As I mentioned in another post, a Christian friend invited me to a discussion group on Facebook regarding religion and unbelief. It is dominated by believers who, not surprisingly, can't even agree on whether or not there is an absolute morality and if it comes from God. Jesus. Christ.
I am going to share with you a little bit of this discussion, as it is rather sad. This is from an email with the friend who invited. I am pretty much sure that I just destroyed him, but I'm sure he won't see it. Here it is.
My initial question: Let me ask you this. As a Bible believing Christian, do you or do you not implicitly approve of God's decisions? If not, on what authority do you disagree with God?
His initial response: I may not, at the time, say "Oh that is the best thing" but I know that God knows more than I do and I have seen many times in my own life, when I thought I got wronged and there was no good to come of it and turn out that I was wrong. There are also times, say, working at Raven where I was told to do something that I thought was dumb and made zero sense, but then when I got to the gig it made perfect sense and I would have made the same call.
My rebuttal: What would God have to know in order to justify ordering Saul to slaughter suckling infants? You see, the problem I run into is this. I believe that butchering children is wrong. Period. Done. End of story. There are no exceptions. You clearly do not share this belief. Does God command Saul to kill children because killing children is a good thing (in other words a positive moral action) to do, or is it good because God ordered it? Or, did God order Saul to do something evil? I don't really see any other possibilities, and all of them would seem undesireable. Bottom line, I am not the one who has to explain why I worship a God who, until about 2000 years ago, had no problem routinely ordering the deaths of children. Or ordering people to eat the roasted flesh of their children, or eat cakes made out of dung. I'm not the one who believes in the God that orders this stuff.
It's ASTONISHING to me the amoung of mental and pseudo-logical acrobatics that have to be done by believers such as yourself in order to maintain your cognitive dissonance. So much "interpretation" has to be done that, if you one were to take what you actually believe, and write a Bible based on that, the end result would hardly resemble the original work at all. Furthermore, if the same thing was done for all self proclaimed Christians, there would be as many different versions as there are people, and each one saying that ONLY their interpretation is the correct one. How am I, a non-believer, supposed to take this seriously? This is why there are so many denominations of Christianity, and while many of the differences may be subtle, they have been enough to provoke a considerable amount of violence. Sure, not all Christians react in such an aggressive way, but it has to be rather obvious to you that God used to ORDER such exterminations on a regular basis. You haven't told me that you don't BELIEVE in the OT, just that you are not obligated to follow it's teachings. And why did it take God so long to figure out "Hey, maybe I should try being a little nicer and I'll get a better response"?
Why do you have to go through so much trouble to say that the Bible does not mean what it says, and does not say what it means, and oh thats just a metaphor, that's just a poem, that was just what God told the Israelites, etc etc. Notice that I do not have to explain away my worldview like this. You are constantly having to explain why the world you live in is the same as the world I live in, in other words, why the world you live in operates and appears as though there is NOT a cosmic overlord interfering with the natural order. You have to do SO MUCH to explain why the world you live in is just like a world where there is no God. You think that "God gave us free will" is the answer to that problem. I say that is an obvious cop out, especially considering that that God doesn't really seem to care too much about free will most of the time in the Bible. He is constantly demonstrating his powers in a way that makes the "free will" argument just silly. Thomas asked for evidence that the person standing in front of him was really Jesus resurrected, and HE GOT THAT EVIDENCE. It's not down to Thomas' free will to rely on his faith to believe in Jesus. God mooned Moses. God showed pharaoh his miraculous power in pharaoh's own court, presumably with an audience present. What about the free will of these individuals?
I believe in the theory of evolution (actually, I prefer to say that I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the diveristy of life on this planet due to the overwhelming evidence). The theory of evolution predicts that bacteria will develop resistance to anti-biotics. They do. It predicts that weeds will become resistant to herbicides. They do. It predicts that if hunters shoot only buck with 4 antlers or less, there will in coming years be more buck with larger racks. This is true. If you selectively breed wolves over a period of ten's of thousands of years, you should get vastly different sub-species, all of which are still Canis Lupis. This is also true. A chihuahua is the same species as a Great Pyrenees is the same species as a wolf. If you have ever seen a dog, and it didn't look like a wolf, congratulations, evolution is true. I don't have to explain why the very things that the hypothesis predicts do not occur.
Jesus said that some of those standing before him would not taste death before the end of the world. Those people are all dead. The end of the world has not come. Some Christians object that Jesus meant that their souls wouldn't die, but Jesus' actual audience plainly took it to mean their earthly lives, and in fact early Christianity was in fact a doomsday cult, a kind of Heaven's Gate in Roman times. I think it would honestly be preposterous to assume that one knows Jesus intentions better than his actual audience, for whom this stuff was written anyways, according to the understanding of their culture at the time, right?
His initial Response: I have every right and authority to disagree with God, but it is foolish as far as I am concerned. I think we have free will. You believe that you don’t have free will, but that is a whole other topic.
My Rebuttal: Ah free will. What does that mean? It has some obvious limitations that make it hardly seem a divine gift. If you are about to be murdered, your free will doesn't matter. You can't just make a choice NOT to be murdered. Sure you could possibly take action to prevent it if you were in a position to do so, but you might fail, in which case your choice is again negated. Your free will is trampled on by the free will of the murderer. So, at best, free will is only as strong and ruthless as the person wielding it, which again suggests that any such thing is a human and not a divine quality. Good people will do good things, and wicked people will do wicked things. But to get good people to do wicked things, you need religion.
Oh, and what would happen in the instance of your disagreeing with God? Do you really have a right to dissent if you are punished for doing so? Would I have a right to say "The President sucks" (I don't, incidentally, believe this) if, when I did so, the thought police showed up at my door? NO! It's like saying that people in North Korea have the "right and authority" to criticize the Dear Leader. Sure, you have that right, if you want yourself, your entire family, and all of your family for the next three generations to imprisoned. Wait a minute, punishing the sons for the sins of the father.... sound familiar to you? Doesn't Christianity consider us all guilty for Adam's sin? Isn't that God's decree? Isn't that why we have to accept a human sacrifice in order to be "saved"? Doesn't God frequently say that he punishes the sons for the sins of the father, unto such and such a generation?
My initial question: And let me get this straight. You honestly believe that you are possessed of super human healing powers,
His initial response:See you do this thing where you try to paint me into a corner.
My Rebuttal: I'm pretty sure that JESUS painted you into this corner, my friend (even though he wasn't a painter but a carpenter). If Jesus says his followers (X) WILL be able to do Y, I ask someone who claims to be a true follower (X) if they can do Y. If they can, they might be a true follower, if they can't, then according to Jesus they are not.
His initial response: So if I agree to having super human healing power, I’m obviously crazy/delusional, but if I say that I don’t think I have those powers I am not a Christian. It is a tricky game you play my friend.
My rebuttal: How is asking you to live up to the abilities that your savior himself said that you WILL have playing a tricky game? It would not make you crazy or delusional for you to say that you had there powers if you actually used them and demonstrated that you do in fact have this power. And remember, we are talking about IMPRESSIVE stuff. Jesus said that you would do greater miracles than him. He raised people from the dead, cured blind people, made crippled people walk, and fed thousands of people with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread. Once again, according to Jesus, you should be able to do way better stuff than that. That is what Jesus said his true followers would be able to do. I noticed when asked on the discussion group what makes a true follower of Christ a true follower of Christ, JoJo stated only HIS opinions on the matter. He doesn't have the strength of his convictions to say "Well Christ says his followers will be possessed of miraculous healing powers that only require us to lay our hands and people will be healed, and I do that stuff everyday, here watch, here comes an old vet in a wheelchair. He's like 90 years old, and is parapalegic due to a spine injury from an anti tank mine in the Netherlands. He has been paralyzed from the waist down for 68 years. But watch this! I touch his legs and Praise the Lord! He can sprint like Usain Bolt. He can leg press 1000 pounds. He can dunk a basketball like Michael Jordan. Praise the Lord!" And then exactly that happened, and it wasn't some sorry hoax done in front of a rock concert style credulous adrenaline fueled audience. No. THAT NEVER HAPPENS, even though the hypothesis (in this case, Jesus himself) says that it should be happening in the case of anyone who is a follower of his for real.
Now, if the hypothesis says that "If X then Y" and "Not Y" is the case, either the person in question is "Not X" or the hypothesis itself is false. Is it really so much to ask that this be demonstrated one way or the other? Why when I asked for this do I just get excuses and evasion? If Darwin's theory predicts that there should be a substantial amount of DNA in common amongst a wide variety of species, diverging in certain patterns, with lesser complexity in older species and greater complexity in newer species, and we find no evidence at all for this, then Darwin's theory is wrong. But, lo and behold, we DO find all of these things to be true, and Darwin's theory is upheld. Even Francis Collins, a brilliant scientist who is also seriously Christian, admits this, and much of this we are aware of because of his very work. What is predicted by the theory happens. What is predicted by yours does not.
His initial response: The thing is that we all have access to Christ, so if we all have the ability to do something, I wouldn't consider it a "super" anything. When asked a similar question to my friend Dr Brown, he said it had to do more with a lack of faith in the area or lack of understanding.
My rebuttal: Well he is just making that up himself to rationalize why neither he nor you can do specifically what Jesus said you would be able to if you were a true believer, and yet still consider yourself a true believer. If I said that I accept the theory of evolution, but don't believe that the things predicted by evolution were true, then in that case what I would believe in would be something OTHER than the theory of evolution. And I agree that everyone having miraculous power would make it seem much less "super", so to speak. That is one of the primary reasons I do NOT believe in miracles. Miracles are trivialized so much, in the common, more proverbial way as well as the religious way. If a plane crashes, and everyone survives, "it's a miracle!". If a plane crashes, and only 3 people out of 150 die, "it's a miracle!". If a plane crashes, and only half the people die, "it's a miracle!". If a plane crashes, and everyone but an infant survives, "it's a miracle!". If a plane crashes and no one survives, but no one on the ground were hurt, "it's a miracle!". If a plane crashes and only 2 people in the heavily populated area die, "it's a miracle!". Basically, no matter what happens, if we can conceive of a less desireable outcome, the situation is a miracle. It's a joke. As far as religious miracles go, well I have never heard of any true ones. It's always someone who was healed of their cancer through prayer (while simultaneously undoing chemo, radiation, and stem cell implants, of course) or someone who survived a potentially awful car accident (myself included, I lost control on a very icy road and slammed head on into one of the state plow trucks. Now, if God suspended the natural order of the universe to save me, an atheist, then at least he has a sense of humor, but isn't it much more likely that I survived uninjured because I was wearing my seat belt, the plow driver tried to steer away from me, and my car bounced into a heavy snowbank (AKA cushion) than the natural order being suspended in my favor?)
his initial Response: I don't understand what the barrier is for you in understanding why Christians now don’t have to follow the mosaic law. We have not been asked to, you need to know the difference between civil, ceremonial and moral laws.
My rebuttal: Can you please then simply show me where Jesus says not to follow the old laws? Where he says that they are abolished? I can not find this anywhere in the Bible. I do find him admonishing people to continue following the law. You can see how this is confusing. Again, when I look at the source, Jesus himself, of what he says his followers should do, I simply ask if that is what you are doing or not, or if you can show me where he says otherwise.
But, if this is inconvenient for said follower, I am told that Jesus does not mean that, we can't just take Jesus at his word, even though you are happy to take him at his word when it DOES match what you yourself believe. This is what non-believers refer to as Self Projection as God, or SPAG. This is why, no matter what the denomination or faith, God always seems to have the same beliefs and values as the given follower, and the only correct interpretation is the one the given follower is practising. This is why you don't go around waving God Hates Fags signs and the Phelps family does. Each of you thinks that you are presenting God's true message, even though they are admittedly largely different, and both can find justification for their beliefs in the very same book.
Each of you believes in a version of the Biblical God that best supports your own value system. The Phelps family is obviously a wretched hive of scum and villainy (it's the Mos Eisley of the US) who cares for nothing except hate, derision, and making other people lead as miserable and meaningless lives as them. You are obviously on the other end of the spectrum, being someone who has an idea of God as idealized through the nicest, warmest, fuzziest parts of the NT and lo and behold, the God that you worship is just like the one you want to! Could it be any more obvious that religion is all man made?!?!?
His initial Response: No offense but I feel like you don’t want to understand cause it doesn't fit what you think the bible is saying, or what you have experienced or what you want a relationship with Christ to look like.
My rebuttal: Well the problem is that I could give the exact same objection to you in fact. It would be easy for me to say tht you don't want to understand because it doesn't fit what YOU think the Bible is saying. I just go by what the Bible says. How can I do otherwise? Which one of the thousands of interpretations, editions, translations, versions, should I go with? I am an intelligent person. I have read a lot of books. I have taken advanced English courses in high school and college, and taken nearly enough philosophy to give me a minor in it. I have taken anthropology courses, and studied both formally and independently quite a bit of mythology, religious history, (to me the same thing), and history in general. I have spent literally days watching debates, lectures, interviews and presentations on YouTube by some of today's top thinkers and scientists. I can think for myself. I can read a work of literature and analyze and scrutinize it, with a considerable amount of background knowledge to draw on. It's not like I am presenting a version of Christianity that was not THE dominant version up until, at the most generous I could be, 200 or so years ago. Maybe your version is a little bit nicer, but that doesn't make it any more true, or any more accurate than any other interpretation, the most important being what the book actually says! It's only to the extent that you ignore all of the nasty stuff that God has done that you can consider yourself a decent person.
Anyone with questions/comments/insults, feel free.