How Do You Navigate Christianity Without a Compass?

My friend UnkleE and I have been having a wide-ranging discussion on several topics related to Christianity that ultimately come down to epistemology, or how Christians know God’s will. The discussion began in my last post, which critiqued a doctrine common to more moderate circles within Christianity. UnkleE had more to say on the subject than could reasonably fit within a comment, so he decided to do his own post in response, which is worth reading. We conversed a bit within that comment thread, where I said:

The President of the US and his spokespeople now regularly say things that are factually untrue. Yet plenty of his supporters are content to ignore reputable sources and only listen to the sources that they want to agree with. Where do you go from there?

It seems to me that the view you have of Christianity is similar. Why does the New Testament speak so much about false teachers, if it’s perfectly fine to get your beliefs from private revelation? If Paul and Hymenaeus have a disagreement, perhaps Paul is the one who’s wrong? Or maybe both of them are right, simultaneously? How can one use scripture to “teach, reprove, and correct” in such a system?

In the end, isn’t such a religion just anarchy? How can there be such a thing as “truth” when each person’s version is just as good as someone else’s? At least as an atheist, I can point to my understanding of reality and the physical world to try to reach a consensus with others. And if they can provide data that invalidates some position I hold, then I can change. But if I took my own random thoughts and feelings as revelation from the supreme creator of the universe, how could I ever be convinced of anything else?

Once again, this opened a big topic that was better suited to a full post, rather than a comment, so UnkleE offered his response here. And as my reply to that post grew and grew, I realized that I needed to offer it as a post as well. What follows will reference and borrow quotes from UnkleE’s latest post.

What Is the Gospel?

Under a section called “Another Gospel?” UnkleE gave this introduction:

Nate references Galations 1:6-9, which warns of accepting another gospel. But what does Paul mean by “gospel” (or “good news”)?

He then listed out 5 main points that he views as central to what the gospel is:

  1. Jesus, the “son of God”, lived and taught about the kingdom of God.
  2. He died to deal with human sin (how that happens is very much up for debate!).
  3. Jesus was resurrected and so conquered death.
  4. We need to change our thinking, turn away from behaviours that displease God, and seek forgiveness.
  5. Our new way of life should include loving God, loving neighbour, and even loving our enemies.

But it seems to me that the New Testament spends time referring to false doctrines that are ancillary to those 5 points. The entire book of Galatians has Paul accusing the Galatians of turning their backs on the gospel and trying to follow the Law of Moses, when it really just sounds like they were trying to follow both:

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
— Gal 5:2-6

To me, that sounds like something that we’d view as a matter of personal preference, today, certainly not something that would qualify as a “different gospel.” And look at 2 Cor 13:5-10:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

We don’t know the specifics of what Paul is criticizing here, but if these individuals were still present in the congregation to see Paul’s letter, then it’s likely they still held to the basic principles that UnkleE outlined above. What else could they be lacking that would make them “fail the test”?

In 2 John 7, it was considered heresy to question whether or not Christ had actually come in the flesh (like docetism, I guess):

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

To me, this seems kind of minor in many ways, though it was a huge deal back then. If someone still believed that Christ was the son of God and brought salvation in some way, should it have mattered if they didn’t fully understand how that happened? But 2 John shows that some early Christians had a huge problem with the doctrine.

2 Tim 2:16-19 talks about another form of false teaching:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

To me, this also seems like a minor quibble that runs outside the principles UnkleE laid out as the core of Christianity. Again, exactly what people believe about how/when the resurrection works, or even exactly what the writer means by “resurrection” here seems minor if an individual still believes Christ is the avenue for salvation, etc. Incidentally, there’s an interesting discussion of this passage here.

And if God is unchanging, it’s hard to overlook some of the judgments he supposedly handed out in the Old Testament, like killing Nadab and Abihu for not getting their sacrificial fire in the right way. Killing Achan and his entire family when he didn’t follow the command about not looting Jericho. Honestly, there are tons of OT examples, and I won’t take up any more space with going through them. But they each show how particular God was in seemingly minor things. Now, I agree that most of the New Testament argues that such legalism is no longer necessary. But I think the passages I listed above show that it still isn’t just free rein, especially if God’s character is unchanging (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).

The New Testament gives parameters about divorce and remarriage that are pretty strict. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus is speaking, and he says:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

That’s a rigorous standard that most Christians don’t really apply today, in that a large number of Christian marriages are actually adulterous, according to Jesus. Marriage and remarriage does not fall within the 5 precepts of the gospel that UnkleE laid out, but it still seems like it would be a big deal. After all, we’re told in 1 Cor 6:9-10 that adulterers can’t “inherit the kingdom of God.” What does that mean, exactly? I think it’s referring to salvation itself, and I think 1 Cor 5 bears that out. In that passage, Paul is telling the Corinthians to cast out the member among them who is sleeping with his father’s wife “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

Apparently, this Christian was in danger of losing his salvation if he didn’t repent of his wrongdoing. And to go back to 1 Cor 6 for a minute, we see that far more than just adulterers would be in danger of the same fate:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

That’s quite a laundry list. Those sins might fall within the 4th and 5th points from UnkleE’s list, so does this include married couples who didn’t divorce their previous spouses for infidelity? For consistency’s sake, I would think that they would have to be included, yet very few churches make an issue of it.

In the end, I think when Paul uses terms like “the gospel,” he’s not always strictly speaking about the 5 basic points that UnkleE outlined. I think he’s also talking about any specific instructions that he (or other apostles) laid out in their epistles. Yes, passages like Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8-10 talk about issues that individual Christians may have differences of opinion over, but that’s because those were issues that no specific instruction had been given about. But today, there are so many issues, like divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and women’s roles in the church that are considered minor by moderates today. And this is where the idea of authority comes into play. How do they justify their positions on these things?

Principles Not Rules

UnkleE goes on to argue that the New Testament focuses more on principles of how to live versus hard and fast rules. I do agree that it focuses more on principles than the Old Testament did, but I think the passages we’ve already looked at show that hard and fast rules still played a part.

UnkleE offers the following supporting points:

We serve God not according to a written set of rules, but guided by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6, Romans 7:6). Note that he uses as his example in the latter case nothing less than one of the Ten Commandments!

But I don’t think these 2 passages really illustrate UnkleE’s point. He makes it sound as though Paul is saying that written sets of rules no longer apply, but that’s not at all what he’s saying. He’s specifically talking about the Old Law (the Mosaic Law) in those passages, and UnkleE and I already agree that Paul argues the Old Law (including the 10 Commandments) has served its purpose and is no longer binding to Christians. That doesn’t mean there’s no longer any kind of written law — what about all the teachings in the New Testament, including the gospel?!

We can legitimately hold different views on moral issues. Paul gives several examples, some of them significant issues in his day – the eating of meat that had been offered to pagan idols (1 Corinthians 10:23-30), and the keeping of rules about Sabbath days and “unclean” foods (Romans 14:1-23). But he says quite definitely (Romans 14:13): “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.”

But as we saw above, these passages are dealing with issues about which there was no direction given in the New Testament. They were true matters of personal conscience. Paul does not give permission to make these same kinds of judgments on things like divorce and remarriage. And while Paul says that they shouldn’t judge one another about these kinds of things, 1 Cor 5 talks about how they’re supposed to judge the actions of fellow Christians.

UnkleE’s third supporting point is:

Therefore, Paul’s conclusion on even important matters of behaviour is that we are free to decide (1 Corinthians 10:23), we should leave the judgment to God (Romans 14:4) and it is not rules but faith that will decide, for whatever is not done in faith is wrong (Romans 14:23) and all should be done to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

But again, all of the passages here come exclusively from 1 Cor 10 and Romans 14, which discuss issues that are merely matters of personal preference.

The Holy Spirit

This is really where my biggest concerns lie. UnkleE has this to say about it:

A key fact, which many christians as well as critics can forget, is that christians believe we have been “given” the Spirit of God. Again, I don’t pretend to fully understand how this works, but it is clearly taught in scripture. Each believer has the help of the Holy Spirit in following Jesus in our lives and – crucially for this discussion – in guiding us to truth.

The Spirit is God, which means he is above the Bible, not lesser!

This is exactly what I was trying to get at in my initial questions to UnkleE. If the guidance of the Holy Spirit can trump scripture, how can any position ever be tested? If a man is married, but strongly believes that God wants him to be with his next door neighbor, who’s to say he’s wrong? Sure, the Bible contradicts his feelings, but the Holy Spirit has authority over the Bible. Yes, common sense contradicts his desire, but “God’s ways are higher than man’s.”

UnkleE also says this:

This merits a longer discussion than I can give now (but will post on soon), but we are told that the Holy Spirit will guide us into truth (John 16:13), so we can even know God’s will for us (Romans 12:2). We see examples of the Spirit guiding the believers in Acts (e.g. Acts 11:1-18, 13:1-3, 16:6-10). But we do, I believe, need to ask (James 1:5, Matthew 7:7-8).

So far from being “random thoughts”, if we pray, and take the precautions that the Bible gives us, we can have faith that God guides us (not just me, but his whole church) through his Spirit into true understandings – not infallibly, but steadily over time.

But to me, such a system looks exactly like “random thoughts.” How could anyone tell the difference between his own thoughts and the Holy Spirit? How could Paul rail against false teachers and false gospels if guidance from the Holy Spirit carries more weight than scripture? If 1000 different Christians all believe God has given them personal revelations that happen to conflict, there’s no way to sort among them to separate the true revelation from all the false ones.

In effect, it seems to me that such a religion can end up saying everything, which basically means it says nothing.

One More Thing

I know this post is painfully long, but I wanted to add one more thing. In his closing, UnkleE makes this point:

I suggest we should always start with what the scriptures say and expert knowledge about what it means – what would this or that passage have said to the people of the day, what do the words actually mean and how do experts understand them? We must read more than one viewpoint.

Then we must pray, consider, wait if necessary, and see if we receive guidance, and see how the Spirit is working and leading the body of believers as a whole. Our own experience and thoughts (if we are allowing God to transform our thinking) will help us.

Isn’t this exactly what we, as atheists, do as well? I’m quite familiar with the Bible (more so than many believers that I know), and I try to pay attention to what Biblical scholars have to say. I consider more than one point of view. I don’t pray, but I used to. And I believe that I’m open to being wrong — I’m even open to guidance. And I would love for God to give me some kind of message, personally. Used to plead for it, in fact. What else is there for me to do?

Closing

Let me stress that I really appreciate UnkleE’s willingness to discuss these things with me. As he knows, I was raised within a very fundamentalist version of Christianity that believed in biblical inerrancy. UnkleE has a very different perspective, and it’s difficult for me to fully understand it. My arguments here are how I try to come to terms with his beliefs. If I’ve missed some obvious answer to some of my questions, it’s solely due to ignorance, not obstinacy.

Advertisements

542 thoughts on “How Do You Navigate Christianity Without a Compass?”

  1. Your example of a man receiving a private word from the Spirit that God wanted him to leave his wife and join with another woman was exactly the situation I faced when I used to be a pastor.
    He had persuaded his daughter on the point, too, and so they together maintained that God wanted them to do this, and no evidence from the Bible could trump their private word from the Spirit, which was untestable and beyond challenge.
    We parted in disagreement.

    But I wanted to add my voice that the points you raise are not merely ‘hypotheticals that could never happen in real life’.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Nate,

    I’ve thought a lot about these issues. I have an apologetics website where I try to give a defense of the faith. I’ve posted my latest book online so it can be read for free. The chapters are short and easy to read. I think you might find the book interesting because it’s an attempt to understand what is required for salvation. For example, if a slaveowner was a Sunday School teacher in the morning, and then went home in the afternoon and strung up his slave and beat him, even though he has known and taught “the gospel,” how does that “Christian” stand before God? Is he saved? What about false teachers? How can we know they’re false? How can we scrutinize extrabiblical revelation? And so on….

    https://narrowwayapologetics.com/2016/10/14/will-you-be-found-faithful-caring-about-the-heart-of-god-in-an-age-of-apostasy-chapter-one/?preview_id=5118&preview_nonce=1c9b41395a

    I just toss it out there as something that you could skim over (and dismiss it if you’d like). It’s more of a polemic than a detailed theological exposition, but it may be helpful to you.

    Blessings in your pursuit of truth…

    Like

  3. Hi Nate, thanks for this. It is an excellent discussion. Let me say right from the start that I don’t think at this stage we are arguing about what is true. I think christianity and the Bible, rightly understood, are true, and you don’t, but we are not arguing about that. Rather you are probing what I believe, (1) to understand it, and (2) to critique it. I welcome that. Here’s my clarifications and comments.

    1. I disagree with your title. We may lack certainty, but we don’t lack for information to guide us. In that it is very similar to life.

    2. You argue that the core gospel is much wider than I think. But none of the 4 passages you reference says they are talking about the “gospel” like the two passages I quoted do. Rather they are talking about other matters of belief and behaviour. As you say, right thinking and behaviour may come under my #4 and #5, but the specifics of that may vary. After all, Jesus’ command was to love God and love neighbour, but a lot of the specifics are up to us.

    3. You discuss passages that say people who do certain things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. But if the unrighteous cannot enter the kingdom, then the same Paul who called himself the chief of sinners, and says everyone has sinned, would be saying none can make it. Now that clearly cannot be what he thought, so something must be wrong with your interpretation. We may perhaps discuss this further.

    4. You say “But today, there are so many issues, like divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and women’s roles in the church that are considered minor by moderates today. And this is where the idea of authority comes into play. How do they justify their positions on these things?” I think you are still thinking like the church you were once part of. There is a graduation of matters from core and general to trivial and personal, and clearly not everything is going to be written in stone. There have to be some things that are matters of judgment. I suggest you are just arguing where the line should be, which I don’t think should be a major problem.

    5. You say that some passages “are dealing with issues about which there was no direction given in the New Testament.” But there was no NT when these things were written, it came later, so ALL issues are ones where they had no universal, written new covenant guidance. So that distinction you make is actually anachronistic.

    6. You ask “If the guidance of the Holy Spirit can trump scripture, how can any position ever be tested?” But I didn’t say one trumps the other. I said we use appropriate methods of knowing, which always includes scripture, we ask the Spirit for guidance and we “take the precautions that the Bible gives us” in interpreting, and so arrive at truth (though not infallibly because we are only human!).

    7. You discuss how guidance by the Holy Spirit can be abused, and ask how we can tell the difference between the Spirit’s guidance and random thoughts. But everything can be abused – the Bible can be abused, even by inerrantists, our state laws can be abused, science and logic can be abused. That’s not a reason not to use these things! But if we use all the approaches I mention, and follow some of the Biblical commands, I think the truth will be separated from the random in time.

    8. Finally, you ask “What else is there for me to do?” CS Lewis once wrote words to the effect that if we find God and truth to be diverging, we should follow truth, for we would find in the end that was where God was all along. This blog is about finding truth. Your first step in that journey was departing from your church and the beliefs of that church. I think this was a good step. So keep searching, keep questioning, especially your own assumptions. Let’s keep discussing. If I’m right, one day you may find that your journey takes another unexpected turn. If you’re right, it may not. But the game isn’t over yet.

    Sorry, that was long too. But it is a worthwhile discussion I think, how do you feel about what I’ve said here?

    Like

  4. Still dancing around the bigger issues … of the five points for determining what a gospel is, #2 and #3 are: “He died to deal with human sin (how that happens is very much up for debate!). Jesus was resurrected and so conquered death.” This is a form of human sacrifice which is actually a sham is … if Jesus is actually God as Christians are required to believe, and gods are immortal, then His death is just a bit of mummery. For those who claim that the human Jesus still underwent the torture and death, I suspect that a guarantee of being revivified by a god residing temporarily within you helps somewhat, but it still comes down to a bit of play acting: “Look I will allow this human to be killed and then bring him back to life: abbracadabra!” And it is still a human sacrifice!

    If an all-powerful deity wanted to change the rules in His creation, all he’s need to do is think it it to “make it so.” One thought and Original Sin (a rather silly concept in the first place) not only no longer exists but it never existed in the first place.

    We keep dancing around, discussing details without getting at the core issues of the power of blood magic larded in the Bible. Why is that so if it is divinely inspired? Human sacrifice: why outlaw it in the Bible if it is the centerpiece of Act 2?

    All of the whole thing (Christianity) falls apart if Original Sin was a made up thing and, it was. (We teach children the difference between right and wrong if we are good parents. Adam and Eve receive no such instruction and in fact only learned about right and wrong from eating the fruit of that tree. And yet, Original Sin is based upon Adam and Eve’s doing wrong, something they couldn’t even conceive of before the eating of the fruit. And not only are A & E are punished but so are all of the unborn children? Bizarre. All of this bushwah was made up, created by men as a mechanism to exert power over other men and until we recognize that obvious fact, the rest of the discussion is moot.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hey Steve,

    You’re right, though there are some sects of Christianity that don’t adhere to the Original Sin doctrine. The branch I was raised in was one of those, and I’m pretty sure that UnkleE doesn’t buy into that doctrine either.

    At the same time, it’s true that many Christians do, and I think you’re right that it’s something we need to be pushing back against.

    Like

  6. Thanks for the reply, UnkleE.

    5. You say that some passages “are dealing with issues about which there was no direction given in the New Testament.” But there was no NT when these things were written, it came later, so ALL issues are ones where they had no universal, written new covenant guidance. So that distinction you make is actually anachronistic.

    True, but I was thinking of it from our modern perspective. I simply meant that Paul was not telling Christians that they had such liberty in matters where they had been given clear instruction, like all the passages I quoted at the beginning of my post.

    2. You argue that the core gospel is much wider than I think. But none of the 4 passages you reference says they are talking about the “gospel” like the two passages I quoted do.

    But does that really matter that much? Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God in Acts 5, though they hadn’t actually done anything against the gospel itself. If the NT lays out a “command,” for lack of a better term, isn’t it still important to observe it?

    3. You discuss passages that say people who do certain things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. But if the unrighteous cannot enter the kingdom, then the same Paul who called himself the chief of sinners, and says everyone has sinned, would be saying none can make it. Now that clearly cannot be what he thought, so something must be wrong with your interpretation. We may perhaps discuss this further.

    I don’t think this is a very complicated distinction. Christians (like Paul) had been forgiven of their past sins, but if they began to engage in them again, disregarding the teachings they had received, then I think the Bible teaches their salvation would be forfeit.

    6. You ask “If the guidance of the Holy Spirit can trump scripture, how can any position ever be tested?” But I didn’t say one trumps the other.

    You said, “The Spirit is God, which means he is above the Bible, not lesser!” If I misunderstood you, how did you mean that statement?

    7. You discuss how guidance by the Holy Spirit can be abused, and ask how we can tell the difference between the Spirit’s guidance and random thoughts. But everything can be abused – the Bible can be abused, even by inerrantists, our state laws can be abused, science and logic can be abused.

    Yes, those things can all be abused. However, the difference is that we can always go back to the source in question as a check. That’s why peer review is so important in science, it’s why courts decide what laws mean when there are questions about them, and it’s why the writers of the Bible always stressed going back to scripture to test teachers’ claims. But you can’t do any of that with private revelation.

    But it is a worthwhile discussion I think

    I totally agree! 🙂

    Like

  7. @unklee

    I said we use appropriate methods of knowing, which always includes scripture,

    And exactly how does one know which are ”appropriate methods”?
    If we include scripture then one is relying on largely erroneous and fallacious text. The entire Pentateuch for example.
    Acts is also historical fiction. Revelation is nonsense and the gospels are anonymous and full of interpolation, copying, error, and outright lies in some cases. And we know this to be fact. So why would anyone consider these texts appropriate?

    we ask the Spirit for guidance and we “take the precautions that the Bible gives us” in interpreting, and so arrive at truth (though not infallibly because we are only human!)

    Exactly how does one know that one has been guided by the Holy Spirit in certain matters?

    How does the average Christian differentiate between what they consider true guidance by the Holy Spirit and simple delusion brought on by extreme anxiety or stress?

    Example: It would be quite ludicrous to suggest the Holy Spirit would direct someone to commit suicide (though I would not be surprised if some have, and claimed in a note they were in fact guided) and anyone would counsel against this realising the individual was suffering some form of severe depression or emotional trauma/breakdown.

    However, how would you counsel someone who claimed they have been guided by the Holy Spirit after several days of solid prayer and are now adamant they will not allow themselves or their children to be vaccinated or take a blood transfusion, or maybe an organ transplant even if you knew that not to do so, especially the transfusion, could result in the person’s death,
    What if that individual was one of your own children?
    Of course you can rationalize your way around this I’m sure, but the fact remains we are dealing with delusion and fallacious text. A very dangerous combination in anyone’s language.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Steve,

    yeah, one of the things that stands out to me now is when the faithful criticize the atheist for seeing all of the great wonders of life and thinking that it happened by chance, when Christians believe it’s wonderful that God created Hell that he needed to save us from, where he then decided to create a rule that meant he had to take his own son (which was also himself), put him in a mortal body, birthed by a virgin, so that he could be sacrificed to himself, in order to rid his creation of their sins that would lead them to eternal hell fire… eternal hell fire that he created… for them….

    So yahoo, God made the rule that meant he had to sacrifice jesus, when, if he were all powerful, could’ve certainly made a different rule – one that didn’t require torturing someone to death on a cross or that didn’t require a place of eternal torture for everyone else for that matter… oh, and God is love…

    Yeah, accidental chance is starting to sound less crazy…

    Like

  9. And to doctrine, I think Acts 15 :20 would apply, where the apostles are deciudeing what to make the gentile converts adhere to – ” but that we write unto them that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”

    and they repeat it several more times throughout Acts and mention a few of these in a few other places as well.

    cant eat meat offered to idols, cant eat meat from animals that were strangled, and cant eat blood.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ark, I think those are really good questions. I know UnkleE doesn’t interact with you directly, but I hope he’ll consider posting a general response to your questions — I’m also curious as to how he would view those situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mountains and mountains of complicated theology and philosophy…all based on a two thousand year old claim by a small group of wild-eyed, superstitious peasants that they had seen a ghost.

    We really must stop giving respectability to this nonsense.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Gary,

    To reduce Christianity to a claim made by peasants who saw a ghost reveals your lack of knowledge concerning the Bible and its supernatural character. The entire Bible points to the Lamb of God. Every story from Genesis to Leviticus to Isaiah to Matthew to Revelation points to the Lamb. He was God who came to redeem humanity who had sinned and deserved death in the universal court of justice. I feel sad for you because you flippantly misrepresent the great drama that has been played out on the earth through the course of history. For two thousand years the message of the cross has rung out across this planet and those who have rejected and corrupted its message have been a scourge on history. Why would you join them in mocking and scorning Christ who died for your sins?

    Like

  13. Diana,

    I understand where you’re coming from. While I no longer agree with that perspective, I (as well as Gary) was once a devout and believing Christian, and I don’t mean the shallow, pew-warming kind either.

    But Christians also dismiss all other religions the same way. When the OT & NT criticizes idol worship as bowing down and worshiping rocks and logs, one could complain that such a phrasing does a gross injustice to what was really going on, or how the idolaters were really conducting themselves or their worship…

    And the OT all leads to the Lamb, as long as you look at it a certain way, while never looking too close. One must stare at select passages, often without any consideration of the immediate context, and force connections to Jesus. But to me, now, these methods seem like the sort that help us see shapes in the clouds.

    Under scrutiny, I have seen no convincing OT prophecy of Christ, but instead I have seen where 1st Century cult/movement followers were shocked and dismayed when their leader and proclaimed messiah was killed. While trying to make sense of how and why they were wrong, they begin seeing shapes in the clouds of scriptures, making random connections that weren’t really there, in their effort to understand… Mistaking their creativity for wisdom and understanding…

    But ultimately, men wrote the people, and they merely claimed to speak for god or to have firsthand knowledge of god. Why trust them any more than Muhammad or Joseph Smith? Faith in the bible is first and foremost faith in the men who wrote it – how could it originate anywhere else, since you must first trust what those men have claimed before you can trust in the god they make claims about.

    Gary may be over simplifying it a bit, especially in the eyes of a believer, but when boiled down, Christianity is essentially the claims and stories that men have told, with no supporting evidence, but mostly persisting with the power of influence and suggestion like we see in the Emperor’s New Clothes, like a person is wicked or stubborn if they do not believe…. by questioning the claims of these humans, the religion tries to make it the same as challenging God, which seems a lot like a means to control as opposed to enlighten.

    And even the NT excuses this by saying the educated and wise will reject the religion (as if they’re too arrogant or whatever), but the uneducated and simple see the truth in it (stroking their egos – now they’re smarter and better than the higher class).

    But granted, these are just statements – the devil is in the details. Look at the bible as you would any other book, or any other religious book.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Diana,
    I’m sure Gary feels sorry for you because you’ve been completely bamboozled. As many of us were.

    Like

  15. @Diana
    As you are obviously a devout Christian how would answer the specific questions I posed in my comment to Unklee regarding being guided by the Holy Spirit?
    I would be very interested to read your answer.
    Thanks

    Like

  16. Bamboozled?

    The Gospel has influenced the greatest societies in the world. The greatest heroes in history–from Frederick Douglass to John Huss to Corrie Ten Boom to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. have loved the Word of God and opposed the darkness of the false religions of their days. The explosion of science with all of its blessings can be contributed to Christianity. Political and economic blessings have come through Christianity. Jesus said the truth would be known by its fruit.

    Jesus is found in the Feasts of Israel. He’s found in the Exodus. He’s found in Isaiah 53. He’s found in Psalms 2 and 22. He’s found in the story of Abraham and Isaac. I could go on and on. No other religion in the world has fulfilled prophecies…or such intricate writings that they can weave so many types and shadows into the historical record of a certain people’s story.

    The Bible is supernatural. It stands outside of time. For example, Israel has been regathered after 2000 years just as it was prophesied thousands of years ago in Ezekiel 37. When I study the scriptures my heart burns within me. What other religion has prophets like this? What other religion gives us so much EVIDENCE for its truthfulness?

    As I see it…the history of Israel was a way for God to reveal who the true God is. What if a god just appeared in the sky and claimed that he should be worshiped and submitted to? How could I trust that claim? What if he is evil? Because the history of Israel was written down as a record of the interaction of Jehovah with the people of the earth, we can see his nature. Jesus said when we see him we see the Father.

    A million people saw the pillars of cloud and fire in the desert. At least 500 saw the resurrected, flesh and blood (not a ghost) Jesus. No writer at that time in history has denied the story of Jesus. You can say that some writers or historians made up his story, but you can’t find any writers who deny the story.

    One fact caused men to die for him: he was dead for three days and then he appeared alive in the flesh. They would rather die than deny something that was a fact for them. They didn’t believe in some esoteric teaching. They believed in a hard fact–and were thrown off buildings, boiled in oil, slain with swords, and crucified rather than deny the fact that they saw Him alive. Other religions, such as Islam, may cause men to die in order to gain brownie points with their god, but Christianity caused men to die because they wouldn’t tell a lie and deny the truth of what they saw with their physical eyes and touched with their physical hands.

    As John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” John knew he would come the first time as a suffering servant, but he still has to fulfill the rest of the prophecies…and he will when he appears in the sky. Because he revealed his heart in the scriptures…I know I can trust this God that is coming in the clouds. And he suffered and died for me and you because there is a demand for justice somewhere out there in the universe.

    I know that he is good because He has been the greatest force for kindness and goodness the world has ever known. Taking care of the sick, the orphans, abolishing slavery, opposing Hitler, starting schools, and so many other good deeds were birthed out of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus came into a world of infanticide, slavery, blood sport, torture, cannibalism, and cruelty. How did the nations change? Jesus! And when did the nations cause massive death and destruction? When they denied the truth of the Bible.

    Like

  17. Hi Diana,

    I appreciate the passion with which you make your case, and I used to feel much like you. But I also know that you should already be aware that there are some problems with your claims, because I know we’ve conversed before, though it’s been quite a while. Can you explain why you aren’t bothered with the problems that are found within the Bible? Or why the moral atrocities attributed to God in the Old Testament don’t cause you to question?

    Thanks

    Oh, and the questions Ark asked can be found here:
    https://findingtruth.info/2017/05/10/how-do-you-navigate-christianity-without-a-compass/#comment-33196

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Try this one first –

    “Exactly how does one know that one has been guided by the Holy Spirit in certain matters?”

    Like

  19. Diane,

    in your comment, this stood out to me:

    “What if a god just appeared in the sky and claimed that he should be worshiped and submitted to? How could I trust that claim?”

    God manifesting himself for all to see, you’re saying, would be harder to believe than random men making claims about a god? But arent there tons of examples of men who write claims about god(s) that you dont believe? Isnt the bible, in fact, the only book you believe these sort of claims about? But really, do you really think it would harder to believe in god if you saw him and spoke to him yourself?

    and then you also asked this,

    “What if he is evil?”

    do you mean evil like commanding the genocide of small nations, killing women and infant or nursing baby boys, and demanding that they keep the young girls (as long as they were virgins) as spoils of that conquest?

    Or evil like killing a servant’s baby to deliver a message and punishment to that servant?

    or evil like killing all of the children of one man over a wager?

    evil like that, or some other way?

    and what about Ezekiel 37 is it that stands out to you so much?

    Liked by 3 people

  20. “Exactly how does one know that one has been guided by the Holy Spirit in certain matters?”
    How about that one?

    Like

  21. The overwhelming consensus of the world’s archeologists is that the Exodus, the Forty Years in the Sinai, and the Conquest of Canaan are myths. This is even the consensus of Israeli archeologists. Jesus believed these events were real. Jesus was wrong. Therefore Jesus was not God.

    Your entire belief system is one big house of cards, Diana. I was once right where you are now: arguing against the atheist infidels…until I made the decision to honestly seek the TRUTH instead of only seeking and accepting evidence that supported my entrenched, indoctrinated assumptions.

    Keep reading this blog. Keep asking questions. Keep challenging us. If you really want to know the truth, the truth will set you free from the darkness of ancient superstitions but you must be willing to challenge your preconceptions to find that truth.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Diana, I would like to share a brief segment of a speech made by the late Christopher Hitchens which sums up the reason why monotheism doesn’t ring true. Please view this youtube video starting at 19:32 .

    Like

  23. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth. (John 16:13) He will never lead the Christian to do something that is in opposition to the Word. For example, a member of my family said God told her to divorce her husband, even though her husband was faithful and good. (He has been happily remarried for decades now.) I don’t believe God was telling her to do that because it contradicts the scriptures. I believe God can lead us in our personal life just as he did with Paul when he received the Macedonian call, but I don’t believe the Holy Spirit will ever give us a “word” or a new revelation that goes beyond what is written.(1 Cor. 4:6) This is why Islam can’t be true. The Quran was given to Muhammad in a cave by the angel Jibreel. This was in direct disobedience to the scripture which tells us: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14) Muhammad claimed to have a new revelation to add to the scripture, but it wasn’t from the Holy Spirit because it contradicts the Bible, and as a result it has caused so much human suffering.

    Like

  24. The question is: How do you know that the “spirit” inside of you who you believe speaks to you in a still, small voice, who comforts you, who gives you a sense of peace and security, is not just…YOU?

    Like

  25. “I came to realize that since I was a teenager I had made an a priori assumption that the Bible was without errors and so anything that looked like an error I argued was not actually an error. But the more appropriate methodological approach would be first to see if the Bible had errors, ones that were just flat out mistakes that simply could not be explained away without making special excuses. Once I admitted it was theoretically possible, I started finding them. And for me, that changed everything.”

    —Bart Ehrman, agnostic New Testament scholar, former evangelical Christian, discussing the initial stages of his deconversion from Christianity

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Thanks for answering that, Diana. That’s basically how I saw it, too. I don’t think UnkleE views it quite that way, but hopefully he can clarify if I’m mistaken.

    I do think that Gary’s points are the next ones that should be considered, though.

    And incidentally, your argument against Islam only works if the Bible is true. Since Muslims believe the Bible has been corrupted, such an argument would hold no sway with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. You are so right Nate, and what Diana hasn’t considered is had she been born in Iran, she would be looking towards Mecca and banging her head on her rug 5 times each day instead of defending Christianity.

    Like

  28. And Diana’s diatribe demonstrates quite delightfully the thrust of Nate’s previous post concerning cover?
    Where are the ”moderates” to explain as politely as possible why Diana is flat out wrong in her interpretation of Scripture?
    Where are the ”moderates” to explain why the biblical tale of Exodus, is fantasy, a literary work of geopolitical fiction. Why the 500 witnesses tale is nothing but hearsay and cannot be called upon as any sort of evidence.

    Where are these moderates?

    They are quite likely staying quite deliberately away. Why? Because they know that, the moment they point the finger at one such as Diana and accuse her, no matter how gently, of being in error, for believing in extremes, for believing the bible in innerent and not interpreting the text correctly (sic), then the accusing finger will very likely be pointed at them and … god forbid … someone like Diana might very well say:
    ”But you claim to be a Christian and you believe in the resurrection, don’t you? You consider this is an historical fact do you not?”

    Do we have evidence for this, I wonder?

    Unklee? As a moderate, have you anything you might like to say to Diana?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. The Bible doesn’t teach that God sat around for hundreds of thousands of years watching the hopelessness of humanity, so Hitchens is arguing against a straw man — a wrong view of God.

    Like

  30. “The Bible doesn’t teach that God sat around for hundreds of thousands of years watching the hopelessness of humanity”

    God was either watching them or ignoring them. It’s your choice.

    Like

  31. No, but Hitchens was arguing against monotheistic religions, and Jehovah never acted that way, according to the experience the people had with him. So how could any person who ascribes to any monotheistic religion defend the God he describes?

    Like

  32. For all the criticism that Christian fundamentalists must endure from skeptics and fellow Christians alike, I credit them with this: They have the honesty to believe that what Yahweh said in the Bible is what he really meant. They do not use the mind-numbing theological psychobabble of moderate Christians to deny the existence of clear statements of genocide, infanticide, and ethnic cleansing in their holy book.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Well, I think Hitchens’s point would be true either way you look at it.

    If mankind has been around as long as science indicates, but God didn’t really interact with them to a great degree until Abraham, then he’s still got a point.

    And if the Bible were literally true, and the earth is only several thousand years old, then God still virtually ignored everyone else, once he chose the Jews as his own special people.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. “No, but Hitchens was arguing against monotheistic religions, and Jehovah never acted that way, according to the experience the people had with him.”
    How do you know how Jehovah acted with people 100,000 yrs ago ? How did he act with the Chinese back then ? Or Africans ? etc ?

    Like

  35. Ark: It is 8:00 AM in Australia. Give UnkleE a chance to wake up and drink his coffee, for Pete’s sake.

    🙂

    Like

  36. Your mom is a brutal, smelly, neglectful b****! How could you love or respect her? How dare she teach you right from wrong?

    The problem is not with being taught right from wrong. If a person’s mother abandoned them at birth, but occasionally sent cryptic messages to her child written in different styles, sometimes in seemingly contradictory manners, and delivered by strangers, but then showed up when the child is an adult and expects for that child to have followed her instructions… then yeah, she’d be a pretty messed up individual.

    Like

  37. God didn’t ignore everyone else…he gave them the truth through Noah, but the people rebelled. They built the tower of Babel under the leadership of Nimrod. And then they were scattered, and the truth became distorted over time. It was by God’s grace that he reached down into humanity and called out Abraham from Ur–a pagan nation–and used that family to reveal himself to humanity. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob . . . the root of Jesse…the offspring of David….Jesus.

    Like

  38. Is that what happened, Nate? The scriptures teach that God shed blood when he covered Adam and Eve with furs after they sinned. He also taught that Abel had a better sacrifice than Cain. Abel sacrificed a lamb. Noah sacrificed a lamb when he came out of the ark. After Babel, all over the world we’ve seen blood sacrifice as a way to please the gods. Abraham sacrificed a ram caught in the thorns. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb and put the blood on their doorposts in order for the death angel to pass over them. The Feasts of Israel commemorate this Passover lamb. The requirement for all people everywhere has been the blood of a lamb. Some nations perverted and corrupted message, but God raised up the Jewish people to restore this message—and to provide the Lamb.

    God didn’t abandon humanity…he taught them what he wanted . .they just went away from him.

    Like

  39. “God didn’t ignore everyone else…he gave them the truth through Noah, but the people rebelled. They built the tower of Babel under the leadership of Nimrod. And then they were scattered, and the truth became distorted over time. It was by God’s grace that he reached down into humanity and called out Abraham from Ur–a pagan nation–and used that family to reveal himself to humanity. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob . . . the root of Jesse…the offspring of David….Jesus.”

    —The consensus of geologists is that there was no world wide flood.
    —The consensus of linguists is that there was no Tower of Babel and a “scattering of the languages”.
    —Most Near East experts believe that Abraham did not exist. He is a myth. And the same with Isaac and Jacob.
    —The evidence does show that there was probable a “King David” in ancient Judah but we have no evidence that he killed giants and lions.
    —There is zero evidence for the great Solomon, his magnificent temple, nor his great empire.

    Your belief system is a house of cards, Diana. How do you know that the voice inside of you is not just YOU?

    Like

  40. Why wouldn’t God want the people to build a tower to get to Him? Do you not understand that the entire message of the Bible is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The Lamb is how we come to God, not by our own efforts, not by climbing up to him, but by him coming down to us. Babel represents false religion. It isn’t based on grace, but on works. It was built with bricks, not stones. We are stones in the temple of God, Jesus being the chief cornerstone.

    Like

  41. Where does it say that in Genesis, Diana?

    And if God had been working directly with people, why would they stop doing the kinds of sacrifices he wanted in favor of different kinds of sacrifices? That makes absolutely no sense.

    Come on, think this through a bit more. Don’t you acknowledge that you could possibly be mistaken?

    Like

  42. “I don’t believe God was telling her to do that because it contradicts the scriptures”
    But she did. So how do you explain the discrepancy?

    Like

  43. Ark: It is 8:00 AM in Australia. Give UnkleE a chance to wake up and drink his coffee, for Pete’s sake.

    🙂

    I won’t bet my house on it but I will make a friendly wager across the miles with you , Gary, that Unklee can see as many Aussie 8.00ams as you care to venture and a thousand gallons of coffee but he will not respond to the questions I have posed and neither will he directly take to task Diana or Tom.
    As the saying goes: ”Not in a month of Sundays.”
    And I know this because he knows , if he is brutally honest, that his own position is utterly and undeniably untenable.
    Ark

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Hi Carmen! How are you? I haven’t seen you here for a while…or maybe it’s me that hasn’t been here for a while.

    I hope you and yours are well!

    Like

  45. Hello to you Gary!
    All’s well here – we got our 12th grandchild last week; whew!
    Nice to hear from you and hope you and yours are fine, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  46. “And I know this because he knows , if he is brutally honest, that his own position is utterly and undeniably untenable.”

    I have to disagree, Ark. I believe that UnkleE like most moderate Christians is very sincere and has convinced himself of the absolute veracity of his position. Moderate Christians have concocted such a complicated web of assumptions, theories, conjecture, and hypotheses that they can’t see that at the core of their belief system…lies the claim that ghosts are real.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Gary,
    I could argue against many of your points, but you would dismiss them. For example, no evidence for a flood? Where do fossils come from? Why are there dinosaur graveyards all over the world — with fossilized dinosaurs?
    (Oh…..hahahahaha!!! She believes in a worldwide flood! Look how ignorant and stupid she is!) Fossils are only formed through a sudden covering of mud or sand, before the object can decompose. So how were so many dinosaurs all over the world suddenly swept up and preserved as fossils?

    Abraham didn’t exist? By whose authority was this proclaimed? How was a shepherd supposed to leave behind evidence for his existence that would last thousands of years?

    What kind of evidence do you want for David’s killing of lions or Goliath? The skull and bones preserved in a layer of gold?

    Your mom gave birth to you on a certain day. How do you know what day you were born? Did they save the umbilical cord and do carbon dating on it? Or are you just trusting what was written down? What an ignoramous you are for trusting the words on your birth certificate! Demand more evidence!

    No evidence for Solomon’s temple? How can there be any evidence when the area it was built on isn’t allowed to be excavated? The Temple Mount is controlled by the Muslims.

    You are demanding evidence that can never be given because the items decompose, but on the other hand, you deny the evidence that has been preserved in the rocks and fossils! And by the way….archaeology completely supports the truth of the Bible.

    *The Mesha Stele mentions the House of David and the king of Israel.
    *The Behistun Rock which over and over confirms the Bible.
    *Hittite monuments and documents discovered after critics mocked Bible believers and told them they never existed.
    *The Lachish Ostraca, which confirmed the truth of the Babylonian captivity.
    *17,000 cuneiform tablets at Elba which confirm the existence of writing at the time of Moses, even though critics said that Moses could never have written the Pentateuch because writing didn’t exist yet.
    *Cuneiform records from the excavated libraries of Assyrian kings which confirm the biblical record of the 39 kings of ancient Israel and Judah.
    *A clay prism describing Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah.

    I could go on and on….but you get the point.

    Like

  48. @Gary
    Perhaps you are correct, Gary. Then let us wait and see if he is prepared to step up to the plate and answer the questions and also take Diana and/or Tom to task for their errant interpretation of scripture.

    It’s very late down here in Johannesburg … or early depending on your perspective.
    I shall bid you good night.
    Ark

    Like

  49. Diana, aren’t you also aware of all the archaeological evidence that contradicts the Bible? Haven’t you tried researching it from different perspectives?

    Like

  50. William,
    Perhaps you would be interested in my humble answer to your question about the conquest of the Canaanites….
    https://narrowwayapologetics.com/2014/11/15/the-walking-dead-and-the-conquest-of-the-canaanites/
    Also, Ezekiel 37 prophesies that God would regather Israel from the nations and revive her like dead bones that are brought back to life. In 1948 Israel began to be regathered after being scattered for nearly 2000 years. Can a nation be born in a day? (Isaiah 66:8)

    Like

  51. So let me get this straight. You don’t believe your family member actually heard the ‘voice of god’ . . . she was just rebellious. In your great wisdom, you can declare this. Do you often decipher if people are actually hearing the voice of your god? Or is it just people you happen to pass judgement on because of your superior understanding of scripture?

    Like

  52. Nate,
    Those things which supposedly contradict the scriptures, such as Kathleen Kenyon’s excavation of Jericho, for example, are rejected based on dating techniques…yet Jericho’s ruins are there with the walls pushed outward!
    Or Israel Finklestein, who claims that the Bible can’t be true because camels weren’t domesticated and yet the Bible mentions them in the stories of the patriarchs. I guess we should believe Israel F. rather than the Bible!

    Like

  53. Well, since the Bible was written by men (and we are not sure who, exactly), actually we should listen to what another man has to say. Particularly one who is an esteemed scholar.

    Like

  54. I see you are an apologist. You might be interested in what Neil Carter had to say today on Noseybook.
    “The primary work of the Christian apologist isn’t evangelism, it’s convincing her/himself s/he isn’t being foolish for believing what s/he believes.”
    Food for thought. 🙂

    Like

  55. Carmen,

    It’s not my superior understanding of scripture. Ha! It’s just a simple understanding of what has been taught.

    Jesus then answers, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:7-9).

    The question given to Jesus was about men divorcing their wives, but we know the same applies to the women divorcing their husbands, but we know there are other scriptures that say we need to let the “unbeliever” go if they want to. The unbeliever is one who doesn’t believe in the truth of the Word. The scriptures also say God has “called us to peace.” Ultimately, the husband let her go. She no longer believed in the teaching of the Word. She believed in the voice in her head. How can the Spirit of Truth contradict the Word of Truth?

    Like

  56. The voice in your head, though – that must be your god, eh? Seeing how you believe the word to be truth.
    Got it.

    Like

  57. I guess that may be true, Carmen. And yet the more I learn about Jesus, the more beautiful he becomes. (I know….I’m so brainwashed….yet I hear every argument against Christianity….and somehow the Lord helps me to give an answer … even if it’s just for myself.) I would hope that all of my efforts wouldn’t fall on deaf ears . . . oh well…

    Like

  58. No, I don’t think you are stupid, Diana. I at one time believed in the world wide flood of Noah even though I had a post graduate education. I knew that most geologists believed that such a flood was impossible. I also refused to believe in evolution even though there is an enormous amount of evidence that supports it. Why didn’t I believe the scientific consensus on these issues? Answer: Magic. I believed that magic is real. I believed that God can create evidence which confounds the “wise”, making them think that there was no flood when there was; making them think that life evolved, when it did not. I believed that God created “fake evidence” to force arrogant, proud, educated people to believe in him by faith, not by evidence (their intelligence). At that time I would never have called it “magic”, however. I called it “the miraculous powers of the Divine” or something respectable sounding like that.

    That is an important question you must answer, Diane: Is magic of any kind real?

    I agree with you that there are some claims in the Bible that are supported by historical evidence, such as the stele which supports the existence of a Judean king named David. There is also good evidence for the biblical king of Ahab and all Judean kings after him (as well as his father). But just because some of the claim’s in the Bible are historical does not mean that ALL the claims in the Bible are historical. What is key is to see that the Bible is a book written by MEN, not a god, and men can make mistakes…and men can invent details and stories in books for all kinds of reasons.

    Liked by 3 people

  59. Yes, Gary, historical fiction is the kindest description anyone can have of the man-made tale we call the Bible. As many others have said, there of four words missing on the first page – “Once upon a time”.

    Like

  60. HA! Well, for one … you just admitted it in your comment to Carmen … I know….I’m so brainwashed,

    Everything you say is Christian teaching. It’s what has been preached and taught by church leaders (who learned it from their church leaders … who learned if from their church leaders … who learned it … ad nauseum) for several hundreds of years. Even though there have been multiple biblical scholars, scientists, and even philosophers who have pointed out the fallacies of the bible, those who “believe” refuse to see it … because they have been persuaded, influenced, and induced that what they have been told is THE way … and all others are wrong.

    The signs of brainwashing/indoctrination are never apparent to the “believer” because they live in a world of others just like them. But to the “outside world” picks up on it immediately.

    Like

  61. Those things which supposedly contradict the scriptures, such as Kathleen Kenyon’s excavation of Jericho, for example, are rejected based on dating techniques…yet Jericho’s ruins are there with the walls pushed outward!
    Or Israel Finklestein, who claims that the Bible can’t be true because camels weren’t domesticated and yet the Bible mentions them in the stories of the patriarchs. I guess we should believe Israel F. rather than the Bible!

    Well, the dating for Jericho has been determined through more than one dating technique, and it doesn’t work out for the biblical narrative. And I don’t think it’s established that the walls actually show signs of being pushed outward. At best, there’s disagreement about that.

    The camel thing has never been a big deal, for me, though Finkelstein may have a point there. Really, it’s just the preponderance of evidence. Archaeology does support much of what we read about the later Israelite and Judean kings, but there’s just no evidence for a united kingdom, and certainly not one at the advanced levels that the Bible describes for David and Solomon. Multiple lines of evidence show that from multiple sites. And we add to that the complete lack of evidence for a 40 year exodus of a multitude of people.

    Just as problematic (maybe more so) are the problems in the Book of Daniel and the issues with Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre.

    But this idea that archaeology always supports the Bible is completely wrong, and as long as you’ve been blogging, I would think you’re already aware of that. I mean, even if you’ve convinced yourself that there are explanations for those problems, surely you recognize that the majority of experts do not think archaeology always backs up the Bible.

    Like

  62. I was saying that sarcastically to Carmen. 🙂 Since I have been brainwashed to believe that Christianity is the truth…can you point to a specific lie I believe in? Something that you can prove is a lie?

    Like

  63. I don’t see Tyre as an archaeological problem.

    If the city of Tyre wasn’t left desolate, why hasn’t it been rebuilt? In fact, just to insure that it not be rebuilt, the World Heritage Committee has added Tyre to its list of treasured sites that have Outstanding Universal Value, meaning that its ruins will be preserved. There is a city built up around the site, called Sour, but the ruins of Tyre are still intact and have never been rebuilt. Here are some pictures of Tyre’s ruins found at the UNESCO website:

    http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/299

    Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled part of the prophecy and Alexander the Great fulfilled great details of the prophecy. The point is that the Bible prophesied that Tyre, one of the greatest ancient cities would be destroyed and never be rebuilt. The ruins of the city remain as a testimony to the truth of that prophecy.

    The prophecy was fulfilled with great accuracy, even fulfilling the fact that the city’s ruins would be thrown into the sea, which is what Alexander the Great did in order to build a bridge to reach the people of Tyre, who were finding refuge on an island off the coast. In fact, the causeway he built became a permanent fixture and actually merged the island to the mainland permanently. The causeway can still be found!

    I don’t think the prophecy failed at all. If it failed, there would be no ruins and the city would have been rebuilt – which it obviously wasn’t and probably won’t be in the future since it has become a World Heritage Site.

    This is just another example of archaeology that supports the truth of biblical prophecies.

    There have been skeptics who question archaeological evidence, only to be quieted because new findings have supported the Bible.

    I think it’s interesting that the evidence you present for your belief that archaeology isn’t supported by the Bible is . . . nothing. Your faith is based on the non-existence of evidence. Since we haven’t found the proof for Solomon’s temple, we’ll overlook all the other evidence that supports the veracity of the Bible and stand on nothing. Again, the Temple Mount where Solomon’s temple is located is unable to be excavated!

    Like

  64. Nate,
    –“Where does it say that in Genesis, Diana?

    And if God had been working directly with people, why would they stop doing the kinds of sacrifices he wanted in favor of different kinds of sacrifices? That makes absolutely no sense.

    Come on, think this through a bit more. Don’t you acknowledge that you could possibly be mistaken?” —

    The tradition of sacrificing a lamb was passed down by Noah, just as the tradition was passed down to Noah from Adam and Eve. People have always corrupted what was taught by God. Just look at how the Catholic church teaches that the sacrifice of Christ must be done over and over again by a priest who administers the Eucharist which becomes the actual blood and body of Christ. This is a corruption of the message of the Lamb who was sacrificed “once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

    According to the book of Acts, the disciples waited for the Holy Spirit to come down. It came down on Pentecost. This was the same day the law was given to Israel. When the disciples received the Spirit they went out into the streets to preach the Gospel…and it was a form of reversal of the Tower of Babel. The people were able to understand the Gospel in their own language. God comes down to us. If God were to let people think they could climb up to him, then they would never come to him in the way he prescribed…through the blood of the Lamb.

    Think of all the religions of the world…all of them say their followers must do some religious effort to please their god. They must travel to Mecca, wash in the river Ganges, light candles and incense, achieve karma, etc . . . But Jesus says his followers must repent from these dead works (Hebrews 6:1) and come to God through his blood, not through their own efforts.

    Be blessed, Nate. I hope you find the truth you’re looking for.

    Like

  65. Hi Nate, on with the show! 🙂

    ” I simply meant that Paul was not telling Christians that they had such liberty in matters where they had been given clear instruction, like all the passages I quoted at the beginning of my post.”

    And my point was that these commands are not the core of the gospel, which is the point under discussion.

    But let’s look a little more at this issue. I believe the commands you refer to (and not all the passages you quoted gave moral commands) are indications of God’s attitude to various behaviours, at least for the time they were given. But to interpret them too rigidly gets into the sort of legalism Jesus condemned, not least because situations are different, and sometimes conflicting principles apply, sometimes situations change. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

    1. Divorce (which you mention). I think it is clear that God would prefer that divorces didn’t happen. But he also knows that sometimes situations will make divorce the less bad option (e.g if the wife or children are in danger). Jesus even says that God relaxed his command because of people’s unwillingness to follow his guidance. Further, the command Jesus gave was into a patriarchal society where men could treat women almost as property, and relatively easily discard them. So his command is addressing patriarchy, poverty and mistreatment, not just marriage. So we have to consider all that in applying the command, I think few would disagree.

    2. Slavery. People make much about the fact that the NT says little against slavery. Paul does say that people should gain their freedom if they can, owners should treat slaves humanely (in which case the slaves were often better off than if they were freed), but to say more might have only led to a Spartacus-like rebellion and mass crucifixions. But the NT as a whole speaks of the worth of all human beings with ideas that were way ahead of their time, and when the issue arose again in a culture that allowed dissent, the christians knew exactly what was right and were at the forefront of ending slavery in UK. They are still among those who are fighting modern day slavery.

    So commands may be commands, but for various reasons other factors have to be taken into account. So that is where I believe I should use my brain but also seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I think it is clear that, in general, the more rigorous and strict a command is given and taken, the less situations in which it can be applied.

    I suggest that you owe your view to a form of christianity that neither of us respect or think is correct. Surely what I say here is both reasonable and faithful to the NT teaching? I’ll stop there and hope to get back more briefly to your other comments later. Thanks.

    Like

  66. Think of all the religions of the world…all of them say their followers must do some religious effort to please their god. They must travel to Mecca, wash in the river Ganges, light candles and incense, achieve karma, etc . . . But Jesus says his followers must repent from these dead works (Hebrews 6:1) and come to God through his blood, not through their own efforts.

    This is a very selective view of what scripture says. First of all, it’s irrelevant whether a religion requires works or not — neither of those options automatically makes the religion true. But secondly, the Old Testament was all about works, putting it in the same category as these other religions that you’re criticizing. But even the New Testament does the same thing — it’s full of prohibitions about the kinds of actions God disapproves of (showing how people’s “works” are still very relevant) and James in particular talks about the importance of works in their relationship to faith. Christians are told to preach the gospel, which is a work. And even Ephesians 2, which talks so much about grace, still talks about the works people are to do. Jesus said that he “never knew” those who failed to take care of those in need, which would be works.

    As to your point about the Tower of Babel, I just want to be clear — your explanation for why God scattered the people and was so unhappy with them is not found in the text, correct? And you’re rejecting the explanation that is there, which is that God was worried about what all they might accomplish if they managed to build a tower?

    I hope you find the truth you’re looking for.

    I hope the same for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  67. Thanks for the comment, UnkleE, and it’s probably best that we take the points in smaller bites anyway. 🙂

    “I suggest that you owe your view to a form of christianity that neither of us respect or think is correct.”

    I think I can agree with that. 🙂

    “Surely what I say here is both reasonable and faithful to the NT teaching?”

    In a way, I do think what you’re saying is reasonable. Obviously, you know that I think Christianity is a false religion, so I’m not saying that I fully agree, but I do think you’re taking a reasonable approach. I like that you try to marry so many factors into your faith (I just happen to think you’re a much better person than the religion you hold to!).

    As for “faithful to the NT teaching,” that’s what I’m not as sure about.

    To your points about divorce, yes, Jesus tells them that God allowed divorce under the Law of Moses because of the people’s stubbornness. But I don’t get the impression that he’s saying it’s cool for that to continue — in fact, he tells them the opposite. To say that it can relax again is taking a liberty that I just don’t think the text allows.

    “So his command is addressing patriarchy, poverty and mistreatment, not just marriage.”

    Well maybe, but that’s also conjecture. The only thing we can know for sure that he was addressing is marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

    When you get time, I’d appreciate it if you’d take a stab at answering Ark’s questions, because I’m very curious about how you’d approach those issues as well. I think they relate directly to this part of the discussion that we’re currently having:

    How does the average Christian differentiate between what they consider true guidance by the Holy Spirit and simple delusion brought on by extreme anxiety or stress?

    Example: It would be quite ludicrous to suggest the Holy Spirit would direct someone to commit suicide (though I would not be surprised if some have, and claimed in a note they were in fact guided) and anyone would counsel against this realising the individual was suffering some form of severe depression or emotional trauma/breakdown.

    However, how would you counsel someone who claimed they have been guided by the Holy Spirit after several days of solid prayer and are now adamant they will not allow themselves or their children to be vaccinated or take a blood transfusion, or maybe an organ transplant even if you knew that not to do so, especially the transfusion, could result in the person’s death,
    What if that individual was one of your own children?
    Of course you can rationalize your way around this I’m sure, but the fact remains we are dealing with delusion and fallacious text. A very dangerous combination in anyone’s language.

    As always, thanks 🙂

    Like

  68. Diana,

    You’re referring to “the Bible” quite a bit. Translation aside, which do you mean? Catholic (73 books), Protestant (66 books), or Eastern Orthodox (72-75 books, depending on if/how you split Maccabees)?

    Like

  69. Nate,
    “The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) The Old Testament points to Jesus as the Messiah. The New Testament reveals the Messiah in history. Yes, there were laws and “works” in the Old Testament (such as sacrifices and laws), but the New Testament reveals a new and different way of coming to God. (Hebrews 10:19-20) There is a differentiation between working in order to gain access to God, and working as a result of loving God and his ways. As you know, James said our works were an evidence of our faith. They weren’t a way to gain salvation.

    I don’t understand how you can say “it’s irrelevant whether a religion requires works or not — neither of those options automatically makes the religion true.” Hebrews 6:1 lists “repentance from dead works” as the first foundation principle of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Dead works are those religious efforts as I mentioned in the previous comment, but the love of God is shed abroad in the Christian’s heart and, as a result, leads us to share the Gospel and love our neighbor. The thief on the cross did nothing but acknowledge Jesus as Lord and he was saved.

    Like

  70. I don’t understand how you can say “it’s irrelevant whether a religion requires works or not — neither of those options automatically makes the religion true.” Hebrews 6:1 lists “repentance from dead works” as the first foundation principle of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Dead works are those religious efforts as I mentioned in the previous comment, but the love of God is shed abroad in the Christian’s heart and, as a result, leads us to share the Gospel and love our neighbor. The thief on the cross did nothing but acknowledge Jesus as Lord and he was saved.

    I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that because Christianity (at least as you understand it) is all about grace and faith rather than works, somehow indicates that it’s truer than all the other religions out there. I’m just saying that those two things aren’t related. I mean, Jedi-ism is the only religion that teaches about the Force — does that unique quality make it truer than any other religion?

    Uniqueness != truth.

    Like

  71. Notice that Diana does not seem to want to address how she knows for certain that the spirit within her is not just herself talking to herself. Notice how both Diana and Eric (UnkleE) both want to continue debating theological topics and whether or not OT prophecies were fulfilled. Why? They do this because discussing these topics sounds very intelligent. These topics sound rational.

    They do NOT, however, want to address that at the core of their belief is the claim that a three day, bloated, decomposing, brain dead corpse somehow escaped its sealed mausoleum in circa 30 CE Palestine, ate a broiled fish lunch with its former fishing buddies, and later flew off into outer space, where it currently sits on a golden throne on the edge of the universe as Master of the Cosmos!

    That story does NOT sound intelligent and rational. That story sounds certifiably NUTS!

    It
    is
    an
    ancient
    ghost
    tale!

    Like

  72. Nate,

    As for your comment about Babylon. I don’t deny the reason given in the scriptures. The motive for building the tower and the city was pride–to make a name for themselves, to ascend up to heaven. This brings to mind another–Lucifer–who aspired to ascend. (Isaiah 14:13-14) This was the concern of God:

    “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:6)

    Perhaps the Lord was concerned about the horrendous things that a sinful and proud group of people in unity with no restraints on their imaginations could do. I have concerns that the same scenario is going to play out in the world today. How many organizations use the word “one” in their attempt to unify the world and its religions?

    Babel was a picture of a false political/religious attempt to overcome the Fall. Instead of humbling themselves, they exalted themselves. But Jesus said, “And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12) We cannot ascend to heaven, instead Jesus came down to us and saves us when we humble ourselves and receive the finished work of his shed blood on the cross.

    Why did God demand a blood sacrifice? The scriptures tell us that Lucifer rebelled. He convinced one third of the angels to go along with him. What was God to do? If he cast Lucifer out of heaven, then he could appear to be a tyrant who ruled with might and power. If he let Lucifer and the rebellious angels stay, then sin and destruction would infect the universe. What was the solution?

    The Bible says Jesus Christ was the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. God devised a plan, before he even created the world, that would reveal his love for the universe. It would show the angels (who “long to look into these things.” [1 Peter 1:12]) that God was a loving God who was worthy of their service and praise. He had to emphasize a blood sacrifice because that was a way he could point to himself as the lamb who would become the payment for sin.

    Can you see it? The whole plan was an attempt to reveal to the universe what the world would be like if sin was allowed to run rampant. And even the greatest of Utopian imaginations, attempts to order the world, would end up in horrific failure since they rejected God’s Word. Isn’t this the history of the world? Gulags, genocide, concentration camps, wars, and violence?

    And now the whole universe can see why God cast Lucifer out. They can see the justice in destroying Satan and the rebellious angels. They can see that God is just and loving in his judgments. And along with the angels, we can now love and worship him with all our heart.

    This message of God’s great love has traveled across the globe, bringing light and joy with it. This isn’t a fairy tale. This is truth. The cannibals of the South Pacific Islands responded with joy to the message and since the 19th century they were no longer cannibals! William mentioned Denmark in a comment to me. Denmark was part of the Viking stronghold until 1000 years ago when a missionary brought them the gospel and they responded with joy and gave up their violent ways. Mary Slessor, a missionary to Africa, brought the gospel to the cannibals, and they stopped their warfare. There are countless stories. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2)

    Like

  73. And yet this fairy tale inspired people to sell their own bodies in order to redeem others from slavery. This fairy tale inspired Martin Luther to say he would not recant even when he knew he could burn in the fires of the Inquisition. It inspired George Paton to travel to far off islands and share the gospel with cannibals and set them free from their warfare and vengeful hearts. This fairy tale inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to “have a dream.” It caused Frederick Douglass to rise up against his master and bravely work against science and the slavery it supported. It gave Harriet Tubman the courage to lead others to freedom on the Underground Railroad. It caused Corrie Ten Boom to hide Jews in her attic even though it landed her in a concentration camp. It caused Martin Niemoller to refuse to shake Hitler’s hand. It led people to establish Sunday Schools where little children were taught to read. It caused the hearts of Americans to fight with righteous anger against southern slavery. It inspired people to establish hospitals and orphanages around the world. It led to the rescue of abandoned babies who were left to the elements and the beasts.

    What TRUE story do you have that has inspired so much goodness and heroism in world history?

    Like

  74. Hi Nate, it looks like we’re in a subroutine!

    “As for “faithful to the NT teaching,” that’s what I’m not as sure about. … To say that it can relax again is taking a liberty that I just don’t think the text allows.”

    I’m going to say again what I said before, and I hope you aren’t offended by it. I think you are still thinking too legalistically and over-literally. We need to look at the whole NT and get an overall picture.

    Let’s look at an example, from John 8, where Jesus addresses the question of a woman that was in danger of being stoned for adultery. (Now I know that this passage wasn’t in the original texts, but I think few doubt it is a genuine incident from Jesus’ life, and it is illustrative.) The OT Law gave stoning as the sentence for adultery, so by not supporting that action, Jesus was actually going against the OT Law. There are other cases where Jesus did the same. In other cases he condemned the religious leaders for being over pedantic about their interpretation of the law, and putting (metaphorically) loads on people that they couldn’t bear.

    So when you combine these cases with the passages I quoted before about law and Spirit, I think there is a strong teaching across the NT against legalism and in favour of freedom (up to a point at least). Not that the scriptural commands don’t have force – they do – but they should be applied flexibly and sensitively. Your dismissal of my comments on divorce seem to me to miss that overall teaching, and focus just on that one text – which is a legalistic approach.

    OK, your question about delusion and religion. Since Dawkins, so many atheists have made these sorts of connections, but they are largely without foundation or even against the evidence. So before I answer the specific question, I need to look at the larger issue, which is complex, and of course I am not an expert.

    Delusion these days is a psychiatric term. Here is one definition from the American Psychological Association:

    “A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (e.g., it is not an article of religious faith).”

    On this and other definitions, religious belief is not normally considered a delusion by psychiatrists.

    So does religion make a person more liable to delusions or harmful behaviour, as in your question? I have read a little on this subject, and it is hard to get a firm answer, but we can say that:

    – “Religiousness …. usually has a positive association with good mental health.” (Reference) There are of course studies that show the opposite, but these are in the minority.

    – Religious people are less likely to be involved in destructive or antisocial behaviours. And this study showed that paranormal beliefs were no more common among religious believers than the non-religious.

    – Mental illnesses like schizophrenia, which may cause people to have delusions, have a mostly physiological cause (hence can be treated by medication). People of different beliefs will have different types of delusions.

    Religion can be a significant help in treating mental illnesses and ameliorating bad decisions and thought processes, not least because religious communities can provide good support communities. Religion “militates against pathological delusion”.

    Many studies show that those who have religious or mystical experiences are not generally delusional or psychotic, and the experiences generally have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

    So that is background to my answer to your question.

    1. All sorts of people have delusions and make irrational decisions, and religious people appear to be no more prone to them than anyone else. In my 54 years as a believer, I don’t recall coming across a single case where any obviously harmful decision was made, except by those with a diagnosed mental illness. I’m sure they occur, but I doubt they are common. However we guard against bad decisions in the general population, we can guard against them with the religious.

    2. The studies show that religious belief, and membership of a religious community, provide positive assistance in combatting delusions and avoid destructive decisions. Perhaps I ought to ask you as an atheist what you do to prevent delusions and destructive choices in others??

    3. I don’t have any magic bullet for deciding if a decision is delusional or not, just the common sense judgment inherent in the definition I gave earlier. There are fairly standard guidelines among christians for this sort of situation. Discernment of the Holy Spirit’s guidance is seen in the NT as a generally community thing (I could give many references but I imagine you know them), which fits with #2 above. Guidance contrary to scripture is problematic without wider support from the community and from a good understanding of scripture (as I mentioned in my blog post). It is good to sit with decisions like this for a while – if they are indeed induced by anxiety or stress they will pass when those conditions pass or ease.

    4. If I was trying to help someone who made what seemed to be a destructive choice, I would seek medical help if I thought that was warranted. If medical help wasn’t warranted (or in addition to it perhaps), I would encourage a person to follow some of the guidelines in #3, and possibly pray with them and work through the issues with them if they wanted that assistance.

    So I don’t think the problems you raise are limited to religious people, they just take a slightly different form, and I think religion has better resources to limit the damage.

    Thanks.

    Like

  75. It caused the hearts of Americans to fight with righteous anger against southern slavery.

    The same Americans who considered that slavery was justified by your god and who were still busy slaughtering Native Americans and had in fact committed what is considered by some the worst genocide in human history.
    All perpetrated by people who were recognized as Christian.
    All Christians, should feel nothing but shame for what Christianity have done to humanity.

    I am not in the least bit sorry in stating that you are a patently mentally unstable, and a rather unsavoury hypocritical individual who, while adhering to such a disgusting and erroneous religious belief should not be allowed access to children.

    Liked by 1 person

  76. Diana,

    I’m not sure that you’re being honest in your dealing with the Tower of Babel story. Genesis 11 says nothing about the people being prideful, nor does it say they were trying to reach God, make themselves equal to God, or anything like that at all. It says very clearly that God (or the gods) confused their language, because he (or they) was concerned about what humans could accomplish when they worked together in that way. Of course, what the writers couldn’t have known was how well we’d be able to eventually cross language barriers, how tall our towers would eventually come, or how far beyond this planet we would eventually explore.

    It’s simply an ancient story that attempts to explain why different people speak in different languages. All the clues are there.

    Your ability to tie this story to Satan, pride, etc, is certainly impressive and imaginative, but it’s not true to the story itself.

    Why did God demand a blood sacrifice? The scriptures tell us that Lucifer rebelled. He convinced one third of the angels to go along with him. What was God to do? If he cast Lucifer out of heaven, then he could appear to be a tyrant who ruled with might and power. If he let Lucifer and the rebellious angels stay, then sin and destruction would infect the universe. What was the solution?

    The Bible says Jesus Christ was the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. God devised a plan, before he even created the world, that would reveal his love for the universe. It would show the angels (who “long to look into these things.” [1 Peter 1:12]) that God was a loving God who was worthy of their service and praise. He had to emphasize a blood sacrifice because that was a way he could point to himself as the lamb who would become the payment for sin.

    Can you see it? The whole plan was an attempt to reveal to the universe what the world would be like if sin was allowed to run rampant.

    No, I don’t see that at all. Blood sacrifice is the last thing we should expect from an actual deity. Sacrifice in general is borne from the human notion that god(s) must want something from us. Perhaps if we give up something that we value, we’ll be blessed with a good harvest, etc. It’s just a primitive concept. After all, what could a deity possibly need from us?

    Furthermore, since all sacrifice is an attempt to appease gods, there’s no incentive for mankind to do it wrong. If they were getting actual instructions and feedback from god, there’s simply no reason for them to go off in a different direction. The wide assortment of beliefs and religions that we see is exactly what we should expect if there’s no one around to give direction.

    Finally, Ark already answered the statements you made about how wondrous and peaceful Christianity is/has been. I don’t have anything else to say about it.

    Diana, I admire your fervor for your beliefs, but I don’t understand how you’ve been able to maintain them after blogging for so long. It truly surprises me that you haven’t either shifted away from Christianity entirely or shifted to a more moderate view, like UnkleE’s, where you can pull out the good bits of Christianity and chalk the rest up to the imperfect people who were relaying it.

    Liked by 4 people

  77. UnkleE, thanks for the feedback. I don’t have time to reply right now, but I’ll get back to you soon as I can. 🙂

    Like

  78. @ Unklee

    The studies show that religious belief, and membership of a religious community, provide positive assistance in combatting delusions and avoid destructive decisions.

    Are you being purposely obtuse or are you simply a blathering old fool who is slowly but surely going senile?

    The entire basis of Christianity is founded on a delusion – that a human being was brought back to life by a deity named Yahweh.
    And you are living, breathing proof of this!

    Christianity is fraught with cults … upwards of 30,000 of them … and each one is riddled with doctrine that encourages destructive decisions.

    Off the top of my head ….

    Teaching the notion of Hell is a perfect example.
    The Inquisition
    The Anti-Semitism
    Bush went to war on the back of his claimed communing with your god.
    The Native American Genocide was carried out by Christians.
    Slavery was sanctioned by Christians. In the States they had a civil war when one group decided it was no longer Kosher. And all that left was racism. Whoopee frakking do! Again your god was cited. And still is in many cases.
    Apartheid in my country was justified and sanctioned by Christians.
    The Catholic Church’s stance against contraception. Just look at the modern-day devastation that has caused.
    Creationism is another that causes destructive decisions and many such religious communities purposely separate themselves from the community in general and indoctrinate children to consider everyone else an outsider who are doomed.

    Seriously, you are one of the most disingenuous individuals I have ever come across who espouses Christian diatribe.
    When it comes to integrity you demonstrate time and again that you have little if any and will bend and twist any stats or data to enhance your position.

    Like

  79. Nate, good observation. I think it’s exactly as Nan has suggested – Diana’s indoctrination is so thorough that – even after years of interacting with people who’ve studied every bit as diligently as she has – she hasn’t loosened her fixation with, “The Bible says it, so it must be true”. So dogmatic. It must be mentally exhausting to have to keep digging to find support for Creationism when there’s overwhelming scientific proof of evolution.

    Liked by 5 people

  80. Oh … and in case there are any arguments over terminology.

    delusion
    dɪˈluːʒ(ə)n/
    noun
    an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.
    “the delusion of being watched”
    synonyms: misapprehension, mistaken impression, false impression, mistaken belief, misconception, misunderstanding, mistake, error, misinterpretation, misconstruction, misbelief; More
    the action of deluding or the state of being deluded.
    “what a capacity television has for delusion”
    synonyms: deception, misleading, deluding, fooling, tricking, trickery, duping
    “a web of delusion”

    delusional
    dɪˈluːʒ(ə)n(ə)l/
    adjective
    characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.
    “hospitalization for schizophrenia and delusional paranoia”
    based on or having faulty judgement; mistaken.

    Christianity and Christians to a ‘T’.

    Liked by 1 person

  81. UnkleE: “I’m going to say again what I said before, and I hope you [Nate] aren’t offended by it. I think you are still thinking too legalistically and over-literally. We need to look at the whole NT and get an overall picture.”

    This is a beloved tactic of moderate Christians which has often been used against me: Paint the skeptic as uninformed and silly for believing that the authors of the Bible intended for their readers to literally believe in talking snakes, world wide floods, and six day creations. But then these same intelligent, very informed moderate Christians turn around in the next second and try to convince us that the biblical story that a decomposing, bloated corpse exited its tomb and flew off into the clouds is a literal fact of history.

    WHAT are they smoking?

    Liked by 3 people

  82. Paint the skeptic as uninformed and silly for believing that the authors of the Bible intended for their readers to literally believe in talking snakes, world wide floods, and six day creations.

    … and the tone of their responses is often condescending and/or sycophantic.

    Like

  83. Hi KC,

    But “his” demeanor is very typical of most well-studied moderate Christians who engage in apologetics. They seem to believe that God wrote the Bible as a riddle, and only those who are intelligent enough to decipher the riddle, can understand what God REALLY meant to say. It must be very exasperating for them. Whenever they discuss biblical issues with skeptics and fundamentalist Christians, I will bet that they are muttering under their breaths, “It’s a RIDDLE, moron. Stop reading it literally.”

    If only they would apply this same logic to the Resurrection story. Liberal Christians have made that leap. It would be interesting to know why moderates are unable to do so.

    Liked by 2 people

  84. You are so correct, Gary. I grew up in a fundamentalist home. When the preacher came to visit our home, we kids had to hide the comic books. We never took the preacher into the “TV room” . We weren’t allowed to go to dances or movies. I never wanted to bring a friend to Church for fear we would have 2 or 3 messages in tongues.
    I’ve had too many Christians tell me I never was a true Christian or I wouldn’t have de-converted. Giving up Santa Claus was hard, giving up a religion you have been a part of all your life is even harder for some and impossible for others.
    Without getting into politics (which I don’t do online), watching the election on Msnbc is a good example. Each time Trump won a state, the pundits tried to come up with a possible scenario where Hillary could still win. They did this until the very end. As science continues to change our way of thinking, the scenarios for religion will eventually fade away. Will the last Christian please turn out the light. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  85. Here is something for Diane:

    “The [seminary] course was on the exegesis of the Gospel of Mark, at the time (and still) my favorite Gospel. For this course we needed to be able to read the Gospel of Mark completely in Greek. ….in Mark 2, where Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because his disciples had been walking through a grainfield, eating the grain on the Sabbath. Jesus wants to show the Pharisees that “Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath,” and so reminds them of what the great King David had done when he and his men were hungry, how they went into the Temple “when Abiathar was the high priest” and ate the show bread, which was only for the priests to eat. One of the well-known problems of the passage is that when one looks at the Old Testament passage that Jesus is citing (1 Samuel 21:1-6), it turns out that David did this not when Abiathar was the high priest, but, in fact, when his father Ahimelech was the high priest. In other words, this is one of those passages that have been pointed to in order to show that the Bible is not inerrant at all, but that it contains mistakes.

    In my paper for Prof. Story, I developed a long and complicated argument that even though Mark indicates this happened “when Abiathar was the high priest,” it doesn’t really mean that Abiathar was the high priest, but that the event took place in the part of the Scriptural text that has Abiathar as one of the main characters. My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words involved and was a bit convoluted. I was pretty sure Prof. Story would appreciate the argument, since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me. He wrote: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” I started thinking about it, considering all the work I had put into the paper, realizing that I had had to do some pretty fancy exegetical footwork to get around the problem, and that my solution was in fact a bit of a stretch. And I finally concluded, “Hmm… maybe Mark did make a mistake.”

    Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened. For if there could be one little, picayune mistake in Mark 2, maybe there could be mistakes in other places [in the Bible] as well.

    —Bart Ehrman, New Testament scholar, former evangelical Christian

    Liked by 3 people

  86. From my reading, it is one of the more notable aspects of deconversion that the deconvert is able to look back on his/her former beliefs and realise, sometimes with acute embarrassment, and even shame if they were the proselytizing type, that even while acknowledging the levels of insidious and overt indoctrination they were subject to, just how much of a complete fool they were for swallowing this garbage! ( and I say this with the utmost respect to those, like Nate, who suffered under the yoke of fundamentalism).

    I think it must be more exasperating for the deconvert having to deal with the likes of Unklee, who seems to be under the impression that ”you” never experienced the genuine, loving form of Christianity he or those like him are trying to promote – the True Followers of Jesus type of Christian rather than specifically religious kind.

    Such people always want to try to explain the correct position, the true understanding, and the right method of interpretation as your interpretation is so glaringly wrong and you must have obviously missed something and this was why you turned your back on ”God” (sic).
    And of course if you dare to venture that ”God’ should perhaps have been a bit more forthcoming with the evidence as you prayed until you almost bled tears, well, this is your fault too, as ”God” is perfect.
    And as you screwed up, you are bound for Hell. Or, if one is an enlightened, more liberal moderate and compassionate Christian, simply bound for eternal separation from God, or spending a bit of time in purgatory until you get your damn head straight.

    Odd then that, while they are perfectly at home subtly and often not so subtly deriding the atheist, deconvert or (on the rare occasion) other non-believer they almost never seem inclined to fully engage their fellow Christian on doctrinal issues. Whereas, back-in-the-day, many would have been more than willing to light the kindling, and while your flesh burned, pray for your soul while your anguished screams to the character Jesus of Nazareth fell on completely deaf make-beleive ears.

    Unklee seems to spend an inordinate amount of time gathering what he considers valid evidence for his case yet every scrap of evidence that flatly refutes his faith – the Exodus for example – he considers to be inconsequential to his firm belief that, a decomposing, bloated corpse exited its tomb and flew off into the clouds is a literal fact of history. ( thank you , Gary).

    That there are a great many tracts of scripture which can be demonstrated to be completely erroneous are hand-waved as having little bearing on the fundamental, core foundation on which this faith is built. ( see above)

    To me, these are signs of someone who is not really trying to convince others but rather convince themselves..

    I wonder just how many deconverts who have walked away from the poison that is Christianity have returned to the fold?

    Would any of the former Christians here on Nate’s blog in all honesty ever consider once more believing they were sinners and need salvation – under any circumstances?

    Can I see a show of hands, please?

    Liked by 4 people

  87. And you can understand why perhaps, I consider that in many ways Moderate Christianity is as loathsome as its Fundamentalist sibling: it tries to deftly obscure its vile, violent and supernatural core behind a cloak of false respectability.

    Liked by 3 people

  88. Does anyone have any ideas why the moderate Christian sees no inconsistency on his insistence on the absolute literal interpretation of the bodily resurrection of Jesus yet is willing to interpret almost the entirety of the remainder of the Bible as non-literal?

    Liked by 1 person

  89. unkleE,

    Would you say that Gary’s characterization of the Bible as a “riddle” is fair? For reference, he said (in part),

    most well-studied moderate Christians who engage in apologetics…seem to believe that God wrote the Bible as a riddle, and only those who are intelligent enough to decipher the riddle, can understand what God REALLY meant to say.

    Like

  90. Ark asks:

    Would any of the former Christians here on Nate’s blog in all honesty ever consider once more believing they were sinners and need salvation – under any circumstances?

    Zoe responds: No.

    Liked by 3 people

  91. Ark, since you asked…

    I wonder just how many deconverts who have walked away from the poison that is Christianity have returned to the fold?

    Would any of the former Christians here on Nate’s blog in all honesty ever consider once more believing they were sinners and need salvation – under any circumstances?

    As far as I know the best way to discern what’s true is to skeptically evaluate claims. To that end, I try to remain epistemically open to even the grandiose claims – but my evidentiary bar is at least as tall as the tales themselves. (And admittedly, I won’t always spend the time. Life is short, and I’ve seen a lot of debunking already.) Based on my examination thus far, and in light of all the mental gymnastics that is religious apologetics, I find it hard to imagine being convinced again that some religious claim is true.

    But, again, I remain epistemically open. So suppose I became convinced again that the Bible’s / Christians’ supernatural claims are true – what then?

    I’m no longer a mental slave; I’m a free-thinker. So even if it were true that YHWH exists, and he says that we must mentally agree that (1) we’re “sinners”, and (2) his special human sacrifice actually occurred, and (3) we like it – in order to become his “friend” – lest he deem us his enemies and kill us – that wouldn’t mean that he or his proclamations are good.

    I don’t think I’d “return to the fold”. I’d change my arguments from “religion is false and harmful” to “YHWH is an immoral monster” – or some such.

    Liked by 2 people

  92. A few thoughts, Nate…

    I think when Paul uses terms like “the gospel,” he’s not always strictly speaking about the 5 basic points that UnkleE outlined.

    It is not entirely clear what Paul’s gospel is, but Paul sure takes pains (see Galatians 1) to emphasize that “I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    It seems to me that Paul’s own Gospel may have only been the salvation-by-grace/new covenant interpretation of the resurrection. Jesus’ earlier followers (presumably) believed in the resurrection, but Paul added the twist that took it away from traditional messianic and apocalyptic Judaism and introduced the whole new covenant idea.

    I think understanding the division between Paul and the original apostles would be key to understanding a lot of Christianity. Unfortunately, all we really have is Paul’s side. That became the orthodoxy, so we assume that was what the original followers also believed, but Paul’s letters sure seem to suggest that there was a lot more theological distance between the two groups than the orthodox tradition would suggest. To the extent that the original apostles accepted Paul, it was with the condition that he send them money.

    Paul argues the Old Law (including the 10 Commandments) has served its purpose and is no longer binding to Christians. That doesn’t mean there’s no longer any kind of written law…

    This has bothered me for some time. There is no real clarity about which OT rules still apply and which do not. Christians like to talk about some moral/civil/ceremonial distinction, but that distinction does not exist in the Bible. The only real guide for what laws/rules still apply is which ones happen to be mentioned in the New Testament, and that is fairly hit-or-miss. But there are four rules that are very specifically identified as still applying to Christians under this new covenant. Those four were identified at the Jerusalem Council, where Paul and the apostles discussed what rules should still apply. So Christians should be able to agree that, no matter what other interpretations you might take from the NT, those four rules should be universally understood and upheld, right?

    Wrong.

    According to Acts 15, the four rules were “to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.” They said that, according to the Holy Spirit, there was “no further burden than these essentials” and that “If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

    Apart from fornication, none of those other rules have been considered applicable within Christendom for about 1500 years. The only four rules that were explicitly said to be relevant under the new covenant by a council of the earliest apostles and three of them were quickly discarded as mere local customs that were no longer applicable to Christians in later times.

    There are no “hard and fast rules.” I mean, there are, but Christians have almost universally agreed to either ignore them or reinterpret them as only relevant to that time and place. So no gay sex? It still applies. Women have to cover their head and remain silent in church? It was just a rule for that church, nobody else. Keep the Sabbath? Still applies (but not the actual sabbath, and not the way it applied before). Eating meat that has been strangled? Just a local custom, no need to follow it. Prohibition on divorce? Still applies. Give your possessions away to anybody who asks? It was just figurative, or something.

    Even the two rules Jesus identified — love God and your neighbor — are so vague as to be meaningless. I know people who think loving their neighbor means haranguing them about what they do wrong. There are people who think protesting gay people is “loving”. If loving your neighbor cannot be distinguished from hating your neighbor, then perhaps it’s a pretty meaningless rule.

    Ultimately, I have concluded that religion is, to some large extent, a sort of moral homeopathy. People take a religion and they claim their behavior is a result of their religion. But I think they are really just taking a placebo and crediting that placebo for their own beliefs and behaviors. The moral homeopathy doesn’t really do anything itself, but it gives people something to credit or blame for the behavior they like or dislike.

    Liked by 1 person

  93. …. to “YHWH is an immoral monster” –

    Seriously, Is there a single occasion in the Old Testament that the deity, YHWH is what we would generally consider moral?
    Offhand, nothing comes to mind.

    Like

  94. “Seriously, Is there a single occasion in the Old Testament that the deity, YHWH is what we would generally consider moral?”

    I would suggest that the time he spared tens of thousands of people in the city of Ninevah from complete and utter annihilation due to the fact that they were willing to put on sack cloth, sit in ashes, and grovel in complete submission to him, was very generous on his part and a sign of the utmost in morality.

    Liked by 2 people

  95. Jon, you sum everything up pretty well with this: Christians like to talk about some moral/civil/ceremonial distinction, but that distinction does not exist in the Bible.

    That’s exactly what they do. They talk about things … and preach about things … and harangue non-believers about things … that do not exist in the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  96. Diana, can I ask you a question?

    Hittite monuments and documents discovered after critics mocked Bible believers and told them they never existed.

    Can you identify which critics mocked Bible believers and told them the Hittites never existed before the discovery of Hittite monuments and documents? Preferably with some specific citations, so I can see who they were and what they said.

    Liked by 2 people

  97. And another question, Diana.

    Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled part of the prophecy and Alexander the Great fulfilled great details of the prophecy.

    The Bible said Tyre would be destroyed for the people’s ridicule of the people of Jerusalem being overthrown. But instead of destroying the people who ridiculed Jerusalem’s destruction — those people survived and thrived — it was their great-great-great-great-great-great-(etc)-grandchildren who were killed. So, rather than killing the perpetrators of this ridicule, God waited a few hundred years to kill people who were not alive when the ridicule of Jerusalem happened, and who were not in any sense morally culpable for it.

    Can you explain why God would kill children for the sins of their ancestor?

    Bear in mind, this comes from the book of Ezekiel, which also said, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”

    Liked by 2 people

  98. Ark,

    “The same Americans who considered that slavery was justified by your god and who were still busy slaughtering Native Americans and had in fact committed what is considered by some the worst genocide in human history.
    All perpetrated by people who were recognized as Christian.
    All Christians, should feel nothing but shame for what Christianity have done to humanity.”

    You’ve heard of the Civil War, right? A war that was fought between two groups of Christians. One group believed that science taught racial inequality. They allowed science to be their standard of truth. They believed in polygenism. Another name for it would be scientific racism. Jefferson, Kant, and Voltaire, to name a few, ascribed to this belief. The most influential scientists of the time promoted polygenism.

    The other group of Christians believed in the scriptures over any science that disagreed with the Bible. They stood on Acts 17:26. (“And He has made of one blood every nation….”) The motto of the London Ethnological Society was “ab uno sanguire” — “of one blood.” This group of believers included members of “The Clapham Sect” and William Wilberforce. One of Frederick Douglass’ most famous speeches was “Claims of the Negro–Ethnologically Considered.” He opposed scientific racism.

    The Civil War was fought between two groups of people who carried God’s name. One group refused to compromise the scriptures and they set the captives free. The other group blended a foreign belief in with the scriptures and it caused massive death and human suffering.

    Have you ever heard of David Brainerd? He was a missionary to the native Americans.

    I think you misrepresent the Christian heart towards indigenous peoples. There were traders, explorers, Catholic missionaries, liberal protestant missionaries (who believed in social Darwinism and felt it was the “white man’s burden to civilize the darker races), and evangelical missionaries. All of these groups went out in the world at that time. To lump them all together and lay the blame on Christians for the genocide of native Americans, is the same as me blaming atheists for all the millions who died under atheistic communist regimes.

    Was it atheists who defeated slavery in Great Britain and America? No. It was Bible-believing Christians. Was it atheists who finally crushed the power of the theocratic papacy. No. It was Bible-believing Christians who were even willing to be burned at the stake to oppose the false Catholic religion. Was it atheists who openly opposed Hitler? No. It was the Confessing Church whose 1000 pastors nearly all died in concentration camps.

    There has always been a war going on between the wheat and the tares. One group of Christians remains faithful to the Word of God. The other group compromises and corrupts the Word of God with science, philosophy, money, Old Testament law, and so on….and millions have suffered as a result. The sad thing is that it was all done in God’s name–and then people like you use their atrocities as a justification to reject God—even though their views didn’t truly come from God.

    Like

  99. Gary,
    Concerning Bart Ehrmann’s struggle with Mark 2:26, one simple Google search can give an answer:
    PROBLEM: Jesus says that at the time David ate the consecrated bread, Abiathar was high priest. Yet 1 Samuel 21:1–6 mentions that the high priest at that time was Ahimelech.
    SOLUTION: First Samuel is correct in stating that the high priest was Ahimelech. On the other hand neither was Jesus wrong. When we take a closer look at Christ’s words we notice that He used the phrase “in the days of Abiathar” (v. 26) which does not necessarily imply that Abiathar was high priest at the time David ate the bread. After David met Ahimelech and ate the bread, King Saul had Ahimelech killed (1 Sam. 22:17–19). Abiathar escaped and went to David (v. 20) and later took the place of the high priest. So even though Abiathar was made high priest after David ate the bread, it is still correct to speak in this manner. After all, Abiathar was alive when David did this, and soon following he became the high priest after his father’s death. Thus, it was during the time of Abiathar, but not during his tenure in office.
    There wasn’t Google back in those days . . . but the problem isn’t as difficult as it seems. It would be like me saying, “Yes, they brought the house back when Grandma had her stroke.” It’s describing a certain time period. Grandma may not even have been a grandma back then, but we still refer to her by that title. The actual scripture:

    “How he went into the house of God IN THE DAYS OF Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?” (Mark 2:26)

    Like

  100. Hi Diane,
    That was the same conclusion Ehrman (as a fundamentalist) came up with. His professor suggested another alternative: that Mark had made a mistake. Could you see how that is also a possibility if one allows for the possibility that there are errors in the Bible?

    Like

  101. Hi Nate, time for me to get back to the rest of your comments from a day or two ago. I’ll try to be brief! 🙂

    ”Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God in Acts 5, though they hadn’t actually done anything against the gospel itself.”

    The passage doesn’t actually say God struck them down, that is your assumption. I am as baffled by the incident as you would be. Whether you believe it happened or not, whether you believe Luke was saying God killed them or not, it is hard to understand why Luke included it. But as the story goes, it is two people dying of unstated and unknown causes.

    ”Christians (like Paul) had been forgiven of their past sins, but if they began to engage in them again, disregarding the teachings they had received, then I think the Bible teaches their salvation would be forfeit.”

    The kingdom is both now and in the age to come. Now, we cannot be said to be under God’s rule if we repeatedly and without repentance keep going against his advice or commands. In the age to come, we cannot live with God without having received forgiveness for wrongs done. Your comments seem to forget the absolutely central place of forgiveness in christianity, and the need for repentance to receive that forgiveness. (Just to clarify, God is always willing to forgive but we need to receive it.)

    ”You said, “The Spirit is God, which means he is above the Bible, not lesser!” If I misunderstood you, how did you mean that statement?”

    I meant exactly what I said. The Holy Spirit is God, the Bible is a combined divine-human creation. Commands of God would over-rule anything in scripture, if we could be sure of they were definitely from God – but we can’t be so sure. That is why there are checks and balances between these two, and other, methods of knowing truth.

    ”it’s why the writers of the Bible always stressed going back to scripture to test teachers’ claims. But you can’t do any of that with private revelation.”

    You can’t go back and re-do the big bang or evolution in science, we are left with looking at the after effects. That’s sort of the same with private revelation. It should be tested, against scripture, against how other people see things, and how it works out.

    For example, I have mentioned before how I believe God saved me from a serious accident by putting a thought in my head that I couldn’t have otherwise known. Now I didn’t know at the time I had the thought, but since I pray for protection every day, I acted on the thought and was saved from the potential accident. I now look back and see and believe it was from God. I could give other similar, though less dramatic, examples.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  102. Jon, I was very interested in your recent comments, because I agree with many of them, though sometimes I think you have used pejorative language that is unwarranted.

    ”I think understanding the division between Paul and the original apostles would be key to understanding a lot of Christianity. Unfortunately, all we really have is Paul’s side.”

    It seems to me that there is indeed a difference between Jesus’ emphasis and Paul’s. I think some christians try to minimise or ignore this difference, just as I think some sceptics overstate it. My thoughts are:

    1. We do have Jesus’ side, not just Paul’s. Most scholars see the gospels as portraying Jesus as an eschatological prophet, teacher and miracle worker, which preserves much of the tradition that you suggest is missing. The book of James, which I accept as being from Jesus’ brother, also preserves some of this.

    2. Most scholars accept, as I do, that there was a gradual development in the early christians’ understanding of Jesus. An orthodox Jew would struggle to accept a human as divine, and we see this in the speeches in Acts, where Jesus is initially portrayed as someone elevated to high status by God after his death and resurrection, but later comes the more complete doctrine of divinity. Larry Hurtado, who has made this matter his area of expertise, says that the early christians first began worshiping Jesus alongside God, and gradually their doctrine came into line with their practice.

    3. We can argue about which perspective is “right”, but there are good reasons (I believe) for christians to think that the modern church had tended to “forget” the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom, a fault that is now being remedied, but also, on the basis of the story of Peter (not Paul!) and Cornelius in Acts, to accept that the mission to the gentiles required some new perspectives from the mission to the Jews.

    ”To the extent that the original apostles accepted Paul, it was with the condition that he send them money.”

    This is an overly cynical comment Jon. If we follow the text in Acts (and we have little else to go on for some of this), Paul was welcomed by the apostles long before he offered to raise money for them.

    ”Christians like to talk about some moral/civil/ceremonial distinction, but that distinction does not exist in the Bible.”

    I agree completely. Either the whole Law is binding on christians, or none of it is. I think it is a new covenant and none of it does.

    ” The only four rules that were explicitly said to be relevant under the new covenant by a council of the earliest apostles and three of them were quickly discarded as mere local customs that were no longer applicable to Christians in later times.”

    This is true, but read the command about meat offered to idols in the light of 1 Corinthians 10:18-33, where Paul begins by saying it is best not to do it, then explains that they are free to eat that meat without bad conscience provided it doesn’t cause a problem for others. Then go to Romans 14, written just a few years later, and he gives even greater liberty to eating meat (it is likely that the problem of meat was related to the likelihood that meat purchased in the market had previously been offered to a pagan idol).

    So we see that there was a progression very early on, just as there was with the understanding of Jesus’ divinity. The stricter Jews like James fought for stricter rules, but Peter and Paul argued for greater freedom. James in Acts 15 couldn’t argue against them, but seemed to fight a rearguard action to keep a few rules, which Paul and company later negated in favour of greater freedom.

    ”Even the two rules Jesus identified — love God and your neighbor — are so vague as to be meaningless.”

    I disagree here. These are the fundamental aims, the mission statement if you like, and quite radical really. Of course how we fulfil the aim will vary in different situations. Like I said to Nate, the stricter you make rules, the more you will find (i) situations where they can’t be applied sensibly, (ii) people finding ways around the letter of the law, and (iii) people who do not grow to be morally responsible. Christianity is supposed to be a process of moral and spiritual development towards responsibility, not a pedantic following of rules (like in many other religions). It is much better this way.

    ”People take a religion and they claim their behavior is a result of their religion. But I think they are really just taking a placebo and crediting that placebo for their own beliefs and behaviors.”

    I’m sure this is often correct, and I suppose maybe sometimes true of me too. But I can tell you that my current moral values are deeply informed by Jesus’ teachings, and it took some pain to get there. For example, my views on treatment of asylum seekers and Australian aborigines could easily have been very pragmatic, but reflection over the past decade on Jesus’ teachings, and discussion with other christians, has led me to a much stronger position on treating tham according to Jesus’ teachings. I could give other examples relating to non-violence, forgiveness, wealth, discord, and more.

    Being a christian and trying to take Jesus’ teachings seriously has made an enormous difference in my life, led my down new paths, cost me a lot of money and time, but also given me great satisfaction.

    Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to interact. Like I said, I think a lot of your observations are apt, but I don’t always agree with your conclusions.

    Like

  103. Hi Diana,

    How do you explain this apparent discrepancy in the OT:

    “In Exodus, in one of Moses’ early encounters with the deity, God tells him “I am the LORD (Yahweh). I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty (Hebrew: El Shaddai), but by my name ‘The LORD’ (Yahweh) I did not make myself known to them” (Exod. 6:3). Here God is saying that the patriarchs of Genesis did not know the personal name of God, Yahweh; they only knew him as God Almighty, El Shaddai. But that will come as a very big surprise to a careful reader of Genesis. For it is quite clear in Genesis not only that God appeared to the patriarchs as The LORD (Yahweh), but that they called him by that name. Consider Gen. 4:26: “At that time people began to invoke the name of the LORD (Yahweh).” Or even more telling, Gen. 15:6-8:

    And he [Abraham] believed the LORD (Yahweh), and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness. Then he said to him, “I am the LORD (Yahweh) who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, O Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh), how am I to know that I shall possess it?”

    According to Exodus, God never appeared to or revealed himself to Abraham as Yahweh; according to Genesis, he did. There are clearly different sources that have been incorporated into these stories. That is made all the more evident by the doublets (and the triplet) that we observed earlier in the Patriarchal narratives.”

    Liked by 2 people

  104. When you read the responses of Diana and Unklee you realise …. if you have the stamina to wade through all the rose fertilizer – just how enslaved they are to the sickness of their religion.

    Diana is simply mentally ill, a product of severe indoctrination akin to the type history shows many German people and especially the Nazis were subjected to during the war.

    Unklee I consider is either willfully ignorant or disingenuous as it appears he will hand-wave away everything if necessary except the resurrection of the make-believe character Jesus of Nazareth. In the face of all commonsense this strikes somewhat like the stories one hears of pastors and priests who continue to preach when they already know that what they are preaching is based upon a lie and they are simply unable to extricate themselves from the merry go round.
    I don’t buy the crap of sincerity any longer.
    The only other explanation is that he to is suffering from a form of mental unbalance.

    Maybe it is wrong to mock either of them, but this is a former Christian’s blog – his space – so there comes a point when one can no longer justify reasoning in the face of such stubbornness (wanton stupidity?).
    If someone such as Nate, who in his own words was so indoctrinated that he truly believed Yahweh had buried dinosaur bones, and that every one who was not a Christian ( or even the right sort of Christian) was going to Hell. If he was able to come to the realization the damage being done to himself and his wife and kids, to be able to read the biblical text and recognize the utter nonsense for what it truly is, then, if someone such as unklee wishes to voice his opinion on a blog such as this – and he sure as hell is not here to figure out where he is might … just might be going wrong or, after all this time to try to learn a damn thing or genuinely understand why Nate walked away and became atheist – then I consider he is a schlenter of the worst order. and make absolutely no apologies for calling him out.

    Like

  105. Oh, and as Unklee mentions Acts in one of his responses I thought that maybe some of you would enjoy reading Neil Godfrey’s excellent post on the findings of the Acts Seminar?

    If Unklee is going to reference Acts as an historical source to help make his case then it’s worth noting how Acts is viewed outside of traditional circles.

    http://vridar.org/2013/11/22/top-ten-findings-of-the-acts-seminar/

    A snippet or two …

    In sum:
    The Acts narrative is worthless as history of first century Christianity, but quite informative as history of second century Christianity;
    it provides us no reason to believe that Christianity began in Jerusalem — the Jerusalem centre of the faith was a myth created for second century ideological reasons;
    some of its characters are fictional and their names symbolic;
    Acts was created as a type of Christian “epic” (coherent and literary throughout, not a patchwork quilt of diverse sources) and as such, we have reasons to believe, is no more historical than Homer’s or Virgil’s epics;
    the author did, indeed, know of the letters of Paul;
    and finally, one of its main reasons for being written was to counter Marcion’s “heresy”.

    and ….

    Acts was written in the early decades of the second century. The significant point to note here is that the consensus had long held that the dual work of Luke-Acts was a product of the 80s. What overturned this view for the Seminar Fellows was the “foundational work of Richard Pervo and Joseph Tyler”.

    and ….

    This notion has been girded by assumption that the author was a companion of Paul and participated in some of the narrative’s events. Once we move Acts to the second century many problems and questions are resolved. “Background material or literary models” were found by the author in Josephus, Homer, Vergil, the Septuagint (LXX). These were not sources of the story itself, however.

    Liked by 1 person

  106. To me, the implications of divine revelation over biblical meaning are pretty drastic. If it’s possible to receive new revelations of Yahweh’s will, why aren’t there new books being added to the bible? How can one reject Islam or LDS churches as being incorrect? Sure, it’s a riff on being without a compass, but there is more at stake than just an internal view of the bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  107. Unklee

    1. We do have Jesus’ side, not just Paul’s. Most scholars see the gospels as portraying Jesus as an eschatological prophet, teacher and miracle worker, which preserves much of the tradition that you suggest is missing. The book of James, which I accept as being from Jesus’ brother, also preserves some of this.

    Eh, I think the synoptic gospels probably preserve at least some of the authentic teachings of Jesus, in some very general sense. That certainly helps to build out a broad sense of the biography and message, but it doesn’t really help much with the issues I brought up.

    2. Most scholars accept, as I do, that there was a gradual development in the early christians’ understanding of Jesus. An orthodox Jew would struggle to accept a human as divine, and we see this in the speeches in Acts, where Jesus is initially portrayed as someone elevated to high status by God after his death and resurrection, but later comes the more complete doctrine of divinity. Larry Hurtado, who has made this matter his area of expertise, says that the early christians first began worshiping Jesus alongside God, and gradually their doctrine came into line with their practice.

    I think it’s quite plausible that the earliest Christians quickly believed that Jesus was, in some sense, divine, and I agree that the belief evolved as they came to terms with what it means. So the progression might have looked like…

    Teacher > Messiah > Dead > Risen/Returned > Anointed (Christ) > Adopted Son of God > God

    Unfortunately, we have very little window into the diversity of views of early Christians, so it’s difficult to say how this happened and what divisions each of these developments caused.

    This is an overly cynical comment Jon. If we follow the text in Acts (and we have little else to go on for some of this), Paul was welcomed by the apostles long before he offered to raise money for them.

    Cynical? The “polite bribe” or the “Jerusalem Collection”, as it’s been called, was mentioned in Acts and Paul discusses it in his own letters a number of times. The traveling disciples/apostles were told to send back to the “saints” and the poor in Jerusalem. This is an odd thing, isn’t it? Why would people in Antioch and Galatia and Corinth and many other places need to take up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem? Surely poverty, widows and need were present everywhere.

    The only time Paul met with Apostles (Peter and James) prior to the Jerusalem Collection was that first time when he said he met with them, but he doesn’t really give any details about it. Mostly, he goes to great lengths to assure everybody that he got nothing from them, owes nothing to them, and various other cynical comments about them (“super-apostles”).

    So we see that there was a progression very early on, just as there was with the understanding of Jesus’ divinity.

    No argument here. Christianity has excelled at syncretism and adaptation.

    James in Acts 15 couldn’t argue against them, but seemed to fight a rearguard action to keep a few rules, which Paul and company later negated in favour of greater freedom.

    I realize this might not pose a difficulty for you, if you do not accept inerrancy, but bear in mind that Acts doesn’t just have the Apostles coming up with those four rules. Acts ascribes those four rules to the Holy Spirit. So why are three of them gone quickly? And if a Christian believes the proscription against fornication is also no longer applicable, who is to say otherwise?

    At any rate, it just reinforces the point that Christian values and beliefs evolved with the culture. To Nate’s point, it is almost impossible to identify very many clear, unambiguous teachings in the Bible.

    I disagree here. These are the fundamental aims, the mission statement if you like, and quite radical really. Of course how we fulfil the aim will vary in different situations.

    I don’t see anything in your response that actually explained the disagreement. In fact, you seem to agree that these two rules are vague. And so, my point: If people can interpret “love your neighbor” in 10 different ways, and cannot agree on which of those ways constitutes expressions of love vs expressions of hate, then it isn’t much of a law.

    I think a lot of your observations are apt, but I don’t always agree with your conclusions.

    Likewise. I enjoy the discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

  108. Diana, literally no advocate of evolution believes this.

    How did the first cells reproduce? Evolutionist answer: MAGIC!

    There is nothing at all wrong with not understanding the theory of evolution, nor with not understanding the distinction between evolution and abiogenesis. We are all ignorant about most things. However, when you put forward claims about what other people say that are indisputably false, then you are bearing false witness.

    Liked by 1 person

  109. Hi Jon, a couple more comments ….

    ”No argument here. Christianity has excelled at syncretism and adaptation.”

    It is interesting how we can say the same thing in either positive or negative words. I infer from your use of “syncretism” that this is a negative comment, but I recall a historian (I think) saying that the genius of christianity was its ability to adapt to different cultures and situations. Certainly if we were talking about many other aspects of life, we would regard adaptability as an asset. But it seems with you and Nate that religion must have certainty and immutability. Do you think that is true for you? If so, why is that?

    ”Acts ascribes those four rules to the Holy Spirit. So why are three of them gone quickly?”

    Acts describes what people thought, but in this case doesn’t say they were right, although we might draw that inference. The gospels describe Judas’ actions and the religious leaders’ statement, but that doesn’t imply they were right. I have always (like literally for several decades) thought that James took a while to come to the more flexible view, and the Acts 15 decision was him halfway along the process. And we can see other parts of the process in Paul’s writings, as I have outlined.

    ”At any rate, it just reinforces the point that Christian values and beliefs evolved with the culture. To Nate’s point, it is almost impossible to identify very many clear, unambiguous teachings in the Bible.”

    Exactly!! We have the principle (love God, love neighbour), we have some clear guidance on the outworking of that principle (forgive, love enemies, care for the poor, etc) and other guidance that shows how the principles were worked out in that time and place, but may require different understandings in other times and places. Apart from anything else, principles can come into conflict and we may have to choose a less than ideal course. I honestly can’t see how that is difficult to understand or appreciate.

    I’ll say it again. It all depends on what you think is God’s objective. If it is people following certain rules by rote, then God could make robots. But if it is to make “little gods” (i.e. people who are like God in having freedom and ethics and rationality and autonomy) than that isn’t the way to do it, as any good parent or teacher knows. A good parent or teacher helps the child grow in o maturity by giving them opportunities to learn for themselves, flexibility, opportunities to make mistakes, new experiences, dilemmas to solve, etc, and doesn’t pretend that general rules can be applied uniformly in every situation.

    I really think you and Nate must understand this in normal life, but you are holding christianity to unreal and unjustified criteria.

    I have long felt that this particular area is the one that most explains why Nate and I can agree on many things and discuss amicably, but have fundamental misunderstandings about some things. I think it may be the same with you. I am not being critical – as long as you and Nate believe God doesn’t exist and I believe he does, we will have a fundamental disagreement, but I would really like to try to reach a mutual understanding on what christianity actually is (at least in my view). Thanks for your time.

    Liked by 1 person

  110. “but I would really like to try to reach a mutual understanding on what christianity actually is (at least in my view)”

    But that is the problem. There are 2,000,000,000 Christians in the world. Although we can put some groups of Christians in definable categories of beliefs, moderate Christians such as UnkleE are impossible to define. If they each have an individual “view” of what Christianity actually is, how in the world can we skeptics have a conversation with these Christians on this subject? It is impossible. That is why we skeptics must speak in generalities:

    1. Catholic Christians
    2. Eastern Orthodox Christians
    3. Liberal Protestant Christians
    4. Moderate Protestant Christians-a completely undefinable category
    5. Fundamentalist Protestant Christians

    Asking us to have a mutual understanding of each individual moderate Protestant’s views is impossible.

    Liked by 2 people

  111. Actually, Gary, I think the different individual views are a feature and not a flaw of the entire system. It isn’t limited to moderate Christians, either. Christians of all parts of the faith will have different views based on local culture and seemingly random chance. Some Christians still try to kill witches in South America; some Christians think demon possession is fake. Instead, you have enough common terminology for people to find some common ground, and you have a lack of desire to make sure everyone is forced to agree on the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  112. Sirius,

    I see your point, but the breadth of the variation in what is and what is not “truth” is much greater among moderate Protestants than among the other groups, at least in my experience.

    Like

  113. As an example, one moderate may believe that the Exodus story is historical fact while believing that Noah’s Flood is fiction. Another moderate Christian may believe just the opposite. All fundamentalists will believe both stories to be historical. Fundamentalists have a guiding principle: the Bible is never wrong. It is unclear to me what if any guiding principle the moderate Christian follows.

    Liked by 1 person

  114. Actually, Gary, I think the different individual views are a feature and not a flaw of the entire system

    Sorry SB you are way off the mark here. Of course it’s a flaw and a bloody major flaw! We are talking about claimed divine revelation, not a Pick ‘n Mix at the sweet counter.
    There is nothing one can see in a positive light about what Ken Ham indoctrinates into kids for example.
    Or ID for that matter.

    And Moderates are better because they still spread the garbage that the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.

    And while you may hand wave Moderate Religion and its proponents and think the diversity is oh so colourful you leave the door ajar for the extremists. And they already have both bloody feet in it.

    You cannot whine about teaching a literal Hell to kids or Islamic fundamentalists using kids as suicide bombers and then give the likes of Unklee a sort of ”Free Pass”, because on the surface his brand of superstitious god- bothering seems harmless enough: all cucumber sandwiches and tea on the lawn with the vicar and the occasional soup kitchen. it is on the backs on the Moderates that the extremists will ride. And they do,don’t they, SB?

    The more you argue details with someone like Diana or unklee or Tom they are going to beat you hands down.
    Not because they can back anything they say, but simply because they do not give a shit about truth or evidence.
    If they cannot demonstrate the veracity of the core, foundational tenets of their belief then they have no right whatsoever to teach any of what they beleive as truth.

    So, I tell, you what, get Unklee to demonstrate to you exactly how we can know that the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth came back to life and why we should trust his explanation.
    Remember: everything else is just window dressing and he and many others care nothing if you could prove unequivocally that the entire Old Testament is a work of fiction. That is NOT what an apologist is here for.
    Call his bluff once and for all and if he can convince you , I’ll be in church for the evening service …. and you have my word on that.

    Like

  115. Hey Ark,

    By “feature and not a flaw,” I meant that it’s a deliberate part of Christianity and not that one version is somehow better than the other. I just didn’t get into that, because evaluating it would have made my comment really super long. To be clear, I think a weakness of UnkleE’s position is that he’s created a special revelation exception. Such a thing is dangerous, because it makes a person only one thought away from taking the plunge into an abyss that has no bottom. And I don’t even have to argue a slippery slope here; I’ve seen too many people take that plunge.

    Like

  116. @SB
    Apologies if I misunderstood, but reading it again your comment stills comes across as ambiguous and although I realise that, considering your personal circumstances regarding your former beliefs this is probably not quite the case, it still reads as if you are making some form of allowance, mostly because you included the words … not a flaw .

    I think the different individual views are a feature and not a flaw of the entire system.

    It is because there is so much leeway for personal interpretation of Christian doctrine that Unklee (and others) gets away with his ”special case” Christianity.

    While I acknowledge the desire to argue Christianity from a case by case perspective, ( and you probably know how I feel about the Exodus) especially for former believers who have been grilled with this fallacious garbage for years, I would have thought that they, above anyone, should realise that, even though they may prove the point the unklees will wave it away smugly as when all said and done only the Resurrection counts. As I am sure you would probably believed during your own religious halcyon days.

    So, if you can show him just how bloody stupid and disingenuous he is over the Resurrection – not the empty tomb I might add – then we may well have an argument that can dismantle even moderate Christianity.

    Are you up for it?

    Like

  117. Let me explain why I believe that moderate Christianity is so dangerous.

    First, let’s start with liberal Christianity. Liberals believe that the Christian God is a God of love. He would never harm anyone. There is no Hell. No one is going to be punished for “sin” or for rejecting Jesus. Everyone will be saved in the end.

    This belief system, to me, is a harmless fairy tale.

    Fundamentalist Christianity is, of course, evil to the core. Any belief system that condemns people to eternal suffering simply for what they believe is evil incarnate. It is an attempt at mind control through blackmail. However, it is so blatantly silly and defies so much of modern scientific knowledge that if this were the only form of Christianity available, I believe it would be extinct (at least in the educated West) within not so many decades.

    Moderate Christians have taken the loving God of liberalism (as an appealing exterior facade) and combined it with fundamentalism’s goal of mind control. The Moderate Christian God is presented as a God of love as a means to entice you into the “fold”, but once in, you are warned that this loving God is still going to punish you, in some fashion, if you ever refuse to continue submitting your mind to his control. It is still a system of mind control. However, it has replaced the most embarrassing fundamentalist beliefs with very educated-sounding, sophisticated-sounding theological psycho-babble (riddles) which are nearly impossible to disprove.

    Moderate Christianity is a smoke screen to maintain orthodox Christianity’s mind control of the less educated (the masses) through the use of complex, sophisticated-sounding philosophical and theological constructs in an attempt to intimidate the masses from questioning the veracity of their two thousand year old ghost story.

    Like

  118. ‘Fundamentalist Christianity is, of course, evil to the core. Any belief system that condemns people to eternal suffering simply for what they believe is evil incarnate.’

    Well said Gary, I consider the idea of Hell to be utterly repugnant. I so tire of inane defenses like:
    – God does not send anyone there they send themselves;
    – God does not to send people there, but there is nowhere else to send them;
    – Surely we want a just universe so bad deeds need to be punished;

    Even as a Christian I concluded that the concept of Hell was what would be termed ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. I could never reconcile it with the idea of a God of love, mercy or justice. Indeed those who argue that Hell is just have a very warped view of justice. Justice would be to cause people to reflect on their lives for a limited period after death and then to cause them to cease to exist.

    Liked by 2 people

  119. Just to point out, I do not believe that moderate Christians such as UnkleE (and my former pastor) are intentionally playing head games with us. These very intelligent moderate Christians sincerely believe the “spin” they are creating. They are very smart people who are feverishly attempting to maintain a respectable façade for what is otherwise a silly ancient tale. Their very intelligent brains just cannot accept that their cherished belief system is nothing more than a ghost tale.

    Like

  120. These very intelligent moderate Christians ….. etc

    If one is obliged to accept this, then one must also accept that they are suffering some mental aberration that allows them to wring any interpretation that suits out of the biblical text which enables them to reject overt Fundamentalism while steadfastly maintaining a belief in the ridiculous notion of the veracity of the Resurrection.
    In effect, the bible then becomes only useful as toilet paper.

    People like Nate and Peter walked away, and based on dialogue I consider them as intelligent and well-versed on the bible if not more so than someone like Unklee.

    So let’s be brutally honest, and look at what options are left?

    They can either be indoctrinated to the point of exhibiting some form of religiously induced mental illness ( a temporary state that can be corrected) or they are simply being disingenuous for personal gain?

    Ark.

    Liked by 1 person

  121. I believe they are addicted to the intense emotions and sense of security that their belief system gives them. That is why they go to such extremes to reinterpret an ancient text full of obviously silly, scientifically ignorant nonsense. Although the book may be full of “allegories”, in their new interpretation, the message behind the book MUST be true or their entire life falls apart. That is why debating them on evidence is a waste of time. Only when something causes them to begin to doubt that a ghost lives inside their bodies, is there any hope of getting through to them.

    No amount of evidence will ever change UnkleE’s mind. His feelings and emotions are the bedrock of his belief, not evidence.

    Like

  122. Seems a comment of mine didn’t post.

    Basically I was asking Ark if he thinks that at one time during their believing days that Nate and Peter were “suffering some mental aberration?”

    Liked by 1 person

  123. @ Gary

    No amount of evidence will ever change UnkleE’s mind. His feelings and emotions are the bedrock of his belief, not evidence.

    So you don’t beleive he is being in the least bit disingenuous?

    Like

  124. @ Zoe.
    I am no doctor, Zoe, but I would say ”no” to mental aberration when we are dealing with indoctrination from childhood. After all, we beleive in Santa and fairies. But later on, to continue to maintain this delusion in the face of overwhelming evidence? That’s a different story.

    Liked by 1 person

  125. Ark: Not at all. Although I’m not fond of his debate style at times (he tends to use a “Gotchya” debate style instead of one which attempts to constructively educate his opponent) I believe that he is 100% sincere. He restructures whatever objective evidence is presented to him to fit the subjective evidence “in his heart”; subjective evidence which he has convinced himself cannot be wrong.

    Let me give an example: If you are 100% certain in your heart that your wife loves you and is faithful to you, no amount of objective evidence presented by other people is going to convince you otherwise. If someone tells you that they just saw your wife coming out of a motel room with a strange man, your brain will devise excuses for why your wife is not having an affair. I sincerely believe that this is what goes on in the brain of UnkleE and moderate Christians like him. They PERSONALLY must experience evidence that Jesus does not exist; until then, all other objective evidence will simply be explained away.

    Like

  126. Unklee

    It is interesting how we can say the same thing in either positive or negative words. I infer from your use of “syncretism” that this is a negative comment, but I recall a historian (I think) saying that the genius of christianity was its ability to adapt to different cultures and situations.

    I don’t think syncretism carries negative connotations. I believe I am saying the same thing as the historian you mention. Christianity excels at adapting to, evolving with, and absorbing characteristics of different cultures. That has made it a much more diverse religion — it encapsulates traditional and modern Catholics, Unitarians, Baptists, Russian orthodox, Coptic christians, Mormons, Quakers, Anglican, Episcopal, Mennonites, and many other radically different Christian groups — which means there are many more people who can find a comfortable place within Christianity. If you dislike the rigid tradition and doctrine of Catholicism, you can be a Protestant. If you dislike the liberalism of mainline baptist churches, you can be a Southern Baptist. If you dislike the modernism of western churches, you can become Eastern Orthodox. And so on.

    I think the adaptability of Christianity has indisputably been an asset to its success.

    it seems with you and Nate that religion must have certainty and immutability. Do you think that is true for you? If so, why is that?

    I think a true religion must have truth and that truth must be discoverable and immutable. I mean, that’s almost tautological. If a religion makes fact-claims, then those claims should stand up or be discarded. If a religion makes no fact-claims, then it is irrelevant.

    Acts describes what people thought, but in this case doesn’t say they were right, although we might draw that inference.

    If you agree that the NT makes moral claims that are false, I think we can agree. But I think you would have to accept Nate’s point — “How could anyone tell the difference between his own thoughts and the Holy Spirit?” In this case, we have both scripture AND a revelation from the Holy Spirit….but it turns out, they are false. Or, at the very least, they are not accepted by Christians.

    Exactly!! We have the principle (love God, love neighbour), we have some clear guidance on the outworking of that principle (forgive, love enemies, care for the poor, etc) and other guidance that shows how the principles were worked out in that time and place, but may require different understandings in other times and places. Apart from anything else, principles can come into conflict and we may have to choose a less than ideal course. I honestly can’t see how that is difficult to understand or appreciate.

    I doubt you will find anybody here who doesn’t appreciate the merit and value of “love others”, or understand that different moral values sometimes conflict and must be balanced or reconciled. But that idea predates, and is independent of, Judaism and Christianity. I think we can all appreciate and honor the moral ideas that we share in common.

    I really think you and Nate must understand this in normal life, but you are holding christianity to unreal and unjustified criteria.

    It seems to me that you are treating your own interpretation of Christianity as authoritative, while simultaneously crafting a version of Christianity that is so vague and slippery that it is virtually impossible to pin down any specific meaning. It’s closer to Unitarianism than to any orthodox understanding of Christianity.

    That doesn’t make you wrong. I appreciate your interpretation far more than those of fundamentalists. But I do think fundamentalists make a valid, serious point about the reliability and authority of the Bible. If it is full of errors and flawed moral guidance, that certainly supports our argument that the Bible is a man-made product, just like the Quran, the Book of Mormon and the scriptures of various other religions.

    I am not being critical – as long as you and Nate believe God doesn’t exist and I believe he does, we will have a fundamental disagreement, but I would really like to try to reach a mutual understanding on what christianity actually is (at least in my view). Thanks for your time.

    I would say that Christianity is a diverse set of religious beliefs that evolved out of Judaism after the death of the Jewish preacher, Jesus, when his followers tried to reconcile his death with their apocalyptic beliefs that he was a Messiah who would bring about the end times and elevate them to rule alongside him in the new kingdom of Heaven on earth. While specific beliefs vary widely, the most common shared beliefs within Christianity are the belief that Jesus is God (whether part of the Trinity or the Godhead), that Jesus died and was resurrected to save mankind, and that people will be judged in some sort of afterlife (the details of which might involve eternal reward/torture, annihilationism, or universalism).

    The simplest definition of Christian is probably what Paul said in Romans 10:9: “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.”

    As far as “what Christianity actually is”, I would favor a descriptivist approach, rather than a prescriptivist approach. You are describing how you believe Christianity should be understood (prescriptivist). That is a theological argument. I don’t think it is even possible to settle that question, in part because I don’t think “Christianity” has to mean any one particular thing beyond the very broad descriptivist outline I described. From a descriptivist stance, Christianity means many different things to different people.

    I think Nate (and I) are talking in fairly broad terms about problems with various conceptions of Christianity. If those criticisms do not describe your personal interpretation, that’s fine. But you should understand that they do address the beliefs of large majority swathes of Christianity.

    Liked by 2 people

  127. If one is presented with irrefutable evidence about anything from the real world, then maybe I could agree with your perspective. But we are dealing with an impossible situation – the Resurrection, and thus, by its very nature, it is impossible ( as far as I am aware) to disprove a miracle.
    Note: I am not talking about magic.

    To compound this we have prayer and the claims of communing with Jesus and as mentioned by unklee, the Holy Spirit. Something he considers is very real, even though he claims not ti understand it.
    So, if he is, according to you, being 100% sincere then this is a mental aberration/form of mental illness/delusion.

    Like

  128. Delusion: “a belief that is held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.”

    UnkleE’s belief is based on a dogma (teaching), therefore I doubt his belief meets the standard for “delusion”. You and I may consider his belief delusional, but our culture in general probably would not. His belief is still socially acceptable and therefore fails to meet the definition of a delusion. No medical doctor in the western world would diagnose UnkleE as delusional based solely on his moderate Christian beliefs. In 100 years, that may change.

    Liked by 2 people

  129. Gary.
    Actually, if his own partial testimony regarding the incident in his car is anything to go by, I would say it is as much delusional as dogma based.
    Certainly there was a foundation of dogma, as who from a Christian culture has not experienced to a degree? But his moment of conviction, and the definite belief thereafter, comes across as purely delusional.

    Like

  130. The entire Christian belief system is based on mystical experiences not much different than that of UnkleE, yet our culture accepts this belief system as a non-delusional, culturally acceptable belief system. If someone today claimed to be “God’s chief apostle” after encountering a talking bright light on a dark, desert highway, we would institutionalize him, or at a minimum, medicate him. But 2,000,000,000 people across the planet today are certain that a man living two thousand years ago was correct when he made the same (looney) claim.

    My hope is that one day, our culture WILL see this belief and all beliefs based on mystical/supernatural experiences as delusional, but until that day…

    Liked by 2 people

  131. Ark

    one must also accept that they are suffering some mental aberration that allows them to wring any interpretation that suits out of the biblical text which enables them to reject overt Fundamentalism while steadfastly maintaining a belief in the ridiculous notion of the veracity of the Resurrection.

    This seems extraordinarily uncharitable. People arrive at different beliefs. They can do so without being mentally ill. The non-existence of a God is not prima facie obvious and the God hypothesis is not demonstrably false. There are good arguments against it — very persuasive arguments, I believe — but it is not obviously irrational to believe in the existence of a God.

    I would agree that Christians give disproportionate weight to arguments and claims that support their beliefs — the evidence for the resurrection being a prime example — but we all do that. If they are mentally ill for giving too much weight to arguments and evidence in favor of their beliefs, so are you and I. If they are mentally ill for accepting a worldview that has unexamined or unsupported premises, so are you and I.

    Remember, beliefs are part of a framework. If you don’t share the same framework, then of course somebody else’s conclusions will seem absurd to you, and perhaps yours to them. Evaluating other people’s conclusions through the lens of your own framework is a good way to get upset, but a bad way to understand why other people reached their conclusions.

    Liked by 2 people

  132. Gary

    If someone today claimed to be “God’s chief apostle” after encountering a talking bright light on a dark, desert highway, we would institutionalize him, or at a minimum, medicate him.

    Tell that to Thomas Monson, Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or their Quorum of 12, who claim to be Apostles of Jesus Christ because some other old white guys voted them into the position.

    Like

  133. @Jon.

    This seems extraordinarily uncharitable. People arrive at different beliefs. They can do so without being mentally ill. The non-existence of a God is not prima facie obvious and the God hypothesis is not demonstrably false.

    Uncharitable? Yes, I am sure we should hold more charitable feelings toward former ( now dead) believers’ such as that very misunderstood chap from days of old, Torquemada.

    I am not talking about a ”God” as in deism, but rather the sheer idiotic notion of the veracity of the Resurrection: The ability to hand-wave almost the entire bible if necessary, but still hold on to the notion of a supposed dead Messiah being brought back to life by the hand of a God-In-the-Sky.

    Also, that they would believe they are called to spread this garbage as truth, with a capital T to boot, like a disgusting theological STD, or face eternal damnation and torture after death is almost culpable.
    Certainly, this should be regarded as abuse.
    Now, to hold such a belief in Resurrection the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is tantamount to a form of mental illness. And if you read Valerie Tarico’s recent post you might reconsider your current position.

    Like

  134. Uncharitable? Yes, I am sure we should hold more charitable feelings toward former ( now dead) believers’ such as that very misunderstood chap from days of old, Torquemada.

    Spoken like a true fundamentalist.

    I am not talking about a ”God” as in deism, but rather the sheer idiotic notion of the veracity of the Resurrection

    The belief in the resurrection presupposes the existence of a God, and specifically of the Christian God. With those presumptions, the resurrection is not so unlikely. Obviously, if you presume the non-existence of any God, then the resurrection is infinitely unlikely.

    Again, I don’t think there is good evidence for the resurrection, but their conclusions arise from their own theistic framework.

    Also, that they would believe they are called to spread this garbage as truth, with a capital T to boot, like a disgusting theological STD, or face eternal damnation and torture after death is almost culpable.

    Yes, people like to promote things they believe are true and important. Like just about everybody, I have moral and political beliefs I cannot prove, and which may very well be mistaken or even harmful, yet I advocate them.

    if you read Valerie Tarico’s recent post you might reconsider your current position.

    If you are referring to her recent interview with David Fitzgerald, I think this essay by Tim O’Neill addresses it well.

    http://historyforatheists.blogspot.com/2017/04/easter-existence-of-jesus-and-dave.html

    If you are referring to something else, can you provide a link?

    Like

  135. Spoken like a true fundamentalist.

    Are we going to resort to asinine comments now?
    The main thrust of Nate’s last couple of posts has been the cover given to Fundamentalism by moderate/liberal Christians such as unklee.
    And now it seems you are trying to white wash the Inquisition with another hand wave comment.
    Christianity is a sum of its parts and unklee’s watered-down version has the likes of Torquemada to thank as much as it does Constantine and Luther.
    The fact there is no evidence for the foundational claims and that it should be recognized as a delusion could well be the key to its eventual dwindling away to nothing but a quaint reminder of how stupid we once were.
    Most people no longer recognise Thor as real and any tat do/did would likely be regarded as mentally ill, especially if they started preaching any sort of veracity.

    The posts I was referring to were the ones Valerie wrote concerning pathogens.

    Like

  136. Hi Jon,

    ”I think the adaptability of Christianity has indisputably been an asset to its success.”

    I’m glad I misunderstood you (sorry as well, of course, but you know what I mean!). Obviously some truths cannot change or it isn’t the same religion, but I believe adaptability is important. If christianity was a series of rules, then change would be harder to justify, but since I believe it is, ultimately, a relationship between me and a living being, then it must be that relationships develop and change as the participants grow – or in this case as the participants here on earth grow. I am not a very experiential christian, but this still remains true.

    ”I think a true religion must have truth and that truth must be discoverable and immutable. I mean, that’s almost tautological. If a religion makes fact-claims, then those claims should stand up or be discarded. If a religion makes no fact-claims, then it is irrelevant.”

    Yeah, I agree, this is critical. But I have several caveats here. (1) Only a small part of christian belief is core and immutable. Creator God. Jesus and all that christians believe about him. Core ethics, etc. But heaps is variable with situation, or open to discussion and liberty of opinion. (2) There is a difference between truth being immutable and our understanding of truth being immutable. Science is the same in this regard. If we learn more, we develop our understanding. A God who created via evolution seems to prefer gradual growth and change and development, and I think it has been happening right through the period of the Bible and right up to the present day.

    That seems to me to be the thing that you and Nate struggle with – that we might still be learning about God, his world and how to live in it.

    ”It seems to me that you are treating your own interpretation of Christianity as authoritative, while simultaneously crafting a version of Christianity that is so vague and slippery that it is virtually impossible to pin down any specific meaning. It’s closer to Unitarianism than to any orthodox understanding of Christianity.”

    I’m really surprised that you think this, and I feel sorry that I’ve given you that impression. On all the main doctrines of christianity – God as ultimate creator, Jesus as son of God, saviour, teacher, his virgin birth, his real resurrection, his future return, the necessity of forgiveness (in relation to God and in relation to others), the atonement, the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, the commands to love God and love neighbour, etc – I am boringly orthodox. I present some of those things in different ways, perhaps, I am less dogmatic about most of those things, and quite flexible about non-core teachings. The only places I am not “orthodox” are my rejection of the traditional hell, my belief in inclusivism (shared by CS Lewis and Billy Graham by the way), my acceptance of the Bible as the historians conclude (which includes a gradual shift from legend/myth/folk tale to history through the Old Testament, also shared by CS Lewis), my greater openness re women, gays & LGBTI people, and of course other things that Jesus taught like care for the poor, non-violence and mistrust of power and wealth that conservatives tend to reject.

    I don’t think my christianity is at all vague and slippery, I am just flexible about some of the things we are discussing here, and I am different from a lot of US christianity. It is very far from Unitarianism. And there is a strong movement in the same direction all over the place (people like NT Wright, Peter Enns, Denis Lamoureux, Greg Boyd, Benjamin Corey and so many others are part of this).

    ”But you should understand that they do address the beliefs of large majority swathes of Christianity.”

    Yes, I understand that (at least for the US). But they don’t describe many others. My points are that (1) if you are only aiming at conservative fundamentalist US christians, then you aren’t attacking christianity as a whole, for to attack christianity as a whole, you need to attack the most plausible versions, not the least plausible. (That is a fundamental principle of debate.) Anyone can shoot fish in a barrel! (2) When discussing with me, it isn’t very relevant to argue against things that I don’t believe.

    I’m not being critical. It isn’t easy for you to separate out different beliefs. So understanding that, I try to point out where I think you are not addressing the most plausible version of christianity. I think that gives you the opportunity to either address a more plausible version, or else say you are just addressing the less plausible version.

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify these things a little.

    Like

  137. On all the main doctrines of christianity – God as ultimate creator, Jesus as son of God, saviour, teacher, his virgin birth, his real resurrection, his future return, the necessity of forgiveness (in relation to God and in relation to others), the atonement, the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, the commands to love God and love neighbour, etc – I am boringly orthodox

    As has been mentioned for quite some time …. delusional in other words.
    Belief in the virgin birth is the perfect example and this doctrine has been soundly refuted by Raymond Brown.
    And what’s worse is that you probably know this and yet still maintain an Orthodox approach.

    and of course other things that Jesus taught

    You have absolutely no idea what the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth taught and neither does anyone else for that matter. And I am sure you are fully aware that all you are doing here is making erroneous statements based on your/Christian beliefs concerning the biblical text, a text that is fraught with interpolation, myth, and outright lies. So all you do is cherry pick the bits that appeal to you.

    When discussing with me, it isn’t very relevant to argue against things that I don’t believe.

    We are arguing against the things you DO believe, and the Resurrection is prime among these beliefs.

    I think that gives you the opportunity to either address a more plausible version, or else say you are just addressing the less plausible version.

    It is the core doctrine – that you admit adhering to – which is utterly implausible, and it is you that steadfastly refuses to address these core foundational tenets.
    And as Jon has pointed out, it is for this reason you come across as …..so vague and slippery that it is virtually impossible to pin down any specific meaning.

    Here you have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the veracity of your beliefs about the claims you make on a blog where the host, a deconvert from extreme fundamentalism,bends over backwards to accommodate you, and is unbelievably /em> forgiving toward the things you espouse.

    Someone like Bruce Gerencser, a former fundamentalist minister, would likely tear your ridiculous hand-waving drivel to shreds and hand you your backside on a plate!
    I challenge you to pop over to his site and try and tell him where he is going wrong and why your belief in the resurrection
    et alles is perfectly sound and reasonable.
    I think I might even pay money to read that debate!
    You also might like his page: Why I hate Jesus.
    It will certainly give you something to think about, especially in context of the cover moderate religion gives to the fundies.

    Please Note: LINK!

    https://brucegerencser.net/

    Therefore, while you continue to champion these core tenets as immutable without offering a sound basis for their belief then you cannot complain about anything which you perceive as a pejorative and will likely be called out every time.

    Like

  138. Evaluating other people’s conclusions through the lens of your own framework is a good way to get upset, but a bad way to understand why other people reached their conclusions.

    Absolutely correct!
    Which is why I would not likely evaluate Creationist claims or Flood Geology for example, without scientific evidence to turn to, and for this reason I expect nothing less from those touting the Resurrection etc.
    But of course we all know this is a very short stretch of road that leads to a cul-de-sac, don’t we?

    And I really don’t get upset, Jon. 🙂

    Like

  139. “The only places I am not “orthodox” are my rejection of the traditional hell, my belief in inclusivism”

    The good news is that UnkleE is very close to being a liberal: someone who believes that God does not punish non-believers for rejecting the Christian truth claims. If we could only nudge him over the moderate-liberal divide, we then would no longer need to concern ourselves with his superstitious beliefs in ghost impregnated virgins and corpse reanimation.

    Can we get UnkleE to say that he is COMPLETELY “inclusivist”; that there is ZERO punishment for non-belief? If so, we should stop getting ourselves so worked up over his beliefs. Liberal Christianity is no more dangerous than belief in Santa Claus. However, if he remains a true moderate; a Christian who hides his fundamentalist belief in eternal damnation behind a façade of complex theo-babble, he merits our continued opposition.

    Liked by 1 person

  140. Nate:

    Why Should We Care?
    As an atheist, I prefer moderate Christianity to the fundamentalist variety, but that doesn’t mean I think moderate Christianity is some great thing. I think * it gives cover to the fundamentalists , and I think it prevents many people from being able to think clearly about certain topics …

    *My emphasis.

    It is worth remembering that the subject of ”cover”: Moderate Christianity providing cover for extremism, was a major part of the past couple of posts.
    While the core tenets of Christianity continue to be followed, no matter how liberally, there will always be some who will interpret doctrine and the bible literally to push extremes. The toll on human suffering and misery is almost incalculable and it continues day in,day out.
    And when you have a US President who cited his god as further authority prior to going to war you really should be sitting up and saying: ”Now hold on just a damn minute …”

    I am quite prepared to acknowledge that good things have been done by religious people, and continue to be done. However, I would wager the bad outweighs the good, and what good we can directly measure cannot be said without question would not have been done had it not been for religion.Although, ironically, we can likely say that some people only did good because they felt it was their duty to gain religious ”merit points”.

    If people who adhere to such beliefs wish to come on an atheist blog where they are welcomed, and express views that run contrary to the beliefs of the majority of the visitors, and especially those of the blog host, then they should have the integrity to demonstrate their bona fides by providing verifiable evidence to support their contrary views.
    In my experience such people demand similar standards for those of other religions and usually will not accept claims of flying winged horses for example.

    As far as this blog and Christianity is concerned, around 2000 years have passed and no evidence has been provided to back a single claim. Therefore, I do not consider it at all unreasonable to state that such claims are a load of hogwash, and anyone pushing said beliefs is either delusional or disingenuous.
    Under such circumstances they should be shown very little tolerance.

    Ark.

    Like

  141. Hey UnkleE,

    I apologize if you’ve already covered it here (there are a lot of comments, and I haven’t been able to get through all of them), but how do you specifically determine whether you’ve received divine revelation? In other words, how can you tell if you’re receiving instruction from a deity versus a thought that’s not part of a relationship with a living deity?

    Liked by 3 people

  142. Gary you mentioned:

    The good news is that UnkleE is very close to being a liberal: someone who believes that God does not punish non-believers for rejecting the Christian truth claims.

    Zoe: The idea that liberals don’t believe in divine punishment, is that really the case? Do liberals believe in an after-life and if so, is that life in heaven? If they do believe in heaven, do they actually believe that non-believers are in that heaven too? If not, where are the unbelievers post-death?

    Liked by 1 person

  143. I guess it depends on one’s definition of “liberal Christian”.

    My definition of a liberal Christian is someone who is a universalist: “Everyone will be saved.” My definition of a moderate Christian is anyone who is not a liberal Christian (universalist) and who is not a fundamentalist (biblical inerrantist).

    My former pastor (a moderate) believes that non-believers will SUFFER eternal separation from God, not eternal burning. In and of itself that doesn’t sound too bad, but the “devil” is in the details. When I explained to him that I would not consider separation from Yahweh and Jesus to be suffering as I consider Yahweh an evil monster and I consider Jesus to be delusional and narcissistic, insisting that “all men come to him”. He didn’t like that answer of course, and replied that separation from Jesus would be PAINFUL in some sense whether I wanted it to be or not!

    THAT folks, is torture! Even if it is simply psychological pain, if it is inflicted on me simply because of my choice of beliefs, it is eternal torture for a thought crime and is EVIL to the core. This is why we must fight moderate Christianity’s dangerous superstitions as well as those of fundamentalist Chrisitanity. The claim that moderate Christianity is “good” is simply a front; a façade. Behind it is a cultish attempt to blackmail you into giving up control of your mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  144. The other thing I would argue is this, Gary: Anyone who believes in an invisible spirit somehow influencing their lives (even if it’s positive) – indeed perhaps guiding their lives – suggests that a person is not fully in control of that same life. To me, this is the very definition of delusional.

    Liked by 2 people

  145. Ark

    Are we going to resort to asinine comments now?

    I thought comparing Unklee to Torquemada crossed that line. My point was, the kind of thinking that doesn’t distinguish between a moderate Christian who believes in his religion and the brutal leader of the Inquisition is fundamentalist.

    Sometimes you just gotta accept that people — you, me, Unklee, Nate and everyone — are wrong about stuff. You have unjustified beliefs, too. We can and should debate beliefs, attempt to persuade other people when we believe they are wrong, and consider the possibility that we are wrong. But at the end of the day, we have to learn to live with and look past that disagreement, even if we think the other guy is really, really wrong. That’s what secularism is all about. We can fight tooth and nail, if necessary, when it comes to imposing beliefs on others by law. But otherwise, we gotta have a little chill.

    Almost everybody can agree that most religious beliefs are delusional. I mean, if Christianity is true, then Muslims are deluded. If Judaism is true, then Christians are deluded. If Hinduism is true, then all western religions are delusional. And so on. As the saying goes, we atheists only go one religion further. Instead of getting angry over delusional religious beliefs, I prefer to take the Carl Sagan’s advice, “the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the [God] hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.”

    I find religious beliefs curious and unpersuasive, and I wonder why other people believe them. But I also know that sane, intelligent, thoughtful people hold those religious beliefs — including people of every religion who are far smarter than any of us! — and so I try to just judge the belief and not the people.

    Liked by 1 person

  146. Unklee

    I’m really surprised that you think this, and I feel sorry that I’ve given you that impression. On all the main doctrines of christianity – God as ultimate creator, Jesus as son of God, saviour, teacher, his virgin birth, his real resurrection, his future return, the necessity of forgiveness (in relation to God and in relation to others), the atonement, the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, the commands to love God and love neighbour, etc – I am boringly orthodox.

    I mean, that still gives you plenty of room to fit into the Unitarian tent.

    Most of the beliefs you identified there are unfalsifiable, in the sense that they are purely theological beliefs and not really subject to verification. However, I do think the evidence for how the virgin birth story developed strongly suggests it was invented. The Septuagint used the word associated with “virgin” in Isaiah, so Matthew used that particular translation to create another typological fulfillment. But in reality, the passage was not about a virgin. It was just an accident of translational history.

    Anyway, I don’t think you are inventing some new form of Christianity. You just don’t feel a need to accept or defend all the many doctrines that characterize the vast majority of Christian sects/denominations. Which, if it works for you, is fine. But I think what Nate and others are pointing out is that the implications of a lot of Christian beliefs are problematic. If you get off the train before the station we criticize, so be it. But there have to be *some* implications of your fundamental beliefs. Like the Kalam Cosmological argument, you can’t just say “things that begin to exist have a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause” and then dismiss critical concerns about what that belief implies about the existence and nature of time. It might be of little concern to you, but it is pretty critical to the overall argument.

    my belief in inclusivism (shared by CS Lewis and Billy Graham by the way)

    Maybe! Billy Graham certainly seemed open to the idea early on, but a book published under his name more recently seems to have been more dogmatic about hell. That said, I think it’s very possible that his worthless kids exploited their dad to push their ideas under his name.

    When discussing with me, it isn’t very relevant to argue against things that I don’t believe.

    I agree with that.

    Like

  147. I thought comparing Unklee to Torquemada crossed that line.

    Unklee is Australian and Torquemeda was Spanish. I would never have insulted dear Tomas by singing Tie me kangaroo down, sport.

    You have unjustified beliefs, too.

    I can only think of two: the Monkees were the greatest rock band in history, and purple flare trousers are the epitome of mens’ fashion.

    … and so I try to just judge the belief and not the people.

    Including those who condemn the use of contraceptives … or those who persuade kiddies that unless they acknowledge they are vile sinners and swear unconditional love for a narrative construct they will be burning in hell for eternity (you can even buy a book called the cage, so it must be true) or, that blowing themselves up is exactly what their god wants.

    Tell me, how’s that working out for you so far, Jon?

    Ark.

    Like

  148. I can only think of two [unjustified beliefs]: the Monkees were the greatest rock band in history, and purple flare trousers are the epitome of mens’ fashion.

    I would sooner endorse the resurrection than your fashion choices. In fact, your fashion sense may be a greater crime than the Inquisition.

    In defense of atheism, though, I think the fact that God has not struck you down for such beliefs is clear evidence that he cannot exist. Or, if he exists, that he is not good.

    Including those who condemn the use of contraceptives … or those who persuade kiddies that unless they acknowledge they are vile sinners and swear unconditional love for a narrative construct they will be burning in hell for eternity (you can even buy a book called the cage, so it must be true) or, that blowing themselves up is exactly what their god wants.

    I do judge behavior, as we all must. But I understand that beliefs are socially constructed, too. None of us are immune from that. If you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim and probably a pretty radical one. If you had been born in Utah, you would probably be a Mormon. If you had been born in India, you would probably be Hindu. And so on.

    Liked by 2 people

  149. @Jon.
    I am aware of the basic social dynamics of religion and the inevitability of cultural influence, but when ”faith rules”, the likelihood of ( a non-believer) reasoning someone such as unklee out of his faith in a one on one situation as we have here in Blogland, is about minus 273.15 degrees Celsius … or Absolute Zero, if you prefer.
    Unklee is not here to look for a way out of faith but to attempt to undermine and demonstrate why you ( and the rest of us) are in our own sweet way Doomed, and also rather silly for not accepting the ”Consensus of experts” regarding his god, God … or at least his interpretation and all that entails.

    Someone seeking verifiable affirmation of their religious beliefs does not come onto an atheist blog and argue the toss when, in reality, all he has to offer is the equivalent of a *Wish Sandwich.

    And to keep coming back suggests he is simply an intransigent, argumentative SOB, because surely he cannot honestly expect anyone here to suddenly turn tail and reconvert, showering him with blessings in the process for showing them the error of their ways!
    That would make him not only delusional but utterly bloody stupid as well.

    I would imagine someone such as Zoe would rather spend the rest of her life listening to Rolf Harris songs even to contemplate for one minute … one second the horror of returning to the fold.

    Therefore, I have no qualms about calling him out. It isn’t personal, by the way. He just keeping poking his head out the trench, babbles a stream of semi-coherent supernatural crap, whilst providing no verifiable evidence for his outrageous claims and simply invites getting his head metaphorically blown off.

    If there is any aim in engaging such folk it is the hope that the ridiculousness of their religious belief is shown up for what it truly is, and maybe … just maybe, some who are reading along but not commenting may be given pause for thought; if not from my delivery style, then perhaps because of more subtle writers such as you, or SB, Nate, or even Gary.

    Ark.

    * Wish sandwich: Two slices of bread wishing they had a piece of cheese to go between them.

    Liked by 1 person

  150. Ark, I think you will find that unkleE likes coming over to Nate’s Blog for the attention he receives too. If you look at his posts at his blog, he usually doesn’t receive a lot of comments. (kinda like mine LOL) . He knows if he visits Nate’s Blog , he’s sure to get a lot of attention and if it starts to get nasty, Nate will step in and save the day. Just an observation ……..
    If unkleE would truly use “logic” instead of pretending to, he would be one of us ! 🙂

    Like

  151. @Ken.

    he usually doesn’t receive a lot of comments. (kinda like mine LOL) .

    Pictures of scantily clad wimmin … or kittens. You can’t lose. Sure fire winner. Loads of comments. Honest.

    Like

  152. Hi Sirius,

    1. It’s not a big part of my belief or experience. I would think I’ve only had a few times when I thought God had communicated in a discernible way in over half a century as a believer. Many more times I think he has guided my thinking, but that’s not the same.

    2. If you’re thinking of things like voices or visions I’m sorry, I can’t help you. All I have had are thoughts and “coincidences”, and of course, thoughts are thoughts, wherever they come from. I have had a few times where I felt that God put a thought in my head, but never at the time, only later, as I considered how unexpected the thought was and the outcome.

    3. And so I dealt with those thoughts just like I would deal with any thought. When I have been feeling low, I have occasionally thought destructive things, but I know that’s a futile pursuit, so I put them aside. When I have crazy thoughts, innovative thoughts or just bog-standard ones, I consider them. And so on. So when I had thoughts that I later felt were God-given, I just considered them in the same way. One was perhaps an exception, the time I was warned about a car accident, and then I responded immediately, not because I knew it was from God, but because I pray for protection each day and it was prudent (i.e. more logical) to stop and risk wasting 30 seconds rather than keep going and risk something really bad.

    4. By far the way I believe God relates to me most is via my normal thinking, conversation and reading – things I come across, the way I respond etc, have led me over the years to change my thinking, become (perhaps!) a better person, etc. I think that has been God, but I couldn’t point to many standouts and I couldn’t prove any of it. My belief in God depends on other evidence, and leads to this “relationship”.

    So I hope that answers your question.

    Liked by 1 person

  153. Hi Jon,

    ”that still gives you plenty of room to fit into the Unitarian tent”

    Jesus = son of God, Holy Spirit, Unitarian?? We must have different definitions.

    ”Most of the beliefs you identified there are unfalsifiable, in the sense that they are purely theological beliefs and not really subject to verification. “

    Historians verify that Jesus lived, taught, was known as a miracle-worker, gave people reason to think he was (in their terms) Messiah, was executed but his tomb was later found empty and his followed reported visions of him alive, and this belief converted the adversary Paul and turned a struggling bunch of nobodies into a force that changed the world. Nobody has come up with an alternative explanation of those historical facts that satisfies me.

    Add to that the arguments from the origin and design of the universe, the human experience of consciousness, free will, ethics and rationality, the very many experiences of God via visions, dreams, mystical experiences, healing, comfort and guidance, many of which can be well verified, and the findings of psychology and neuroscience that belief enhances rather than sours life and health, and I think there is a formidable case.

    I recognise that you disagree, but I don’t think my beliefs are “purely theological”.

    ”Like the Kalam Cosmological argument, you can’t just say “things that begin to exist have a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause” and then dismiss critical concerns about what that belief implies about the existence and nature of time. It might be of little concern to you, but it is pretty critical to the overall argument.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are getting at here. If you are disagreeing with the Kalam argument, that’s fine, I think it can be formulated in ways that defeat the problems. But if you are using it as an example of something else, I’m sorry it isn’t clear to me.

    ”Almost everybody can agree that most religious beliefs are delusional. I mean, if Christianity is true, then Muslims are deluded.”

    I have two problems with this.

    (1) Deluded is a technical psychological term, and I think you are using it too freely. If you mean it in the psychological sense, then I would be interested to see papers in support, because I think I can show that the connection between belief and delusion is quite wrong. But if you don’t mean it in the psychological sense, why not just say “mistaken”?

    (2) You are treating this in too binary a fashion. There are things on which all/most theists agree – the existence of a creator God, likely many aspects of ethics, sometimes more. So I don’t think of Muslims as necessarily being deluded (though some may be), I just think they are mistaken about some of their beliefs. That’s very different.

    Like

  154. I have two problems with this.

    Of course you do! The surprising thing is you are able to contain yourself and limit them to only two.

    Firstly …. what frakking tomb? You keep playing this card. Where is it? There is no record of this supposed tomb outside of the bible so to introduce it as any sort of evidence is disingenuous.

    The problem you are faced with …. and of course refuse point blank to honestly deal with is that adherents of other religions will posit very similar objections about your religion.
    Your rationalization of the empty tomb scenario and dismissal of Muslim belief as simply ”mistaken’ is the perfect example

    I just think they are mistaken about some of their beliefs. That’s very different.

    So is it possible that you might consider that you are also mistaken about some of your beliefs?
    For example: You raised the issue of the Virgin Birth in an earlier comment.
    You have been shown (more than once if memory serves?) that this is patently false, acknowledged as such by the late Catholic scholar Raymond Brown, which I pointed out to you and I am damn sure you were already aware of this.
    And of course you are unlikely to be so blinkered as to not realise the degree of ”gymnastics” that had to be performed to arrive at the Virgin Birth Prophecy, as Jon mentioned.
    That you still acknowledge this as part of your personal credo suggests what I wonder?

    And just how do others see your patent intransigence concerning such nonsense? That you are willfully ignorant?
    Or delusional?

    As an interesting aside the ”Original gown” of the Virgin Mary is currently on display in Cyprus.
    No doubt it will attract a great deal of interest from other not delusional Christians like you who will make obeisance, say a prayer or two in the hope simply looking at might cure their cancer or perhaps their dandruff
    and the church will rake in several,more million as it fleeces even more dumb-arsed sheep.
    Why do you not feel a little ashamed over such shenanigans, Unklee?

    Ark

    Like

  155. Ark:

    I would imagine someone such as Zoe would rather spend the rest of her life listening to Rolf Harris songs even to contemplate for one minute … one second the horror of returning to the fold.

    Zoe: Maybe. I don’t know who Rolf is. 😉

    Like

  156. Ark you know that the once beloved Rolf Harris is now in prison?

    I found this video amusing, though the language is a bit ripe:

    To think Rolf even painted Queen Elizabeth’s portrait.

    Liked by 1 person

  157. Hey UnkleE,

    I think maybe my questions might have been a little vague. What I’m asking for clarification on is this idea of divine guidance as was quoted by Nate in his post above. Admittedly, it can get referred to sometimes as divine revelation, divine inspiration, plain revelation or inspiration, talking with god, and many, many other things. All I’m really asking here is how you personally separate divine guidance (in whatever form it might take) from ideas that might not be divine in origin.

    For example, how I would have answered my own question when I was a Christian, I would have said that I compare anything that might be guidance to what I already understand from biblical precepts. Therefore, if another Christian tried telling me that god wanted me to more publicly condemn sinners, I would have looked to bible verses to help evaluate it.

    I hope this clarifies what I’m asking, but if it doesn’t, just let me know!

    Like

  158. Growing up fundamentalist/evangelical I was taught that God speaks to a true Christian in his “heart”. God “moves” you, “leads” you to do his will. What was odd to me would be to see half of a church determine that God had “moved” them to do exactly the opposite of what the other half of the church believed that God had “moved” them to do…and thus, a new church or denomination is born.

    When I became a confessional (conservative) Lutheran, I was told that this “speaking in your heart” stuff was evangelical nonsense. I was told that God only speaks in one manner: through his Word—the Bible. God has given Christians his principles to live by in the Bible. It is then their responsibility to use their brains to make wise decisions.

    Roman Catholics of course consider this nonsense. They believe that the Church, the Magisterium, is the manner in which God has chosen to communicate his will to humans, not through the worship of a book.

    So which is it:
    –God speaking through a group of old men in Rome?
    –God speaking through an enchanted book?
    or, God speaking as a ghost inside your head?

    Liked by 5 people

  159. It really is quite amazing what the brain can conjure up, eh?

    I went back to ratamacue0’s and re read this post.

    https://aspiretofindtruth.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/what-started-my-questioning/

    I think you would rather enjoy the conversation between Victoria and Unklee from a couple of years ago.
    It will give you a clearer understanding of just how. as Jon put it (so) vague and slippery that it is virtually impossible to pin down any specific meaning.(/em>

    And this s important too:
    Unklee: ( in reply to a comment from Nate)

    My reasons for believing in him all come from the NT. Therefore, if the OT wasn’t there, or it was radically different, it wouldn’t make any difference to my belief in him.

    It is critical that you understand this (even if you don’t agree with it).

    And yet he ”swears” by the Virgin Birth …. which is a prophecy from the OT of course. Slippery indeed!

    Tells you pretty much all you need to know about our resident non-delusional denominational christian, I reckon!

    The fun starts about here …

    N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ
    February 27, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Like

  160. Unklee

    Jesus = son of God, Holy Spirit, Unitarian?? We must have different definitions.

    You are right, “the Unitarian tent” was a poor description. After all, Unitarians are most well known for being pretty tolerant of a wide range of views. I think it would be more accurate to say that your own interpretation of Christianity is minimal enough that it could fit within a wide range of sects and denominations. That is good, insofar as it avoids taking doctrinal stands on things you could only guess at.

    Historians verify that Jesus lived, taught, was known as a miracle-worker, gave people reason to think he was (in their terms) Messiah, was executed but his tomb was later found empty and his followed reported visions of him alive, and this belief converted the adversary Paul and turned a struggling bunch of nobodies into a force that changed the world. Nobody has come up with an alternative explanation of those historical facts that satisfies me.

    I think “verify” is the wrong word there. Historians believe, based on the available evidence, and that Jesus was a real person, a teacher/preacher who was said to be a miracle worker (though, at what point that was said about him is less clear). I’m not sure what percentage of (relevant) scholars believe Jesus claimed to be the messiah, but I understand the argument that he must have claimed to be the Messiah because his execution would not have inspired his followers to come up with the idea. I think that’s a very reasonable, perhaps persuasive argument, though I also think there’s nothing about a rural Galilean preacher that would inspire people to think he was about to overthrown Rome.

    I agree that Paul was a convert and that the movement eventually grew very large, albeit largely outside of Jerusalem. In fact, I think it is quite interesting that Christianity was mostly rejected in Jerusalem and Galilee where people were (allegedly) firsthand witnesses to God himself performing miracles, fulfilling prophecies and generally showing the power of God. Christianity succeeded, not among witnesses, but in distant places where converts responded to stories rather than evidence. By the 4th century, Christians amounted to about 10% of the population of the Roman Empire (so, around 5 million Christians). That is substantial, certainly, but it was the conversion of Constantine and the support of later emperors that really kicked Christianity from one of the “religions of the realm” to the dominant position it eventually attained. So I think the conquest of Christianity owes an uncomfortably large amount to powerful cultural and political forces.

    I would question the empty tomb conclusion, which I believe we’ve discussed here previously. When questioned about it, Craig only cited some minor and dubious reference in a very old paper that claimed overwhelming support for the idea but didn’t actually provide evidence of such. Unfortunately, that is a weakness of the field of biblical studies. It is difficult to know where scholars come down on many of these issues in any collective sense.

    I recognise that you disagree, but I don’t think my beliefs are “purely theological”.

    By “purely theological”, I am referring to “God as ultimate creator, Jesus as son of God, saviour … his virgin birth … his future return, the necessity of forgiveness (in relation to God and in relation to others), the atonement, the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, the commands to love God and love neighbour…” Those are not evidential or rational, but must necessarily be faith beliefs. As WLC says of the resurrection, it is incredibly improbable as a natural occurrence, but it is not improbable if there is a God and God willed it to happen. That is obviously true, of course, but it is a theological belief. It requires a faith belief, not only in God, but also in knowing the mind and will of God. Those things are necessarily the realm of theology.

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are getting at here. If you are disagreeing with the Kalam argument, that’s fine, I think it can be formulated in ways that defeat the problems. But if you are using it as an example of something else, I’m sorry it isn’t clear to me.

    Yes, I probably could have explained that a bit better. I intended it as an analogy. The foundational beliefs do have a lot of implications that you can’t just handwave away. The Kalam cosmological argument doesn’t just require you to believe the three premises. The premises imply a lot of other fact-claims that must necessarily be true for the KCA to be true. Similarly, Christianity — whatever your interpretation of it — involves a lot of other fact-claims and implications, some of which you share, some of which you don’t and some of which you are agnostic about. Those are what Nate is exploring.

    Deluded is a technical psychological term, and I think you are using it too freely.

    The psychiatric field specifically exempts religious beliefs from the “delusion” label! I’m just using delusion in the dictionary sense, “a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact”, and not as a medical diagnosis. I do not intend it as an atheist slur against religious beliefs. Atheists are certainly delusional about many matters — here, I would cite mythicism and a lot of the atheist tropes about history and Christianity that Tim O’Neill takes on at History for Atheists (http://historyforatheists.blogspot.com). Humans are susceptible to delusion because humans are susceptible to the various fallacies (e.g., confirmation bias). Monotheists would have to agree that other religions are false. Therefore, the fixed false belief in false religions is delusional, even if it is very understandable and common.

    “Mistaken” would also be correct. Perhaps we’re getting too deep into minor semantics, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  161. Hi rata, I don’t think I saw those questions.

    “most well-studied moderate Christians who engage in apologetics…seem to believe that God wrote the Bible as a riddle, and only those who are intelligent enough to decipher the riddle, can understand what God REALLY meant to say.”

    “Riddle” is an interesting word, I think it expresses something true, but I think a concept like “litmus paper” expresses it better. I think it is a compliment to suggest that those who believe the Bible are intelligent, but I think everybody can receive what they need.

    “would you agree that we skeptic atheists who discuss these matters relatively civilly with you “provide cover” for the more polemical ones, like Ark?”

    I think this is a good example. In this context, what does “cover” mean? One person’s politeness doesn’t obscure another person’s lack of it – a very casual observer who read only a few comments would be less likely to see it I guess, but anyone who follows the blog can see the difference. And the same would be true if a polite person visited an angry blog, but I doubt we’d say the angry people provide cover for the polite one.

    “Do you relate similarly to evangelical / fundamentalist-type Christian bloggers and commenters as I do here with Ark?”

    I guess. Sometimes I imagine we all decide whether and how to respond instinctively, but where I think about it much, I try to consider why I would respond to someone. If I can see no real reason to, I don’t, regardless of their viewpoint. There are many conservative christians who are willing to discuss thoughtfully, many who don’t, so that is one “filter” for me. Also, I am more interested in some issues than others, so that is another filter – my interests are apologetics, philosophy, cosmology, neuroscience, history, rather than theology, especially straw-splitting theology.

    So I’m interested. (1) Where are you heading with these questions. (2)What is your interest and purpose in discussing here and elsewhere?

    Like

  162. Hi Sirius, I think (hope!) I’ve got it.

    “All I’m really asking here is how you personally separate divine guidance (in whatever form it might take) from ideas that might not be divine in origin.”

    I think my previous answer applies, but it can just be generalised a little.

    1. I’ve never experienced anything other than thoughts in my brain that I think were from God, so I can’t say how I’d react if I had a vision or something. But everything needs to be interpreted by our brain, so I imagine I would react similar to Richard Dawkins, who said he wouldn’t trust even the strongest visionary experience, but would think it was a hallucination – i.e. he would use his brain to make a judgment. I reckon I’d do the same, just like you said you would once have done – use my brain and judge things according to scripture, logic, experience, evidence, etc.

    2. The same applies to what I do believe I have experienced – thoughts that appear just like other thoughts nd have no obvious supernatural origin like a vision might have. I judge them according to evidence, scripture, experience, common sense, logic, all the rest of my knowledge and beliefs, my present situation, etc. Most thoughts and ideas just form part of my thinking and I never even consider that they might be from God, but very occasionally I do decide that, for reasons that I’ve previously given. I reckon it’s much more likely that I would miss a genuine communication (false negative) than claim a communication that didn’t happen (false positive).

    3. I really think that you and others are probably making more of all this than I would. I believe communication occurs, but either (1) it is subtle and can only be seen cumulatively (e.g. I look back over my life and feel I have been clearly guided in many good ways) or (2) it is rare (for me).

    Does that answer what you were asking?

    Liked by 1 person

  163. Hi Jon,

    ”I think it would be more accurate to say that your own interpretation of Christianity is minimal enough that it could fit within a wide range of sects and denominations.”

    I think that’s a fairer description, though I would say that my belief is orthodox enough to fit many denominations. For example, I went thru the Apostles Creed, and there’s only two bits (if I’ve remembered it right) that I’d baulk at – “descended into hell” and “Holy Catholic Church”, and I wouldn’t totally oppose either of them.

    ”I’m not sure what percentage of (relevant) scholars believe Jesus claimed to be the messiah”

    No I agree, that would be a contentious statement. But I said he ”gave people reason to think he was (in their terms) Messiah”, which I think is historically true.

    ”I think it is quite interesting that Christianity was mostly rejected in Jerusalem and Galilee where people were (allegedly) firsthand witnesses to God himself performing miracles, fulfilling prophecies and generally showing the power of God. Christianity succeeded, not among witnesses, but in distant places where converts responded to stories rather than evidence.”

    I don’t think this is true. All the writers of the NT were Jews apart from Luke, all the leaders of the early church were Jews, Paul generally visited synagogues first, and many Pharisees and priests converted in the first few decades. Further, I read a scholar say that many christians saw the warning signs with the Jewish rebellion in 67 CE and left Jerusalem and Judea to avoid the conflict, based on some of Jesus’ prophecies. So I think the church was Jewish up until after the rebellion, and it was only later that Gentiles began to predominate.

    ”Those are not evidential or rational, but must necessarily be faith beliefs.”

    Yes, I agree, my beliefs are a mixture of historical/evidential/experiential/philosophical, which are subject to verification and falsification, and theological which are not. My points is that they are not all theological, and the core can be discussed in evidential terms.

    ”Craig only cited some minor and dubious reference in a very old paper that claimed overwhelming support for the idea but didn’t actually provide evidence of such. “

    Were you the one who wrote to Habermas? In which case you know about his paper. That is the basis for some “facts”, and the only criticism of it is that he hasn’t published his list of 1400 papers. But my own reading suggests he is right – I think it fair to say that most scholars I have read, both christian and other believe either or both the empty tomb or the appearances are historical.

    ”Christianity — whatever your interpretation of it — involves a lot of other fact-claims and implications, some of which you share, some of which you don’t and some of which you are agnostic about. “

    I’m sure that’s true, about my beliefs and yours, and everyone else’s. We assume a real world, we assume our rationality and memories and our senses, etc. Were they what you were referring to, or something else?

    ”“Mistaken” would also be correct. Perhaps we’re getting too deep into minor semantics, though.”

    Yeah, I’m happy with that. (And I too read Tim’s blog, and sometimes discuss with him on a forum we are both on.) Thanks.

    Like

  164. @Unklee.
    So in actual fact, the times where you have felt divinely guided/inspired (a tight beam communication directed at you specifically from Yahweh/Jesus) there is absolutely no way of discerning the veracity of your claim/s or that it is not simply a minor delusional episode likely influenced by you religious beliefs.

    And as you consider there is only one genuine god – your god – It would be fair to say that, you would more than likely attribute some form of delusional episode to a Muslim who claimed Allah spoke to him/her.

    Also, you would probably feel similarly about claims made by Jews, Hindus and any other religion, am I correct?

    Therefore, can you at least understand that from the position of the non-Christian, and especially from those who were once in the same religious boat you are still in, and who quite likely made similar claims. that you are sounding like someone either suffering from exactly the same mental condition you would likely attribute to someone who is not of your faith?

    As Jon has pointed out: ”The psychiatric field specifically exempts religious beliefs from the “delusion” label!”

    And yet, the symptoms seem no different from one who is classified as delusional but makes no overt religious claims.Though I would venture that, if someone were to claim they were the reincarnation of the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth they might well be taken in for some serious observation. In fact I would be interested to know how would you react to such a claimant?

    During the dialogue you had with Victoria over on ratamacue0’s blog:

    https://aspiretofindtruth.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/what-started-my-questioning/

    you dismissed the professional medical criteria used to discern that the biblical characters Paul, Jesus and other assorted biblical prophets display all the signs of delusional behaviour one would normally attribute to real people, and you were adamant one could not rule out the possibility that these characters were spoken to/had genuine visions etc by/from Yahweh.

    On the face of it you seem to have established this simply from reading and adding your personal interpretation to bible text. A text that is , largely anonymous, known to be corrupt and suffer from, not least, interpolation, historical error, physical (geographical) error, other assorted erroneous claims and fraud.

    Simply on this basis alone do you, as one who tends to eschew theology in favour of Christian Apologetics and neuroscience think there is a high degree of probability that because of your penchant for soundly based evidence think it is a lot more likely you simply imagined you were being addressed by your god, Yahweh/Jesus?

    It is also worth mentioning that, if you still hold to divine communication I would ask this: Why do you believe you were singled out over and above someone like Nate, for example? As Nate was a devout believer as were so many on this blog alone, and thousands of others, many of whom were committed Pastors who had dedicated their lives to saving as many non-believers as possible and bringing them to your god, surely it would not be beyond him to have communicated with these people prior to deconversion that he really appreciated what they were doing and that he loved them and that, while he understood their doubt they should hold fast and remain Christians?
    As you claim you were the recipient of divine communication why not them? After all, depending on one’s interpretation Nate is bound for Hell for eternity. This doesn’t seem in the least an example of a Just god.

    So, why you and not Nate?

    Ark

    Like

  165. It’s a curious thing, isn’t it Ark? Just think, even Mother Teresa – someone who was canonized – never did hear the ‘voice of (her) god’. Curious, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  166. Indeed. Curiouser and curiouser ….

    As I pointed out in my latest comment further down, it does not seem in the least bit just that someone like Nate or even Bruce Gerencser would not have been communicated with, especially considering how devout both were, and how they may now be destined to eternal damnation and torture in Hell.
    Would it really have been such a stretch for Yahweh to metaphorically flick Nate on the ear and whisper:
    ”Oi, listen up you grotty little shit. Of course I am real and I love you to bits, so I’m warning you, don’t you dare deconvert, all right?

    What’s so special about Unklee?
    He doesn’t even give a stuff about the Old Testament and in the bible, even Jesus and Paul thought it was real.

    Like

  167. kcchief1

    Ark, I think you will find that unkleE likes coming over to Nate’s Blog for the attention he receives too.

    I think we all comment here because we like debating (or arguing) the ideas. Unklee is no different, except that he gets a little ganged up on because most of the other commenters disagree with him. I disagree with him, as well, but I admire his willingness to engage in the conversation and his consistently pleasant demeanor.

    I’ll take a pleasant, kind theist over an unpleasant atheist every day. I think what we believe matters, but how we act is more important.

    Liked by 3 people

  168. I am happy to see that UnkleE accepts majority scholarly opinion.

    Bart Ehrman has stated that he agrees with Habermas that the majority of scholars probably do believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb. Most scholars also believe that Jesus’ followers believed that he appeared to them in some fashion shortly after his death. However, it should be noted that there are many natural explanations for empty graves, and, tens of thousands of grieving friends and loved ones have claimed to have seen their dead loved ones appear to them. Therefore, these two “facts” do not in themselves lend any support the claim of the supernatural reanimation of a bloated first century corpse.

    I wonder if UnkleE accepts majority scholarly opinion on these issues:
    1. The Gospels were NOT written by eyewitnesses nor by the associates of eyewitnesses.
    2. The Gospels were NOT written in Palestine, but in distant lands.
    3. The Gospels were NOT written by Jews, but by Gentile Christians. The Gospel of John in particular reeks of anti-Semitism. A Jew did not write this book.

    If one appeals to majority scholarly opinion on one issue, one should be consistent and accept majority scholarly opinion on all issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  169. @Gary

    If one appeals to majority scholarly opinion on one issue, one should be consistent and accept majority scholarly opinion on all issues.

    And of course, he doesn’t …

    By his own admission he will toss out the Old Testament as irrelevant to his belief in the veracity of the New, and the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth. Also he accepts pretty much all the Apostles Creed and also such eye- watering wonders as the Divine Rape and subsequent Virgin Birth. Which, all rational honest people who are aware of the Isaiah passage know is a piece of spurious nonsense hijacked for the benefit of Christians.

    There is a term for this type of behaviour/person, and the phrase ” lack of integrity” immediately springs to mind. However, in deference to Jon who prefers nice atheists I won’t use it.

    However … feel free to fill in the blank space with a description of your own choosing: Unklee is a ( ……… ).

    Like

  170. This is an example of how supposedly moderate religion – in this case moderate Islam -gives cover to the most extreme version, even though they protest they do not.

    It all comes from the same book, remember?

    Definitely worth a read. Here’s the link.

    http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/interview-historian-tom-holland-on-isis-receiving-death-threats-and-why-there-is-a-civil-war-in-the-a3541236.html

    Feel free to come back and tell me Christians will never be like this …

    Oh, and Jon, I am not comparing unklee with ISIS… just in case you might start frothing! 😉 And for the record, I was not comparing unklee to Torquemada either.

    Holland was in Iraq for his new Channel 4 documentary, which explores the roots of Isis and airs tonight. The site, in no man’s land, was a mass grave, where Yazidi women who were too old for Isis to want as sex slaves had been murdered: “We hadn’t had time to recce it, so I didn’t know there’d be bones.” Off camera, Holland vomited.

    Like

  171. UnkleE is a typical moderate Christian, Ark. I do not believe it has anything to do with a lack of integrity. They ALL do this type of picking and choosing of what to believe literally and what to disregard as non-literal. They MUST do this to maintain the rationality of their cherished belief system. Their belief system is ultimately based on their intense subjective emotions, not on evidence, so the evidence can and must be redefined if the evidence threatens their emotional tranquility.

    I have been in a long discussion with a moderate Christian friend regarding the evidence for the Resurrection. I have read many books by Christians scholars to satisfy his insistence that I “know what I’m talking about”. Now that I have read all these books, guess what his statement is?

    “I was wrong to insist that the truths of Christianity can be proven by objective evidence. That is a fundamentalist approach. The truths of Christianity are ultimately based on faith, which is a matter of mystery; of enchantment.”

    I replied: You mean…magic.

    Liked by 2 people

  172. Unklee

    I don’t think this is true. All the writers of the NT were Jews apart from Luke, all the leaders of the early church were Jews, Paul generally visited synagogues first, and many Pharisees and priests converted in the first few decades. Further, I read a scholar say that many christians saw the warning signs with the Jewish rebellion in 67 CE and left Jerusalem and Judea to avoid the conflict, based on some of Jesus’ prophecies. So I think the church was Jewish up until after the rebellion, and it was only later that Gentiles began to predominate.

    Were they all Jews? I mean, Paul was definitely a Jew and it certainly seems likely that many of the other authors were Jewish, but…if so, they were definitely very hellenized Jews.

    I don’t dispute that the earliest Christians were in and around Jerusalem. What I’m saying is that there is very little evidence that Christianity really thrived in Jerusalem and Galilee. Even the apostles were said to have left Jerusalem to travel throughout the broader world to preach. While there is a real lack of evidence about what was going on in Jerusalem in the 1st century, it seems fairly clear that Christianity began as a sect of Judaism, grew among the diaspora Jews who were spread throughout the Roman empire but then took hold among gentiles. For the most part, Jews rejected Christianity.

    Were you the one who wrote to Habermas? In which case you know about his paper. That is the basis for some “facts”, and the only criticism of it is that he hasn’t published his list of 1400 papers. But my own reading suggests he is right – I think it fair to say that most scholars I have read, both christian and other believe either or both the empty tomb or the appearances are historical.

    I met with Habermas and we discussed his work. For what it’s worth, Habermas only says he has “compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it” and that “approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb…” It is not clear to me that this means these scholars actually support the historicity of the empty tomb. Instead, he seems to be saying only that they favor one of the arguments that Habermas says supports the historicity of the empty tomb. Those are very different things. And the arguments for the tomb include things like “Jerusalem being the least-likely place for a resurrection proclamation” and “the early pre-Pauline creed…” So if a scholar agreed that the Corinthians 15 involved a pre-Pauline creed, or that Jerusalem was an unlikely place for a resurrection proclamation, that puts them into the “supports the historicity of the empty tomb” category? That seems like a dubious inference.

    Generally, I think it is problematic to cite Habermas on this when we have nothing but his word to take for it and we don’t even have insight into his methodology. The fact that even his defenders cannot say how he arrived at the figures is obviously problematic.

    I think an “empty tomb” of some sort is plausible, but it is far from established and it does not pose any difficulty for my argument. So while it isn’t something I would concede as historically likely, I don’t think it’s particularly significant.

    Liked by 1 person

  173. Oh, and Jon, I am not comparing unklee with ISIS… just in case you might start frothing! And for the record, I was not comparing unklee to Torquemada either.

    I’m not saying you are worse than ISIS, but….even ISIS doesn’t wear purple pants.

    Liked by 1 person

  174. @Jon

    Correction … flared purple pants. If you are going to malign my sense of dress at least have the decency to get it right. And remember, I did acknowledge that it was an unjustified belief and these days I do not hold with it. Well not much. Certainly a lot less on the flares than the purple. After all, purple was the colour of emperors.

    Like

  175. well… I’ve missed a lot…

    Diana, I noticed that among other things you said this,

    “’That is an important question you must answer, Diane: Is magic of any kind real?’
    How did the first cells reproduce? Evolutionist answer: MAGIC!”

    I realize there’s been a some unproductive back and forths here, but in all seriousness, evolution doesn’t speak about how the first cells came to be or how they reproduced, at least that I’m aware of. Evolution explains how organisms change overtime, and relies on the fossil record (http://www.transitionalfossils.com/), but also evidence within DNA, etc.

    Where did life come from and how did it originate? Scientists have differing theories that they’re looking into, and different religions state different things about it. Gen 1 says that God did it in 6 days. But for me, there’s a few issues…

    1) some guy wrote something down and stated, “God said so,” and “God did that…” There are just claims, unsupported claims by some guy… we don’t even know who wrote it…

    2) Gen 1 says that God made the birds by bringing them out of the water, but Gen 2 says that God made the birds by bringing them out of the earth.

    3) Gen 1 puts the birds in the same sky as the sun, moon and stars, all of which it puts below the water from above… to me it looks like some ancient fellow, who knew nothing of the solar system, was just trying to explain what he saw… the sky is blue and water comes down from it, so there must be water up there… I can see the sun, moon and stars, so they all must be on this side of that water along with the birds…

    4) Science is looking for answers that it can support with evidence while the Bible makes a random claim and labels you as rebellious or wicked

    5) the evidence dug up from the actual creation speaks of an older earth than the human author of the bible claims…

    And if anything, it’s the bible that says life first came about by magic, while science says that there must have been a natural and physical cause, and they search to find it – no magic required….

    Liked by 1 person

  176. Diana,

    While the walking dead is an entertaining show, I’m not sure that it’s completely fair to compare the Israelite conquest of Canaan to Rick and his bunch taking out a group of cannibals.

    But I don’t believe Rick and his group killed babies or kept virgin girls as spoils of war, did they? If they did, would those people you asked about it still think this fictitious battle was just?

    Imagine a young girl watching grown men rush into their homes, and then begin to hack their father to death? Then imagine her watch as they turn to her mother, stabbing and slashing her as she screamed for her life, and likely tried shielding her children with her own body, while the young brother screamed in terror….

    maybe the young terrified boy, as tears are streaming down his red face in the worst kind of panic, pleads for his life – but not as a man would, but like a little boy would plead to not get a spanking… yet his pleas would fall on deaf ears as these men then turn to him, hacking through his little doughy toddler arms that he raised in defense, the blades of these big men cutting through them and into his soft cheeks, and tummy… they probably trample the little boy’s body as they rush in competition to be the first one to claim the virgin… probably had to very that she was actually a virgin… just so they could be sure that they were doing god’s will, i’m sure…

    and this young girl watches all of it, only to be spared… because her vagina is still unspoiled…

    I mean, that’s what we’re talking about. I think you have to tell yourselves that the Canaanites were wicked in order to try and make some sense out of this horror. But the book that says these people were wicked, was written by men – not god – but written by the men who committed these detestable acts.

    But I must say that if these peoples were actual devils themselves, I still cannot see how such an atrocity is justifiable…

    I think you just haven’t thought it through…

    Liked by 3 people

  177. @ William.
    Exactly! How are the actions of the Invading Israelites any different at all to what ISIS is currently doing? Apart from the fact the Canaan invasion is completely fiction, of course?

    But this is a major foundation block of the bible and the eventual emergence of Christianity.

    Abrahamic religion, no matter how watered-down, is based on violence and bloodshed, and people such as unklee need to be made aware in no uncertain terms that through their championing of this disgusting, superstitious nonsense they are tacitly giving the nod to people such as Diane and Tom to forge ahead with their own even more unsavory versions.

    If supposed Moderate Christians do not openly, and publicly condemn the actions reflected in the Old Testament and acknowledge they are nothing but historical fiction they cannot complain if they get tarred with the same brush.

    As with all forms of Islam, the beliefs of biblical innerantist and moderates alike all come from the same book.

    Liked by 2 people

  178. Ark,

    I agree, although I’m not as bothered that people believe in God or the bible as you are. What get’s me is the great effort one will take to ignore all the evidence around or all the problems, and then act as if Christianity makes perfect sense and everyone who doesnt agree is crazy – it’s madness.

    And with the above, with the discussion on the Israelite conquest of Canaan and all the horror that goes along with it – a believer will also have to conclude that murder, genocide, killing babies and stealing young virgin girls as spoils of conquest is not evil, because then God would be commanding evil – and they cant have that. SO in order to maintain their position, in light of these things, the only conclusion seems to be that murder, genocide, killing babies and stealing young virgin girls as spoils of conquest are not evil in and of themselves, but only if God did not sanction them. It’s whether God approves of act that makes it evil or good.

    So maybe ISIS is doing good too, as long as God approves of it. Since the bible doesnt mention one way or the the other about the actions of ISIS, and since he’s not whispering in anyone’s ears, then purhaps they’re also doing god’s will…

    … that, or the whole idea is completely crazy… maybe groups of people acted that way, whether they were Israelite or Philistine… Maybe ancient people did crazy and barbaric things that helped their group, even if it was at the expense of another group, and they routinely put it in the perspective of their god(s). God(s) are testing us, punishing us, blessing us… god(s) gave us this other people’s lands, etc….

    They wrote a book saying that God said they should do it, so it must be true. Dont believe it, well the book says that the book is true, so there you go… I mean, what more could one need? They killed babies and stole virgin girls because god wanted them to, and we know this because those people said that god told them to…

    maybe it’s just that it only sounds crazy…

    Liked by 1 person

  179. Diane,

    proving the bible with passages of the bible that say it’s true, is pretty poor evidence… in fact, it’s no more convincing for the bible than it would be for the koran, or the book of mormon, or for the crazy homeless guy down the street…

    I mean really, your bible cant even pass its own test…. “Obey God, rather than man…:” well, interestingly, you HAVE to obey and first believe the men who wrote the bible, and trust and hope that they actually speak for god like they claim – because god has said nothing for himself – you must, and are forced, to first trust and believe and have faith in those men before you could possibly have faith in the god they make claims about…

    Like

  180. Gary,

    Your comment demonstrating how one group of christians believes god speaks to them through their hearts, while others through the bible, while others believe god speaks through individuals like the pope was very, very good.

    I’ll often hear believers talk about how we need the bible and/or God to know what’s right and to know what to do – but you’re exactly right, no one christian sees it the same. Even among the people in an individual congregation, two devout and well meaning people will reach different conclusions and have different interpretations on various topics… so if we really do need a god to keep us all on the same page, or to tell us what we’re suppose to do and believe, then the bible sure ain’t it…

    Liked by 3 people

  181. @William,

    I agree, although I’m not as bothered that people believe in God or the bible as you are. What get’s me is the great effort one will take to ignore all the evidence around or all the problems, and then act as if Christianity makes perfect sense and everyone who doesn’t agree is crazy – it’s madness.

    I’m sure if you ask nicely, Unklee will explain it to you in a way that will make perfect sense. In fact, you might even reconsider re-converting again.

    Like

  182. Hey UnkleE,

    It’s an answer I can work with.

    The reason this is important is because I want to get a fair and accurate depiction of your reasoning behind what you believe. Without it, no one can evaluate your position with any fairness.

    With regards to how you determine matters regarding the divine, it strikes me as a very personal framework. If this is how a deity might conduct a relationship across the spectrum, then I think it would create as many different frameworks of that relationship as there are people. Unfortunately because they’re unique, there’s no way to independently compare notes as to any objective facts about this deity.

    Liked by 1 person

  183. I have a question for the theists. Do you believe non-belief — in a God or the Christian God — can be rational?

    I’m not asking if you think it is the correct opinion, but whether you think a person can rationally not believe in God and particularly in the Christian God? Can a reasonable evaluation of the evidence lead to a conclusion that differs from your own?

    Liked by 4 people

  184. Hi Jon,

    ”Were they all Jews? …. For the most part, Jews rejected Christianity.”

    Yes, I think you are partly right and I claimed too much. I wrote without doing any reading, and when I do a little more reading, I see that it isn’t at all clear.

    There are four different groups of christians we need to consider – (1) Palestinian Jewish christians, (2) Diaspora (Hellenistic) Jewish christians, (3) Jewish (ex-Gentile) proselytes who converted, and (4) Gentile christians. And while we can distinguish these groups in theory, in practice they were very much mixed together (see this source). The matter is complicated more because some Hellenistic Jews lived in Jerusalem. And we lack any real population estimates for these subgroups, and in many cases even for Palestine and the entire Roman Empire, so much is guesswork.

    The major separation between Jews and Jewish christians began after the Jewish rebellion in 67-70 CE (see e.g. this source) and in many areas the separation of the two religions was pretty much complete by the start of the second century, when the Romans tended to treat them as separate. However many Jewish christians continued to meet in synagogues as Jews in some areas into the third century.

    This comprehensive paper tends more to your view on numbers, estimating very low number of Jerusalem Jewish christians, but it seems to me to make an enormous number of questionable assumptions, and dismisses the idea that there could have been many converts among diaspora Jews temporarily in Jerusalem very early on as Luke describes in Acts. Other sources seem to be less dismissive of Acts so (not surprisingly, when all is speculation) there is a breadth of views among the few scholars I have read or the many I have seen referenced.

    I would now say that:

    (1) It isn’t clear to me when the christian movement became predominantly Gentile. Sims in the reference I’ve given says by the middle 50’s it was roughly equal. Following other sources would lead to a later date.

    (2) I still don’t think there is evidence of any Gentile writers of the NT apart from Luke, but authorship is often uncertain. Some of the gospels may have originated out of Palestine, but still likely written by Jews, and certainly compiled by communities that included Jews.

    (3) All this is interesting (to me, at any rate), but not actually relevant to the original question, where you said: ”Christianity was mostly rejected in Jerusalem and Galilee where people were (allegedly) firsthand witnesses to God himself performing miracles, fulfilling prophecies and generally showing the power of God.” But as far as we know, Jesus’ Jewish “opponents” didn’t dispute the “historical” facts about Jesus – his life, teaching, miracles, death – and they knew his followers believed in a virgin birth (hence the Pantera etc stories) and his resurrection (most of this is in the “genuine, reconstructed” Josephus) – but they argued that he and his powers were evil and resisted the idea that he was divine.

    ”Habermas only says he has “compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it” and that “approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb…” It is not clear to me that this means these scholars actually support the historicity of the empty tomb. “

    But if a scholar favours an argument, that means he favours its conclusion, surely? This is supported by his following statement: ”Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.”

    I still think Habermas’ work is clear until and if someone does the same research and shows he is wrong.

    ”I have a question for the theists. Do you believe non-belief — in a God or the Christian God — can be rational?”

    Of course.

    Belief and disbelief involve factors other than rationality – assumptions, our choice of reading, what we focus on, our wishes, our experience, etc. These aren’t necessarily irrational, but they are sometimes a-rational. I think these factors often explain why two rational people can come to such widely different conclusions. If we were all purely rational, we would surely be slightly less widely divergent in our views.

    PS Thanks for your kind words and your support for my possible rationality! 🙂

    Like

  185. Hi Sirius,

    ”I want to get a fair and accurate depiction of your reasoning behind what you believe. Without it, no one can evaluate your position with any fairness.”

    I appreciate your wanting to be fair, but I’m not so sure my answer to your question will help you evaluate my reasoning behind what I believe. As I said, direct communication from God is not a major part of my belief – there has been so little that can be easily identified, it couldn’t possibly be.

    So let me summarise briefly the reasons why I believe now.

    1. I believe christian faith is the best explanation of all the facts – the universe (origin and design), humanity (consciousness, freewill, rationality, moral sense), Jesus (and other religious figures), human experiences of the apparent divine. In fact, I believe it is the only explanation that is plausible. It seems to me that the only sceptical argument that has merit is the problem of evil – most other criticisms are (IMO) based on incredulity, which is a poor and not very rational basis.

    2. Life for 50+ years as a very questioning christian has tended to confirm my belief and reinforce the “goodness” of it. (Direct communications from God is just a very small part of this.) Scientific studies confirm that my belief is likely to lead to better brain health, wellbeing, physical health and prosociality (some forms of religious belief are not so benign). So not only do I think it is true but it is good for me and the world.

    Other christians would offer different reasons and perspectives, but this is how it is for me.

    ”it strikes me as a very personal framework. If this is how a deity might conduct a relationship across the spectrum, then I think it would create as many different frameworks of that relationship as there are people. Unfortunately because they’re unique, there’s no way to independently compare notes as to any objective facts about this deity.”

    Yes, that is true if you focus on the personal “relationship” angle – everyone is different, and just as we all relate to each other in different ways, so would God. But if you focus instead on the content of belief, then there is a core of objective belief that most christians hold – the Apostles Creed for example.

    Liked by 1 person

  186. “I believe christian faith is the best explanation of all the facts”

    unkleE , whether you are willing to admit it or not, you wouldn’t be saying this had you been born in Iran and raised in a Muslim family.

    “Scientific studies confirm that my belief is likely to lead to better brain health, wellbeing, physical health and prosociality”

    Again, those same studies also say belonging to most social networks promotes the same thing. You tend to leave this out.

    Liked by 1 person

  187. “Scientific studies confirm that my belief is likely to lead to better brain health, wellbeing, physical health and prosociality”

    This statement could apply equally as well if not more so to Mormon families, who tend to be very healthy individuals and whose life expectancies are longer than the average evangelical Christian (and who tend to be some of the nicest people you will ever meet, I have found). I will bet, however, that UnkleE does not believe that Mormon theology is true. Therefore a belief system which promotes well-being, pro-sociality, good health, and longevity is not necessarily an indication of the veracity of one’s beliefs.

    Liked by 3 people

  188. Good point Gary. The Mormon paradox puzzled me when I called myself a Christian. But of course it all makes sense if the effect of religion is psychological rather than supernatural.

    In a similar way I struggled to reconcile how one of the most decent and genuine people I knew had rejected Christianity. I really could not accept the Bible assessment that this person was thoroughly depraved, But rather than reaching the logical consequence of this observation for many years I persisted against the cognitive dissonance as I had too much of my identity invested in Christianity.

    Liked by 4 people

  189. Unklee, said:”…and dismisses the idea that there could have been many converts among diaspora Jews temporarily in Jerusalem very early on as Luke describes in Acts. Other sources seem to be less dismissive of Acts so (not surprisingly, when all is speculation) there is a breadth of views among the few scholars I have read or the many I have seen referenced.««

    To remind unkle once <again … these are the Major scholarly findings of the Acts Seminar after ten years of exhaustive investigation and study.

    The Acts narrative is worthless as history of first century Christianity, but quite informative as history of second century Christianity;
    it provides us no reason to believe that Christianity began in Jerusalem — the Jerusalem centre of the faith was a myth created for second century ideological reasons;
    some of its characters are fictional and their names symbolic;
    Acts was created as a type of Christian “epic” (coherent and literary throughout, not a patchwork quilt of diverse sources) and as such, we have reasons to believe, is no more historical than Homer’s or Virgil’s epics;
    the author did, indeed, know of the letters of Paul;

    http://vridar.org/2013/11/22/top-ten-findings-of-the-acts-seminar/

    Therefore, referencing Acts in this day and age is like referencing Doctor Emmett Brown on Time Travel.

    Like

  190. Hey UnkleE,

    Actually, the “reasoning behind what you believe” I was referring to is limited to just what we were discussing, and not the entire underpinnings of your faith. If I wanted to refer to your entire faith in Christianity, I would have said “your entire faith in Christianity.” My only interest here at this time is your position on special revelation and how you’ve argued above (and elsewhere in the posts Nate linked to) regarding its place in biblical interpretation.

    While it might not be a large percentage of what’s shaped your other faith beliefs, it doesn’t alleviate the implications of what you were arguing. If what you are saying is true, it means that a deity can speak out of both sides of its mouth. Moreover, it can do it in a way that can lead two different followers in diametrically opposed ways on core, objective values.

    Like

  191. Hi Sirius,

    “If what you are saying is true, it means that a deity can speak out of both sides of its mouth. Moreover, it can do it in a way that can lead two different followers in diametrically opposed ways on core, objective values.”

    I don’t think that, so I’m wondering if you can explain it a little further please, especially what I said that leads you to this conclusion. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  192. Ark

    these are the Major scholarly findings of the Acts Seminar after ten years of exhaustive investigation and study.

    While I would take the scholars involved with the Acts Seminar and their views seriously, I don’t think it’s prudent to cite their conclusions as conclusive. They are the views of one small group of academics, a legitimate part of the scholarly discourse, but not necessarily representative of academic consensus.

    For what it’s worth, while stipulating that I am merely an interested layman and not particularly knowledgable about the topic, I would tentatively agree with many of their conclusions, particularly that Acts is an unreliable reconstruction of earlier Christian history, probably more shaped by theological, ideological and narrative concerns than by clear knowledge of historical facts.

    I’m not saying it’s not valuable academic research, just that this group isn’t necessarily representative of an academic consensus.

    Liked by 1 person

  193. @Jon

    I’m not saying it’s not valuable academic research, just that this group isn’t necessarily representative of an academic consensus.

    Therefore, can you please tell me what is the current academic consensus, and either provide a link or at least name someone who is able to reliably identify what the current consensus is?
    Thanks,

    Like

  194. I wish I could, but I don’t think there is a consensus on Acts. I believe it is usually dated to the late 1st or early 2nd century, and believed to be written by the same author as Luke. I believe that even many very conservative critical scholars generally acknowledge that Acts contains stories of dubious reliability, including clear inconsistincies with the letters of Paul.

    But I don’t know that there is much of a consensus.

    Liked by 1 person

  195. So would it be far to say the unklee’s position regarding Acts, which seems to allude towards its historical reliability as generally untenable?

    Like

  196. I haven’t studied the scholarship on Acts, but I have studied the scholarship on the Gospels, and since there is a consensus that the author of the Gospel of Luke also wrote the Book of Acts, I can say this:

    —the majority of scholars do not believe that the author of Luke/Acts was an eyewitness (which even he admits) or even an associate of an eyewitness to the life and death of Jesus. The majority of scholars do not believe he obtained his information directly from eyewitnesses but from persons who told him that they knew of eyewitness stories about Jesus.

    —the majority of scholars do not believe that the author of Luke/Acts was Luke the physician, traveling companion of Paul.

    Like

  197. Hey UnkleE,

    I’m referring to the post that Nate referenced, more specifically the points he highlighted from your post. Indeed, a major point in your response was:

    “The Spirit is God, which means he is above the Bible, not lesser!”

    (emphasis in original).

    While I understand you’ve expressed the notion that you personally don’t agree with it, lack of agreement doesn’t adequately address the concern Nate and others have raised here. Different Christians disagree on material and core aspects of the faith, including: (1) the divinity of Jesus; (2) the authority of scripture; (3) the nature of scripture; (4) the existence of hell; (5) who goes to heaven; (6) wine or grape juice at communion; (7) how sacraments work; (8) reasons to perform sacraments; (9) music during worship; (10) whether it’s okay to celebrate certain holidays…and the list goes on from there. Some of these disagreements are logically exclusive, that is, hell can’t exist and not exist at the same time. But according to your reasoning you’ve put in your post, the holy spirit could tell people different things to help them grow in their relationship with said deity.

    Liked by 2 people

  198. Hi Sirius,

    Thanks for that explanation. But it is an enormous jump from my belief that God has communicated with me on a few occasions to ”the holy spirit could tell people different things” about ”material and core aspects of the faith”.

    So I want to explore this jump you have made.

    1. What things are core for christians?

    In your list of ten items, only (1) is mentioned in the Apostles Creed, so that is really the only one that is certainly “core” – and on that one almost all christians are agreed. I can see no evidence of the Holy Spirit telling different people different things on that one.

    At the other end of your list are a few things (#6-10) that are pretty trivial matters. The remainder (#2-#5) would be considered core to some christians and important to most. And on these things there is certainly diversity of opinion.

    So I think we can see three different categories of christian belief and practice – let’s call them core, important and minor – and we need to be sure which we are discussing.

    2. Is diversity “bad”?

    If you want to argue that diversity of belief counts against the truth of christianity, you have to define what diversity you’d expect if christianity was true, and how much what we see diverges from that. So what are your criteria? Do you think uniformity is best? For everything, or just for core? Do you think correct knowledge is an important criterion for God? What difference does correct knowledge make to God’s objectives? What are God’s objectives?

    I think you have made assumptions about the answers to these questions that you haven’t justified, and that I doubt I’d agree with. So perhaps it’s my turn to ask you to answer these questions please?

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  199. Hey UnkleE,

    It’s actually not that enormous of a jump. I’ll try my best to explain it.

    1. As I’m using the term, “core beliefs” are those beliefs which a Christian regards as necessary to his or her faith. Since different Christians have different views of their faith, these core beliefs are often quite different from one Christian to the next. Even trying to declare the Apostles’ Creed as an arbitrary starting point wouldn’t fully do the job; multiple versions of that Creed exist. Would it be fair to use a version of that Creed which references hell when some Christians don’t agree on hell existing? I’m not sure it would.

    2. This leads to the second question. Diversity isn’t inherently bad when talking about ancillary beliefs (whatever they may be; it wouldn’t be accurate to speculate). It’s only an issue here when diversity of beliefs result in logically impossible outcomes. Taking belief in hell as one example, what happens when some Christians believe it’s real and some Christians don’t? As a function of basic logic, one and only one of these groups can be right. If that’s the case, and both of these groups have sincerely been led by faith to believe what they believe about hell, then these are the result of one deity saying different things to different people.

    It’s important to note that I’m not claiming this must apply in all circumstances to all Christians everywhere. However, I am saying it arises as a problem whenever Christians would have a conflict of core values. So, your views would not necessarily be problematic if every Christian had the exact same core values (or one core value).

    In essence, I’m saying that logical impossibilities count against the points you made in your post to the extent that the logical impossibilities exist. Granted, some people might be okay with that and chalk it up to a divine mystery. That’s fine. However, to anyone who values a certain level of logical consistency, this is going to be a cause for concern.

    Liked by 3 people

  200. Hi Sirius,

    I asked you several questions, which I’m still unsure what your answers are, and I think this is important. So let’s look at them.

    1. Do you think uniformity is best? For everything, or just for core?

    You say ”Diversity isn’t inherently bad when talking about ancillary beliefs” So I’m assuming you mean that it is an issue for core beliefs ”when diversity of beliefs result in logically impossible outcomes”, and you use the example of hell.

    So I assume you believe hell is a core belief, so let’s examine it as an example.

    I used the Apostles Creed as one reasonable summary of core beliefs, and I note it mentions hell, but not in the sense that you are using it, namely whether christians believe in everlasting torment or not. (In passing, you say there are multiple versions of the Creed, but this is a red herring. There is no significant difference in the content that I can see – please enlighten me if I have missed anything – and one of the only differences in wording concerns hell, which is often translated as “dead”.) So the creed doesn’t discuss hell in the sense I gather you are using it, but only in the sense of it meaning those who are dead, so I can’t see that it’s a core doctrine. But let’s accept that it’s important.

    Your point about “logically impossible outcomes” also seems to me to be an overstatement. None of the outcomes are logically impossible, what you are saying is that two views are different. So is difference a reason to disagree? Is particle physics something we shouldn’t accept because there are times when particles seem like energy, and times when their behaviour seems illogical? Should we not believe that life evolved from chemicals because no-one has been able yet to determine for sure the process?

    This is what I mean by examining assumptions.

    Let’s look at your implicit argument a little more. You say that differences in christian belief ”are the result of one deity saying different things to different people”. I said this is a big jump, you said it wasn’t, so I’d like you to demonstrate that please if you could. I think the argument would go something like this:

    (i) Christians believe different things about some doctrines.
    (ii) God should see that they have the same beliefs.
    (iii) Therefore God has said different things to different people
    (iv) Therefore christianity is implausible.

    1.1 Would you agree that is the argument. Please feel free to improve it.

    Assuming this is the argument, how would you justify premises 2 & 3? Specifically:

    1.2 Why should God ensure that christians agree on all the doctrines you nominate? (This comes back to Q 3 & 4 below.)
    1.3 Are you saying (a) that differences of belief having nothing to do with people being opinionated and misguided, and (b) that God should over-ride human freedom to ensure uniformity?
    1.4 Are you saying that christians who disagree all believe God has told them what doctrines to believe?

    2. Do you think correct knowledge is an important criterion for God?

    You haven’t answered this as far as I can see, and it is important in the case we are considering. Let’s ask a more specific sub question:

    2.1 Do you think christians believe God sends people to hell because they have a wrong doctrine of hell?

    3. What difference does correct knowledge make to God’s objectives?
    4. What are God’s objectives?

    Your answers to these questions (4 main questions and 5 sub questions) would be helpful please. If you are going to be consistent in criticising christianity for having varied beliefs, I think you to show that it is important against some criterion, and clarify that criterion.

    I’m sorry to create more “work” for you, but I have been answering a lot of questions so I hope you don’t mind answering a few too! 🙂 Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  201. Hey UnkleE,

    I’ll try to label my responses to your points as best as possible.

    1. Saying “uniformity is best” would misstate my point here. Rather, I’m saying that a deity needs to be uniform when logic demands it. Thus, if a deity has an objective quality or idea (i.e., true outside of just one person or point of view) that is exclusive to other ideas, it must be true under different circumstances. To think of this as “best” or even preferable would require me to make more assumptions instead of fewer, and I haven’t been doing that here.

    1.1: I would not agree that this is the argument. I’m not trying to argue that all of Christianity is implausible, and I’m not sure where you’re getting this idea from. My argument actually is thus:
    (i) If a deity communicates to Christians ideas they should believe, these communications are manifested in the resulting belief.
    (ii) Christians sometimes have beliefs which are logically exclusive and inconsistent to each other.
    (iii) Therefore, a deity has made logically exclusive and inconsistent statements to Christians.

    1.2. I’m actually not nominating any specific list of beliefs to agree upon. They’re illustrations of difference of belief. However, implicit in my argument is the notion that if a deity has a quality which is objectively true (true under all circumstances), then it logically would need to be consistent. Thus, if there is an objective truth to any deity out there, it would have to be consistent with all the people that deity has communicated that truth to.

    1.3. I’m not saying either of those things. I am saying there are Christians who could qualify under your earlier criteria for having received divine guidance, and that these people believe differently than each other.

    1.4. I think my answer to 1.3 applies.

    2. I think that it would be important for a deity who wants people to get things right. But really that’s irrelevant to the main argument I’m making.

    2.1. There are Christians out there that think you have to believe certain things about hell in order to really be a Christian. If you’re not really a Christian, then you’re going to hell. I’m sure Nate and anyone else you talk to who lives in the American South can provide further examples ranging on a wide variety of beliefs.

    3. None of my points rely upon the objectives of a deity, except maybe a theoretical objective of being consistent. But that would require making assumptions about other people that I don’t need to make in support of my argument. I’m not sure I’m comfortable going that far off-topic when we might not be clear on the original discussion.

    4. Please see my answer to number 3. If we’re stuck being confused talking about apples, I’m not sure if it’s wise to bring in oranges. If there’s some relevance I’m not seeing, please let me know, and I’ll be more than happy to discuss!

    Liked by 2 people

  202. Has anyone else noticed that whenever a religious person puts up a ”new” religious post somewhere, championing their version of god belief you hardly ever read anything truly new and / or original inasmuch as something that might remotely make a neutral observer or non-christian or ex christian sit up a take serious notice?

    In fact, the more you read of their garbage the more you realise just how tired, contrived and shallow apologist arguments truly are. Look at this post for example.

    And the more science etc chips away at the fallacious claims of this ridiculous and thoroughly obnoxious cult of Human Sacrifice and pseudo cannibalism the more these apologists with their bronze age beliefs have to dance around the truth to ensure they are able to maintain a semblance of respectability.

    All said and done, Christian apologetics is actually quite nauseating.

    Like

  203. What is the difference between a Christian apologist and a snake oil salesman?

    *None.

    —Both will say whatever is necessary…using complex, sophisticated-sounding arguments and appeals…to make their “product” believable and sellable.

    —Both are selling products which have no demonstrable benefits whatsoever other than a possible psychological placebo effect.

    *I will add a caveat: Most snake oil salesmen know they are conning people; they know their product is totally bogus. I believe that there are many apologists who genuinely believe in the benefits of their “product”, but my issue with them is, no matter how much evidence is presented to them that their product is bogus, they stone wall, insisting that their bogus product MUST be good and beneficial, simply because they WANT so desperately for it to be good and beneficial. Therefore, the end result is the same: People are conned into “buying” something they do not need.

    Liked by 1 person

  204. People are conned into “buying” something they do not need.

    Except a snake oil salesman doesn’t tell you that you are a sinner and if you don’t buy his product you will spend eternity after your death being tortured by the same company that supposedly made the product that he is so desperately trying to get you to buy.

    It is a measure of the power of indoctrination under the misguided belief that supposed religious freedom(sic) is a virtue that only the snake oil salesman you could tell to ”F**K Off”, and probably you’d also be able to get a restraining order against too.

    Religion ”allows” one to chop off the heads of non-believers in some countries, abuse women and children, and can even be cited as an authority for starting a war … and you do not even need to produce a scrap of evidence.

    And we are truly supposed to beleive that the supposed ”Moderate Apologist” is harmless?
    I guess it’s like the difference between one cockroach being a nuisance but several million are an infestation.

    Like

  205. Hi Sirius,

    Thanks for your answers. I think we don’t only disagree about our beliefs, but about our basis for deciding what is true. But I think it is worthwhile clarifying those differences a little more, if you do.

    ”I’m saying that a deity needs to be uniform when logic demands it.”

    As I said before, I haven’t seen anywhere you’ve shown that “logic demands it”. All I’ve seen is some examples, most of them not very important, where christians have different opinions (which isn’t at all the same thing).

    ”(i) If a deity communicates to Christians ideas they should believe, these communications are manifested in the resulting belief.”

    OK, that’s good thanks, let’s run with this. To support premise (i), it would help to state which beliefs you believe God has communicated to individual christians. And then to show how you draw the conclusion that those communications MUST lead to the resulting belief. I think this is terribly implausible (it is quite clear from life and from scripture that people in fact often DON’T follow what they have been told) and impossible to demonstrate. In other words, you need to show fault with God rather than with people.

    ”Thus, if there is an objective truth to any deity out there, it would have to be consistent with all the people that deity has communicated that truth to.”

    Three problems with this. (1) Same as above, you have to show that the fault is God’s and not people. (2) It is also important to show that the belief is important enough for God to want to make absolutely sure we didn’t get it wrong. Any parent or teacher knows that you don’t necessarily pick up every mistake. (3) You have said you are talking about direct communication from God to person today. Very few christians think that anything core is communicated that way. That makes your argument even less plausible. You are only talking about very non-core things!

    ”I am saying there are Christians who could qualify under your earlier criteria for having received divine guidance, and that these people believe differently than each other.”

    So do you expect people to always get things right? Never to make a mistake? Never to ignore the truth?

    And have you shown anything that is communicated one to one that is a christian belief rather than something personal? I can’t recall seeing it.

    ”I think that it would be important for a deity who wants people to get things right. But really that’s irrelevant to the main argument I’m making.”

    I think this answer misses the point I’m sorry. If correct knowledge of hell was important to avoid hell, then that knowledge would be critical. But if it was irrelevant to avoiding hell, then it becomes almost academic. (Just reminding you I don’t believe in the everlasting punishment hell, and I certainly don’t think God’s judgment depends on our theology of hell.)

    ”There are Christians out there that think you have to believe certain things about hell in order to really be a Christian. “

    I’ve never met any, but I’ll take your word for it, because there are christians out there who believe all sorts of things. But that wouldn’t be a major christian viewpoint. If you asked a thousand christians what they need to do to avoid hell, I reckon 800 would say “believe in Jesus” and 199 would say “live right”, and only one odd christian (if that) would say “have the correct belief about hell”.

    ”None of my points rely upon the objectives of a deity, except maybe a theoretical objective of being consistent.”

    I find this very strange. How can you make any statements about what God “should” do if you have no idea of his objectives? Strategies should always follow objectives.

    So to sum up, I think your understanding of christianity is not only very different to mine, but very different to mainstream christianity:

    (a) You misunderstand what God is trying to do. Correct knowledge is desirable, but only really important if it contributes to God’s objectives. If God’s objectives required correct knowledge about the sorts of minor matters you are talking about, then less intelligent people would be disadvantaged. God is interested in “heart” more than “mind”.

    (b) You blame God for not communicating clearly without giving any convincing examples, and without showing that it is God’s fault rather than people’s. You haven’t addressed the free will question and how people grow in maturity through resolving dilemmas.

    (c) You seem to think that core beliefs are revealed in individual, personal revelation, which would itself be very inconsistent. Core beliefs are revealed in scripture, as virtually all christians say. There is of course scope for interpretation there, but that doesn’t generally come through personal revelation, but through revelation to the whole body of believers (even if some refuse to receive it).

    I’m not sure where we go from here, but I’m happy to see your response. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  206. Ark:

    Except a snake oil salesman doesn’t tell you that you are a sinner and if you don’t buy his product you will spend eternity after your death being tortured by the same company that supposedly made the product that he is so desperately trying to get you to buy.

    Zoe: Don’t forget the salesman selling annihilation. The kinder punishment. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  207. Unklee said:

    OK, that’s good thanks, let’s run with this. To support premise (i), it would help to state which beliefs you believe God has communicated to individual christians. And then to show how you draw the conclusion that those communications MUST lead to the resulting belief.

    You have previously given an example of the incident on the road that you state prevented you from having an accident.

    If memory serves, you claimed it was a direct communication from your god and you acted upon it.
    Belief communicated – Belief acted upon.

    However, to date, you have still not demonstrated how you discerned it was a communication from your god and not a minor delusion.
    As you refuse to dialogue with me would you mind explaining this to SB or someone else who you feel more comfortable ”talking to?”

    Thanks.

    Like

  208. SB said: ”I’m saying that a deity needs to be uniform when logic demands it.”

    Unklee said:

    As I said before, I haven’t seen anywhere you’ve shown that “logic demands it”. All I’ve seen is some examples, most of them not very important, where christians have different opinions (which isn’t at all the same thing).

    If a hundred people were in a burning church and fifty truly believed they had heard the voice of your god who had stated he would save them and the church if they remained in the building as a demonstration of Truth Faith you would likely consider this sheer insanity. In fact, it could be considered culpable homicide on the part of those who chose to remain if minors were involved.
    Logic demands that your god would be uniform in such an instance and communicate the same command to each individual in the church, and one would assume he would tell them to immediately get the hell(sic) out of there.
    Of course, if he was truly able to communicate one could logically expect that he could also contrive some way to extinguish the fire with minimal damage and no loss of life.

    As is so often the case, your focus seems to be on semantic gymnastics to demonstrate how adept you are at apologetics.

    Of course, this may simply be be a misunderstanding on my part, but to my mind you have always come across as one for whom winning at all costs – the extended dialogue you had with Bernard over Nazareth always comes to mind in such circumstances

    While you may think me uncivil, and I most certainly do not have your level of acumen when it comes to theological jousting, I was at least brought up to believe that honesty was a virtue.

    Liked by 1 person

  209. Hey UnkleE,

    I think our biggest problem here is that you’re adding things to what I’m saying that aren’t there. For example, you said:

    “I think we don’t only disagree about our beliefs, but about our basis for deciding what is true.”

    That’s an interesting thought, except I haven’t gone into anything about my personal criteria for what is true. I’m sorry you’ve got that impression, but it isn’t there. On my end, this discussion has solely (at least as I’ve tried to keep it that way) been about the points you raised in your own post concerning determining what is true.

    I find it incredibly interesting that our discussion began with me asking you determine between what you think is truth versus mistake, and the answers I received didn’t mention your concerns about that possibility. It almost seems self-serving that you’d ignore mistakes in interpreting divine guidance in your statements about pursuing divine truth and then rely upon them to defend against the consequences of what you’re talking about.

    But since you’re offering it now as a defense to the system of thought you’ve put forth, let’s consider the consequences of that. It means that a Christian could follow all the steps you list for finding truth and still get it wrong. At the least, it means that the system is not completely effective for finding actual truth.

    Without knowing actually how effective it might be, we can still evaluate potential problems. Supposing that the system still miraculously guides Christians to truth almost 100% of the time, my previous criticism still stands: you have a deity which can say logically inconsistent things to different people (like hell existing and not existing, or like saying you can sing in church or not sing in church). Upon further reflection, it doesn’t quite matter if these beliefs are critical to the faith. What matters is that you have an intelligent, supernatural being saying completely opposite things to people.

    But let’s suppose that mistakes happen more often. As they occur, it makes the efficiency and reliability of the system you put forward become less desirable. In other words, I’m asking what’s the point of having a car that will only start 9 out of 10 times? What about 5 out of 10? What if it only starts 1 out of 10 times? People might disagree on personal preference, but I think that some people might not like the lower reliability. At any rate, if mistake or just plain inaccuracy deprives people of divine truth, then the system you’re using for divine truth actually has a failure rate. This means that people can’t quite trust what other people get from it (and they can’t fully trust what they get from it themselves).

    The “certain things about hell” I was referring to actually was from the notion of biblical inerrancy, and the certain thing specifically is that it exists (I did leave that part out). Hell is mentioned in the bible, and Christians who believe in inerrancy must believe everything in the bible is true. It’s how they justify salvation and everything else they confess to believe. And in the bible, hell is alleged to exist (even by Jesus, Matthew 10:28 comes to mind off the top of my head). So, I find it strange that you haven’t met anyone who believes hell exists because they believe everything in the bible is true. Maybe they should visit your neck of the woods!

    Happily, we now have a very good example of what I’ve been talking about with regards to people being moved to find truth in opposite places. You believe hell doesn’t exist (and some other Christians do as well), and others believe hell does exist (for whatever reasons they have). Can hell exist and not exist at the same time? If not, is there a way to objectively determine if they’re mistaken? Does it even matter?

    It seems like that last question figures into your reasoning. After all, who cares if a deity says opposite things if it gets people closer to whatever truth it wants to convey? An issue here arises with regards to the utility of such a system in the first place. If your method of finding truth is just going to give me a bunch of random things that don’t have an objective impact on my life, then the vast bulk of what anyone believes doesn’t matter. At that point, adopting it is purely an act of personal preference, which is fine if that’s what floats your boat.

    Because of your misstatements of my position above and wrong impressions of what I’ve commented earlier, I feel like I should reiterate that I’m not arguing about the merits of Christianity here, or that people need to adopt a certain set of beliefs. I’m an atheist, so I don’t blame any deities for anything. Rather, I’m offering an evaluation on some points you’ve made above and elsewhere. While they are reasons to disagree with the position you’ve put forth, it’s just disagreement with that position. If people don’t care about the points I raise, that’s okay. It means they’re considering different points of view in evaluating a thought, which I think is a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  210. The strongest evidence for Christianity for most Christians is not biblical scholarship or archeology, it is “answered prayer”; in their lives and in the lives of the two billion fellow Christians living on the planet. If I understand what he has said in the past, I believe that answered prayer is the strongest evidence for UnkleE. But think about this: If two billion people regularly pray about practically EVERYTHING, random chance tells us that a good percentage of those prayers are going to be “answered”. That is A LOT of “answered prayers”! How then can intelligent, educated Christians who understand statistics—that the success rate of prayer to Jesus is no better than random chance—use this as proof of the effectiveness of praying to a two thousand year old dead man?

    Can UnkleE or any other Christian prove that prayer to Jesus is more effective than random chance? If not, they should be honest and admit that their supernatural belief system is not based on evidence but simply on wishful thinking.

    Like

  211. Unklee

    There are four different groups of christians we need to consider

    First, let me say that this was a solid answer. I appreciated the research and papers you linked, and I very much agree that the lack of 1st century sources and data means there is a great deal of guesswork involved.

    My own view, in a very general way, derives from a few observations. 1) The progressively more anti-Jewish tone of the NT and early Christian fathers seems consistent with a faith that failed to take root among Jews. 2) The early Church seemed to be very house-based. If Paul was writing to “the church in [whatever city” and this church could meet in private homes, then it seems fairly likely that these were still relatively small communities. 3) The lack of substantial independent attestation of the early Christian community suggest that it probably had not grown so large that it would be particularly remarkable.

    Of course, all of this is made even more complicated by the diversity within early Christianity, even before the gnostics of the 2nd century. Paul talks about many people preaching a false gospel of Jesus. There are also the Ebionites, about whom we have relatively little information, but who seem to have remained more Jewish, and perhaps akin to the James or Nazarene view. Do they count as Christians? It’s hard to say.

    Given all the evidence, it sure seems like Christianity both evolved and flourished more as it got farther from Jerusalem.

    as far as we know, Jesus’ Jewish “opponents” didn’t dispute the “historical” facts about Jesus – his life, teaching, miracles, death – and they knew his followers believed in a virgin birth (hence the Pantera etc stories) and his resurrection (most of this is in the “genuine, reconstructed” Josephus) – but they argued that he and his powers were evil and resisted the idea that he was divine.

    This is mostly an argument from silence. We don’t really have much idea what Jesus’ jewish opponents said, especially in the decade or two after his death, except from (a) later 1st century Christian responses, and (b) much later Talmudic references. If I recall correctly, Matthew said something about Jews claiming the body had been moved, though that just seems like the obvious response to a “his body was not there” claim.

    As far as the Talmudic stuff, my impression is that it is much later, inconsistent across different manuscripts (e.g., names and details or outright inclusion differs widely), and so on. It is difficult to say whether it’s about Jesus at all. And if it is, it’s still difficult to say whether it represents some early critique or just a later polemic.

    Celsus (latter 2nd century) does mention the Pantera and magic claims, but he also says Jesus was doing “certain magical powers on which the Egyptians pride themselves,” so it seems more like the “magic” was just the sort of superstitions or trickery that were common in that time and place. I don’t think we can really extrapolate much from that.

    I do agree that we have no evidence of Jesus’ Jewish opponents questioning his existence, his role as a preacher/teacher, or his death.

    But if a scholar favours an argument, that means he favours its conclusion, surely?

    No, absolutely not. I could agree with the idea that Jerusalem was an unlikely place to launch a resurrection story and that the creed was likely pre-Pauline. That does not mean I accept the empty tomb. As it happens, I am agnostic on the historicity of the “empty tomb.” But the question here is only whether scholarly acceptance of some argument that could be used to support the Empty Tomb constitutes acceptance of the Empty Tomb itself. I think that is an unjustified leap. If Habermas had intended to say that 75% of scholars endorse the empty tomb, he could have just said that. He does say that when talking to laymen. But when writing a more critical academic paper, he gives a more cautious description of his finding.

    I still think Habermas’ work is clear until and if someone does the same research and shows he is wrong.

    I think Habermas’ claims are not even very clear, much less his research. The fact that even his supporters cannot describe his methodology is a pretty significant problem. Unless he can produce the underlying data, so that we can understand his methodology and check his results, I think he is asserting a claim and not producing research.

    Belief and disbelief involve factors other than rationality – assumptions, our choice of reading, what we focus on, our wishes, our experience, etc. These aren’t necessarily irrational, but they are sometimes a-rational. I think these factors often explain why two rational people can come to such widely different conclusions. If we were all purely rational, we would surely be slightly less widely divergent in our views.

    Fair enough. I agree that many of our beliefs rest on un-tested assumptions and cultural indoctrination. That applies to every human. I don’t really have a strong sense of what exactly makes a view “rational”, but I do think that theistic belief is reasonable, given A) the social/cultural dynamics that normalize such beliefs, and B) the human tendency to see dualism, teleology and agency in the world around us.

    Liked by 2 people

  212. And what about all the alleged benefits of Christianity that UnkleE has mentioned? I believe that these same benefits can be found in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and most any other “-ism”. Why? Answer: Because “-isms” denote a herd activity; a herd mentality. They are not movements of solitary individuals living nomadic existences. Those of us who are atheists or agnostics derive some of these same social benefits of which UnkleE speaks here on Nate’s blog. In other words, there is nothing special about Christianity. It is one of many “herds” in the world today which provides the individual members of that herd the benefits of a herd. That’s it.

    Liked by 2 people

  213. I think the thing that most religious people fail to realize is if God cares about everyone like he does a sparrow, why do they think they are special ? To state, “I believe christian faith is the best explanation of all the facts” is one of arrogance. Most religions promote this arrogance that theirs is the “right one” and they all believe they have “The evidence” to support this..
    It’s all part of man’s dna to say, “mine is better than yours…….mine is bigger than yours”. And some attribute this to a God………..Hmmmm

    Liked by 3 people

  214. @ Ken

    And meanwhile, thousands of children across the globe, many of whom are kids of devout christian parents, die of starvation as we speak while arrogant Christian Dipshit Apologists kneel on the floor of their nice comfy lounge in their nice comfy house in the their nice comfy suburb and pray that their god, Yahweh, will ensure they have a nice day, find their car keys, their kid passes his finals, the mortgage will be granted to their best friends, some of those the stingy bastards at church will fork our more dosh for the repairs to the spire, especially that snotty cow from number 9 who thinks she’s the Bees-Knees just because her fat husband got a raise and a new company car, and finally hope the atheist SOB next door will be led to the Lord.(sic).
    Amen.

    Makes you want to vomit, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 3 people

  215. Ark

    arrogant Christian Dipshit Apologists kneel on the floor of their nice comfy lounge in their nice comfy house in the their nice comfy suburb and pray that their god, Yahweh, will ensure they have a nice day, find their car keys, their kid passes his finals, the mortgage will be granted to their best friends …

    I want those things for myself, my family and my friends, too. I also spend/donate money on things that are less important than starving children. And I am sometimes that doughy jerk who takes a little too much pride in their material possessions.

    And while I also think very little of people who think prayer is a substitute for action, it’s worth remembering that Christians organize missions to poverty-stricken places to help people. Sure, they may proselytize while they are there, but missionaries don’t just walk around handing out bibles to starving people. They help dig wells, build hospitals and feed the poor, too. Are you willing to do that?

    You believe that helping the poor and needy is more important than praying. I agree. But there are a couple Mormon missionaries I talk to sometimes who volunteer at an Episcopal food pantry to help feed poor people every week. I have never been there. I may be right about the value of prayer, but prayer + helping feed poor people is a whole lot better than just ridiculing prayer.

    Christians are not all that different from the rest of us. Some of them are complete jerks, some of them are thoroughly wonderful people and most of them are somewhere in between.

    Liked by 2 people

  216. Jon, you’re absolutely correct. There are “complete jerks” on both sides of the aisle. But what disturbs many non-believers are the “jerks” that make out like a bandit by preying on those (many who are barely making ends meet) who sit in the pews each week. These vultures are rarely the ones on the “front lines” helping the poor and disadvantaged.

    There’s no doubt there are individuals who truly try to live by their leader’s commandments. But if you notice, Ark pinpointed the “arrogant Christian Dipshit Apologists.” They are a breed in themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  217. Sorry, Jon. On this you are wrong.
    Dead wrong.
    That you have to try and rationalize it and then justify it demonstrates you simply will acknowledge the issues at stake. And the problem with bending over backwards to accommodate religion on these grounds means you will eventually see your arse.

    The primary focus of the Christian ( as with all religious evangelizing) is to infect people with religion.
    As far as I am aware, they are not willing to forgo this.

    And many hungry, destitute people will be infected.

    Like

  218. Nan

    what disturbs many non-believers are the “jerks” that make out like a bandit by preying on those (many who are barely making ends meet) who sit in the pews each week.

    I wholeheartedly agree. There are a lot of people exploiting faith and religion for fraudulent ends. The perpetual “Noah’s Ark” discoveries come to mind, along with the prosperity gospel preachers. Those frauds are awful.

    Like

  219. Ark

    Sorry, Jon. On this you are wrong.

    Can you point out the specific quote that was wrong? Because I think what I said there was completely factual. For instance, I never suggested missionaries forgo evangelizing. I know they evangelize.

    If you can point out a factually incorrect sentence or inference, please do.

    Like

  220. When I say you are wrong I do not mean your are factually incorrect in your assertions about Christians helping people but was referring to your tacit implication that we should not tar all Christians with the same brush and some are good while others are … to use your word ”Jerks”.
    This misses the point.
    It is the religious motivation that is wrong. And anything that is motivated by religion is at its core wrong.

    I hope this is clearer and sorry for any ambiguity in my previous comment.

    Like

  221. HI, Nate.
    I posted this video of Danial Everett on my blog and Ken suggested I give you a heads-up as he felt you might also like to post it on yours and get some comments from … interested parties?
    If you haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend it either way.
    Best
    Ark

    Like

  222. Ark

    It is the religious motivation that is wrong. And anything that is motivated by religion is at its core wrong.

    I just can’t agree with that. If Bob Smith is motivated by his religious beliefs to give his money to the poor, does that make giving his money to the poor wrong? If a Hindu devotes his life to serving the poor, is that good or bad? What if he does it because he thinks it will result in good karma? Does that change either the practical or moral value of what he did?

    Think of it this way. We can evaluate/judge people by three different things: 1) Belief, 2) Intent, 3) Action. Let’s look at an example….

    Person A believe in God X, and so they Act to deliver medicine and education to a poverty-stricken area because they believe that helping the needy (glorifies God/may help the recipients consider their faith/is a religious duty/etc).

    1. Does the accuracy of their Belief in any way effect the practical value of their Act? I doubt the recipients of medicine and education are any less healthy or grateful.
    2. Is the accuracy of their Belief relevant to the moral value of their Act? Not from my point of view. I think helping the needy is a Moral Good. I don’t think a religious Belief is morally relevant to the Goodness of their Act.
    3. Is their Intent practically relevant? Probably not. Unless the Intent changes the Act — e.g., the person spends their time proselytizing rather than helping — I don’t think the recipients will be less healthy, educated or well due to the Intent of the person helping the needy. If I give to the Red Cross just because I want the tax deduction, that doesn’t change the practical value of that donation at all to the recipients. If a religious person believes helping the poor will rebound to religious person’s benefit in the next life or afterlife, that does not have any effect on the practical value of their Act.
    4. Does Intent undermine the moral value of an Act? I think you can make a decent case that Intent can undermine the Moral value of an Act. For example, Pablo Escobar provided a lot of medicine and education for the people of Colombia. Of course, his Intent was not just their well-being, but also to gain popular and political support that would help protect his drug cartel. Less compromising would be Acts that are done out of some sense of religious duty or for the favor of God. While that might compromise the Moral value of an Act somewhat, I don’t think it compromises it much (or any) more than the sense of self-satisfaction a non-religious person gets from doing a Moral act.

    Liked by 2 people

  223. You are welcome. There are probably no statistics for this, but I wonder if there have been far more physical and psychological adverse effects on recipients from religious humanitarians or from non-religious humanitarians ?

    When unkleE likes to tout belonging to a religious organization promotes better physical and psychological health, I wonder if there is an equal or greater number of people damaged from it ?

    Liked by 1 person

  224. All one has to do is read some of the . blogs by deconverts. Neil for one, Bruce G, Daniel Everett in the video, our own Victoria, Charity, Zoe and even Nate.
    I don’t know how you fared?

    I wonder how ‘healthy ” was the Arsehat who set the bomb off in Manchester?
    Or the one who blew up the church in Egypt?

    Like

  225. I’m kinda with jon here, if someone is digging wells in Africa, but passes out bibles along with the food and medicine that they provide, then I really have no problem with that. I dont even mind if they also hold church services and invite others to attend.

    If they force anything or try to withhold aid for any reason or whatever, then that’s something else. But if people do good and if one of the reasons they do it is because they think some god wants them to be good to others, then I just dont have a problem with nor do I feel the need to tear down the good they’re doing.

    Like

  226. @Kcchief1

    I imagine it depends on the religion and what specific beliefs they have as well as the individual and how they understand their religion in relation to the world. If you believe in a negative punishing deity who monitors your every move that will be likely be detrimental to your physical and mental health. If you believe in a generally loving entity who may guide you from time to time, but most of the time wants you to solve your problems on your own and who values kindness to others then that will also likely produce different results.

    Liked by 2 people

  227. I’m kinda with jon here, if someone is digging wells in Africa, but passes out bibles along with the food and medicine that they provide, then I really have no problem with that. I dont even mind if they also hold church services and invite others to attend.

    Sorry, William. Not going to buy it.
    It is pernicious. Period.
    You might very well(sic) get upset if that well-digger was a Muslim handing out Korans, especially after Manchester, and maybe even more so if the well digger was a Neo – Nazi who handed out copies of Mein Kampf. So you can’t hand-wave our good Christian brethren on a technicality.

    Liked by 1 person

  228. Idk, Ark. I know some muslims, and even when I was a believing christian, I didnt hold their well doing in contempt because I didnt agree with their faith.

    and really, if neo-nazi’s spent their time helping others instead of burning crosses or holding whites are great rallies, we may not think as badly of them.

    Like

  229. @ William.
    Like Jon, you are missing the point.
    If people want to do good things for the sake of doing good things then that’s great.
    But if they are doing anything because of a religious motivation then this is fundamentally wrong.

    As I mentioned further up the thread. The primary motivation for Christians to interact with others is to Spread the Word(sic).
    And if they are not evangelizing in any shape of form but are still ”doing good” because of their religion then their actions are being governed by a pernicious belief.

    Maybe you would like to answer my question regarding Mother Theresa who was held up as a bastion for goodness know how many years.
    I would be genuinely interested in your take on her.

    Like

  230. So doing good deeds from a religious motivation is fundamentally wrong because it causes insidious harm or ruin. So the person who receives charity from a religious person who believes it is a religious duty and moral good to help the poor is actually clandestinely or visibly causing the person somekind of insidious harm? For example, if someone donates their time and resources to a soup kitchen and they’re motivated to do so by their religious beliefs, but let’s for the sake of this scenario say they’re not evangelizing, you find something pernicious in that?

    Like

  231. Again you are avoiding the point of them doing it in the first place: That they are motivated by religion.
    Their action may be well-meaning but this does not detract from the fact their religion is pernicious.
    And if they would have helped at the soup kitchen in any case then they do not need to be religiously motivated.
    And they do not need religion.

    If you recall the actions of Nate’s parents and family and most friends who shunned him after he announced he no longer believed,, they all thought they were doing good. (Gods work? sic) They truly thought he had to treated this way so as to come to his senses.

    This action surely cannot be considered good in any light.

    The Manchester bomber is being hailed as a hero in some quarters.
    Mother Theresa is now a saint.

    Religion is the foundation of their actions.

    .

    Like

  232. Ark

    Then can we say the work of Mother Theresa was good or not?

    That is a good question, but I think too broad a question. I’m quite familiar with the critiques and defenses of Mother Teresa, and I would argue that she did some truly good things, some noble-but-misguided things and some terrible things. To my mind, her greatest sin was raising money to help the poor in India but allocating it to things other than actually helping the poor. That was a disservice to the people she was supposed to help and to the people from whom she fraudulently raised money. That, I think, is quite unforgivable. I know her Order also did a great deal to comfort, feed and help many needy people. That is not nothing. But I would not know how to begin doing a good/bad calculation. I think my answer to your question would be “Yes, it was both good and not.”

    Sorry, William. Not going to buy it. It is pernicious. Period. … if they are doing anything because of a religious motivation then this is fundamentally wrong.

    I’m going to call BS on this. You do not sincerely believe this.

    When somebody does something nice for you, do you ask their religious beliefs before saying “Thank you”? If they are a Christian, do you refuse their kindness? If you were homeless and starving, would you refuse a hot meal and a place to live if the Salvation Army offered it to you? If you were a starving refugee in Africa, would you turn down refuge from a Catholic charity? I doubt it. I think you would accept it with gratitude.

    Like

  233. Yes, I’ve heard this line of reasoning before. When people do bad actions and say they’re motivated by religion then we can just take their word for it, when people do good actions and say they’re motivated by religion then we cannot take their word for it. Does this seem like consistent reasoning to you?

    Nobody is suggesting that religion never causes pernicious acts. I think what people are suggesting is that it can also lead people to do great good as well.

    Like

  234. That is a good question, but I think too broad a question.

    Have you been taking apologetic lessons from Unklee by any chance.

    When somebody does something nice for you, do you ask their religious beliefs before saying “Thank you”

    Nope. I do not ask and would not necessarily even know, and would not turn down food either if I was starving.

    However, This is not about me … or the starving kid in Africa and ONCE AGAIN, you are missing the point.

    If religion is pernicious…. which it most certainly is …. then anything done in its name is tainted.
    Consider all the hospitals in the States owned and run by churches.

    Religion has no part to play in our lives. None whatsoever. If you are going to excuse it on such grounds then you have to accept that it is the religious persons right to withhold their services based on religious grounds as well.Making cakes, not accepting a transfusion and refusing vaccines for their children

    Sorry, Jon, you can call bullshit all day, but tomorrow fifty people may die because of another bomber who is merely exercising his religious belief.

    Like

  235. “Like Jon, you are missing the point.
    If people want to do good things for the sake of doing good things then that’s great.
    But if they are doing anything because of a religious motivation then this is fundamentally wrong.”

    Ark, that’s cool, but maybe you’re missing the point. Maybe good is being done, regardless of the motivation. Maybe people have multiple motives for doing good.

    Jon even pointed out that an atheist could do good because it makes them feel good about themselves or because they get a tax right off.

    And I do think most people have more than one reason for doing good. Maybe it covers a lot of ground: because they’re just good people, because they want to help, because it makes them feel good, because they get a tax credit, because they think god will approve, or because their god will be magnified, etc, etc….

    I believe I see your point, but i also believe that good is still being done, and I believe that people (even the religious) are capable of doing good because they’re just good people, even if they also have another cause of obeying or serving their deity.

    and I have met some Christians who even claim that a person shouldn’t do good just to avoid hell or to gain heaven, but that people should do good because they value good, Telling someone that they dont really believe that is no better than people telling atheists that they secretly do believe in god, but they just want to rebel…

    I just don’t see the need to criticize someone’s good deeds because I don’t agree with their faith, nor do I find it helpful at all.

    Like

  236. I dont think anyone here is excusing all of religion due to the good that religious people do, but I’m just saying that a religious person is capable of real good and real sincerity and that the good that religious people is, in fact, good.

    I do not care to rob good deeds from people who take the time to give them.

    Hopefully that clarifies a little.

    Like

  237. Ark

    Have you been taking apologetic lessons from Unklee by any chance.

    I attempt to analyze things rationally, dispassionately, on their own merits, and without regard for which “team” is making the argument.

    If religion is pernicious…. which it most certainly is …. then anything done in its name is tainted.

    This is fundamentalism. This is exactly the same thing fundamentalists say about original sin, or what Calvinists say about good deeds having no value at all apart from God. You see the world through the prism of your religious belief, and you filter your conclusions through that fundamental belief.

    A good deed, like a well-cooked meal, is just as good if done by a religious person as a non-religious person. If you cannot see that — if you think killing people in the name of religion is equivalent to building hospitals and feeding the hungry — then you have more in common with the former than with the latter.

    Liked by 2 people

  238. “Sorry, Jon, you can call bullshit all day, but tomorrow fifty people may die because of another bomber who is merely exercising his religious belief.”

    I think we all agree that this sort of action would not qualify as a good deed, like feeding the hungry or digging wells for poor Africans.

    Like

  239. I just don’t see the need to criticize someone’s good deeds because I don’t agree with their faith, nor do I find it helpful at all.

    But you feel perfectly at home criticizing them for their religious beliefs if you do not like their ‘deeds’.
    And I am sure there are plenty of people who do like the deeds they do that you may find offensive or repugnant.

    What if the person working at the soup kitchen is the same person who refuses point blank to bake a cake for a gay couple …. on religious grounds?

    Like

  240. @William

    I think we all agree that this sort of action would not qualify as a good deed, like feeding the hungry or digging wells for poor Africans.

    Yes, of course WE would not consider it to be a good deed.
    But there are most certainly others who would consider it is a good deed. Or at least a Just and Righteous Deed. You know … akin to, slaughtering Canaanites or Flooding the World or indoctrinating kids about hell to save them from eternal torture after they die.

    And would you now honestly consider what Mother Theresa did to be genuinely good in light of what has been revealed?

    It is not the deed that is under the microscope but the religious motivation behind it.
    I reiterate. If the person is doing good for the sake of doing good, then there is no need or place for religion as the motivating force.

    Like

  241. The religious ideas that brought them into the soup kitchen are good because they led them to help other people in need, the religious ideas that made them refuse the gay couple are bad because they led them to discriminate against other people.

    .

    Like

  242. “But you feel perfectly at home criticizing them for their religious beliefs if you do not like their ‘deeds’.
    And I am sure there are plenty of people who do like the deeds they do that you may find offensive or repugnant.”

    Well, the deeds I wouldn’t approve of still would not be approved of in a non-believer did them, right?

    “What if the person working at the soup kitchen is the same person who refuses point blank to bake a cake for a gay couple …. on religious grounds?”

    it almost seems like this is suggesting that a person is either all good or all bad – and I disagree. I think people are perfectly capable of doing good in this or that, but also doing bad here or there.

    All I am saying is that the individual’s religion shouldn’t detract from or add to their deeds.

    Like

  243. A good deed, like a well-cooked meal, is just as good if done by a religious person as a non-religious person.

    I agree. It is not the deed that is under the spotlight but the motivation or motivating force behind it.
    This is what you are refusing to see.
    ” Hi, I am here at the soup kitchen because I prayed and god told me to come…” (paraphrase)

    If you cannot see that — if you think killing people in the name of religion is equivalent to building hospitals and feeding the hungry — then you have more in common with the former than with the latter.

    I did not say it was equivalent. More in common with the latter, Really? *smile* And it seems because you cannot have your own way, we are back to the asinine, eh, Jon? Let me stoop to your level for this comment – go fuck yourself.

    Like

  244. Well, the deeds I wouldn’t approve of still would not be approved of in a non-believer did them, right?

    Of course. But a non believer has not the luxury or the excuse of religion to fall back on. One reason there is so much PC where religion is involved.

    All I am saying is that the individual’s religion shouldn’t detract from or add to their deeds.

    But it does … all the time. And this is the entire point.

    Like

  245. @Consolereader

    The religious ideas that brought them into the soup kitchen are good because they led them to help other people in need, the religious ideas that made them refuse the gay couple are bad because they led them to discriminate against other people.

    But they believe their actions are equally as good. And we have a number of actual cases to demonstrate this, do we not?

    Like

  246. Religion has its faults, and many good people end up discriminating against other people because they thing God wants them to. But religion also does have some positive aspects, and not all religious people are pretentious jerks, but some are genuinely very decent and caring people.

    I think we should avoid discrimination against someone because they happen to be gay or religious or whatever.

    But if someone does something good, then that good thing has at least some good in it, even if their motives are questionable. I’m fine recognizing and appreciating that good. And I think that’s true whether you’re a deist or atheist.

    If someone does something bad, that thing is bad, even if they had pure motives.

    I’m feeling a little lost in the conversation now, so I’m basically just trying to clarify my position without arguing.

    Like

  247. If someone does something bad, that thing is bad, even if they had pure motives.

    And is this not simply your subjective perspective?

    If some people believe that Yahweh was justified ordering the slaughter of Canaanites who the hell (sic) are you William with your Ivory Tower morality to tell anyone that Yahweh’s actions were ”bad”?
    Or the Manchester bomber for that matter.

    Like

  248. Ark

    “If someone does something bad, that thing is bad, even if they had pure motives.”

    And is this not simply your subjective perspective?

    Yes. How could it be anything else?

    Like

  249. Ark

    “If someone does something bad, that thing is bad, even if they had pure motives.”

    And is this not simply your subjective perspective?

    Yes. How could it be anything else?

    Liked by 1 person

  250. I hate watching fellow skeptics going at each other. Can’t we all just get along???

    🙂

    I would much rather hear from UnkleE regarding how he knows that the still small voice in his head is his god and not just himself talking to himself.

    Liked by 2 people

  251. I hate watching fellow skeptics going at each other. Can’t we all just get along???

    Yes, it’s like Unklee being mistakenly booked as the Guest Speaker at a YEC rally.

    I think Jon’s just feeling a little crabby and embarrassed that he’s beginning to sound like a Watered-Down Theist. He’s so off kilterat the moment he is even posting comments twice. I reckon he may need therapy after Nate closes this thread.
    I’ll bet he has been emailing unklee. Always a bad move. Before long he’ll be using words and phrases such as:

    I attempt to analyze things rationally, dispassionately, and … That is a good question, but I think too broad a question. .

    Oh … er … hold on a sec.

    Like

  252. Gary

    I hate watching fellow skeptics going at each other. Can’t we all just get along???

    Relax, debating ideas is enjoyable.

    Ark

    I think Jon’s just feeling a little crabby and embarrassed that he’s beginning to sound like a Watered-Down Theist.

    Given the fact that others don’t seem to agree with your argument, perhaps you might consider the possibility that you are either incorrect or, at least, failing to communicate your idea adequately.

    I posted the comment twice because I failed to close a blockquote, so I did it again with the blockquote closed. I have not emailed Unklee. And I don’t particularly care whether an argument I make is helpful to, or compatible with, theism. My non-belief in a god is irrelevant to the view I outlined above about judging beliefs, intentions and actions.

    Like

  253. Most of the ”others” are ex-believers, and some were fundamentalist. Letting go of that amount of indoctrination and fully realise how deep those ”claws” actually went it cannot be easy, even if one does declare oneself an atheist these days.

    Look at you – you’re are still trying to defend it.
    And yes, Jon, I did realise that you had failed to close the blockquote.

    Liked by 1 person

  254. Ark:

    Most of the ”others” are ex-believers, and some were fundamentalist. Letting go of that amount of indoctrination and fully realise how deep those ”claws” actually went it cannot be easy, even if one does declare oneself an atheist these days.

    Zoe: No, not easy at all. Especially, when so many of us are surrounded by various systems of belief that on the surface appear to present themselves as benevolent and compassionate.

    Liked by 1 person

  255. Gary,

    “I was wrong to insist that the truths of Christianity can be proven by objective evidence. That is a fundamentalist approach. The truths of Christianity are ultimately based on faith, which is a matter of mystery; of enchantment.”

    I replied: You mean…magic.

    What then did your friend say? Did the conversation go anywhere else interesting from there?

    Like

  256. No. He has stopped communicating. I’m going to give him some more time before I ask him what’s up.

    Like

  257. I just want to throw this out there to Ark, Jon, and maybe anyone else following their conversation:

    The progress of your discussion highlights the drawbacks of trying to make general claims about the negative aspects of religion. Usually the first response to a general claim is some easy exception. Speaking from experience, that search for an exception is automatic when regarding a general criticism of faith. That is, people often look for wiggle room to say that the criticism doesn’t apply.

    I know it’s difficult to limit oneself to specifics, but it does a better job at addressing concerns regarding religious thought. And there are good specific examples out there. A few weeks back, I read a Christian blogger’s post where he flat out advocated for an atheist blogger to commit suicide. Rather than getting shunned by fellow Christians, the post got quite a few likes and positive comments from the community. Some of those people are otherwise polite and amicable, but supporting the tribe allowed them to dehumanize someone completely.

    If Ark is barking up the wrong tree, stuff like that should not exist. While it might not be the root of all evil everywhere, its inability to stop people from dehumanizing each other is a fair, general criticism.

    Liked by 3 people

  258. @Zoe:

    No, not easy at all. Especially, when so many of us are surrounded by various systems of belief that on the surface appear to present themselves as benevolent and compassionate.

    Thank you, Zoe. Perhaps you or Nan ought to explain it to Jon? It might be more believable coming from one who has been ”through the mill”?

    @ Serius Biznus.

    Thank you S,B. I reckon your comment and the one from Zoe pretty much vindicate what I am trying get across, but I suspect Jon and maybe William, will try to ”explain it” once again.

    @ ratamacue0

    The conversation between the Pastor and I hit a major reef when his only answer to my question about asking him to explain how he would get across to an Amazon tribe ( the Amazon in South America not the one on the Internet) that the bible was divinely inspired and inerrant as he claims it is. After much Theological Two-Step he elected to go with the Scripture is the Word of (his) God (sic) because Scripture says it is the Word of (his) God(sic) and anything else would be guided by the ”Holy Spirit”.

    Rather than accept the evidence that flatly refutes his claims of inerrancy, and divine inspiration he simply deleted the post.

    Oh, and Gary can attest, I was polite, cordial and thoroughly diplomatic throughout. I gave him every opportunity to fully explain and even bit my tongue when he opened and closed the post with steaming moronic Fundy Apologetics, even though over at Gary’s spot I had asked him nicely please not to, and mentioned it was irrelevant to the question and simply got my back up. And for the record not once did I call Pastor Jeff Baxter a Disingenuous SOB, nor a Dickhead or a Giant Creationist Child Abusing Arsehat throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

  259. Hi Sirius,

    I’m sorry to be so long in replying, but I’ve been having problems posting a comment – dunno why.

    I’m sorry if you think I’m adding things to what you’re saying. I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. You appear to be misunderstanding me and christianity. You said at the start that you wanted to understand me fairly, so I have been trying to explore why you have these misunderstandings.

    So let me just point out the places where you misunderstand, and I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to follow tham up (after all, it was your questions in the first place).

    ”I find it incredibly interesting that our discussion began with me asking you determine between what you think is truth versus mistake”
    Your question related to personal revelation, but that is only a very small part of the truth I believe.

    ”It almost seems self-serving that you’d ignore mistakes in interpreting divine guidance in your statements about pursuing divine truth and then rely upon them to defend against the consequences of what you’re talking about.”
    I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you are saying here.

    ”It means that a Christian could follow all the steps you list for finding truth and still get it wrong. At the least, it means that the system is not completely effective for finding actual truth.”
    Almost all christians know that personal revelation is highly fallible on its own. We need other sources of knowledge too.

    ” you have a deity which can say logically inconsistent things to different people (like hell existing and not existing, or like saying you can sing in church or not sing in church).”
    What christians think doesn’t necessarily = God saying something!

    ”This means that people can’t quite trust what other people get from it (and they can’t fully trust what they get from it themselves).”
    Yes, exactly. What people think may be personal revelation is fallible because we are all fallible. We need other sources of knowledge too. We don’t always get everything right. That says a lot about people but very little about God.

    ” I find it strange that you haven’t met anyone who believes hell exists because they believe everything in the bible is true. “
    If you check back, you’ll see I didn’t say this. I don’t even understand what you mean here, I’m sorry.

    ”Can hell exist and not exist at the same time? If not, is there a way to objectively determine if they’re mistaken? Does it even matter?”
    Your last comment here (Does it even matter?) is what I have been saying all along. Jesus warns his hearers to be concerned to be on the right path that leads to life rather than destruction. That is what is important. The exact nature of that destruction isn’t highly important.

    ”After all, who cares if a deity says opposite things if it gets people closer to whatever truth it wants to convey?”
    Now you are again assuming “God says” without having shown that is the case. I repeat again – if you want to go from personal opinions that may or may not come from God, to “God says”, you need to justify that enormous jump.

    Liked by 1 person

  260. Hi Jon,

    Apologies to you too for the delay.

    “Given all the evidence, it sure seems like Christianity both evolved and flourished more as it got farther from Jerusalem.”

    I don’t have any problem agreeing with that. After all, Jerusalem was a sacked city after 70 CE, and most of the christians had scattered. But I think that is a long way from your original statement or inference that christianity didn’t flourish among those who knew Jesus. It flourished among them, but remained a relatively small movement until it spread out from Jews to Gentiles. After all, there were far more Gentiles than Jews.

    But we both agree that the movement started among Jews and ended predominantly among Gentiles, or at least hellenised Jews in the diaspora. We may disagree over the exact percentages, but not much because neither of us know. So our disagreement is mainly over our interpretation of those facts (such as they are), and given our respective worldviews, that is hardly unexpected. I think I’ll leave it there.

    “I agree that many of our beliefs rest on un-tested assumptions and cultural indoctrination. That applies to every human. I don’t really have a strong sense of what exactly makes a view “rational”, but I do think that theistic belief is reasonable, given ….”

    I’m curious to know where you were going with your question, whether you have any other responses other than mine, and what you think about it all. Just curious. Thanks.

    Like

  261. “And is this not simply your subjective perspective?”

    sure. I may not be capable of sharing anything other than my perspective.

    “If some people believe that Yahweh was justified ordering the slaughter of Canaanites who the hell (sic) are you William with your Ivory Tower morality to tell anyone that Yahweh’s actions were ”bad”?
    Or the Manchester bomber for that matter.”

    Ark, I’m not sure what your point is.

    I agree that religion is man ,made and not real. I agree that many do bad things due to their religions, or that they can allow religion to justify their hatred in many cases. But I’m only saying that if a Church of Christ Scientist digs a well for poor an impoverished African village, that they are doing a good work, and while their religious motives may play a part, they are still simultaneously capable of doing it out of genuine love and compassion. And I also think it’s noteworthy, that the well diggers and overall do-gooders, typically aren’t the ones bombing people. They may refuse a wedding cake to someone they think shouldnt get married, but I doubt that they’d refuse medical or food to anyone who needed it.

    In their minds it’s, “I want to help you live and be healthy, but I dont want to help you sin.”

    while I see the problems there, I also see how that mentality is different than a suicide bomber’s.

    I’m not really sure that I get this whole discussion anymore.

    Like

  262. Sirius,

    It’s a fare criticism in certain applications, but not all. To apply that generalization across the board is going to create problems and inaccuracies, like most generalizations do.

    In general terms, the USA is a fertile place, but it’s stupid to zero in a Death Valley, CA and say that it is fertile, because it’s in the USA, and USA is fertile… To me it seems just as absurd to say that a good deed acted out by a religious person isn’t really a good deed, because sometimes some religious people are jerks, is just wrong and looks a lot like trying to invent reasons to despise something. Ironically this resembles a tactic that we routinely criticize apologists for using.

    I’m not defending religion, but I see no point in pretending the good actions of some religious people do not really count, or somehow aren’t really good, because either they’re all secretly douches or they’re only motivated by the personal reward of heaven or whatever…

    I disagree.

    There are many religious people who give a lot of themselves and who do real and tangible good. That does not make their religion right or real, but the fact that they’re religious does not mean their actions and efforts aren’t really good beneficial, nor does it mean that they don’t somehow have true compassion.

    Like

  263. But I’m only saying that if a Church of Christ Scientist digs a well for poor an impoverished African village, that they are doing a good work, and while their religious motives may play a part, they are still simultaneously capable of doing it out of genuine love and compassion .

    There was a band called Soft Cell in the later seventies and they had a hit called Tainted Love.

    The act (of kindness) is not in question, only the religious motivation.

    Please try to understand that this very same well-digger might consider it an act of kindness to buy the book, The Cage and spend half an hour every night before bedtime reading it to his/her four and five year old children because as devout Christians they are desperately afraid their kids must understand all about Jesus and God(sic) and heaven and hell and punishment for their sins and that they can never actually enough to truly be worthy but they must at least try or they will got to hell and be tortured and burn for eternity they do not. Because we all know that ”God Loves You!! ”

    You know what? If I was the child of such a parent and I had enough maturity to exercise critical thought at that age instead of crying myself to sleep and peeing my pants in terror, I would say this:

    ”Well, fuck this hell, fuck this religion, fuck the bible and last but not least fuck this god.- what a load of absolute rubbish!. Only a delusional bloody idiot would believe in such nonsense? And you are my parents and supposed to be grown up, which makes it even more ridiculous. And you want to indoctrinate me with this shit? For goodness sake, mum and dad, get a life! And for the record, even if this Yahweh character was real, he is obviously not worth shit, and I would not do a damn thing for him or in his name. Thanks all the same, but can I read Alice in Wonderland now please? At least no Dickhead apologist is ever going to try to convince me what Lewis Carol wrote was fact.”

    Like

  264. Hey UnkleE,

    Thanks for your response!

    With regards to your point that you never said you haven’t met any Christian who thinks people should believe in hell:

    “I’ve never met any, but I’ll take your word for it[.]”

    While I might not have a complete and accurate depiction of your particular views on Christianity, I think it’s a bit overreaching to say I don’t understand it at all. Our problem here is you’re adding things into what I’m saying that aren’t really there, and it moves the conversation away from the ideas I’m trying to discuss.

    It goes back to my initial line of questioning. They weren’t just about personal revelation; they were about how you can tell the difference between “personal opinions” and what a deity is trying to communicate. You outlined a process by which a Christian can determine if a thought is from a deity versus personal opinion. There was no other information given as to whether a person can follow that process and still get it wrong.

    As it stands, the idea you conveyed (that personal revelation is a way to get at divine truth) doesn’t have any component for which one can say it is fact or opinion. In other words, you’re asking me to justify the jump without giving me enough information to evaluate it. It’s like telling me I have to walk across a bridge that hasn’t been built yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  265. Ark,

    sure, but again, you’re going to an extreme and trying to apply that to the whole.

    I was raised in fundamental Christian family, who taught hell fire and brimstone – and I didn’t piss my pants in fear. I didn’t shake if constant fear or worry. Eventually, even if it took longer than it should have, I came to question and then shrug off such “faith.”

    I also know that no one is perfect and no one is going to always be perfectly rational or objective. While that’s not really an excuse for bad or stupid behavior, it is a reason to expect that people will make mistakes to varying degrees, despite best efforts.

    So the well-digger who tells terrifying bedtime stories about hell to their children is one action, and digging wells is another. If we’re all only going to be judged on our mistakes, then none of us are good. I find this to be little better than the hell bedtime stories you’re criticizing.

    And it doesnt even take a religious person to use scare tactics on their children, with misplaced good intentions.

    “you go in the street and car will kill you.”

    “You have sex you’ll get aids or get pregnant.”

    “You do drugs you’ll die.”

    “You dont stop throwing tantrums the police will arrest you…”

    These are all stupid and overly dramatic to the extent that they will likely lead to the opposite of what the parent intends. While it’s not good and needs to be corrected, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they love and hug their children, provide for them and would likely wade through a sea of broken glass to save them.

    There are problems with religion. I do not disagree at all. I just don’t see the point in making out like nothing about a religious person is good – it’s just not true.

    Like

  266. Hey William,

    I get what you’re saying, and I think my comment reflects that I don’t prefer absolute criticisms of religion (i.e., all religion is bad). However, I am saying that one doesn’t have to get to that point to criticize religion as a whole. Religions make some really big claims, and those claims need to be evaluated like everything else. Essentially, it’s the difference between saying, “I think all religion is bad,” and saying, “I don’t think religion promotes goodness.” These are similar statements, but the latter lets people evaluate the issue more thoroughly without running into the problems you’ve mentioned.

    Like

  267. There are problems with religion. I do not disagree at all. I just don’t see the point in making out like nothing about a religious person is good – it’s just not true.

    I am struggling to fathom why I am not making myself clear on this topic and I am wondering if perhaps you are misreading what I’m writing? Zoe seems to be getting it and I’m pretty sure Gary is as well.

    But I will explain … again.First. Religion is the problem. All religion. Because it invokes a supernatural agent. I don’t want to come across as condescending but let that sink in for a second.

    As a rule,or up to a point, it is not the person and it is strong>not the actions but the motivating factor behind the actions . And that motivating factor is … religion
    ( and this applies even if you want to call yourself simply a Jesus-Follower or what ever other tripe you come up with).

    And the (non-religious) parents who warn their children about traffic, drugs and sex etc have no need to invoke a deity as part of the warning, now do they? No. Of course not.

    I really hope that this time I have explained myself fully?
    If not please tell me where I am falling down?

    Liked by 1 person

  268. UnkleE: “Almost all christians know that personal revelation is highly fallible on its own. We need other sources of knowledge too.”

    We know that the Bible is highly fallible. Now UnkleE agrees with us that personal revelation is highly fallible. What’s left? How do Christians KNOW that Jesus of Nazareth is God the Creator, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, if they have no reliable source confirming this claim?

    Liked by 2 people

  269. How do Christians KNOW that Jesus of Nazareth is God the Creator, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, if they have no reliable source confirming this claim?

    If you recall what Jeff Baxter wrote to me … The Holy Spirit.
    I am going to guess that this will be the answer you receive, or words to this effect.

    Like

  270. But UnkleE just admitted that personal revelation (that is the Holy Spirit’s job) is highly fallible. UnkleE is not an inerrantist. He admits that the Bible is fallible. So what is left???

    We aren’t debating the existence of a Creator. We aren’t debating the existence of Jesus of Nazareth in the first century. We are debating the existence of evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is alive and is the Creator God, ruler of Heaven and Earth. Is an intelligent guy like UnkleE going to “bet the house” on such weak evidence as 1.) an empty first century tomb; 2.) the testimony of one first century rabbi’s “heavenly vision”; 3.) and the willingness of the early Christians to die for their new belief system?

    Liked by 1 person

  271. When I deconverted from Christianity in 2014, my pastor and many Christian apologists on the internet told me that I deconverted because I hadn’t read enough Christian scholarship; I didn’t know the evidence in support of the Christian claims: I was ignorant.

    So for the last three years I have diligently read the scholarship. ( I will list below all the books written by scholars that I have carefully read and studied since my deconversion.) I recently presented this list of books to my former pastor and do you know what he had the audacity to say to me: “I was wrong to say that the claims of Christianity are based on historical evidence. Even if there was ZERO evidence for the claims of Christianity, Christianity would still be true. It is a matter of faith and faith is a mystery.”

    Good grief. What a con job.

    Here are the books I have read:
    1. “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
    2. “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham
    3. “Making the Case for Christianity” by Maas, Francisco, et al.
    4. ” The Resurrection Fact” by Bombaro, Francisco, et al.
    5. “Miracles” , Volumes 1 and 2, by Craig Keener
    6. “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
    7. “Why are There Differences in the Gospels” by Michael Licona
    8. “The Son Rises” by William Lane Craig
    9. “The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus” by Raymond Brown
    10. “The Resurrection of Jesus” by Gerd Luedemann
    11. “Resurrection Reconsidered” by Gregory Riley
    12. “John and Thomas—Gospels in Conflict?” by Christopher Skinner
    13. “The Argument for the Holy Sepulchre” (journal article) by scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor
    14. “Israel in Egypt” by James Hoffmeier
    15. “The Bible Unearthed” by Finkelstein and Silberman
    16. “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman
    17. “Jesus, Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman
    18. “How Jesus Became God” by Bart Ehrman
    19. “Jesus Before the Gospels” by Bart Ehrman
    20. “Did Jesus Exist?” by Bart Ehrman
    21. “The Resurrection of Jesus in the Light of Jewish Burial Practices” by Craig Evans, (newsletter article) The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University, May 4, 2016
    22. “Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?” by Jodi Magness, SBL Forum
    23. “Genre, Sub-genre and Questions of Audience: A Proposed Typology for Greco-Roman biography” (article) by Justin M. Smith, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
    24. “Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus” by Asher Norman (not a work of scholarship per se, but it is endorsed by Talmudic scholars for its accuracy in presenting a Jewish perspective of Jesus and the Christian New Testament)

    Liked by 1 person

  272. unkleE, you wrote: The exact nature of that destruction isn’t highly important.

    I would daresay there are a few hundred-thousand Christians that would disagree with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  273. No Ark, I don’t really follow.

    you’re assuming/suggesting that their only motive is a religious one, and people very often operate with multiple motives.

    and if a parent wants to teach their kids that one needs to be good, in part, because there’s some over-watching force that wants us to be good, I guess I don’t mind that.

    If God(s) just become the personification of “good” then I do not care. I don’t like unnecessary condemnation along with many other aspects of religion, but again, I just dont see where this negates good that they may do, and I’m not sure where I’m failing to explain it – I’m not even sure if we’re talking about the same thing at this point.

    Like

  274. you’re assuming/suggesting that their only motive is a religious one, and people very often operate with multiple motives.

    No, I am not.
    If they … or I … do something …. work at a soup kitchen for example …. because, hey, man, they/I think it is the right thing to do, then great. Plenty of people do. And there are a lot of organisations that go around the world and do a lot of good with no religious motivation at all.
    And they do not need religion do they? Read that again, William … they do not need religion.

    But if they do it because they feel they are commanded or obligated to do it because of their belief in their god, or their pastor says it, or the person in charge of their mission group sends them off to do it, or they are doing it for Farking Jesus H Christ, Buddha, Allah, Mohammed, Mother Theresa, the holy ghost, Shiva, Ganesh, Quetzalcoatl, or the East Philippine god of big penises … then their motives are tainted.
    And you can work at as many soup kitchens as you like, but you will never get to heaven not will you get a Big Dick.

    and if a parent wants to teach their kids that one needs to be good, in part, because there’s some over-watching force that wants us to be good, I guess I don’t mind that.

    Of for fuck’s sake!! Really? Well, not to put too fine a point on it … you are still as indoctrinated and delusional as unklee.
    Stay in church, William. I’m serious, man, ‘cos Yeshua really needs as many unquestioning,unthinking hand-waving semi-lobotomized halfwits as he can get …

    And remember William…. Jeezus is the MAN and he Fucking luvs ya!

    You take care.

    Peace.

    Oh, Pee Ess
    Check your toast, okay?

    Like

  275. Sirius

    If Ark is barking up the wrong tree, stuff like that should not exist. While it might not be the root of all evil everywhere, its inability to stop people from dehumanizing each other is a fair, general criticism.

    I can totally agree with your point here. Religion can motivate people to do good and to do evil. And the fact that the same religion can be, and is, interpreted so radically differently is absolutely a strike against the notion that a religion is “true.”

    I don’t object to that argument at all, but I have agreed from the start that A) the truth claims of a religion should be evaluated on their own, B) the actions of religious adherents should also be evaluated (as practically and morally good or bad) on their own, and C) a person’s religious beliefs may lead them to do either good or bad things. Terrorism is immoral regardless of the accuracy of a person’s motivating beliefs. Charity is a moral good regardless of the accuracy of the person’s motivating beliefs.

    Like

  276. Gary

    I will list below all the books written by scholars that I have carefully read and studied since my deconversion.

    Of those, are there any you would recommend as worth my reading? I’m currently reading James Kugel’s “How to Read the Bible”, which “contrasts the way modern scholars understand these events with the way Christians and Jews have traditionally understood them.” I thought it would be interesting, because so much of our understanding of the texts — and the religions associated with them — are bound up in assumptions we don’t even know we have. The Trinity or prophecies of Jesus seem so obvious to Christians and so alien to Jews. Or people interpret stories as morality tales, when they were originally intended as descriptions and the theological lessons were invented later to explain contradictions in the text. Anyway, it is an interesting read, so far.

    Is there anything from your list that you think would be worth the time?

    Like

  277. Unklee

    think that is a long way from your original statement or inference that christianity didn’t flourish among those who knew Jesus. It flourished among them, but remained a relatively small movement until it spread out from Jews to Gentiles. After all, there were far more Gentiles than Jews.

    Perhaps we are picking at nits here — the lack of concrete numbers makes it hard to say what “small” or “flourished” mean — but I just find it difficult to believe that Christianity won large numbers of people within Jerusalem or Galilee. The gradual increase in scorn for the Jews within the NT makes it pretty clear that the Jews had rejected the Jesus cult, and tradition (and some textual evidence) suggests the leaders of the Jesus movement even left the area by the end of their lives.

    My point is simply that the NT had Jesus preaching to massive crowds — many thousands of people, many times — but the early Christian movement was just a few hundred people.

    The persuasive thing about Jesus was not himself, his message or his death and (alleged) appearances. It was the story — the reinterpreted, theological narrative — developed by his followers, perhaps especially Paul, afterwards. If the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was the best evidence, you might expect that the growth of Christianity would be explosive for those closest to the time of Jesus. But it wasn’t. It was gradual, over centuries, until Constantine and his (I think) grandson made it a more politically and socially powerful religion. That is when Christianity really took off.

    I’m curious to know where you were going with your question, whether you have any other responses other than mine, and what you think about it all. Just curious.

    I wasn’t going anywhere with it. It was just a sincere question, no subtext!

    Liked by 1 person

  278. Hi Jon,

    I found Roman Catholic NT scholar Raymond Brown’s book to be refreshingly honest. If a particular Christian claim had poor evidence to support it he was more than willing to admit it. The evangelical scholars—Habermas, Licona, Bauckham, and especially Craig—were more than willing to seize on any scrap of possible evidence supporting the traditional Christian claims, making all kinds of assumptions and conjecture based on the flimsiest of evidence. For instance, it is well known that authors of first century Greek biographies used a literary technique called the “inclusio” to indicate the source of the material in their story. The first character introduced in the story would also be the last character mentioned in the story. This was the hidden clue that this character was the source of the story. Bauckham, Bombaro and other conservative authors are certain that the author of Mark used the inclusio to indicate that Peter was the source of the Gospel of Mark. Problem is: John the Baptist is the first character mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, not Peter! How do these conservative Christians get around this problem? Answer: They make up a new definition of an inclusio: It isn’t the first and last character mentioned in the story, but the first and last DISCIPLE mentioned.

    I also like Gerd Luedemann’s book. He believes that the Resurrection belief began with one of the disciples having an hallucination. He does not believe Jesus was a god. Luedemann still considers himself a Christian, at least in the book I read. Needless to say, conservative Christians do NOT consider him a Christian.

    Liked by 1 person

  279. @Jon

    My point is simply that the NT had Jesus preaching to massive crowds — many thousands of people, many times — but the early Christian movement was just a few hundred people.

    Excellent point, Jon.
    And of course who could forget the Rockstar Welcome and cult-like Adulation as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey … or two donkeys even.
    Odd that there seemed to be no one shouting out for him when he was presented to the crowd alongside the make-believe Barabbas in the either-or-scene?

    Like

  280. @Ark or even that in 1 Corinthians Jesus is said to have appeared to 500 ‘brothers’, yet on Pentecost the number of believers is described in Acts as about 120.

    Liked by 2 people

  281. The Church has always wanted the “Faithful” to be ignorant about their religion.

    “As ignorance was its Mother and the source spring of its world power, it is bound to cherish ignorance as its patron saint and monitor forever, for the breadth of knowledge would wither it away.” Alvin Boyd Kuhn

    Like

  282. Hi Sirius,

    ”With regards to your point that you never said you haven’t met any Christian who thinks people should believe in hell:

    “I’ve never met any, but I’ll take your word for it[.]””

    You’ve got it mixed up, I’m sorry. I don’t doubt I said what you have quoted me here as saying, but that statement wasn’t referring to ”haven’t met any Christian who thinks people should believe in hell” as you say. Look back and see (my comment of May 22), and what I was responding to was your statement (my emphasis): ”There are Christians out there that think you have to believe certain things about hell in order to really be a Christian.”

    There is a very big difference between “Believing in hell” and “thinking that you have to believe certain things ABOUT hell”.

    ”It goes back to my initial line of questioning. They weren’t just about personal revelation;”

    I’m sorry bro, but this is pretty mixed up as well. Again, check the discussion. Your original question was very specifically about divine revelation, not about knowledge and truth generally: ”how do you specifically determine whether you’ve received divine revelation? In other words, how can you tell if you’re receiving instruction from a deity versus a thought that’s not part of a relationship with a living deity?”

    You made this clear in your second comment to me, when you clearly contrasted divine revelation (which you were asking me about) to Biblical precepts (which most christians would say is the major source of their knowledge about God): ”it can get referred to sometimes as divine revelation, divine inspiration, plain revelation or inspiration, talking with god, and many, many other things.”

    Then you said that you wanted to ”get a fair and accurate depiction of your reasoning behind what you believe” and I warned you: ”I’m not so sure my answer to your question will help you evaluate my reasoning behind what I believe” and then went on to describe briefly how I see knowledge in the wider sense. And you replied: ”My only interest here at this time is your position on special revelation“.

    So you made yourself pretty clear. But now I am honestly really confused about what you have been talking about all this time – sometimes you say it’s personal revelation, WHICH I HAVE SAID ALL ALONG IS A MINOR COMPONENT OF MY LIFE AS A CHRISTIAN, and sometimes you make points that relate to a christian’s total belief in God.

    If you can clarify what you mean, and if you want to discuss any more, please feel free. Otherwise, perhaps we have too much confusion now and it’s time to stop? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  283. WHICH (personal revelation) I HAVE SAID ALL ALONG IS A MINOR COMPONENT OF MY LIFE AS A CHRISTIAN,,

    Not going to answer for SB, he is far more clued up and erudite than I am. However, for what its worth …

    I feel fairly confident in writing that most on this thread would agree with this statement and acknowledge that this would probably apply to the vast majority if not all Christians.

    Yet, all along the entire thrust of this particular point has been to identify exactly how you determine what you believe to be personal revelation, is not, in fact, simply a form of minor delusion.
    I stand under correction but as far as I can tell you have failed to offer a direct answer to this question.

    From an outsider’s POV there seems to be only two responses to the question:

    One: Offer a full explanation as to exactly how you identify you have received a personal revelation from Jesus of Nazareth/Yahweh or:

    Two: Acknowledge there is no actual way to identify the difference between what you consider personal revelation(or whichever term you prefer) and a minor form of delusion.

    Responses that are not direct often come across as ambiguous as if the respondent is trying of obfuscate.
    Sometimes a simple Yes or No is perfectly acceptable and cuts to the chase.

    So, unklee, One or Two?

    Thanks.

    Like

  284. Hey UnkleE,

    I actually did clarify the difference in my response to you on May 22 by saying:

    “The [‘]certain things about hell[‘] I was referring to actually was from the notion of biblical inerrancy, and the certain thing specifically is that it exists (I did leave that part out).”

    If you missed this part of the comment, I understand why you might be confused. Indeed, I felt like I should clarify because of our difficulties in communication. Since your reply was after that clarification, I thought you read and understood it.

    With regards to my initial line of questioning, I was trying to get at two things: (1) clearing up your process for evaluating special revelation; and (2) could you articulate a process by which any Christian could determine if a thought is special revelation or mistake. The conversation got stuck in item 1 and never fully got to item 2.

    Your original statements included the idea that special revelation involves the Holy Spirit in guiding people to truth, not just for you, but for all Christians. You’ve also stated that Christians can be mistaken about this. Reading through your posts and other commentary on this, I haven’t found your thoughts on how Christians are supposed to determine how they’re getting it right.

    Liked by 1 person

  285. Hi Jon, I think I’m ready to call this a day, thanks. I don’t think we are going to get further, but I would rather say ”the early Christian movement was possibly just a few hundred people”, though I don’t actually care that much what the actual number was. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss these matters.

    Like

  286. Hi Sirius,

    “I haven’t found your thoughts on how Christians are supposed to determine how they’re getting it right.”

    OK, this is the question I’m now answering. Here are my thoughts.

    1. No human being ever gets everything right. Christians are no different. We all live our lives with a degree of uncertainty, sometimes very little, sometimes a lot. Christians are no different. Yet we all manage (at least mostly) to move forward, make decisions, live life, have reasonable confidence in things. Christians are no different.

    2. Christians have all the sources of knowledge that everyone else has – observation, experience, intuition, expert opinion, discussion with others, etc. We just have one additional one (which I think non-believers and other believers can also have, they they won’t always recognise it) which is revelation. All of this constitutes evidence of varying reliability. The Bible is actually several of these forms of evidence in one – obviously revelation, but it also depends on expert knowledge (e.g. in translation), plus it records people’s experiences, etc.

    3. When I want to know truth, as best as I am able to know it, I use all the above ways of knowing that are appropriate. If it is a scientific matter, it will be based mostly on observation (by scientists or technicians) and expert opinion. If it is a personal matter, say about another person, I will rely on my own observation & experience, intuition, what they say (which we may regard as expert opinion or experience), etc. It is also likely that I will pray and that may give me some additional intuition, and on very rare occasions, some more obvious revelation. Some things are very important (e.g. choosing to get married or have a child, choosing who to vote for), other things are less important (e.g. deciding what to have for dinner). I give more attention and require better based knowledge for the former than the latter.

    4. So if I want to know about truths about God or religion I will do the same. I will read the Bible (which is revelation plus someone’s experience), I will read experts (in history, language, theology, philosophy, whatever), I will ponder, pray, discuss, check out what other christians around the world are thinking, etc. Some matters are, as we discussed, very well accepted by christians, well supported in the Bible, make sense, etc, and these are often what we might call core beliefs and we have discussed what they are (something like what is in the creeds). Other things are less important, e.g. is God really a Trinity? Did Adam & Eve really live?, etc. Still other things are just peripheral, e.g. which version of the Bible to read, what colour shirt will I wear to church tonight?, etc. So like for other decisions, I give more attention and require better based knowledge for the core than for the secondary matters, and care even less about the peripheral matters.

    5. In summary, I read the Bible in the light of good scholarship, I pray and trust my thoughts (to a reasonable degree), I look to see what is the consensus of christians (as a sign of the possible guiding of the Holy Spirit) and I keep an open mind which I sometimes change as I see new evidence.

    6. So it isn’t really magical or unusual (for me at least), it is rather prosaic. Except I pray a lot and I believe God helps me via intuition, coming across the right books, having useful conversations, etc. Very little of that is visible to anyone else, but it’s very real to me.

    7. In the end, I (and I think most christians) believe God is more interested in “heart” than “head”. Truth is important, and knowledge is helpful, but a “right spirit” is necessary. So uncertainty is not necessarily a barrier, though greater knowledge is better.

    How’s that?

    Like

  287. 5. In summary, I read the Bible in the light of good scholarship, I pray and trust my thoughts (to a reasonable degree), I look to see what is the consensus of christians (as a sign of the possible guiding of the Holy Spirit) and I keep an open mind which I sometimes change as I see new evidence.

    While there are others who will offer a much more erudite response to this explanation sometimes it really is necessary to ”dumb it down” for those in the cheap seats who are common as muck: such as me, for example.
    So, in other words, you are basically full of shit. If we are being honest, that is?

    Like

  288. “Stay in church, William. I’m serious, man, ‘cos Yeshua really needs as many unquestioning, unthinking hand-waving semi-lobotomized halfwits as he can get … ”

    William is NOT a halfwit, Ark. You owe him an apology.

    Liked by 1 person

  289. William is NOT a halfwit, Ark. You owe him an apology.

    Along with his notably obtuse replies and apparent refusal to recognise the difference between a good action done by a religious person simply for the sake of doing it and the implications of doing it because of religious motivation – which I stressed again and again throughout our dialogue – he finishes up with this monumental whopper of sheer unadulterated stupidity:

    and if a parent wants to teach their kids that one needs to be good, in part, because there’s some over-watching force that wants us to be good, I guess I don’t mind that.

    .

    Using the term Halfwit was actually not the first pejorative that came to mind I can assure you.

    Like

  290. Hey UnkleE,

    Thank you for a restatement of your views, but it doesn’t get at what I was describing. Any response of mine would rehash issues I’ve already raised, so I don’t think any further commentary would be productive (i.e., the conversation would go to matters we’ve both discussed).

    Thanks for trying!

    Like

  291. Unklee

    I would rather say ”the early Christian movement was possibly just a few hundred people”, though I don’t actually care that much what the actual number was.

    I could agree with that. If I had to make a guess — acknowledging that it is necessarily very speculative, with large error margins — I would say that the Jesus movement immediately following his death was probably around 100-200 people, it probably only grew to the high hundreds or very low thousands in 1st century Jerusalem before 70AD and it was probably very diverse, with followers ranging from fairly orthodox Jews (e.g., James); to more pious fundamentalists (e.g., the Ebionites); to more gnostic-leaning types (at least, in a formative sense, stipulating that it probably didn’t evolve to the Marcionite sense until later in the 1st century); to the more Messianic/apocalyptic types who thought the world, or at least Roman domination, was about to end; to the Pauline types who were busy peshering and midrashing the hell out of everything to make sense of what had happened to them.

    Rodney Stark estimated there were less than 10,000 Christians by the end of the 1st century. That seems low to me, but not implausibly low. And it would explain why reports about Christians were relatively few and generally felt a need to explain who they were, as Christians were not so common that everybody would already know.

    I agree that the number doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

    Like

  292. Hi Sirius, I’m not sure what you were describing, but perhaps it is different to what I think? But I’m happy to stop there. Thanks.

    Like

  293. Hi Jon, the good thing about Stark’s work is that it gives some plausible numbers, the not so good thing is that he has to assume some regularity in growth rate to get an estimate. I recall in Cities of God that his models indicate that christianity spread first via port cities. This would mean that growth was geographically uneven, many more people in some key cities and very few elsewhere, so I suppose people in those cities likely knew christians but not much outside them. I think too that there must have been people who heard Jesus teach and were not opposed to him but also not part of his movement. So I still think that more people knew quite a bit about him in Galilee and Jerusalem than you say, but again, not so much elsewhere. Anyway, all pretty speculative. Thanks.

    Like

  294. I would say that the Jesus movement immediately following his death was probably around 100-200 people, it probably only grew to the high hundreds or very low thousands in 1st century Jerusalem …

    Out of curiosity, what do think happened to the adulating masses that were there in Jerusalem over Passover?
    And the 4000 and 5000 he fed?
    It seems a little odd don’t you think Jon that, considering the mission Yahweh sent him on/ he sent himself … sorry… Himself on, the Son of God/God was only able to attract a couple of hundred converts.
    Even Graham Chapman pulled bigger crowds in Life of Brian
    And there he was,the product of a Virgin Birth, Baptised by John the Baptist, in full view of all and sundry, waltzing around Galilee for up to three years curing lepers and dandruff and even blind people. He also, ruined the livelihood of at last one pig farmer – or is that a legend … sorry, Legend. He performed hands-on viticulture that would be envy of every South African Cape Wine Farmer. Then instantly killing a fig tree showing us that he too is allowed to have the occasional temper tantrum. And did everyone suddenly forget the dead people he brought back to life.including himself … sorry … Himself. I mean, what the Gehenna!
    Did the entire region suddenly go to sleep?

    Perhaps the Men in Black popped back in time and did that flashing light thing?
    Or perhaps those naughty people back then simply made shit up?
    That’s probably not fair, as Christians wouldn’t tell lies, would they?

    Like

  295. Hey UnkleE,

    You’re right; you’re not sure what I was describing. I was referring to the question you never managed to answer. Unfortunately, I’m not sure why you keep avoiding it. This whole time, I’ve had to operate as if it’s irrelevant to your overall mode of thinking.

    Like

  296. @SB

    I was referring to the question you never managed to answer

    Just ask it again… and keep it as simple as you can, with absolutely no frills.

    Like

  297. Ark

    Out of curiosity, what do think happened to the adulating masses that were there in Jerusalem over Passover? And the 4000 and 5000 he fed?

    (shrug) Who knows? Maybe they were an invention of the later oral and written stories. It’s not hard to imagine a modest crowd growing to “thousands” with a few decades of story-telling. On the other hand, there definitely would have been enormous crowds in Jerusalem during the Passover — hundreds of thousands of pilgrims would have swollen the city far beyond its ordinary population — so perhaps Jesus did speak to some large crowds at some point. Obviously, I don’t think the crowd-feeding incidents (there were two of them, one involved 5,000 and the other 4,000) are historical. They are fairly funny, though. Somehow, his disciples saw him miraculously feed 5,000 people, but they were skeptical that he could feed 4,000. And even after all of the signs and wonders, they remained skeptical and shocked that he could perform miracles. Especially in gMark, the Apostles were total idiots…..or, you know, literary devices.

    Regardless, it seems to me that the Jesus movement was a minor apocalyptic movement that continued on after his death. Jesus himself was not all that impressive, but the reformulated version of that movement was more effective for various reasons — e.g., apocalypticism, promise of salvation, rituals, hellenized Judaism, community-oriented, compassion for the poor, and the fact that it was, I believe, the only really “missionary” religion in the region. Judaism and paganism were not big on proselytizing.

    It seems a little odd don’t you think Jon that, considering the mission Yahweh sent him on/ he sent himself … sorry… Himself on, the Son of God/God was only able to attract a couple of hundred converts.

    No. He was some rural preacher from Galilee who said the end was near, somebody (perhaps himself?) would overthrow the Romans and rule over God’s Kingdom on earth. I’m somewhat amazed he had followers at all, though I guess such messianic zealotry was not uncommon at the time.

    Like

  298. No. He was some rural preacher from Galilee who said the end was near,

    So, you are obviously not talking about the Lake Tiberius Pedestrian whom unklee prays to every morning,then?

    Like

  299. We are talking about the same person. Unklee thinks the historical Jesus is the Jesus of the Gospels. I think the historical Jesus was reinterpreted, embellished and developed into the Jesus of the Gospels.

    Like

  300. We are talking about the same person

    How can you be sure?
    For example, you don’t believe in the 12 apostles nonsense, for example, surely?
    And the evidence for Nazareth – as described – is so pie-in-the sky it might as well be non-existent, and we know that certain archaeologists have …. let’s say,embellished certain data.

    What historical information regarding this character do you think is:
    a) reliable – sources etc.
    b) verifiable

    Ark.

    Like

  301. If you want 100% verifiable proof, ancient history isn’t going to be cooperative. Historians deal with what is most likely.

    Like

  302. We have been over this repeatedly. If you are genuinely interested, review our previous discussions. If you just want to repeat the argument, I don’t have anything new to add.

    Like

  303. If that is all you recall, then pointing out all the sources obviously made no impression on you the first time and it would be a waste of everybody’s time to try to teach you again.

    Or, more likely, you are just trolling.

    In either case, good luck with that.

    Like

  304. Well I’m sorry Sirius, but I answered two very different questions as honestly as I could. If you didn’t get the answer you wanted, I can’t see how I can feel responsible for that. Perhaps, as I said before, I think differently than you expected?

    Like

  305. Hey UnkleE,

    I did consider at some point that maybe I was being poor in my wording, but other people who have read our conversation have understood exactly what I was asking. It’s not that you’re thinking differently than I expected; it’s that I’m getting essentially the same answer for two very different questions. Just to make sure I’ve been paying attention the entire time, here is a brief description of your position as I understand it:

    1. You’ve asserted that divine revelation (or communication, or whatever else anyone wants to call it) is an avenue for discovering truth just like any other (i.e., experience, testimony, scientific research, etc.). It’s available to all people, though non-religious people might not recognize it or want to use it (this is from your post and your restatement, supra).

    2. Divine revelation is not constrained by biblical inerrancy (this is from your post, quoted by Nate, supra).

    3. When concerns about the reliability of the system arose, you explained that differences in results can be justified by mistakes. The most succinct phrasing of yours characterized it as, “No human being ever gets everything right[]” (from various comments above).

    4. When this brought up concerns regarding uncertainty of using this avenue to pursue knowledge, you’ve explained that it doesn’t rely on conveying strict rules or specific information (except maybe for some “core,” or important, values). Different divine values guide the system. This guiding is what’s important, not making sure every Christian understands the same thing. The most succinct quote I’m getting this from is your restatement:

    “Truth is important, and knowledge is helpful, but a [‘]right spirit[‘] is necessary. So uncertainty is not necessarily a barrier, though greater knowledge is better.”

    5. You’ve also explained to me in letters of various sizes that this is only a small part of how you personally get knowledge.

    For matters of brevity, I’ve tried condensing what you’ve been saying in our conversation down to a fine point. I apologize in advance if I have left anything crucial out, or if anything materially misrepresents what you’ve been trying to explain to me. If I’ve made any errors, please point them out!

    Liked by 1 person

  306. @ Jon
    1

    If that is all you recall, then pointing out all the sources obviously made no impression on you the first time and it would be a waste of everybody’s time to try to teach you again.

    Thank you, Jon. I apologise if I seem to have ”mislaid” your sources but as I do not recall you raising any new ones, at all that I am aware of then there really are no reliable sources are there?
    And there are certainly no contemporary sources.

    Were you referring to Philo, perhaps?
    He is usually the first person everyone turns to when seeking historical info about the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth as we all know how in-depth and detailed Philo’s account was of this most notorious Rabbi in history.

    Or were you talking about Lee Strobel?

    Like

  307. Hi Sirius,

    “I’m getting essentially the same answer for two very different questions. “

    I thought I understood the two different you had been exploring. Perhaps my answers are similar because I see the two questions as related and I am just being consistent?

    I’m pretty happy with your summary, as a summary, except I find #4 a little unfamiliar. The rest of the points relate to personal revelation, which your #5 rightly says I regard as a small part of my belief system and sources of knowledge,. But #4 is unclear to me and the quote is about a bigger picture.

    So I’m interested, what is the difference between the two questions you are asking, and why aren’t my answers addressing them? I’m happy to keep going if you want to, or finish up if you are finding it frustrating. Best wishes.

    Like

  308. Hey UnkleE,

    With regards to item #4, it might be unfamiliar because of how you’ve used the idea in practice in our discussion. For example, in an earlier comment you stated:

    “Your last comment here (Does it even matter?) is what I have been saying all along. Jesus warns his hearers to be concerned to be on the right path that leads to life rather than destruction. That is what is important. The exact nature of that destruction isn’t highly important.”

    That was in regards to whether some Christians might think believing hell exists is a reflection of a core value of inerrancy. The idea (unless I’m completely mistaken) is that it doesn’t matter if Christians believe different things about hell because it’s not important to your deity’s objectives.

    With regards to the difference between the two ideas I was getting at, the second one refers to how your ideas get applied outside of just you. So when you’re repeating how you do things, it doesn’t say anything about what other Christians ought to do to replicate your results. Are you suggesting the process you use should be followed strictly? Are you suggesting it will lead to fewer mistakes? Are you suggesting they’ll never know what level of error they’ve reached? Are you suggesting that there is no way for a Christian to determine if something they think is divine guidance is just a mistake of theirs?

    These are all questions that an objective standard answers, and it’s been a concern of many different people here. In fact, it’s the main point of Nate’s post. So what I’m driving at is whether you’ve filled the “biblical inerrancy” hole with any other standard.

    Liked by 3 people

  309. Something I have come to notice about those who champion Christian apologetics: there appears to be a direct correlation between the proponent’s ability/skill in this field and the level of dishonesty they are prepared to tolerate in order to try to demonstrate the likely veracity of the claims they make.

    This would apply to someone such as William Lane Craig.I’m sure you can think of others? Ravi Zacharius also comes to mind.

    In fact, because we are dealing largely with faith-claims this propensity for dishonesty inevitably comes to the fore time and again.

    Consider a Christian who recognizes and accepts that the Pentateuch is, for all intent and purpose, historical fiction, but still claims that it has no direct bearing upon his or her belief in this personal savior, Jesus of Nazareth.
    And yet, we read in the anonymous Gospels that Jesus not only references the Old Testament and many of its Characters, he firmly believes in their historicity and the veracity of their deeds. Moses being the perfect example.
    Which is odd as Moses is a literary character not an historical one.

    Honesty would demand the beleive admit this. Yet to avoid cognitive dissonance it could be speculated that the character Jesus of Nazareth also knew that Moses and the Pentateuch was nothing but historical fiction and was referencing them simply to get across his point concerning salvation.

    However, as we know the New Testament is plagued by anonymity, interpolation, historical,geographical, and biological error, how on earth are we to know whether the words deemed to have been spoken by the character Jesus were even his words?

    This of course is where the supposed Guidance of the Holy Spirit comes into play. But there is no evidence for this phenomenon and of the millions who have deconverted who claim it is nothing but wishful thinking – much like intercessory prayer – to the millions who,while believing it is real, have never experienced it in any shape or form. And yet, here for example, we are being asked to accept it is a very real phenomenon by those who claim it is, and are also claiming to have been guided by it – but have no verifiable evidence whatsoever to back such an assertion.

    When one weighs up all the evidence for and against, it seems obvious that such an assertion is nothing but wishful thinking or, if one prefers, faith. To claim otherwise is dishonest.

    With so much falsehood present within the pages of the bible – and at this point surely one should be asking: Exactly which bible are we talking about? – is there truly anything about the claims of Christianity that without blind faith we can lend any credence to at all?

    Also,If we are to accept the claims of Christian proponents in this regard we must acknowledge that the beliefs and views and interpretation of every individual who deconverted has to be wrong .

    Honesty demands admitting there is nothing objective about positive claims of divine intervention, the Holy Spirit,
    miracles, or any of the myriad claims made by Christians of all stripes.

    Unfortunately this is rarely admitted to. But when it does deconversion often follows shortly afterwards. Thus, for Christians to avoid telling outright lies, and in an effort to maintain a semblance of sincerity, an ever-increasing level of dishonesty is preferable to admitting that such cherished beliefs are nothing but unsubstantiated
    rhetoric.

    Like

  310. Hi Sirius,

    Thanks for your response, but I think I’m stumbling in the dark to catch on to what you are getting at. But I’ll do my best.

    “That was in regards to whether some Christians might think believing hell exists is a reflection of a core value of inerrancy. The idea (unless I’m completely mistaken) is that it doesn’t matter if Christians believe different things about hell because it’s not important to your deity’s objectives.”
    In my mind, there are two different things here – (1) believing hell exists, and (2) believing different things about it. But yes, I agree with your second sentence, provided “it” means the different views.

    “So when you’re repeating how you do things, it doesn’t say anything about what other Christians ought to do to replicate your results.”
    I’m not asking other christians to replicate my results. In any case, that sounds more like a science experiment than life in relationship with God.

    “Are you suggesting the process you use should be followed strictly?”
    No. I don’t think relationships are like that.

    “Are you suggesting it will lead to fewer mistakes?”
    Not sure what “it” is now, but I think most christians follow similar processes, with slightly different emphases. And since it gets them into God’s kingdom and into relationship with God, then it must work OK. But since it doesn’t lead them/us all to serve people selflessly, it can’t be perfect, but probably the main fault is us – i.e. we understand the message but we don’t live it out well all the time.

    “Are you suggesting they’ll never know what level of error they’ve reached?”
    This is an interesting and strange question. I presume you mean that christians may never know where they are wrong? And yes, I think that is often the case, as it is for everyone. But I do think God leads those whose hearts & minds are open towards greater truth (if only we live long enough!).

    “Are you suggesting that there is no way for a Christian to determine if something they think is divine guidance is just a mistake of theirs?”
    Often I think that is true, but often it becomes clear afterwards, as I have said several times. In most cases, it isn’t as important as you think. For example (real life for me), if I have been praying for someone who I know is struggling in some way, and I happen to meet them and we talk and I’m able to help them in some way, I may say to my wife “I think God led us to meet up today.” It won’t really matter if I got that wrong or not, though if it happens often enough (and it does) then I will probably have more faith that future similar events are the result of guidance.

    “whether you’ve filled the “biblical inerrancy” hole with any other standard.”
    I don’t think there’s any hole. Inerrancy sounds like it provides some certainty, but it doesn’t, because we have to still interpret difficult passages (and we often do that differently), and the problem most of the time isn’t that we aren’t sure if a passage is “true” but that we’re not sure what it means for us right now. So humans are fallible whether they are inerrantists, or christians like me or atheists like you.

    Like

  311. @unklee

    But I do think God leads those whose hearts & minds are open towards greater truth (if only we live long enough!).

    If your god is able to lead those whose minds & hearts are open towards greater truth (if only we live long enough!) then how do you and every other Christian determine what is ‘’truth’’?
    This is what much of this dialogue has been about: how you determine the difference between divine revelation and delusion. And you have yet to address this question directly. Are you afraid to do so?

    Also, as you believe you have been party to such revelation, how would you explain conflicting or contradictory claims from other Christians, especially when it came to the bible?
    The doctrine of Hell is as good an example as any.

    ….because we have to still interpret difficult passages (and we often do that differently), and the problem most of the time isn’t that we aren’t sure if a passage is “true” but that we’re not sure what it means for us right now. So humans are fallible whether they are inerrantists, or christians like me or atheists like you.

    As we know from expert scholarly analysis the bible is riddled with error, including interpolation and right through to outright falsehood, why should one even try to interpret difficult passages as these are the error-riddled passages under scrutiny whether we are talking about Genesis or the tales of the resurrection.
    This tells us without doubt that the bible is not divinely inspired at all.
    I am curious, unklee as to how your conscience manages to cope with the level of hypocrisy you are forced to deal with in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance? Do you approach this problem in a similar fashion as Eusebius did: feeling justified in the somewhat disingenuous and devious manner you defend your faith if it furthers the aims of your christian belief?