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Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

fargoThe last time I wrote on this site I was concerned with the “meaning of life” (in parts one and two). The theme continues in this post (as well as a continuation from one of Simen’s articles), but only because the questions I have been asking myself and others has consistently led back to one answer, despite the variety of questions. I have been asking myself why I believe what I did when I was an evangelical Christian and why others continue to believe what they do – in relation to that which we cannot perceive by the five senses. Granted, there are many of those who simply do not engage in such self-reflection. This is as common among non-religionists as it is religionists. However, if you visit sites such as this one or even your favourite seminarian blog, then you probably do think about the deeper aspects of life – continually questioning your own assumptions and conclusions as well as others.

When I took a “Christianity and Contemporary Thought” course at my Bible college, one of our texts included James W. Sire’s The Universe Next Door. The book is essentially an oversimplified, biased walk-through of some major philosophical worldviews without too much polemic…

Continue Reading September 25, 2007 at 9:50 pm 64 comments

The Meaning of Life: Part II of II

The fallacy that we all abide by one paradigm (or at least that we should) has led many Christians, both those of the conservative typology as well of the “floundering liberal” (Falwell’s words, not mine), to believe that non-believers have no ultimate purpose or meaning in life. Yet they do not realize that this unfair accusation is no different than the atheist who would also unfairly place his or her paradigm on the Christian and proclaim that a worship of an imaginary being and the subsequent false hope for a life after this one is foolishly nihilistic and deters the “believer” from living a purposeful life.

In my previous post I expressed my wariness with the so-called meaningful Christian purpose. I stopped short, however, of offering my own “secular” meaning of life. The conservative pundit I quoted in the previous part recognized, more or less, that a non-believer is fully capable of living of meaningful life. This meaning, however, is limited to the ontological realm. The pundit could not see an ultimate, or teleological meaning for a secularist’s life. To many Christians, the atheist’s view is that we are born, we live for ourselves, we die by ourselves. Finito. Apparently, if their god is added to the equation, even if the only purpose is to bow before him, at least it is something. I believe that this has led Christians to adhere to a false dualism that is so present in gnostic paradigms: the material is empty, the spirit is where life is found. Yet everything in observable reality tells us otherwise. The lack of evidence for either a god or heaven leads one to wonder how it is that a theist can have such a pessimistic view of the material realm…

Continue Reading August 17, 2007 at 10:00 am 24 comments

The Meaning of Life: Part I of II

alpha2.gifI’m going to be honest. I think that there is one thing that scares humans so much that we make fantasy worlds that flow with milk and honey, worlds that are controlled by perfected beings of enlightened wisdom and ultimate power: the meaninglessness of life. Amongst the fury of passionate arguments in the responses to one of Roopster’s posts, one commenter (#42) randomly proclaimed,

“You are confused yourself Mr. Ape…
Try to understand. Why do you exist? What is your purpose in life? Do you exist to eat, work and sleep? Think again Mr. Ape…”

I shrugged off the comment along with the brutally useless dialogue I had gotten myself into. Yet I have come to understand that this seems to be a core issue whenever religionists of any sort proselytize to secularists, so I bookmarked the comment in my mind and promised myself to get around to it. We all know that the question itself is quite poor from an apologetic standpoint. Christianity, on any level, does not really offer any more “meaning” than any other religious movement. It is, rather, a purely rhetorical device that plays on an individual’s insecurity with who or what they are in the universe. It is used by almost every major religion, almost universally as a evangelical tool, or, at best, an apologetic for belief itself…

Continue Reading August 16, 2007 at 1:51 pm 18 comments

Perfecting God’s “Perfect” Law?

jesus_law.jpgEvery so often I am simply astonished by how theologically minded individuals can perform radical surgery on the Bible to cop out of adherence to moral depravities. What further amuses me is the blatantly ignorant “there are no Biblical contradictions” statement. Biblical depravity and contradiction always rears its head whenever criticism of the Old Testament is at hand. Defenders of Biblical integrity then argue that we cannot know God’s plan and so examples of child sacrifice and genocide may be brushed aside – sometimes God just needs to get his hands dirty to get the job done (and because those Egyptians and Hittites were going to sheol anyway). But do these sweeping apologetic brushes do for the law what they can do for their god’s character?

Any Biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, knows that the Jewish religion is built on a strictly adhered to and enforced law of God, the Mitzvah: the 613 commands found in the Torah. This law is somewhat problematic for contemporary Biblical literalists for several reasons, the most obvious being that it just isn’t cool to put people to death for everything anymore…

Continue Reading August 6, 2007 at 10:25 am 22 comments

The Persecution Complex

immolation.jpgBlessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when [men] shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all kind of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven… You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:10-14a)

It could be argued that this is the beginning of the Christian persecution complex – or at least the reason for it. Of course, the early church had plenty of “valid” reasons to be persecuted – their core beliefs were directly opposed to the established Jewish community from which they arose and, furthermore, the early Christians, especially of the Pauline variety, were downright treasonous in the eyes of the Caesar-worship of the time. These beliefs had little to do with morality, and everything to do with loyalty. Martyrdom – not the kamikaze murderous kind of present extremism – became an increasingly noble cause. In the time of Ignatius – writing in the late 1st century, possibly predating some canonical gospels and pseudo-Pauline epistles – martyrdom was perhaps the single greatest act of faith that a Christian could show (see Ignatius’ letter to the Romans). It was, after all, the ultimate act of following Christ…

Continue Reading July 29, 2007 at 6:00 am 34 comments

Declaring War on ‘Saint’ Paul

00930.jpgIn my last semester of my undergraduate studies, I took a seminar course on the early Christian church in Thessalonika. Much of the source material was, of course, Paul’s “first” letter to the Thessalonians – that is, the first letter that shows up in the Christian canon and that we have available to us. During my research for my term paper I came across some interesting statements regarding Paul, made by some very famous people in the last several centuries (there are several lists like this on the internet). It appears that Benjamin Franklin serendipitously anticipated this onslaught against Paul when he declared at Samuel Hemphill’s synod trial, “A virtuous heretic shall be saved before a wicked Christian.” Has modernity and postmodernity declared war on Paul? Are the attacks warranted? How do contemporary theologians defend such assaults?

St. Paul then, it seems, preach’d another and quite different Gospel from what was preach’d by Peter and the other Apostles. (Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher, 1737)

Continue Reading July 22, 2007 at 9:00 am 37 comments

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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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