Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

Buffet-style Religion

I read a post over at Thomas Verenna’s blog tonight that I found very interesting. He had been discussing the historicity of the gospels with a friend recently, and at one point he posed these two questions:

(a) It *may* be true that portrayals of ancient figures have some historical kernels, but not always. How would one prove that a portrayal of someone is the same as one’s historical figure?

(b) It *may* be true that the portrayals in the gospels of the disciples are either somewhat or wholly based upon historical events; but how — that is, by what criteria — can one determine which event is historical and which isn’t?

I found that to be a very succinct way of stating how I view the reliability of the gospels — actually, the Bible in its entirety. If we agree that parts of it are suspect or even downright incorrect, how do we determine which parts are trustworthy? With other ancient texts, we tend to assume that the miraculous portions are not as reliable, but we usually give credence to the other portions, unless they’re contested by a better source. But with religions, the opposite seems to happen. We (some of us) acknowledge that the Bible is historically inaccurate in places, yet some of these same people choose to believe that the miracles did happen.

In some ways, I understand why some people want to believe Christianity is true — at least certain parts of it. But I have trouble understanding how they can actually believe it once they become aware of some of its problems. I mean, I’d like to believe that Santa Claus is real. Who wouldn’t want to believe in a kind, selfless individual who loves everyone and brings them gifts once a year? But (spoiler alert) he’s not real, and I can’t force myself to believe in him just because it would be nice. That’s why I have trouble with the a la cart method of religion where you pick and choose the parts you like and just ignore the parts you don’t. To me, it’s all one big package. And taken in its entirety, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

28 thoughts on “Buffet-style Religion”

  1. The Passover thing does seem like a flimsy problem in a way. But I do still think it’s a problem. And it’s true, I hold a high standard for what I think a divine text would look like. Part of my reasoning for that is because when God supposedly showed signs in the Old or New Testaments, they were incredible signs that were unquestionable. When Moses asked for signs at the burning bush, those were impressive signs. Or what about Elijah on Mt Carmel? The same goes for just about any example in the Bible. So I figure if our one real sign today is the Bible, it should really be impressive. Unklee, I know you feel that we have more signs (including miraculous) than just the Bible, but I’m just going through my own thought process right now.

    That being said, I see what you guys are saying. I just view it a bit differently.

    One quick note about the Jewish/Roman time thing. It seems that all 4 gospels use Jewish time exclusively. Mark only uses time when he talks about Jesus’ crucifixion. But 15:33 he talks about darkness over the land from the 6th hour to the 9th, which is exactly what is said in Matthew 27:45. That already seems like it’s using Jewish time, but the parable in Matthew 20 makes it obvious that Matthew (and thus Mark) used Jewish time. John seems to use it too, as can be seen in John 1:38-39.

    Anyway, just thought I’d mention that, since we’ve been talking about it. But even if there’s a flat-out discrepancy between John and the synoptics on this point, I don’t think it should cause any real problems for you guys, considering the view you hold on inspiration.

    Thanks for talking it out — I always enjoy y’all’s comments.


  2. Nate, I don’t think there’s any more to be said just now – we both understand each other and we disagree. So I will just make the point that this statement of yours is key:

    “I hold a high standard for what I think a divine text would look like.”

    As much as anything else, this expectation is a barrier between you and belief. I wonder whether your (or my) ability to know such a thing is strong enough to bear that weight?

    Best wishes, and thanks.


  3. Nate, First off I have to say I do read your posts a lot lately but don’t comment much other than to show you support in your quest for finding truth because I don’t like to debate much anymore. Even though I graduated from Auburn with Honors in only three years some of the stuff you guys discuss on here goes way over my head and I could not even begin to try and win a religious argument with any of you lol nor do I want to. I just honestly even as a believer have always had some of the same questions and love to hear different perspectives. I would love to discuss some privately with you sometimes but don’t have your email and worry about posting certain things that might get a certain response. I know you keep it civil and all but I have had enough accidental online debates for life lol Anyways, I know this is a really old post but I keep seeing Santa mentioned in even some newer ones, not always by you or in the blog but sometimes in the comments. As you know my beliefs are somewhere in between your old ones and you current ones Heck sometimes they might change by the day or hour lol and at one point were close to your current ones. I try to keep an open mind and Jay and I are trying to raise Aubrie to also. You seem just as sure as your beliefs now as you did before which is maybe why I have never been able to stay one extreme or another.

    Anyways just wanted to share a perspective I have on religion or God or even just life in general that involves Santa. I have seen so many say Santa is not real but he was and he is. And I am not talking about the historical figure and I have not lost my mind either lol Santa was our parents, so was the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. They are all real. When I found out it was my parents putting glitter on dollars and it wasn’t really tooth fairy dust and that there were no flying reindeer, of course I was a little disappointed at first but I also felt so loved that my parents went through all of that trouble and that in itself if more magical and amazing to me as cheesy as it made sound. instead of ever getting upset they “deceived me” or “lied to me” I was grateful they did all of that for me. They could have revealed the entire truth sooner and still did it or could have not done anything at all but that would have been no fun lol Just because it is not how I thought or maybe even thought I wanted at one point doesn’t make it not real. The reality was actually better to me.

    I read an article recently where a woman finally told her child at 10 because she had more faith than most children and still believed and she hated to take it away but knew it was time. Her mom did not even tell her they were not real, she simply told her she did not know if they were but that her parents were the ones doing the work for them if they were. The little girl ended up being so positive about it. She told her mom it was a good thing she told her or her kids never would have gotten anything haha. Aubrie once asked me if mermaids and unicorns were real. Not wanting to tell a 4-year old no I just told her that I had never seen any before. He response was “Mommy, just because you have not seen something before doesn’t mean it is not real.” Faith of a child lol I told her she was right because she was. I know none of this is proof of anything but it is the things that can’t be proven or unproven, a personal relationship with God I feel is real that keeps me believing despite having some of the same questions as you (I have had many answered in time though and hope for more but there really are some I don’t think i will get in this life that will always require a little faith). Sometimes I can explain it all away as coincidence but other times I simply can’t and I love those moments because I do want to believe in a loving God and that there is so much more than this.


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