“Times of Ignorance”

There’s a passage in the Bible that has long stood out to me. When I was a Christian, I found it comforting; now, I just find it perplexing. In Acts 17 (beginning in verse 16), Paul is visiting Athens. Since it was a hub of philosophy and culture, it had temples and altars to a multitude of different gods, including an altar “to the unknown god.” Paul uses this opportunity to preach to them about the Jewish god — the god that (according to Paul) created everything. Then, in verses 30-31, Paul says this:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

When Paul talks about “the times of ignorance,” he’s obviously talking about all the time before that moment — a time when God “allowed” people to serve “false” gods. But what does he mean when he says that God overlooked that time? I’d be curious to know how other denominations view this passage. When I was a Christian, my view of it tied in with the first three chapters of Romans. Those chapters lay out a case for why both Jews and Gentiles needed Christ. Romans 2:12-16 says this:

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

The Old Law was given to the Jews. While the OT didn’t teach the concepts of Heaven and Hell, many Christians believe that keeping the Law is what let Jews go to Heaven, before Christ came. But what provision was there for Gentiles? Romans 2 seems to say that even though Gentiles didn’t have the law, those who lived righteously anyway were a “law to themselves,” which could “excuse them” on that day of judgement. This is still vague… did it mean that the Gentiles had to somehow anticipate the actual Mosaic laws? Or is this just talking about basic morality? I tend to think it’s the latter, since the former would be virtually impossible.

So let’s go back to Acts 17:30. When Paul says that God overlooked these “times of ignorance,” I took that to mean that he judged Gentiles merely on their morality. It seems like this would be a more forgiving scale, since it wouldn’t include any ritualistic precepts that only apply to specific doctrines. In other words, it seems to fit pretty well with Romans 2.

When I was a Christian, this gave me great comfort. After all, it meant that before the time of Christ, salvation was still awarded to many people, even if they weren’t Jewish. The alternative, that all Gentiles were automatically consigned to Hell, is just too horrible to contemplate.

But this also brings up some uncomfortable questions. First of all, Acts 17:30 goes on to say “but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” This would indicate that Gentiles could no longer simply be judged on a general moral law. Instead, they would be required to become Christians. But how much sense does that make? If Paul really made this speech in Athens, most sources I’ve seen estimate it to have taken place around 50 CE. This is before any books of the New Testament had been written, which means Christianity was solely spreading by word of mouth. How could all Gentiles have been expected to respond to the gospel at this point in time? Even decades later, once some of the writings were circulating, there were also “non-canonical” writings in the mix. How could people have known which were accurate? For centuries, Christians simply didn’t have access to all the canonical books of the Bible, and even if they had, the majority couldn’t have read them. So they would have relied on the testimony of clergy. When disagreements arose surrounding doctrine, how could they have known what to believe? This doesn’t even deal with the very big problem that Christianity, for most of its history, barely spread outside of Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Most of the world knew nothing of it.

If God no longer excused ignorance after Paul’s speech, then millions upon millions of people were consigned to Hell through no fault of their own. If God did still excuse people’s ignorance, then Paul’s speech doesn’t make a lot of sense here.

But there’s another problem as well. If God was able to save people simply based on their morality, then why did he ever do anything different? Let’s say God still overlooked ignorance even after Paul’s speech. If you had been a Gentile living at that time, you would have had a greater chance at salvation if you never heard the gospel. Because if you heard it, but rejected it, you would be accountable to it. If you never heard it, then simply living a moral life would be enough for salvation. This means that those who preached the gospel were actually doing a disservice. Ignorance truly would have been bliss. Why would God have implemented such a flawed and unfair plan?

When I was a Christian, I took it for granted that Christianity was true, so I when I read this passage, I really just focused on the comfort I got from thinking that Gentiles still had an avenue for salvation before Christ came. But I now see this as another red flag about the truth of Christianity. So I’m curious as to how other groups view this. Are there ways of looking at it that aren’t so problematic? Or is this a minor enough passage that most of you never paid much attention to it?

Advertisements

77 thoughts on ““Times of Ignorance””

  1. Hi Nate, I’ve thought about it quite a bit, and I have had questions just like you have, and mostly concluded the same as you have.

    1. The Bible is written for those who read it, not for those who don’t, so this question is mainly of academic interest so I’m not sure why we’d expect God to tell us the answer to it.

    2. Romans 2 says people are judged according to the light they have been given. I think that is logical and applies everywhere and for all times.

    3. Acts 17 says the light available to people has been increased with the coming of Jesus. What Paul says to the Athenians applies to them, but I don’t think all of it applies to people in Mongolia who he’s not talking to.

    4. Nevertheless, God wants everyone to repent, wherever they are, because we all have a conscience, all cultures have some ethics and therefore some light, no-one lives up to those ethics, so we all need to smarten up – in Athens, in Mongolia, in Australia, everywhere.

    5. In the end, I think it will be pretty clear who wants “in” and who wants “out”.

    I don’t see it as problematic, but I do think I don’t know all the answers, nor would I expect to. I’m not sure if my thoughts are the same as any other christians, I don’t know if I’ve discussed it much with others.

    Happy new financial year, happy July 4, happy July 14 if you have any French blood! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The issue of judgement is a vexed one. Because so much of the Bible implies judgment based on what one does here on earth. But the Christian Gospel says that no matter what anyone does on earth all are guilty. Even 1,000 years of good works is not sufficient to atone for even one sin. When you think about it, it actually makes no sense.

    So the gospel message becomes, no Jesus then eternal damnation, no matter how good, but with Jesus eternal bliss no matter how bad. Then raises the question of what to do with the passages that imply works are judged. These are then seen (by some) as being judged for degree of reward. Some also argue that with non Christians there are degrees of punishment based on judgement.

    But in the end the gospel says either in or out, depending upon faith in Jesus. So UnkleE’s reference to severity of judgment only makes sense if it refers to degree of reward or degree of punishment, not very one goes upstairs or downstairs as that is not based on works.

    The Sheep and Goats passages in Matthews Gospel has caused some problem for theologians as it implies salvation is based on works (incidentally this story borrows heavily on the apocryphal work the Book of Enoch). So the Christian argument is that Christians are not saved through works, but saving faith will inevitably manifest itself in works. However I see this as a strained interpretation.

    But I have often wondered about those who had not heard the Gospel after the life of Jesus. There seem to be three options:
    1. They are all dammed (hardly seems fair);
    2. They are all saved (in which case better not to preach the gospel as some might be worse off);
    3. They are judged based on how they would have responded if given the opportunity (makes most sense to me).

    I just don’t think any scenario makes a lot of sense.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The outcome of trying to apply a common sense rationale to christian theology whilst incorporating Jewish theology ( Mosaic Law, Old testament) is simple. It cannot be done.

    Thus, for the believer to reach any sort of harmonious conclusion a huge amount of Cherry Picking has to be done.

    UnkleE is the perfect example.

    So, presupposition takes precedent:
    1. It must be right, because it is God Breathed.
    2. I cannot understand it but this is my problem, not God’s.
    3. I have faith and therefore will not seriously question or worry.

    This way the believer can happily delude themself without having to exercise any degree of integrity whatsoever.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Peter, I reckon we modern westerners, including theologians, try to make things too cut and dried. But in ethics and in relationships (two things we are familiar with that come closest to believing in Jesus, I think) things are rarely so black and white. So I think we have to take the “salvation by faith” statements and the “rewards for actions” statements (like the parable of the sheep & goats) equally seriously. This can be done in several ways.

    Perhaps people need both faith and good works – that might shock a few people! Perhaps we all need the mercy of God, and we can receive that mercy through either faith or good deeds.

    But perhaps there isn’t a formula, and all this worrying about exactly what we need to do to please God, as if we were looking to do the bare minimum, is entirely missing the point. In human love, a lover never asks what is the minimum needed to please their lover, but tries to do everything that would please him/her, and more besides.

    Sometimes we struggle with the answer because we ask the wrong question. Perhaps this is one such time.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “But perhaps there isn’t a formula, and all this worrying about exactly what we need to do to please God, as if we were looking to do the bare minimum, is entirely missing the point. In human love, a lover never asks what is the minimum needed to please their lover, but tries to do everything that would please him/her, and more besides.”

    I am agreeing with unkleE. What ???? 🙂

    I’m glad he used “human love” as his example because this is all anyone can relate to. And when he says, “But perhaps there isn’t a formula” , I couldn’t agree more. That’s why there is no need for Christianity or any other religion.

    I try not to do the “minimum” to help my fellow man. Doing more is always a goal but not always achieved. But again, if there is a “God” and an afterlife as unkleE and others happen to believe, I’m not the least bit worried . If there isn’t, no regrets…I still lived my life the best I could.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. UnkleE, I like your point number 1, but then it would seem like the best thing to do is teach as few people about the bible as possible. expect that I guess… since we read the bible, then we’re expected to teach it…

    It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, which I guess was nate’s point, but to a believer, that’s beside the point: if God said to do something, then do it. If God said something works a certain way, then it does.

    I still just dont buy the claims the authors of the bible made about God.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What still astonishes me is not that people would listen to Paul when he was alive, that makes perfect sense, but that people would still listen to Paul in that he contradicted Jesus time and time again … plus he never met the guy, plus …

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As I read the scripture you (Nate) quoted, it struck me how it seems so much like the same kind of stuff that religious people make up today. Sometimes stating as fact, sometimes saying, “well maybe…”, but always(?) adding assumption to undemonstrated premises, and generally leading to some illogical or contradictory conclusion.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Easy, I don’t recall ever thinking much about it then. Now I see the bible as work of men trying to justify this or that situation. The only thing left to do is for the anthropologist and historian to tell us the conditions of life when these books were written to begin to understand the mindset behind them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was reading some of D.L.Moody’s sermons recently. In his view if the Bible is not literally true, i.e. flood, Garden of Eden, Tower of Babel, then the whole Christian faith falls apart as it is based on a false foundation.

    I actually find such statements very helpful in my own search. As they help clarify matters in my confused mind. The theology of all having sinned in Adam, is central to Paul’s theology. Now if they was no actual Garden of Eden then it implies the theology of Paul is built on sand.

    But I suppose that ‘God’ could have put parables in the Bible to explain in simple ways deeper truths, but that seems like a cop out.

    Like

  11. From a LCMS perspective, Ephesians 2:8 trumps those verses. Salvation is acquired through the grace of Jesus’s death, and not through any works of adherence to morality. Of course, this conflicts with the teaching in Athens, but at the time Ephesians didn’t even exist yet.

    In a way, none of the disciples knew any of the “divinely inspired” words that would be attributed to them yet, as they hadn’t been written down. Isn’t it kind of weird that it took so long for someone to get the bright idea that maybe it should be written down?

    Then again, I suppose a counterargument is that Acts and Romans talk about pre-Jesus salvation, and Ephesians talks about post-Jesus salvation. That’s fine, I suppose, except it holds people accountable who were alive after Jesus took one for the team but still hadn’t heard the good news. It almost seems like this deity created lives that it really didn’t like after it sacrificed itself to itself for a system of punishment/salvation that it created in the first place.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Prayer works, friends! Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t!

    Yesterday, I fervently prayed that Nate would post a new thread on this blog as he hadn’t posted a new thread for WEEKS and the latest thread, though still attracting one or two comments per day, had DIED a very slow death over a week ago.

    As each day came and went without a new thread on Nate’s blog, I descended deeper and deeper into a very dark depression, as without a good, stimulating daily conversation on Nate’s blog, my life is barely worth living.

    Then, I awoke this morning, to find a new and stimulating thread on Nate’s blog! I was overcome with joy! My prayer had been answered! It had been weeks since Nate last posted a new thread and the very next day, after having prayed for a new thread, a new thread appears on Nate’s blog! How can anyone say that this was a coincidence??

    Pray, friends. Pray fervently, and your prayers WILL be answered.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Siriusbizinus,

    Are you an ex-LCMS Lutheran? I am. I would be curious to know your deconversion story. Do you have it online?

    Gary

    Like

  14. Hey Gary,

    Yes, LCMS in this case stands for Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. So yeah, I was a Lutheran.

    I have deconversion stories on my blog Amusing Nonsense, but I have failed to organize them in any fashion. Sorry I’m not much help.

    Like

  15. Give me the date of the particular post on your blog that discusses your deconversion story and I can google it.

    I deconverted from the LCMS last year…kicking and screaming. I fought very hard to keep my cherished Lutheran Christian faith but the strength of the evidence against Christianity was overwhelming. I took it really hard. I felt emotionally demolished…and angry at first, but now I feel liberated: Liberated from superstitious, fear-based nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sirius,

    I did a google search but did not find anything with details of what triggered your deconversion or how the LCMS and your pastor reacted. Do you mind sharing a brief story here?

    Like

  17. Hey Nate,

    I just noticed that Paul wrote “my” gospel in Romans 2:16 – where’s Laurie when you need her! 😉

    I’m with KC – it’s more about how we treat our fellow humans who very clearly exist right before our eyes. Those relationships are real, and if there are any gods that care about morality then kindness toward others would be all that is important. Nobody would think it would be right for a god to hold us accountable for doubting the truth of astrology, so why do some think it’s right to hold people accountable for doubting their favorite metaphysical beliefs that were written down hundreds of years ago when superstition was rampant?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. UnkleE, thanks for offering your perspective. I wondered how you would see it, especially since you don’t believe in a literal Hell.

    Peter, when I was a Christian, I actually saw the faith vs works thing in a similar way to UnkleE. I felt like the Bible taught that the two went hand in hand.

    Ark, I agree woith your assessment too. I think that the only way to get around this passage is to not focus on it –just accept it a priori because “God said it.”

    Like

  19. I really enjoyed your thoughts on this topic, Nate. This is truly one of my favorite topics and I’m hoping to do a blog post soon. It will be titled something like “Theology for a pluralist society”.

    You pointed out the Gentile’s ignorance could be in domains of either morality or doctrinal belief. Then you consider the consequences of each. 1) If the Gentile’s ignorance is in the domain of morality, this seems fairer because it seems to give more people the opportunity for salvation. 2) If the Gentile’s ignorance is doctrinal belief, then as you put it, “millions upon millions of people were consigned to Hell through no fault of their own.” I agree.

    My thinking is the Gentile’s ignorance could be any combination of morality and/or doctrinal belief depending on the particular individual. It depends on what God is calling the particular individual to do or believe. It makes no sense for God to call Neanderthals to hold Jewish or Christian doctrinal belief. It does, however, make sense for God to call Neanderthals to respond to whatever grace he offered them. It also makes sense for God to call individual Athenians, through Paul, to repent and/or accept doctrinal belief. This is a principle of individualization. Consider the Parable of the Talents. The master is pleased by the servants’ efforts despite how many talents they were given at the start, so long as they do not hide their talents in wickedness. Also, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48). This differentiates Neanderthals from Athenians from Aztecs from Chinese from Ethiopians, and differentiates those from Christian homes, broken homes, rich or poor homes, right down to our individual lives.

    God must be calling everyone throughout history to some capacity. For some, it is merely obeying their conscience. For others it is developing a love for others and altruism. For others it is doctrinal belief or refinement. Here’s the kicker. For the individuals called to accept doctrinal belief, not only is this calling a gift from God, but merely accepting it is a gift from God. Consider Paul’s letter to Corinth: “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:4-5). If it is by nature a charitable gift, then God cannot expect anyone to obtain it with intellect, willpower, merit, works righteousness, altruism, sacrifice, piety, devotion, or any sort of effort.

    Not even the most convinced believer will be saved without a proper response to God’s call. All of this that I am describing has radical consequences for Christians. It means we should be extremely careful about judging. We don’t always know an individual’s background, how much external evils have permeated their life, or how specifically God is calling them. Another consequence is in the debate about God’s existence. Christians can never claim intellectual superiority over atheists for their belief if it was truly a gift. Nor can Christians claim moral superiority if the Spirit is a gracious gift. This ought to foster a radical humility and understanding while living in a society with so many conflicting worldviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Brandon (anaivethinker),

    Thanks for weighing in. I’m really glad you offered your comment, because the first part of it is something I thought a lot about as a Christian, too. Based on the same passages you mentioned, it seemed to me that God’s expectations were very individualized. He basically expected everyone’s best, and that would vary just as people’s experiences and capabilities vary.

    But this also brought up other questions for me, and I wonder if you have any thoughts about them. For God to judge mankind in this way seemed to minimize the importance of the gospel, while simultaneously being a much fairer method of judgement. If faith in Jesus wasn’t required of everyone, why require it of anyone? Perhaps the sacrifice was still necessary to actually be the payment for sin, but why make some people believe in that sacrifice in order for it to take effect? To me, this is like the difference between those who give to the needy anonymously and those who do it for attention.

    If God can save people through all these different methods, why is preaching the gospel so important? And as I argued in my post, can it even be harmful?

    Here’s the kicker. For the individuals called to accept doctrinal belief, not only is this calling a gift from God, but merely accepting it is a gift from God.

    I’ve heard this argument before, but it’s never made much sense to me. I’m not even convinced the Bible teaches it, but for the moment, let’s assume it does. If the acceptance is also from God, then it seems like everyone would have accepted it. After all, the Bible claims that God is no respecter of persons and that he wants all people to be saved. So if the acceptance of salvation is something gifted by God, then we’re either all saved, or God doesn’t actually want everyone to be saved.

    If it is by nature a charitable gift, then God cannot expect anyone to obtain it with intellect, willpower, merit, works righteousness, altruism, sacrifice, piety, devotion, or any sort of effort.

    If that’s true, then the gospel seems completely meaningless to me. It almost seems to be an argument against free will.

    Am I missing something there?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think the problem is that there is more than one plan of salvation in the Bible.

    1. The OT says salvation is by keeping the Law.
    2. Jesus said salvation was by doing good, keeping the Law, and believing in him.
    3. Paul said that salvation was by faith in Christ alone.
    4. James said that salvation was by good works and faith.

    That’s why the Protestant plan of salvation is so confusing. Protestantism bases all doctrine on a printed book that contains four plans of salvation. No wonder there have been brutal wars and church split after church split over this issue.

    So the problem is THE BOOK. You aren’t missing anything, Nate.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Jews believe that the OT teaches that there are two “Laws”; one for Jews and one for Gentiles. Jews were to obey the Law of Moses (about 160 laws) and Gentiles were to follow the Law of Noah (about 10 laws). If a Gentile followed the Noahidic Law, he was considered righteous in the sight of God.

    If Paul was a Pharisee, he would have known this, therefore this would account for his teaching that prior to Jesus, Gentiles were justified by their deeds (obeying the Noahidic Law).

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I misstated the number of Laws in Moses’ Law (the Torah). There are over 600. Here is an excerpt from the Virtual Jewish Library:

    The Noachide Laws are seven laws considered by rabbinic tradition as the minimal moral duties required by the Bible on all men. While Jews are obligated to observe the whole Torah – 613 commandments, every non-Jew is considered a “son of the covenant of Noah” and he who accepts these obligations is considered a righteous person who is guaranteed a place in the world to come.

    The seven Noachide laws, as traditionally enumerated are:
    1.Do Not Deny God
    2.Do Not Blaspheme God
    3.Do Not Murder
    4.Do Not Engage in Incestuous, Adulterous or Homosexual Relationships.
    5.Do Not Steal
    6.Do Not Eat of a Live Animal
    7.Establish Courts/Legal System to Ensure Law Obedience

    Except for the seventh law, all are negative commands, and the last itself is usually interpreted as commanding the enforcement of the others. They are derived exegetically from divine demands addressed to Adam and Noah, the progenitors of all mankind, and are thus regarded as universal. Noachides may also freely choose to practice certain other Jewish commandments and Maimonides held that Noachides must not only accept these seven laws on their own merit, but must also accept them as divinely revealed.

    The prohibition of idolatry provides that the non-Jew does not have to “know God” but must disregard false gods. This law refers only to actual idolatrous acts but, unlike Jews, Noachides are not required to suffer martyrdom rather than break this law. They are, however, required to choose martyrdom over murder. The Tosefta (Av. Zar. 8:6) records four possible additional prohibitions against: (1) drinking the blood of a living animal; (2) emasculation; (3) sorcery; and (4) all magical practices listed in Deuteronomy 18:10–11.

    Even though the Talmud and Maimonides stipulate that a non-Jew who violated the Noachide laws was liable to capital punishment, contemporary authorities have expressed the view that this is only the maximal punishment. According to this view, there is a difference between Noachide law and halakhah. According to halakhah, when a Jew was liable for capital punishment it was a mandatory punishment, provided that all conditions had been met, whereas in Noachide law death is the maximal punishment, to be enforced only in exceptional cases.

    In view of the strict monotheism of Islam, Muslims were considered as Noachides whereas the status of Christians was a matter of debate. Since the later Middle Ages, however, Christianity too has come to be regarded as Noachide, on the ground that Trinitarianism is not forbidden to non-Jews.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Someone stop me. I’m on a roll…

    There is no concept of faith as a basis of righteousness in Judaism. In fact, the word “faith” is only mentioned TWICE in the entire Old Testament (KJV)! The idea that Abraham was counted righteous by his faith, and not by his obedience, is outrageous to Jews (the author of the epistle of James seemed to agree with the Jews. He stated that Abraham was counted righteous by God due to his obedience).

    Paul is sometime referred to as the “Protestant apostle” (Peter, the Catholic apostle). Where Paul got his plan of salvation by faith alone is anyone’s guess. Catholic teaching, which emphasis works of charity and good deeds, is much closer to Judaism than Protestantism.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Nate,
    Spot on, you are pointing out a major dilemma for evangelists. If God offers grace to all people, in a variety of ways, and may excuse their sin on the basis of Christ, what is the purpose of doctrinal belief?

    One response is doctrinal belief is superfluous to the purpose of life. Then, doctrinal belief would primarily be about something else. An argument can be made that doctrinal belief is transformative to individuals and societies. Of course the forces of evil pervert it, causing religious wars and schisms, false teachings, animosity, arrogance, etc. But, doctrinal belief that is true ought to be transformative and beneficial to the individual and society. In this way, as a superfluity, it would simply be an act of love on Gods part.

    When you say, “why require [faith in Jesus] of anyone?” and “why make some people believe in that sacrifice in order for it to take effect?” I don’t think God has a list of requirements for everyone and some people have ‘believe in Christianity’ on their list. The existence of requirements implies that we must work to achieve the goal of salvation. But, that’s not the gospel. The gospel says God already fulfilled those requirements through Jesus. So, if holding doctrinal belief is important to one’s salvation, it will be offered as a gift somehow. For example, the Spirit can testify. Even so, we cannot deny there are barriers to holding doctrine. Atheists have good reasons to be skeptical and believers go through periods of doubt. Evil seeks to pervert anything it can. God may offer grace to overcome these. Though these barriers are real, I don’t think there exists barriers to salvation that are not created by oneself.

    Like

  26. Brandon,

    The being from whom you seek salvation does not exist. You do not need to be saved from anything, Brandon, except the guilt-ridden belief system that has you spell-bound by fear under its control.

    Free yourself of this ancient superstition and be truly “saved”.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Gary, I think you nailed it. The problem is that the teaching of the Bible seems contradictory. Especially between different books. Paul even seems to disagree with himself. That is part of the reason that scholars consider some of the letters attributed to Paul were not actually written by Paul.

    If one looks at history in the time of Paul, people generally believed what the head of the house told them to believe. Notice how often in Acts it talks about whole households believing. That was the social expectation of the time, though of course there were exceptions.

    Later in history it became that kings decided the religion for their whole territory. When Christian missionaries went into Ireland, England and Germany, there focus was on the tribal chiefs not the the peasants. Once the tribal chiefs accepted Christianity the rest of the people usually fell into line.

    The protestant concept of individual conversion worked differently in these societies, when someone was ‘converted’ it was more like a call to a sacred office, such as becoming a monk.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. What comes sharply into focus is that one would expect the Bible to be superfluous to any omnipotent being.

    From the pertinence of the questions pre- deconverts ask it is plain this realisation is very much like taking blinkers off a horse.

    And from the level of vehemence apologists are willing to go to defend it it doesn’t take rocket science to realise that to accept this disgusting rag of a book as inspired by a deity one has to be subject to some form of indoctrination.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Hey Peter,

    I really appreciate your input in blog discussions. I understand your recent comments.

    I believe there are people in the American Church who are agnostic, more so among men. I remember countless men who didn’t attend Church with their families. There were also men who showed up for services, but seemed uninterested much of the time. Women, however, rarely considered life outside of God or at least never admitted it. It is how our society has conditioned us to be as a gender, stuck in the Victorian age.

    It’s odd to me to see deconverts miss their “Church family”. I rarely felt as though I belonged to any Church. From birth to almost 40 years old, I was very active in Church and rarely found kindred spirits. My situation only worsened once I began to seriously question all of it. I was in my late teens at CFNI Dallas in the early 1990s and had major doubts about the whole theological mess. I spent 20 years after that scoping out many Churches of varying denominations. I poured myself into a dozen versions of the Bible. I volunteered and even worked for Churches, Christian ministries and Christian businesses. I have been everything from a Christian camp worker for inner city kids to executive director at a Christian pregnancy center. I even worked as a prayer phone counselor for CBN’s affiliate in Dallas. All the services, prayer meetings, worship nights, cell groups, Sunday school classes and potluck dinners, I was usually that piece that didn’t fit into the Church puzzle. No matter how much I volunteered for ministry work with babies, children, teens and adults, I rarely made a connection with anyone. As a result, I consistently turned to God in private Bible study, prayer, journaling and worship. I did all but take in Matt Redman, Hillsong, Margaret Becker and Rita Springer intravenously. I often slept with my Bible, Vine’s, Strong’s and Pentateuch as I scribbled down verses, thoughts and studied topics. I just never fully formed a bond with any Church or individual Christian. I also consistenly ran into the worst misogynists in this country, Church ladies!

    I don’t type all of this for pity, life is good. I bring it up so that anyone who constantly feels as though there is no place for them in the “kingdom of god” might read this and change their destiny for the better. The brain (not the “spirit” or intuition) is constantly trying to tell us when things are not right. Instead of “renewing” it or “rebuking” it, we need to listen to it. There might be a lot of religious junk in there, but if we block out all the dogmatic clutter we’ll hear our true voice.

    Honestly, I think that I’ve always known that god was never with me because no matter what I said, prayed, believed or did, I constantly ended up with the same result….NOTHING. It’s as though I was always an atheist trying to convince myself to be a PASSIONATE Christian. I no longer fight it. I’m an atheist, plain and simple. Why should I continue fighting with who I really am?

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Charity,
    When you say, “I rarely felt like I belonged to any Church” I feel the exact same way. Most of my best friends in high school in north Texas were either atheists or nominal Christians. The church kids were popularity-contest cliques and total hypocrites who would go to church to enjoy the social environment then go to parties on the weekend, get drunk, do drugs, have sex. I rejected their way and would always try to find friends who were real and also interact with the unpopular kids as much as possible. Then when I went to college I slowly stopped even going to church, because I couldn’t stand all the hypocrisy. Even people who had moral consistency didn’t really seem to care about anyone else or care to actually engage with anyone that was not a form of self-promotion. It was just a social gathering and a place to scan ones religious time card. A good place to “raise your kids” and talk about football after surviving the service.

    Then I got married to a fairly religious woman. That’s when I started questioning the rational foundation of it all. I stopped going to church altogether. She asked me to be a spiritual leader, something I was incapable of. I tried to go back to church for a time but found the same problems. Failure to engage, self-absorbed, just like any other meeting of humans. My cynicism reached an all-time high.

    The difference between me and you is that I didn’t seek any sort of spiritual comfort. I almost immediately rejected spirituality.

    Then, I reconverted. What has changed in my relationship with the church since reconverting? Well, I try to not be cynical but honestly its still there. For the most part I feel almost completely alone. It doesn’t seem to be a family. I think I have more spiritual connection with my atheists friends than I do with my church as strange as that sounds.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Brandon, I can identify with what you’re saying. Most people just don’t seem to think deeply about these kinds of things, whether they’re believers or not. For a while (as a Christian), I thought it was this apathy that God would judge most severely. But then it struck me that if the majority of people are this way, then it’s somehow tied to our nature. And I have a hard time finding rationality for a god to hold us accountable to an aspect of our nature that we didn’t choose.

    It’s also true that those of us who do take these things seriously are all over the map in regards to what’s true. To me, this indicates that either no religions are true, or in an Eastern sense, they all are.

    I don’t know if those trains of thought make sense, but that’s where my mind goes when I think about how little depth of thought most people give to spiritual things.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Brandon, in your earlier comment you said:

    One response is doctrinal belief is superfluous to the purpose of life. Then, doctrinal belief would primarily be about something else. An argument can be made that doctrinal belief is transformative to individuals and societies. Of course the forces of evil pervert it, causing religious wars and schisms, false teachings, animosity, arrogance, etc. But, doctrinal belief that is true ought to be transformative and beneficial to the individual and society. In this way, as a superfluity, it would simply be an act of love on Gods part.

    When you say, “why require [faith in Jesus] of anyone?” and “why make some people believe in that sacrifice in order for it to take effect?” I don’t think God has a list of requirements for everyone and some people have ‘believe in Christianity’ on their list. The existence of requirements implies that we must work to achieve the goal of salvation. But, that’s not the gospel. The gospel says God already fulfilled those requirements through Jesus. So, if holding doctrinal belief is important to one’s salvation, it will be offered as a gift somehow.

    I’ve wondered about this possibility — that doctrinal belief is more about living a good life here, because the question of eternity was already decided by Christ’s sacrifice. I could accept the idea of a god operating in this way. It’s sort of like a sense of enlightenment — those who find it receive a greater sense of fulfillment than those who don’t. So the consequences of missing out aren’t all that severe.

    For example, sometimes our local baseball team will offer a jersey (or something similar) to the first thousand or so kids that come through the gate. When you buy a ticket, you aren’t buying the jersey — you’re buying admission to the game. If you get there early enough, you get the bonus of the jersey. But if you miss out on that, you still get to see the game you paid to see. So no real loss.

    I could see that kind of system working with religion, especially if the evidence for said religion is a little obscure. That virtually guarantees that some people will miss out, even if they’re decent folks.

    But traditionally, faith in Jesus has been presented as a necessary requirement of avoiding Hell (whatever one takes Hell to mean). If that’s true, then the stakes are way too high for the quality of evidence we’ve been given, in my opinion. Muslims, for instance, think they’ve bought a ticket to the game, only to find out that they don’t have a seat. Doesn’t seem very fair.

    So I see the appeal of what you’re suggesting. But aren’t there passages that make this problematic?

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. — John 14:6

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

    …because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. — Rom 10:9-10

    We could look at others, of course, but I’m sure you see what I’m getting at. Do you think that all people are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice and the gospel is only for helping us live a better life in the here and now?

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Hey Brandon,

    I tried so many different approaches to religion, god, Jesus, Christians and Church for a few decades.

    I remember never really belonging, even as far back as my preteen years. I felt too old to be in Children’s Church and too young to sit with my parents.(Word of Faith Church in my preteens.) The youth group felt that I wasn’t old enough to sit with them and clearly let me know that I wasn’t wanted in their meetings either.

    As I got older and attended an AG Church I felt left out in my youth group. I had one good friend whose parents were heavily involved in volunteering at the Church. Her dad was obsessed with Church and her mom left him for another man. That same friend was a grade/one year younger than me left for that AG Bible College in Lakeland for one semester and came back home pregnant. Oddly enough, that same AG Church I attended was led by a preacher who ran off with the secretary and left the Church with a massive debt in a new building addition that they NEVER could pay off. That particular drama went down between my first initial time at that Church and their school (fourth grade) and my return in my early teens. While I was in ninth grade on spring break, my mother had scheduled my wisdom teeth removal. My grandparents were in town and we all went to Church that night. I sat through youth choir practice and youth services with bloody galls in my mouth. My parents were/are sadists and people at church just didn’t ever give a shit.

    I went to a public high school in southwest Georgia. I had a few friends, but they were great. I got along well with most of the Black kids, and a couple of really poor white kids, but my two best friends were blond haired, blue eyed Mormon transplants.

    Even before my sincere questioning at Bible School I could see differences between the other Christian kids and me. Because of how they treated me, I just thought it was because I wasn’t cute enough or popular enough for them to include me. Even with my involvements in Church and a year or two of showing up for regular/semi regular daily devotions with FCA at school, I never was taken seriously and I rarely felt accepted.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. if I were still a christian I’d wonder about heaven and hell. The brand I was in taught the descriptions of hell were fairly literal while the streets of gold in heaven were obvious ,metaphors or poetic descriptions of nice, precious and blissful.

    Perhaps, if the two were real, and I don’t think they are, but if they were, perhaps it as nate lined out above and Hell is quite real, but not a place of torture, but just a place away from god. Maybe a supreme being doesn’t really want to punish everyone, and just finally says, “here, i give up, here’s your place, where you like, away from me.”

    or it’s all just a kid’s bedtime story, trying to convince them to behave.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. BTW, Howie and Nate, I find that whole “my gospel” thing with Paul interesting as well. It really is his gospel and it is truly the message of most of the Churched today.

    I know we can’t say that to Christians though because here in west Tennessee they’d say to each other “Don’t let those nonbelievers use the Word as a weapon against you!” Seriously, that’s what Christians say where I live.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Paul was a man of visions. Paul communicated directly with “the Christ”. Paul learned all his teachings and doctrines by private revelation, not from the original apostles.

    By any modern standard of mental competency…Paul was a nut job.

    Yet billions of people all over the world, for 2,000 years, have accepted the word of this ONE man and believe that his writings contain the very words of the Creator of the Universe.

    We have ZERO corroboration that this man was accepted by the Eleven as an apostle or that his teachings were acknowledged as divinely inspired except in ONE book of the NT canon; a book that is now considered by most (non-evangelical) NT scholars to be a forgery—“Second Peter”.

    Most NT scholars also believe that the Book of Acts was written by a disciple of Paul. What corroboration do we have that any of the stories told in Acts are factually true? None. They could all be contrived to paint Paul as the “greatest of the apostles” when it is very likely that James and the Church in Jerusalem considered Paul a raving heretic.

    Why does Paul (or more likely a Pauline disciple) complain in one of the books to Timothy that Paul had been rejected by ALL the churches in Asia Minor? “ALL” the churches??

    Dear Christians. Take your rose-colored glasses off. Paul was either a nut job, a liar, or both. If you want to follow the humanistic teachings of Jesus, great. But dump Paul. You have no proof that he spoke for God other than Paul’s claim that he did.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Nate,

    Traditionally, faith in Jesus has been presented as a necessary requirement of avoiding Hell. . .

    I agree, this is very common especially among Christian traditions in the US and probably throughout history.

    But aren’t there passages that make this problematic?

    Before I try to interpret these passages, I would want to point out that Jesus himself was asked ‘what must I do to be saved’ at least twice. First, a Jewish lawyer asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus answered love God and your neighbor, then the lawyer wanted to know who was his neighbor. Jesus’ response: Parable of the Good Samaritan.

    The second occasion is when a rich man asked the same question. Jesus tells him to obey the commandments to which the rich man states he has kept them since youth.

    When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” (Luke 18:22-27)

    These passages are rich in theology, but the most important thing is Jesus never said ‘believe the correct doctrine and you will be saved’. In fact, it doesn’t seem even possible to force this onto these passages.

    Regarding Romans 10:9-10, I agree it does sound like Paul says doctrinal belief is required for salvation, but I don’t think this is what Paul meant. For Paul salvation is through faith, and while faith can mean doctrinal belief, here it seems to mean trust. Abraham’s faith in God, Paul’s go-to example, was certainly not believing God exists (a doctrinal belief), rather trust that God would provide for him on the mountain. That said, it’s easy to construe Romans 10 to mean doctrinal belief is required for salvation. So easy in fact, that scholars think James needed to explicitly rebut this notion:

    Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? (James 2:18-20)

    The logic is crystal clear: demons have correct doctrinal belief, but they are condemned to perish. Therefore, correct doctrine cannot save.

    Do you think that all people are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice and the gospel is only for helping us live better life in the here and now?

    I’m not a universalist, but I do think that those who will be saved are done on the basis of Christ: “he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2). Take, for example, Bob, a Neanderthal living 300,000 years ago. Bob cannot have Jewish or Christian doctrinal belief, but God can order events so as to offer him grace in some way. If Bob responds, he has accepted God’s invitation even though he cannot articulate this in terms of the gospel message. Same goes for children, mentally retarded, and all cultures throughout human history. God is fair to all.

    I think the purpose of giving some the grace to hold true doctrine is for the benefit of humanity. Because anyone who really believes that Jesus resurrected ought to be spiritually filled and have a passion for service. It is definitely about the here and now: serving, being stewards of the earth, freeing the oppressed, caring for outcasts, and sacrificing for others.

    Like

  38. Hi Charity

    In regard to missing one’s church family, I do suspect it depends on the extent to which the bond people had was more than just a common membership of a church. My last church was quite a congenial place, like a social club with a mild ecclesiastical flavour. So it provided a good basis for shared social functions.

    However I also moonlighted at a more fundamentalist church with more zealous Pentecostal folk. The atmosphere was different there a lot more intense, focussed on converting the evil world and preaching a literalist interpretation of the Bible. I don’t have any real desire to reconnect to the folk from that church, though I do miss the folk from the milder more liberal church.

    Another aspect I have noticed in churches is that when someone capable joins, it is not long before you are roped into all sorts of responsibility, unless you are strong and strenuously resist.

    Like

  39. @charity re: “Don’t let those nonbelievers use the Word as a weapon against you!” Seriously, that’s what Christians say where I live.

    lol, that’s what “Christians” say everywhere:

    http://godsmanforever.com/2015/07/02/god-inspired-purpose-of-scripture-7022015-by-mary-hall-rayford/

    “What I have found amazing in the past few days is the number of people who claim not to believe “in an ancient book of myths written by men” but will use it, “cherry-picking” to support and condone their stance in opposition to God’s Word. Now, think about it–isn’t that just like Satan to try to use God’s Word to convince Jesus to do act in opposition to God’s Word?…

    In the passage of Scripture used as a foundation for my blog today, Paul reminds Timothy that “all” (nothing left out of all) Scripture is God-breathed or inspired. Therefore, we should not get overly indignant when people don’t understand and only select the passages they want to use. The fact that they use Scripture at all, puts them into greater risk of being judged by God since they chose to misuse it for ungodly purposes. If a person claims they don’t believe in the Bible, they shouldn’t try quoting it when they have no idea what it means when comprehension of it is only achieved by understanding the “totality” of The Word, not bits and pieces….

    I don’t have a problem with people who claim they don’t believe in God. Their very confession of unbelief is a contradiction to their behavior since they generally spend an inordinate amount of time talking about a God they don’t believe in to convince those who do believe that we’re foolish. ”

    I have a question for all of you. what motivates you guys to ” generally spend an inordinate amount of time talking about a God you don’t believe in to convince those who do believe that we’re foolish. ”
    is it, as the above author suggests, SATAN?

    i have been watching a lot of “christian” t.v. lately and WHEN THEY AREN’T BEGGING FOR SEED MONEY, that seems to be the number one argument the alleged “Christians” have when discussing athiests and I’m just curious to know how each of you would respond to that.

    thanks for any input.

    Like

  40. What motivates me to talk about ‘God’ is that it had been the central part of my life. I am still not 100% of the way extracted from faith. SO I find it very valuable to interact with others who have been a similar journey to help me in my journey.

    Some posts can be very useful in that regard. As an example one form Charles site today:
    https://skepticjourney.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/looking-back-supernatural-experiences/

    This type of post helps me to understand and make sense of my own ‘experiences’.

    But by focussing on the Bible and especially ‘issues’ in the Bible it helps me confirm that my decision to leave faith is the correct one. Although you can be very certain, there can be a lingering look back, especially in regard to the fires of hell (more precisely developing confidence there no such place).

    Liked by 2 people

  41. thanks Peter, I appreciate that.

    I’m coming from a place of never being a believer, I’ve always thought it was some insane scam and watching the “Christian” t.v. only confirms what i have thought all along. scammers and insane followers.

    you guys/gals insight is very informative to me.

    Like

  42. Hey SPG,

    I take atheist/agnostic blog breaks often so that I don’t stay in my head too much. It can vary from a few days to a few weeks, even a couple of months or more. I do so because if I just stay on them I can get really depressed. Let me explain….Initially, I love the open forum, it’s like counseling for me. After a while I realize (again) just how alone I am in west Tennessee and then I’m down again. I don’t know if that makes any sense or not. That’s why I chop up my time between cyber world and the real world. Too long in any one world and I’m depressed.

    I was a really devout Christian from three years old to 39 years of age. I have an astounding amount of debriefing that I need to go through and blogs help me to unload and find encouragement. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by people who don’t believe everything they’re told, I find common ground with non believers who challenge the status quo. Anytime I questioned anything in Churches, ministries and even privately among Christian friends and acquaintances while I was a Christian I received ugly glares, sighs and even talks of emotional deliverance. I’ve been through a couple of actual deliverances too though. I’d rather not get into specifics although I think that I mentioned one on Victoria’s blog. I’ve had people yell at me as they told me that I was just hurt, bitter or angry. There was always rebuke, intimidation and humiliation. I suffered through this from my parents, church leaders (their wives and grown daughters as well) and an incredibly overbearing Bible School.

    I am not one to debate existence and evidence, that’s just not my style. However, I do like to think that my time commenting on a blog is fruitful for that person who can’t seem to escape the quicksand of religion. Maybe, if nothing else, my past and thoughts will help them consider their own regarding the world around us, gods, faith and religion. I’m going to be really honest here, I’m here for the religious women who accidentally pop up a blog like this. See, men can sit in church with their arms crossed, fall fast asleep and rush out to their cars upon dismissal of services. It’s great that the “head of the household” shows up to “worship” god. We should all be so lucky that our dads even show up for Church. And if he’s a complainer the spiritual leaders and other men in the Church embrace him with conversation and invites for prayer breakfasts and fishing trips. All the while, wives and mamas clean toilets, watch babies, sing in the choir and must engage in VBS, ridiculous fashion shows and tea parties. Teen girls and single ladies (regardless of age) submit to their dads and spiritual authority. Women are harshly judged for not being friendly enough and lacking spirituality. If we don’t volunteer at Church for the 3 C’s (cleaning, cooking and child care) at Church we are considered lazy and not submissive.

    I hope this helps you better understand deconverts. There’s no way I can explain everything for all of us for everyone’s deliverance from religion is different.

    Peace and love,
    C

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Hi Peter,

    I might be wrong, but aren’t you from England?

    I found Churches over there to be much more tolerant and kinder than those here in the US. Maybe it’s because I lived there for a summer as an American or because I ministered to people there or both. I just liked Christians there much more than here. My favorite area was Thrapston. I loved the place and its people. I spent an awful lot of time praying for people in meetings and even one on one in Thrapston, Peterborough and Manchester.

    When looking at most non believer blogs I see a theme. Men often leave religion due to evidence and existence concerns. However, it seems to me, that women often deconvert due to major issues regarding the Bible, prayer, worship and the condition of this world. I’m sure that it’s the other way around for some people though. Maybe it’s this way because women are told that we are frail, not submissive and rebellious. As a result, we throw ourselves into those methods to seek god more and more because we have been convinced that we are lacking and need “Him”. It’s funny how the “spirit of rebellion” is called a “spirit of Jezebel” and never a “spirit of Ahab”.

    I’m just glad I’m out of the chains that bound me in fear to an extremely high wall that I could never climb over.

    Have a great weekend, Peter.

    C

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Aw, Brandon. Those Mormon girls were the best. We all sat together in Journalism. We were oddballs for sure. The class consisted of members of the school’s debate team and honor students. Still, we somehow were approved and used it as our social hour. Those girls were pretty wild! This was back when Mormonism was still considered a cult, before Beck and Romney. I think it was also during the time (or immediately after) that LDS changed their doctrine regarding anyone with dark skin. You know, Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, the white people followed Jesus and everyone else followed the prince of darkness when he fell from heaven. Something like that. It also explains why there are SO MANY Mormons in Hawai’i. The Lieutenant Governor was a Mormon, at least while I lived there.

    I’m about to get up off of this thang. My little guys are continually interrupting and it’s taken me a great deal of time to type my big ass comments. It’s a holiday, I’m letting them stay up really late. It’s okay, they’re my “sonshine”.

    I hope you and everybody else have a great week ahead.

    C

    Liked by 2 people

  45. Hi Charity

    Warning, the following is a very sexist joke, but it did come to mind when I was reading your response to SPG. Please see it as the views of some, not all men.

    The preacher was exhorting the Church congregation to ’embrace your cross’. A man in the front row turned looked at his wife and hugged her.

    Please don’t be offended.

    Liked by 3 people

  46. My apologies, Peter, please don’t take it as an insult. I absolutely love the British Isles and the people from there.

    I can’t give an honest assessment of Australia because I’ve never been there and as an American I am left with ridiculous stereotypes…Crocodile Dundee, Outback Steakhouse and the TV persona of the late Steve Irwin. I was a big fan of Darlene Zschech though and saw her at an arena while I lived in Nashville. My favorites were All I Need is You, Worthy is the Lamb and Tell the World that Jesus Lives. I liked most of her music. I also had a massive crush on an Australian man while at Bible school in Dallas. He wanted to “build a relationship” with me, but nothing ever happened.

    I did like your joke, but I’m a weirdo. I didn’t like “yo mama” jokes until I became one.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. @Peter

    NICE! My in-laws are going to Hobart next month! Very nice place. I myself and hoping to go Tasmania and then subsequently go and visit south pole, but not this year unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. @SPG:
    You said: “I have a question for all of you. what motivates you guys to ‘generally spend an inordinate amount of time talking about a God you don’t believe in to convince those who do believe that we’re foolish.'”

    I hope you don’t mind if I take a stab at this even though I’m a believer.

    I don’t think most atheist individuals and communities have a primary goal of deconverting people. Just a little time spent in the blogosphere or real world will show that its very difficult to change someone’s mind. Even when there is unequivocal scientific data, it can be difficult to change someone’s mind. For example, anti-vacciners and Young Earth Creationists.

    Therefore, blogs and communities must primarily serve other purposes. Probably the most important purpose is solidarity. It’s important to find like-minding folks or at least sympathizers as we are all human and need this deep social fulfillment. Another reason is the virtue of truth seeking. It is an examination of one’s deepest thoughts and putting them in the public domain to receive feedback. Deconverting people may just be ancillary to these in most communities.

    I suppose I should mention that there exists some blogs and communities, both religious and non-religious, that consider themselves superior. They think they are smarter, wiser, and have higher morals. This self-apportioned superiority is used to justify ridicule and hatred. But, this is the wrong way. Don’t even those who disagree with us deserve dignity? We can live together in disagreement and still give each dignity without thinking ourselves superior and justifying such abuses.

    Regretfully, I suspect that the website or TV program you are quoting is trying to insult atheists. They are basically saying, “You guys are obsessive because you know religion is winning.” This is really disappointing because I know that its not the case at all. My atheist and agnostic friends are well-meaning, serious, and committed to thinking things through, certainly not obsessive rationalizers. They are usually immersed in cultures and subcultures with widespread belief in God and disinterest in thinking about truth; so naturally, these are things to talk about at opportune times. So, there are reasons to keep the discussion alive, for solidarity, for truth, and maybe to changes minds and hearts.

    Liked by 3 people

  49. The topic of this post brings up what I believe to be the core defect in Protestant Christianity: Sola Scriptura; that the Christian Faith is based entirely on the unquestioned authority, inerrancy, and divine inspiration of a book, or more correctly, a collection of 27 books (the New Testament).

    From Infidels.org:

    Diversity of Early Christianity

    Bart D. Ehrman provides the following points as summary of his introductory chapter on the New Testament and early Christian writings:

    1. Early Christianity was extremely diverse. It was not the unified monolith that modern people sometimes assume.
    2. This diversity was manifest in a wide range of writings, only some of which have come down to us in the New Testament.
    3. The New Testament canon was formed by proto-orthodox Christians who wanted to show that their views were grounded in the writings of Jesus’ own apostles.
    4. Whether these writings actually represent the views of Jesus’ own apostles, however, was in some instances debated for decades, even centuries.[107]

    Gary: Christians have very, very weak evidence to support their claim that the 27 books of the NT are the inspired word of the Creator God. But yet, their entire belief system rises or falls on this one claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Hi Powell, you did well identifying Hobart, hardly a well known international location.

    Although we are a long way from the Antarctic, the Australian, French and Chinese Antarctic Expeditions leave for Antarctica from Hobart.

    The first picture is the Australian Antarctic Supply vessel, looking up to our local Mountain.
    http://images.aad.gov.au/img.py/98e.jpg?width=640&height=428

    This second picture shows the Chinese supply vessel looking towards the other side of the River Derwent.

    Liked by 2 people

  51. Arch, I came across a comment in DiarMaid MacCulloch’s history of Christianity

    It is a peculiarity of the Orthodox tradition of public worship that it contains hymns of hate, directed towards named individuals who are defined as heretical, all the way from Arius, through Miaphysites, Dyophysites, and Iconoclasts. Take, for instance, these lines from the fifth sticheron (hymn) for Great Vespers on the Sunday after the feast of the Ascension. In celebration of the first Council of Nicaea, the liturgy describes with relish (and one malevolent theological pun) the wretched end of Nicaea’s arch villain in fatal diarrhoea on the privy:

    Arius fell into the precipice of sin,
    Having shut his eyes so as not to see the light,
    And he was ripped asunder
    by a divine book so that along with his entrails
    he forcibly emptied out
    all his essence [ousia!] and his soul,
    and was named another Judas
    both for his ideas and the manner of his death.

    Hardly the hymn for peaceful devotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Hi Charity, actually I am from Australia. This is my home town:

    Hi Peter, I recognised the photo, but I had an advantage, having visited three times in the last 10 years (I’m from Sydney). I’ve been to all but one of Australia’s capital cities, and I think I like Hobart the best. We have always stayed at Battery Point/Salamanca, which maybe helps explain that.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. Gary, the funny thing is that Christians are so use to interpreting the Bible based on pre-conceived views that they miss what is plainly before their eyes. Book after book of the New Testament hints at this division. Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians and 1 John make open reference to the divisions.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. Charity, I visited Canada once and thought that culturally it was very similar to Australia.

    Though Monty Python had a different slant

    Like

  55. I should add, I had not watched again the whole video until after I posted it. I did not remember how politically incorrect it was. Still it does show how society values have changed in the last 45 years.

    Like

  56. Below is a link to a very interesting article which discusses the discrepancies between the Paul in the Book of Acts and the Paul in the (genuine) Pauline epistles:

    http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/lukepaul.html

    As a Christian I never once noticed these glaring discrepancies. I would bet that most Christians miss them. We miss them because our indoctrinated brains cannot contemplate for one millisecond the presence of contradictions in “God’s Inerrant, Holy Word”.

    Liked by 1 person

  57. I just watched the “Aussie” video. The only thing I understood was that everyone in Australia is named “Bruce”, that “real” Australian men don’t like gays (“poofters”), and that the English think all Australians are morons.

    I for one could care less what the English think of you or anyone else, but I do have a question: Why in god’s name don’t you Australians learn to speak proper English so we Americans can understand what the hell you are saying??

    Liked by 1 person

  58. Like in America the Australian accent does vary over the country and tends to be stronger in the Northern part. In the South where I am, it can at times be more like a mild English Accent.

    The Monty Python team decided to take off the most extreme form of the accent.

    Like

  59. UnkleE I spent 12 years living in Sydney before returning to my home town. I always Sydney too busy for me and too hot and humid. I prefer the quieter pace of life in tranquil Hobart and more temperate weather.

    Like

  60. heads up everyone, it appears that sept 23, 2015 is the new date set for the beginning of the end. I saw it on jim bakker show and some other Christian program. so I googled it.

    oh no. I read it on the internet so it must be true.

    Like

  61. @SPG

    You know, I have a bet with my good friend (he was one of my best-men for my wedding) that if financial market collapse in September, I will start going to church with him. I also told him that, if nothing happened in Sept, his faith will still not falter, so why am I entering such an asymmetrical agreement – to prove to him I live consistently with my life, while he is obviously not. He’s a lawyer by the way, seriously I can’t understand why someone who qualified for Mensa during his teens is totally bamboozled by this shit – then again I remembered I was the one who fed him this bullshit so………

    Obviously somebody told him about the blood moon bullshit, unfortunately Greek exit already seems to be happening, and market is not collapsing, I think we will need N.Korea to throw a nuclear bomb for US stocks to drop 5%, and then rebound again.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. lol, powell. I watch way too much Christian t.v., and I have heard that on sept 23, anything could happen, from the stock market crash to an asteroid hitting the earth, to CERN opening another dimension a.k.a. “the pits of hell.
    one of the kooks is even saying that it coincides with the pope visiting the white house and aliens will arrive and there will be a “false flag” rapture…HUH?

    so, they are all rushing to sell their “blood moon ” prophecy books and their survivalist food and gear because it’s right around the corner. so crazy. they fear monger for profit.

    but , I just found this on the internet: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/blood-moon.html
    “Another End-of-the-world Prophecy?
    Some people believe that the tetrad has special significance because the eclipses coincide with important Jewish festivals. The two April lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015 occurred at the same time as Passover, while the October and September eclipses occur during the Feast of Tabernacle. This, they suggest, is connected to a biblical prophecy of the end of times.
    The fact is, eight of the tetrads since the first century have coincided with Jewish holidays without the world going under, so there is no reason to believe that the 2014-2015 tetrad will end the world this time either.”

    so, I’m not too alarmed, however, I’d rally love to see the aliens arrive to visit the pope, now that would be cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  63. Haha yeah I read about those. Even when I was a Christian I rolled my eyes when one of the guest pastors came in to preach about this shit.

    Nonetheless, I am waiting for a financial market crash – we’re kinda overdue on it, but the degree is never going to be as big as the 2007 one. I would love to see a crash where I live though, stock prices and property prices are getting ridiculously high – first world problem of staying in a popular city.

    Liked by 1 person

  64. SPG, I got just one thing to say. If anyone should know these people who believe the end times are here, put us in contact. I want to inherit their property before that date. They will not be needing them beyond said date

    Liked by 1 person

  65. Peter my problem with that is if the rapture doesn’t happen, as it will not, I can’t get the car. I want this people to put their faith in their mouths, so to speak. The world is ending on such a date, let them transfer all they have to me effective said date

    Liked by 1 person

  66. Just to throw a monkey-wrench into the whole business (’cause I like to and can) …

    What if this:

    “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed;”

    has already happened (the day Jesus died at our hand)?

    And, what if this:

    “and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    is the evidence of it?

    What if future judgment does not exist because Christ’s death WAS the judgment? No in or out. No us and them. No future fear. Only love displayed and freely given, murdered by our own violence? What if the ‘judgment’ is that we get to murder Him without consequence beyond our own reaping and sowing? What if judgment is nothing more than a natural outcome of our own actions (i.e., I murder someone, I spend the rest of my life in prison)?

    What if this question is moot BECAUSE WE SIMPLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE REAL MEANING OF JESUS’ DEATH?

    What if …?

    Like

  67. I like it, Judahfirst.

    it makes me think that all of these possible interpretations is yet another nail in the coffin of Christianity, as it shows there is no real way to ever be truly certain the correct understanding is obtained.

    but then the question arises, is having the correct understanding even the point? maybe the point is to keep searching, thinking and working it all out – if that’s the case, and if the bible is from god, then it could begin to explain the vagueness and ambiguity of the message.

    And it wouldnt matter whether one believes the bible is from god or not, it only matters if you’re trying… maybe.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s