Back for more replying.
One of the contributing factors to Cafeteria Christianity is known as "SPAG": Self-Projection As God. What you're basically doing here is deciding for yourself which characteristics you think Yahweh should have and assuming that he has them, then deciding which characteristics the bible says he has but that you think he shouldn't have and trying to rationalize away those traits.
That's actually not a bad test, come to think of it.
The way I look at it is that I can't possibly know what attributes God actually has. So I feel that it's better to do my best to live my life in a way which avoids hurting other people, and which helps other people whenever possible. If God doesn't exist, then I end up living a good and decent life. If God does, then it's hard to imagine how living such a life would cause problems. And, to be honest, I wouldn't want to live in heaven with a deity who condemned people eternally merely for not believing in him, even if it were a pleasant life.
Sort of like turning Pascal's wager on its head: Live in such a way which is good to other people and let the hereafter sort itself out.
Avatar of Belial:
Why use the Bible? Well, one reason I still use it is because the various parables and questions Jesus posed can be thought-provoking (not the only reason, but the others are similar). Other than that, why does this site use verses from the Bible? Because you have to speak to people in a way they understand in order to have a chance of getting through to them.
As for why people should believe my version, well, the fact is that I'm not suggesting people follow my version merely because I believe it's correct. How is that different from the way most Christians act? What I want is for Christians to make their own informed decisions regarding the Bible and what it says - to exercise freedom of conscience, instead of being satisfied with easy answers provided by someone else.
What is your criteria for the answer to your 'unanswerable' questions? For that matter, what are your 'unanswerable' questions?
Speaking in a general sense, because each person is different and each person's faith will thus be different, I can't give a stock answer. In any case, I consider it to be more important for a person to be willing to question their faith than to worry about exactly what answers they're looking for. Problems of faith aren't like math problems, where one follows a process to get the answer. A person wrestling with their faith may never actually find a final answer to it, but the fact that they're willing to try is worthwhile by itself.
Think of it this way. Why does this site pose ten questions for every Christian to answer? Part of it, I imagine, is to see what they actually say, but I'd like to think that another part is to see who's actually willing to seriously try to answer them and who might be able to move beyond the blinkers that religion tends to put in place.
The problem (or one of them) is that you don't really know anything about this Jesus-figure but the "after-the-fact deification and glorification". For that matter, there isn't even enough evidence to prove - even within reasonable doubt, and certainly not beyond - that he even existed!
Would it surprise you if I said that I agree with you? The thing is, for most people (even the Bible does this), the resurrection and the deification completely overshadow the rest of Jesus's life. You get a few apocryphal to show off how important Jesus is as a child - the virgin birth, the wise men and the shepherds, Herod's baby hunt, the flight to Egypt, etc...then practically nothing until Jesus gets baptized and starts his ministry. It's the sort of thing that leads to someone being considered larger-than-life, and the problem with that is that most people know that they can't ever live up to that.
Maybe it's not something that I can ever really prove, but the idea of Jesus as a regular person who was trying to do his best to help other people is something I can maybe live up to.
Ok, then we're back to square one... why call yourself a Christian?
Well, cause I am one (in the literal sense, I've gone through confirmation in a Methodist church). The fact that my faith might differ from mainstream Christian faith doesn't mean mine is not Christian, since whatever the doctrine says, the definition of Christian is someone who abides by what Jesus taught.
Why do I think I'm right? Well, it's not so much whether I think I'm right as that it's what I'm willing to accept. And I'm not
willing to accept the regular Christian view of "whatever God does is right because he's God". I'd rather be 'wrong' and do good, than be 'right' and have to accept the Old Testament as 'good'.
But all of those can still be created, advanced, improved upon without all the superstitious, barbaric trappings.
Yes, except without the trappings, you don't know the context. And without the context, you end up with something which bears no resemblance to how things really were. And then what's to stop people from making the same mistake again? The culture might change, become more sophisticated, but basic human nature hasn't changed much, if at all. And people already have too much of a tendency to glorify the past and ignore its faults without making it any easier for them.
But that is exactly what "Magic-Decoder Ring" is! You are cherry-picking by saying 'that verse is no longer compatible with how I think a Christian should live'. That is exactly what what you're doing! And we still need to know why you think that these parts shouldn't be used as "example(s) a Christian should live by".
No, it's not. I don't have some magic decoder which tells me exactly what I should or shouldn't do. Just my own judgment and reason. If some Bible verse tells me to do something I clearly know is wrong, it doesn't make me a 'bad' Christian if I don't do it anyway.
I can't prove a negative, so let me turn that around. Why should the parts which I don't agree with be used as examples for a Christian to live by? Simply because, for the most part, they aren't necessary. You don't have to own slaves to be a Christian, for example. Nor do you have to stone adulterers, no do you have to execute homosexuals, etc.
It gets stickier when you consider things like prayer and the afterlife, because those are pretty much core tenets of Christianity. And that I can't really answer, because I don't accept the established doctrine there either. I don't think it's right for people to pray expecting to get something out of it; I don't think it's right for people to think that if they only accept Jesus, they're guaranteed an eternity in heaven.
If a person plants a fig tree, they are probably doing it to grow figs. If the tree ends up being barren and produces nothing, should the person do nothing year after year and hope that maybe this year it'll be different, or should they plant a new fig tree?
The stuff that happened at the Temple was not directed at people "making a living", as you put it. It was directed at the rabbis and scribes who were making money hand-over-fist by forcing pilgrims to exchange their money for "Temple coinage" at an usurious rate of exchange, not to mention charging a fee for their 'services', and who were perfectly willing to provide costly replacements for offerings that weren't 'good' enough.
Regarding "not peace but a sword" and the various contradictions in Jesus's statements (plus the other two things), assuming those were actually said by Jesus and weren't put in after the fact by other people, they aren't admirable. But on the other hand, it's not like nobody's never said anything stupid in public; it's not like people haven't contradicted themselves in public. I consider them reminders of why it's never good to idolize someone too closely, lest you blind yourself to their mistakes.
You seem to have missed the part where I said that I didn't buy into the deification of Jesus. That includes the "Son of God" part. So that's completely null. To be honest, I don't go to church even for major celebrations. I haven't for a while, because I don't buy into most Christian doctrine, and it wouldn't be right to pretend that I did.
As for the last bit, at this point, it's effectively impossible to get to the bottom of things anyway, so all we really have to go on is what was written about him long ago. I'm not exactly typical in that regard, because I look up to Jesus as a human being rather than as a divine avatar. I imagine for someone who takes Christian doctrine seriously, it matters a whole lot more for them to 'know' that Jesus really existed exactly the way the Bible describes. So I can see your point, but it doesn't really bother me the way it would a more devout Christian.
(that's all I can respond to for now. I dunno if I can respond to everyone the way I have been, as it's very time-consuming, but I'm going to at least keep responding. Incidentally, part of the reason I call myself a Christian is because I've always thought of myself that way. Call me stubborn - I certainly am - but I'm not the kind of person to throw something that fundamental aside until my gut is convinced of it)