WWJD Series: Jesus, Thoughtcrime and Eternal Anguish

December 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm 74 comments

There are those who leave Christianity, or refuse to join it, yet still have nothing bad to say about Jesus. Christianity, yes, but not Jesus. For me, though, once I stopped believing that Jesus was fully God and fully human, I had a hard time seeing anything good in his teachings.

The Old Testament is filled with contradictory laws and arbitrarily delivered punishments, but there was reason for hope. Some Judaic sects, like the first century Pharisees, used oral traditions to interpret, supplement and reconcile the written scripture so that it was possible to follow “God’s will”. Also, while the “punishments” were arbitrary to the point of sheer randomness, there was no reason to believe they continued after death.

Then Jesus came along, and made everything worse.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…. You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…. Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King…. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

- Mt. 5: 21-22, 27-29, 33-35, 37-39, 43-44, 48

Thank-you, Jesus.

No longer are we only responsible for what we can control- our actions. Suddenly, our very thoughts and feelings condemn us. And to what do they condemn us? The fire of hell, to which a life of self-mutilation is preferrable. Worse, Jesus teaches that our words can come from the evil one. “The devil made me do it” is given the legitimacy of Jesus’ support as a reasonable fear. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. No, making thoughts and feelings we can not control into crimes deserving eternal torment and then suggesting that the devil can control our thoughts and words is not nearly enough. It’s hardly worse than Yaweh hardening the Pharoah’s heart and then punishing him for his hard heart.

Jesus goes further to tell us not to resist evil people when they strike at us, but to love and pray for them. Don’t stand up and fight for justice. Don’t rebel against oppressive authority. Don’t resist your abusive spouse. Instead, lovingly go further than they would have otherwise forced you to, and speak on their behalf to the God who either can not or will not grant you justice. Don’t resist. Don’t get angry. Don’t even think angry thoughts. You don’t want to go to hell, do you? Maybe it will be better after you die.

But maybe not. The infamous Sermon on the Mount is barely one third over yet, and Jesus has a small command yet to slip in, barely worth mentioning. Simply, “Be perfect”. Not just perfect, but perfect as God is perfect.

“Act righteously” is difficult enough, what with the swarming mass of contradicting and unreasonable laws, our thoughts and feelings being given the same weight as our actions, and standing against evil suddenly becoming evil in itself. Now Jesus is telling us, off-handedly, that we are held not to a human standard, but a godly one. We are to know and follow God’s will as sure as God Himself, no matter how poor a job God does in communicating His thoughts and will. We are to think as God thinks, feel as God feels, and resist evil as little as a God to whom no evil can be done. The measure to which we fall short from this standard is the measure to which we deserve unending torment, and therefore force God’s hand in punishing Jesus for our sake.

That’s right, punish Jesus for our sake. By some coincidence, just as the standards for righteousness become impossibly high and the punishment for failing to meet these standards unimaginably dire, we’re made an offer by the one person who can make it all go away. Never mind that the offer is being made by the only one to insist there was a problem in the first place. We’re offered a free pass, with no way to know whether or not we really have it, leaving us open to manipulation from anyone who can promise us certainty of our salvation. And as we’ve proved time and time again, that’s something we’re willing to commit almost any atrocity for.

Praise Jesus.

- Quester

Entry filed under: Quester. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

An Epilogue Salvaging Santa

74 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mikespeir  |  December 27, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I don’t know that we have enough solid information about what Jesus said or did to praise or blast him.

  • 2. atimetorend  |  December 28, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Your post definitely points to issues with the conservative evangelical spin on the sermon on the mount. I have read a more progressive version which points out that the “people were amazing” at the end of the discourse, as opposed to, “the people despaired and cried out for mercy, etc.” I can’t argue for that interpretation, but it is an interesting idea.

    Either way though, as per comment #1 here, I don’t find the historicity of the texts compelling for belief, but I guess if one is to live that way the progressive version might hold out more hope.

  • 3. Quester  |  December 28, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Mike,

    If you don’t think the words spoken by the literary character of Jesus were also spoken by a corresponding historical figure, feel free to assume that I’m criticizing the author(s) of the literary character’s speech, and respond accordingly.

    Time to Rend,

    The conservative spin? I’m quoting it precisely! I don’t care how the people are recorded to have responded; what bothers me is what was actually said (or at least written down and passed along).

  • 4. 4riozs  |  December 28, 2009 at 3:58 am

    I completely agree with Quester. It has been hard leaving the faith behind, one thing that really bothers me is reading the things “Jesus” said and thinking how much simpler and easier it was for the Jews to just sacrifice an animal for sin, get a divorce through getting a certificate of divorce, etc… In the church we are feed the story of “grace”, but when you really take a look at things from the outside, it becomes apparent that Jesus teachings were even more unrealistic and overbearing. Not to say the OT teachings were easy.

  • 5. mikespeir  |  December 28, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I take your point, Quester. Well put.

  • 6. Lucian  |  December 29, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    There’s an easy answer to all your problems: unipolar clinical depression. (It definitely did the trick for me).

  • 7. Grace  |  December 29, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Do you think it possible that Jesus is speaking in general sense, deliberately using hyperbole to drive home some salient points, and the people of His day, and culture actually understood this? :)

    For instance, when Jesus shares to “turn the other cheek,” it seems reasonable to me to think that He is teaching non-retaliation as a way to break the endless cycle of violence, and vengence.

    On the other hand, folks, to put it plainly, my sanctified common sense(reason) is telling me that our loving Lord doesn’t expect us to stand passively by (turning the other cheek) while an axe-murderer breaks into our house, about to murder the kids..to use an extreme example, for Heaven’s sake. :)

    Isn’t it wisdom to try, and understand these teachings in their cultural context, looking at the overall life, and witness of Jesus Christ?

    He came so that our joy could be full, to bring abundant life to us. Any faith which results in greater bondage for folks is bound to be a caricature, IMHO.

  • 8. Quester  |  December 30, 2009 at 12:03 am

    It’s possible that Jesus was using a contemporary (for him) rabbinic rhetoric device of exaggeration that should be read in the context of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. Not that this helps the redefining of murder or adultery.

    Is it possible that modern theologians now claim that hyperbole was a rhetorical device in Jesus’ time, in order to brush under the rug some of Jesus’ words that don’t fit with the “God loves everyone” theology that’s grown popular in the last 200 years?

    Any reading of the Bible which leads to the conclusion that God loves everyone either is ignoring 80% of the Bible, or has a strange definition of love, IMAO.

  • 9. stamati  |  December 30, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Quester, I am definitely going to agree with you on that last sentence. And moreover, everyone ought to realize that whatever view they hold about anything is more than likely a characterization of it. It is one’s own perception that one believes.

  • 10. Grace  |  December 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Quester,

    Does it seem likely that Jesus would contradict himself?

    As a former priest of the church, I know that you’ve studied all of the gospels. Jesus reached out to the outcasts, and marginalized of society. He healed lepers. He counseled us to care for even our enemies, and spoke poignantly of God’s love, sharing that even the hairs of our heads our numbered to God.

    Does it make sense to you to suppose that He literally expects folks to “pluck out their eyes?”

    In a way, I think we can’t convince each other by our words, and I don’t want to come across as disrespectful or argumentative toward you, Quester.

    It seems to me also a matter of experientially knowing the deep love, and grace of God, and of spiritual discernment.

  • 11. Quester  |  December 30, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Does it seem likely that Jesus would contradict himself?

    Very likely. Everyone does.

    Does it make sense to you to suppose that He literally expects folks to “pluck out their eyes?”

    Only if Hell is real. Does it make sense to you that Jesus accepted crucifixion for himself, but sees self-maiming as something worse?

    It seems to me also a matter of experientially knowing the deep love, and grace of God, and of spiritual discernment.

    It seems to me that it’s a matter of using your imagination, because scripture, tradition and the world around you fail to lead to the god you’ve created for yourself.

  • 12. Richard  |  December 31, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Beautiful piece, Quester, well-said, well-said!

    I can still vividly remember the moment I realized — well into my deconversion — that my former obligatory, knee-jerk obeisence towards Jesus and anything he said was, now, just another bad habit that I was free to discard. How liberating! Previously, I was dutybound to believe that whatever Jesus said, no matter how counterintuitive, cryptic, or just plain backassward it was, just *had* to be profound wisdom — Truth itself. Because, well, it was Jesus.

    So, if his message didnt seem right, that was my fault. Or even better: it was subtle proof that Christianity was right. Look at how corrupt I was, that I didn’t even recognize Truth when I heard it! Much like the apologetic maneuver that says the fact that you disagree with Christianity proves that it is true, because, after all, it “predicts” its message will be rejected out of human willfulness.

    Now, though, I was free to assess Jesus’ message on its own merits which is, of course, what we do with everything else we hear. This is not pride, this is common sense.

    And I particularly like your points about thoughtcrimes and the demand for moral perfection. Thoughts and emotions are — clinically, demonstrably, scientifically — not under conscious control. Influence, yes; control and censorship, no. I happen to believe that this teaching, by itself, is one of the most destructive ever perpetrated by Christianity.

    Because. in essence, it teaches that there is no difference between what you think/feel/do and what you are. But this is what very young children believe (literally) and what is a long, hard emotional slog for them to pull themselves out of — to get some distance from your emotions is the first step in not being overwhelmed by them (e.g., toddler tantrums, teenagers screaming “I hate you!!!”).

    In other words, if it is not “I am a person who happens to have angry thoughts and feelings right now” but rather “I am an angry person” — and then if anger is defined as sinful — then sin becomes inescapable. And since moral perfection is the standard (and again, what a weird thing to believe, now that I look back on it)…. well, basically, we’re all screwed. Just like Christianity teaches.

    The truth shall set you free, eh?

  • 13. Quester  |  December 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Thank-you, Richard. You understand exactly where I’m coming from with this one– and say it better than I do!

  • 14. Joe  |  January 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Quester—-

    You may be confusing what Jesus was actually saying. He wasn’t stating things to make it easier to go to hell (from actions to our very thoughts being the culprit), but simply showing that no man can keep the Law. The Law was given for that exact purpose—to show us that we are not perfect, and absolutely cannot “keep” that Law. The Pharisees surely would say “I have kept the commandments—I don’t commit adultery”(in their own self-righteousness)—and Jesus was telling them they were far from actually keeping the Law at all—their very thoughts were condemning them.

    When one realizes he cannot keep the Law was does he go? He has to look for a savior. This was Jesus’ point.

  • 15. Joshua  |  January 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Joe, to be honest, you’re beginning to get annoying.

    I don’t even know what you believe any more and all you do is crack jokes.

  • 16. Joshua  |  January 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Oops, wrong thread. That was really weird…

  • 17. Joe  |  January 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    My point is that though it “appears” Jesus is squeezing everyone further into utter hopelessness (What? You mean I can commit adultery with just my thoughts?) he is actually forcing them to look for a savior—–and that is the very reason he came.

  • 18. BigHouse  |  January 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Convenient of Jesus of teach that there’s no other way to obtain eternal life than through him, specifically, no? That is, if the Bible accurately represents him and what he said at all…

  • 19. Quester  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Joe,

    I really don’t see a difference between what you said and what I did. Jesus spoke to a people who felt they understood and were following God’s will and told them that they did not understand it, could not follow it, and that the punishment for not following the law they couldn’t follow was excruciating torment. As you say, this forces them to look for a saviour. As I said, this leaves us open to manipulation from anyone who can promise us certainty of our salvation. And as Big House has added, anyone who can claim to speak for Jesus, including Paul and the writers of the Gospels, must have found this rather convenient.

    Really, what are you saying that I’m not, except that you think this is all a good thing?

  • 20. Frreal  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I have seen many Christians use the argument Joe presented that: “The purpose and intent of The Law was to show humanity that it was incapable of following The Law and thus required a savior.

    Could one of you more versed (not Joe) explain to me what passage(s) Christians use to justify this claim?

  • 21. Quester  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Frreal,

    Help me out. In what way do the verses quoted in the article we’re commenting under not qualify as what you’re asking for?

  • 22. Joe  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. (Gal. 3:24)

    Frreal–

    Here is a verse. Not sure why you would not want me to comment. Whoever you are I apologize to all your personalities on the blog. :) I wish you could take a joke but you appear to react very strongly when you yourself brought up the sockpuppet analogy. :)

    Quester—-

    I’m sorry if I misunderstood you. Often though people misinterpret what Jesus is saying when he appears to make the Law more strict. That was all I was commenting on. I appreciate the post.

  • 23. Joe  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Joshua, Bighouse, Frreal I apologize. It’s just that you all sound very close to the same in your syntax, appearance on the board, and how much you come to each others defense. Frreal just said “can someone comment (not Joe)..” when I had no argument or comment with them at all. Why say “not Joe” when BigHouse and Josh are the ones who seem to be offended. Very strange.

    I will let it go though. My apologies. It just appears very strange is all.

  • 24. BigHouse  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    You make wild and unfounded accusations about people having multiple identities on the board in an effort to mislead and you do not know why they become offended?

    And if it appears we defend each other it’s because we share some of the same ideas. I bet you get a lot of backpats and hear heres on your Christian apologetics boards, no?

    I’m still at a loss as to what value you are providing here.

  • 25. Frreal  |  January 6, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Quester,

    They do fit as an extrapolation of meaning for someone looking to justify inconsistancy. I was just wondering if there wasn’t something more black and white I wasn’t aware of.

    Joe, my syntax doesn’t hold a candle to the regular posters here. You though, are a passive-agressive manipulative bore.

  • 26. Frreal  |  January 6, 2010 at 12:54 am

    wasn’t, wasn’t double negative? but you get my drift.

  • 27. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Frreal—

    #25 Don’t blame you for saying that. I was acting like an idiot yesterday. Sorry about that. I hadn’t posted for quite a while and some old habits apparently returned. It was unfair and unwarranted.

    Bighouse (#24)— Yes there are backpats from time to time–sure. But it is rare that when they occur two people appear at the same time, in tandem, to do so, on a regular basis. That would be suspect. I just blew stuff out of proportion and do apologize.

  • 28. BigHouse  |  January 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Apology accepted.

    Joe, I think you have things to offer this board as well as things you can get from this board. Just always remember where you are and what this place is for and I think you will stray from the mission much less.

  • 29. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks Bighouse. Always good to be reminded.

  • 30. Joshua  |  January 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Joe,

    No real need to apologize. I just wish you had some content to contribute.

    I get the distinct gut feeling that you, on more than one occasion, want to admit that what we are saying makes tons of sense but are afraid of doing so.

    So then you crack jokes because you don’t know what else to say.

  • 31. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Joshua—

    Actually, the opposite is true. Though I appreciate the logic used, and intelligence in many of the posts, my faith has actually been strengthened as a result.

    When I crack jokes it’s usually because the “argument” being presented is an old one, and has been rehashed several times on the board. Knowing that the “argument” will never really have a sufficient end to it but will most likely go in circles, I am reluctant to contribute.

    I just feel a pun now and then or light-hearted posts can’t really hurt, even if I’m the only one laughing at them. :) My brother used to accuse me of laughing at my own jokes all the time–some things just strike me as very funny, though they are completely out of line with your apparent sense of humor it seems. :)

  • 32. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Not inferring you don’t have a sense of humor. :)

  • 33. BigHouse  |  January 6, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Joshua—

    Actually, the opposite is true. Though I appreciate the logic used, and intelligence in many of the posts, my faith has actually been strengthened as a result.

    I’m interested in the mechanics of this if you care to share at some point…

  • 34. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Not sure about mechanics. Remember Spock? Great character on Star Trek. He is famous for saying “highly illogical Captain”. Many Atheists are a bit like Spock. Unless there is a dyed in the wool answer for something they won’t believe it Again, Spock is a great guy and very, very intelligent.

    But he looks through a telescope the wrong way sometimes—if it isn’t logical it isn’t real or true. Let’s just say that when I come here I hear a lot of Spocks talking, but come away even stronger in my Captain Kirk mindset.

  • 35. Joshua  |  January 6, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Joe, so the mental masturbation of going to church to get your ears tickled and have your faith strengthened by hearing the same arguments over and over and over is different than this site how?

  • 36. Joshua  |  January 6, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    And if I were to go to your church week after week after week and sit in the pew and crack jokes and then when pressed about the uselessness of my entire presence at church argue that hearing the same arguments rehashed over and over from the pulpit has strengthened my atheism… you wouldn’t have a problem with this?

    I’m getting sick of you. You’re a basically useless, mocking sockpuppet whose presence is supposed to somehow demonstrate that we need your belief system.

    Well, if your presence is doing absolutely nobody any good, what does that tell us about your worldview.

  • 37. Joshua  |  January 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Hint: empty.

  • 38. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Joshua–

    You sound like a very bitter person. The Spock analogy was not an attack in any way or form. I was simply being honest. If you want to sit in church and continue to be an atheist that is fine with me. I think Leopardus still attends church—and perhaps it is very repetitious—but he has every right to continue to go there and be an atheist at the same time if he wants to be.

    Humor is a very necessary aspect of life. I’m sorry if you don’t appreciate it. You don’t have to like my brand of humor, but you also do not have to mock me and call me “useless” either. When you say my presence is doing NOBODY any good you really mean YOURSELF don’t you?

    I’m not posting here to do you good Joshua—–it’s just a blog for Pete’s sake. You need to lighten up a bit and enjoy life a bit.

  • 39. Joe  |  January 6, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    By the way, did you used to use a name a long while back called Obi? That person used to react the same way. If someone didn’t agree with him and his logic he would degenerate into personal inusults and put-downs. I was like that a bit myself back then, but have really attempted to change. If that wasn’t you that’s cool—you just have that same attitude. I’m really not sure what is up with you, but you seem to be very upset about more than just this board. Maybe you should go ride a bike, or take a hike in the mountains. Smell the flowers. :)

  • 40. Quester  |  January 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Frreal,

    Romans 3: 20-24

    Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

    Does this help?

  • 41. Quester  |  January 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Joe,

    Often though people misinterpret what Jesus is saying when he appears to make the Law more strict.

    What Jesus is saying is that we need Him, and He came to fill that need. This sounds wonderful until you think about the reasons He gives for why we need him, and then realize He is the only source for this information.

  • 42. Frreal  |  January 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks Quester that was exactly what I was looking for. Explains the importance of the verse used to counter the argument that Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. I appreciate you posting that for me.

  • 43. Richard  |  January 7, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Re: the alleged purpose of Mosaic law, it is worth noting that this idea that the capital-L Law is to display th perfect moral standard that must be kept perfectly or else rot im hell, is a thoroughly Christian invention. That is to say, Jews find this interpretation of mosaic law somewhere between amusing and horrifying. Jews do not understand the law to be any such “perfect moral standard” and there is no evidence they ever did. There is essentially no mention of hell in the Torah, and the punishments for tramsgressions are decidedly this-worldly.

    Jewish understanding of law differs depending on whether one comea from a more conservative background (its Gods will, teaching Israel how to be holy)) or liberal (an attempt tp express human experience of what they believed to be God), but I defy anyone to show me a verse in the old testament explaining that the law must be kept in perfect detail all your life or else you’ll go to hell.

    I only know this b/c my spouse happens to be Jewish and I have tried to educate myself about Jewish thought. I just think its interesting – for me it was always an unquestioned assumption that the law was there to demand perfection, and it never occurred to me to think otherwise.

  • 44. Quester  |  January 7, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Thanks for mentioning this, Richard. I’ve heard this before, but have not really studied Judaism myself, and thus tried not to comment on what current Jews believe.

  • 45. Eupraxsophy  |  January 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Does Jesus contradict himself? How about when he said that the wise man builds his house (faith or belief) on the rock (truth), and the fool builds his house upon the sand (deception). If you were to read the first part of the Bible it says Old Testiment and then in Genesis 1:1 it says; “In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth”, then who is the witness to give such a testimony?
    Can it be a testimony if you do not have a witness? Some biblical scholars think that it was Moses that wrote the Torah, and yet how could he be the witness to God creating Heaven and Earth? This to me is deception. Wouldn’t this be Jesus contradicting his father’s own word? The rock that Jesus is referring to also represents foundation and integrity of truth.
    In other words for someone to be wise they must base their beliefs on truth as oppose to basing their truths on beliefs.

    Truth has no weakness and integrity is it’s strength. And truth never contradicts itself. So how can the Bible be truth if it starts off with deception and contradicts itself? Deception is the wisdom of pride and humility is the wisdom of truth. Humility gives one the wisdom to see both the ugliness and beauty that resides in truth.

    Knowledge and wisdom are the subjects to the nobility of truth, so if thy caution thyself not to be the fool yet thy have a boastful tongue then let it be that which rest upon thy head the Crown of Truth. For integrity of the wise is found in truth, so where shall it be found in that of the fool? And this above all things to thy own self be true. Integrity means to be as honest to yourself as you are to others.

    Be objective to that which you are naive to as oppose to being ignorant to that which you are doubtful of, and weigh that which is given consideration to, with truth.

    P. S. What about when Jesus got angry and over turned tables at the synagog where peole had set up market. Why would a man/god of peace decide to give into the temptation of rage as oppose to seeking a more peaceful alternative? Is this too not a sin? Is this his love for his enemies? Vandalism?

  • 46. JimC  |  January 13, 2010 at 12:13 am

    ‘or the Jews to just sacrifice an animal for sin, get a divorce through getting a certificate of divorce, etc…’

    Actually that was the same for Jesus also and their is allot of debate on this topic. It appears the strength of the argument is that Jesus was affirming Moses but admonishing the people for ‘putting away’ which was a practice of controlling a woman by not issuing her a certificate which freed her to marry. It was a truly evil practice.

    He was a jew and understood their customs while hoping for a better ideal.

  • 47. Tim  |  March 14, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Quester,

    So there is much in the Bible that disenchanted you. Is there anything in the Bible that you still find enchanting? Maybe a particular passage or idea that you would still consider to be appealing?

  • 48. Quester  |  March 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Tim,

    Certainly! After all, there’s no way something so lengthy, contradictory and vague could possibly fail to include *something* to appeal to every mindset– not after all the years of assembly and revision by people with reason to see to it that their “holy scripture” had the broadest possible potential appeal. The post above was not intended as a critique on the Bible’s failings as a literary work, moral guide, depiction of history or revelation of God, but simply as an example drawn from the only depictions we have of Jesus, of some of Jesus’ more evil teachings.

    Why do you ask?

  • 49. Tim  |  March 15, 2010 at 11:59 am

    In my years as a skeptic, I would read a passage like Matthew 5 and conclude that since this passage cannot possibly be from God, then the entire Bible is suspect and therefore, what good is it?

    As a Christian, and in fact a very critical change of view that led me to conversion, I reversed this logic somewhat. If there is even one passage that is divine – one that I felt could not possibly have come from the invention of man – then there is a God and he has spoken through the Bible.

    That’s my point.

    Now, I cannot point to one single passage that would convince a non-believer, but taken together, I find a wealth of wisdom, consistency, prophecy, and remarkable acts of love that are too incredible to have come from man alone.

    There are still many passages that I don’t get. But I do find many of the ones I used to object to (like Matthew 5 and the hardening of Pharoah’s heart) I have come to understand and no longer object to them.

    This is not to say that this would make any difference on your being atheist or not. All paths to God are unique. But I would be interested in your thoughts on that since as an atheist, you would have to conclude that there is no divine inspiration whatsoever in the Bible. So there is not even a tickle for you?

    I also want to confess and to apologize for thinking that you as a ‘decon’ never really were a Christian. It came to me that Solomon – probably the most blessed man that ever lived and to whom God appeared twice – still turned away from God. So, it is proven to me that it can happen. For what it is worth, I have a hard time believing that Solomon is suffering eternal torment in hell for that.

  • 50. DSimon  |  March 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Tim, I don’t see how wisdom or consistency or love in a piece of literature proves that it wasn’t created by human beings. We create remarkable artwork all the time that has these properties in abundance.

    Valid prophecy would be more convincing (at the very least, it would indicate that something outside the current understanding of natural law was happening), but the Bible’s prophecies aren’t especially convincing. Near the top of The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists there is a list that describes various things that make a prophecy unconvincing.

  • 51. Quester  |  March 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Tim,

    I see. In that case, no. In agreement with DSimon above me, I see nothing in the Bible that could not come from humans. There are some insightful thoughts, but none that have not come up again and again in philosophical and religious thought all throughout human history. No god needed, just a touch of empathy and reason.

    Can you provide a little more detail about what you see that requires a divine author?

    As for biblical examples of unbelievers, how about every single apostle? Thomas gets a bad reputation for being the last to believe, but despite being told that Jesus was going to rise again (Mt 17:22-23, Mk 10: 32-34), not a single apostle believed without Jesus appearing first.

    This is the first article I wrote for de-conversion, back when I was still a Christian, but seriously struggling: Defending Doubting Thomas.

  • 52. Tim  |  March 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    DSimon/Quester

    Tough crowd :)

    I will attempt to elaborate. It may take awhile. In the end, logic alone will not sway either side otherwise this would all be moot. It’s about the Spirit.

    As to the apostles and their unbelief prior to the resurrection, I look at Acts 1: 1-8. The apostles did not receive the Spirit until after Jesus ascended to heaven (after the resurrection). Before I became Christian, I believed that Jesus the man existed and even for sake of argument, that he was the son of God. That did not make me a Christian. It’s about the Spirit.

  • 53. Quester  |  March 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Tough crowd

    Really? What were you expecting?

    In the end, logic alone will not sway either side otherwise this would all be moot. It’s about the Spirit.

    Then why are you here? You could choose to keep silent and trust to the Spirit to save those God wills to. To try to usurp the Spirit’s role in converting hearts and minds, knowing all the while that this is the Spirit’s role, sounds rather blasphemous. Dangerous territory to tread, that, when blasphemy against the Spirit is the one and only unforgivable sin.

  • 54. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Not to mention, Quester, that Tim’s spending time on the other thread telling us how logical and intellectual the argument for Christianity is. Of course, without actually putting forth any of those arguments, just referring to them as “there”. Not very convincing..

  • 55. Tim  |  March 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Quester,

    1 – I want to try to understand why people walk away from being Christian. 2 – Test my own faith. Easy enough to defend your beliefs among believers, not so with non-believers. 3 – I enjoy it. There is a lot of moving testimony here and that interests me.

    I will not post if I am not welcome, just stop responding and I will get the hint. As for blasphemy, well actually, the Spirit guided me here specifically to interact with you.

    Just kidding…maybe.

  • 56. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Tim, you are welcome here, certainly. Just be sure to read the bug red exclamation point in the frontpage so you learn what this blog is about and what we’re doing here.

  • 57. Quester  |  March 15, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    You’re welcome to post. I was simply curious as what seemed to be your intent (defending your faith) was in tension with your stated belief (only the Spirit can convict someone of the truth of your faith).

    While you’re here, let’s see if we can help you some.

    1) Why people walk away from being Christian:

    The reasons are almost as many and as varied as decons themselves, but a good starting place would be:

    http://de-conversion.com/2008/04/07/inconvenient-categories-the-really-real-reasons-de-cons-left-the-faith/

    2) Test your faith:

    There are several articles on this site that could help with that, but I like to start with a central point.

    http://de-conversion.com/2007/04/08/taking-the-resurrection-challenge/

    Of course, testing your faith requires your faith to be in some way testable.

    http://de-conversion.com/2009/08/04/what-would-it-take/

    3) Moving testimony:

    Well, this is all over the site. I am simply overwhelmed in my attempt to pick and choose. Please continue to enjoy reading the archives.

    If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

  • 58. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 16, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Tim-

    Before I became Christian, I believed that Jesus the man existed and even for sake of argument, that he was the son of God.

    It sounds pretty disingenuous to say you spent “years as a skeptic” and to follow that up with a claim that you believed Jesus was the son of God before becoming a Christian. Am I misinterpreting what you said here? Because it doesn’t sound like you were much of a skeptic at all.

    Anyway, my view of the Bible pretty much took the opposite path of yours. I started out thinking much as you do now, but when I started to struggle with doubt the first thing I did was turn to the Bible. That was a mistake. When I read the Bible looking for help for my doubts, I found inconsistencies that only made my doubts stronger. The Bible does have a wealth of wisdom and acts of love (though I’d hardly say humans are incapable of it; what kind of humans have you been spending time with?), but I also find remarkable foolishness and acts of hatred.

  • 59. Tim  |  March 16, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    My words were ‘for sake of argument’. When arguing with a Christian in those days, my argument was:

    1-Concede that there is a God
    2-Concede that Jesus did exist (which I always thought there was ample evidence on that point)
    3-Concede that Jesus was the son of God

    I didn’t have to actually believe any of those points but yet I could concede them all for sake of argument. What does it matter if there is a God but He gives us no information on how to relate with Him or what purpose He has for our lives? Instead, I would concede all the above so I could get to debating the real issue, which was:

    4-The Bible is the Word of God

    That was the focus of my skepticism and even after becoming a Christian, I still have my doubts about inerrancy.

    Hope that clarifies.

  • 60. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 16, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    That does clear things up, thanks.

    I’d have to disagree with your parenthetical on point 2, though. There’s enough evidence to think it reasonable that a man named Jesus existed in the 1st century, but even then there’s a real possibility that Jesus was made up. I would highly recommend reading the Ebon Musings page regarding that: http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/camel.html

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy your time at the site.

  • 61. BigHouse  |  March 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Tim, how could you concede 2 and (especially) 3 when your point of skepticism (the Bible) is the main source of evidence for those points!

  • 62. Tim  |  March 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    BigHouse,

    Not sure I understand your question. Even if 1, 2 and 3 are true, that doesn’t mean that 4 is true, and 4 is what really matters. If 4 is true, best to heed what it says or there are consequences. My point was that it wasn’t worth debating 1,2 and 3 with Christians.

    Are you saying that 2 and 3 are worth debating because if they are shown to be false then 4 has to be false? That would make sense, but I don’t think you could ever convince a Christian that 2 or 3 is false.

  • 63. BigHouse  |  March 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Tim, you really have this backwards it seems.

    Why do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God if you aren’t convinced that the Bible is the Word of God? Is there another source of this information?

  • 64. Tim  |  March 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I will try to clarify. I don’t know if every nuance of the Bible is the word of God, but I do believe much of it (if not indeed all of it) is divinely inspired. Do you think someone has to believe all of it is God’s word in order to be a Christian?

    I relate to much of it, especially the NT. What Paul and the early Christians wrote had a deeper meaning once I received the Spirit. But it doesn’t mean they were infallible – otherwise Peter and Paul would have never had any disagreement about the Gentiles. And the NT canon was not a divine decree but one of men and there was much debate.

    The OT is tougher because Jesus referred to it as Scripture. For now: inspired-yes, the word of God-not sure. Even if it is the word of God, good people differ on interpretation, which to me defeats the purpose of it being God’s word anyway.

    Let me try an analogy – we know Newtonian physics is not entirely accurate particularly when dealing with quantum phenomena. However, it is useful for describing most everyday actions. The Bible may be tainted by man and may not be entirely accurate on all things, but it can still be very useful. (Ok-as a Christian, that is an understatement but I am trying to curb my enthusiasm)

    All this to say that I believe Jesus is the Son of God because the Bible hammers that point over and over again. Now if he had a smaller role, like Elijah, that would be a tougher case to make. But I think it is pretty clear that Jesus is the central character in God’s Plan and it is mentioned repeatedly in the NT and through prophecy and allegory in the OT as well. Believing Jesus is the Son of God is like Newton’s First Law.

  • 65. Quester  |  March 17, 2010 at 2:30 am

    I don’t know if every nuance of the Bible is the word of God, but I do believe much of it (if not indeed all of it) is divinely inspired.

    What do you mean by “divinely inspired”, and why do you believe this?

    All this to say that I believe Jesus is the Son of God because the Bible hammers that point over and over again.

    And that’s Big House’s point. Instead of conceding God’s existence, Jesus’ existence, and Jesus as God’s son, a skeptic would ask “How do you know?” This would bring you quickly to the Bible, and then you could argue about the Bible as God’s Word. A skeptic can concede points for the sake of an argument, but you were conceding your argument for the sake of a point.

    Do you think someone has to believe all of it is God’s word in order to be a Christian?

    Demonstrably not. But if you have no way to tell which bits are God’s Word, you are a Christian who is creating your own god to match your own desires and preconceptions, instead of a Christian who is seeking a god who might actually be there. Or do you have a way of knowing which bits are God’s Word and which are man’s invention?

    Believing Jesus is the Son of God is like Newton’s First Law.

    Except that we can know what is meant by “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it” and test this law discover where it does and does not work. If we can not define “God”, “Jesus” nor the relationship between them, the sentence, “Jesus is the Son of God” is entirely without meaning. Without meaning, we can not test it for accuracy. Without accuracy, it is not in any way useful. Put simply, believing Jesus is the Son of God is nothing like Newton’s First Law, in any manner whatsoever. You may wish a different analogy. Or a different religion.

    I don’t mean to be coming across harshly here, Tim, I’m just having a very hard time making sense out of what you’re saying.

  • 66. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 17, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Or do you have a way of knowing which bits are God’s Word and which are man’s invention?

    The Holy Spirit, obviously! This is evidenced by the fact that everyone who has the Holy Spirit interprets the Bible in the same way.

    Wait…

  • 67. Dale701  |  March 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Grace……….
    I have trouble understanding where christians find all the love for the poor from christ.
    When they had the expensive ointmint, he did not sell and give to the poor.
    When he fed people, all were fed, rich and poor.
    He had no money to give, because he had no coins from cesar.
    Show me where all this special treatment to the poor is?

    And another, is christ’s family values!
    He had no kids.
    He told the apostles to abandon there wives and children.
    I cannot find where he even had a job.
    He was a lofer who hung out with low lifes!
    publicians and sinners

    I believe how a person lives tells more about a person than what he says.
    Words are cheap. Actions are not.

  • 68. Joe  |  March 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Dale—

    You may want to go back and read the many accounts of the lepers, blind, deaf, halt and lame that Jesus healed.

  • 69. Ubi Dubium  |  March 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Sure, this being (who is supposedly one and the same being as an omniscient god) healed lepers, but never bothered to tell anyone the actual cause of leprosy, or that it was curable? Or bothered telling people about some of the preventable causes of blindness? No, he just let people think disease was caused by demons, and could be cured by wishing hard enough, and holy spit.

    Sounds like nothing more than the superstition of the day, plus a few second-hand reports of “miraculous cures”. I’m not impressed.

  • 70. Anonymous  |  March 19, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Ubi—

    LOL not impressed by miracles? OK :>)

  • 71. Joe  |  March 19, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Oops forgot to put name again. Anonymous is me. :)

  • 72. The de-Convert  |  March 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Dale,

    And another, is christ’s family values!

    See: http://de-conversion.com/2007/03/27/wwjd-series-jesus-and-family-values/

  • 73. Ubi Dubium  |  March 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    LOL not impressed by miracles? OK :>)

    I might be impressed by actual miracles. But I’m not impressed by a bunch of old stories about miracles. People spin tall tales all the time, and always have. As far as I can see, Jesus healing lepers is as believable as Odysseus poking out the eye of the cyclops. Bring on something real, something that can be measured, or something that was independently verified by people with no vested interest in the story being believed.

    The supernova of 1054? Specifically mentioned by writers in several different parts of the world. And we can see the nebula it left behind. That’s a believable ancient event.

    The Sun stopping in the sky? Somebody would have noticed that and written about it. A Zombie outbreak in Jerusalem? Someone other than Matthew should have noticed. Leprosy cures? Word would have spread and people would have been coming from all over the Roman empire. It would have gotten noticed if it were real. But nowhere is that kind of stuff mentioned except in the religious writings of someone trying to make converts. Tall tales.

  • 74. Dale701  |  March 22, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I said….
    Joe………
    I have trouble understanding where christians find all the love for the poor from christ.

    68. Joe | March 18, 2010 at 11:22 am
    Dale—
    You may want to go back and read the many accounts of the lepers, blind, deaf, halt and lame that Jesus healed.

    So, you think these people were all poor, prove it, Joe.
    Since most people are poor, you will also need a statistical advantage for the poor healed, to counter my assertion.

    And while you are at it, why not heal all the blind etc…of the world, this would have been noticed throughout the world.
    God sure had no problem killing in mass quantities!
    Why not healing?
    I know, it is because this god does not exist and germs and natural disasters do.

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Attention Christian Readers

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

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

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