How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 1

Lately I’ve been reading The Bittersweet End, and I’ve been quite engrossed in the way his story is unfolding. He began the blog as a place to gather his thoughts about a few doubts he was dealing with. Over the last year, he has moved further and further away from belief, until he now pretty much considers himself an atheist. He has just recently talked to his wife and his pastor about it (he’s still attending church), and it’s been very moving to hear about those experiences through his writing. It’s reminded me of my own de-conversion.

I started this blog almost 6 years ago. That’s a pretty good life for a blog — I don’t often run across any that are that old. In fact, it’s made it impractical for me to display my archives without a drop-down; it would just take up too much space. But it’s not like I’ve blogged constantly through all that time. In 2007, I went back to school and got a 2nd Bachelor’s degree. I didn’t complete it until December of 2008, so you’ll notice that I didn’t really blog anything that whole year. 2009 saw a little more activity, but barely. I only made 3 posts that year, and I posted nothing in 2010. So I essentially had a 3-year hiatus from this blog. What happened in the meantime to make my return in 2011 a complete reversal from my original approach?

Well, like I said, I was in school during 2008, plus I was still working full time and I had 2 young children. Blogging just had to take a back seat. But 2008 also saw Barack Obama’s historic election to President of the US. I’m a Democrat, and I have been for a long time. But living in the South and associating with conservative Christians, you tend to be inundated with Republican talking points. It’s not that I have anything against Republicans. I just sometimes have trouble understanding why conservative Christians identify with them so much right now. And during the 2008 election, that stood out to me more and more. I often heard my Christian friends (and I was a Christian too at this point) talk badly about efforts to provide universal health care, for instance. They were against abortion, yet they didn’t support welfare programs that would help take care of the mothers and babies once they’ve been born. I had trouble squaring that with what Jesus said here:

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
– Matt 25:37-40

I felt that their position ran counter to Christian values. I was really bothered by that experience, but I wasn’t naive enough to blame Christianity itself when these were just faults in its adherents. However, I was part of a denomination known as the church of Christ. They believe they are the one true church that Christ established on the Day of Pentecost. Since the CoC thinks it’s the one true example of Christianity in the world, they believe that virtually everyone else is going to Hell. By the time 2008 rolled around, I no longer agreed with them on that. But I still thought God had a high standard set for salvation, and I still believed in a literal Hell. So when I saw how the group of Christians that claimed to follow Christ more closely than anyone seemed more concerned with keeping their taxes low than with helping those less fortunate, it became hard to rationalize how they could be on God’s good side. It was also hard to see how the “heretics and heathens” that did try to help the less fortunate could be going to Hell.

And it didn’t stop with social issues. Members of the CoC are often known for their extensive Bible knowledge. That’s admirable. But there were still many in the congregations who obviously didn’t think deeply about their beliefs or doctrines. Many of them had just been raised in the church and didn’t seem to know very much about why they believed what they believed. Of course, that’s a common problem in any denomination. But since the CoC takes the position that others will go to Hell for not understanding Christianity more perfectly, what would happen with those casual members in the CoC? Would they be found acceptable just because they were in the right version of Christianity? If so, isn’t that unfair to all the other casual members of any other denomination? And if the CoC is really the one right version of Christianity, but its casual members aren’t saved, then just imagine how small the number of saved will be.

In early May of 2008, the country of Myanmar (or Burma) was devastated by a tsunami. Over 138,000 people died. I was really bothered by that event. Myanmar is a very poor country, and almost 90% of the population is Buddhist. According to my Christian beliefs, almost every one of those 138,000 people went to Hell, after living in poverty and dying in a horrific manner. Why would God allow that?

My thought processes during this time showed me that according to my beliefs, the vast, vast majority of people who had ever lived were going to Hell. That’s a pretty bleak picture. Surely God wouldn’t be okay with that scenario. So I began studying about Hell to see if I had misunderstood what the Bible said about it.

I’ll talk more about that in the next post.

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178 thoughts on “How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 1

  1. Hell. The amount of times I heard family and friends say I was going to hell… (sigh) I proclaimed my atheism when I was about six or so. I’m 42 now. Let me tell you, I’ve heard it a lot between then and now. I accept their denouncements with as much grace as one can muster, and, to tell you the truth, it doesn’t really matter to me anymore what some folks think. But, I’m glad that you saw what a horrible thing that was to think about other non-believers (of your particular faith at the time).

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  2. You and I think alike on many things. I too feel that the left side of politics is closer to Jesus’ teachings than the right. I too doubt God would create a world where 90% or more people suffer torment for ever and ever, even if they never had the opportunity to do anything about it. I too feel horrified about the suffering people experience.

    I believe there are answers and deeper truths, but they aren’t always obvious or easy.

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  3. Pingback: How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 2 | Finding Truth

  4. Pingback: How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 3 | Finding Truth

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  12. Pingback: How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 10 | Finding Truth

  13. That is a fundamental flaw. God supposedly loves us all, but sends most of us to Hell? And not even for the bad things we do, but because of what we don’t believe. But still claiming this same god is loving and perfect. It absolutely defies all manner of logic and reason. I look forward to reading the rest.

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  14. I’m hooked…so much for writing today (sigh). LOL.

    Random thoughts as I peruse through this series…

    I had a run-in with CoC. It was my first experience with those denominations that place an emphasis on “knowledge” instead of the path (meaning, of course, their interpretation). It is Pharisee in nature, and the most obtuse blindness, which your post echoes…

    Any denomination or church that claims they are the “one true church”, and that all others will go to hell for not adhering to their doctrine and dogma, should be left behind as a warped bunch…

    Sadly, I see another warped version of Christianity portrayed in this church you used to attend. On to the next post…

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  15. Don, you wrote:

    “Any denomination or church that claims they are the “one true church”, and that all others will go to hell for not adhering to their doctrine and dogma, should be left behind as a warped bunch…”

    But isin’t this essentially what all bible believing Christian communities teach to some extent: that anyone who doesn’t accept Christ will go to hell?

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  16. “But isn’t this essentially what all bible believing Christian communities teach to some extent: that anyone who doesn’t accept Christ will go to hell?”

    I thought about writing a response here but realized that the answer deserved a separate post. I’ll try to get to it soon, and I’ll pingback this post. 🙂

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  17. Pingback: How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 11 | Finding Truth

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  19. Pingback: How to make an Atheist. | haydendlinder

  20. Hello Nate, I was directed to this post by Arkenaten. We were having a discussion on John Zande’s blog:

    http://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/christianitys-nightmare-question/comment-page-1/#comment-3213

    John Hartness seems to have already touched on this, but I would like to elaborate further on your statement that “the CoC takes the position that others will go to Hell for not understanding Christianity.” I’m very glad you came to realize that this is completely false.

    As you can tell by my nick, I’m a Christian; but I think the emphasis people place on UNDERSTANDING Christianity is entirely misplaced. For one thing, people do a much, much, much better job of misunderstanding Christianity than they do of understanding it. Understanding Christianity is very hard, and not too many people can do it. Worse, even if you manage to understand Christianity what good will it do you? None at all!

    Fortunately, understanding Christianity isn’t really all that important. You only need to understand an eeensy weensy teensy tiny bit of Christianity in order to practice it — and if there’s anything to be gained by Christianity it’s to be gained by practicing it. “Understanding”, as you’ve heard it said, “is the booby prize!”

    … I’ll continue to Part II ….

    Peace,

    Paul

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  21. There is only one single point to understand, which is ironically, a lie.
    A Christian must accept that Jesus is God but to understand Christianity means to recognize that this is a lie.

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  22. Ark,

    Understanding Christianity is very difficult and is not something everyone can do. Misunderstanding Christianity, on the other hand, is very, very easy and there are billions who do it — many of whom host blogs that enable them to easily spread their misunderstandings to others.

    Jesus was a man, an ordinary man like any other man. Theologians use the phrase “true man” to indicate that Jesus had no special powers or abilities or feelings or knowledge that would place him outside the boundaries of ordinary human capacity. You yourself, in an earlier comment, quoted Mark 10, 18: “Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

    You understand that Jesus is a man — and you understand truly and it is good for you to hold on to this truth and not be deceived by the thought that there was anything about Jesus that equipped him with super-powers. He, like all men, lived a life of dependence upon God.

    You understand truly; but you do not understand the Mystery of the Incarnation. Very few understand it. The Incarnation is to Theology what subatomic particles are to physics. Only a very few people, for example, really understand anything about the Higgs Boson; but those who do understand attempt to give analogies and tell stories to give the rest of us a glimpse of understanding — but even those glimpses evaporate under close inspection.

    The good thing is, though, a person can lead a completely productive and fulfilling life without ever knowing anything about the Higgs Boson beyond the crude fantasies and fables that “real physicists” tell those of us who are incapable of truly comprehending. The other good thing is that you can lead a completely productive and fulfilling life without ever knowing anything about the Incarnation that isn’t self-contradictory. No problem.

    I say this over and again — we place too much emphasis on understanding Christianity and not enough on practicing it. In a misguided attempt to understand concepts beyond their comprehension, Christians have generated all sorts of silly and foggy notions that have confused dull minds and repulsed sharp ones.

    One needs only understand a teensy weensy bit of Christianity in order to begin practicing it. We ought to accept that understanding will only begin after a sufficient amount of practice; instead, we insist on a acquiring a sufficient amount of understanding before we’re willing to begin practicing.

    You’re not rejecting Christianity — you’re rejecting bad practices.

    Peace,

    Paul

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  23. @Captain

    Sorry, have to disagree. If Jesus was only a man, and there was nothing supernatural about him, then Christianity is nothing but a philosophy (at best), and the ravings of a madman at worst. Either way, Christianity, as far as a system of beliefs to live by, quite frankly, sucks. 2000 years of tradition did not misunderstand this key point.

    I have a few opinions about Ark (and I don’t give a damn what his response is because of those opinions) but I would never accuse of him of misconstruing what he is rejecting. He, the author of this blog, and other commentators on this blog, may have some misunderstandings, but they are all quite theologically adept.

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  24. @ Paul.
    Absolute utter hogwash. There is nothing to understand about incarnation. This again is a church narrative construct.
    You have stated that you believe Jesus is the christian god and now you come with this bunkum that even someone as wackadoodle as Don is wont to wade in and say that you are out of the park.
    The crap you espouse is enough to confuse a William Lane Craig Groupie on a good day.

    You believe Jesus is your god. Just like Don, just like every Christian. Period .Finito. There is not need to worry or concern your self with anything else but this.

    If you are trying to philosophize something else out of this for any reason…don’t bother. It has been done to death by the likes of Aquinas and his ilk.

    So, To reiterate
    A Christian must accept that Jesus is God but to understand Christianity means to recognize that this is a lie.

    Accept it or don’t. It wont alter the fact that it is the truth.

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  25. @ Don
    ”I have a few opinions about Ark (and I don’t give a damn what his response is because of those opinions)”

    You believe in a lie and follow a doctrine based upon this lie.
    You are a Christian and while you remain one your opinion regarding anything about me in these matters is less than worthless.

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  26. I think humans have an inherent desire to categorise and organise. After all, generally speaking, we are pattern seekers. For many months now I have tried to deconstruct faith, but this only accomplished a move away from faith.

    I think deconstruction is useful, but to deconstruct faith is moving away from faith and focusing on something entirely different. Like the separating of a language, those words that do actually hold insight are deconstructed to symbols, mere lines and shapes in isolation.

    Aren’t words merely just a pattern of shapes, arranged in patterns, that have collective meaning attached to them? But I believe words represent something far more valuable than this.

    Words are an extension of our language, of our values. Words assist us in understanding truth. Words are shapes turned into symbols; but they represent something as point of reference, where value can be attached to them.

    In contrast, like deconstructing a painting, separating and focusing on one single brushstroke at a time, takes away from the overall meaning of the picture. If there is any true truth and value to be understood, the process of deconstruction strips this value as it attempts to fragment a whole. This turns a picture into a thousand lines of paint, missing the picture.

    From this perspective a picture cannot be understood. In contrast, I believe faith cannot be understood through deconstruction. It is then no longer faith you are looking at.

    It is about perspective I believe, we cannot reflect on both the picture and a single stroke at the same time. If there is any genuine truth to be found in a written account, or a painting, then it is missed in critical debate because the value is not understandable in isolation, without practice.

    I believe humanity shouldn’t forcefully dictate how or where other human’s beings place their meaning or value. That is between each person and God.

    I am tired of going around in circles, it is not productive and I ask myself, does this really help anyone? I am tired of trying to deconstruct divinity. I fear I will waste my life in this loop if I don’t stop.

    For me, this deconstruction is based on a fear I have of not knowing, of not being sure and of not being in control. From a Christian perspective, there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).

    I think the biggest and scariest question is a question of trust. Do I trust God is love, do I trust there is a big picture?

    I don’t want to deconstruct faith anymore; I believe I need to follow it, to see where it leads.

    Kind regards, Ryan

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  27. Ryan, that was a very profound and well-expressed reflection! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. (You have been asking a lot of questions, and I have often wondered where you were at.)

    Experiencing things from the outside and from the inside are two very different things. We can assess belief in God from the outside, via the philosophical “proofs” and other evidence, but we can also assess christian belief by living it and seeing if it works. Both methods tell us something, but they are different things.

    I wish you well in trying a different approach. Best wishes, and thanks.

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  28. ”I don’t want to deconstruct faith anymore; I believe I need to follow it, to see where it leads.”

    Ah..sigh…How does that song go? Another One Bites the Dust.
    Never mind,…Crispyuns are always falling off the wagon.
    Eventually there will be no wagon to fall off of.
    Plenty of time….;)

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  29. Hi Ryan,

    It’s good to hear from you, and like unkleE, I’ve often wondered lately where you were in your thought process.

    I like the way you illustrated the deconstruction process that often happens when we put faith under scrutiny. The “not knowing” is really difficult — and it’s the main thing I struggled with too.

    I’m not sure if it’s helpful to you, but I got a lot of comfort from this idea: if the God of Christianity is real, then we can trust the promise of Matthew 7 that says “seek and you shall find.” You and I are seekers, and I think that means we have nothing to fear. We’ve each come to our opinions honestly, and as long as we always try to keep open minds and find truth, we’re doing exactly what we should be doing. If a more deistic god exists, then he’s probably a pretty decent guy that would also appreciate truth-seekers. If no god exists, then we really have nothing to worry about anyway. In the end, it all comes down to this quote, for me:

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
    — Marcus Aurelius

    And if you want something even easier to remember, you can take this gem from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure:

    Be excellent to each other.

    🙂

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  30. I figure if focusing on Christ compels to focus more on others than myself, and actively care and serve then how is this not valuable and true?

    If faith in Jesus teaches me to (1) not judge, that (2) the measure I give will be the measure I get back, to (3) treat others as masterpieces of God, (4) that sacrifice and service are necessary in love.

    In our existence, what is more real and more effective than this? What is more valuable than this focus?

    One of the most frustrating things for me is that I am inconsistent in this focus, and I have no one to blame but myself for compromising these values through my actions. But this is no reason for giving up and beating myself up. I figure if I keep my focus on Jesus and His teachings then these inconsistencies will become less and less frequent. I think a lot of our actions stem from where we place our focus.

    Ultimately, I just want to be a consistent and kind person who effectively cares for people I have the privilege to meet. In those times I have focused on Christs teachings and followed through faith I have found that I have been far more practical and effective in doing this.

    Arkenaten – What are Crispyuns? 🙂

    UnkleE- Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate those posts as well, I’ll refer back to a few of them, and they are really well written and informative.

    Nate – I really love reading about Marcus Aurelius, he seemed like a real man of integrity. I have started to read his Meditations, actually for a short time considered becoming a stoic 🙂 I think there is a lot of value in it as a way of living, although I do branch off from the Ancients understanding of Pantheism. I think Stoicism is quite misunderstood as a philosophy in today’s world.

    Thanks to all three of you for continuing to challenge and inform me through discussions and comments. Hope you all have a really productive and safe week.

    All the best, Ryan

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  31. Nate: Just curious……

    Do you think your change of mind had anything to do with your being raised in the CoC? I was sent there as a kid, but stopped going at about 12. God changed me when I was 25 at an independent bible church. Since then I’ve studied various groups a bit, including CoC, and known a few folks that go there. Since, as you know, they don’t have a doctrinal statement, there are some variations between the churches, but since all the leaders go to the same schools they tend to think similarly. They are rather legalistic, and teach a heavy emphasis on obedience to please God. Yours didn’t happen to be connected with Boston, did it?

    I knew one lady who was raised CoC and ended up in a large frustration, thinking she’d lose her salvation every time she sinned. Plus, I’ve never seen one who had any emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit at all. Just curious if the emphasis on obedience affected your current views.

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  32. Hi humblesmith,

    Thanks for the question. Yes, I do think the fact that I was raised in the CoC had a lot to do with my leaving Christianity. I’ve always been a bit of a freethinker — my parents taught me that I shouldn’t just accept whatever I heard from teachers and preachers, but should check everything against the Bible. So over my time in the church, there were several doctrines that I eventually disagreed with them on. And yes, I think their legalism is problematic. In most of the congregations I’ve had dealings with, they have some consistency issues in which rules should be bound and which ones are simply a matter of conscience. And yes, they believed in the Holy Spirit, but weren’t very clear in what it did in this day and age.

    The version of the CoC I was raised in wasn’t involved with Boston, that I know of. Each congregation was independent. We observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday, we sang a capella, we believed baptism by immersion was necessary for salvation, we did not support orphan’s homes or schools (at least not with the treasury), and we didn’t have a fellowship hall. We also didn’t believe in once saved always saved. Hopefully that gives you an idea of which branch I was associated with.

    The main reason I think it moved me away from Christianity is that the CoC really emphasizes going back to the Bible for everything. I think that’s pretty admirable, considering it’s the basis for Christianity. But that eventually led me into studying the textual discrepancies and prophecy fulfillment issues. I just reached a point where I could no longer believe it was actually divinely inspired. That’s probably a conclusion I would have reached much earlier, but I just wasn’t aware that there were any issues in those areas. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t believe in God and the Bible, so I never had cause to research anything beyond doctrinal issues.

    So I think my loss of faith had much more to do with focus on scripture, not really anything about the emphasis on obedience.

    Thanks again for the comments today. It’s late — I’m gonna crash. Have a good night. 🙂

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  33. I was sent to CoC from a small child until I didn’t want to go anymore at about 12 or 13. So I was a “nothing” until 25 when I was saved. After that I researched groups and churches and denominations, what separated them and why. So I’m familiar with what the CoC teaches and how it functions. The Boston group is especially legalistic. The teachings you describe are pretty well mainstream CoC.

    One big issue with CoC is they don’t believe in summarizing what they believe into a doctrinal statement or statements of belief. As you say, they try to refer to the Bible for everything. Which is fine, except that I’ve found CoC is especially poor at discerning between what is a major issue and what is a minor one. Hence they’ve had a myriad splits over everything imaginable…..musical instruments, what to call the minister……(ever hear of the “one cuppers”?)

    Different Christian groups have very different views of the Bible. The mainstream, main-branch denominations have generally taken the position that we can pick and choose what we think is inspired and reject what we don’t like. They take a very different approach than conservative groups like CoC. I just didn’t know if you’d ever explored them.

    As for prophesy, have you seen “Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophesy” By Barton Payne? It was referred to me as excellent, but I haven’t read it yet. It supposedly deals with all the issues, but as I said, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

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  34. That’s really interesting — thanks for sharing more of your back story. From my experiences, you’ve absolutely nailed the CoC. And yes, I’ve even heard of the “one-cuppers.” 🙂 The funny thing about the CoC is that even though they don’t supposedly have a “creed,” and they don’t put out anything that lists their particular beliefs, most of the congregations I’ve been to have tons of tracts available in the lobby that pretty much perform the same function. One of the things that really got to me as I god older was the hypocrisy that was often exhibited when they criticized other sects of Christianity for things they were also guilty of, but just didn’t realize.

    I have looked into some other brands of Christianity, but my whole disillusionment ended up coming from the Bible itself. I just got to a point where I couldn’t believe any of it anymore.

    And I haven’t heard of the book you mention — I’ll add it to my Amazon list and try to pick it up soon.

    Thanks again!

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  35. Sorry, but the CoC cannot be the One True Church…b/c the CoG is the One True Church! The Church of God! lol…I grew up a member of one of the now hundreds of CoG denominations, the Philadelphia Church of God (in Oklahoma City, not Pennsylvania). We also had a strong emphasis on KNOWLEDGE, and of course our interpretation of scripture was not an interpretation–it was letting the Bible interpret the Bible!

    We never had Hell. When you were dead you were dead, and all those (like the poor 138K who died on Myanmar) who died w/o knowing The Truth (R) would be raised up in a 2nd Resurrection just after the Millennium and given a chance to learn God’s Way and repent. That delayed me figuring out it was all a load of rubbish b/c it made God sound infinitely more Just and Loving than the god of all those False Christians who misinterpret the bible and claim an everlasting Hell Fire.

    LOL.

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  36. Amanda Dodson Gremillion

    Hey Nate! This is Amanda Dodson Gremillion. I lost touch with you guys and haven’t seen you in years unfortunately but found this blog again through mutual friends. Ironically I debated on here with you years ago as a fellow Christian of a different denomination with some different beliefs than you and now I actually agree with the views on some things you shared years ago I used to debate with you about and now you no longer do. Since we last talked years ago my husband got saved and started going to church with me some. Right before this however I almost became an atheist myself after going through really bad postpartum depression because around the time I had a baby I also lost my father and grandfather and was laid off from my job, had severe back pain and my husband eventually left me. Obviously he eventually came back and got saved and started going to church with me like I said before but it took a lot to get that 16 year prayer answered along with a lot of religious answers I had been seeking for a long time which resulted in me going back to church and getting closer to God than ever before. A lot like the story of Job in a lot of ways. I am not on here to debate or try and change your mind because I don’t agree with your new views of course I did not agree with your old ones either and truth for me has been in the middle, but I hope these new beliefs are just another journey to you finding all the answers you seek and I am praying for you because of my own beliefs. I have learned over the years that people’s beliefs do not change based on online debates, lol, it takes life experience and things happening personally with God and Jay and i have seen a lot of that recently in our lives, too much too agree with your current beliefs (although I agree with some if it I guess, I do believe in Evolution or parts of it anyways and believe in God at the same time). However, if you guys ever want to get together for dinner or any reason please let me know we would love to see you guys! We are always here as friends regardless of any of our religious beliefs.

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  37. Hey Amanda,

    It’s great to hear from you! I’m really sorry to hear about all the difficult things you went through a while back — I had no idea any of that was going on. Of course, I’m very glad to hear that things are much better now with you and Jay (tell him I said hi!).

    I appreciate your weighing in on this post, and I definitely remember the religious discussions we used to have. Yeah, I’ve pretty much gone 180 degrees from those days. 🙂

    Anyway, feel free to comment on here any time, if you like. It was really good to hear from you, and maybe we can all get together sometime this summer.

    Take care!

    Nate

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  38. Amanda Dodson Gremillion

    We would love to see you guys if you will email me amandalgremillion@gmail.com we can swap phone numbers etc if you want because you guys don’t have a facebook do you? And I might add some comments on here once I get a chance to read more. I said I wouldn’t debate but sometimes it is hard for me to resist lol we all went too long without talking to each other because apparently a lot has happened in all of our lives. Miss you guys!

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  39. elisha

    I can only said when 1/3 of the angel rebel in heaven, there is a lot of war going on in the heavenlies, but eventually all that rebellion will stop. you read about the war in Dan 10:13 too. Then you will find you are on that wrong side of the equation. God Bless you! I pray you find your way home and don’t get lost and misled. Matthew 7:13

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  40. William

    a lot of war in heaven. makes one wonder how long fallible man will last in heaven before he is cast out… that is if god still allows man to have “freewill” in heaven.

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  41. It’s amazing how similar the CoC’s self appointed salvation and the UPC I grew up with are. Alpha humans controlling the weak minded. Thanks be to God he gave us a mind to reason his non-existence. 🙂

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  42. A copy Mark Monroe’s comment, as well as Nate’s response, ended up in my email box the other day and has drawn my attention back to this comment thread. That’s the reason I’m here again. I had actually forgotten the fact that I commented back in March.

    Today, when I re-read what I’d written back then and read the responses to my comments (I’d forgotten it all) I felt really discouraged. I’ve long been looking for a website that will give me a chance to discuss philosophy with atheists — mostly because I think you guys are a lot closer to the truth than most folks who identify themselves as Christians — and I haven’t ever found a welcome. I certainly didn’t find a welcome here in March.

    What generally happens when I get involved in these threads is that I’ll respond to somebody who says something along the lines of, “Christians believe thus-and-thus which is ridiculous, or hypocritical, or just gives them an excuse to behave like complete beasts so I reject religion completely and that’s why I’m an atheist.”

    Almost always — check that, ALWAYS — the belief that provoked their ‘de-conversion’ is a belief I reject entirely. When I point that out, I’m told, by you guys, that I’m not really a Christian — that atheists really, really understand Christianity and that I misunderstand it. Sometimes I’m even accused of believing things that I don’t believe at all — things I find totally appalling.

    Here’s one I hear all the time from atheists: “Christianity is based on the Bible.” That’s not only wrong, it’s powerfully and explosively wrong! You guys supposedly believe in logic but saying that Christianity is based on the Bible is OBVIOUSLY illogical. Christianity was a going concern for twenty five years before the first book of the Christian Scriptures was even written. Your false assertion that my religion is based on the Bible implies that, at least at the start, Christianity was based on a book that DIDN’T EVEN EXIST. How illogical is that???

    In addition, Christians didn’t even agree on what the Bible is until it had been around for nearly three centuries. Even then, the Christians themselves weren’t pushing for a scriptural canon — Constantine was the one who insisted on having an “authorized” New Testament. Read your history!! Somehow, someway, people must have been practicing Christianity without the Bible for a dozen generations. And yet you say that Christianity is based on the Bible. When I tell you that’s wrong, you tell me I’m not a Christian. Whether I’m a Christian or not, all I have to be is a person with a brain in my head to know you’re all wrong when you say that Christianity is based on the Bible.

    Somebody please give me a reasonable response to my reasonable argument.

    Paul

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  43. Hi Paul!

    I’m very sorry you didn’t get a good reception here back in March. I really try to keep my blog an open place where people of all beliefs can discuss things with mutual respect. However, another goal of mine is to avoid censorship as much as possible, which is why I don’t moderate (or remove) comments. Sometimes those two goals compete with each other, so I’m sorry if you were caught in the crossfire.

    Christianity is a complex topic. I came from a faith tradition that was very much based on the Bible, as I suppose most Protestant sects are. It’s true that we shouldn’t say “real” Christianity is only based on the Bible, but I also think it would be incorrect to go to the opposite extreme. Some versions of Christianity are based on the Bible; others are not.

    But that said, I’d think the Bible is still very important. Before it was assembled, Christianity spread mostly through word of mouth, or through the influence of individual writings. But in the last 1600 years or so, the teachings of Christianity have been very closely linked to the Bible, haven’t they? It seems to me that it’s hard to talk about Christianity without getting around to the Bible. Out of curiosity, how do you get your particular beliefs?

    Thanks, and I hope you’ll come by whenever you can! Hopefully, you’ll have a better experience going forward (in other words, Ark, play nice!). 🙂

    Like

  44. @ Nate
    “(in other words, Ark, play nice!). :)”
    Sheesh…that’s right, blame me.

    @ Paul
    Wotcha Paul. You been hiding in the vestry?

    ”And yet you say that Christianity is based on the Bible. When I tell you that’s wrong, you tell me I’m not a Christian. ”

    The bible is just an old collection of scrolls along with the ”New Improved Old Testament”, all stuck together with glue made from dead slugs, after being divinely inspired and not at all using the “Eeeny, Meeny, Miny Mo..” method of theology.

    So, in effect while all those Christians were rushing around the countryside after Make Believe Paul had trail-blazed all over the place preaching from scrolls and oral tradition and stuff they were still preaching from the bible. Only a small bit of it. And those little bits had the tales of Jesus and this was important, right?

    Everyone’s favorite Christian murderer, St Constantine the Naughty just tried to move things along a bit, that’s all, because you know what the Catholics are like, if you leave em alone long enough they just make things up.
    And of course Marcion didn’t help much either,

    So, don’t worry, Paul, providing you believe that a man-god walked on water and came back to life after those rotten Jews had that Roman Wimp, Pontius crucify him I think you are definitely a Christian and as delusional as the rest of ’em.
    And if they call you nasty names again, come and tell me , okay?

    Super.

    Like

  45. @Nate

    POINT #1 – More flies with honey. I detect friendliness and respect in your comment and I very much appreciate it. I see I needn’t have been so cranky in my post.

    POINT #2 – The Bible. I don’t find it difficult at all to talk about Christianity without “getting around to the Bible.” In fact, even though I have both the moniker and the reputation of being ‘Captain Catholic’ I find that I spend more time un-teaching the Bible than I do teaching it. You will notice that the exegesis in my blog, http://reflectionsofacatholicchristian.wordpress.com/, is more of an attempt to relieve people of misguided notions than it is an effort to introduce new thoughts.

    POINT #3 – The Bible, again. I hope you will accept this analogy. The Bible is to faith what a cook book is to dinner. Eating is mandatory, reading is optional. No good cook follows the cook book slavishly, like a robot. She might make changes for all sorts of reasons — maybe she’s cooking for someone with a specific health concern so she omits or substitutes one or more ingredients; maybe, when she forgets to shop for scallions she uses onions in a pinch; maybe she’s done some experimentation and has developed improvements on the recipe; maybe she’s cooking for a big group and has to figure out how to increase the proportions of the ingredients; maybe there’s a typo on page 40 and she’s marked a correction. Do I need to go on? Can you see how these observations about cooking can apply to the business of using the Bible to spread the gospel?

    You will also notice that a good cook, an experienced cook, will often come up with a delicious meal without even consulting a cook book — some people describe this as a ‘feel’ for food preparation. The cook herself might not be able to explain what she did.

    That isn’t even the most important thing. The most important thing is that a lousy cook will make shitty food no matter how closely he studies the cook book. The idea that Christianity is based on the Bible is no different than the idea that dinner is based on the cook book. Truth be told, dinner is based on the cook — and the gospel is spread by people who themselves have received the gospel, even though some people never seem to be able to get the hang of it.

    POINT #4 – Theology. The bad news is that very few people actually understand theology. As for the rest, you could send them to seminary for twenty years and they’d never make heads or tails of it. Compounding the problem is the fact that many of the people teaching theology don’t understand theology themselves; worse, they don’t understand that they don’t understand. Lots of times the student who might be blessed with a talent for understanding theology is taught by someone who, let’s face it, is much less intelligent than he is. The “student” asks good questions and the “teacher” gives bullshit answers. Is it any wonder that the “student” eventually decides that the reason he got bullshit answers is that there are no good answers to be had?

    The good news is that you don’t really need to understand theology. Christianity isn’t about UNDERSTANDING. Actually, you don’t even need to understand whether God exists. The important thing is repentance. Stop being punitive and learn to forgive. Stop being selfish and learn that every other person’s well being is as important as yours. Stop trying to control everything and seek the good of all rather than individual good. That’s repentance. If you don’t do that you have no chance of understanding — not in any meaningful way.

    Christianity overflows with the unrepentant. They’d rather get into arguments than learn mercy, compassion and humility. The fact that you find that lots of repulsive assholes are going to church isn’t the fault of the church — it’s just that, in the main, human beings are repulsive assholes.

    Response?

    Paul

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  46. @Ark

    Did Jesus REALLY walk on water? How the hell do I know? I wasn’t there!

    What I DO know is that the question of whether the story “really” happened isn’t important — in fact, that question doesn’t particularly interest me. That’s not what the story is about.

    What is resurrection? Well, I can tell you what it’s NOT. It’s not zombies crawling out of graves. I’m not even going to TRY to tell you what it is because you’re a concrete thinker and a literalist. The closest explanation I can give you that might possibly make sense is that it’s important to believe that the fact that life ends in death doesn’t mean that life is meaningless. That’s hard for you to believe? Can’t help you, brother. Not from this distance.

    Did nasty Jews kill Jesus? How about wimpy Romans? Ark, this is something that will cause you to ridicule me because it’s mystical in nature; but until you figure out that YOU killed Jesus his death won’t mean a pile of poop.

    Yeah, I suppose that you calling me ‘delusional’ qualifies as a “nasty name”. And, frankly, I don’t like it when you call me nasty names.

    Paul

    Like

  47. Hi Paul,

    I’m glad I was able to set you at ease a little about my blog. 🙂 Thanks for replying.

    I loved your comment, actually. I identify as an atheist, and I do that, not because I dislike Christianity, but because I don’t believe it. That said, there are certainly iterations of Christianity that I really dislike, because I think they create a lot of problems. However, the type that you’re describing, I would honestly have no problem with.

    The important thing is repentance. Stop being punitive and learn to forgive. Stop being selfish and learn that every other person’s well being is as important as yours. Stop trying to control everything and seek the good of all rather than individual good. That’s repentance.

    What’s not to like about that philosophy? I wish everyone who identified as a Christian (or any other label) applied this mantra.

    I also really liked your cookbook analogy. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but I really like it. Allow me to put a slight twist on it. What if our population was split between carnivores and herbivores? A herbivore might be able to whip up delicious food without the aid of a cookbook, but to the carnivore, he’s accomplished nothing. The carnivore isn’t even aware that any food is present, much less that it might be tasty and nourishing. And the opposite situation would apply as well. The carnivore might be very pleased with the cuisine he could put together, but it would be utterly inedible to the herbivore.

    In a similar fashion, once I questioned the basic tenets of the type of Christianity I used to follow, I realized that I didn’t have much basis for believing in the supernatural at all. Now, that’s just me. I know plenty of people who feel quite strongly the other way — several of them comment on this blog rather often. But for me personally, I haven’t had any experiences to make me believe in a spirit realm, etc. To me, there’s just nothing there.

    In your opinion, is such a position problematic? If I embrace the values of secular humanism, so that my goals are the same as the ones you outlined in your definition of “repentance,” am I still falling short of something?

    Thanks,

    Nate

    Like

  48. @Nate

    “If I embrace the values of secular humanism, so that my goals are the same as the ones you outlined in your definition of “repentance,” am I still falling short of something?”

    I don’t think it’s an issue of you ‘falling short’ because each of us will always fall very, very short. The issue, as I understand it, is of reconciliation. We’re all at each other’s mercy. The problem with humankind is humankind; but the solution to the problems of humankind is also humankind. Individuals are basically powerless.

    I hope I’m wrong about this, but every time I hear someone claim to be a “secular humanist” I feel as if there’s an unspoken “so” as in, “I’m a secular humanist so leave me alone.”

    I believe in “One Church” — that is, one church united — because I believe in “one people”. I should never forget that I’m responsible for your well being, and I should never forget that it’s very, very easy for me to fail to meet my responsibilities.

    A church survives, not because everyone decides to believe the same thing, but because everyone decides to do whatever it takes to put up with each other….

    Paul

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  49. I believe in “One Church” — that is, one church united — because I believe in “one people”. I should never forget that I’m responsible for your well being, and I should never forget that it’s very, very easy for me to fail to meet my responsibilities.

    So then you could say every American is part of the unified church of America because even though people like you bother me deeply, I put up with you?

    And separate denominations are pretty much just the cliques all churches seem to have?

    I mean since its not beliefs that bind people to your holy church, then anyone who gets along is saved. This is YOUR reasoning.

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  50. Nate,

    Hopefully I got this quote thing right…

    In a similar fashion, once I questioned the basic tenets of the type of Christianity I used to follow, I realized that I didn’t have much basis for believing in the supernatural at all. Now, that’s just me. I know plenty of people who feel quite strongly the other way — several of them comment on this blog rather often. But for me personally, I haven’t had any experiences to make me believe in a spirit realm, etc. To me, there’s just nothing there.

    I’ve been thinking about how our reality is basically comprised of vibrations. At least that’s how our senses pick up on “reality”.

    Dogs are more keen to a wider sound vibration, eagles have more visual vibration awareness etc…

    So if we as humans are severely limited to the 100% of vibrations happening, could the vibrations we are unaware of somehow be what people think is the “spiritual world”?

    Still physical, still reality, just beyond our sensory abilities?

    Probably a stupid question. <—– that's me baiting you to tell me it isn't.

    Like

  51. I hope I’m wrong about this, but every time I hear someone claim to be a “secular humanist” I feel as if there’s an unspoken “so” as in, “I’m a secular humanist so leave me alone.”

    Oh no, that’s not how I mean that. It’s just that when people identify with a religion, you can infer certain ideas of morality automatically. But atheism doesn’t carry any other ideas along with it — just the notion that an individual doesn’t believe in any gods. So I only brought up secular humanism as a way of saying that ethics and morality are important to me.

    A church survives, not because everyone decides to believe the same thing, but because everyone decides to do whatever it takes to put up with each other….

    That’s cool. So if I understand you correctly, you’re not overly concerned in whether someone’s a Christian or not; rather, you care more about how we treat one another. Is that right?

    Like

  52. Probably a stupid question. <—– that's me baiting you to tell me it isn't.

    Nice! 😀

    You know, I don’t think that’s a stupid question. I have no idea if there’s anything to it or not, but it’s an interesting concept at the very least!

    Years ago, I was talking to a friend who mentioned something similar. We were talking about ghost sightings and the like — especially those where the “ghost” doesn’t seem to interact with whomever’s watching, but is repeating something from its own life, over and over. My friend noted that we leave fingerprints, footprints, and other kinds of residue whenever we’ve been somewhere. What if, especially in cases of extreme emotion, we leave some other kind of residue behind — an emotional residue. Perhaps some kind of frequency that is usually beyond our senses. Could something like that explain paranormal activity?

    Again, I tend to be skeptical of those things, but it’s still something fun to think about.

    Like

  53. @Paul

    <blockquoteDid nasty Jews kill Jesus? How about wimpy Romans? Ark, this is something that will cause you to ridicule me because it’s mystical in nature; but until you figure out that YOU killed Jesus his death won’t mean a pile of poop.

    Yeah, I suppose that you calling me ‘delusional’ qualifies as a “nasty name”. And, frankly, I don’t like it when you call me nasty names.

    Paul<blockquote

    You revel in the obscure,Paul, and always have. It has been a feature of your comment style ever since I encountered you on John Zande’s blog.

    I could not possibly have ”killed”</em) Yeshua, as he was a narrative construct and no matter how you wish to cut it, 'he' is still alive and kicking in the 40,000 plus christian religions currently infecting humanity. "Killed Jesus". shakes head – What an utterly ridiculous and quite frankly silly and childish thing to say.

    When the worldwide numbers of religious people drops significantly – and it is already beginning to happen- such beliefs may well be considered a form of psychosis.

    Maybe then I will use the term with more of a sympathetic air.
    But while the religious continue to inculcate and show no contrition for the horrors they have perpetrated, then consider yourself
    very lucky that I only use the term delusional.

    Ark

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  54. “You revel in the obscure,Paul, and always have.”

    Ark,

    Do you think that it’s an ‘obscure’ doctrine of the Christian faith to assert that Jesus died for the sins of all of humankind, or to point out that you yourself are included when the phrase “all of humankind” is used?

    Look. I’m not asking you to agree with it, I just want you to make good on your comment that it’s “obscure”.

    While you’re mulling over your response, I’ll tell you that what I mentioned is the OPPOSITE of obscure. In fact, you’d have a really hard time finding a Christian who’d give me an argument when I say, “The doctrine that Jesus died for our sins is way, way up on the significance list when it comes to Christian belief”

    P

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  55. but until you figure out that YOU killed Jesus his death won’t mean a pile of poop.<?

    This is what I mean by obscure.

    Yes, all of what you believe regarding religion is not only obscure but patently silly.
    If you are unable to rationalise this then this is clear evidence of how deeply inculcation is manifest within you.

    That you are unwilling to investigate the veracity of counter claims to Christianity is more worrying as it may speak of the psychosis I mentioned in my previous comment.

    Yet, you are quite capable of admitting that Noah’s flood is fictional. As is the Garden of Eden.(I hope so, at any rate) Maybe you are even capable of realising the truth in the archaeological evidence that has demonstrated beyond rational doubt that Moses, the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan is fiction.

    But the fact that you are unwilling to apply the same standards of honest criticism to the character of Yeshua and the events of the Gospels not only demonstrates the level of hypocrisy you display but more worrying, that you tolerate it and pass it on.

    This is worse than delusion because it suggests you are aware and still choose to peddle this fiction which might well make you a fraud and a liar.

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  56. It becomes clearer and clearer to me, Ark, that you’re not particularly interested in talking to me about God, Jesus, the Bible, the Church or anything else. Your comments aim to provoke pain rather than conversation.

    I don’t want to argue with you, not right now, anyway. I might never want to argue with you because you simply don’t fight fair. I do, however, want to figure out whether there’s any kind of point you’re trying to make amidst all the insults.

    First of all, nobody in First Century Palestine spoke English, so nobody called anybody ‘Jesus’ because Jesus is the anglicized version of a man’s name. I, however, DO speak English which is why I use the name ‘Jesus’. Back then and back there folks spoke Aramaic or Hebrew or Latin and names are rendered differently in all those languages. Someone who was speaking Hebrew might have referred to the man I call ‘Jesus’ with the name ‘Yeshua’ but since we’re communicating with each other in English, your insistence on using a non-English form can only be construed as an attempt, on your part, to be annoying. And, just so know you’re being effective, I shall tell you that I find it very annoying.

    It was difficult, but I managed to run one fact past your interference which is that I understand that the story of Noah’s flood is fictional. That is, the version recorded in Genesis contains many fictional and hyperbolic details. I am, however, open to the idea that it’s not 100% fictional because a story about a great flood shows up in the mythology of so many cultures that one is left to speculate that there might be some grain of truth underneath all the stories — but I have no knowledge of what that “grain” might be.

    You needn’t have relied solely upon your ‘hope’, because if you’d simply asked me whether or not I believed that there was once an actual Garden perfectly suited to human comfort where a naked lady was seduced by a talking snake who convinced her to get her husband to agree to do the one solitary thing that could possibly piss their landlord off and get them evicted… Well, if you’d asked me, I would have explained to you that it’s just a ‘story’ like the Three Little Pigs. And, like the story of the Three Little Pigs, clever people can discern a lesson from the story — except that the lesson of The Fall is far more important and far more difficult to grasp.

    Since you’ve repeated it twice, I’ve got to figure that your really think that Justification is a very minor aspect of theology. You my idea idea that your sins were the reason Jesus died on the cross is “obscure”, and peripheral to Christian faith. If your arrogant assumption that you understand Christianity better than I do is true, then I am no Christian — but I do adhere to SOME sort of religion whose members accept a set of tenets we call the “Nicene Creed’ (a creed, by the way, that you figure no one has ever heard of except me and a couple of my oddball friends — it was probably written by Captain Catholic during one of his bouts of psychosis.)

    You’re confident you understand Christianity and I don’t. I believe that Christianity is about mercy, repentance, compassion and self-sacrifice. You’re telling me it’s about believing in a super magician who can snap his fingers and turn water to wine and can whip up a satisfying lunch for five thousand using ingredients that could fit easily in a Tupperware jar. Let me tell you, Ark, THAT’S the stuff that’s obscure!

    Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that there really WERE a man who could literally walk across the Sea of Galilee. I’d have to wonder about him; but I wouldn’t be wondering whether he was the Son of God. I’d be wondering why he chose such a tedious and cumbersome method of transportation when there are so many boats that are available.

    That story in the Fourteenth Chapter of Matthew isn’t about magical superpowers. It’s about faith. You, Ark, don’t know what faith is because you’ve got it all mixed up with gullibility, superstition, deceit and exploitation.

    You get under my skin. I’m sure your techniques work well to get under a lot of people’s skin. We need a referee. I would consider it a right neighborly gesture on the part of our host if he would voice an opinion on the question of whether an objective person would label the idea that Jesus died for the sins of humankind an “obscure” aspect of Christianity.

    Rrrrrr!!

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  57. Captain, if ark is so annoying to you, why are you only replying to him, and not me? And I not being hostile enough? Does daddy want a spanking?

    I’m just curious how you think the Catholic Church gets to make up whatever kind of dogma they want, and you believe you are basically ordered by god to respond to it, but then you think we are foolish for following what we have found for ourselves to be true in our hearts.

    It’s a little hypocritical captain grumpy pants.

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  58. Yes Nate, it’s a fun topic 🙂

    I like that notion of leaving traces of emotion, crazy creepy!

    I’m ultimately a skeptic as well, but I do believe there is life we aren’t aware of.

    Like ants being aware of us.

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  59. You get under my skin. I’m sure your techniques work well to get under a lot of people’s skin. We need a referee. I would consider it a right neighborly gesture on the part of our host if he would voice an opinion on the question of whether an objective person would label the idea that Jesus died for the sins of humankind an “obscure” aspect of Christianity.

    Rrrrrr!!

    Where is that wonderful

    I believe Christianity is about mercy, compassion, repentance, and self-sacrifice.

    Seems like you could really use what you say you believe, to help you with your obvious frustration. Maybe you need more faith.

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  60. Our host is an atheist, and a nicer guy you are unlikely to find, he won’t come to your rescue while you are pushing this diatribe I can assure you of that.
    The biblical character Yeshua was a Jew. He preached to the jews and his message was for Jews.

    The biblical character of Yeshua was crucified for sedition by the Romans.
    Anything else is simply catholic polemic.
    You might consider yourself a ‘sinner’, and I couldn’t give a monkey’s uncle. You don’t get a free pass to ladle that BS around without being prepared to defend it.
    If you want to be considered even marguinally intelligent and have a modicum of integrity then before we fo any further,demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt how yo arrive at the conclusion that Yeshua(Jesus) was divine/is god.
    If you can’t do that then you are a fraud. Period.

    For the record: I really hope I annoy the crap out of you as your religion has been doing far worse for thousands of years.

    So..let’s see if you have a pair…show us your god.

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  61. Hi Paul,

    I agree that the notion of Christ dying for all mankind seems like a well-known and central tenet to all the versions of Christianity I’m familiar with.

    As I said, I was part of a very fundamentalist version of Christianity, so I sometimes have trouble identifying with the branches that don’t hold to Biblical inerrancy. So since you acknowledge that many of the Bible stories are simply stories and didn’t actually occur as recorded, and since you don’t believe Jesus was divine, why do you still identify as a Christian? What is it about Christianity that makes you think it has any divine connection?

    Thanks,

    Nate

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  62. @Mark.

    The fact that I haven’t responded to you yet doesn’t mean that I’m unwilling to, or that I don’t love you ❤

    But I can certainly understand your anxiety….

    "I’m just curious how you think the Catholic Church gets to make up whatever kind of dogma they want, and you believe you are basically ordered by god to respond to it, but then you think we are foolish for following what we have found for ourselves to be true in our hearts."

    Where did I ever say anything remotely like that? The name of this blog is "Finding Truth" and that's exactly what I want to do. I feel nothing but admiration and camaraderie toward other people who want to find the truth.

    "Making up whatever kind of dogma you want" won't get you to the truth at all. Just the opposite! Let's consider why someone would want to "make stuff up" rather than search for truth and then yield to it (happily or not) when s/he found it. Maybe you can do a better job than me of putting your finger on it.

    I know that there have been times in my life when I was smart enough to realize that something was true but unwilling, emotionally, to accept that particular 'something'. For example, there was this hot girl I really liked back in 1977 who gave me all kinds of clear indications that she wasn't interested in coupling up with me. My belief that she DID want me was an "article of faith" that you couldn't get me to relinquish no matter how solid your reasoning was.

    In that instance, the truth wasn't hard to find at all — pretty easy to figure out, really; but I chose something else over truth. I figured I got to "make up whatever kind of" reality I wanted to — but I paid a price for living in fantasy-land. Eventually I decided the pain of accepting the truth was better than the ongoing cost of living in fantasy.

    That said, I think you're being over-simplistic in thinking that the Catholic Church is "making stuff up". Over the centuries, the Church has been blessed with many, many courageous saints who have endured all kinds of hardship to get to the truth. They've also had more than their share of power-mad douchebags who'd say anything at all if they thought it would solidify their hold on power.

    The saints tell people that there's no reward for believing the truth since believing the truth is its own reward. They also say that there's no punishment for denying the truth since denying the truth is its own punishment. The douchebags tell you what to believe and then threaten to punish you if you resist them. They'll also promise rewards to those who go along.

    I expect that it's obvious to you that the douchebags themselves are suffering the inherent punishment of denying the truth….

    So, when you said "the Catholic Church" you have to specify whether you mean "the saints of the Catholic Church" or "the douchebags of the Catholic Church"

    Paul

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  63. @Paul

    So, when you said “the Catholic Church” you have to specify whether you mean “the saints of the Catholic Church” or “the douchebags of the Catholic Church”

    A list of some of these saints would help tremendously, so’s we can differentiate.

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  64. So in my effort to understand your now unbelieving mind, I have started here. I think rather than try to convince you of anything, because you already know the basic facts, I would simply like to compare our minds as to how we have chosen to view things. We are obviously both “thinkers”. We do not make our decisions haphazardly. And yet we have come to very different conclusions while looking at the same world, and the same book, i.e. Bible.

    So…lets start with politics. You seem to disagree with the “R’s” and chose the “D’s”. I, on the other hand, after trying to be a faithful voter to do my civic obligations have become so disgusted with the filth, immorality, stupidity, greed, selfishness, materialism, pridefulness, lying, and arrogance, of both parties, and all politics, that I have labeled it “damaged beyond repair”. Even the founding fathers said our Constitution would not work if society abandoned faith and morality. We have arrived to that place. The Bible teaches that a country that refuses to acknowledge God will basically have fools for leaders. We are at that place.

    So, my choice has been to still vote because I feel “obligated” to, but knowing that unless this country comes back to God, I am completely wasting my time. This country is so far in debt that we are headed for a collapse. In our selfish society it is beyond fixing. We are incapable of it. The state of our politics has driven me to draw even closer to the Lord and completely focus on changing hearts. If by some miracle, enough hearts are truly changed, then politics will straighten itself out, and I will proudly vote again. But for now I vote in shame and disgust for all of it. What a bunch of arrogant fools.

    Yes, I am against anything that “promotes” abortion and homosexuality, but I am also for helping the children of these dysfunctional families, and single parent families. But I have to ask the question, why do we have such a high percentage of this kind of need in our modern day culture? And as it continues to grow, it is already more than we can financially support, and will become even worse if there is not a change of direction. So how do you suggest we change the heart of society back to a less destructive lifestyle? Children are being damaged in so many ways that you can’t even begin to list it all. Not only slain in the womb, but neglected and abused once born. Is it simply a matter of better education? Fix the mind? More government help? Create a society of dependents? Do we need to fix the mind, or the soul?

    I say it is the soul. As an unbeliever in God, I have to assume you would say the mind. You can correct me if I’m wrong. I want to understand your thinking. I want to understand my own mind too, compared to yours. We can both be wrong, but we can’t both be right. If you decide to ignore this large comment, I understand, but it would be disappointing to lose the chance to compare two minds. Don’t you think? I mean, lets keep it fun. It is a comparison of minds. No need for either of us to change if we don’t want to.

    I’m no longer a “D” or an “R”. My spiritual conclusion is that our only hope is a fixing of the heart and soul. If that can be fixed, then the mind, and politics, will fix themselves. Until then we are on a track for great pain and destruction, which will end up driving some people to God, and has already driven me closer to God, not farther away. Are we exact opposites? Or do we have any common ground?

    Obviously, since I believe our politics is currently completely broken and I no longer have a horse in that race, I would imagine our discussion would need to move to the Bible itself. I wanted to start with the political issue first, because I believe it has become a nonfactor in my life, and there is no discussion there for me. We have become a “house of cards” just waiting to fall. You can talk bad about the “R’s” all you want. You won’t get disagreement from me. Point out their every flaw if you like. I’m about fixing things. That is probably where our differences are, and also where the true answers likely are. I don’t know. What do you think, Nate? Mind or soul? Education or God? I believe in education too, but not with out God, not without soul, and not without God’s word. This is where my brain is on politics and what society really needs. It needs a return to more Spirit, and less flesh. Only God can do that.

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  65. thee, I’ll let nate respond top you as your comment was to him, but I would like to ask you a question.

    First, let me say that I dont think my opinion of politics is too far removed from yours. I have no issue with homosexuality, but as a person who once believed in the bible, and knowing what the bible says about it, I can see why you’d be against it.

    but you say that only god can fix the problems withing our country. have you ever seen bible believers act in less than admirable ways while having seen non-bible believers act in very admirable ways? If so, could it be that it is something other than a belief in god or the bible that spurs the character traits we’d all like to see cultivated in the world?

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  66. Hi thee-n-counter — thanks for the comment!

    First, I would agree with you that both major US parties have massive flaws. I’m not a “party-line” Democrat. I like to think of myself as a moderate and a pragmatist, and I feel that the Democrats match my outlook more than the Republicans do right now. I think there’s a legitimate place for government from the local level to the federal. And I think there are certain things the government can do better than private enterprise, though the waste and bureaucracy are definite concerns. I also agree that the deficit is a problem, but the Democrats have seemed (to me) to manage that better than the Republicans in recent years.

    As far as the problems that face our society, I do think it comes down to education and opportunity more than anything to do with God. I’ve realized over the years that there are many good reasons to live morally and responsibly that have nothing to do with a belief in God. I won’t deny that faith seems to help some people, but there are also plenty of believers who seem to just float through life making one bad life choice after another. I think when people have a better understanding of their options and they take time to think through their situation, they almost invariably make better decisions. While at the same time, countless prayers have gone up to God from the Christians in this nation, yet we still face the same problems.

    However, when it comes to my personal loss of faith, politics really had nothing to do with it — the biggest factor was the Bible itself. So I think you’re right that our discussion will ultimately need to lead to that topic…

    Thanks again for the comment! I look forward to speaking to you further. 🙂

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  67. I’m so glad we can have a meeting of the minds. I’m open to anyone who wants to jump in. Unfortunately, I have 2 days of 13 hours each ahead of me. I do security work. So I just wanted you to know it will be Thursday before I likely get back to this. As I’m sure Nate knows, Christianity is not about “good” people. I agree, there are plenty of “good” people unbelievers, and plenty of believers who still fall into stupidity. But I know there is something deeper here than just good and bad, smart and stupid. I admit it will likely be a challenge to explore this. I hope I can at least present a reasonable case for whatever it is. But it is too important to rush, so I look forward to Thursday. Based on both of your responses so far, I think we can have good discussions. There is an idiot in every crowd, but ya just gotta luv’m anyway. One or two may show up, but we all have our moments. I think we all still believe in grace. So, I’ll be back soon, most likely Thursday.

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  68. @thee encounter “Yes, I am against anything that “promotes” abortion and homosexuality”

    homosexuality and abortion have nothing to do with each other.

    in reality you are just another “god hates fags” phony christian.

    @thee encounter “There is an idiot in every crowd”

    that would be you.

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  69. paul, you may be correct, but thee didnt say that he hated or was cruel to homosexuals, or that he even understood why such a thing was wrong. I realize this may be of little comfort to you, but some christians believe homosexuality is wrong because the bible says so, but they dont necessarily understand or like the categorization.

    they may even care very much for all people and want no one to be harmed or doomed to hell, but they, for some reason, find the bible compelling and thus believe that homosexuals will indeed go to hell unless they repent.

    I dont know what he thinks, and since i’m not homosexual, i suppose it is easier for me to reserve judgement, so i’ll say no more.

    just thought i’d add another possibility.

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  70. William,
    thee n counter equated homosexuals with abortion in the same sentence..
    abortion is entirely a heterosexual thing.
    it’s the same type of thing when people put homosexuals in the same category as pedophiles and bestiality.
    doesn’t fly with me. it is an attack on who I am.

    furthermore, I know of hundreds of gay people that have adopted children of heterosexual dysfunctional families.
    thee n counter says “I am also for helping the children of these dysfunctional families,”
    oh really!!!!!!!!,
    I wonder how many of those children has he adopted?
    how much money does he give to help these children?,
    does he take in foster children?
    or does he just brag on the internet on how much he cares and complain about paying taxes for government programs that actually do help?

    I would really like to know how much he actually “helps”.

    I think it’s all probably just a lot of lip service.

    it does look like Nixon a bit, doesn’t it.

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  71. yeah, your points sound better than mine when laid out like that…

    it really is crazy that people get so violently upset over something consenting adults do, which has zero affect on anyone else…

    that and I dont recall reading where pedophilia is condemned in the bible. Let’s kill the gays, but let a 45 year old man impregnate an 11 year old girl… it’s just insane.

    sorry.

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  72. carmen

    Don’t be sorry, William – pointing out the ‘truths’ in the wholly babble is the only way to illustrate the contents of a Bronze-Age myth.

    ‘Thee’ – I’m wondering if you’ve ever perused the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog — since you’re concerned about dysfunctional children, you might want to read the accounts from some who are now dealing with their experiences growing up with Christian ‘we did everything from the Bible’ parents, including spanking the living tar out of those children. I mean, it says so in my least favourite fiction and all. (Nate, I understand why you trot out the, “it IS in the Bible” line, but honestly – sensible people know when something is just plain wrong – you know, like BEATING children?) It’s an explanation, not an excuse.

    I’m also wondering, ‘Thee’, if you know any gay people. I happen to know many and most of them have children – fully functional, ‘well-rounded’ (nice catchphrase, eh?), wonderful people they’ve grown up to be, too.

    My third ‘wonder’ in this comment is this, ‘Thee’ – just what, in your mind, ‘promotes’ abortion? On that note, you might be reminded that nothing ‘promotes’ homosexuality – a person either is or isn’t. Or did someone/something ‘promote’ your heterosexuality?

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  73. I’m still on my work marathon, but I can see a lot of you just want to vent your disagreements with the Bible. Go ahead and disagree all you want. I didn’t write it. I can also see you have not read any of my blog site. I was a youth minister many years, have given lots of money, raised five children of my own, have a best friend who is gay, did a yard sale for months to help a guy fight cancer, gave him all 1600 dollars of the money cash, the list could go on and on but… why? You guys all ready know it all anyway. I can see. And I simply said I do not “promote” 2 items. Sorry if I did not put them in separate sentences. What a bigot I must be. Yup, I’m the idiot for even trying this.

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  74. You know, I think a lot of this just comes down to miscommunication. Thee-n-counter, I’m sorry some of the comments here offended you. I hope you’ll consider hanging around for our conversation.

    TNC, I understand that you meant no offense to anyone with your initial comment. Like William said, I think you view homosexuality merely as something that God has condemned, whether you understand all the reasons for it or not. I completely understand that point of view — it’s identical to the one I used to hold.

    At the same time, I can see where Paul is coming from too. I can’t imagine some of the difficulties and discrimination he’s faced over the years, simply for being gay. It would be hard to put up with the bigotry, ignorance, and hate that’s spewed by so many people. And if it were me, I know I’d be on edge, just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing.

    So if I’m right at all in my assessment, I can see how things quickly went off track. Maybe it’s not too late to salvage the conversation?

    As to the Bible, I’m happy to discuss any parts of it. We may not come to an agreement, and that’s okay. Honest, sincere people can come to different conclusions about it. You may not be bothered by the same things that bother me.

    And sorry I haven’t had time to click over to your blog. I just haven’t had time to keep up with other blogs lately. Talk to you soon, I hope! 🙂

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  75. and thee, it wasn’t necessary for you to point out that you didn’t write the bible,
    we are all fully aware of that.
    but who do you believe wrote the bible?
    well, according to your blog,
    https://theencounter01.wordpress.com/x-superman/
    this is what you believe:

    Let me ask you this, “Who wrote the Bible?”

    Did the Apostle John write the book of St. John, or did God write the book of St. John?

    To the casual observer I’m sure it looked like a man named John sitting at a table and writing, but is that what was really going on? The Bible says it was written as God moved through men and inspired them with the words! (II Timothy 3:16) John was actually like a pen in God’s hand, as God wrote the Bible! We’re not supermen, were just a people who a super God can show up through!

    now, in an earlier comment on this blog you stated, “The Bible teaches that a country that refuses to acknowledge God will basically have fools for leaders.”

    did you know that the bible also teaches
    “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)?

    or that it is the law to kill non-believers?
    They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

    or how about this gem?
    (Deuteronomy 20:10-14)
    As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.

    What kind of God approves of murder, rape, and slavery?

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  76. I think these are excellent questions. Thee, I would agree that the Bible claims to speak for God, but why should we trust it, especially in light of the issues Paul just mentioned?

    Thanks

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  77. when i was a christian, i would have been tempted to point out that those are from the OT and not the NT, which we fall under now, but that’s dodging the issue.

    The NT says it follows the god of the OT. the OT is admissible evidence and it contains some pretty questionable accounts of god’s actions… nate’s correct, how and why should the authors of the bible, whether OT or NT, be trusted?

    what reason is there to have faith in their account of god or the supernatural?

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  78. It’s always stood out to me that Thomas Paine took those OT passages that are so abhorrent and argued that ascribing such stuff to God was blasphemy. Sort of turns the problem on its head.

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  79. Matt

    thee-n-counter,

    I understand that you use the Bible as your guide for life. Seeing it as inspired revelation from God. Would anything change for you if it was discovered that many of the Bible’s claims simply didn’t happen, or that books were not actually written by whom the Bible claims it was.

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  80. @TNC:

    “Yup, I’m the idiot for even trying this.”

    What are you even trying to do? Convince people here that Bible is true, God is real?

    If that is really what you are trying to do here I think you have one crazy big ego, or perhaps that is the “holy spirit guiding you” to write here thing.

    How about you go and read the comments in just the past 2-3 posts and see the depth and width of discussion we already had, rather than jumping in and thinking you can simply offer something new and assuming that the reasons we do not believe in the Bible is due to us reading wrongly, believing in the wrong god, followed wrong teachings, just want to sin etc etc etc.

    Btw you are not the first theist we’ve seen, and unlikely to be the last. That being said, do stick around and hopefully you do have a fresh perspective to share.

    Good luck, you will need it.

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  81. Matt

    Alas, I was one of those theist not too long ago myself. I came here to learn why Nate had chosen his path, figuring I could find some error in the author’s reasoning and help him to see it another way. I’ve learned more from this site and other’s like it in the last 6 months than I have in the previous 6 years. Knowledge is power, dangerous power…

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  82. Okay, lets take the Old Testament first. You should fear it. It is God not pulling any punches. It is God’s word warning us that he will judge sin an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Sending a soul to hell is even worse than destroying a body and the things we read in the O.T.. The New Testament tells us that day will come. The O.T. is meant to show us we cannot save ourself, cannot live up to God’s laws of perfection, and Jesus confirmed it all. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law for us, but the law has not passed away. Anyone rejecting Christ will stand before the God of the O.T. and pay the price for their sin themselves. It will be an eye for an eye and it never ends. You should fear the God whose possession all of creation is. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom as I’m sure you know is written. You will notice God makes no apologies for the O.T, not even as Jesus. In the world of eternity sin brings forth death. It is a leprosy and God will protect his creation. This place does not belong to us. We are like “renters” in God’s creation. You think the O.T. disproves God, but wisdom says it proves him even more. You should take those judgments in the O.T. very personal. God intends for you to. But you believe a God of love contradicts the God of the O.T.. Very bad assumption. Then you believe you would rather go to hell than serve a God who judges sin. Very bad choice. It’s God’s world and we don’t have the big picture of heaven. I love my dog but she still can’t add 2+2. I’ll do the adding for her, IF SHE WILL LET ME, BECAUSE I KNOW SHE CAN’T, AND WE FALL SHORT OF PERFECTION. WE HAVE LEPROSY. WE CONTAMINATE EVRYTHING WE TOUCH. BUT JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW FOR US, IF WE LET HIM. AND ALL IT TAKES IS SIMPLE FAITH THAT CHANGES YOUR LIFE.

    If it doesn’t change your life, then it’s not the faith of God. Yes, a lot of people died in the O.T.. Want to talk about Sodom and Gomorah? The direction we’re headed again. Want to talk about those fallen angels that mated with women in the days of Noah? Want to talk about the flood? Do you want to talk about the first earth that was destroyed by water, (not Noah’s flood), and this is a second earth, a restored earth, and that is why science keeps coming up with items dating millions of years old? Or the fact that God likes the number 3, and there will be a third earth?

    If any of you can see that Jesus, and the N.T., confirms the God of the O.T. and warns us to flee to his salvation, and that he is the ONLY way, because he is the ONLY one who ever FULFILLED God’s laws, thus satisfying the debt of our sins owed. If any of you can see that much, then we could go to other things. But…

    Well, I won’t prejudge. Yes. To our way of thinking, the God of the O.T. sounds horrible, but we do not understand how horrible our sinful stench is in God’s creation. My dog got direah one night and lost it all over my house. The stench was awful! If she continued in that, guess what, she wouldn’t be living in my house! I don’t care how much I love her. I would try to reason with her, train her, but if she proved unwilling to learn? With sadness in my heart, out she would go.

    You may think that a silly illustration, but actually our sin is even much worse. God is spirit. He showed up in flesh and planted the seed of salvation. It has grown into a mighty tree. Faith is very spiritual. It speaks to our heart and soul. It does not need anymore proof than a bird needs proof of the wind. We have more than enough proof. If you feel no drawing from God, then perhaps your day of salvation has passed you. Or maybe you do feel that drawing but just aren’t willing to admit it to yourself. I won’t speak of prayer because I do not want to insult you. But I hope you feel that drawing someday, no man come to God without it. Scripture says the measure of faith has been given to every man. I don’t know what you have done with the measure God gave you? Maybe you placed it in evolution, or just believing in yourself. It’s your choice.

    I’ve given you a good explanation of the God of the O.T., and the purpose of it. It’s meant to show you that the Ten Commandments only proves us guilty, not innocent. Guilty, and worthy of eternal judgment, but God has offered to fix our poor choice to believe Satan and his lies. And there is another thing you would have to admit, that Satan and his fallen spiritual world is real, and he is behind a lot of the things you believe. There is much evidence for all these things, and the God of the O.T., the Creator of all, is very alive and well. JESUS CAME TO RESTORE FELLOWSHIP BETWEEN US AND OUR CREATOR. HE IS THE CREATOR. HE OWNS IT ALL. YOU DID NOT CREATE YOURSELF. AND NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU DON’T LIKE THIS, OR REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT, IT’S STILL TRUE.

    Even now everything prophesied concerning Israel continues to play out like a movie before us. But I do not believe the rapture is near. There is much to happen yet. You are surrounded by evidence like a fish in water, but you have to actually want to know the truth, whether it fulfills your desires or not. I was addicted to porno. God’s word said my desire was very wrong. Like a pig wallowing in muck. It was not easy and I had a few years of up and down battles, but God knew I was trying, and the more of him I soaked up, the more free I became, until I was totally free. My wife never knew until I was free. I hid it from everyone, as you can imagine, until I was free. As a hetero sexual man, of course I have strong desire to enjoy a beautiful naked woman. It comes natural for me, but God said I was wrong and must change. God accepted my feeble beginning efforts and we worked from there. God will meet you wherever you are too, but then he expects you to follow him. Not the other way around.

    Now you have a choice to respond to this information in a reasonable, honest, and honorable way. I don’t know if our conversation can go farther? If you can’t find peace with God as revealed in the O.T.. Then we can’t go any farther, because he is all that, and much much more.

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  83. Hi thee,

    I feel like you’ve jumped light years ahead of where we should be starting. You’ve asserted a lot of things, about the truth of the OT, about Satan being real, etc, etc, but you haven’t demonstrated why anyone should accept any of those claims. Sure, the Bible does say many of the things you’re relaying, but so what? And I don’t mean that flippantly — I really don’t. I’m asking you, why should we care what the Bible says? How do we know it’s any more reliable than the Book of Mormon or the Qur’an?

    You also compared our relationship to God to your relationship with your dog. And I get that — I think it’s a pretty good analogy. Let’s look at this section in particular:

    Well, I won’t prejudge. Yes. To our way of thinking, the God of the O.T. sounds horrible, but we do not understand how horrible our sinful stench is in God’s creation. My dog got direah one night and lost it all over my house. The stench was awful! If she continued in that, guess what, she wouldn’t be living in my house! I don’t care how much I love her. I would try to reason with her, train her, but if she proved unwilling to learn? With sadness in my heart, out she would go.

    I’m with you. I couldn’t live with that either. So what would you do with her? Burn her alive? Or maybe start removing body parts, one inch at a time? Or do you think you’d try to get her some help? Maybe take her to a vet for treatment? Or if that didn’t work, find another place for her to live? And if the vet told you that she has a terminal illness and is experiencing an intolerable amount of pain, what would you do then? Make sure she suffers as much as possible, or humanely end her life quickly and as peacefully as possible?

    I think we have to consider that part of the analogy as well, especially if you believe in any kind of punishment for unbelievers. The thing about dogs is that most of us realize they aren’t humans. They’re not going to care about or understand the things we’re concerned with. It follows that any compassionate god would deal with us in the same way. Yet that’s not the picture we usually get from the Bible.

    Thoughts?

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  84. @powellpowers,
    you’re right, he has a very big ego.

    I read some of his blog,
    he thinks he is “batman” for jesus.
    really.
    and the holey ghost speaks to him.
    he thinks he is a pen in the hand of god.

    tee-hee-hee.

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  85. So much indoctrination.

    “It is God’s word…” – false. It is claimed to be the words of a deity, but that is a poorly supported claim. As Nate pointed out, the Muslim’s claim the Quran is from a deity and Mormon’s claim the Book of Mormon is from a deity, but why should we believe them?

    “Jesus said…” – false. All we have is a translation of a copy of a copy of what an anonymous author wrote claiming what a man named Jesus said decades after he was dead. Unfortunately we have nothing written down from Jesus and the best we can do is speculate what he may have said that was passed down orally for decades before the writings of the anonymous gospels. There are also many other gospels that claim to speak for Jesus that were deemed heretical by the so-called “orthodox” and have barely survived.

    “Do you want to talk about the first earth that was destroyed by water, (not Noah’s flood), and this is a second earth, a restored earth, and that is why science keeps coming up with items dating millions of years old? Or the fact that God likes the number 3, and there will be a third earth?” – What is your source for this?

    “And there is another thing you would have to admit, that Satan and his fallen spiritual world is real” – false. This is as much a fact as the myths of any other tribe or nation. How would you feel if I said that Loki was real and that you should admit it?

    “HE IS THE CREATOR” – false. You believe he is the creator, there’s a big difference. Asserting it as a fact does not make it more true. Please provide some evidence.

    “Now you have a choice to respond to this information in a reasonable, honest, and honorable way.”

    You haven’t really given us any information, just lots of your own opinions. At least now we know where you stand on the issue and what your conception of “god” looks like. Everyone has their own version of “god” – yours is just a bit more barbaric than some of the other theists that visit Nate’s blog.

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  86. “Now you have a choice to respond to this information in a reasonable, honest, and honorable way. I don’t know if our conversation can go farther? If you can’t find peace with God as revealed in the O.T.. Then we can’t go any farther, because he is all that, and much much more.”

    Hi thee-in-counter, welcome.

    As I read your last, lengthy comment about the OT and basically stating that we should fear your god, I immediately thought about this scripture:

    “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.” Ezekiel 3: 17 – 19

    This is how it came across to me — your intent — and that you may just “shake the dust off your feet” now — you’ve done your part and once again, saved yourself. It’s a common practice among theist who are not open to listen and learn from unbelievers. It’s a great excuse they use once they’ve been taken out of their comfort zone. I hope I’m wrong. I guess we’ll find out should you sincerely want to have dialog here. Most of us have been where you’ve been.

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  87. yeah, thee, I’d have to agree with everyone else. most of us know what the bible says, as most of us were once devout christians, so telling us what the bible says doesnt help us believe it.

    It’s not that we believe, but are simply unaware of what the bible says, it’s that we dont find it believable. It’s that we cant seem to reconcile the problems within the bible. We cant get over the inconsistency, nor the scientific or historical problems. We cant juggle the intellectual problems any longer.

    Imagine what it would take to convince you that Zeus was real or Muhammad was an actual prophet of god, or that Joseph Smith really translated golden plates of god… That’s what you might want to do to convince any here that the bible is really from god, like it’s human authors have claimed.

    And like has been said, it’s not faith in god that you have as much as it is faith in the men who wrote it, copied it, translated it, compiled and told you about it. How could it be faith in god when everything you know about god was provided by another man? isnt that faith in what those men said and did about god?

    and are we like dogs in the eyes of god, or sons and daughters? and really, god made us and he made the bugs that cause diarrhea, so maybe he shouldn’t be too surprised when we squirt in our shorts every once in a while.

    and here’s an analogy that I believe has merit:

    a father tells his daughter that he loves her and that he wants her to make an honest decision between 2 options.

    1) she can stay with her father her whole life, and do everything he asks of her, and if she does, she’ll receive a sizable inheritance one day.

    2) she can leave if she likes and do as she likes

    He adds, “I want you to be happy, and because I love you, I want you to choose which ever option you want. But know that if you dont choose option #1, i will torture you and kill you. love you sweety, let me know what you decide.”

    and really, the above analogy would be more accurate if the options were delivered to a girl, who never knew her father or saw him in person, in a letter written by someone who claimed to know her real father and claimed to be writing on his behalf.

    what say you?

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  88. I only have time for one response here. You guys brought up the O.T.. I responded accordingly. Now you want to change the subject? You really think this universe just popped into existence without acknowledging there could possibly slightly maybe be a Creator? And you blaspheme and make fun of him as if that small chance does not even exist? You really are playing the odds, but the odds are not in your favor like you think.

    And yes, God is trying to help us. He’s done everything except force us to do the right thing. But God will only suffer OUR stench in HIS creation for so long. Like it or not, if all the prophesies continue to come true, hell is where the stench will be. Israel continues to be His time clock. And yes, the God of the O.T. would have a place for Satan, and he calls it hell. Again, no apologies.

    But in answer to what you brought up, I did not dodge the issue, and neither did Jesus. He said nothing would pass from God’s law, and he was here to fulfill it for us. the God of the O.T. will judge unrepented sin, and we will all go to live with the father we have chosen. Maybe that don’t make sense to you, but to me it is extremely logical. I guess you thought God was wrong in the O.T., and I would have to explain it away somehow? It only shows that somewhere along the way you had some poor mentors. Jesus confirmed it all, and his sermon on the mount is a warning to us. Strive to live this way, but trust me to fulfill it for you. I don’t know how much plainer it could be. The whole N.T. confirms the O.T. The wise will seek out salvation with fear and trembling, but you guys aren’t scared of anything, are you? Good luck with that.

    Tomorrow, if you like, or not, whatever…please give me “one” question you have and I will attempt to answer. I don’t have every answer, but God has helped me greatly with the important ones, as he will anyone who really wants to know.

    Oh, and saintpauleegirrrl. If he wants to be tolerant and respectful to those not like him, then he should know how much his picture of Jesus giving the finger is abhorrent to Christians. So am I to assume this is his true nature? Disrespect, anger, and cruelty? Does the way others have treated us justify how we treat people back? I thought you were better than that.

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  89. Thee-n-counter,

    how do you go from ‘existence’ to the ‘bible is from god,’ when there are countless other possible religions (many of which predate the OT and NT), not to mention the many possibilities beyond “creator?”

    in other words, how or why do you know/think the bible is actually correct, and actually a product of deity?

    William’s one question

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  90. “You really think this universe just popped into existence without acknowledging there could possibly slightly maybe be a Creator?”

    There are deists among us, too, but they’ve also done their homework and turned over every stone to come to the same conclusions, as most of us have here, that the god you fear, Yahweh (Jesus’ daddy), is a myth, like the thousands of other gods that came before him.

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  91. So, a little background about me…

    I once held a position very similar to the one you’re espousing. I also believed that God meant what he said in the OT. Slavery? Yes. Doesn’t mean it’s okay today, but God definitely allowed it at one point in time. Genocide? Yep. God doesn’t approve of murder, generally speaking, but he was teaching the Israelites that he requires obedience. When God gives a command, it’s our job to follow it, not to question why. That’s pretty much what the OT was teaching, so that when the NT came along, we’d have those principles in place and could handle a more mature set of laws that governed more of our heart than just physical actions.

    There’s more detail I could give, but that’s a general outline of how I viewed it. I feel like we’re similar in that way.

    But I then realized something very important: I shouldn’t just assume the Bible is right in everything it’s saying. I mean, I knew that already, but it had been my experience that the Bible was consistent with itself and had actual fulfilled prophecies. I had also heard from Christian scholars that history and archaeology backed up the Bible’s claims, as much as anyone could check. No, what I realized was that I needed to verify those things for myself, not just take someone’s word for it. And when I began looking into it, I realized that I hadn’t been given the full picture. Certain prophecies really hadn’t been fulfilled (like this, and this), some passages were actually contradictory (like this, this, and this), and history and archaeology were at complete odds with scripture in some really troubling ways (like this).

    Once I realized that, I also realized that I had accepted some really big claims without thinking them through completely. The scenario that William just laid out for you is one of the best examples I can think of. It’s a great analogy to Christianity, yet we’d all think a person who acted that way was insane or evil. Why not God?

    Also, you said this:

    You really think this universe just popped into existence without acknowledging there could possibly slightly maybe be a Creator? And you blaspheme and make fun of him as if that small chance does not even exist?

    I think you misunderstand the atheist position. No one here is saying that there’s no possibility that a Creator exists. We’re saying that there’s not enough evidence to say the Judeo-Christian god exists. That’s a huge distinction.

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  92. “The wise will seek out salvation with fear and trembling, but you guys aren’t scared of anything, are you?” – thee-n-counter

    well, i wouldnt say scared of nuthin.

    but I am not scared of zues. i am not scared of the death star or trolls, or vampires or ghosts, or curses, or shadows, or zombies, or anything else that is clearly fictitious.

    a few issues with the bible:

    1) it’s a bunch of claims about supernatural stuff that have been made and passed along by men.

    2) gen 1 & gen 2 get mixed up on where god brought birds from, among other things

    3) isaiah prophesied that a young woman would have child in chapter 7 that was born in chapter 8 and then matthew claims he really meant “virgin” when that wasnt the word used and there is no way to verify that mary was a virgin, when having a baby in every other instance proves she wasnt a virgin.

    4) Jeremiah says that the medes would destroy and burn babylon – they didnt. the persians took it without much resistance and occupied it, not burning it.

    5) ezekiel said that Tyre would be utterly destroyed, left desolate and never rebuilt. It exists today, and was never empty for long, much less forever.

    6) matthew mistakenly credits jeremiah for something zechariah said

    7) matthew and luke give two opposing genealogies for christ through joseph

    8) the holy ghost, through paul, cant accurately remember how long it took for abraham’s promises to be fulfilled.

    9) jesus is quoted as saying that seeds must die before they can grow, which is false. if a seed dies, nothing grows.

    10) god made the rules of everything, but then made the rule where his son, who was himself, had to die on the cross to save all of mankind, while knowing full well that he was still going to condemen the majority of mankind, while acting like he had no other choice.

    11) god loved us all so much, that he have himself die as his son, but couldnt be bothered to actually speak to all of his creation and let them actually know that he was real, instead relying on men to write many books and claims on his behalf, that would have to be differentiated from the other religions books and letters that werent his, because he doesnt want anyone to be mislead and go to hell… the place he also created, along with the keys to that place…

    12) there’s plenty more, but the above is just a sample.

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  93. I agree with the issues that William laid out, but thee, I realize there’s no way you could easily cover all of them right away. Right now, you’re sort of “in the lions’ den” since there aren’t any other Christians currently in the conversation, and I don’t want you to feel like you’re being picked on or hit with too many questions to reasonably answer. So feel free to take your time in your response, and we’ll understand that you couldn’t possibly cover everything that’s been dished out over the last couple of hours.

    Thanks

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  94. Paul, you make me chuckle, i couldnt help it, but maybe thee-n-counter is relatively new to a lot of this info. he’s been indoctrinated his entire life, and a little empathy may go far, while mockery way be easy to file as way as something coming from uncaring a-holes.

    it would take more than a few days to override 30 or 40 or 50 years of indoctrination. some patience may be in order?

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  95. ok,
    it’s funny how much stress a simple gesture with a middle finger can cause,
    as if it actually meant something horrid,
    if it’s so abhorrent, why did god even bother to create a middle finger?

    well god created slavery so I guess he can do whatever he likes.

    but i’ll be nice and let you guys tackle the bigger issues. 🙂

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  96. Since my conversation started with Nathan, I can see we’re likely about done. We are already at an impasse because we can’t even agree as to the message and purpose of the O.T. It’s much more than obedience, it’s a judgment God seeks to save us from, and even more than that. We’re the ones messed up, not God. So we can’t even get past this one point. I gave you several things for you to explore if you really wanted to seek truth. Like you said, there was a lot there. And the soul is created eternal. It will not be terminated like we might terminate a dog. It will exist forever, somewhere.

    But I promised to take one more question. How do I know the Bible is what it claims to be? Is that the question? Or is there another? Choose wisely. I’ll check back tomorrow. I’m off to work again.

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  97. How do I know the Bible is what it claims to be? Is that the question?

    Yes, that’s the question.

    We are already at an impasse because we can’t even agree as to the message and purpose of the O.T. It’s much more than obedience, it’s a judgment God seeks to save us from, and even more than that. We’re the ones messed up, not God.

    Yes, yes, we’re in agreement here. The message of the Bible is God’s plan of salvation for mankind, since they “messed it up” in the Garden of Eden. I was simply trying to explain how I viewed the harsher aspects of the OT — and even then, my explanation was not meant to be exhaustive. Either way, I still think that takes us away from the first thing that has to be established, which is “how do you know the Bible is inspired?”

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  98. I dont see the impasse.

    we could go into all the different ways the bible can be and is interpreted, and that might be fruitful between believers of the bible, but when the discussion involves non-believers, it would be like a discussion between nerds on star wars (no offense).

    so sure, I’m fine with the one question being “How do I know the Bible is what it claims to be? Is that the question?” although I find it odd when people in a discussion always want to limit questions to only one – even genies grant more wishes. it feels like a dodge, like you’re opening the door with one foot out. sit down, stay awhile. let’s discuss. this isnt a debate and we’re not playing for points.

    we’re looking for a conversation and a discussion of facts, ideas, and reason. what is written vs what isnt vs what others make up to interpret what is written…

    but that’s a good question as long as you understand all that it implies:

    – it isnt simply a choice between atheism and the bible god, as there are countless more possibilities.

    – it isnt between spontaneous existence and the bible god, as there are countless more
    possibilities.

    – how does existence point to a creator, then only one creator, then the bible god? saying “nothing created itself, therefore the bible god is true,” is skipping over several important steps.

    things like that, you know.

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  99. “how do you know the Bible is inspired?” – I’ll take that one Nate! Because it says so!

    In all seriousness though I would like to see this question given a thoughtful response.

    You really think this universe just popped into existence without acknowledging there could possibly slightly maybe be a Creator? And you blaspheme and make fun of him as if that small chance does not even exist?

    TNC, perhaps you blaspheme the Creator by making him and the tribal deity Yahweh one and the same. Does this concern you?

    Liked by 1 person

  100. and if you’ll entertain 2 questions, would you consider answering how you think people of other religions should and would recognize the errors of their religion to turn to Christianity?

    and of course, there’ll likely be followup questions.

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  101. Matt

    Yes please hit on this question, I asked it a day or so ago and it was ignored:

    thee-n-counter,

    I understand that you use the Bible as your guide for life. Seeing it as inspired revelation from God. Would anything change for you if it was discovered that many of the Bible’s claims simply didn’t happen, or that books were not actually written by whom the Bible claims it was.

    I ask because that is what did it for me as a christian. I starting doing heavy research thinking history and scholars would back up what I had been told my whole life was true. Turns out there are more problems with the bible than you can even imagine….What’s worse, to me anyway, is that the majority of christian scholars are aware of these problems and do not teach them, they simply skip over them and continue to lead the masses in error.

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  102. I watched that program. Fascinating. I doubt many Christians watched it. Or if they did, they probably switched channels once they found out that many of the things they’ve been told about the bible is NOT based on FACT.

    The thing I see happening with thee is what happens with most believers. “God” is the answer. Period. If you don’t have a genuine relationship with “him” and/or “his” son, then nothing you say holds water.

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  103. Wow and the blog is alive again!

    And seriously guys? Am I the only one sensing huge narcissism and ego dripping out from this guy?

    “Choose wisely. I’ll check back tomorrow.”

    Seriously? WTF?

    I sincerely doubt we will have a good discussion. If you ask me I think he is even more hardcore than Mark/Tblacksman and he’s just gonna talk us down and say we’re stupid for not seeing things the way he does.

    I think the conclusion for him has already been reached long ago. I’m totally sensing a shooting from the hip southern baptist preacher when I see his picture.

    Have fun engaging him.

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  104. Okay, you say you want real conversation. Sounds good. But every time I answer a question, you can’t ignore it and change the subject to 20 other questions. You have not even studied out what I said. It at least deserves honest consideration. And twisting my words, like I think I’m Batman, when I plainly explained it is an analogy or metaphor. This conversation should not be pick and choose journalism, but should be in context.

    Now it’s getting late and I’m sipping on a little wine and munching on Tostitos, and I decide to check out this 2 hour documentary my friend SBG recommends. Since it was supposed to be by experts and professionals, I thought it might at least present a challenge. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
    Actually, I was really enjoying the first 13 minutes, and how the idea of monotheism was such a radical idea at that time. How did Abraham make this radical change? Something must have happened! (All pretty accurate so far.) Abrahams father believed in many gods and had the family idols just like everyone else of that time. But something happened with Abraham that changed everything. So far, so good. And the Egyptian Victory Stilla, (or however it was said), confirmed these Israel people in their land in 1208 B.C.. Yes indeed. But then…

    They plainly stated they can find very little archeological evidence from before the flood. Agreed. The Bible says the fountains of the deep were breaking up. Water was coming up as well as down. The judgment of God on that society, in which fallen angels had actually mated with women, causing a breed of renown or giant men, became so evil and cursed that God destroyed it like Sodom and Gomorrah.
    But since they had no evidence, rather than simply take the Bible at its own word, they began to speculate and act as if they know what really happened, and who really wrote the Bible, when all they actually have is “copies” by scribes. And the Jews were very exact in their treatment of sacred scripture. Not adding to or taking away, for fear of God! They believe in the judgment of God.

    Now the speculation was bad enough, but I hung in there. However, when they did not even understand the story of Noah? They said that the Bible stating it rained 40 days and 40 nights, and then saying the waters “prevailed” upon the earth for 150 days was a contradiction? How stupid is that? Now Nate, I’m calling you out here. If you have true Bible knowledge, you will confirm there is no contradiction here. These experts are drunk on their own imagined I.Q.. But I tried to suffer through.
    Then they did not even understand how the Bible will make a general statement at times, and then give greater detail later, but nothing that contradicts the general statement. In general, the animals were saved in “2’s”, and they came in by “pairs”, male and female. Then God specified that the clean animals would be saved by “7’s” and come in by pairs. They saw this as contradiction, not further explanation, but they still came in by pairs, and what about that 7th one? I can hear your brains shouting. The 7th one was for sacrifices for one thing. Not the only reason though. Now Nate, I ask you to listen to minutes 13 through 17 and tell me this is not an insult to Biblical intelligence. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.
    Now my sleep is more important than a documentary that can’t even understand scripture on Noah. So yes, at this point I already knew this documentary was just another perversion, and not worth wasting time on. I was prepared to watch the whole thing. I have not even finished my wine yet. But I don’t want to go to bed sick of my stomach, which is what those lying experts would cause.
    This is simple stuff. Like some people bring up the two conflicting stories of the messenger reporting to David about the death of King Saul. Any logical mind should understand, that since King Saul had been trying to murder David, this messenger thought he could gain favor with David by making it sound like he killed Saul. He was lying and it backfired on him. This is stuff any honest person should be able to figure out.
    Tomorrow I’ll work on “the” question. And yes, if you want to have real conversation, and not just an attack, I’m good with that, but for now, I got some wine to finish.

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  105. I haven’t watched the documentary yet, but plan to. But yes, if the way you’ve relayed it is correct, then I’d agree with you that none off those things are contradictions. I have other issues with the historicity of Abraham and Noah’s flood, but we can deal with those topics later, if they come up. Looking forward to your thoughts on why the Bible’s claims should be accepted.

    Have a great night and enjoy your Tostitos. 🙂

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  106. Peter

    Nan

    I was interested in your comment ‘I doubt many Christians watched it’. Most likely you are on the money. Until recently I would dismiss such documentaries as being biased and would turn them off in disgust, or more likely not even start watching them because I knew what to expect from secular presentations.

    In my own case what has been the great revelation to me is how much our presuppositions impact on what we accept. How readily we can rationalise away arguments that conflict with our world view, I know all this because I had done it myself for a long time.

    It was a great shock to find that the arguments I used to use to criticise those who challenged the reliability of the Bible and the existence of God aptly just as much, if not more so, to those who argue for the reliability of the Bible and the existence of God.

    Peter Enns has recently posted on his blog two interesting posts drawing on the work of Stephen Young. The basic premise of Young’s position is that inerrant Biblical Scholars frame their consideration of the Bible such that the only conclusion they can reach is inerrancy. Terms such as the ‘Bible must be accepted on its own terms’ might sound objective but are they really?

    Unless one is prepared to accept the theory that best explains the evidence, rather than seeking evidence to support pre-conceived views then one will never find the truth.

    I used to think it was the atheists who were blind, who could not see the plain truth staring them in the face. What a shock to have changed my position to now think that about the people of faith.

    ‘When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?’ John Maynard Keynes.

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  107. when i was a believer, i recall contemplating the OT and reconciling with the NT. In my mind, i created some pretty good explanations, which at the time made me feel like I was getting wiser.

    Now I see that I was only creating patches for that exist in the bible.

    I’ve actually heard some people say, “well, if you can just accept that there is a miracle working god and that he’d want to give us the bible, then it all makes perfect sense…”

    and true, it makes a lot more sense if you can establish a perfect, all powerful god who actually delivered his word in the bible – but that’s starting off with huge assumptions.

    it’s like saying, “if you accept that fairies and flying are real, then it begins to make sense that a man could fly if he sprinkled himself with sand and thought happy thoughts.”

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  108. The Question: “Why do I believe the Bible is what it claims to be? The Word of God to man.”

    First of all, I do not believe in “blind faith” as we are so often accused of. My belief is based on evidence. But what kind of evidence? The same kind that people are convicted or not convicted every day in court. We did not have film footage of O.J. Simpson murdering his wife, but most of us believe he did. Based on what? You tell me. Evidence? A gut feeling? I don’t have a video of God moving through special chosen people to write his message, but there is much circumstantial evidence. So much so that I don’t even know if I can fit it in one comment.

    Science used to say the universe did not have a beginning, that it simply always was, then they discovered they were wrong, that it had a definite and sudden beginning that they began to call the “Big Bang”, and the universe is still expanding from that “bang”. So science was wrong. Not the first time and won’t be the last, but they still refuse to admit that a supernatural God speaking the words “Light be!” could be that force they see evidence of. (How convenient.)

    Then there is all the evidence of a great upheaval on this earth, a great flood, and it is hard to find things existing before that flood. The Bible says there was a great flood, but adds a few details science just can’t believe.

    Then SPG’s recommended documentary. I loved the first 13 minutes. Yes, “something” happened on this earth. And yes, “something” happened to a man named Abraham that him him to take a radically different direction to the knowledge of his time, AND AGAINST ALL ODDS, his belief survived! The Muslim faith also goes all the way back to Abraham, his son, Ishmael, and they also still believe in one God. Something about this man Abraham, surviving against all the odds, becomes a nation called Israel, who claim to be God’s chosen people.

    Now there is “something” about this nation Israel. They had Prophets who spoke and wrote strange things, and yet so many of these things came true. Now do we really need to get into who wrote what? First of all, the evidence that the Bible was not written by any “single” person is overwhelming. There are many ways of discerning if something was written in a certain time period, or not. Also the way the person words things. It’s easy to tell a Stephen King Novel from a Mark Twain, without any signatures. So we at least know the Bible is a compilation of different writers who claim they were moved upon by God. Now these men wrote things they could not have known! The vision of Daniel, when he interprets the king’s dream of the great statue, and he predicts the coming of great nations, even Rome, and the split of Rome.

    The coming of a Messiah and how he would be crucified! Crucifixion had not even been invented yet! The Romans perfected that great way to die. And how the nation of Israel would be scattered to the nations. No other nation has ever been scattered like that, lost their land, and yet come back to tell about it. We continue to watch Israel stay on a path of everything that has been prophesied by the Prophets.

    Then Jesus comes along and there is “something” about him. How do I know this? Because he so changed the lives of 12 men (counting Apostle Paul), that they left their livelihoods and lived in poverty, being hunted for their faith, and eventually were murdered for their testimony as they refused to recant what they had seen with their eyes! This is not normal for people to do. “Something” happened to them. They had an encounter with “something”, and it wasn’t science! Paul was a wealthy and powerful man. He did a complete 180 and left it all, just so he could die poor, wifeless, and spend lots of time in jail. Peter was nailed upside down to a cross because he was not worthy to die in the same way as his Lord.

    Then the Apostle John is condemned to an island where he has a great vision, and in a time when the fastest mode of transportation was still horseback, he prophesies f a coming Antichrist, who somehow the whole world will see, and there will be a Mark that all must take or die. He saw things very future, of which he had no way to know what they could be. “Something” happened to the Apostle John.

    Then you have millions of changed lives, like me. They say porno is as hard a habit to break as cocain, and yet I am free of it. I have joy and peace that I cannot explain, no matter what is going on with me.

    You can question the books of the O.T., but the Jews were meticulous record keepers and copiers. Of course, we have “translations” today, and the Bible does not say that the translators were controlled by God. Our translation is not perfect, but I have only seen a couple of unexplainable possible mistakes, neither of them affect doctrine in any way, and quite possibly are explainable, but we just have not seen it yet. This book that the Nazis tried to destroy, that most communistic countries hate, and even the Papal Church tried to keep out of the hands of the commoner, has not only survived, but thrived.

    This is some evidence, but not nearly all. We are surrounded by evidence. There once was two neighbors and they both wanted a beautiful painting in their garage. So they both went about filling their garage with everything they would need to create a beautiful painting. They had the paint brushes, the paint knives, the easel, canvas, wood for framing, all the many colored tubes of paint, everything they could possibly think of to create that painting. Then the one neighbor tied some sticks od dynamite together, lit the fuse, threw it in his garage and caused a great big BANG! Needless to say, there was no beautiful painting standing in the smoke and debris, and O.J. probably murdered his wife. Now the second man decided that what his neighbor did would never work. He decided to hire an “Artist” to come into his garage and work with the materials he had provided. In a matter of days he had his beautiful painting.

    “Something” has happened on this earth and is still happening. You want to believe it is alien involvement, be my guest, but I do not have a blind faith, and there is much evidence that fits the narrative of a certain book, written by many men, that the earth has tried to destroy while it survived. That book has led me to an excellent life of knowing how to have peace and joy, how to raise 5 children, and a blessed marriage of 38 years now. That book was written by men who mostly had to give up “everything” to fulfill their calling in God. And there is a nation Israel, still fulfilling that book to this day, because it was prophesied they would REJECT Christ, and so they are stuck in the O.T. and unable to even perform the duties they are supposed to be performing, but they still long to rebuild that temple, and they shall, just as prophesied. They will also come to Christ one day, just as prophesied.

    I hope this gets to you. I am about to lose my at home Internet, as I have given notice of on my blogsite. I’ll be going to the downtown Library, but I will no longer have daily access. Thank you for reading such a long message. It could easily be much longer, because there is so much evidence.

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  109. P.S. : If you want to point out some of the passages you believe to be contradictions, I’ll take a look at them. I can offer evidence to answers, but it still remains for each of to decide what we will do with our measure of faith. You’re believing in something too. God designed us that way. You can’t escape it. Choose wisely.

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  110. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, thee.

    I viewed the Bible almost exactly how you’ve described. What I didn’t realize is that most scholars (even many Christian ones) doubt that Abraham and Moses, etc were real people. They certainly do not believe that the Old Testament was written by the people most of us grew up thinking were the authors. Yes, the OT was written by several different people, but there are strong indications that it was not done in the process you’re thinking. It was edited, redacted, and fleshed out by different authors in different periods, depending on what they needed it to say. Or to give them more benefit of the doubt, depending on what they believed God wanted it to say. Abraham, Moses, and Noah were likely legendary figures, much like King Arthur. Even if there had been actual individuals with those names, the stories about them had been wildly exaggerated by the time they were written down. Archaeology does not support the stories of the Exodus, or even the conquest of Canaan. Archaeology also shows that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were not nearly as opulent as the Bible describes. The Bible’s accuracy doesn’t seem to be very solid until you get around the time period of kings like Ahab and Omri. Till that point, much of the Bible story appears to be legend.

    There actually isn’t good evidence for a global flood. And I’m putting it mildly — the overwhelming consensus of geologists (based on many lines of evidence) is that there was never a global flood and such a thing would have been physically impossible. This page can give you more details (with references), if you like. Just a couple of highlights: if our geological record had been laid down quickly by a flood, then fossils would not be in any kind of order. Yet, we’ve never discovered a rabbit fossil below a dinosaur fossil, for instance. The record only runs one way, which is consistent with a very old earth. There are cave paintings that are much older than when the flood was supposed to take place, but those paintings would have washed away had they ever been submerged. This doesn’t even touch the difficulties that come with the ark: how to fit all those animals on board? What to do about food and excrement? How did kangaroos, penguins, sloths, and polar bears all make it to Palestine and back?

    You mentioned that science changed its position on the universe being eternal and finally accepted the Big Bang. You referred to it as though their change in position was a flaw in science, but that’s actually how science is supposed to work. When people used to think the earth was flat or that the sun went around the earth, were they stupid? Or evil? No, they were making reasonable conclusions based on their observation. But eventually, new evidence showed that they had been mistaken, and the general public finally accepted that. The amount of evidence we have for the Big Bang is overwhelming, at this point. The level of background radiation in the universe supports the idea, so does the red-shift in the stars around us, and our telescopes have even been able to look “back” far enough to see the radiation from the Big Bang itself. Is there still more to discover? Absolutely. But that doesn’t invalidate the discoveries we’ve already made.

    The Old Testament prophecies you mention aren’t even real prophecies in many places. For instance, the prophecy about Josiah that was always so impressive to me as a kid, was both written and “fulfilled” within the same book of the Bible, making it very suspect. Daniel’s prophecies actually don’t appear to reference Rome at all. Daniel’s last kingdom is Greece, and he even covers Greece’s split after Alexander’s death. The bulk of Daniel’s prophecies seem to focus on Antiochus Epiphanes, who occupied Jerusalem around 165 BCE and was a terrible ruler. He defiled the temple and inflicted all kinds of horrible things on the Jews. Those are the events that Daniel seems to be focused on. And that’s not surprising, because there’s an incredible amount of evidence pointing to “Daniel” never being a real person in Babylon. The book appears to have been written around 165 BCE, about 400 years after the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

    Also, crucifixion was not invented by the Romans. Alexander the Great crucified a number of people after sacking Tyre, and that was around 332 BCE. But he didn’t invent the practice either. It’s had a very long history.

    When it comes to how much Christianity has helped you, I think that’s great. I’m sincerely glad that it’s made you a better person. But that doesn’t really prove that it’s true. Some kids behave better when they believe in Santa Claus, but that doesn’t make Santa real. And I’m not trying to insult your beliefs by that comparison — it was just the best one I could think of.

    Nor is the existence of Christianity and the Bible proof of its truthfulness. The existence and proliferation of the Bible has much more to do with the Dark Ages than almost anything else. Typically, the only educated people during that time were priests or monks. And they certainly weren’t going to spend their time copying secular or pagan texts. They copied the Bible over and over, and even worked to eradicate certain works that they believed were heretical. In more recent history, the printing press was the other piece of the puzzle to ensure the Bible made it to the masses. And since Christianity was the dominant religion in the Western world at the time, it’s no surprise that the Bible became prolific. Had the printing press been invented during the heyday of the Roman Empire, who knows how history might have gone?

    This is a longer comment than I meant to make, and I probably didn’t cover all of your points. To sum up, I would suggest (if this is a topic that truly interests you) that you spend some time reading books from more moderate Christians like Peter Enns, or from people that may not be Christians at all. There are a number of great sources that cover all kinds of things: history, archaeology, textual criticism, science, etc. And I think you’d find that many of the things you view as evidence aren’t as solid as you’ve been led to believe. It can be a disturbing revelation — believe me, I know. But if you’re willing to take the chance on it, it can also be really rewarding.

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  111. Instead of just listing one or two contradictory passages, I think it might be better for you to do some more in depth reading on the various issues. Otherwise, we’ll just keep going back and forth without really getting deep enough into the overall subject. I think it would help you to have a fuller understanding of where we nonbelievers are coming from.

    So if you’re open to it, I can either direct you to some earlier posts on my blog with the understanding that you’ll read through entire series before we start discussing it again, or I can email you a paper I wrote for my close friends and family when I first realized I no longer could believe Christianity. It’s a pretty full treatment and covers many (though not all) of the issues that I find problematic. It’s 57 typed pages, so it takes some time to go through. But if you’re interested, I’d be happy to send it your way.

    And if neither of those sound good, I can give you some book suggestions that might help illustrate the problems more fully.

    Out of curiosity, do you think it’s possible that you’re wrong? That Christianity isn’t true at all?

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  112. Paul, I’m watching the documentary right now, and I think it’s quite good (NOVA programs usually are). I’m halfway through.

    thee, I agree with your criticism on what they said about the differences in the Noah story, but their overall point agrees with other research I’ve done on how they began to form the documentary hypothesis. And honestly, I’d need to go through those passages in Genesis again in more detail before I said they were completely wrong. Depends on what they’re trying to say. Either way, I think their overall point is something that should be considered.

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  113. @powellpowers
    Wow and the blog is alive again!
    And seriously guys? Am I the only one sensing huge narcissism and ego dripping out from this guy?
    “Choose wisely. I’ll check back tomorrow.”

    Seriously? WTF?

    no you’re not the only one, I concur with your assessment.

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  114. carmen

    I agree, Paul – Nate, your diplomacy is outstanding. The first comment from ‘Thee’ screamed “FUNDAMENTALIST” at me — which is why I’ve held my ‘tongue’. Toxic christians have that effect on me.

    . . .whoops. . .

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  115. First, I want to say that I enjoyed reading Thee’s comment as well as Nate’s, both very well articulated. I’d also like to point out that any book, even if it contains 100% historical truth, is not automatically a divinely inspired book. Also, some theists argue that even if some things are legend it could still be divinely inspired so arguing over things like a flood and moses and abraham might be a moot point. I would encourage focusing on the things that prove divine revelation such as prophecy or anything that would have been impossible for a writer of that time period to know.

    Thee mentioned how the big bang matches up with Elohim saying “Let there be light”, but I think this is reaching. If you read Genesis 1 it seems a lot more localized and primitive. I don’t see anything profound in this chapter. It is very simple observations: day & night, sun & moon, dry land & water, plants & animals and humans. Then it gets into some bizarre things like creating a person from a rib and talking snakes and magical fruit and flaming swords that make it seem a lot more like other creation myths from that time period. That does not mean it’s not inspired, I just don’t see any profound revelations yet.

    Thee brought up the topic of monotheism. It is interesting to note that other ancient people also had monotheistic ideas such as Akhenaten in Egypt and Zoroaster in ancient Iran. Of course, the idea of monotheism would only be impressive if we actually knew whether it was true or not, which we don’t. There could be many gods or perhaps no gods.

    Personally I would like to see more information concerning the men who “wrote things they could not have known!”. Please share more in this area. All of the prophecies I have looked at are either vague or written “in order to fulfill”.

    Sorry to hear about your internet.

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  116. Lots of good points here as usual, and we’ve all come to admire Nate for his diplomacy. It’s pretty amazing actually.

    I wanted to offer a side note on the whole “there was a beginning” thing. There may very well have been, and you could find many cosmologists who agree, but it’s not near as large a percentage of them as people think. Sean Carroll made this clear in his recent debate with William Lane Craig. There is near complete consensus on the Big Bang itself and it would require huge amounts of counter-evidence to overturn. But the Big Bang is not at all the same as the proposition that there is a beginning of time.

    If anyone really cares this is a highly recommended read:
    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2015/03/20/guest-post-don-page-on-god-and-cosmology/

    Here’s a relevant quote from the person who wrote it:

    On the issue of whether our universe had a beginning, besides not believing that this is at all relevant to the issue of whether or not God exists, I agreed almost entirely with Sean’s points rather than yours, Bill, on this issue. We simply do not know whether or not our universe had a beginning, but there are certainly models, such as Sean’s with Jennifer Chen (hep-th/0410270 and gr-qc/0505037), that do not have a beginning. I myself have also favored a bounce model in which there is something like a quantum superposition of semiclassical spacetimes (though I don’t really think quantum theory gives probabilities for histories, just for sentient experiences), in most of which the universe contracts from past infinite time and then has a bounce to expand forever. In as much as these spacetimes are approximately classical throughout, there is a time in each that goes from minus infinity to plus infinity.

    The person who wrote it is Don Page and he is an evangelical Christian! I personally think his very first sentence above says it all.

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  117. Thanks for the comment, Howie!

    And Carmen, thanks for your kind words as well.

    thee, let me also thank you for taking the time to comment on an atheist blog. Plenty of people (including some of my close friends and family) don’t make the effort, despite believing we all need salvation. And I also want to thank you for your tone. Personally, I find it to be straight and to the point, not derisive.

    And for any of you who would like to know how “fundamentalist Nate” sounded, here’s a good example. I think most of you guys would have looked at me pretty differently back then. 🙂

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  118. Ahhh, you’re right on the Greece and Rome thing. That’s what I get for writing too much off the top of my head, but it does seem we have looked at very different experts on archeology and evidence. Somehow the Israelites ended up in possession of that land, and there are very many unexplainable things that fit the Bible narrative. Including the direction everything is going. If that documentary of SPG is any example of your experts, then I’m not impressed. I should be losing this Internet service tomorrow, and I’m off to work now, but I’ve heard many experts before, and most of them are just like that documentary, in my opinion.

    Well, we are having conversation, and I’ll try to get back, but it may be in a very irregular manner. What I see is we are all presented with a choice based on the evidence at hand. I have given you excellent logic. A big bang is not how we got here, and there are plenty of experts saying the opposite of yours. So here we are. It’s our choice. I guess that’s as far as we can go. It always seems to end at faith. The experts cancel each other out, and we end up back at faith. We each have our religion that we cannot prove.

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  119. carmen

    Ahh, Nate. . .I read through that thread. What a contrast! BUT I sense the same ‘essence of you’ – warm, intelligent, diplomatic, patient. . the same genuinely nice guy. Just on the flip side of the equation.

    Also, it’s worth noting that the Andrew Green in the comments sounds like you do now. 🙂

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  120. Yeah, I later sent Andrew an email. He and I are fb friends now too. He made a pretty big impact on me at a crucial time, which is why I didn’t actually reply to him in that thread. And if you notice, the last comment I made was 2/1/2010, right when I was beginning to find severe evidence against Christianity. That’s why that comment is so noncommittal. Interesting, eh?

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  121. For anyone who’s interested, I did a little digging on the crucifixion prophecy topic. I’m pretty sure Thee was referring to Psalm 22 and although it does not mention the messiah and it looks like David is speaking about himself, it does mention “they pierced my hands and feet”. This is only in some translations, but there are a lot of Christian websites with articles backing up the reasoning for this translation.

    I looked for an alternative viewpoint and found this article by Rabbi Tovia Singer: http://outreachjudaism.org/crucifixion-psalm/

    It’s a very interesting read (feel free to skip the part about Martin Luther).

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  122. thee, I respectfully disagree with you. You’re making it out like both sides have qualified experts, so people just have to choose. That’s definitely one of the narratives that’s common in Christian circles these days, but I’m telling you that if you break out of those bubbles, you’ll see it’s just not so. When people argue against the things we take for granted in Christianity, it’s not that they’re hiding evidence that runs in favor of Christianity. They tend to look at it all. Go check out the ongoing list of books I’ve read, if you want. One of the things I discovered was that many of the apologetic books would present some information. When I read about the same topic in other books (whether they were written from a moderate Christian perspective, a completely skeptical perspective, or simply by someone who didn’t care about religion and was just relaying information), I almost always found the same information that the Christian sources had presented in addition to other information that presented a fuller picture.

    I’m saying that it doesn’t have to be so “us vs. them.” You can find sources that try to give a full picture, because their drive is not to push some ideology, but to simply get to the truth of a subject. And from that perspective, it’s very hard to stick to a literal, conservative view of scripture. Like I said, if you’re honestly interested in this, you’re going to need to do some more reading. Not trying to be condescending, because I’ve been where you are.

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  123. carmen

    Yes, Nate, interesting indeed. Interesting story, interesting fellow and interesting learning experience you are giving me about the power of diplomacy. . . I’ve been with Gr. 10’s and 11’s all day – that sounds like a rap! 🙂

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  124. It always seems to end at faith. The experts cancel each other out, and we end up back at faith.

    For me personally, I’ve decided not to put my “faith” in anything that cannot be reasonably verified. On the question of ultimate origins I feel it’s best to just be honest and say “I don’t know”. Anything else would just be guessing or pretending (for me anyway). If I tried to force myself into believing that a version of the Christian God or Muslim God actually existed it would just be dishonest.

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  125. Paul, I finally finished the documentary, and I thought it was excellent. Thanks again for sharing! I hadn’t heard some of the recent evidence for Solomon’s reign, so that was especially fascinating.

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  126. and thee-n-counter,

    the big bang cant really be compared to a hand grenade. A hand grenade goes off, accelerates, expands, decelerates and spends all of its energy in seconds or less, in very small scale.

    the big bang contained all energy, all matter and is still expanding. the same laws that affect hand grenades affect the big bang as well. The gravity and light and everything make matter collide in the expanse, birthing stars and creating planets are all cause by physical laws, explained by math, etc.

    and with so much matter and so much expanse, only a few (one known of) led to life, with the vast majority having none.

    while they’re both explosions, the amount of energy, matter and time are vastly different.

    plus, as nate has pointed out, the radiation afterglow, the expanding of the universe and and the abundance of helium have all provided tangible evidence to support the big bang.

    the bible on the other hand has old claims that god speaks to us through them… miracles once verified this, but we dont have them anymore.

    and even if the big bang was rubbish, that still doesnt mean the bible is right.

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  127. and then, there are the issues with the bible itself. and if the bible is wrong, that doesnt prove the big bang either. there arent only 2 options…

    nate has written a good bit regarding the bible’s issues, from prophecies, to inconsistencies, to archaeology and science. look into those and comment on those threads if you like.

    but consider the following as well:

    in comic books or movies or real life, would a hero kill the child of an employee or servant to punish that employee or servant, or would that be the villain who does that? it’s what god did to David.

    Do we sympathize with ISIS for killing men, women and children and then raping the women and girls in Iraq and Syria, or do we view those acts as evil and horrid? is that something a good and just leader would demand? it’s what god commanded the Israelites to do.

    and as far as the NT, I know it criticizes those who ask for signs or miracles, saying that a non-believer wouldnt believe even then… but didnt John say that miracles were to convince people? werent Gideon, Moses, Paul and thomas all convinced by miracles according to the bible? does it really make more sense for a loving and all-powerful god to have the ability to let everyone know that he is the real god, without question, but instead have random guys write on behalf, in a way that is very suspect to many, while he stays in hiding?

    I am reminded of Elijah’s test to the prophets of baal. would any god pass that test today – even the bible god?

    i do not mean to mock god, but to question the claims of these superstitious people I’ve never met… claims that are unsubstantiated…

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  128. Matt

    Ahh fundamentalist Nate I remember that guy. Nathan and I have been on opposite sides of the issues a few different times actually, with many many emails, phone calls and conversations trying to work things out. No matter what side of an issue he was on, he’s always been the same genuinely kind guy. He may be a little more open to things now days, but that passion for finding the truth is still the force that drives him.

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  129. Peter

    Hi Nate

    Just wanted to echo the thoughts of many others on this blog. The response you wrote to Thee at 9:29 am, was wonderful. It was well considered, thoughtful and compelling.

    I have been working through Dr Steve DiMattei’s blog http://contradictionsinthebible.com/ he is up to contradiction number 296 and he is only part through the Book of Deuteronomy (having started at Genesis). I shudder to think what number he reach once he starts to address the Books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles which are riddled with issues.

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  130. Peter

    Hi William

    The following article on Benny Hinn is interesting for two reasons, firstly when This faith healer gets ill his family advised him to go to the Doctor, which he did, and secondly it notes that investigations into claims of healing produced no concrete evidence, if anything the people appeared worse off as a result of their ‘healing’!

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/3/24/faith-healer-benny-hinn-is-admitted-to-intensive-care-for-heart-problems/

    Like

  131. Peter

    Hi Nate

    In reference to your response of 1:45 pm, I was looking the the Christianity Today website and was struck by the pervasive tone. It is one where Christians feel under attack. They very much feel like the victims in the public debates.

    This type of mindset is in the Christian DNA given it pervaded the Old Testament, and the New Testament Epistles. It does, however, affect the way one responds to contrary views, no matter how well intentioned.

    I learnt in the field of customer relations, it is not reality which influences a customers response, rather it is what the customer thinks reality is that influences.

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  132. Still here, and I don’t have a persecution complex, but I was right about Rome in my earlier statement. Daniel’s Prophecy does show Rome, the kingdom of iron. I’m not sure what you thought I said, and now I’m not sure what you meant either, because Rome is clearly shown. I assumed you probably knew what you were talking about, but now I guess I’m not sure what you meant, because everyone knows Rome is shown in that statue.

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  133. Peter

    Hi Thee

    I am assuming that you are genuine in your comments here and not trying to bait Nate. If you are genuine then I suggest you look through Nate’s very detailed comments about the Book of Daniel on this website. If you are prepared to read them with an open mind then I hope that you would then realise how inappropriate your last post was.

    The evidence from the text of the Book of Daniel clearly points to the fourth kingdom being Greece. Many Christian commentors argue it is Rome based on theological conviction it must be Rome because, not on an actual reading of the plain sense of the text.

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  134. Hi thee,

    Yes, Peter’s spot-on. I used to think the 4th kingdom was Rome, just like you. But like Peter said, Christians are forced to that conclusion, because they need the prophecy to reference Christ, and he wasn’t on the scene till the Roman Empire. The actual text of Daniel and what we know from history paint a different picture. You can get more info at this link, if you like. I am not the original author of this article, but he let me repost it here. It doesn’t provide sources, unfortunately, though I know he got most of his information from the Anchor Bible series of commentaries. I also spent a lot of time researching this (these articles were the first things that kick started my research into whether or not the Bible was true), and I was able to verify what he reports as well. Not that you should take my word for it.

    In fact, a very helpful resource for me was Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel, by H.H. Rowley. It’s an extremely detailed treatment of the issues in the Book of Daniel, and he provides a ton of sources.

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  135. even prayer is interesting… for sick people.

    I’d bet that statistically, prayer most often works for the sick who a) don’t have a life threatening disease, and 2) can afford medical care.

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  136. I’m going through these questions right now regarding the religious- though I still call myself a “follower of Christ” as I still follow the teachings of Christ. I am not evangelical and I do not take a literal interpretation of the Bible. One of the churches that shunned my family and I was a CoC- the other was a Presbyterian church. I still consider myself a believer- but I am by all means anti-religious and I am not a member of any church and have not been for a very long time…I look forward to reading your posts given time- as I have two small children and I’m sure you know “free” time comes in chunks these days 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  137. Thanks for the comment! I’m glad to have you along — feel free to comment on any threads you run across that pique your interest. And good luck as you go through these questions yourself. It’s a strange but rewarding process, and many people never take the time to do it. I look forward to talking to you further! 🙂

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  138. Peter

    Hi Linden (though I know from your blog that is not your actual name). I hope you find your time at Nate’s blog beneficial. Nate is a very considered and fair person. Indeed he frustrates some people because he is ‘too fair’ in their eyes. If you do have the time I suspect you would benefit from reading some of Nate’s earlier posts.

    I found his series on the Book of Daniel to be a real eye opener.

    Anyway nice to have you here and I hope we all can together determine what the truth really is.

    Like

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