Dead Caterpillar


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Why I’m a Pagan

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

I was born three times. The first time, it was a physical birth. The second, I became a born-again believer and accepted Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior. The third time, I gave up Jesus and was reborn into The World of Rational and Critical Thinking People.

Because …

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I gave up childish things.” - 1 Corinthians 13:11.

(And believe it or not, I’ve misused scripture in worse ways. During my college years I justified drinking with Mathew 4:4, “Man cannot live on bread alone!” And in keeping with the wisdom of King Solomon, I abstained from all labor under the sun because “vanity of vanities, all is vanity! What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?” I knew my catechisms.)

Nowadays  I wouldn’t call myself a skeptic, atheist or anything like that. I still believe in a lot of things. A lot of crazy, far-out things too. I’ve also seen some crazy, far-out things (as if that counts for anything). But I have learned to be distrustful of the things I believe and even the things I have seen. Because I have been wrong before (read: because I have been Christian before), I will always be suspicious of my beliefs. I am distrustful of them. I am wary of my own personal biases. I would not die for them. I would not kill for them. I do not look down on others who do not believe the same things I do. Okay that one, maybe, a little, but I do not accuse others of committing a crime, worthy of eternal punishment, for not drawing the same conclusions I have about God (or lack thereof), our origin, destination, etc..

Because genuine belief or disbelief does not equate to sinfulness or wrongdoing. “Credulity is not a crime.” Your willingness to believe something says nothing of your virtues as a person or the quality of your soul. It is just that simple.

Sure I could choose to believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God. It would be easy. I could also choose to believe in countless other books written by countless other people, all pouting the same thing, that theirs is The One True Religion, that, when you die, you go one place really great if you followed all the rules and procedures correctly, or one place really bad if you didn’t. Too bad if you were born in a Muslim country or, from the perspective of the Muslims, too bad if you were born in a Christian country. Too bad if you made the mistake of believing in the wrong thing during your lifetime. It’s off to the eternal soup with you… And that soup is hot.

Well, that could be true – any number of religious dogmas could be true. Theologians use a lot of smart-sounding words and arguments after all, there’s the Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument and I hear they’ve even got a teleological one. But there is one argument which defeats them all, and it is not taught at seminaries, or any religious institution for that matter. I’m speaking of the argument of Common Sense.

The Common Sense Argument says that God didn’t give us free will so he could command us to use it the way he wants us to. That God didn’t do the most honorable, glorious act ever by sending his only son to die for us to save us from … himself. That voice inside your head which Christians believe is The Holy Spirit? That’s actually your conscience speaking. Your conscience, not to be confused with certain members of THE ALMIGHTY GODHEAD.

And regular, plain ol’ heathen folk have consciences too. We’ve all got magical voices in our heads. Alright, none of us are perfect. The very word human implies flawed, hence why we say things like I’m only human.  We’re only human but we are at least better than the evil, worthless hellbound pukes popularly depicted by The Bible and other great works of fiction. Everyone struggles to do the right thing, just as much as they struggle to do the wrong thing. We’re not good or evil. We’re both. Isn’t that fairly obvious?

I also despise the Christian tenant that this life is a meaningless speck of dust in comparison to eternity, so we might as well just give it all up to Jesus. And that a temporary existence without God would be tragic and meaningless so … heck! Might as well just give it all up to Jesus!

Could it be that one day I will die and everything I did and all memory of my life will eventually be forgotten? That might be true. But nothing can change the fact that I was once alive, that I was here, that I lived and did things, that I happened. Whether I can or cannot be remembered has no bearing on the fact that I happened.  I actually happened dammit and that’s enough for me. It has significance. So I am not intimidated by the thought that there might not be a God or an afterlife. At least not intimidated enough to break my ass on an old wooden pew for an hour every week.  I can find more worthwhile things to do with my time on Sunday morning like sleeping or reading or making waffles.

Besides, I am not convinced death is the end. We are all born with that same intuition which refuses to comprehend non-existence, which tells us there is  more. I believe there is something hiding behind the curtain. I could be wrong.

And if  it turns out the Christians got it right, I doubt I’ll be eligible to pluck on harps in the clouds with the flying  naked babies for the rest of eternity. I would be a hypocrite to not admit that I might be wrong. Erroneous is a more fitting word because wrong implies wrongdoing, but if the Christians got it right, I’m going to hell for sure. God will boil my ass. Forever! Along with pretty much everyone. Though, honestly, I wouldn’t see the point in any of that (Christians cite something something er uh FOR THE GLORY OF GOD! something something something). Still, I am not afraid. I’m okay with that. That’s a risk I’m willing to take (which, coincidentally, is the same thing I’ve told myself before making my best life choices). I’ll take my chances with pretty much everyone.

Same goes if, on the off chance, the Qur’an isn’t a load of horseshit. If the Muslims win the come one, come all Dice Roll for Eternal Destiny, I doubt Allah will be rewarding me 72 virgins, especially since I just called his holy book a load of horseshit (and I would add that the prophet Muhammad is a NINNY, but that’s as far as I’ll go because I value the area of flesh and bone that connects my head to my shoulders). If the Hindus got it right then I guess I don’t have too much to worry about. Unless I’m reborn as a malformed Aardvark or something. Maybe I’ll be reborn as a cow? I think I’m moo material. I’d also settle for a moose (Cool!) Nirvana? (Awesome!) But no matter what happens, I’m sticking with my guns.

I’ll pull a Marcus Aurelius (or whoever it was) and take comfort in the fact that If there really is a God and he’s a double-o God, a good God, then he will understand why I have chosen the path that I have chosen.

27 Responses to “Why I’m a Pagan”

  1. Tim Jones says:

    Chris, this is a courageous post, especially given the Christian university education you experienced and the fact that I suspect many of your friends will rebuke you for your heretical comments posted here.

    I believe that Christians do not have a monopoly on living a moral life. I know many people who call themselves Christian who I would argue don’t walk their talk and I know many people who are highly moral, good people, who would not consider themselves Christians (my wife among them).

    The arrogance and folly to think that if someone simply picked the wrong religion that this somehow doomed them to an eternity of damnation, regardless of how moral and caring they were, no matter how much they gave of themselves for the betterment of those around them, is lunacy, and I reject that view as simply nonsensical and without any merit whatsoever.

    I don’t believe any God – Christian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise – would condemn someone to Hell just because they bet on the wrong God. If that were the case, what about all the children who died in Africa when they were 5 months old and too young to comprehend what God and religion are all about. Does God send them to the fiery flames of Hell? Of course not. (And please don’t talk to me about Limbo. I mean, seriously.)

    I believe the Bible is a wonderful guidebook for how to live a moral and caring life. But it was written by human beings, and is a reflection of the values of its day. The world has changed. The roles of women have changed. Should we cling to the roles of men and women from 2000 years ago? I sure hope not. So the Bible should be, to my way of thinking, interpreted in light of the age in which the books of the Bible were written and adapted to reflect the current mores of our modern times.

    Chris, I applaud your honest, thoughtful dissection of your own, very personal, and no doubt conflicted, spiritual journey. I would rather befriend someone and count as a friend someone who has explored their spirituality and concluded that they do not believe the dogma they were raised in than to befriend someone who blindly followed any faith, unquestioningly, simply because that’s the faith they were raised on.

    I know it was hard for you to write what you wrote, Chris. But I assure you, you are not alone in your questioning the faith you were raised in and were fed a daily diet of during your college years. And if any of your Christian friends condemns you for your candor or attacks you for being honest in sharing your uncertainty, then my question for them is “how can they call themselves a Christian?” Who made them the morality police?

    I don’t know if there is a God out there or not, or if there is some sort of life after this life. But I do believe this strongly: Any religion that insists theirs is the only true path to salvation is one whose basic tenets I question. What the world needs is more tolerance of different viewpoints and a candid, non-attacking discussion of these different views. The world has far too many intolerant, self-righteous people of every religious stripe, people who claim that anyone who does not believe as they do is somehow wrong, living in sin, or otherwise doomed for eternity. These people are welcome to their opinions about how right they are and how wrong anyone is who does not share their opinion. I am afraid their club is not one I choose to be a member of. My club believes that I do not have a lock on all the great mysteries of the universe, but then neither does their club.

    Our nation was a nation of immigrants of many backgrounds, many cultures, and many religions. Our government was based on the fundamental premise of separation of church and state for a reason. We should not be a Christian nation any more than we should be a Muslim nation or a Hindu nation of a fascist. We should be a tolerant nation – a society founded on the premise of accepting people with differing world views, willing to discuss their differences calmly and with an open mind, not judgmental.

    Oh and one last thing: Gays are no more “going to burn in hell for their sin of being gay” than Christians are going to go to Heaven because they went to church last Sunday. Gays are not evil. They are not twisted or perverted or mentally ill. They are not somehow lower down on the morality ladder than straights because of their sexual orientation.

    The people who are twisted are those of any religious stripe who refuse to accept gays as every bit equal in every way to heterosexuals. And those who still cling to their intolerant rejection of gays and their right to have the same rules apply to them (including the right to marry whatever consenting adult they happen to love) will eventually be viewed in the rear view mirror of history as intolerant, judgmental and simply wrong.

    Kudos to you, Chris, for having the courage to openly share views, knowing full well that many in your life will not support you in your spiritual awakening.

    • Chris says:

      The arrogance and folly to think that if someone simply picked the wrong religion that this somehow doomed them to an eternity of damnation, regardless of how moral and caring they were, no matter how much they gave of themselves for the betterment of those around them, is lunacy, and I reject that view as simply nonsensical and without any merit whatsoever.

      I think I will put that paragraph in a plaque and post it on my wall. Thanks for your support, Tim. It’s nice to know at least one of my friends isn’t disappointed with me.

  2. Michael Scott says:

    Your characterization of Christian worship is very cynical and based on misunderstandings of how Christians think and act. You have been blessed with so much – your life, health, your mind, ability to work, this country, never having to go hungry, a place to live, a good job, etc. etc. – are you thankful? Was it you who brought yourself into this world? Was it you that provided all these blessings? No. When you were born you were completely helpless. For many years afterward you were completely dependent on others to feed and clothe and care for you. This is actually a good illustration of our true condition. Even though we seem to be self sufficient we are actually very dependent on something else to take care of us. Think, for example, what would happen if it were to stop raining on this planet for a year.

    The Christian recognizes where the blessings come from and he is thankful and he expresses his thankfulness by worshiping the creator and giver of all blessing (worship is more than this, but thanksgiving is a starting point). If you were to have a close call with death you would likely say afterward “I am so thankful!” No doubt you would have reason to be. But whom would thank? The ether?

    You deride those who believe in God and act like He does not exist but then hedge your bets and make statements indicating that maybe He does. You need to get this question resolved. The existence of God is so obvious to most people on this planet that they are bewildered at that small minority who say He does not exist. Despite the naysayers like Dawkins, Hitchens and others the growing body of scientific evidence is pointing to a grand designer of nature. I am certain that the existence of God can be proven apart from the Bible. Anyway, there really is no point ridiculing Christianity if you don’t believe that God exists – the whole question becomes (for you) moot. But if He does exist, the next question must be, ‘Well what kind of God is He?’ And then ‘Well, why did He create all this? What are His intentions? What does He want from little ol me?’

    You zero in on burning in hell forever and of how unfair that would be but completely ignore the whole question of justice in God’s universe. The scriptures teach that God will render to each one according to his deeds (Romans 2:6). Is that unfair or unreasonable? Isn’t this how things work in this world? People go about respecting God’s natural laws every day and never give it a second thought. If you were to jump off a ten story building you would know for certain that within a few seconds you would come crashing to the ground and probably die. While there are natural laws there are also moral laws. And just as there are consequences for ignoring natural laws, why does it surprise you that there are consequences for ignoring the moral laws?

    When speaking of the final judgment, the Bible says things like The wages of sin is death; He will destroy both soul and body in hell; eternal destruction; second death; perish; etc. Then there are other passages which seem to indicate the hell will be eternal. Frankly I do not fully understand this idea of a eternal hell. In my mind I leave it to God knowing that he will, as the verse I quoted above says, render to each according to his deeds. His ways exhibited throughout Scripture show that He is just – and I trust Him to be so. I think so many people get hung up on this eternal hell thing that they lose sight of the justice of God. But instead of getting hung up on that question, ask yourself: Is it wrong for the Creator and sustainer of the universe and the Creator of every one of us, is it wrong for Him to judge His creatures?

    The truth of the matter is that the Scriptures speak again and again of a God who is merciful, patient and long suffering towards His creatures. For example,

    As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. (Ezekiel 33:11)

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

    Furthermore, as you well know, God (according to the Bible) has provided a way to escape the judgment we each deserve. If God were to simply render to us each according to our works we would have nothing to complain about – would we? But God, who is rich in mercy, provides a way for us to escape this, deserved judgment. He Himself, by His grace, took the punishment for us, by His Son at the cross. And you are complaining about that? You make the rather cynical comment that this amounts to God saving us from Himself. You don’t understand a few things here. Unlike you or I, God has complete responsibility over His creation. He is the last court of appeal – there is none beyond Him. Therefore, if He were to abdicate this responsibility, there would be no justice in this universe – evil would be triumphant and there would be no place for the victim to plead his case. Think for a minute about what kind of universe that would be to live in. But if God’s justice is an immutable fact, and cannot be ignored or set aside, who else can do the saving besides God? Who else can provide the way of escape? Only Him.

    I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:11)

    You said:

    I am not convinced death is the end. We are all born with that same intuition which refuses to comprehend non-existence, which tells us there is more. I believe there is something hiding behind the curtain.

    Ah, now we are getting somewhere! You are correct here and frankly spot on! The Scriptures say it this way:

    He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

    God has put eternity in our hearts – we all have a beginning but the idea of coming to an end seems wrong, it seems terrible to us. We want to live!

    Come to Him and live!

    Luke 9:56
    For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.

    • Chris says:

      Your characterization of Christian worship is very cynical and based on misunderstandings of how Christians think and act. You have been blessed with so much – your life, health, your mind, ability to work, this country, never having to go hungry, a place to live, a good job, etc. etc. – are you thankful? Was it you who brought yourself into this world? Was it you that provided all these blessings? No. When you were born you were completely helpless. For many years afterward you were completely dependent on others to feed and clothe and care for you. This is actually a good illustration of our true condition. Even though we seem to be self sufficient we are actually very dependent on something else to take care of us. Think, for example, what would happen if it were to stop raining on this planet for a year.

      The Christian recognizes where the blessings come from and he is thankful and he expresses his thankfulness by worshiping the creator and giver of all blessing (worship is more than this, but thanksgiving is a starting point). If you were to have a close call with death you would likely say afterward “I am so thankful!” No doubt you would have reason to be. But whom would thank? The ether?

      Cult leaders are infamous for using guilt to keep their members from leaving.

      Leaving? But aren’t you grateful? Why aren’t you grateful?

      Am I grateful for my existence? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I have to believe in Jesus.

      You deride those who believe in God and act like He does not exist but then hedge your bets and make statements indicating that maybe He does. You need to get this question resolved. The existence of God is so obvious to most people on this planet that they are bewildered at that small minority who say He does not exist. Despite the naysayers like Dawkins, Hitchens and others the growing body of scientific evidence is pointing to a grand designer of nature. I am certain that the existence of God can be proven apart from the Bible. Anyway, there really is no point ridiculing Christianity if you don’t believe that God exists – the whole question becomes (for you) moot. But if He does exist, the next question must be, ‘Well what kind of God is He?’ And then ‘Well, why did He create all this? What are His intentions? What does He want from little ol me?’

      If you think I am transfixed by the possibility of there being a God, you are mistaken and you miss my point entirely. My point wasn’t that there might be a God. My point was that if I am to hold the beliefs of others in question, it is prudent to also hold my own beliefs in question. Are you capable of making that same resolution? Have you considered that you might be wrong? Can you say it out loud?

      “I might be wrong.”

      If you cannot doubt your own beliefs then you should not expect others to doubt theirs. And if you take it as being impossible that the Bible is not the word of God then … well, why are we even pretending to have an open dialogue? I am willing to admit that I might be wrong yet you are not. In a way that is very insulting. I’m sure you can see now why I tend to avoid religious discussions.

      You zero in on burning in hell forever and of how unfair that would be but completely ignore the whole question of justice in God’s universe. The scriptures teach that God will render to each one according to his deeds (Romans 2:6). Is that unfair or unreasonable? Isn’t this how things work in this world? People go about respecting God’s natural laws every day and never give it a second thought. If you were to jump off a ten story building you would know for certain that within a few seconds you would come crashing to the ground and probably die. While there are natural laws there are also moral laws. And just as there are consequences for ignoring natural laws, why does it surprise you that there are consequences for ignoring the moral laws?

      I never expressed surprise that there are consequences for moral laws. It is obvious that if you go around shooting people, you’re probably going to get shot. If you eat too much, you’ll probably get fat. Gluttony. Consequence, action: reaction. No surprise there. But I expressed surprise (and quite a bit of indignation) at the thought that there was such a place called Hell. A place in which people suffer in a lake of fire for all eternity for whatever silly, inconsequential things they did during the course of their relatively short and mundane lives. People know instinctively that it becomes a moral problem when the punishment outweighs the crime (e.g. isn’t there something in the constitution about ‘cruel and unusual punishment?’). Parents should not stab their children when they are caught stealing from the cookie jar because the punishment should not outweigh the crime. And yet, as ludicrous as an example as it might seem, being stabbed for stealing a cookie is proportionately far less severe than being sentenced to an eternity in Hell for __________. In plain mathematical terms, nothing is proportionate to eternity. No crime warrants an “eternal punishment.” Basically, what I am saying is that God is worse than a child stabber.

      When speaking of the final judgment, the Bible says things like The wages of sin is death; He will destroy both soul and body in hell; eternal destruction; second death; perish; etc. Then there are other passages which seem to indicate the hell will be eternal. Frankly I do not fully understand this idea of a eternal hell. In my mind I leave it to God knowing that he will, as the verse I quoted above says, render to each according to his deeds. His ways exhibited throughout Scripture show that He is just – and I trust Him to be so. I think so many people get hung up on this eternal hell thing that they lose sight of the justice of God. But instead of getting hung up on that question, ask yourself: Is it wrong for the Creator and sustainer of the universe and the Creator of every one of us, is it wrong for Him to judge His creatures?

      Your insistence upon glossing over and ignoring the doctrine of Hell betrays a prickled moral conscience. You wonder why people are “hung up” on it … And instead of discussing the nitty gritty reality of it, you prefer to speak about Hell in tame and abstract terms, much like a preacher serving his congregation only what is palatable. “God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, is it wrong for Him to judge His creatures?” If by “creatures” you mean human beings and by “judge,” you mean light them on fire, then yes, it is wrong.

      Yes, it is wrong for God, the creator of the universe, to light his “creatures” on fire for an indeterminate period of time. It is wrong to judge unjustly, even for a creator. I know you’re probably going to fall back on the old clay analogy, well the clay maker made the clay so … basically the clay maker can do whatever he wants. But that analogy does not work because I am not a piece of clay, I am a human being.

      Besides, if you must find a working analogy of a creator/creation dynamic, you need not look at clay. As you and Mom are fond of reminding me, I did not birth myself. Going by the crazy and absurd scientific standard of what we can see and observe, if we had to attribute my creation to anyone, it would certainly be to my mother and father. Yet, despite the fact that you are responsible for bringing me into existence, it would be a moral outrage if it were discovered that you or mom had imprisoned me in a basement for my entire lifetime. Heck, it would be a moral outrage if I had been imprisoned for a year or even a month, the fact that you brought me into existence not withstanding. And yet it is okay for God to not only imprison but torture his children, and not for a month or lifetime but for an eternity? Because he’s the creator?

      That’s not okay, even by basic moral standards. Creating another sentient life form does not automatically grant you a license to torture it. Parents are not permitted by society to stab their children. And just because no one is above God, that does not mean God is above basic moral standards. Or, if God is above basic moral standards, don’t call him a “good” or “just” God.

      Why do my arguments revolve around the doctrine of Hell?

      Because, ironically, the unsavory doctrine of Hell is the reason why Christianity is so popular. The first psychological need of a human being is to find safety from bodily harm. It is a need which surpasses all others, it is our first and most primal instinct.

      I ask you to think of yourself in objective terms. Remove yourself from your current biases and predispositions and think.

      Would you give a rat’s ass about Jesus if he didn’t guarantee your safety from bodily harm in the afterlife?

      You think anyone would give a rat’s ass?

      There are plenty of philosophers who said what Jesus said, and many of them said it better and before Jesus said it. You are not attracted to Jesus because he offered some unique, winning philosophy but because he is and his followers are good salesmen. They present a problem which you otherwise would never have known was a problem (the problem of Hell) and they present a solution to the problem. Problem, solution. And you’re sold. It’s not the truth but it is good salesmanship.

  3. Steve Galt says:

    Hi, Chris. First I want to thank you for the post. It is thoughtful and I think helps us to have a good sense about where you’re at, or “why you’re a pagan.” Actually, if I hadn’t already told you, you might be surprised that I even find certain elements of your post refreshing. I wish that everyone was so open and willing to discuss their thoughts on God, ultimate reality, and religious knowledge (even if you do take a few tongue-in-cheek pokes at us).

    I also found elements of your post refreshing because I think some of what you discuss concerning the Christian faith should be rightly rejected. There are certain perspectives, which although common within contemporary evangelical Christianity, constitute a very anemic version of Christianity. This modern version of Christianity lacks the theological depth and consistency required to speak to some of the issues you raise. These elements are generally inconsistent with New Testament teaching and what has been believed historically by Christians and, therefore, should be rejected. So you find some sympathy with me.

    All of that having been said, my concern for you, Chris, is that you would reject biblical Christianity and the true Jesus because of the caricature of Christianity with which you are familiar. Of course, this raises questions about how one defines “biblical” or “true” Christianity. Various people who hold to vastly differing views of Christianity claim that their version is the biblical version. For the purpose of our discussion, I maintain that Protestantism, not Roman Catholicism, is biblical. I also maintain the doctrinal distinctives that have historically been associated with Protestantism. If you here need a more specific system of doctrine, then we could define this as the elements upon which the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (Presbyterian), Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism (Reformed), London Baptist Confession (Baptist), Thirty Nine Articles of Religion (Anglican), and Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) are in agreement. The Christianity you are rejecting is not a Christianity that is in harmony with these historic confessions. So my goal is to present biblical Christianity/historic Protestantism so that you can at least understand it clearly enough to make an informed decision.

    Let me begin with your statement that “credulity is not a crime.” You take some time to develop the idea that you want to hold your biases with a level of distrust. You say that you do not “accuse others of committing a crime worthy of eternal punishment for not drawing the same conclusions” you have drawn. Here you imply that it is good to hold your opinions loosely and, thus, bad to condemn others whose opinions differ. Why? You answer that it is “because genuine belief or disbelief does not equate to sinfulness or wrongdoing.”

    Note that this statement, that “genuine belief or disbelief does not equate to sinfulness or wrongdoing” is a moral claim. Within the context of the Christian story, moral claims make a great deal of sense. Christians have maintained that morality is based upon the nature and character of God. And so if a moral claim is made from a Christian perspective, it is understood that the thing which is upheld as good is good by virtue of the fact that God loves it. That which is evil, on the other hand, is evil by virtue of the fact that God hates it. But what story would you say you embrace which accounts for morality and thus enables you to make such claims? It seems that you want to hold your beliefs very lightly and that, perhaps, you might take a standpoint of credulity or suspicion towards any metanarratives. However, at the same time you make assertions such as this which require a metanarrative in order to make sense. And so you can’t have it both ways.

    Secondly, let me address what seems to be your primary objection, what you call “the common sense argument.” Here you say that the idea that there is a God who would create people with free will and then command them to use their free will in a particular way is an idea which you find objectionable. You characterize this objection as a “common sense” objection. So basically, then, you have an internal reaction against this idea of free will/divine command which you say is common to others. This seems to be the substance of your objection.

    If I can address this argument, first let me say that it isn’t really an argument at all. You’re simply stating your opinion. You have a sense that the idea that there is a God who would create people with free will, and then command them to use it in a particular way, cannot be true. This sense is common to many people and is, therefore, “common sense” by your assessment.

    However, the fact that people have a common sense about something does not hold any value in determining the truth or falsity of a claim. Common sense taught us that the earth was flat. Simply having an opinion, even if it is a common opinion, doesn’t do anything to bring the Christian faith into question. Mere opinions are by definition arbitrary. And arbitrary statements should not be taken as criteria by which to determine what is true or false.

    In some ways, all of this is a moot point because the idea that people have a kind of free will which enables them to choose to either follow God or not to follow God is a mischaracterization of historic Christianity (See Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, or Jonathan Edwards, The Freedom of the Will, or Calvin’s Institutes on Christian Religion or any of the confessions I mentioned above). The biblical perspective on humankind is that we are under a curse which has placed our volition in bondage to our desires. As a result of the curse, these desires are also sinful. This leaves us in a place where we cannot experience true joy and satisfaction in life because true joy and satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with God. Therefore, our will is in bondage to a lifestyle that leads to pain and suffering. Nevertheless, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ has provided a way of escape for people who are in this lost and hopeless condition. And so again, the idea that fallen people have a kind of freedom which will result in their eternal damnation if they choose the wrong religion is a mischaracterization of the Christian faith. In reality, everyone would choose the wrong religion because their internal choice-making mechanism is enslaved to their sinful desires which are never inclined towards God. Our only hope, therefore, is that God would reach down to us and rescue us.

    So again, the idea that the common sense argument is not an argument is a moot point because the idea which you find objectionable is not a correct characterization of Christianity. But that having been said, you might also find the biblical perspective on humankind which I’ve just presented to be likewise objectionable, in which case my original point about the use of arbitrary opinions as a means by which to discern truth still stands.

    Okay, so if your objections to the Christian faith are arbitrary and unsubstantiated as I am arguing, how can they be explained? As I mentioned already, from a Christian perspective, our volition is corrupt. In the same way, however, our intellect and our emotions are also corrupt. If this is true, then the fact that you and many others find Christianity objectionable makes perfect sense. Thus it does not seem reasonable to bring the Christian faith into question simply because you have a personal objection to it. Rather, having an internal objection or distaste for Christian ideology and doctrine is something which actually seems to corroborate the truth of the Christian faith in that such an objection is perfectly consistent with its tenets.

    Thirdly, you indicate that you can believe whatever you want to believe. “Sure, I could choose to believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God. It would be easy.” You then conclude that eternal judgment would be a simple result of choosing to believe the wrong thing. This both doesn’t fully appreciate the nature of human belief and seriously misunderstands the character of historic Christianity. I would like to address both of these issues.

    First, with respect to belief, the idea that we can choose our beliefs doesn’t demonstrate awareness that our beliefs are internal convictions which arise based on our experiences, prior beliefs, and disposition/constitution. I have a certain disposition or constitution as an individual. I have experiences and perceptions to which I respond. I also have a body of beliefs in light of which I understand and process these things. Beliefs, then, come about apart from my volition. Right now, for example, I believe that I have two children. This belief is not something I chose. It is the result of perceptions I have had (delivery room, for example) which are seen through the lenses of my prior beliefs (beliefs such as the belief that the woman I saw give birth to these children is my wife and that these children are the result of our “coming together”). I find that I cannot choose to believe that I do not have children. In theory, I could pretend like I believed that I didn’t have children, but that’s not what we’re talking about. I would challenge you to try to believe that you are someone other than Chris Scott, but you will always remember who you really are because your beliefs are determined by things beyond your control.

    Secondly, eternal judgment is not a punishment for making a right or wrong choice about the belief system you embrace. This follows from the fact that the belief system to which we hold is not a choice. Moreover, such a statement makes salvation to be a matter of works. If judgment were based on a right or wrong choice of religion, then the one thing a person must do in order to be saved is to believe the right things. If you do this work, you will be saved. And so you can see how such an idea would be inconsistent with what a Pauline Christianity would maintain. New Testament faith (and Old Testament faith for that matter) sees salvation as a matter of grace. Humankind is in bondage to sin because they are under a curse which affects every facet of their being. They can only experience true joy in a relationship with the one true God, but their hearts are in rebellion against God because of the curse. They therefore hopelessly try to find fulfillment and joy in other things. This leads to pain and suffering which culminates in eternal suffering unless God intervenes.

    But the good news is that God is merciful and has chosen to demonstrate his mercy by coming into the world and saving people from every tribe, nation, and language. He does this by sending his Son to take upon himself the curse that should have fallen upon those who believe. How do they believe? God opens eyes and changes hearts so that those upon whom he shows his mercy come to love him and experience the true joy that can only be found in our relationship with him. Those in whom the Spirit is at work in this way find this to be a glorious truth which leads them to worship Christ and long for his return. And so you can see that in this paradigm, salvation is completely by grace.

    Of course, I know you’ve heard much of this before, but this is the only hope for us in both life and in death and so it is the only hope I can give you.

    I look forward to your reply. Thanks again for your willingness to dialog with me about this further. I hope it helps you as you continue to think it through.

    Blessings,
    Steve

    • Chris says:

      It seems to me that your arguments hinge upon one assumption: Christianity is the truth and you can arrive at that conclusion with correct or logical thinking. This is the assumption made by every apologetic or proselytizer: you’ll see that it’s the truth, if only you think about in the correct manner.

      Okay, let’s say for a minute that you’re right. Let’s say people who don’t believe in Christianity are wrong because they’re not thinking about it in the correct logical manner. So what then? Those people are going to hell on the basis of being wrong?

      I contend there is a difference between being wrong and doing wrong. No one deserves Hell on the basis of being wrong. No one deserves Hell, but that’s an argument for another day.

      Prediction: In the face of that you switch to the argument that their disbelief is caused by their own unrighteousness; therefore, their punishment is warranted. People don’t go to hell because they’re wrong, but because they’re bad. It is the bad part they are going to hell for, not the wrong part.

      That there is an ad hominem, a logical fallacy and there is no counter-argument I can give to that. Realize, however, that should you choose to give that text-book Christian answer, what you are doing is switching arguments. You at first are trying to convince me at the intellectual level (trying to fix the wrong part) and then scraping the intellectual argument altogether, going straight to the bad part saying “you’re wrong because you’re bad because you’re bad and you can’t be convinced of what I believe because you’re bad.”

      I’m not saying that’s the position you without a doubt would take. I’m simply advising against it.

      And another thing. This is something that you perhaps have not encountered in theological debates or discussion with non-believers.

      Not only do I reject Christianity at the intellectual level, the “evidence” and logical arguments for Christianity, but I also reject the message, the spirit of Christianity. I disagree with it. It is a horrible, horrible message and it is a horrible story. God, in the old testament, commanding the slaughter of women and children for his own glory? The depiction of God being so careless and cruel as to not even meet face to face with his creation, until The Day of Judgment? I’ll take a pass on that one. I’ll pass on the whole thing.

      I would still hold that position even if I did not reject Christianity on the intellectual level. Even if I believed in Christianity, I would still reject it. Do you understand the implications of that? Do you understand what I am trying to say? I believe my decisions should not be motivated by a fear of physical punishment. It is a choice I have made.

      And if the threat of Hell was removed from Christian teaching, you might find many other people abandoning it as well. After all, other than safety from eternal punishment, what does it really have to offer? A book of wisdom? Good literature? You can find better material in a cheap paperback novel.

      • Steve Galt says:

        Thanks for your response, Chris. I apologize (no pun intended) for the delay in my response.

        First, I do not believe that any amount of intellectual persuasion will lead a person to embrace the truth of Christianity. One cannot think correctly because human nature is to suppress the reality of God. We are bad inside and have a natural anti-God bias which leads us to complex and impressive systems of thought which are essential rationalizations for rejecting God.

        The reason, therefore, I present argue apologetically is that God has promised to send the Spirit to change hearts and, thus, open minds to the beauty of the gospel as the gospel is proclaimed. This is what I am doing in apologetics. I know there are other apologists who give complex arguments in order to establish the truth of Christianity. I do not take that approach. I do not believe that there is a higher authority of evidence or human reason upon which the authority of the Bible can be established. Therefore, I begin with the truth of Christianity and attempt to reason with guys like you about the gospel. When it takes the form of apologetics, I seek to show the futility of thought that comes from suppressing the truth of Christianity so that I might present Christ as the way to escape the consequences of sin (whether it be logical inconsistency, broken relationships, or hell itself).

        It is basically true, then, that the Christian faith teaches that people don’t go to hell because they’re incorrect, but because their bad (although their incorrectness is related to their badness). This, however, is not fallacious. An ad hominem is when one argues for the invalidity of statement by attacking the character of the one making the statement. When I say that incorrectness is related to badness, I am not committing the fallacy. An example of the fallacy would be if I said that your conclusion from the common sense argument is untrue because you have a wicked heart. But I don’t think I have said such a thing.

        Lastly, in your response above, you did not respond to my criticism of your post. In your initial post, you put forth the primary reasons you say you do not embrace Christianity. I challenged your reasoning, but you did not respond to any of my challenges. And so I would again encourage you to consider my original post. You claim to be unbiased and willing to consider things carefully (although in your response above you seem to admit your bias against the Christian faith). There is some glaring inconsistency here to which salvation can be found in Christ (again, see above).

        • Chris says:

          You made the assertion that my conclusion about God or lack thereof is incorrect because of my sinful nature, because I am bad. How is that not ad hominem? You are directly attacking my character in calling me sinful. You call into question my beliefs, say I am prone to irrational thought because of my sinfulness.

          Whenever you call into question the morality of the person you are arguing with and its effect on his/her reasoning abilities, you are demonstrating ad hominem. It does not matter if your intentions are not malicious (as it is in your case). “You are wrong because you are bad” is little better than “You are wrong because you are stupid.” Both are personal attacks. Both ad hominum.

          Because we use reason to determine what is right and wrong, morality is a construct of reason. Morality implies choice, choice implies decision, decision of what is right and what is wrong. How does one decide what is right and what is wrong? One reasons. Therefore, because morality is a child of reason, you cannot say that poor reasoning is birthed by immorality. Reason births morality and not the other way around. In the Bible (great novel, by the way) it says that God made man blameless until he made the decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The reasoning to eat came first, then came sin. Sin was not the cause of adam reasoning to eat the apple. Adam reasoned to eat the apple and sin was the result.

          Hence your statement “people don’t go to hell because they’re incorrect, but because they’re bad” is fallacious, because morality is the effect of reason and not the cause, the child and not the parent. Saying “people don’t go to hell because they’re incorrect, but because they’re bad” is like saying “people don’t drown because they can’t swim, but because they sink” … the reason why they sink is because they can’t swim. If they could swim, they wouldn’t sink!

          Morality is caused by reason. You cannot accuse someone of being bad without accusing them of bad reasoning. So when you say people go to hell because they are bad, you also, by necessity, must say they go to hell for bad reasoning. You admit that they go to hell for not thinking about things in the correct logical manner. You equate being wrong with doing wrong.

          For you, the only rational response to that I can conceive of is “yeah I’ll admit it Chris, ultimately people go to hell because they didn’t think about things in the correct logical manner. so what?” That is the only rational response and it is an utterly unattractive position to take. However, it is what the Evangelical Christian worldview looks like when you strip it of its beautiful flowing robe of dodgy rhetoric and sophistry.

          • Steve Galt says:

            In order for one to commit an ad hominem fallacy, one must both attack the character of someone and attempt to use the attack as the logical grounds for the invalidity of the other person’s position. In responding to you, I have not refuted any point you hade on the grounds that your character is flawed. The idea that we suppress the truth because we are wicked is a stand alone statement in light of which we can understand our suppression of the truth. Any attempt I have made to call your attention to the invalidity of what you have said has been to show you the logical inconsistency of your beliefs.

            To say it another way, I am saying that your position is incorrect because you have an anti-God disposition. But this is a stand-alone statement I am presenting as an alternative presupposition to your presupposition that people can independently discern the truth of falsity of claims through their powers of reason. So again, I am not using this statement in order to refute what you are saying. Therefore, I am not committing the ad hominem fallacy.

            You argue that morality is the effect of reason, not the cause. This is incorrect. You say that morality implies choice which implies decision which implies decision regarding what is right or wrong. Therefore, you conclude, morality is logically subordinate to reason. However, this is not a logical entailment of the simple fact of the existence of decisions regarding right and wrong. The fact that we reason about what is right and wrong does not mean that morality is grounded in reason any more than the fact that we reason about our existence means that our existence is based on our reason.

            The bottom line on this is that we cannot reason in a vacuum. If we are consistent in our reasoning, we all interpret things in light of our most foundational beliefs. These beliefs are not something we accept on the grounds of reason. They are presuppositions we hold independently of human reason. To quote Paul Moser, a leading philosopher at Loyola University in Chicago, “All arguments are either circular or based on unsubstantiated claims.”

            And so the question then becomes, what determines our most foundational beliefs? Part of the answer to this question, I am suggesting, is our moral disposition. It is like the alcoholic who insists that there is no problem. There is most certainly a problem! But there is also a human defense mechanism to deny the truth in order to maintain those things upon which our hearts are set. We also see this in the mother of the serial killer who cannot believe that her son is guilty despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Apart from a supernatural work of God to change our hearts, we have a great desire to maintain our independence in knowledge and morality. We exalt ourselves as the ultimate determiners of truth and morality. The idea that we suppress the truth because of our disposition is one presupposition in light of which I think human sin and rejection of God can be best understood.

            If you want to test this, I would challenge you to present a moral axiom which can be established by reason alone. What we will find is that there are certain presuppositions that drive one’s arrival at the moral axiom. And, in fact, whether or not a person believes that morality is real—that morality corresponds to some sort of absolute law or the character of God or whatever—is a presupposition itself.

          • Chris says:

            I wrote:

            I contend there is a difference between being wrong and doing wrong. No one deserves Hell on the basis of being wrong. No one deserves Hell, but that’s an argument for another day.

            Prediction: In the face of that you switch to the argument that their disbelief is caused by their own unrighteousness; therefore, their punishment is warranted. People don’t go to hell because they’re wrong, but because they’re bad. It is the bad part they are going to hell for, not the wrong part.

            My accusation of ad hominem was based on a hypothetical scenario in which, instead of attributing people’s damnation to wrong thinking, you attribute it to them being bad. It is not an ad hominem in the sense that you are making personal attacks. It is ad hominem in the sense that you imply morality births reason when it can only be the other way around, morality born from reason. Because morality is birthed from reason, you cannot imply that people go to hell for being bad but NOT for incorrect thinking because being bad is a result of incorrect thinking.

            Look at it this way. You did not make personal attacks on character, what normally constitutes ad hominem. But what you did is fallacious for the same reasons personal attacks – ad hominem – is fallacious. You cannot imply morality supersedes reason because reason supersedes morality. Furthermore, you cannot depict reason and morality as two separate entities when the reality is one is a subdivision of the other.

            However much you try to qualify it as “standalone,” the idea was presented in the context of our discussion. You did not mean to imply that that statement had implications for the current discussion at hand, but regardless of whether you meant it, the statement does have implications for the current discussion at hand. The implication is that you are right because you are good and I am wrong because I am bad. That is what you believe. It is an integral part of your worldview and it is logical fallacy. Because of this, you cannot say “people go to hell for being bad and not for irrational thought” and you have no defense against the corollary “people go to hell because of wrong thinking and irrational thought”.

            You argue that morality is the effect of reason, not the cause. This is incorrect. You say that morality implies choice which implies decision which implies decision regarding what is right or wrong. Therefore, you conclude, morality is logically subordinate to reason. However, this is not a logical entailment of the simple fact of the existence of decisions regarding right and wrong. The fact that we reason about what is right and wrong does not mean that morality is grounded in reason any more than the fact that we reason about our existence means that our existence is based on our reason.

            The bottom line on this is that we cannot reason in a vacuum. If we are consistent in our reasoning, we all interpret things in light of our most foundational beliefs. These beliefs are not something we accept on the grounds of reason. They are presuppositions we hold independently of human reason. To quote Paul Moser, a leading philosopher at Loyola University in Chicago, “All arguments are either circular or based on unsubstantiated claims.”

            In identifying morality as having strong associations with choice and decisions, I was not presenting an irrefutable argument to prove that morality comes from reason. Just like how someone might use the expression “lock, stock and barrel” to identify the whole of a gun with its parts, I was only presenting parts in the understanding that you probably agreed with the premise anyway so there would be no need for proof. In other words, I was using a literary device, not a syllogism.

            Reason precedes morality as thought precedes action. The idea is so fundamental, it can hardly be broken down. The idea that you choose between what is right and wrong is a central Christian tenant. It is a central tenant of all religions based on the dualistic worldview of good vs. evil. If you believe that you have the ability to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, you believe reason precedes morality. The implication of that is that people are doomed in Hell for incorrect thinking. There is no way around it.

          • Steve Galt says:

            I think I can state the problem with you ad hominem designation clearly and succinctly. A fallacy is an error in inference. The logical relationship between the two propositions involved in the notion that unregenerate people draw false conclusions because of their inherent moral corruption is not one of inference. Therefore, it is not a logical fallacy.

            Part of the problem we are having in our discussion of morality is that we are not distinguishing between volition and ontology. When you talk about decisions as the basis for morality, you are talking about volition. You are talking about when someone does something right or wrong. When I talk about morality as the basis for our decisions, I am talking about ontology. I am talking about the fact that we are evil rather than the fact that we do evil.

            And so perhaps we can agree first that ontology—what we are—is logically prior to what we think. We cannot think if we do not exist to do the thinking. Moreover, the way we think is based upon our constitution. If you will forgive the crassness of my statement, I think you would agree that if we are stupid by nature, we will think stupid thoughts. And so again, ontology precedes epistemology. Secondly, perhaps, we can agree that our thinking serves as the basis for our decisions, including moral decisions. This is what you have been saying.

            If we can agree on these points, then there is a sense in which morality precedes reason. Our inherent moral disposition, whether it be good, evil, or neutral, is logically prior to our thinking (assuming there is a logical relationship between the two). There is also a sense in which reason precedes morality. Reason precedes morality in the sense that determine whether to do right or wrong based upon what we think.

            If we are in agreement here, I think we can let this rest. I would, however, conclude with where I began in my initial comment. What basis do you have to maintain that something is right or wrong/good or evil? As a Christian, I believe these things are based on the character of God. Whence comes morality in your view?

          • Chris says:

            Many great philosophers would disagree with your statement “what we are is logically prior to what we think,” including the author of Proverbs wherein it says “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” James Allen is famous for writing “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” Descartes said “I think, therefore I am,” which is distinct from “I am, therefore I think.” The Bhagavad Gita says “a person is what his Shraddha is.” Shraddha means literally “that which is placed in the heart.” Thought does not precede being. Thought does not come after being. Thought is being.

            If we are to remove that part of ourselves which thinks, we remove ourselves entirely. Our thoughts are our identity.

            But even if you could remove that part of ourselves which thinks, and paint it good or evil based on inherit values, who is to be held responsible for those inherit values? It cannot be the object which has those values because the object has no will of its own and did not bring itself about. Traditionally “free will” has been used as god’s scapegoat in Christian theology. People choose the evil path over the good path and that is how they end up in hell, at no fault of God’s. But because you do not have reason you do not have freewill and God no longer has a scapegoat. You are left with the conclusion that God created will-less evil beings to be evil and later accused them of being evil and punished them for it with eternal damnation. This depiction is even more absurd than that of God sending people to hell for not thinking correctly.

            In regards to your question: What basis do you have to maintain that something is right or wrong/good or evil?

            I cannot express what is good and evil and I cannot express why I know what is good and evil. But just because I cannot express something does not mean I do not know it. Words have limits but the mind is infinite. There is a difference between knowing and expressing. The two are not mutually exclusive.

          • Steve Galt says:

            Embracing the notion of libertarian free will in order to get God “off the hook” for all of the evil in the world is not something that I think is biblical or helpful. For one thing, it doesn’t really get God off the hook. If God has foreknowledge, then he still determined to create the world knowing that his creatures would choose to abuse their free will and rebel against him. And if there was some possible world which God could have foreseen in which his creatures would not have abused their free will and brought God’s curse upon humankind and the created order, then why didn’t God choose to create one of those worlds? Instead, he chose to create a world in which evil would come to be. And so simply saying that people have free will doesn’t get God off the hook, as though He couldn’t exercise control over them because it would violate their free will. He could have created a world with people who would have chosen differently, not by overriding their free will, but by foreseeing their free choices and creating accordingly.

            The Protestant perspective which has better historical grounding is one in which God is the ultimate sovereign and in which people choose according to the way God created them. I believe that God ordained evil to be in order to achieve a greater end, namely his own glory. God ordained sin, suffering, the curse, and hell in order to make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy (Romans 9). This is a morally justifiable reason for decreeing a world in which these things would become a reality. This idea centers on God’s ultimate sovereignty over all affairs, predestination, and more, but it seems consistent with biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that mans steps are ordained by the Lord, that he turns the hearts of kings wherever he wishes, and that he works all things after the counsel of his will, and that he alone determines the eternal destiny of individuals before the creation of the world.

            Now, this is not something that is palatable to people living in the West. I think you will find this quite appalling. But I would caution you to be careful in imposing any ethnocentric Western judgments upon the claims of the Bible. There are cultures in which people would be offended at the idea that God is not a God of wrath. This would be true of most Muslim cultures as well as some Korean contexts. There are also cultures in which people would be appalled at the idea of a God who did not have the right to do whatever he wants with his creatures. And so when we deny these types of ideas on the grounds of our own culturally situated beliefs, we universalize our own ethnocentrism and use it to suppress other cultural viewpoints which we find distasteful. We exalt our own opinions as though they were the opinions of a sovereign God and then judge others according to our standards. The Christian perspective is not subject to the horns of this dilemma, however, because we embrace a sovereign God who has spoken and given us the criteria according to which we are to live and think.

            Regarding the idea of whether thinking or being has logical priority, you seem to take a route which blurs the distinction between thinking and being. You cite Proverbs, James Allen, and the Bhagavad Gita as examples in which this view is put forth. I cannot comment on James Allen, thought I know he wrote As a Man Thinketh. I know only slightly more about the Bhagavad Gita, having read and studied portions of it on a cursory level. I can comment on Proverbs enough to say that you are interpreting it in a way that is foreign to its historical context and literary genre. The conceptual world of the ancient Near Eastern mindset was one in which ontology was understood in terms of function rather than being. Thus, “a man is as he thinks in his heart” should not be understood to confuse one’s thought with one’s being.

            Perhaps I am missing you at some point, but I think that if we take your statement to its logical conclusion that unconscious people could have no existence. We would cease to exist when we were asleep (unless we were dreaming, perhaps). And so it would not be possible for me to be found guilty of murdering someone while they were sleeping. No one exists while they are sleeping. Of course, you see the problem with this.

            This conclusion, to me, illustrates what the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 1 concerning the foolishness we embrace when we suppress the truth God has revealed. Professing to become wise, we become fools. If we seek to establish our own wisdom against the wisdom of God, it will result in a belief system that is rife with contradictions and absurdities. This is part of the negative consequences of sin which points forward to the culmination of the curse that is to come if we continue in our rejection of God. But Christ bore the curse for us so that we can become free. We can be saved from the foolishness that results when we suppress the truth of God, we can be saved from the misery of our sin, and we can be saved from the end to which the immediate consequences point.

          • Chris says:

            Embracing the notion of libertarian free will in order to get God “off the hook” for all of the evil in the world is not something that I think is biblical or helpful. For one thing, it doesn’t really get God off the hook. If God has foreknowledge, then he still determined to create the world knowing that his creatures would choose to abuse their free will and rebel against him. And if there was some possible world which God could have foreseen in which his creatures would not have abused their free will and brought God’s curse upon humankind and the created order, then why didn’t God choose to create one of those worlds? Instead, he chose to create a world in which evil would come to be. And so simply saying that people have free will doesn’t get God off the hook, as though He couldn’t exercise control over them because it would violate their free will. He could have created a world with people who would have chosen differently, not by overriding their free will, but by foreseeing their free choices and creating accordingly.

            If you read more carefully my comment, you’ll realize that I, personally, am not trying to get God “off the hook” by attributing sin to free will and something that is not of God’s doing. I accuse Christians of “traditionally” using free will as a justification for God’s punishment, a “scapegoat.” People aren’t forced into hell, people choose hell. You’ve heard it before. That’s the argument Christians, including yourself, use. However, because I have pointed out the logical inconsistency of this argument, you preemptively deny it and switch to another argument that God, upon the moment of creation, essentially chose for people to be good or evil, rendering the previous argument of free will irrelevant. And how is God deliberately creating creatures prone to evil and suffering not completely despicable? Because God did it for “his own gory,” you add. Seems to me “his own glory” can be used as a justification for anything these days because it sounds so incredibly righteous and holy. The next time I torture or murder someone, I’ll be sure to plead to the judge, “I did it for my own glory.”

            Anyway, I don’t want to argue with you into eternity but I do want to leave you with something. It’s a question, a challenge.

            Even if you knew it would be going against God’s will, would you free humanity from Hell? Specifically loved ones who you know are not serial killers and rapists, people who are not bad people and hold moral values similar to that of your own but still reject Jesus on account of empirical reasoning and lack of evidence. Would you go against the will of God for the sake of your brothers and sisters? I know that according to your understanding, going against the will of God will not accomplish this goal of freeing people from Hell. But i am asking if. What if freeing your loved ones from hell meant going against God’s will. Would you want to free them?

            I think if you answered the question with a pure heart, you might learn something about yourself.

            A closer examination of the good, non-contradictory, relevant and less comically stupid, absurd portions of the bible (I’m look at you, Ezekiel 23:20) might lead you to believe that getting Jesus in your heart and acquiring safety from eternal punishment is not the most important principle found within. For guidance, I offer what Christ said is the core of Christian teaching, “love they neighbor as thyself,” and the beautiful idea (though to be clear, not an idea originated solely from the bible) that “there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” The principle is thus: self-interest is the root of all evil and love for others is the root of all good. If you truly believe in this idea, I think it will have some influence on your answer. If you don’t then I think you are doing the whole Christianity thing wrong.

          • Chris says:

            “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:33

  4. Caleb says:

    Um, wow. The replies here attacking your post and arguing for the existence and worship of “God” are worth reading and seem in earnest and born of the best of intentions. However, I feel compelled, with apologies and all due respect, to convey my bewilderment at the incomprehensible arguments used in opposition to your conclusions.

    Mr. Galt, for instance, addressed with near-perfect clarity an issue with your post he and I actually share, that being your understanding of what it means to “believe” something, and the erroneous supposition that we can “choose” whether, or not, to believe in this or that.

    Having successfully characterized the concept of belief, Mr. Galt then embarks on an incomprehensible journey which, despite a sustained, sincere and informed effort, I was completely unable to follow. People who happen to be born into, say, a Mormon or an Islamic family, believe the particulars of their creed but such belief was not volitional (I’m following so far, Mr. Galt) but if the divine spirit is at work inside them, will come to “…worship Christ and long for his return.” This is a total non-sequitor, and is where appeals to common sense are unfortunately deflected by heartfelt-yet-unsupportable retreats into ideas constructed by people who did, in fact, believe the world was flat, and that the universe revolved around it, and, incidentally, would ostracize, expel, or even kill you for voicing your “common sense.”

    Mr. Scott, in an earlier reply written with an eloquence as laudable as Mr. Galts’, reminds us to recognize and take heed “moral” laws and to be unsurprised when, violating these “laws,” we experience (or, I suppose for pious observers, only bear witness to such violations and their consequences) the pain of “His” judgement. To which of the biblically-derived “moral” laws should we conform ourselves? Obviously we can ignore the outdated ones, which atheists always trot out as straw men in their attacks, but I for one find even most of the remainder largely in conflict with (1) my “common sense” (2) contemporaneous developments that seem in every way “good” and, indeed, very “moral” and (3) each other. For instance, if the 10 commandments make no mention of, say, homosexuality, but such a condemnation is “fairly” clear in leviticus, why is homosexuality given so much attention by so many people while instances of coveting, adultery, NOT honoring parents, and working on the Sabbath must outnumber boy-boy/gal-gal love 100 to 1? Or murder/killing of adults and children in the hundreds, thousands, and indeed, the tens of thousands, is routinely ignored?

    I’m sorry, but in a world where God allows even one 6-year old to have their limbs destroyed by military ordinance, either via a (tragically) mentally ill 20-year old or from a U.S.A. drone-launched cluster bomb, let alone the real numbers of these and similar outrages to “morality,” the “Holy Spirit” some feel working inside them (a.k.a. euphoria, accessible yes, through communal worship and prayer, but also via running a marathon, studying biology, meditating, or a dose of MDMA) is an utterly hollow, shockingly selfish, and demonstrably fictional last recourse of an otherwise wholly discredited paradigm.

    Assertions that the existence, let alone any redeeming qualities, of “God” can be “proven” outside the Bible (as common sense incontestably requires it must be, other wise the Bible is true because the Bible says it is – circular reasoning of the most blatant and preposterous sort) have yet to find the slightest purchase or provide a single shred of proof. I am of course only speaking for myself, but the world I briefly described above is, to me, like the annual need for new types of influenza vaccinations (PROOF of evolution), the erosion of mountain peaks (PROOF of the true age of the earth), proof that the belief in a God even remotely resembling the one found in any of the world’s religions, however widespread such beliefs are, is as unsupportable as believing the world is flat. It appeals to a child’s version of common sense. However, as we have now grown quite tall enough, and the horizon hints of a curve, our “sense” must conform to the evidence, made “common” through the work of our fellow man.

    If there is a God, “He” is nothing like what our ancestors, struggling to understand existence, constructed “Him” to be. The universality, comfort, familiarity, usefulness or “instinctive” or experiential certainty of a belief has no bearing whatsoever on whether that belief demonstrates fidelity to fact. Ultimately, every defender of the faith resorts, literally or figuratively, to stuffing their fingers in their ears and humming loudly. Asian tsunami? African starvation and genocide? September 11, 2001? A hundred thousand independently verified and reproduced experiments? A single murdered 6-year old? Put your fingers in your ears, hum, and say your prayers.

    • Chris says:

      You have some pretty pointy points there and for what it’s worth, I think I like you. Reading your little essay, I experienced some of that Holy-Spirit-euphoria, almost to Pentecostal proportions and that’s saying something.

      I wish people would understand that that ‘euphoria’ you speak of is not exclusive to any particular religion, sexual orientation, any skin color, ethnic group, dress/fashion, age, salary, fucking country club! It is something experienced universally by all people because it is something that comes from within people rather than from an external source like God or Oprah. I want Mr. Galt to take a plane to Saudi Arabia and walk the streets. There he will see people, in the billions (all in all), completely oblivious to Christianity but experiencing that same euphoria; they are just as steadfast and devout in their God and faith as he is. And yet it is not the same faith they follow. Not the same God.

      How do you reconcile with your Christian faith when you see a child live and die on a part of the earth where the name ‘Jesus’ is never spoken or even heard of? Of course you either make up some bullshit excuse called ‘the age of accountability’ or you use the shock value, the image of eternally damned children, to propel the message and further scare people into complying with its tenants.

      Sin!” says the preacher. “It’s not God that sentenced the child or anyone to Hell. It’s sin! And it’s not like we made this up, after all. We’re not saying this. This is coming straight from the man upstairs, straight from the Bible.

      But it is a poor argument when you must hide behind inanimate objects, especially thousands of years old, non-credible inanimate objects.

      I’ve had my say many times over. I’ve made it a habit to pause and reflect before I go about the business of disagreeing with someone (otherwise, I tend to break things). But, eventually, I will respond to both Mr. Galt and Mr. Scott as I value their opinions. I am also happy that they took the time to articulate their beliefs to me.

  5. Caleb says:

    Darn it all to heck! I ended my rhetorical flourish sounding like the farm boy hick I truly am…I meant “your” prayers…apologies!

    • Chris says:

      Caleb, because I am practically God on this website and have chosen to favor you, I’ll use my divine (web developer) powers to edit your comment and fix the typo. Your little essay deserves at least that much. The farm boy eloquence is.. ‘laudable’, if I may borrow the word, and, while I might be using the word clumsily, I do not use it sarcastically, in case that was unclear. Really, you must be retired or something. Nobody my age has the time (or intellect) to craft something that eloquent.

  6. Steve Galt says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Caleb. You articulate your viewpoint very well. Let me first address your analysis of my reply and then I want to challenge you on a particular point in your own reply.

    First, I want to make sure I understand you correctly. It seems that you see a contradiction in something I wrote. I think you’re saying that there is a contradiction between (1) the idea that our beliefs are not volitionally determined, and (2) the idea that those in whom the Spirit is at work will come to worship Christ. Is this accurate?

    If so, I believe the confusion is likely related to a misunderstanding of the way I believe the Spirit works in the lives of individuals to bring about their conversion to the Christian faith. Essentially, the work of the Spirit affects the moral disposition of an individual so that the individual’s response God is also affected. This is not merely a choice to believe. The person in whom the Spirit is not at work in this way is not able to come to rely upon God or worship him. The work of the Spirit in what theologians call the doctrine of regeneration constitutes an ontological change in an individual which leads him or her to freely and naturally believe and embrace the God of the Bible. As we hear the good news of what Christ has done in order to rescue us from the penalty we have incurred because of our disobedience, God sends the Spirit to bring about an ontological change which enables us to see the truth and beauty of the God revealed in Christ. We naturally then turn from seeking our joy in other things (idolatry) and we embrace Christ. And so hopefully this explanation makes it clear that there is no contradiction between the idea that we cannot simply choose our beliefs and the idea that some choose to embrace Christ. The key point is that those who choose to embrace Christ are granted the gift of believing. So I hope that helps.

    Secondly, I would like to challenge you with a similar challenge I made to Chris. You object to the idea of a God of love on the grounds that the “evil” you see in the world is inconsistent with the existence of a God of love. Upon what grounds do you object to such evil? Upon what grounds do you define what a loving God ought to be? What is it about “love” that disallows the existence of the suffering and evil you observe by one who can prevent it? Of course, I know you can cite all sorts of examples of the worst kind of suffering and evil, but my question is, upon what grounds can you say that such things are truly evil? From Christian perspective, it’s quite simple. God detests such things. But how would you account for evil? In other words, what is it that makes something good or evil?

    Thanks again for your input, Caleb. I think it has helped to advance the conversation.

    Blessings,
    Steve

  7. Michael Scott says:

    Chris – I am glad you are willing to be open and discuss these important topics. The following is in response to your response to me on June 8th:

    Chris said:


    If you think I am transfixed by the possibility of there being a God, you are mistaken and you miss my point entirely. My point wasn’t that there might be a God. My point was that if I am to hold the beliefs of others in question, it is prudent to also hold my own beliefs in question. Are you capable of making that same resolution? Have you considered that you might be wrong? Can you say it out loud? “I might be wrong.”

    Yes, I can say it out loud “I might be wrong!”.

    The Apostle Paul said we walk by faith, not by sight. ( 2 Corinthians 5:7). Christians believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and has ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God. They also believe that He is coming back some day. In Revelation 1:7 we read Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him… Now on the day that He does come back we will no longer act on the basis of faith for we will see Him for certain. Faith will then become sight.
    Obviously, when we are acting on the basis of faith and hope, we recognize that we could be wrong. Your complaint seems to be about the fact that Christians have a confident faith in their beliefs whereas you don’t. You expect Christians to have the same level of doubt and questioning that you have and when they don’t you become dismissive. Maybe this is because you suspect intolerance on their part toward you. But I submit two points in connection with this: 1) Just as you expect tolerance from Christians of your doubts, you should have the same tolerance toward them in theirs confident faith. 2) If we speak optimistically about this, we can say we are all on a journey to seek the truth – and that each of us is at different points in that journey. Do not think that your situation is unique or that all those who exhibit a rock solid faith in the Christian God today did not have the same doubts you have now at another time.

    The Christian faith is a rational faith. There is much evidence in support of it. But rationality does not explain it all. Their is a mystical side to it which is not easy to explain. This mystical aspect is not a cop out to obfuscate or evade issues – it is real.

    I do not dispute your right to question yours or mine or anyone elses beliefs. One more point I would like to make on this issue is that sooner or later you need to come to a conclusion about whether God exists or not. For you He either exists or He doesn’t. To me, the agnostic position is untenable and is really only a smoke screen for the atheist position. If the atheist position is the one you hold then, it seems to me, the discussion needs to go in a completely different direction. You can’t move on to question B (is Christianity true?) if you have not resolved question A (does God exist?).

    Okay, so let’s talk about the hell thing.

    You said:

    Your insistence upon glossing over and ignoring the doctrine of Hell betrays a prickled moral conscience. You wonder why people are “hung up” on it … And instead of discussing the nitty gritty reality of it, you prefer to speak about Hell in tame and abstract terms…
    Yes, it is wrong for God, the creator of the universe, to light his “creatures” on fire for an indeterminate period of time. It is wrong to judge unjustly, even for a creator. …

    Hmmmm – I was being open and honest with you in expressing my own doubts about the doctrine of hell – basically doing what you have claimed is your right to do all along. And yet you characterize this as me “glossing over” things. You on the other hand glossed over a key point that I made – The God of the Bible is a just God. Abraham boldly asked God: shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just? (Gen 18:25). The answer to this question is, yes He will do what is just. The Bible is consistent in presenting to us a God who is just. So it stands to reason that He will be just in the afterlife as well. I may be unsure about the doctrine of eternal hell – but one thing I am sure about is that for those who stand alone before God on the day of judgment, God will render to each one according to his deeds (Romans 2:6). In Revelation 20:12 it is written that the books will be opened. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. That is the “nitty gritty” as you say. Each person will be judged according to the deeds he has done. No punishment will meeted out except that which is just. How does this reconcile with the doctrine of an eternal hell? I don’t know, and have not heard a good explanation yet – that is why I express my doubts. But I trust that God is just: He has always shown Himself so to be. And furthermore, one thing I do not do, as you have done, is jettison the whole lot of Christianity because I have trouble with a part of it that I don’t fully understand.

    The Bible is full of what I would call seeming or apparent contradictions. I say apparent because they appear to be contradictions but that does not mean that they are. I have found that hidden behind these apparent contradictions are great truths and insights into the magnificent character of God. One of these contradictions is Jesus Christ Himself. God become a man? How is that possible? How can the Lord of glory, the creator and sustainer of the whole universe become a lowly man? Many stumble at this, but there are great things there for those who look upon it with the eyes of faith. But you can’t get to C, D and E if you are stuck at A and B.

    You said:
    Would you give a rat’s ass about Jesus if he didn’t guarantee your safety from bodily harm in the afterlife?

    Well again you misunderstand Christians and the way they think – and frankly, knowing your upbringing and education, I am shocked about how much you have already forgotten.

    It is written: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7).

    Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. It is the beginning, but it is not the end. John said There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

    It is necessary for man, when he first approaches God to fear Him (something you appear to have lost) – and well he should. God holds all the cards and we hold none: every breath we take and every beat of our hearts is at his say so. He can end any one of our lives in and instant and would be justified in doing so since he was the one who gave the life in the first place.

    But those who come to God through His Son can get past this fear in the knowledge that Christ has made peace with God for us. Now we can deal with Him on the basis of love – not fear. We also know that our love for Him is an out growth of His love for us: We love Him because He first loved us. And this is natural – isn’t it? Your mom and dad loved you even before you were born though you could not know or comprehend that love. This continued for a number of years while they took care of you and showed you affection. And what was your response when you were old enough to understand? To love them back, right?

    What if a four year old were to say to his mom, “If it were not for the fact that you gave me life, fed me, clothed me, ensured my safety and showed me love in numerous other ways, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass for you!”? What would you think about that kid? An ungrateful little punk, right? Well think for a minute about God’s children (that’s everybody: Acts 17:28), who have received far more blessings from Him, think about the fact that many – most of them, have done just this, and worse. Notice the testimony written in the book of Jeremiah:

    “O generation, see the word of the Lord! Have I been a wilderness to Israel, Or a land of darkness? Why do My people say, ‘We are lords; We will come no more to You’? Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number.
    Jeremiah 2:31-32

    • Chris says:

      You said that you are willing to admit that you might be wrong. Can you elaborate on that? In what sense are you willing to admit that you might be wrong? Are you willing to admit that Jesus might not be the son of God and the Bible might not be the word of God? That is the sort of doubt I am encouraging you to have. If you cannot make those doubts, I can’t judge you for it. But my opinion is that a lack of doubt equates to ignorance.

      You say that I must settle the question of whether God exists. But the question that you really want me to settle is whether the Christian version of God exists. My answer to that is no, the Christian version of God does not exist. Christianity is a ruse, a fiction that is full of many good truths. If it were not for the many good truths in the Bible, the rest of it would be utterly unconvincing. But people must think in terms of absolutes. It is either the absolute truth or it is an absolute falsity – but that is a false dilemma and I reject it. The Bible has worth and it adds meaning to life, just as all great fiction does. Lies express something true about our nature and existence but you mustn’t forget that they are lies. That is what I believe and it’s a far cry from believing in “nothing.”

      • Michael Scott says:

        When I said that I am willing to admit I am wrong I meant that I do not yet have the confirmation of my beliefs in hand – my faith is not yet sight. My faith is a predictor of the future: e.g., I believe we will all meet God one day, that there is a judgment day, etc.. But since that future has not yet happened, I admit it is possible I am wrong. This does not mean I am not confident in my beliefs. I am confident in the fact that the Christian God does exist and the promises made in the Bible are all true. You are saying that you cannot engage in a meaningful debate with me about spiritual things unless I have the same level of doubt that you have. This is unrealistic because few if any people will be in the same place you are with your doubts. Furthermore, the whole point of debate is to explore different view points and to seek to determine the truth. That implies that we will have different levels of doubt.

        You said, Christianity is a ruse, a fiction that is full of many good truths. followed by similar statements. This is a contradictory statement but I think it can be resolved by making a distinction. You equate fiction with lies. I would say they are different. If you are reading a novel you know and the author represents that it is fiction – i.e., not a real story that actually happened. Now within that novel there may be things that are “true”. For example, a novel may present situations that very effectively illustrate aspects of the human condition. The Bible on the other hand does not purport to be and should not be characterized as fiction. From its very first line (In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth) it speaks with authority and declares itself to be the truth. From Genesis to Revelation it makes claims that are either true or they are not. So that is the distinction I would make – say it is true or prove that it is wrong – but don’t say it is “fiction” or a myth.

        With regard to the Bible’s claims, many of these claims can and have been verified. Historical claims about places, events, peoples – where they can be verified, have been shown to be accurate. Furthermore, the Bible has been shown to be a reliable guide to morality – in fact sets a standard of morality that is higher than any other standard set by man (read the sermon on the mount with fresh eyes and you will see what I mean). Furthermore, it has shown itself to be a reliable guidebook to how the Creator intends for His creatures to live.

        But there are many claims made in the Bible that cannot be verified. Central to these claims are those made by Jesus Christ Himself. The veracity of the Bible can be proven on many levels – but there are many things that cannot be proven with the tools we have at our disposal. So it comes down to faith. Certainly the proven truthfulness of many things in the Bible helps with a decision to believe the unprovable. But I think there is more to it than that. God will give you the faith if you ask for it – but you must start by trusting Him with the little faith you already have to begin with. It is written without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

        You must believe that He is (He exists) and that He is good – and will reward you if you seek Him. The evidence for God’s existence is everywhere in creation. The evidence for who God is and what He is like is well documented in the Bible. But if you reject these things, you will not be rewarded with more faith and your heart will be darkened. The light will recede from you and you will be like one groping around like a blind man. And the worst part of it is you won’t even know that you are in a dark place.

        To me the central question you must answer in all this is: Who is Jesus Christ? I submit to you that He is the central figure of all history. For example, ask the question: what year is it? The answer is 2013. But 2013 of what? 2013 A.D. What’s that? A.D. is an abbreviation of the latin Anno Domini, which in English means “year of our Lord”. Imagine that: the whole world, even those who don’t believe in Christ date their calendar from His birth. “So what” you may say. “I use C.E. which means common era…”. OK, go right ahead and rename it – it still dates our calender from His birth. All the arguments and speculation are irrelevant besides this question: Who is Jesus Christ? Was He just a great teacher and was the resurrection just a great hoax? Or was He the Son of God, Emmanuel (God with us) come down from heaven to save us? Other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, and Confucianism have a man they hold as a leader and great teacher. But none make the claims that Christ made: That He is God come down from heaven. That He was and is the savior of all mankind. That He, under His own power rose from the dead. That He ascended into heaven from whence He came and that He will return one day on the clouds of glory. That He will one day judge the nations and will rule the universe into eternity. That He will give eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.

        These claims are all fantastic but Jesus always spoke with absolute, confident authority. And His early disciples (at one point the Bible speaks of 500 of them) believed Him because they were eye witnesses to His miracles and the resurrection. These disciples proved their confidence and faith in Him by willing to give all – even their lives – because they believed that the promises He made and the Kingdom He proclaimed were true and real.

        It seems to me that your rejection of Christianity is not based on truth claims in the Bible that you have found to be false. Your rejection is based on what you perceive as unfairness of the Christian God. I propose that you, for a time, put aside your issues based on fairness or what you claim is logical reasoning, and first spend time verifying if the claims in the Bible that can be verified are in fact true. When you know a person who you know lies to you all the time and that person tells something you really need to know the truth about – what do you do? You will most likely discount what he is saying – it is probably a lie. On the other hand, when you know someone to be honest – and who has never lied to you – if he tells you something very important, you can be confident that what he is saying is true. So it is with the Holy Scriptures.

        Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

        • Chris says:

          When I said that I am willing to admit I am wrong I meant that I do not yet have the confirmation of my beliefs in hand – my faith is not yet sight. My faith is a predictor of the future: e.g., I believe we will all meet God one day, that there is a judgment day, etc.. But since that future  has not yet happened, I admit it is possible I am wrong.

          So you admit that you might be wrong and the Bible might be a farce and Jesus might not be the literal son of God? I just want to make sure we were on the same page because it is easy to obfuscate facts by hiding in the details and mincing words (“faith is not yet sight,” etc.) I would appreciate a “Yes” or “No” in response to this question or a declarative statement such as:
          “I, Michael Scott, hereby admit that the Bible might be a farce and Jesus might not be the literal song of God.”
          It would be delightfully ironic too, if you made the statement with one hand raised in the air and the other placed over a copy of the New King James.

          Again, I just want to make sure that your definition of doubt is the same as mine. The sort of doubt I am challenging you to have is one of doubt of the entire Christian religion, not merely aspects of the religion, the entire religion. This level of doubt is healthy and completely justified, it is not the equivalent of renouncing your faith.

          “You said, Christianity is a ruse, a fiction that is full of many good truths. followed by similar statements. This is a contradictory statement but I think it can be resolved by making a distinction. You equate fiction with lies. I would say they are different”

          My point in the statement “Christianity is a ruse, a fiction that is full of many good truths,” was to get you to realize that fiction is not equivalent to “lies.” I think I have succeeded. Where do you get the idea that I equate fiction with lies? That would be the exact opposite implication of my statement. If I wanted to equate fiction with lies, I would have wrote “Christianity is a ruse, a fiction that is full of many lies,” but instead I used the word “truths.”

          ” … With regard to the Bible’s claims, many of these claims can and have been verified. Historical claims about places, events, peoples – where they can be verified, have been shown to be accurate …”

          ” … You must believe that He is (He exists) and that He is good – and will reward you if you seek Him. The evidence for God’s existence is everywhere in creation …”

          “… All the arguments and speculation are irrelevant besides this question: Who is Jesus Christ? Was He just a great teacher and was the resurrection just a great hoax? …”

          “… And His early disciples (at one point the Bible speaks of 500 of them) believed Him because they were eye witnesses to His miracles and the resurrection …”

          Meaningless platitudes repeated in Christian literature, pulpits and sunday school lessons around the country. “Talking points” to fall back on when the weaknesses of Christian logic is exposed, I am bored and sick to death of them. And this is another symptom of religious indoctrination – the stamping out of all forms of original thought. You’re saying the exact same things you used to say when I was a kid – yet you don’t realize it. It insults your intelligence as well as mine. 500 witnesses of Christ’s resurrection? Says who? The freaking Bible! The Bible would say that, wouldn’t it? You cannot use the Bible to verify biblical claims. It’s like using a man accused of murder as the primary witness to prove the man didn’t commit murder.

          “Who is Jesus Christ? Was He just a great teacher and was the resurrection just a great hoax? …” False dilemma, another nonsense call-to-action evangelical marketing ploy, as made famous by C.S. Lewis. Jesus Christ doesn’t have to be one of two things, JC could have been any number of things. A great teacher, a hoax, yes, but he also could have been a bad teacher or a mediocre one, or president of the Nazarian chapter of the Israeli National Carpenters Guild or a fictional character not purposefully designed as a hoax but interpreted thousands of years into the future in a manner inconsistent with the facts. We are incapable of getting the facts straight for events that happen in present day; what then, are the odds we have the facts straight about events which occurred thousands of years ago? There’s a great scene from Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” which illustrates this well.

          I just learned Rachel Scott, the girl killed at Columbine, famous for answering “yes” to the question “do you believe in God?” was, in fact, never asked the question. The question was asked to one of her classmates who replied with something along the lines of “maybe there is and maybe there isn’t.” A wise answer, I might add, but guess what? The classmate frigin’ survived. What’s the moral of the story now? I remember Rachel Scott’s dad coming to our school and painting the dramatic picture of Rachel as the martyr for not denying God when faced with death. Yet, in light of eye witness accounts, it is now undeniable that the conversation never took place. The only witness, the boy sitting next to Rachel when she was shot, denies it ever took place. Rachel’s Dad, once a pastor, built an entire world of idealistic nonsense (complete with a book deal and speaking tour) around a lie. Gee, it’s almost as if people interpret events to advance their own personal agendas.

          Do you remember those paintings of Christians surrounded by lions in the coliseum? Yeah, another example of people not getting the facts straight thousands of years into the future. Because no evidence exists that Christians were ever used as sport in the coliseum. And it’s common knowledge that Christianity (or rather, the form of Christianity that modern Christianity is derived from) was, at one point, the official religion of the Roman Empire. Kind of ironic ain’t it? Christians see persecution everywhere because they want to see it. They expect to see it. But the truth of it is, in historical accounts and in modern day, the Christians are more often the persecutors than the persecuted.

  8. Michael Scott says:

    You said:
    So you admit that you might be wrong and the Bible might be a farce and Jesus might not be the literal son of God? …

    I gave an inch and you assume I gave a mile. I don’t know where you got this idea that I must have the same level of doubt that you have with regard to the questions we are discussing. You completely missed my point that the purpose of debate is to present opposing view points. Two people who hold opposing view points would by definition hold differing levels of doubt or confidence in their respective positions. That should be obvious. I also reject your implicit claim here that yours is the superior debate position. You imply this by saying that you are the one with the ‘open mind’ whereas I, by virtue of my attachment to ‘rigid Christian dogma’ and a ‘brain washed mind’ do not have an open mind. You do not have an open mind any more than I do. Your position is quite rigid and you hold to it very firmly – as evidenced by your ridicule, diatribe and the confidently arrogant way you present your views. Is this the demeanor of someone struggling with his doubts? No. So please get past this whole “you must doubt as I do before we can have a discussion” thing because it is irrelevant. Argue the facts and even your own opinions – but don’t demand that I follow rules you yourself don’t follow.
    Really you are a stone thrower like the young revolutionaries. They say they hate the old regime but they haven’t a clue what to do if they succeed in overthrowing it. It is easy to sit there and to tear things down, to give myriad reasons why you think the Christian explanation for present, past and future is wrong – but you provide no alternative.
    You (in part) said:

    The level of ignorance in these statements is staggering; it insults your intelligence as well as mine. 500 witnesses of Christ’s resurrection? Says who? The freaking Bible! The Bible would say that, wouldn’t it? You cannot use the Bible to verify the biblical claims.

    In Deuteronomy 17:6 it is written Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

    This establishes the principle that when seeking the truth, especially on an important question, you need two or three witnesses. This is a bedrock principle of our judicial system – one that is so ingrained, few people give it a second thought. Your assertion is that the Bible is not a reliable (or even acceptable) witness because the claims it makes disqualifies it. You assert (correct me if I misunderstand you) that we cannot accept the Bible as a witness because it is self referential and because, of course, it will only support its own case. in other words it is not impartial. Is that a valid line of reasoning? No it is not. If you were on trial for murder, would your testimony be null and void because you were partial to your own case? No, of course not – your testimony would be valid. So it is with the Bible – as a witness, its testimony is valid. And what a witness it is! It claims to be and has proven to be an accurate historical document. This is not a “talking point” but a fact that has been proven again and again by scholars who have spent their lives studying it and validating its claims. Yes, there are many things in the Bible that cannot be confirmed by the secular record – but there are many things that can be – and have been verified. That speaks in favor of its reliability on the questions it addresses. Your next complaint might be “How do we know the books of the Bible were not corrupted or re-written to suit the aims of certain nefarious people looking (for example) to control people with their ‘religion’…” Well scholars tell us that no other written work from antiquity comes down to us through history with so many copies to validate its authenticity. There are thousands of copies of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts in existence as well as many, many copies in other languages such as Latin. These hand written copies, copied with great care and difficulty by the scribes are from many different time periods, in different languages and were found in diverse geographical locations. These facts make it very difficult if not impossible for any one group to take control of the text and to, for example, corrupt it. Scholars through the centuries have analyzed and compared all these manuscripts to the nth degree to weed out any copying errors or other corruptions of the text. This has been done to such an extent that the vast majority of Biblical scholars agree that we can be confident that the Bible we hold in our hands is an accurate document.

    Then there is the secular record – the 500 witnesses Paul refers to in Corinthians didn’t just disappear – they were the early church. Then there are the early and later church fathers: men like Augustine and Jerome. And then we have scholars and historians who have, down through the centuries, validated the truth claims of the Bible. I can almost hear you yawning as you read this with sighs of “Yeah, I heard it all before….”. But my point is that you are quick to make wild statements about the Bible but do not back them up with facts or proof. Have you read books like The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce or The New Testament documents by the same author, or other books that get down to the hard work of understanding the Bible’s origins? The Bible has been the cornerstone of western civilization for nearly 2000 years and yet you, who have lived for less than a quarter century, are ready, with the wave of your hand and a sarcastic comment to dismiss the vast accumulation of evidence and Biblical scholarship. And you do this based on what? Your “common sense”, your “rational thinking mind”, your “opinions”?
    Another point regarding the Bible as witness: you speak of it as if it is a monolithic entity – in one sense it is (to Christians, all words in are God breathed). But in another sense it is not – it is not one book by one human author but rather it is sixty six books written by over 40 authors over many centuries. So we could say that it is not one witness – but many. And those witnesses all agree in their testimony. A final point on this: the Bible records events that occurred 1900+ years ago. It was not written (or finished being written) in the 1st century and then beamed into the 21st century, with no history between those two time periods. People might think that it is easier to ascertain the facts of an event the closer in time to the present that the event occurred. But historians know better – it is actually better to have more distance between the present and the historical events for at least two reasons: 1) It provides more opportunities for new evidence to come to light 2) It provides more time for investigators (historians, scholars) to review the evidence and provide analyses of the events in question.

    Regarding your comments about the girl who was shot in Columbine – when I heard the story about her murder and her confessing faith in God prior to that, I thought at the time that it was tragic (that she was killed) and I was glad she professed belief in God. But I did not put any great weight on the story as if this was some kind of great miracle or something. I still do not know the facts of the case but your version of the story could be true. My response regarding your comments on the pastor/father who exploited the situation for gain and Christian notoriety is this: You do not need to look very far to find those claiming to be Christians involved in all sorts of selfish and even evil practices. The Apostle Paul called some of them false brethren. Beyond that, even the best Christians are still just sinners and far from perfect. We do not point to ourselves and say – “see how great we are!”. We are not great – more than any other people, we know this full well. Instead we point to Christ – He is the perfect one and the only hope of salvation. Regarding our human frailty and inadequacy Paul put it this way:

    But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

    We Christians are earthen vessels: flesh and blood, weak, sinners with bodies that are dying. But we have a treasure of inestimable value that shall bring us into eternity. And it pleases God to use us – and this all points to Him who alone is worthy of glory.

    You also said this:
    And it’s common knowledge that Christianity (or rather, the form of Christianity that modern Christianity is derived from) was the official religion of the Roman Empire. Kind of ironic ain’t it? Christians see persecution everywhere because they want to see it. They expect to see it. But the truth of it is, in historical accounts and in modern day, the Christians are more often the persecutors than the persecuted.

    Well I am not sure what history books you are reading, but the early church was greatly persecuted. It is a well established historical fact that the Roman Emperor Nero (A.D. 54-68) tortured and murdered many Christians. For example, when Rome burned down (a fire that quite probably he set) he blamed Christians for setting it and then proceeded to have them take the punishment. So it has been throughout history. Yes, later Rome did adopt Christianity as the state religion and yes, the Roman Catholic church is the modern day ancestor of that. Hollywood and pop culture always presents the Catholic church as the church but there were many other Christian sects besides it, as you well know, and there is of course the Protestant reformation which seems to also be missing from your history books.
    Where do you see Christian’s persecuting others? Are there any Christian suicide bombers you know of? If you do find “Christians” persecuting anyone they are not acting as Christ would have them to act. The fact is, there is no room in Christian teaching for Christian’s to be persecuting anyone. Quite the opposite is true:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
    Matthew 5:43-45

    • Chris says:

      I’m not asking that you adopt “my level of doubt.” I’m asking that you adopt doubt, any level of doubt. A microscopic level of doubt will do: a pee drop, a hair, a smidgen will do. I already know this doubt exists in some form or another because it is impossible for humans to believe things in any absolute sense. If we could, we wouldn’t be humans but computers built with binary logic: true/false, true/false, etc. But we’re a bit more sophisticated than computers. You only want to deny doubt because it doesn’t fit into your idealistic view of ‘surrendering it all to Jesus’. Not surprisingly, it’s unChristian-like to doubt Christianity. And yet, you could never realize how absurd it is unless you permitted yourself to doubt it.

      This is my complaint. There is no statement in any doctrine in the Christian religion (or any religion for that matter) which states something along the lines of “oh yeah, we might actually be wrong about this, because, well, we’re only human you know.” Yet such a statement is the only absolutely true statement we are capable of making. In matters of religion and philosophy, we are only sure of one thing: we might be wrong.

      You know what I’ve noticed? People who are unwise, people that tend to be wrong about things, are really confident in what they believe. Far more confident than the people who are often right. Wise people express diffidence and unsurity in all contentious matters, even when they are certain of their own position. They are able to place themselves outside of themselves and realize themselves to be imperfect, fallible creatures. This position, the wise position, is a position I have attempted to take on matters pertaining to religion and philosophy. I already related to you, in my post, that I could be wrong not just about Christianity but any number of religions: Islamism, Buddhism, Hinduism. I know my own position: organized religion is a farce. But I do not go so far as to dogmatically say I am absolutely right and that I have found the absolute truth which no one can infringe upon.

      Your testaments of doubt, however, are disingenuous. You want to pretend to be rational and scientifically minded by admitting you might be wrong, but you are only able to admit you might be wrong about some things, elements of Christian doctrine rather than the whole of Christian doctrine. You forget the number one rule of the rational and scientific mind: anything can be disproven. You might be wrong! Were it not for this scientific mindset, we would still believe the earth was flat. So recite it, admit it, embrace it constantly: I might be wrong! You’ll find that once you have, a whole new, possibly spherical, world will open up to you. But if you cannot, you are stuck in the same old ways.

      If you want to pull the faith card, that’s fine with me, but stick with it. Don’t hop back and fourth between the faith boat and the evidence boat when one proves more convenient than the other. Don’t pretend that Creationist “science,” archeological findings and historical accounts are convincing enough proof to justify your worldview, then, almost in the same breath, say your belief system is grounded in faith when you are presented with scientific arguments.

      As for my “ridicule, diatribe and the confidently arrogant way you present your views,” I suggest reading other posts I’ve written on this site. I go off on hateful diatribes about shitty movies, the season finale of Lost and Windows 8. Did you think that I would reserve criticism for the largest and most absurd establishment in the history of western civilization? This crassness which you have observed is not a necessary component for arguments against Christianity, but a necessary component of my own particular form of self-expression. It is part of who I am and who I am is not someone who goes to great lengths to avoid stepping on toes.

  9. A friend says:

    Mate, your acting more Christian then ANY claiming on this page to be Christian. It’s saddening to see so many lost and confused minds in this world.

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