspired my new post. :)

  • 260. Joshua  |  March 24, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    lnspiration from an atheist. Who would have thought! The Lord works wonders! Damn, I must have a bad case of the HS.

  • 261. Chris  |  March 24, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I’ve got to wonder why atheists are wasting their time here. It’s not doing any objective good (because there is no objective good). It could well be harming or even killing people.

    I think you all hang out here to try and convince yourself there is no God. When you wind up where you don’t want to be, don’t say that nobody warned you.

  • 262. BigHouse  |  March 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Logical argumentation was such a pickle for you Chris that you had to resort to fundie fire and brimstone warnings, eh? Pathetic.

  • 263. Joshua  |  March 25, 2009 at 12:11 am

    “It could well be harming or even killing people.”

    My brother considered suicide after reading my notes on why I was an atheist. I didn’t find out until later when he told me. I felt horrid! I considered suicide as some points, but then realized I was being super silly. Oddly, my family didn’t take much time to consider what I was going through, though. They just told me I was wrong and was on the fast track to hell.

    Both messages suck, really.

    Personally I don’t think Dawkins is to blame at all.

    Every Sunday I went to church and was told over and over that life was meaningless with Christ. It was hammered into my head. It was either Christ or utter disaster, meaninglessness, and a miserable life of sin and guilt and condemnation and a potential eternity in hell.

    Christianity programs people to feel worthless.

    So someone comes along and says its not true, and its inevitable that people – if not thinking clearly – will feel worthless. They were taught to!

    This suicide is horrid, but I wish people would think! “Oh yeah, Dawkins is an atheist and he is happy and his life has meaning. Maybe if I leave the faith I can end up like Dawkins. Maybe there is happiness and meaning outside the faith?”

    Rather than believing what Christianity has programmed them to think year in and year out.

    Its sad, but only compels me all the more to continue deprogramming people from religion.

    Just because someone commits suicide because they cannot escape the addiction from drugs and their life feels worthless without them does not mean one should stop fighting drug addiction.

  • 264. Joshua  |  March 25, 2009 at 12:13 am

    “because there is no objective good”

    What? Sure there is. Reducing pain and increasing comfort. I think no humans would disagree with that. That’s objective enough for me!

  • 265. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Joshua, the earliest people Jesus in the Bible is depicted as encountering — for the most part, not counting the “possessed” and a certain woman he called a “dog,” perhaps before he had grown into himself — appear happy and fulfilled to hang out with him. What do you make of that in light of the guilt-shame-condemnation that the church, as you rightly point out, has perpetuated for so long?

  • 266. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Oh, they’re depicted as scared s–tless, incredulous and unreliable, too. What about that?

  • 267. BigHouse  |  March 25, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Joshua, the earliest people Jesus in the Bible is depicted as encountering — for the most part, not counting the “possessed” and a certain woman he called a “dog,” perhaps before he had grown into himself — appear happy and fulfilled to hang out with him. What do you make of that in light of the guilt-shame-condemnation that the church, as you rightly point out, has perpetuated for so long?

    I would make of it that I have no idea whether the Bible is an accurate depcition of those events and those people’s state of mind. Those who wrote it with the intention of ‘selling” Jesus would have a strong incentive to embellish or invent these scenarios, no?

  • 268. the chaplain  |  March 25, 2009 at 8:45 am

    they’re depicted as scared s–tless

    Is this the funny pages now, where swear words are depicted by $#%^ symbols or blank spaces? How does this work? Do you get to preserve your purity by not actually saying – or spelling – the entire word, while the rest of us display our impurity by filling in the blanks ourselves?

    I don’t care whether someone swears or not (although others here may disagree with me), but, really – either do it or don’t. If you can’t spell the word in its entirety, just choose another word.

  • 269. the chaplain  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:18 am

    I think you all hang out here to try and convince yourself there is no God. When you wind up where you don’t want to be, don’t say that nobody warned you.

    Chris – you can think whatever you want. If you think we’re wasting our time, why are you hanging around here with us?

  • 270. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Re, “a strong incentive to embellish or invent these scenarios, no?”

    Of course, and that should be taken into consideration — although the depiction of the Disciples as doubting, disbelieving scaredy-cats doesn’t actually do much to sell the movement.

  • 271. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Chplain, re”I don’t care whether someone swears or not (although others here may disagree with me), but, really – either do it or don’t. If you can’t spell the word in its entirety, just choose another word.”

    I’ll do as as I please regardig words, thank you. Don’t be a punk. :-)

  • 272. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Oh, and just fer you chaplain!

    Hey, Crisr, that Yosemite Sam turn-or-burn s–t was bulls–t when it was all over my yoot group in the early ’80s, and it’s bulls–t now.

  • 273. GaryC  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Joshua, the earliest people Jesus in the Bible is depicted as encountering — for the most part, not counting the “possessed” and a certain woman he called a “dog,” perhaps before he had grown into himself — appear happy and fulfilled to hang out with him.

    In the Gospel of Luke, among the earliest people that Jesus is depicted as encountering are the people in the synagogue of his home town, Nazareth. They do not seem to have been happy campers: “All the people in the synagogue were furious…. They got up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.”

  • 274. BigHouse  |  March 25, 2009 at 10:10 am

    although the depiction of the Disciples as doubting, disbelieving scaredy-cats doesn’t actually do much to sell the movement.

    It does when they then have a miraculous turn-around and “see the light” and go out and and spread the good news and die for the cause. It’s called a story arch.

  • 275. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:07 am

    GaryC, you are correct, Sir.

    And just about anybody who appears to “blaspheme,” or go against the grain of his upbringing, is still run out of his hometown on a rail. I did say “for the most part.” :-)

    BigHouse: You are correct, as well. But isn’t that assigning a modern conception of literary technique to pre-modern pieces of writing? While I don’t consider the Gospels to be “reports” in the sense it’s meant now, they do come across as, say, a bunch of notes that the compilers strung together. The compilers weren’t idiots, but they weren’t that sophisticated at narrative, either. On the other hand, as poor compilations of oral stories, they *are* stories, and good story-telling preceded good writing.

  • 276. Tit for Tat  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

    What? Sure there is. Reducing pain and increasing comfort. I think no humans would disagree with that.(Joshua)

    Really? Ever felt the pain of a “good” workout? We should remind the people of comfort in front of the television how good it really is.

  • 277. GaryC  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:25 am

    And just about anybody who appears to “blaspheme,” or go against the grain of his upbringing, is still run out of his hometown on a rail. I did say “for the most part.”

    Happens to atheists all the time (figuratively speaking, of course — at least in the USA).

    By the way, an Israeli archeologist has theorized that, based on the account of Jesus almost being chucked off the cliff by his neighbors, the traditional site of Nazareth is wrong — there’s no browed cliff at the traditional site. He thinks that the real Nazareth might have been on top of a hill called Har Nitai. It does look like a good cliff for chucking.

  • 278. GaryC  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:46 am

    By the way, an Israeli archeologist has theorized that, based on the account of Jesus almost being chucked off the cliff by his neighbors, the traditional site of Nazareth is wrong.

    My bad — a closer look at that web site reveals that the theory doesn’t come from an Israeli archeologist. Just whom it comes from is unclear.

  • 279. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Then there is the subset of active atheists theorizing that Nazareth didn’t exist in Jesus’s time. Eh.

  • 280. freestyleroadtrip  |  March 25, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    ” the Bible isn’t the literal, inerrant word of God, how do we tell it apart from other texts which claim to be holy? How do we tell that Christianity is a true religion, even? It seems like this author, and others like him, admit that there are problems with the text, but still hold that the religion itself is true. How can they do that? There doesn’t seem to be sufficient historical or natural proof for the Christian God outside of the Bible. If the Bible cannot be taken on complete authority, how can anyone believe in Jesus?” OrDover

    I haven’t been able to read all of the 279 comments so forgive me if this has already been addressed in the above. If a liberal Christian still claims that his Christianity is the only truth, then I see you point and agree with the problem. But what if the searching for God is the finding and that this searching can take many forms, Judaism, Islam, American Indian’s and the Great Spirit, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, etc, even Atheism. If all of these searches hold the truth, or pieces of it, and a more liberal as opposed to fundamentalist Christianity holds to this view, what is the problem with that? It doesn’t seem to me that the bible has to taken on complete authority to have a belief in God in the way a liberal Christianity describes it.

  • 281. BigHouse  |  March 25, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    If all of these searches hold the truth, or pieces of it, and a more liberal as opposed to fundamentalist Christianity holds to this view, what is the problem with that?

    Then what about this path is different or ‘required’ by God than those who honestly searched and came up VOID?

  • 282. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Hmm. Well, I’d say it’s different by definition as long as it’s connected to Mr. J.H. Christ as opposed to Mr. F.S. Monster or Mr. (Ms.?) P. Unicorn. Which raises a point: Christianity started out as relationships with minimal definition, save “Jesus is Lord,” with the implied “Caesar is not.” It’s that to which I’m aimed: agreement on the lordship of Christ, and the shared burden among his followers to keep working out just wth that means.

    And as a relationship, with the One whom we dare declare LIVES, it’s not static, not with me in my life, nor with the church through the ages. Which is why appeals to unchanging ideas about what the Bible may or may not mean or may have meant kinda don’t do much for me. That was then; this is now.

    Also, see No. 1 (as well as the others, if you’re so inclined) in:

    http://www.crosswalkamerica.org/?tabid=56

    As for your search ending in nothing: Neither what you find, nor what I find, changes what *is* — whatever it is exactly. The search really is the thing, I think. But, I assumed you had something once that you either have discarded or lost. Otherwise what’re you deconverted from?

  • 283. freestyleroadtrip  |  March 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    If you searched and came up ‘void’ I don’t know that I have a real big problem with that. Again, I think the searching is what it is important. I think to cease the search is a more critical factor, to think that you have finally arrived at all truth, but the fact that you are on this website in a sense means that your search for your truth still goes forward, maybe not a search for an actual God but at least a search for things like justice, beauty, peace, desire for relationships. I am fine with that. I don’t need for you to believe in and about God in the way that I do.

    As far as Mr. F.S Monster or Ms. P. Unicorn go….If there was a significant push within humanity with billions of people over the millenia finding meaning in such characters, then they would have to be considered with at least some degree of seriousness. But I know of no ancient texts that support belief in these as God.

  • 284. Joshua  |  March 25, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    “Really? Ever felt the pain of a “good” workout? We should remind the people of comfort in front of the television how good it really is.”

    Exercise increases long term comfort.

  • 285. BigHouse  |  March 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    But I know of no ancient texts that support belief in these as God

    Is this the most important standard upon which to apply the degree of “seriousness”?

    As for your search ending in nothing: Neither what you find, nor what I find, changes what *is* — whatever it is exactly.

    This is my point, exactly. In your frameworks, does God ‘reward” the honest searcher who does not find him? In the same manner and degree as those who find him through any religion? Through the “correct” religion?

    And how does one define the “quality” of the search? If I spend a whole day on it serious meditation, how do I rate vs. someone who everyday reads the comic books looking for divine inspiration?

  • 286. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I think the reward-versus-punishment model for what a life of Christian faith can be is downright tribal. It’s more of a quality-of-relationship thing. Openness to God’s Godness, willingness to put God-others first, honesty about EVERYTHING — that’s the stuff.

    I’d say that both a day of meditation and the search for inspiration in the comic books are potentially worthy pursuits — because wisdom is hiding everywhere.

  • 287. freestyleroadtrip  |  March 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    “Really? Ever felt the pain of a “good” workout? We should remind the people of comfort in front of the television how good it really is.”

    Exercise increases long term comfort.” (TitForTat and Joshua)

    But the value of the exercise isn’t in the comfort, it’s in the pain. It’s in the suffering. Just like everything else in life, the value is found in the process, not the result.

  • 288. Joshua  |  March 25, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    “But the value of the exercise isn’t in the comfort, it’s in the pain. It’s in the suffering. Just like everything else in life, the value is found in the process, not the result.”

    But the ultimate goal is still the same: increased comfort.

    Even those who seek painful experiences do so so that they can increase their comfort in the long run – or in the next life.

  • 289. Joshua  |  March 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    “But the value of the exercise isn’t in the comfort, it’s in the pain.”

    lol. Wow, that’s news to me. Damn, why not just beat yourself then?

  • 290. freestyleroadtrip  |  March 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    LOL all you want. Maybe there are some who exercise for increased comfort later on. I doubt it though. 70% of Americans wouldn’t be obese if exercise gave so much long term comfort. Americans are fat because they seek too much comfort. I compete in triathlons, and my training which can be up to 20 hours per week sometimes has nothing to do with increasing my comfort. It is about the value of the struggle and the truth that I find there and the accomplishment and the community that I find there. I disagree with seeking pain because of increased comfort in the long run. Dean Karnezes, ultramarathon runner, recently told Outside Magazine: “A great run definitely involves suffering. I think any adventure athlete will tell you that there is value in suffering….There’s magic in misery….” He is not referring to any peace or comfort that comes later on. He is referring to that very moment of pain and suffering and the value in that moment. If you have never experienced it, I would not expect you to understand it, and I wouldn’t speak your truth so dogmatically if you do not know that of which you speak.

  • 291. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 25, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I think the value of the suffering you’re talking about is rather subjective. I honestly can’t think of any painful activities I engage in that I do for the pain. The pain’s just not enough to dissuade me from deriving enjoyment from the non-painful parts of the activity.

    I’ll agree that suffering provides a better context, a better appreciation for the times when you’re not suffering than there would be if there was never any suffering, but I really don’t see any value inherent to the pain taken alone.

    If you do, good for you, but I’d be wary about trying to extrapolate it to the rest of humanity. To think that everyone should be seeking value in suffering is to ignore the subjectivity of such value.

    As for the large number of obese Americans, it fits quite well into the idea of exercise giving long-term comfort for short-term suffering. They’d probably feel greater comfort overall if they lost that weight, but there’s that initial suffering to go through to get there. You see the same thing in economics all the time, where companies could save money numerous ways but they ignore it because of up-front costs in the implementation. Heck, the company I’m working at could save a fortune if they would rebuild their software products from the ground up, but instead they force our developers to work with and try to improve inherently broken products because it would take a great deal of effort to rebuild everything the right way. It’s tough for humans to put long-term benefits over short-term costs.

  • 292. freestyleroadtrip  |  March 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Snuggy. I couldn’t agree with you more. My apologies for appearing to extrapolate the suffering principle to all of humanity. Of course it doesn’t apply. I felt that Joshua was trying to extrapolate the very opposite thing to all of humanity, that being that the reason behind everyone’s exercise is long term comfort. That just is not true and appears to reveal an ignorance on his part of which he is unaware. I don’t exercise or train to gain comfort. I do it partly because I enjoy the suffering and what I learn about myself when I push harder and farther than I could last time. I’m training for my second Ironman to try and push harder and faster than I did the last time. It is not about comfort at all. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

  • 293. Erudite Redneck  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Re, “painful activities I engage in that I do for the pain”

    Jalapenos.

    Copenhagen burned like battery acid (before I quit).

    Whiskey burn.

    Beta endorphins, according to the lovely Dr. ER. The brain converts the pain to pleasure.

  • 294. TitforTat  |  March 25, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Exercise increases long term comfort.(joshua)

    Then not exercising increases long term discomfort. Hmmmmm

  • 295. Chris  |  March 25, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    “Logical argumentation was such a pickle for you Chris that you had to resort to fundie fire and brimstone warnings, eh?”

    It’s not the Christian position that it can be defended by the scientific method. If science is your religion, this is a problem for you. If God’s plan is to reveal himself in ways that don’t suit your religion, that doesn’t make him any less real. Go home and prove 100% scientifically that the woman you find there is the same one you married. You won’t be able to do it. Nor will it occur to you to try. Because people don’t find relationships to be normal targets for scientism. Try getting a 2nd wife and quoting Heraclitus and the science of body chemistry to the court, and you’ll find there is more than one reality.

    “Christianity programs people to feel worthless.”

    Never heard of that before.

    “Reducing pain and increasing comfort. I think no humans would disagree with that.”

    Ask Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

    Global thermonuclear annihilation will put a sudden end to pain as well. In fact, total pain from now into eternity could be reduced to zero.

    In the meantime, give me all your money because I can reduce global pain better with some charities I know than whatever you are doing with it now. Or did you just mean your own pain and comfort, everyone else be damned?

  • 296. Luke  |  March 25, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    God in a progressive lens? kinda looks like this: http://www.faithprogression.com/2009/03/what-is-god.html

    to add more fuel to the fire.

  • 297. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 12:24 am

    “So someone comes along and says its not true, and its inevitable that people – if not thinking clearly – will feel worthless. They were taught to!”

    You’ve totally lost me here. Christianity teaches that people are worth an incredible amount, so much that God sent his Son.

    By comparison, atheism teaches that people are worth about $0.15 worth of chemicals, or perhaps somewhat more if you have gold fillings.

  • 298. BigHouse  |  March 26, 2009 at 9:09 am

    It’s not the Christian position that it can be defended by the scientific method.

    Convenient. Fortunately, neither is my pink unicorn god, so we are on even footing here.

    Go home and prove 100% scientifically that the woman you find there is the same one you married.

    At least there is something there to test and be satisifed of the result, it not “proven”. What am I to test for your Christian God? A bizarre and dusty 2000 year old text and the word of pre-supposing fundies. Pass.

  • 299. GaryC  |  March 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    You’ve totally lost me here. Christianity teaches that people are worth an incredible amount, so much that God sent his Son.

    By comparison, atheism teaches that people are worth about $0.15 worth of chemicals, or perhaps somewhat more if you have gold fillings.

    This claim implies the major premise of a symple syllogism:

    “If God does not exist, then human life has little value.”

    The following complete argument is therefore implied:

    “If God does not exist, then human life has little value.
    God does not exist.
    Therefore, human life has little value.”

    Christianity, as you represent it, is far from a harmless delusion. It is nothing short of a corrupt, dangerous, and debauched theory of morality.

  • 300. Joshua  |  March 26, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    “Then not exercising increases long term discomfort. Hmmmmm”

    Exactly.

    Think about it. We only do things we think will benefit us in some way.

    Find any thing – and one thing – that appears to harm a person and I can show that the person is actually doing it to increase their comfort.

    People eat jalapenos because they believe the pain increases something else about themself that will improve their comfort more than they now have. It might impress friends, they may enjoy the feeling of sweat dripping down their forehead, etc. But you wouldn’t do it just for the pain. Unless, of course, you enjoy pain. But if you enjoy pain then I would classify that as comfort – not suffering.

    Better yet, find me *one* thing that a sane person would do to themselves solely to increase their own suffering.

    And FSRT, I’m not ignorant. I’ve thought this through.

  • 301. Joshua  |  March 26, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    “You’ve totally lost me here. Christianity teaches that people are worth an incredible amount, so much that God sent his Son.”

    No it doesn’t. It teaches them they are worthless but God died for them anyway.

  • 302. Joshua  |  March 26, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    “Exercise increases long term comfort.”

    If you did not believe your exercise would increase long term comfort, you would not do it. Maybe it gets the ladies, reduces your chance of a heart attack, or simply reduces your present guilt for laziness.

    In any case, the person exercise to reduce a present mental or bodily discomfort. Maybe they only do it because their spouse is hounding them to, but once again – that is to reduce present discomfort.

  • 303. Joshua  |  March 26, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Even people who cause themselves to suffer all their life do it so that they can have long term comfort in the next (Christians, hindus, Buddhists, whatever).

    A person will not cause pain to themselves now unless they believe that this present pain will yield some form of a future increase in comfort (reward).

    People fight, kill, rape, argue, swear, purchase, convert, etc. all on this principle.

    Even those of you who will respond to me demonstrate this. You feel compelled to respond because you find it uncomfortable that I would be posting something you believe to be untrue. You post then to reduce your present discomfort.

    Its what I am doing right now too. We all do it. Its the nature of life.

  • 304. Joshua  |  March 26, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    “Ask Hitler, Stalin and Mao.”

    Marxism teaches that present suffering and pain – when applied to those of certain classes – will bring about utopia. Reduction of future discomfort.

    “Global thermonuclear annihilation will put a sudden end to pain as well. In fact, total pain from now into eternity could be reduced to zero.”

    But it makes us uncomfortable to imagine a universe without us. So we won’t do it. And its uncomfortable to commit suicide.

    “In the meantime, give me all your money because I can reduce global pain better with some charities I know than whatever you are doing with it now.”

    No thanks. I’d feel really uncomfortable with that. So I think I’ll increase my present comfort by ignoring your offer.

    ” Or did you just mean your own pain and comfort, everyone else be damned?”

    It makes me uncomfortable to make others uncomfortable because I know it will probably bring about future discomfort to myself.

    Why is this so hard to understand?

    Don’t you respond to my comments because they make you feel uncomfortable?

  • 305. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    “Convenient. Fortunately, neither is my pink unicorn god, so we are on even footing here.”

    Number of people following pink unicorn god: zero
    Number of people following Christian God: a billion plus.

    Maybe the footing isn’t so equal, and an intelligent person could figure out what it is. After all, a billion other people have done so, it can’t be so hard.

  • 306. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    “This claim implies the major premise of a symple syllogism: “If God does not exist, then human life has little value.”

    How does anything have intrinsic value in the atheist world view? Molecules moving around one way or another can’t have value. Demonstrate from your own premises that human life has value.

  • 307. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Joshua: “No it doesn’t. It teaches them they are worthless but God died for them anyway.”

    Don’t lecture about things you know nothing about.

    “Because he is an icon of God, each member of the human race, even the most sinful, is infinitely precious in God’s sight.” ( http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/history_timothy_ware_2.htm )

  • 308. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    “Ask Hitler, Stalin and Mao.”
    “Marxism teaches that present suffering and pain – when applied to those of certain classes – will bring about utopia. Reduction of future discomfort.”

    Killing everyone who disagrees with you, because you know best and it will bring a better future. This is moral relativism taken to its logical ends. Right and wrong is whatever you think best with no boundaries. If you think your race superior to the other one, it’s just natural selection in action. If you think your ideas better, kill those who disagree because its survival of the fittest.

    “But it makes us uncomfortable to imagine a universe without us. So we won’t do it. And its uncomfortable to commit suicide.”

    You might not, but the other guy might not agree. So when he tries to blow you up, don’t complain, it’s just his opinion.

    “No thanks. I’d feel really uncomfortable with that. So I think I’ll increase my present comfort by ignoring your offer.”

    Yep, your own comfort is all that matters. If you feel like murdering the other guy for his wallet, and if you are comfortable with that, go ahead because it increases your comfort, and besides it is just natural selection in action.

    “It makes me uncomfortable to make others uncomfortable because I know it will probably bring about future discomfort to myself.”

    Or in other words, don’t do anything bad if you might get caught.

  • 309. GaryC  |  March 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    “This claim implies the major premise of a symple syllogism: “If God does not exist, then human life has little value.”

    How does anything have intrinsic value in the atheist world view? Molecules moving around one way or another can’t have value. Demonstrate from your own premises that human life has value.

    Based on your comment, it would appear that the major premise I originally ascribed to you needs to be broadened to read as follows:

    “If God does not exist, neither human life nor anything else has any value whatsoever.”

    Give that, your question (“How does anything have intrinsic value in the atheist world view?”) puzzles me. Is it not precisely your position that human life has no intrinsic value?

  • 310. Lucian  |  March 26, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Garry Charboneau,

    how do You explain the very existence of life or conscience in the first place? (The only thing I can think of is that a system is more than the sum of its parts; i.e., emergence — how about You?).

  • 311. TitforTat  |  March 26, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Number of people following Christian God: a billion plus.(Chris)

    Ive seen this somewhere before, I think its called the “herd mentality”

  • 312. TitforTat  |  March 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Think about it. We only do things we think will benefit us in some way.(Joshua)

    There are two motivating factors in life, the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Which do you think is the bigger motivator?

  • 313. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    GaryC: “If God does not exist, neither human life nor anything else has any value whatsoever.”

    I would say no objective value. People may assign personal values, but then can’t complain on any defensible basis when someone values them at nothing.

    “Give that, your question (”How does anything have intrinsic value in the atheist world view?”) puzzles me. Is it not precisely your position that human life has no intrinsic value?”

    How could it be my position, when I don’t accept the precondition that there is no God?

  • 314. Chris  |  March 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    “Ive seen this somewhere before, I think its called the “herd mentality”

    Yet there is no herd of the Pink Unicorn cult. And you can’t figure out why. Odd.

  • 315. Lucian  |  March 27, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Yet there is no herd of the [Invisible] Pink Unicorn cult

    No, but maybe there’s an invisible herd of pink unicorns hiding somewhere… :)

  • 316. TitforTat  |  March 27, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Yet there is no herd of the Pink Unicorn cult. And you can’t figure out why. Odd(Chris)

    Hey Im sure there is, its just a smaller herd. Look around Chris, youre not the only member of a invisible herd, in fact there are quite a few herds around. Oh, thats right, youre in the “right” herd.
    Lmfao.

  • 317. BigHouse  |  March 27, 2009 at 9:10 am

    314. Chris | March 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm
    “Ive seen this somewhere before, I think its called the “herd mentality”

    Yet there is no herd of the Pink Unicorn cult. And you can’t figure out why. Odd.

    What’s also odd is that you think you are “winning’ the debate on this point by continually wielding a logical fallacy. Not that I’m surprised.

  • 318. GaryC  |  March 27, 2009 at 9:19 am

    “Give that, your question (”How does anything have intrinsic value in the atheist world view?”) puzzles me. Is it not precisely your position that human life has no intrinsic value?”

    How could it be my position, when I don’t accept the precondition that there is no God?

    Say again? Your whole argument is based on the proposition that human life (and everything else, with one obvious exception) has no intrinsic value. To the extent that it has value, it only does so because of the supposed existence of something extrinsic, namely God. If God does not exist, then human life has no value.
    That’s precisely the position you’re pushing here, isn’t it?

  • 319. Luke  |  March 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

    pink unicorns.. you people are crazy. we all know it’s a green pterodactyl with a unicorn horn super-glued to it’s head.

    ALL HAIL THE UNIDACTYL! MAY IT PROTECT US FROM THE EVIL METER-ROCK IN THE SKY!

  • 320. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Gah, Chris is getting worse than Yurka and Joe ever were…

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen so many poor arguments put forward with such a strong amount of hubris.

    Oh, and to ER’s response to my suffering comment: I would argue that even in the cases you mention, you are doing things for the pleasure derived from the pain, not from the pain itself. You wouldn’t eat jalapenos if the pain did not also trigger pleasure, or if the pain were great enough that the pleasure could not override it. My point was more about finding value in the suffering itself, as opposed to pleasure taken from pain.

    This coming from a man who loves his jalapenos.

  • 321. Erudite Redneck  |  March 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    OK. :-)

  • 322. orDover  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Why does having a creator grant something objective value? What if the creator thinks he created trash? If I draw a picture that I consider a failure and throw it into the waste bin, does it still have value just because it was created by someone? If a created thing only has value if its creator values it, isn’t that just more subjective assignment of value?

    I hear theists throw out this notion that believing in a creator automatically gives value to life, but I’ve yet to hear that position defended or even explained.

  • 323. Luke  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    orDover,

    i guess what we’re fighting over is whether or not is life, the cosmos, and all things considered are going somewhere and purposefulness and meaning are the name of the game versus accidence and chance.

    i think that there is meaning and i think there is an intelligence behind it. i call this intelligent force God. but that’s my language. what do you believe?

  • 324. orDover  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I believe that saying existence happened without a higher purpose or meaning is not the same thing is saying that existence is purposeless and meaningless.

    I believe we all, theist and atheist alike, create our own purpose. You have built your purpose around the idea of God. I don’t want to make assumptions about your belief since you are not the run-of-the-mill Christian, but other Christians build their sense of purpose around bringing glory to God. I built my purpose around creating as much love as I possibly can during the short period of my life. I do not need to believe that there is a “reason” I was born or a “reason” that the world was created in order to achieve my purpose or even to recognize it.

  • 325. Luke  |  March 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    “I built my purpose around creating as much love as I possibly can during the short period of my life.”

    wow! that is powerful! i agree whole-heartedly. the main difference would be the motivation, maybe? i’m motivated through the teachings of Jesus, you aren’t. but the goal is the same.

    this is actually a belief held by Calvin (but not later Calvinists). Calvin largely argues against metaphysical explanations of the universe and just argues that what we do has a purpose and meaning. Calvin (like myself) holds that the universe is guided by God and that all things have meaning. Calvin then talks about predestination, and that’s where he loses me.

    there’s a good talk recently give at my seminary if this is of further interest: http://dspace.lancasterseminary.edu/dspace/bitstream/10118/108/1/Barrett_Calvin.mp3

    if not, no biggie. but thanks for your honesty. now i can see where you’re coming from and i thank you for that. and thank you for this statement “I don’t want to make assumptions about your belief since you are not the run-of-the-mill Christian”

    it is in the discussion where we can start where the other is.. and truly listen. RAWK!

  • 326. Erudite Redneck  |  March 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Question, loosely related in some ways, foundational in others:

    What does science (or logic, if you will, critical thinking, in general) do with those in its past who, in light of the present, were so clearly shortsighted and wrong in their conclusions? (The use of leeches in medicine comes immediately to mind.)

    Yes, they are dismissed, but are they dismissed as quacks or as people of limited knowledge?

    And, regarding the present: There is the majority of scientific endeavor, under the bell, with those in each tail toiling on the frontier(s), the work of which most people, even most scientists, know nothing or would reject if they *did* know of it.

    Same with matters of faith, at least regarding the Christian faith of which I’m most familiar.

    Many, if not most, of those who came before had limited knowledge yet, like scientists of yore, made grand claims and-or worked from great assumptions. Today, the bulk of Christianity, as an institution, is under the bell, but at the tails lies thinking that most under the bell know nothing of, or, if they do know, they reject it.

    Science tends to be kinder to its own previous geniuses, giving them the benefit of the doubt no matter how ridiculous old ideas now seem (phrenology comes to mind).

    Why do former people and leaders in the faith get such a bad rap? They had limited knowledge, blinders on. So did early scientists (alchemy comes to mind). Why should I be held to nineteenth-century notions of God until I’ve demonstrated adherence to such notions?

    BTW, Luke and I both, I think, should be considered in one of the tails, not under the bell, of Christianity,

    BTW2, I do like this place, despite the occasional intellectual streaker! (Somebody mayhave to explain “streaker” to my younger brother Luke! LOL Kidding, Luke!)

  • 327. TitforTat  |  March 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Science tends to be kinder to its own previous geniuses
    Why do former people and leaders in the faith get such a bad rap?(ER)

    Could it be because science tends to learn and then grow from its mistakes. Where as most religions tend to continue with their illogical belief systems even after being proven false.

  • 328. Quester  |  March 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    ER,

    A surgeon can demonstrate to me how his beliefs and practices better reflect reality as it is than the leech-bearing predecessor of the surgeon’s profession. The surgeon can do this not only by showing the limitations of leeching but the practical effects of surgery.

    Can you demonstrate to me that your theology is a better reflection of reality than your 19th century predecessor? Not only by demonstrating the limitations of 19th Century theology, but by, I don’t know, performing some miracles? Defining your God in a manner that distinguishes it from good feelings and random chance? Demonstrating the existence of your God? Something?

  • 329. Joshua  |  March 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    “Don’t lecture about things you know nothing about.”

    Don’t preach to someone you do not know.
    :)

  • 330. Joshua  |  March 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    “Killing everyone who disagrees with you, because you know best and it will bring a better future. This is moral relativism taken to its logical ends.”

    Isn’t that what God did with the flood?

  • 331. Joshua  |  March 28, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    “You might not, but the other guy might not agree. So when he tries to blow you up, don’t complain, it’s just his opinion.”

    Nope, I’ll complain. Because it makes me uncomfortable.

    “Yep, your own comfort is all that matters. If you feel like murdering the other guy for his wallet, and if you are comfortable with that, go ahead because it increases your comfort, and besides it is just natural selection in action.”

    There’s a glaring fallacy if I ever saw one.

    Honestly? I think your just scared. Your scared of where my beliefs will take me. You demonstrate that you are concerned about your own comfort and how I might influence you and your world, thus proving my point.

    “Or in other words, don’t do anything bad if you might get caught.”

    Who gets to determine what is bad? You? Your god? Who gets to speak for your god? Men? So men make your rules and determine what is bad? Who gets to perform justice on the behalf of your god? Governments? More men? Seriously? Can’t you see this?

    Oh… that hell thing…

    Once again your just scared because

    a) if there is moral relativism you will feel threatened by the behavior of others (thus seeking an increase in your own comfort)

    b) if there is moral absolutism and a hell, you feel threatened by hell and will believe or do whatever is appropriate to avoid going there (thus seeking an increase in your own comfort)

    And to hell with the rest of us who do not share your view…

  • 332. Joshua  |  March 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    “There are two motivating factors in life, the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Which do you think is the bigger motivator?”

    Then we agree!
    :)

    Personally I think that neither is the bigger motivator. They are intricately entwined. Don’t you think? Sex can be really painful but bring about a lot of pleasure. Its only when an animal perceives the pain to be stronger than the pleasure that it will avoid the activity.

  • 333. Joshua  |  March 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    “You wouldn’t eat jalapenos if the pain did not also trigger pleasure, or if the pain were great enough that the pleasure could not override it. My point was more about finding value in the suffering itself, as opposed to pleasure taken from pain.”

    Exactly!

  • 334. Erudite Redneck  |  March 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    TforT, re: “Could it be because science tends to learn and then grow from its mistakes. Where as most religions tend to continue with their illogical belief systems even after being proven false.”

    Can’t speak for other religions. But Christianity, as a rule, generally no longer teaches that the earth is at the center of the universe, that the original inhabitants of North America, and their descendents, have no souls (which is, perhaps, neither here nor there for you, but is an example of progress), and that slavery is just fine and dandy. So, it is incorrect to say that Christanity does not learn from its mistakes. … Oh, and some of us figured out we were worshiping the Bible instead of the God attested to, in a variety of different ways, therein. … Oh, and some of us are realizing that what Jesus seems to have said about God is more important than what people have said, and are still saying, about Jesus. Christianity is anything but static, despite what most people unfder the statistical bell would have you think, and I think that’s because it’s supposed to be relational, not propositional.

    Quester, re: “Can you demonstrate to me that your theology is a better reflection of reality than your 19th century predecessor?”

    Well, I’m against slavery, I think American Indians have souls, and I know the earth is not the center of the universe.

    Re, “performing some miracles? Defining your God in a manner that distinguishes it from good feelings and random chance? Demonstrating the existence of your God? Something?”

    Miracles are overrated. Defining God is impossible, although it’s very satisfying to me to keep at it. Demonstrating the existence of God is not up to me; it’s up to God.

    You know, this raises a fine point, one among many that put me in one of the tails, not under the bell: Even taking the Bible at face value, which is the single worst way to take it in my opinion, regarding the go-ye-therefore admonition of the Great Commission: Assuming that the “target market” was Jews and the God-fearers among them, the existence of God was a given; the commission was to teach them that Jesus had The Way, which arguably was the oldest way, to commune with God, by trusting God and loving others. As to those who worshiped “multiple gods,” St. Paul at Mars Hill pointed to ChristJesus and to the world around him as the premises of his argument. If that’s all Paul had, how can anyone, Christian or nonChristian, expect me to have more? I do not. I do not pretend to.

  • 335. Quester  |  March 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    ER,

    So, you don’t wish to be lumped in with those “under the bell” Christians and their 19th Century view of God, but you’ve got nothing to distinguish your view of God from theirs?

    The 21st century scientist can point to advances in perception and understanding to explain how science progressed from the 19th Century to the 21st. What can you point to?

    Why should I be held to nineteenth-century notions of God until I’ve demonstrated adherence to such notions?

    Because you haven’t anything a 19th Century theologian lacked, except 21st Century science, and you have not demonstrated how 21st Century science supports any notions of a god.

  • 336. Quester  |  March 28, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I almost missed this:

    If that’s all Paul had, how can anyone, Christian or nonChristian, expect me to have more? I do not. I do not pretend to.

    So, you don’t want to be held to 19th Century notions of a god, but you want to be held to 1st Century notions of convincing rhetoric?

  • 337. TitforTat  |  March 28, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Can’t speak for other religions. But Christianity, as a rule, generally no longer teaches that the earth is at the center of the universe(ER)

    This may be true, but I do recall a fine looking museum in Kentucky that has us humans dancing with the dinosaurs. I do recall its a “Christian” museum also. Very scientific, it seems its worth millions too.

    Come on man, call yourself Christian and you cant help but open the door to Science saying youre nuts. You cant run from all your beliefs. Now if you wish to say you think that the Universe has a Creator, I can go with that.

  • 338. Erudite Redneck  |  March 28, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    “There’s are many paths to God, my son. I hope yours will not be too difficult,” Balthasar just said to Judah ben Hur in the movie, “Ben Hur,” which I’m watching (for the first time!) on TCM.

    I will get back to y’all.

  • 339. TitforTat  |  March 28, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    There’s are many paths to God, my son

    Obviously that wasnt any Christian you or I know.

  • 340. TitforTat  |  March 28, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    As people who are joyfully and unapologetically Christian, we pledge ourselves completely to the way of Love. We work to express our love, as Jesus teaches us, in three ways: by loving God, neighbor, and self.(ER)

    I get this. The problem though, is that many Chritians believe that there way is the only way. How is the average person supposed to know the difference? Loving or just down right fu….. judgemental……Can you even tell the difference?

  • 341. Erudite Redneck  |  March 29, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Re, “How is the average person supposed to know the difference?”

    Well, good Lord, so to speak. The same way anyone figures out the differences in anything. Watch. Pay attention. Read. Listen. Engage. Question. Challenge. All the things that are going on right here right now. Some people zip in here, make snap judgments and show their ass, and then leave. I suggest that that is not a way to find out anything about anyone.

    And no, I can’t tell the difference without working at it.

  • 342. Joshua  |  March 29, 2009 at 12:07 am

    “The public face of Christianity in America today bears little connection to the historic faith of our ancestors.”

    Damn straight. Glad someone finally figured it out.

    Now if someone can just have the balls to admit that if Christianity changed, either its Author is changing his mind over time or people are just inventing the whole thing as they go.

    I suppose someone could argue that its not the Author, its the actors. Well, hang it all, those redeemed sheep are so unruly one might imagine they have no Shepherd.

  • 343. Erudite Redneck  |  March 29, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Re, “Now if someone can just have the balls to admit that if Christianity changed, either its Author is changing his mind over time …”

    Balls out.

    God is not dead. God is alive. God is still speaking, as my beloved UCC says. Alive things, especially persons, change their minds. In the Book of Jonah, God is depiected as CHANGING God’s mind! First God planned to whack Ninevah, but God changed God’s mind and decided NOT to.

    Jesus is alive. To keep Jesus limited to the forever-locked-in-amber depictions in the Bible is to consider a dead Jesus, not a living Christ.

    ALL of which are religious statements that you, and anyone, can take or leave.

    But for Christ’s sweet sake, quit trying to cram me and God and Christ into boxes that you yourself have rejected. I don’t let fundies put me in their boxes; I for damn sure will not let ex-fundies put me in their discarded boxes.

  • 344. Joshua  |  March 29, 2009 at 1:25 am

    “But for Christ’s sweet sake, quit trying to cram me and God and Christ into boxes that you yourself have rejected. I don’t let fundies put me in their boxes; I for damn sure will not let ex-fundies put me in their discarded boxes.”

    So are you admitting you just make it up as you go then?

    Or are you one of the few who has it figured out and God is personally revealing – or moving – you to discover the absolute truth of the universe?

    Damn, I’m missing out! I gotta get me on that train!

    “ALL of which are religious statements that you, and anyone, can take or leave.”

    I never interpreted any version of Christianity as take it or leave it. Is it like picking out a new sweater or shoes?

    Man, I’m confused.

    Not really.
    :)

  • 345. Quester  |  March 29, 2009 at 2:53 am

    But for Christ’s sweet sake, quit trying to cram me and God and Christ into boxes that you yourself have rejected. I don’t let fundies put me in their boxes; I for damn sure will not let ex-fundies put me in their discarded boxes.

    ER, would that be the box labelled, “perceptibly different from box without a god”? You, your God, and your Christ are succeeding in not fitting in that discarded box.

  • 346. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 9:51 am

    “What’s also odd is that you think you are “winning’ the debate on this point by continually wielding a logical fallacy.”

    I’m not wielding anything, I’m just pointing out that millions see the difference between the pink unicorn and God, and you don’t see it. It doesn’t serve to have a more sophisticated discussion if you are being too obtuse to recognise it.

  • 347. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:03 am

    “Your whole argument is based on the proposition that human life (and everything else, with one obvious exception) has no intrinsic value. To the extent that it has value, it only does so because of the supposed existence of something extrinsic, namely God.”

    How valuable is gold to a lump of gold? How valuable is a stack of hundred dollar bills from the point of view of the hundred dollar bills?

    Value depends on a thinking entity assigning it value.

    Now how valuable is the stack of hundred dollar bills to some natives in highland New Guinea? Probably only valuable as fire kindling. It’s only valuable as long as people agree it is. When they don’t agree, all bets are off. Only God can give an unchangeable standard to value.

  • 348. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:06 am

    “Don’t preach to someone you do not know.”

    Why not, you are.

  • 349. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

    “Isn’t that what God did with the flood?”

    God isn’t just another guy with another opinion.

  • 350. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:20 am

    “Nope, I’ll complain. Because it makes me uncomfortable.”

    “It makes me uncomfortable” is a pathetically weak argument when you’re fighting for your life in the battleground of ideas to save your life.

    “There’s a glaring fallacy if I ever saw one.”

    And that fallacy would be what?

    “Honestly? I think your just scared. Your scared of where my beliefs will take me.”

    Absolutely I’m scared of where your ideas lead. Any thinking person ought to be.

    “You demonstrate that you are concerned about your own comfort and how I might influence you and your world, thus proving my point.”

    Nobody denied that “comfort” as you put it affects people’s moral decision making. The problem is it is nowhere near a sufficient basis for morality.

    “Who gets to determine what is bad? You? Your god?”

    Excellent question. Hopefully someone determines it, otherwise your good and bad might conflict head on with mine.

    “Who gets to speak for your god? Men? So men make your rules and determine what is bad? Who gets to perform justice on the behalf of your god? Governments? More men? Seriously? Can’t you see this?”

    Several logical problems here… but I’ll just point out this: Don’t men enact justice in your country?

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

    Notice how these men note God as the foundational logic for men having unalienable rights. If you throw out God, then the rights become alienable according to expediency.

  • 351. GaryC  |  March 29, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I said:

    Your whole argument is based on the proposition that human life (and everything else, with one obvious exception) has no intrinsic value. To the extent that it has value, it only does so because of the supposed existence of something extrinsic, namely God.

    Chris responded:

    Value depends on a thinking entity assigning it value….

    Now how valuable is the stack of hundred dollar bills to some natives in highland New Guinea? Probably only valuable as fire kindling. It’s only valuable as long as people agree it is. When they don’t agree, all bets are off. Only God can give an unchangeable standard to value.

    You are obviously backpedaling as fast as you can from your previous claim that human life has intrinsic value and continue to appeal to an extrinsic valuer.

    Supposing, for the sake of argument, that there does exist a God who places value on your life, that value would not be an intrinsic value, but an extrinsic value, since God is extrinsic to you and you are extrinsic to him. If you, as a valuer, value your own life, then your life has intrinsic value to you, but not to God. Understand the difference?

    Having given up on your initial “intrinsic value” line of argument, you have shifted ground radically and now argue something quite different: that God’s standards are unchangeable. Is that because God is utterly incapable of changing his mind or his standards? That’s one Christian view of things. On the other hand, your very Christian colleague on this blog, the Erudite Redneck, has recently argued that God can and does change his mind, and thus presumably could change an “unchangeable” standard. The Redneck illustrated his point with the following Biblical example:

    In the Book of Jonah, God is depicted as CHANGING God’s mind! First God planned to whack Ninevah, but God changed God’s mind and decided NOT to.

    In this example, God is depicted as apparently placing a higher value on the mortal lives of the people of Ninevah at the end of the episode than he did at the beginning, since he changed his mind and decided not to what them after all. It seems to me, therefore, that it is perfectly possible for one Christian to argue that the value that God places on particular human lives is unchanging, and for another Christian to suggest at least the possibility that this is not the case. While some substantial majority of Christains might tend toward the former position, I don’t think there’s any absolute agreement among Christians about the matter, and so one cannot say that there is a specifically Christian position on the matter.

    That having been said, is it not obvious that this entirely new line of argument you are putting up is based on a contradiction? On the one hand, you point out correctly that people (“valuers”) do not place the same value on things, but then go on to argue that the existence of God somehow changes this state of affairs. Clearly it does not. People don’t place the same value on things, whether God exists or not, right? You would surely not claim that, if God exists, all people value the same things he does.

    In the context of your argument, why is God not just another valuer? If I may paraphrase a key sentence of yours, “When valuers don’t agree, all bets are off.” Suppose you could actually demonstrate that the God in whom you believe values all human life — a doubtful proposition in view of the fact that you probably also believe that this same God is responsible for every human death, because he either causes that death, or permits it — it would remain a valid question as to why a person should value all human life in the same way God does, just because God does. You seem to offer nothing more here than an appeal to the authority of God, and one cannot help but wonder whether this appeal is based on nothing more than God’s supposed abilty to whack whom he chooses, when he chooses, where he chooses. What you have not offered is an argument that God’s supposed standard is a good one. But if the standard is a good one, you don’t need to appeal to the authority of God to justify it. What you need to do is to explain why the standard is a good one.

    True, even if you do this there might be people who would still refuse to agree that it is a good standard. There might be even more who would admit that it’s a good one but would refuse to follow it in all cases. Both of those points, however, are as irrelevant to the question of whether it is a good standard as is the proposition, “God exists.”

  • 352. Joshua  |  March 29, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Chris. Wow, you can’t see it. That amazes me.

    ““It makes me uncomfortable” is a pathetically weak argument when you’re fighting for your life in the battleground of ideas to save your life.”

    Then why are you using it left and right? Seriously dude, stop being a hypocrite.

    “And that fallacy would be what?”

    Slippery slope.

    “Absolutely I’m scared of where your ideas lead. Any thinking person ought to be.”

    So you are making moral arguments out of a desire to be comfortable. Just like everyone else.

    “Nobody denied that “comfort” as you put it affects people’s moral decision making. The problem is it is nowhere near a sufficient basis for morality.”

    Why not? It works for Christianity. “Believe and make Jesus your Lord or go to hell.” Oh boy, that sounds uncomfortable. Maybe I should submit to that moral system.
    :)

    “Why not, you are.”

    Your impossible.

    “God isn’t just another guy with another opinion.”

    Right. He’s an invention. That makes him really different.

    Chris, where does God get His morals? If God gets His morals from Himself, then He is a moral relativist. If God is a moral relativist and we are to be like Him in character, then we can be moral relativists as well.

    If God orders us not to be moral relativists, which of his moral codes are we supposed to follow? Which Old Testament commands are we supposed to follow and which ones have gone the way of the moral dodo (so to speak)? Which ones? The ones you like? The ones that our culture values? Which ones? How the hell do we decide?

    If there are moral absolutes, where does God get them from?

    If your god is restricted in its behavior by a moral code then the moral code is actually your God because it is the greater thing.

  • 353. Erudite Redneck  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Quester, re: “So, you don’t wish to be lumped in with those “under the bell” Christians and their 19th Century view of God, but you’ve got nothing to distinguish your view
    of God from theirs?”

    Actually, it’s mostly those under the bell who want to keep me out from under it. On the second part, maybe I’m not being clear: I don’t see God as angry and itching to throw people into a Lake of Fire. I don’t see guilt and threats as reasons to try to commune with God. Rather, I see love as the reason. That’s not very 19th-century, although there were some non-hyperjudgmental kinds of Christiasns around even then.

    Re, “The 21st century scientist can point to advances in perception and understanding to explain how science progressed from the 19th Century to the 21st. What can
    you point to?”

    Um, I point to this, again:

    “Christianity, as a rule, generally no longer teaches that the earth is at the center of the universe, that the original inhabitants of North America, and their descendents, have no souls (which is, perhaps, neither here nor there for you, but is an example of progress), and that slavery is just fine and dandy. So, it is incorrect to say that Christanity does not learn from its mistakes. … Oh, and some of us figured out we were worshiping the Bible instead of the God attested to, in a variety of different ways, therein. … Oh, and some of us are realizing that what Jesus seems to have said about God is more important than what people have said, and are still saying, about Jesus. Christianity is anything but static, despite what most people unfder the statistical bell would have you think, and I think that’s because it’s supposed to be relational, not propositional.”

    Very un-19th-century.

    Re, “you have not demonstrated how 21st Century science supports any notions of a god.

    And I cannot. But that’s a way different question that the others you’ve asked regarding progress of Christianity, and it’s value, etc. You look to science to see God. Good luck with that. God is hard enough to find in faith. I’m pretty sure God hides purposely from science because those looking to science for God are looking to science first, and in case you haven’t heard, God is said to be a jealous God.

  • 354. Erudite Redneck  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Quester, re: “So, you don’t want to be held to 19th Century notions of a god”

    Well, I don’t want to be considered any kind of God. But it’s true that I don’t think that my notions of God are compatible with 19th-century Christian notions of God.

    Re, “but you want to be held to 1st Century notions of convincing rhetoric?”

    I said nothing about Paul’s rhetoric, although I can see how you might infer that I did. I was pointing to the evidence that Paul pointed to: the creation itself, and his own experience. Which is all I have. Which is all any Christian ever has in the way of evidence. The rest is up to God. BTW, I’d have to reread the account, but I don’t seem to recall Paul being very successful with his evidence on Mars Hill, let alone his rhetoric.

  • 355. Erudite Redneck  |  March 29, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    TforT, re: “I do recall a fine looking museum in Kentucky that has us humans dancing with the dinosaurs. I do recall its a “Christian” museum also. Very scientific, it seems its worth millions too.”

    What’s your point? Don’t go there. I don’t have any plans to. And I agree that it’s beyond nutjobbish.

    Re, “Come on man, call yourself Christian and you cant help but open the door to Science saying youre nuts.”

    I don’t mind that at all. Science is one tool for getting to the bottom of things, not the only tool. People use it and misuse it.

    Re, “You cant run from all your beliefs.”

    ?? I don’t have that many beliefs, I mean in this context. Just about six: God is. I am. I can’t get to God on my own. If God wants to commune with me, it’s up to God to make it possible. I think God did. He is the One Whom I call Christ.

    Re, “Now if you wish to say you think that the Universe has a Creator, I can go with that.”

    OK. I think the universe has a creator.

  • 356. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    “Having given up on your initial “intrinsic value” line of argument, you have shifted ground radically and now argue something quite different: that God’s standards are unchangeable.”

    You are the one who introduced the whole intrinsic issue. I’m not shifting ground at all, I stand by what I said way up in this thread which is that without God there is “no objective value” to human life. There is no objective value, because to assign value requires a world view on what human beings are and everyone has a different world view, ranging from Adolf Hitler to Mother Theresa, with similarly variable values for human life.

    “it would remain a valid question as to why a person should value all human life in the same way God does, just because God does.”

    For the same reason that if I drop a ball it should fall to the ground just as surely as when you do. God makes the rules of right and wrong just like he makes the rules of gravity. If you say “balls should fall up instead of down”, it doesn’t have the same validity.

    “What you have not offered is an argument that God’s supposed standard is a good one.”

    Nor do I intend to offer such an argument, any more than I should offer an argument why gravity falling down is superior to if it falls up.

  • 357. Chris  |  March 29, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    “Then why are you using it left and right? Seriously dude, stop being a hypocrite.”

    I’m not using it as an argument other than to press you to be consistent to your own stated theory.

    “Slippery slope.”

    It can hardly be a slippery slope fallacy when it is a simple fact that people steal wallets every single day to increase their own comfort.

    “So you are making moral arguments out of a desire to be comfortable. Just like everyone else.”

    It doesn’t have to be about comfort vs non-comfort. Moral relativism can lead *ANYWHERE*. Anybody with any opinion at all can find the world going somewhere they disagree with strongly. That’s why I said any thinking person should care, because only unthinking people have no beliefs.

    “Why not? It works for Christianity. “Believe and make Jesus your Lord or go to hell.”

    That’s a characture of what it is.

    “If God gets His morals from Himself, then He is a moral relativist. If God is a moral relativist and we are to be like Him in character, then we can be moral relativists as well.”

    That’s like saying if God can make gravity go up, then so can I. It’s not actually true though. And God can’t be a relativist, because there is no other God his beliefs can be relative to.

    “Which Old Testament commands are we supposed to follow and which ones have gone the way of the moral dodo (so to speak)? Which ones? The ones you like? The ones that our culture values? Which ones? How the hell do we decide?”

    God decides, via the church.

    “If there are moral absolutes, where does God get them from?”

    It doesn’t matter.

    “If your god is restricted in its behavior by a moral code then the moral code is actually your God because it is the greater thing.”

    God is only restricted by his own character, and that is not something outside himself.

  • 358. BigHouse  |  March 30, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I’m not wielding anything, I’m just pointing out that millions see the difference between the pink unicorn and God, and you don’t see it. It doesn’t serve to have a more sophisticated discussion if you are being too obtuse to recognise it.

    Who’s being obtuse? Why does it matter if millions see that difference? That has nothing to do with it being true or correct. You’re wielding the logical fallacy without naming it by name. Good show of sophistication.

  • 359. Erudite Redneck  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Quester,

    (ER said): “But for Christ’s sweet sake, quit trying to cram me and God and Christ into boxes that you yourself have rejected. I don’t let fundies put me in their boxes; I for damn sure will not let ex-fundies put me in their discarded boxes.”

    (Quester said): ER, would that be the box labelled, “perceptibly different from box without a god”? You, your God, and your Christ are succeeding in not fitting in that discarded box.

    I am failing to fit — “succeeding in not fitting” — in the box you have discarded as a decon? Good. But I’m not sure what you meant to say, actually. Bottom line: If you insist on lumping all Christians — fundies, flakes, fakes, moderates, libs and all — into the same box, that is, you think all of us complete fools — then, well, OK.

  • 360. Chris  |  March 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    “That has nothing to do with it being true or correct. ”

    But it does indicate that there are a lot of reasons and evidence that they see which you are pretending does not exist. And that is the reason the cult of the pink unicorn does not exist. Pretending they are equivalent doesn’t do your argument service.

  • 361. Ubi Dubium  |  March 30, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    All Hail the Invisible Pink Unicorn! May Her Holy Hooves never be shod!

    How are you so certain that that particular cult does not exist? There have been cults that have fervently believed much sillier things.

    You’re still using the argument ad populem. “Most people believe it, therefore it’s true.” Well, most people used to believe in a geocentric universe, but that didn’t make it true. And most people in Europe used to believe that bleeding a sick person was usually beneficial. That wasn’t true either. I think I’d prefer to figure out truth for myself, and not just follow the herd.

    I think I’ll go pray at the Church of Google now. Google is as close to omnipresent and omniscient as you are likey to get in something that demonstably exists. Google always answers prayers, even when you don’t realize that your search is actually a prayer. Better track record than any of the “real gods” out there.

  • 362. Chris  |  March 30, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I never made an argument that most people believe it, therefore it’s true. Rather I point out that if many people believe something, and nobody believes something else, it tends to indicates a great deal more evidence for the former than the latter, and if you were an intelligent person, you could figure out what those things are.

    As for bloodletting, it worked in many cases. A leech, for example, helps to reduce tissue congestion where arterial input is maintained. Leech therapy is finding its way into numerous reconstructive surgeries such as digit and limb reattachment, skin graft procedures, scalp avulsions, breast surgeries, and even into the effective treatment of periorbital hematomas.

    So thanks for proving my point. If a lot of people believe something, then it is probably because there were reasons for doing so. And if there are reasons it puts that belief into a different category than your unicorn.

  • 363. BigHouse  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:12 am

    So thanks for proving my point. If a lot of people believe something, then it is probably because there were reasons for doing so. And if there are reasons it puts that belief into a different category than your unicorn.

    There are ‘reasons” to be an Islamic jihadist suicide bomber. And they have a lot of comrades. But I think the pink unicorn followers are a better lot then those guys.

    Are you going to keep pushing this losing argument? Eventually we will stop banging our head against the wall shooting it down, but don’t think for a minute you ‘won”.

  • 364. LeoPardus  |  March 31, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Eventually we will stop banging our head against the wall

    He proved impervious to rational thought more then 300 posts ago. Stop banging already.

  • 365. Lucian, the treacherous traitor  |  March 31, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Well, Chris, there are 3%-4% atheists world-wide, which is the same percentage as that of Your own religious denomination.

    And if we add the agnostics and irreligious to that number, we get about 15%, which is comparable to the aprox. 30% of Christianity, 20%-25% of Islam, 15% of Hindus, 20%-25% of Eastern religions (which is basically Buddhism practiced in syncretysm with others, such as Taoism-Confucianism and folk-religion [in China], Shinto [in Japan], animism and shamanism [in Mongolia], etc).

    Besides, isn’t it the *broad* way that leadeth to destruction, and *many* those that walk therein? :-|

  • 366. ER  |  June 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Yea and verily, five years passed, ER completed a Master of Divinity at a great progressive seminary, and now is a pastor of a wee UCC church. Imagine that. :-)

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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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