Quiz Show!

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82 thoughts on “Quiz Show!”

  1. These really are funny. And why I have left inerrancy behind. Meanwhile, one could argue that quite a bit is ‘lost in translation’. I know a lot of people who believe that the Bible is only inerrant in its original draft – which of course is convenient since no such manuscript exists.

    I wonder how they explain the oral passing down of much of the O.T.? Considering what usually happens when one plays the ‘telephone game’ … You get my drift. 😉

    For me, the inaccuracies do not negate the overall message the Bible is working to convey. Instead they remind me that God meets us where we are – in all of our fallen-ness. I also do not need for everything in the Bible to jive simply because, in the end, there is no possible way my mind can grasp everything about God, so the Bible doesn’t have to be exhaustive in its narrative or absolutely accurate. Because of my own condition, I would likely misunderstand things that were written with perfect accuracy anyway (kind of like when I read a physics text ;)).

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  2. maybe god could clear things up by actually talking to each of his “children” personally.

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  3. Well said, JudahFirst. I would question the Bible more if , for example, all four Gospels had the exact same details about what Jesus did, how many people were present during the resurrection, etc. At the same time, focusing too much on the details of Bible’s contradiction often distracts us from receiving the message that its authors were trying to convey.

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  4. It’s hard for me to see why anyone would think God actually had anything to do with the Bible, considering all its problems. Guess it just shows we don’t all approach it from the same angle.

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  5. Nate, considering how different we all are on a cellular level (DNA), it is no wonder to me that we “don’t all approach it from the same angle.” I find it much more amazing that any communication takes place at all! lol

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  6. Nate, it’s hard for me to see why anyone would think “Nate” actually had anything to do with this blog, considering all its internal inconsistencies and contradictions.

    🙂

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  7. I imagine, were you Elijah, you would have been disappointed to learn God appeared in the gentle whisper and not in the wind, earthquake, or fire. And, likewise, that God entered history as a carpenter instead of someone more likely to be convincing as God’s representative. For his own reason, he uses weakness and brokenness. This is a God who most often chooses to come in the quiet, not in the sure and unmistakable.

    If we were discussing a god who claimed to always reveal himself in ways that could not be mistaken, I’d be inclined to agree with your critiques. But, you’re using your own standards to critique, not the ones God uses. I’m glad he comes as a gentle breeze that will not crush the bruised reed.

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  8. Josh,

    First of all, I’m not writing my blog to convince you that Christianity is a false religion. If you can continue to believe it, despite all its problems, then that’s fine. It may not be a point of view I understand, but I don’t have to — it’s your point of view. However, there are many people out there who maintain the Bible is perfect and inerrant. I used to be one of these people. That’s my primary audience here. So no doubt, I’ll make many arguments that don’t resonate with you, because you’re not really who I’m directing them toward.

    That being said, if we can trust much of the Bible, we find that God spoke from a burning bush, led the Israelites in a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud, caused the earth to swallow whole families, rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, separated a sea so people could cross on dry land, protected people who had been thrown into a furnace, protected Daniel in the lion’s den, brought a skeleton army to life, took miracle requests from Gideon and Hezekiah and Moses, etc, etc, etc.

    God used miracles as proof that he was who he claimed to be. And he allowed many of his followers to perform them for the same reason. They weren’t running a health and wellness tour, they were trying to convince people of the truths they were preaching. In other words, God used extreme evidence to support extreme claims. Now, for some reason, he doesn’t do that. I’ve never seen a miracle. Just about everyone I know says they’ve never seen one either. The Bible, his supposed word, could be its own evidence if it contained accurate prophecies, or displayed a knowledge of science that couldn’t possibly have been known at the time it was written. Or even just avoiding contradictions would be a good sign that it’s no ordinary book, since it’s easy for regular people to make mistakes. But the Bible is none of those things.

    So what real reason do we have to believe its claims? Why did God put so much energy into convincing people long ago, but doesn’t bother doing the same today? Especially, since he’s “no respecter of persons”? Of course, we get that claim from the Bible, and since it’s not inerrant, I guess there’s no reason to believe it was right about that particular aspect of God’s character, right?

    Never mind. It’s much clearer now. Just strip away anything the Bible says about God wanting people to believe his teachings, or strip out the passages that say salvation only comes through belief in Jesus, and we’re all set. The inadequacies of the Bible are no big deal when we pick and choose which parts are relevant.

    Look, here’s the thing: We live in a world filled to the brim with different versions of different religions all claiming to be the TRUTH. As individuals, we don’t get to start out with a blank slate so we can examine each of these carefully before deciding which avenue is correct. Instead, we’re born into families that have already chosen a particular path, and most of us are told that this path is the only true one. Everyone else is misguided. We may begin to question that premise once our brains have fully developed (though many of us never really question it at all), but after 20 or more years of indoctrination, it’s not easy to achieve true objectivity. To make matters worse, most of us are told that making the wrong decision about religion will lead to some kind of punishment — a quite severe one, in most religions. That kind of fear only further impedes our ability to objectively choose between all the competing options.

    This is the problem I see with what you’re saying. You believe in a God who works subtly and mysteriously, so it’s no wonder we can’t understand him. And if we’re trying to find him via reason, then we’re probably going to miss him anyway. He gave us a message, but it’s almost indistinguishable from all the other man-made religious texts that are out there. Might seem crazy, but then again, the wisdom of God is foolishness to men, so who are we to judge? This God loves everyone, but he doesn’t contact us because he wants us to believe in him and love him because we want to. Of course, there are consequences if we “reject” him, though I have trouble understanding how we can reject a being who’s never really let himself be known to us.

    The entire scenario is ridiculous — at least, it seems that way to me. The only people who are likely to buy into it are those who were born into it. While this kind of Christianity might occasionally pull in a convert from atheism, Islam, Hinduism, etc, it’s very rare. It mostly brings in people who were raised as Christians when they were children, or at the very least, lived in a Western society that was culturally Christian. Very few people from other faiths will come to it. This tells me that either God doesn’t care much about people from non-Judeo-Christian cultures, or this religion is utterly bogus. The latter seems most likely to me.

    Sorry to rant on for so long. I know you’re a good guy, and you’re not trying to be dismissive of non-Christians. But I honestly believe that you aren’t really putting yourself in their shoes. If you were, I think you’d see that your version of Christianity is pretty hard to believe in. There’s no real evidence for it, because you water down the one piece of hard evidence you have, the Bible. What other evidence do you have to point to? Creation? An inner feeling? Those can point to any god. Or none at all.

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  9. Nate, I’m not aiming to water anything down or make light of your reasoning. You have several complaints about difficulties in scripture that you have researched and cannot resolve. In the discussions we’ve had I have become convinced that trying to dissuade you that those are actually as problematic as you think is futile. You have searched and come to your conclusions. Nothing I say about those things will be different from what I’m sure you’ve already read. That’s fine. I’m trying to respect that and give you different perspectives on why I believe Christianity

    I will say one thing in response to your post. Christianity is distinguishable from all other gods in that God came to redeem us. No other god that I’m aware of claims that. All others demand our obedience to earn favor, yet don’t tell where the “bar” is. That’s a significant distinguishing and convincing feature, in my opinion.

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  10. Nate, I am not part of your audience in this post, since I do not think the Bible is perfect and complete (like I used to). But I don’t necessarily believe that God does not try to reach out to us so that we can believe in him either.
    You wrote ” I have trouble understanding how we can reject a being who’s never really let himself be known to us.” Just because He is not more obvious to us in today’s world does not mean He is not real. We can still reject when believers preach to us, when we read a few biblical verses, when we have opportunities to serve the poor, when we refuse to forgive, when we yield to temptations, etc. All of these I believe are examples of ways we can reject God.
    I agree with you when you wrote that believers are usually more convinced of what Bible teaches because they were raised in this environment, me included. I also agree that we often miss the fact that other religions also claim to be the Truth and not agreeing with the one we were raised with leads to eternal punishment is a fear driven approach. Most Christians use it and I think it is a wrong interpretation of God.
    Anyways, we are all pretty much in the same boat. Trying to find Truth and meaning. Which is why many times I prefer to simply live by doing what I currently think is the reason for living: serving others in need.

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  11. Which is why many times I prefer to simply live by doing what I currently think is the reason for living: serving others in need.

    I can get behind that.

    I will say one thing in response to your post. Christianity is distinguishable from all other gods in that God came to redeem us. No other god that I’m aware of claims that. All others demand our obedience to earn favor, yet don’t tell where the “bar” is. That’s a significant distinguishing and convincing feature, in my opinion.

    You may be right about that difference. But isn’t it still an assumption that God would use a plan like that? Just like a Muslim might say that Islam is the only religion to treat its text as the primary miracle that God would perform. In other words, his message to mankind is the only necessary miracle. And the Muslim might further say that Islam is better than Christianity because it’s a true monotheism having no other being equal to God.

    The point is that any religious person can point to the unique features of their particular faith as the reason it would be “God’s way” of doing things. Isn’t it presumptive to say we know what kind of plan God would choose? Aren’t his ways higher than ours?

    And sorry, by the way, if my tone was off-putting in the last comment.

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  12. Not off-putting, Nate.
    You have a point that people of any religion could point to the things that make their religion unique. I’m definitely willing to accept I could be wrong, and I mentioned I have my doubts at times. I’ll just say again that I know myself and I know how hard I’ve tried to become a good person. I constantly fail, and end up hurting people around me. I (and this is personal) take no comfort in a god who simply lays out how we should live. There is clearly a drive in us to be better. The question I have for every other religion is “How much better?” A god that simply offers rules with no clear is not something I, who know how far I can fall short, am interested in. The God who offers himself to show that I am accepted is far more worthy, IMO.

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  13. Nate, God’s way are definitely higher than ours. Which is why we often don’t fully understand why God allows certain things such as hunger, abuse, wars, etc. I f I were God I would do many things differently … but I am not. By the way, Christians don’t claim there are other beings equal to God. The Trinity is one God. However, we should strive to be more like God by practicing humility, forgiveness, mercy, peace makers, hunger for justice, etc. Don’t worry about your comments, you are the least critical atheist I have met so far.:-)

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  14. Thanks Nan. 🙂

    Noel, I hear what you’re saying about the Trinity, but I’ll bet you can see how non-Christians don’t buy it. It doesn’t really seem like true monotheism. Don’t get me wrong — it doesn’t matter much to me. I never understood why monotheism was supposed to be better than polytheism anyway. But for someone who’s convinced monotheism is the only way, Christianity can seem like a deviation. It seems a bit like a blending of Judaism and paganism.

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  15. Nate, there is so much in your very long comment that rung true with me, but I want to focus in on a particular part that always troubled me greatly when I was trying to rationalize my own beliefs about the bible when I was a Christian:

    The inadequacies of the Bible are no big deal when we pick and choose which parts are relevant.

    A lot of us seem to be agreed that the Old Testament has some very difficult passages to swallow. And actually, the New Testament doesn’t seem so benign either, with it’s descriptions of hell, passages about women in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinth 14:34, and Paul’s disturbing passage in Romans 9:18-23. The slavery passages aren’t easy to swallow either. And the other big glaring issue here is that the New Testament very clearly connects itself to the Old.

    So I struggled with trying to re-interpret these passages and even toyed with the idea that they are just uninspired parts of a book that had inspiration in it’s main messages.

    But a few problems struck me:

    The first was that I began to realize that I could do the same kinds of things with the inspired books of other religions. I know I’m repeating myself on this one, but this was a very big stumbling block for me. If I could pick and choose parts from the bible or re-interpret difficult passages then I found it difficult to conclude or prove to a believer of another religion that the bible was a better or more true book than theirs.

    The second was that I began to realize that I was forming conclusions about which parts of the bible were true or inspired (or not in need of re-interpretation) based on my own views about what was right and wrong. This isn’t any different than what I do now as an agnostic/atheist in coming to my own conclusions about morality. Some believers give atheists a hard time for how subjective this kind of morality is, but I see the same kind of subjective process going on in the minds of a lot of believers.

    And lastly, as these difficulties in the bible accumulated I simply came to a point where it made more sense to me that the bible is just a book written by humans rather than it being inspired by invisible conscious beings. Even the main messages of the bible really are things that creative human minds would be able to come up with on their own. And given all the difficult passages it begins to look even more human. Not a proof of course, but the point came for me where that conclusion seemed more reasonable to me.

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  16. Howie, I couldn’t agree with you more. I went through the very same thought processes myself. Thank you for stating it so eloquently!

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  17. Howie and nate, i absolutely agree.well said, both of you.

    It just seems odd to me that anyone would say that if all the gospels were the same then they’d question, but since they’re so different, then that somehow makes more sense, somehow makes it more believable…. wow…

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  18. You have never seen a miracle and no one you know has never seen a miracle? Really? You must have a very limited view of what a miracle is because I have seen a lot in my life and see God at work every day. No I don’t see the ocean split in half but I see things other people think are impossible all the time. I have seen the Devil and God at work, it took me going through my own personal Hell to see it so closely that my faith is so strong now I do not think I will ever doubt like you like I did before, but I have seen it. I do not believe it because I was raised to, I do not believe it because of some chemical reactions in my brain or any other reason that can be explained by science, I believe it because I have seen it and it is real to me. It is truth to me. Back when the Bible was written it was the beginning of time, of course people saw God at work more, they knew God then, the Devil could not convince them he was not real yet, the ones rebelling back then knew he was real at least up to a certain point. However, even back then even when Jesus was on Earth some people saw those miracles and still did not believe. Everyone who doesn’t today says they want proof, the proof is all around them just like it was then but you have to have faith first. You can convince yourself any religion or atheism is true with enough of the correct arguments, anyone can argue all are right but no one for me personally can ever argue what I have seen and experienced and that it is not real, it is real to me. Not that I am trying to convince you right now because that is the thing, maybe at one point in my life I believed something I said in two sentences could change your religious beliefs or I could argue someone to believe me with blogs or comments on blogs, etc but I don’t believe that anymore. I have every question you have asked in this blog and I have gotten all the answers from God but I still don’t think I could convince you, I think God can and eventually will if you allow him to but big prayers take a long time to be answered. I think a relationship with God is a personal thing and in some ways I think we make it more complicated than it is supposed to be, like the Bible for example, because so much time has passed that was supposed to help us know more but over years it has been interpreted and changed so much and everyone fights over the meaning of every little detail thinking this is the only thing God left us to figure this all out, God gave us everything not just the Bible, the Bible was some events and some of God’s word recorded by men, men with flaws, Some people worship the Bible instead of God. some people don’t have Bibles some people don’t have churches,remember when Jesus came it was the religious people at the time who crucified him. I think everyone has a chance at a personal relationship with God. To think someone in some far off country would never know him means people think we have to bring God to them, that God needs us to save people. God doesn’t need us to save anyone. He can use us and we are lucky when he does to be a part of it, but to think God needs us to save anyone, he needs me to have a personal relationship with you has never made sense to me. Do I think can lead by example, of course, do I think God can use me, sure, but nothing more than that.. As for your picking and choosing of the Bible it is actually people taking bits and pieces of the Bible that is the problem. Imagine if someone quoted one quote from any book and tried to draw a conclusion about the entire book. That is what is constantly done by Christians and nonbelievers. When you read the entire book and put it together you can make sense of it but without faith or prayer or a personal relationship with God it is just another book of stories that means nothing and you can’t make sense of it. In another way, I think we also simplify God too much like when it comes to some people trying to save someone in a couple minutes. I have seen people get saved like this but it was things that happened long before that two minute conversation that led them to this point not that person’s two minute speech. I believe God used that person, that experience, that moment, to communicate with them and try to get a response and that person decides when they finally respond. Most Christians think they have a lot more to do with that decision in my opinion than they really do. I got saved at a young age but started to question like you as I got older if I really believed or not and eventually came to having an even stronger faith after getting to a point I had almost none at all and didn’t even want to live anymore. That all being said I will probably not be commenting on here anymore, I just don’t have the time or brain power to continue it and haven’t even had time to read half of it still much less respond, then respond to responses, etc and I will literally spend all day every day on here trying to keep up and I just can’t, and it is not going to convince you anymore than you will convince me and I wish I had the chance to answer some of those questions back when you were still more open minded when your church was unable to do that for you, but again no one was going to be able to argue you back to Christianity and they never will be able to, but I would still love to have dinner or lunch with Lauren sometime and not to try and convert you back over a meal haha. I have a former atheist friend who finally came back to Christianity and no one brought him back, one day he saw a miracle, he finally believed at that point and then started seeing them all the time. He finally had faith. He finally got to a point where he needed something bad enough, asked for it and God gave it to him. This sort of happened with my husband to a point to, he got to a low point finally saw something he thought was impossible started believing and saw even more miracles and could not longer deny God didn’t exist. Too many coincidences to explain, too much involvement in our lives, in fixing our marriage. I didn’t even get on here to argue you back just more so to understand how it happened in the first place and maybe that would help me in my walk somehow or to help others from getting to the point and to also try and make dinner plans because I hate we lost touch, but then I realized I already knew how you got to that point, I got to that point at least to a certain degree but in a completely different way and time frame, and I didn’t blog about it, I was ashamed and blogged about it once I came back to my beliefs because everyone is different and handles it all in different ways and I believe because God made us all different with different gifts and special. Just keep in mind you were so sure you were right before and you are again now so keep an open mind. I have seen the Devil not only almost convince me God and the relationship we had wasn’t real but saw him convince me husband and then almost me too that the love we once had wasn’t real and was not worth fighting for. We have that back now, it was still there but a lot of people tried to convince us both ways.too. In the end, it could have gone either way, we could have ended up apart and could have been happy without each other and convinced ourselves we should have never been together as a lot of people do, but now that we are back together I know what we would have been missing had we split and I remember what we used to have so does he. I realize now what we were going to throw away, and at one point I thought it was nothing. Seriously though email me anytime to make plans. Would love to see you guys! Good luck with the block and your continued search in finding truth!

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  19. um, yeah, I think a miracle is more than good stuff happening. A miracle is something unnatural that happens by divine intervention, like raising the dead, or walking on water, or ascending into heaven. Things that don’t occur naturally or by some unimpressive ways, don’t really count.

    Having good stuff happen, while nice, isn’t miraculous, or else everyone on earth is capable of performing miracles, which would water down the grandeur of them, i’d say.

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  20. William, it is very simple. If every Gospel said exactly the same thing about every incident that happened with Jesus ,it would raise questions about the authors coordinating to make sure the stories are congruent. “…if the gospels were too consistent, that in itself would invalidate them as independent witnesses” (“the Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, pg 45). Amanda, what is the link to your blog? I am interested in reading more from your experience.

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  21. also. maybe there are such extraordinary things recorded in the bible because they are exceptions.

    Not everyone, among the many people living at biblical times, witnessed or were involved in these signs and miracles God expressed.

    Maybe thats why they are included in the bible, because they are rare, and as being rare they we’re recorded as testaments, although possible misquotes in some translations, but still the testimonies are all there as a reference.

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  22. Amanda Dodson Gremillion,

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally would find it so much easier to read your posts if you broke them up into bite size pieces, and included paragraphs.

    respectfully, Ryan 🙂

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  23. Amanda Dodson Gremillion,

    And I’m only saying this because I want to read what you write, I think you make some interesting points 🙂

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  24. Nate,

    say if the accounts in the Bible were all exactly the same, do you think people would still find reason to not believe in the books accuracy, or would this resolve many questions?

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  25. Good question, Ryan (portal001). If all 4 were virtually identical, then yes, I could see where that would raise heavy speculation that they were copies.

    However, I don’t think the only possibilities are identical or conflicting. If you watch a news story covered on different networks, they’re going to use different words, possibly tell the events in a different order, and have different footage to show. They may even have different “experts” on to discuss the issue. Yet despite all those differences, the different networks rarely contradict one another.

    The Gospel of John, for instance, tells many details about the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection that you won’t find in the synoptic gospels. That’s really not a problem — he may have just been focusing on some different details. However, when he gets into what day and time Jesus was crucified, he directly contradicts the day and time the synoptics reported. They can’t both be true, at least not in a literal sense; whereas, the other details that John lists may have just been omitted by the other gospels. In those instances, though they relate different events, there’s no contradiction.

    So I definitely think there’s a middle ground that would have limited the criticisms one could bring about the Bible, but that’s not the situation we find ourselves in.

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  26. Noel, what nate said. In this instance, being exactly the same would have at least eliminated contradictions. But yes, every little detail being just the same sounds like collusion, while blatant contradictions, such as we have in the gospels, look contradictory.

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  27. And yet, most of the news is fictional as well, if you consider that it is painted from the newscaster’s (or network’s) point of view. Fox verses CNN, for example. I believe the Bible WAY before I believe one single shred of what I hear on today’s news channels! 🙂

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  28. What if, like our modern newscasters the Gospels reflect POINT OF VIEW of the facts, since we know (from the news) that no one actually reports facts.

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  29. since we know (from the news) that no one actually reports facts

    I think that’s an overstatement. Granted, Fox News is ridiculously slanted to the right, and MSNBC is ridiculously slanted to the left, but that’s mostly their commentary shows. When they show actual news, it’s relatively straightforward. And we still have CNN, PBS, NBC, CBS, etc that have some straight news programs that are usually reliable.

    I think transmitting fact is not that difficult, most of the time. For instance, when we have a Presidential inauguration, different networks are not going to report that it took place on different days, or had different participants, or that they said different things, etc. They each may highlight different aspects of the event, but they’re not going to get the basic facts wrong.

    That said, I do think the gospels reflect what each writer thought happened during Jesus’ life. I think they reflect different traditions that each incorporate some factual things as well as inaccurate things. I have no problem with them as a loose history — I just can’t bring myself to view them as anything with a basis in the divine. But again, that’s my conclusion on it; others certainly disagree.

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  30. “For instance, when we have a Presidential inauguration, different networks are not going to report that it took place on different days, or had different participants, or that they said different things, etc. They each may highlight different aspects of the event, but they’re not going to get the basic facts wrong.”

    Nate-
    This is really a question as I do not know the answer to this. Do we find, in other ancient writings similar to the NT, precise concern with timing, audience, grouping of what was said at what particular place and time? I’m just wondering how it compares, as the reading I’ve done suggests these were not particularly the concern of ancient writers – it was more important to get the message across. For example, your blog, and other sources, points out difficulties in harmonizing the timing of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and his crucifixion. However, there doesn’t seem to be any reputable skepticism that these two events did actually happen. Does it matter that we don’t know exactly what time or what chronology if we can reliably conclude the event is historical?

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  31. Humorous clarification: I wasn’t implying Jesus’ crucifixion took place before his trial in the last sentence of that previous comment. That statement was meant to be more generally referring to any recorded event. 🙂

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  32. Hi Josh,

    I’m not an expert on ancient historical texts, but from what little I’ve read about it, I agree that most writings from the time period fall short of our modern standards of accuracy — especially about details like dates and times.

    However, I think it’s important to make a clarification here. If you’re saying that the New Testament fits in with these other ancient writings, I would agree. That’s actually the point that many of us are making when we bring these things up. The NT is not unique in its construction or degree of accuracy when compared to other ancient writings. This is why some of us feel that the Bible is not actually inspired by God.

    However, there doesn’t seem to be any reputable skepticism that these two events did actually happen

    I don’t know that that’s accurate. We don’t have much reference to Christ from the time period that he actually lived. Aside from the writings in the NT, there’s very little reference to Jesus until long after his death. This is why there’s still some serious speculation as to whether or not he was even a real person. I also think it’s important to remember that many non-Christians of that time probably wouldn’t have cared a whole lot about what Jesus disciples said or believed. There are people today who maintain that Elvis Presley is still alive, but no one goes out of their way to prove them wrong or debate them. We usually just roll our eyes, smile, and ignore them. So I don’t know that we should expect a whole lot of commentary from people of Jesus’ time arguing against the disciples — they likely didn’t care or were unaware.

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  33. Thanks, Nate. I wasn’t aware there was considerable doubt about whether Jesus actually existed. My reading suggests that was pretty much accepted as good history, as well as his trial and crucifixion.

    Just an afterthought – based on your last paragraph I’m unconvinced by that reasoning behind the skepticism. Again, this is where you and I differ about what would be expected – I wouldn’t expect that someone who wasn’t aware of, or didn’t care about, Jesus to write about him. God’s revelation of himself throughout scripture shows us that he meets humans where they are at in their understanding. This is consistent with how the NT is recorded. I wouldn’t expect 2013 standards. And, even if we had them, what would people in 4013 think of those standards?

    Thanks, Nate. 🙂

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  34. I tend to believe Jesus existed, but I definitely do not see him as the New Testament portrays him.

    Even so, to me, the real question is — why is there so little information about him outside the bible if he truly did die and return to life? Surely such an event would have been “something for the history books,” as they say. Yet, from what I’ve read, of the few writers who include any mention at all of Jesus, only one (Celsus) mentions the resurrection — and that was pretty much in derision.

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  35. “why is there so little information about him outside the bible if he truly did die and return to life?”

    One thing to consider, which others have written about, is the ratio of people that were capable of writing such documentation at the time. It seems, from what I’ve read, that it was a small number of people. So, given the size of the area from which the writers come, it’s actually a fair number of NT authors we do have. And, given the rate at which it seems the documents were distributed throughout the region, it’s unlikely that many other people who believed the message would consider it necessary to write it down again.

    Another thing to remember is that when the NT authors were writing, they weren’t writing “The Bible”. They were regular people documenting events they were convinced had happened. I find it very unlikely that anyone who didn’t believe that Jesus “truly did die and return to life” would write about it as if it happened. I think it’s kinda silly to suggest that, honestly. Thus, it’s unlikely that anything “outside of the Bible” would confirm Jesus’ resurrection. More than likely, most, if not all, of the authors who believed what happened to Jesus and reported it were included in what would later be known as “The Bible”.

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  36. Josh, I really really don’t mean to be rude, but from my perspective you are providing a “convenient answer.” I understand much of what you’re saying (about those not writing it down again if they believed it, limited number of people capable of writing, regular people documenting an event), but I still have a difficult time accepting that no one else would write about a man dying and returning to life. Even if they didn’t believe it, it seems some type of record would have been made. Surely the gospel writers were not the only people who could write.

    Further, while virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and most agree he died via crucifixion, not many attest to the validity of the resurrection.

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  37. Hey Nan-
    You may feel I’m providing a convenient answer. I don’t see it that way at all. I think it’s a reasonable answer. Maybe I’ll become “more reasonable” some day 🙂

    “not many attest to the validity of the resurrection.”

    It doesn’t really mean much to me that they don’t. I think it is a reasonable conclusion based on what we do know. The Jewish Leaders and the Romans knew about the claims made regarding the resurrection. These were two of the most powerful, influential groups of the time and place. Neither one of them would want this story getting out and gaining support. There is no record of any attempt to provide contemporary evidence to discount the resurrection. I find it highly questionable that a group of uprising “nodoby’s” could squelch an attempt made by either of these groups to provide evidence disprove their claims. Thus, I find it reasonable that no significant attempt to do so was even made.

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  38. On second reading, I didn’t really come to a conclusion on that last comment. The last sentence “Thus, I find it reasonable that no significant attempt to do so was even made.” is meant to provide some “extraordinary evidence” to the mystery surrounding the resurrection. If it didn’t happen, why was there not even any real attempt made at disproving it. The Jews didn’t want Jesus perceived as Messiah. The Romans didn’t want Jesus perceived as Lord over Caesar. Isn’t it strange neither was able to squash it?

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  39. It doesn’t really mean much to me that they don’t. I think it is a reasonable conclusion based on what we do know. The Jewish Leaders and the Romans knew about the claims made regarding the resurrection. These were two of the most powerful, influential groups of the time and place. Neither one of them would want this story getting out and gaining support. There is no record of any attempt to provide contemporary evidence to discount the resurrection. I find it highly questionable that a group of uprising “nodoby’s” could squelch an attempt made by either of these groups to provide evidence disprove their claims. Thus, I find it reasonable that no significant attempt to do so was even made.

    This is a big assumption. I know it gets bandied about a lot by apologists, but I think it asserts way too much. While just reading the NT can make one think that Christianity was a big movement that attracted a lot of heat, external sources seem to indicate that it was actually quite small initially. I just don’t think the Roman authorities cared about it a whole lot, so why waste resources discounting something that most people don’t even give a second’s thought to?

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  40. Nate-
    I don’t see how that’s an assumption. Paul’s ministry alone spread from Jerusalem to Rome within a relatively short time. I was under the impression that we were in general agreement that the NT functions as decent history of the time apart from much of the more fantastic claims. In this case, we would agree on the spread of the church, and also that Paul was jailed on various occasions for his message – the latter indicating that it was not going unnoticed. Alternatively, if we’re not in agreement that the NT functions even as basic history of the time, then we probably are left with nowhere to go.

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  41. Sorry, Nate. Let the end of that comment get away from me. I actually am trying to have a conversation, and am interested in what your perspective is and learning things I haven’t thought of or just plain don’t know. I conveyed the opposite there, and didn’t intend to 🙂

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  42. Basic history, yes. I do think Paul went on his missionary journeys. I’m a little more skeptical of the claims like in Acts 2 where 3000 people are converted in one sermon. From the reading I’ve done, Christianity was a fairly small movement initially. It would have been in the second century at least before things really began to gain momentum. By that time, how would anyone have been able to prove anything about whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead, etc?

    It’s also been pretty well established that the stories of rampant persecution are much later exaggerations, not built on much evidence. So the idea that Rome was on a mission to disprove the resurrection, etc, especially immediately following Jesus’ death, just doesn’t seem to be borne out by the evidence. At least not from the sources I’ve seen.

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  43. Yeah – the 3000 people thing is one of the more fantastic claims, and I wouldn’t expect that to be a focal point in the discussion. I do think the breadth of Paul’s ministry in the Mediterranean area, as well as the fact that he was jailed for preaching his message, both by Jews and Romans, makes a fair case for the fact that it was getting noticed.

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  44. @Josh.
    LOL…Saul of Tarsus….what a plonker. Another great narrative construct brought to you by our wonderful ( we don’t tell lies…Honest!) christian friends.
    Oh…but wait a moment…there is loads of contemporary evidence for him too, right?
    Pffft…’Bout time all you believers really took a step back took a deep breath and realise that it is all BS from the Beginning to End.
    Truly…you are NOT in Kansas any more.

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  45. Thanks, Ark. Unfortunately, we already moved beyond whether Paul actually existed and went on the mssionary journeys. Feel free to spin your wheels there if you want 🙂

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  46. According to the NT, Paul was imprisoned for ticking off the Jewish leaders, not because the Romans were concerned about him. So I still think it’s safe to say the authorities wouldn’t have been concerned enough to spend time or resources disproving a belief that few people shared. How many people really spend time trying to disprove Scientology today? Most of us just don’t care enough about it to fool with it. It’s a punchline. I get the feeling Christianity was viewed very similarly in the beginning.

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  47. @ Josh
    Smile…I haven’t read all of the comments on the post, but was under the impression you believe he actually existed?
    If this is not the case …a thousand apologies effendi. But if you are still trying to defend the biblical/christian POV that , like the biblical jesus ,he really was a real live person then, well…goodness me, you truly are still in the dark.

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  48. resurrection from the dead only seems reasonable since we’ve been raised on that tale. Step back a moment and just think. If anyone claimed to have seen someone raise from the dead today, would you really find that reasonable or believable? or is the “reasonable believability” only associated with jesus – and why is that reasonable?

    But i think nan is on to something. the gospels also say that when jesus died many graves were opened and the dead walked… I’m pretty certain that event is noteworthy – to anyone seeing it. Surely that must have been recorded in contemporary writings… well, if it were true…

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  49. Josh, me too, my friend. Ark’s arrogance and patronizing tone staggers me, though, I will admit. I haven’t run into people like that in a long, long time.

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  50. JudahFirst-
    Kruger’s book was excellent. I found his perspective had a lot of deep truth in it. I’m also going to read St. Athanasius’ The Incarnation of the Word of God. I think I am well on the way to seeing the power in what he is talking about. I’m going to read it again, as well as watch The God’s Aren’t Angry again. I’ll be moving on to Razing Hell and Stricken…? after that. Thank you so much for the suggestions!

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  51. @ Josh
    ”Ark-
    Me and Good Old unkleE. Still beating that drum”

    Once you have the humility to do a bit of honest research into the utter fallaciousness of the Old Testament then you will begin to understand how untenable your own position as a Chrisatian truly is.
    But if you are too scared to even dig a little then I’m afraid you will forever remain as ignorant as you are now.
    Choice is a wonderful thing, is it not?

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  52. @ Judahfirst
    ”Josh, me too, my friend. Ark’s arrogance and patronizing tone staggers me, though, I will admit. I haven’t run into people like that in a long, long time.”

    Your ignorance and refusal to show even a modicum of humility in the face of archaeological evidence and the utter lack of historical facts far outshines any arrogance on my part, my dear.
    Your position is untenable, your religion false and your doctrine insidious.

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  53. Thanks for the support, William. I know I’m running into a wall when it comes to christian belief related to the resurrection since without it, there is no christianity (per Paul). But I do like to stir the pot a little once in awhile. And, as I already indicated, I find it very difficult to believe that such an event (especially the dead walking around!) would not have at least been worthy of a mention in the secular writings.

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  54. @Nan.
    The Zombie Apocalypse is one of the more notable biblical ”happenings” that so many Crispyuns choose to poo poo and neatly sidestep. And you are right to hammer on about such events.
    Garbage is garbage and these idiots who believe such nonsense should be brought to account.
    As they say. Put up or push off.
    There are NO contemporary accounts concerning anything surrounding the Yashua story.
    It is all Porkie Pies.

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  55. Ark,

    I enjoy your comments, but then if there are sides in this, i am probably on yours…

    I think that the others who don’t really listen to your points or that find you offensive do so because of two reasons:

    1. your tone can be quite rough and is easily taken as rude and arrogant. It doesn’t bother me, but then i don’t often find myself on the receiving end of it.

    2. The bible believer doesn’t typically use any source to validate the bible, instead they seem to use the bible to validate the sources, whether they be scientific or historical in nature. To them, the bible just IS god’s book, just like the sky is blue. There’s no questioning that part for them. So pointing out the evidence (or lack thereof on their part) keeps coming as futile. Doesn’t hurt to try, though.

    at least, that’s how I see it.

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  56. Indeed, everyone is free to believe what they will. That would be the point of an open discussion like this one. But I do not disparage you your beliefs (I’m sure you have some kooky ones unrelated to religion – never met anyone without at least a couple of kooky ideas), so I would expect (at least on Nate’s blog) that you could respect others’ beliefs you find kooky or stupid or insidious or whatever. The fact that you cannot speaks more to your ignorance of people than it does mine of ‘facts’. Rather than promoting a healthy discussion in which all of us stupid idiots might be properly instructed, your attitude moves me away from any desire “dig deeper” as you suggest. I certainly wouldn’t want to become like you in your attitude towards people who believe differently, and digging deeper into *your facts could possibly lead me right there. I’d rather be a tolerant religious nutcase than a pompous ass.

    Meanwhile, it is not up to you or Nan to knock down any walls in terms of other people’s beliefs, but, please, do keep trying. So far your disparagement tactics have been SO effective!

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  57. Ark-
    If I have to be an “idiot” for something, I’m happy to be an Idiot for Jesus. Maybe I’ll create a new blog…

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  58. @ Judah first.
    Firstly, the ”idiots” have had 2000 years to make their claim and so far all they have demonstrated is a sublime skill for obfuscation. Couple this with inculcation and any number of heinous crimes in the name of their god then I think its time to put up or push off.
    It is not that you are not entitled to your beliefs – good for you. You want to act like a complete ding bat, go for it. This is NOT the issue. What IS the problem is you are NOT entitled to your own facts, not entitled to inculcate children, NOT entitled to insinuate your beliefs into schools, government and society in general based on the erroneous authority of a book full of lies.

    While many folk like to pussy foot around certain issues I prefer to call a spade a spade and Nate (bless him) affords me the honour of calling out twits who espouse this type of garbage.

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  59. “Ark-
    If I have to be an “idiot” for something, I’m happy to be an Idiot for Jesus. Maybe I’ll create a new blog…”

    You are perfectly at liberty to be a complete bonehead for Jesus, if this is what you want. Although, I thought he preferred sunbeams?

    Just don’t espouse this nonsense and claim it is fact/truth without stepping up to the plate and demonstrating it.
    This is ”grown up show and tell,” Josh.
    We are not in kindergarten anymore, so if you want to play, grow up.

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  60. “Just don’t espouse this nonsense and claim it is fact/truth”

    I find myself in agreement with you here, Ark. I find myself leaning toward seeing this as a mostly fruitless strategy. I will elect not to “grow up”, as you put it, and try to keep my presence from being noticed. Peace, Ark.

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  61. Hello everyone, I have really enjoyed reading your comments. I have learned that there is a difference between atheists’ politeness vs. plain rudeness (Nate vs. Ark, respectively). By the way Nate, I applaud you for maintaining respect towards us believers in spite of differences.
    Josh has a very good point about the amount of people who knew how to write and bothered to record such a controversial claim about Jesus being the Messiah and resurrecting. Not even Jesus knew how to read (although he was supposedly writing on the ground during the “throw the first stone” incident). Also, I agree that it is impressive how Christianity survived in spite of persecutions from Jews and Romans; and I don’t think that it was an exaggeration, since Romans were brutal and blood thirsty (they had to maintain an empire alive by using all means possible), including the practice of crucifixion as horrific signs of intimidation and power. The Christians’ refusal to participate in Imperial cults was considered an act of treason and was punishable by execution.
    In spite of this, it is also important to consider that the Roman Catholic Church was initiated by emperor Constantine as a political agenda to help maintain a falling empire from disappearing and making Christianity the state’s official religion. Of course, the real Christians were able to distant themselves from this pagan driven religious state by creating the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s.
    So, yes being a Christian in those difficult times was an impressive thing. as it is still today, given all the attacks and accusations we all have to endure by the “tolerant left”.

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  62. Nate (bless him) affords me the honour of calling out twits who espouse this type of garbage.

    Well, yes, but I’m not always crazy about it… Honestly, I do wish you’d temper your responses a bit more. We can easily let people know we disagree with them without disparaging them personally.

    I still agree with many of your points, and you know that I appreciate your sense of humor. But I do think it’s important to have as much patience as we can when talking about these issues. Speaking for myself, it was very hard for me to objectively look at my own beliefs when I first began questioning things. I now look at what I used to believe and wonder how I ever held onto it for so long. But I did. And if you and I had run across each other when I was in my questioning period, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated your tone. It might have even stunted my progress a bit. Maybe that’s a problem with me more than it is you — but I can still see that might have happened. And if our motivation is to try to get our points across persuasively, shouldn’t we want to be as accessible as possible?

    So I would appreciate it if we could just focus a bit more on the issues and not spend time criticizing people for their approach to the issues. Feel free to explain why you think their approach is incorrect, but let’s try to assume that their motives are pure and leave the personal statements out.

    Pretty please? 🙂

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  63. Noel, I get your point about the differing characters of Ark and nate, but i’m not too sure about the rest of it.

    why do you say that jesus couldnt read, and doesnt it seem odd for an all knowing deity to not know how to read? and i think the point was being made that some literate roman would have taken the time to pencil the resurrection of christ or of the many others that rose at his death.

    To say that the miracles were performed to convince non-believers (as the bible does) but then hide the miracles from those who could help in making it credible seems counter-intuitive.

    And I wasnt sure what you were getting about regarding the wonders of Christianity surviving despite persecutions, etc. If you’re pointing that out as some sort of evidence for its divinity, then we could point out other religions that survived their persecutions. If you’re pointing that out merely as a thing of curiosity, then I would also point out other religions.

    But your last sentence really seems odd to me. What attacks and accusations have the “tolerant left” made against Christians? are you referring to efforts that would place all other non-christian religions on a fair podium with “christian” religions? Please explain what you mean and where this is happening.

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  64. Thanks for the comment, Noel.

    The case for persecution against Christians is really not as strong as people often say. Even the Wikipedia article about it is a pretty good place to start. There’s also a recent book on the subject by Candida Moss, though I haven’t read it yet.

    No one’s saying that Christians were never persecuted, but the level and frequency of persecution that we typically hear about seems to be built mostly on myth.

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  65. JudahFirst: “Meanwhile, it is not up to you or Nan to knock down any walls in terms of other people’s beliefs …” What????

    First, I feel a bit offended to be lumped in with Ark as I feel I’ve been much more respectful in my postings.

    Secondly, I’m not trying to knock down any walls since I already know how impossible that is. Remember, I’ve been on your side of the fence and I KNOW how deep your beliefs go.

    However, now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I do think it’s fair to ask you (and other believers) to explain why you believe as you do in instances where evidence and faith don’t agree. Besides, doesn’t the bible teach that you should be able to defend your faith?

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  66. @ Nate
    ‘Feel free to explain why you think their approach is incorrect, but let’s try to assume that their motives are pure and leave the personal statements out.

    Pretty please?’

    My man, from god’s mouth to my ear ..or something.
    We’ll try the scholarly approach for a while. But you are much too smart not to realise the likes of Unklee really, really, are so much more patronizing than I could ever be. But you know this of course.

    So. archaeological evidence, or rather, lack of, demonstrates quite clearly the fallaciousness of the Old Testament, thus rendering moot the core of the New, largely because Jesus, makes mention of many Old Testament characters, thus rendering divinity claims null and void. It even brings into question the historicity of his character.

    To anyone on this post who would care to disagree with this assertion, please feel free, and It would be an excellent idea for all commenters if you could provide evidence if you refute any of the statements I make.
    Excellent.Thanking you in advance. Peace.

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  67. @ Nan
    ”First, I feel a bit offended to be lumped in with Ark as I feel I’ve been much more respectful in my postings”

    Dear Nan,
    I too would be offended and I’m sorry they are nailing you alongside me. But you know these religious types, they get so intense when their beliefs are questioned and always want to crucify someone, right?
    Peace.

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  68. William, In modern society, Christians have been persecuted in non-christian nations such as USSR, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea (check the link below). Also, keep in mind recent incidents, such as the outrage created by some non-Christians when the CEO of Chick Fil A made public his beliefs about homosexual marriage, and some Atheists insisting that the Ten Commandments be removed from court houses. It baffles me how many people get upset with Christians for freely expressing their faith, as if their claims were some threat to society. If people don’t agree, fine, but don’t need to make a big issue about it either. I never wrote anything about miracles.

    Nate, thanks for the Wikipedia link. This same link actually mentions that the Christians were persecuted for more than 3 centuries and did not completely stop after the initiation of the Roman Catholic Church. A similar link is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians.

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  69. Hi Noel,

    I think we all agree that Christians have been persecuted in history. But William has a good point that there have been many religious groups that have been persecuted, but that doesn’t really prove that there is some divine force behind that group that helped it survive. I also agree with Nate that many of the stories of rampant persecutions in the first century are very likely exaggerations.

    I was a little surprised by you using those 2 recent events as examples of persecution. First, there were many liberal religious people including Christians who spoke out against the Chick FilA statement. A lot of these people had no desire to persecute Christians or squash the ability of someone to freely speak about their beliefs – they simply wanted to stand together with gay couples and support them in their efforts to not be alienated and to be accepted as humans who are not harming others but simply have adult consensual loving relationships. I also stand with and support them. And I have no desire to squash your ability to freely express your faith and I certainly have no desire to persecute anyone. But it is a big deal to me that these humans be treated equally by our government, and I do feel it is important to “make a big issue” of that.

    And the issue of the Ten Commandments being removed from court houses also does not have to do with wanting to persecute Christians or restrict their freedom of speech. It is about separation of Church and State. While 6 of the commandments are common to the vast majority of religions, 4 of them certainly are not, so this issue even goes beyond just atheism. I also believe that separating religion from government is very wise, and there are a lot of middle eastern countries that I believe would be better off if they learned this. I would stand in support of you if someone was trying to restrict you from having the Ten Commandments up on your synagogue, church or home, but is it really necessary for it to be in government buildings which are shared by people of many different beliefs? Anyway, that’s really a separate discussion, but the main point is that this is not really about persecution.

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  70. Howie, well said.

    Noel, in addition to Howie’s comment, let me say that indeed, some Christians in some “non-christian countries” experience some persecution… just as it can be said that some non-Christians in some “christian countries” also experience a similar level of “persecution.”

    and like Howie said, if we’re going to use that as some form of divine evidence, then it should work both ways. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t pick and choose when or how we apply circumstantial evidence (if it can even be called that).

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  71. Howie, thanks for joining the conversation. It is interesting how people can easily be misjudged. Initially I was not going to respond, but I feel I need to clarify. I did not write that it was a divine intervention which contributed to Christianity’s survival, although I don’t doubt it. I am also not implying that other religions are not as important, for I live a more inclusive lifestyle (if you read my blog, you would get a better sense of my current view about spirituality). Also, I was answering William’s question about recent events that show how Christians are attacked and criticized. I understand how these examples do not compare to the brutal persecutions of other times and countries. However, they are clear evidence of how Christians are being marginalized simply because they assert their beliefs in the midst of an evolving society that is slowly shifting away from traditional Christianity. Believers also have the right to freely express their values, just like anyone else. Again, I am not trying to criticize other groups that do not agree with most Christians. I suggest not to misjudge others, like Christians are often described to do. Peace.

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  72. Noel, thanks for the clarification. And, only speaking for myself, I just want it to be clear that christians are not unique in that they are persecuted and that they at times persecute others.

    The human condition seems to indeed be universal to humans. The bible hasn’t stopped that any more that the Tipitaka.

    Thanks, and peace be unto you as well.

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