Author Topic: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent  (Read 2765 times)

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Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #87 on: February 28, 2014, 10:28:01 AM »
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Personally, I find your new requirement needed for salvation a bit "bothersome" because you are saying I, as an atheist, have no shot at salvation because I don't love any god(s).

However, a person who at least loves some kind of god (even Satan) has a shot at salvation.  Interesting but "bothersome". 

Why would an atheist bother about salvation?

I find this question to be quite "bothersome" as well.  Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying this exchange but some of your ideas on salvation don't make sense to me.  I mean, it's mind boggling to me that you think I can worship Satan who is the adversary of your god and still get into heaven but if I live my life not loving any gods than I am doomed.

Before I answer this question I must first point out that I am an agnostic atheist.  Agnostic = knowledge claim.  Atheist = belief claim. 

In other words, if you ask me if I can KNOW if a god exists or not, I would side with the agnostics, because I don't KNOW.
Ask me if I BELIEVE in a god or not, and I would side with the atheists because I don't.  Based on all the evidence that I have been given I don't BELIEVE in a god because the evidence I have been given for the existence of god(s) has not been convincing to me.  Thus, since I don't BELIEVE there is any god(s) I don't love any god(s).  However, I don't KNOW for sure that there is not a god so I fully admit that I could be wrong on my BELIEF since I claim to be agnostic as well.

So, to answer your question, if there is a place after this life where I can spend eternity with my friends and family members I would love to go.  If I had a choice to go to a place where I could spend eternity with my friends and family members I would choose to go.  SO I WOULD LOVE TO BE SAVED!  I would love to spend eternity in a place that I can be with friends and family for eternity. 

However, I have not been given sufficient evidence to BELIEVE that a place like this exists.  There has not been convincing evidence given to me to BELIEVE a god even exists.  That's why I was so interested in the evidence for your god earlier in this thread.  But as you clearly saw, just like all the evidence I have been given for Jesus/Yahweh, your evidence was not convincing to me.

So, to echo what I said in my last post, I find it "bothersome" that I could worship the adversary of your god and possibly enter into heaven but I would have no shot as an agnostic atheist because I have examined the evidence and don't believe there is any god out there to love.  According to your requirement needed for salvation that one needs to love any god and love your neighbor like yourself I would be doomed because I don't love any god.

I feel like this has been an honest conversation so I have to be honest with my wording.  I would go a lot further than saying this is just "bothersome" to me.  If you are right and if the requirement for salvation is to just love any god then I have to say your god is a jerk.  I hope you forgive me for saying that but if I could worship Satan and have a shot at salvation but have no shot as an atheist, then your god is a real jerk.

If your requirement for salvation is true, the question shouldn't be why would an atheist bother with salvation, the question should be why is your god so unfair towards people who have examined all the evidence and have concluded there is no god(s) to love.

   

I think that anytime a theist attempts to make a formula about their faith they will always be seen as confused.  So be it.  I do appreciate being seen as open-minded and honest. 

Do you know why Christian's are seen as being confused?  From my perspective, it's because the bible is ambiguous and contradictory.  When it comes to making a "formula about their faith" they will always run into a dead end.  The bible is a Christian's adversary if they ever want to make a clear "formula about their faith".   

The bible is not clear on the true nature of Jesus.  There are verses that seem to point that he is the one true god and then there are verses that blatantly contradict this notion.  That is why the doctrine of the Trinity had to be DEVELOPED.  The doctrine of the Trinity seems to solve a lot of the contradictions regarding the nature of Jesus but one only has to examine the Trinity to discover this doctrine is man made and really doesn't solve anything.  With the use of reason and logic, one can discover the doctrine of the Trinity does not truly solve the problem with the contradictions found regarding the nature of Jesus.  The only HONEST conclusion is to say the bible is contradictory on this topic.   

In addition, there is no exact formula for salvation found in the bible.  Whatever "formula" a Christian comes up with I can always find a verse that contradicts their "formula".  In my opinion, this should be a HUGE problem for Christians.  Why would an all-loving and all-powerful god not want to lay out the exact formula for salvation?  According to one Christian, it might even be okay to worship Satan and still enter into heaven.  JUST LOVE ANY GOD!!!

Anyway, after examining the bible I cannot BELIEVE the bible to be inspired by your god.  I see different authors, writing at different times, with different purposes, with different theologies, with different teachings, with different views on the nature of their god and different requirements needed for salvation.  It is no wonder that people who read the bible come out with different interpretations on different doctrines. 

Conclusion:  I believe the bible is the "word" of man who pretend there is a god and not the "word" of any particular god. 
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline wheels5894

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #88 on: February 28, 2014, 10:41:03 AM »
Just to comment on the nature of Jesus and the doctrine of the Trinity, I think the principle reason the doctrine developed was because there wee lots of ideas about nature of Jesus and god out there and the church thought there was a need for uniformity of belief. A definite set of beliefs enabled people who did not hold with them to be sent off into exile - giving the bishops a huge chunk of authority over the people.

Really, it boils down to who Jesus was - not an adopted son of god, adopted at his baptism, but a pre-existing being, embodying a human soul so fully human as well as having the god part. Doctrinally this is important as only a god could pay the price for the sin of everyone. Attempts to link this up to YHWH and the'Comforter' Jesus  talks about - the Holy Spirit - meant that each of the three had to be a god but the religion was monotheistic, so the original question about these three ends up being the answer as well - 4 centuries of discussion and various church councils and the best they could do was to restate the problem.

Today, I think the Trinity is rather brushed under the carpet. Ask any Christian preacher to speak on the Trinity in a sermon and he or she will find  a reason to be on holiday / at a council ; almost anywhere rather than preach on the Trinity. I'm sure parishioners have no idea what it is all about and leave it to the clergy to pray about. one might wonder if it is even needed any more, especially as the Catholics have a more or less de facto goddess, Mary, called the Queen of Heaven. 
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #89 on: February 28, 2014, 11:22:09 AM »

Today, I think the Trinity is rather brushed under the carpet. Ask any Christian preacher to speak on the Trinity in a sermon and he or she will find  a reason to be on holiday / at a council ; almost anywhere rather than preach on the Trinity. I'm sure parishioners have no idea what it is all about and leave it to the clergy to pray about.

I think you are right Wheels, I was listening to one of Robert Price's podcasts (The Human bible) a few months back and I remember he said he was hammering his pastor with questions on the Trinity and his pastor got angry and said, "Sit down, shut-up, and don't ask any more questions"!  He said this partially led him down the path of losing his faith.
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Online skeptic54768

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #90 on: February 28, 2014, 03:37:48 PM »

Today, I think the Trinity is rather brushed under the carpet. Ask any Christian preacher to speak on the Trinity in a sermon and he or she will find  a reason to be on holiday / at a council ; almost anywhere rather than preach on the Trinity. I'm sure parishioners have no idea what it is all about and leave it to the clergy to pray about.

I think you are right Wheels, I was listening to one of Robert Price's podcasts (The Human bible) a few months back and I remember he said he was hammering his pastor with questions on the Trinity and his pastor got angry and said, "Sit down, shut-up, and don't ask any more questions"!  He said this partially led him down the path of losing his faith.

I am amazed tht people still can't comprehend the trinity. It's one of the simplest things to understand in the known universe. It's like saying, "I have no idea how water can steam, freeze, and be a liquid."

When you understand why that quote is ridiculously foolish, you'll understand the trinity.
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Offline wheels5894

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #91 on: February 28, 2014, 03:52:46 PM »
If you are comparing the Trinity to ice, water, steam, then you have already fallen into one of the first heresies - the Sabellian Heresy - the idea that the three persons are actually the same sole god viewed in different ways, like an actor in Greece who wore three different masks. The doctrine of the Trinty claims there are three gods but only one really. It is the Aristotelian philosophical terms - 'of one substance' - which was used at Nicea to explain this which, I think, is what makes the concept hard for people to come to terms with.

For example, 'substance' usually means something solid - say wood or iron - by Aristotle meant something rather different as shown here. That's why the topic is really impenetrable to most people whilst to those who have studied the history it is the question of who Jesus was restated without an answer.

Maybe, Skeptic, you could explain it simply to us here.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline penfold

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #92 on: February 28, 2014, 03:55:45 PM »
I am amazed tht people still can't comprehend the trinity. It's one of the simplest things to understand in the known universe. It's like saying, "I have no idea how water can steam, freeze, and be a liquid."

When you understand why that quote is ridiculously foolish, you'll understand the trinity.

Not sure you've understood the doctrine of the trinity there skeptic...

1) Steam, liquid water and ice are not 'co-equal' nor 'co-eternal'.

2) Water is atomic, ie divisible, so it is not an Aristotelean substance ('ousia').

3) Steam, liquid water and ice all exist within space/time - ie they exist in a similar manner; whereas only part of the trinity exists within space & time other part(s) are outside of space and time. Or if you prefer the theological terminology Steam, liquid water and ice are all imminent whereas the trinity is part imminent part transcendent

But perhaps most importantly:

4) We can divide water into three states (steam, liquid water and ice) because these states do not form a strict unity they are separable. Whereas God, according to the doctrine of the trinity (cf opening line of Nicean creed, also the Athanasian Creed) is strict unity ie cannot be separated existing in three hypostases (whatever on earth they are).


See your priest...
« Last Edit: February 28, 2014, 04:00:42 PM by penfold »
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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #93 on: February 28, 2014, 04:10:40 PM »
Let us not forget that for the same given mass of water, it cannot simultaneously be in solid, liquid and gas states.  The trinity is supposed to be three distinct things, but at the same time, only one.  Logically impossible.
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Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #94 on: March 01, 2014, 07:40:29 AM »
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Personally, I find your new requirement needed for salvation a bit "bothersome" because you are saying I, as an atheist, have no shot at salvation because I don't love any god(s).

However, a person who at least loves some kind of god (even Satan) has a shot at salvation.  Interesting but "bothersome". 

Why would an atheist bother about salvation?

I find this question to be quite "bothersome" as well.  Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying this exchange but some of your ideas on salvation don't make sense to me.  I mean, it's mind boggling to me that you think I can worship Satan who is the adversary of your god and still get into heaven but if I live my life not loving any gods than I am doomed.

Before I answer this question I must first point out that I am an agnostic atheist.  Agnostic = knowledge claim.  Atheist = belief claim. 

In other words, if you ask me if I can KNOW if a god exists or not, I would side with the agnostics, because I don't KNOW.
Ask me if I BELIEVE in a god or not, and I would side with the atheists because I don't.  Based on all the evidence that I have been given I don't BELIEVE in a god because the evidence I have been given for the existence of god(s) has not been convincing to me.  Thus, since I don't BELIEVE there is any god(s) I don't love any god(s).  However, I don't KNOW for sure that there is not a god so I fully admit that I could be wrong on my BELIEF since I claim to be agnostic as well.

So, to answer your question, if there is a place after this life where I can spend eternity with my friends and family members I would love to go.  If I had a choice to go to a place where I could spend eternity with my friends and family members I would choose to go.  SO I WOULD LOVE TO BE SAVED!  I would love to spend eternity in a place that I can be with friends and family for eternity. 

However, I have not been given sufficient evidence to BELIEVE that a place like this exists.  There has not been convincing evidence given to me to BELIEVE a god even exists.  That's why I was so interested in the evidence for your god earlier in this thread.  But as you clearly saw, just like all the evidence I have been given for Jesus/Yahweh, your evidence was not convincing to me.

So, to echo what I said in my last post, I find it "bothersome" that I could worship the adversary of your god and possibly enter into heaven but I would have no shot as an agnostic atheist because I have examined the evidence and don't believe there is any god out there to love.  According to your requirement needed for salvation that one needs to love any god and love your neighbor like yourself I would be doomed because I don't love any god.

I feel like this has been an honest conversation so I have to be honest with my wording.  I would go a lot further than saying this is just "bothersome" to me.  If you are right and if the requirement for salvation is to just love any god then I have to say your god is a jerk.  I hope you forgive me for saying that but if I could worship Satan and have a shot at salvation but have no shot as an atheist, then your god is a real jerk.

If your requirement for salvation is true, the question shouldn't be why would an atheist bother with salvation, the question should be why is your god so unfair towards people who have examined all the evidence and have concluded there is no god(s) to love.

   

I think that anytime a theist attempts to make a formula about their faith they will always be seen as confused.  So be it.  I do appreciate being seen as open-minded and honest. 

Do you know why Christian's are seen as being confused?  From my perspective, it's because the bible is ambiguous and contradictory.  When it comes to making a "formula about their faith" they will always run into a dead end.  The bible is a Christian's adversary if they ever want to make a clear "formula about their faith".   

The bible is not clear on the true nature of Jesus.  There are verses that seem to point that he is the one true god and then there are verses that blatantly contradict this notion.  That is why the doctrine of the Trinity had to be DEVELOPED.  The doctrine of the Trinity seems to solve a lot of the contradictions regarding the nature of Jesus but one only has to examine the Trinity to discover this doctrine is man made and really doesn't solve anything.  With the use of reason and logic, one can discover the doctrine of the Trinity does not truly solve the problem with the contradictions found regarding the nature of Jesus.  The only HONEST conclusion is to say the bible is contradictory on this topic.   

In addition, there is no exact formula for salvation found in the bible.  Whatever "formula" a Christian comes up with I can always find a verse that contradicts their "formula".  In my opinion, this should be a HUGE problem for Christians.  Why would an all-loving and all-powerful god not want to lay out the exact formula for salvation?  According to one Christian, it might even be okay to worship Satan and still enter into heaven.  JUST LOVE ANY GOD!!!

Anyway, after examining the bible I cannot BELIEVE the bible to be inspired by your god.  I see different authors, writing at different times, with different purposes, with different theologies, with different teachings, with different views on the nature of their god and different requirements needed for salvation.  It is no wonder that people who read the bible come out with different interpretations on different doctrines. 

Conclusion:  I believe the bible is the "word" of man who pretend there is a god and not the "word" of any particular god.

And your conclusion may very well be correct.  If you are happy and at peace then I am happy for you. 

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #95 on: March 01, 2014, 09:55:12 AM »

And your conclusion may very well be correct.  If you are happy and at peace then I am happy for you.

Hey OCG,

I have gotten you to change your requirement needed for salvation from "love god and love your neighbor as yourself" to "love ANY god and love your neighbor as yourself".  What stops you from going one step further to include atheism as one path to your god?  I mean, it doesn't make sense that I could worship the adversary to your god (Satan) and have a shot at heaven but would be excluded from the possibility just because I don't love any god.  It seems like worshiping Satan would be more, if not equal to the sin of not worshiping any god. 

Several posts back, you said, "There was a time when I believed Christianity was the only 'true' faith.  Over time, I now see Christianity as one path to God.  Judaism, Islam, Hinduism (to name a few) are also paths to God."

What made you think this could possibly be true?  Because......you know......."You shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Ex. 34:14).  If your god is a jealous god what would make you think Islam or Hinduism are also paths to your god?  Just curious. 

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
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Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #96 on: March 02, 2014, 06:49:24 AM »
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Hey OCG,

I have gotten you to change your requirement needed for salvation from "love god and love your neighbor as yourself" to "love ANY god and love your neighbor as yourself".  What stops you from going one step further to include atheism as one path to your god?  I mean, it doesn't make sense that I could worship the adversary to your god (Satan) and have a shot at heaven but would be excluded from the possibility just because I don't love any god.  It seems like worshiping Satan would be more, if not equal to the sin of not worshiping any god.


I admit to being confused.  It is my understanding the word "atheism" means without a belief in a god or gods.  Yet, you seem to seek assurance that God (whom you acknowledge does not exist) will allow you a passage to heaven. 

Bottom line is that judgment if God's department; not mine.  For all I know it may turn out God really is an ultra-conservative Republican in which case I am doomed.  :)

Quote
Several posts back, you said, "There was a time when I believed Christianity was the only 'true' faith.  Over time, I now see Christianity as one path to God.  Judaism, Islam, Hinduism (to name a few) are also paths to God."

What made you think this could possibly be true?  Because......you know......."You shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Ex. 34:14).  If your god is a jealous god what would make you think Islam or Hinduism are also paths to your god?  Just curious.

Sometime back I led a series of lessons with the adult class on religions of the world.  This included philosophies like Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as religions of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and various others.   There seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and loving others. It seemed to me that with so many religions saying the same basic message they were either copying each other or they were dealing with the same God.  I concluded (rightly or wrongly) they were dealing with the same God.

As with other beliefs, I cannot prove these conclusions are accurate or even valid. 

As always,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #97 on: March 03, 2014, 10:32:28 AM »

I admit to being confused.
   

Well......next time you are asked the question, "What are the requirements needed for salvation" you might just want to answer, "I'm confused as to what requirements are needed for salvation".

I've got to say, you are one of the most honest Christians I have encountered.  However, with all due respect, I can't believe you are a Sunday school teacher.  If I heard from my Sunday school teacher that he/she is confused as to what requirements are needed for salvation, I would really question 1.) Your qualifications 2.) if Christianity is the right religion.  One thing I would not question is your honesty though! 

I know you have been honest with me but I'm curious if you would be this honest with your students.  If your students hammered you with questions over the doctrine of salvation would you be honest and tell them you are confused?

     
It is my understanding the word "atheism" means without a belief in a god or gods.  Yet, you seem to seek assurance that God (whom you acknowledge does not exist) will allow you a passage to heaven.

I do not "seek assurance" that some god will allow me a passage to heaven.  Why would I "seek assurance" when I don't even think there is any evidence for the existence of any particular god?  When I used to be a Christian I seeked this "assurance" you are talking about almost everyday.  Then I realized the doctrine of salvation is unclear and my "assurance" turned into HOPE.  I was honest like you and admitted to being confused. 

I think Paul (or whoever wrote Titus) even recognized that one cannot be assured of their salvation as he writes, "Looking for that blessed HOPE, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).

If the Christian holy book leaves people confused over the doctrine of salvation then I would have to say that the holy book is not a good holy book.  Since there are "holes" in obtaining a correct understanding of how one gets to heaven I would start calling this book a "holey book".     

Sometime back I led a series of lessons with the adult class on religions of the world.  This included philosophies like Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as religions of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and various others.   There seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and loving others. It seemed to me that with so many religions saying the same basic message they were either copying each other or they were dealing with the same God.  I concluded (rightly or wrongly) they were dealing with the same God.

As with other beliefs, I cannot prove these conclusions are accurate or even valid.


Well, judging from one of your previous posts I would have to conclude that your conclusion is not accurate or valid because you are contradicting yourself.  Now I'm the one who is confused.  In post #59 you write, "I see the Bible as a collection of writings written by many people over a long period of time all trying to explain what it is like to experience God".  Well, the author of Exodus writes to only love the god of the bible because this god is a jealous god (Ex. 34:14). 

So how can other religions be dealing with the same god when.....clearly......the god of the bible is not the same god as......say......the god of Islam?  I would encourage you to do a lot more research before you lead such a class because the people who are "trying to explain what it is like to experience God" are explaining two different gods when it comes to Islam vs. Judaism/Christianity.   

As a side note, adherents to Confucianism and Buddhism do not "love a god" so these people might be going to hell just like I am according to your requirement needed for salvation to "love any god".  These people should be viewed just like atheists are according to your requirement.  So when you say, "There seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and loving others" you should not be including Confucianism and Buddhism in this "pattern".   

In addition, Hinduism has many gods.  So, if you think adherents to Hinduism have a shot at heaven then your requirement needed for salvation has changed from" 1. Love god and love your neighbor as yourself to 2. Love ANY god and love your neighbor as yourself to 3. Love any GOD(S) and love your neighbor as yourself.

So your requirement needed for salvation has changed twice already throughout this exchange.  I also know you teach Sunday school.  My ultimate goal is to get you to teach your students that atheism is a path to your god.   ;D 
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #98 on: March 03, 2014, 04:28:37 PM »
Good discussion here.

If people are trying to do the right thing, god has to take that into account when he sends someone to heaven or hell, right?  All sacred texts are contradictory and cryptic at best, incomprehensible at worst--why else would god dictate in ancient Sanskrit and runic symbols? If god is loving and kind, he has to make allowances for some people sincerely wanting to know the truth but not understanding exactly what the truth is or where to find it.[1]

And since he realizes that most people are raised in a different belief system from Christianity, god has to account for that as well. No loving god would send Mohandas Gandhi and the Dalai Lama to the same ultimate not-good-
Christian end as Pol Pot and Stalin. Or would he? :?

Would a loving god send the "Chinese Schindler"[2] to hell for not accepting Jesus as his lord and savior? (Or Schindler for that matter, because he was Catholic? And what about the Jews themselves--if they are just doomed to hell, why does the Holocaust even matter?) Would he reward a repentant pedophile priest (who destroyed children all his life) with eternal heaven while giving an unrepentant atheist (who saved children all her life with Doctors without Borders) eternal hellfire?

What about abortions, miscarriages, babies who die at birth, children who die as toddlers? What about severely retarded people? Do they all go to hell automatically, or does it help if other people throw water on them or pray to the correct god(s) on their behalf?

I have found that when I really press on Christians with these questions, the honest ones admit that they don't know what god really wants, and they end up in the same place as OCG. They want to hold onto the idea of a nice, humane, equal-opportunity modern god, while getting rid of the truly evil backward OT aspects. You may insert any commentary on religion from Eddie Izzard here.

That can lead quickly to a very squishy, Unitarian, ecumenical, hippie dippy, peace 'n love, hell is just separation from god, every religion has part of the truth, everyone and their dog ends up in heaven, god sends nobody to hell, you send yourself to hell, junebuggy, kumbayah, new agey deist-type, Tuesday it must be Belgium, SPAG-hetti monster.  :o

It's the last stop on the believer railway. The only reason to hang on to god-belief at that point is because it feels more scary not to. No rational person can stay there long, IMHO. You have to go back into hardcore choich, or....... :angel:

For me, that was where I was standing right before I realized I was an atheist.  8)
 1. Or not being willing to believe stuff that makes no sense.
 2.  Ho Feng-Sha who saved Jews during WWII
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #99 on: March 04, 2014, 06:11:54 AM »
Quote
Well......next time you are asked the question, "What are the requirements needed for salvation" you might just want to answer, "I'm confused as to what requirements are needed for salvation".

I've got to say, you are one of the most honest Christians I have encountered.  However, with all due respect, I can't believe you are a Sunday school teacher.  If I heard from my Sunday school teacher that he/she is confused as to what requirements are needed for salvation, I would really question 1.) Your qualifications 2.) if Christianity is the right religion.  One thing I would not question is your honesty though! 

I know you have been honest with me but I'm curious if you would be this honest with your students.  If your students hammered you with questions over the doctrine of salvation would you be honest and tell them you are confused?

Your kind words about my honesty are most appreciated.  I don't recall being hammered by anyone (high schooler or adult) regarding the doctrine of salvation.  I like to think I would answer them as honestly as possible, present the various ideas and ask them which one they believed. This would probably need to include the phrase "I don't know" if asked which idea I thought was correct.  If that means I am not qualified to teach since I don't have the black and white answer then I believe the church leaders would replace me either of their own accord or by the request of members of the church. 

Quote
I do not "seek assurance" that some god will allow me a passage to heaven.  Why would I "seek assurance" when I don't even think there is any evidence for the existence of any particular god?  When I used to be a Christian I seeked this "assurance" you are talking about almost everyday.  Then I realized the doctrine of salvation is unclear and my "assurance" turned into HOPE.  I was honest like you and admitted to being confused. 

I think Paul (or whoever wrote Titus) even recognized that one cannot be assured of their salvation as he writes, "Looking for that blessed HOPE, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).

If the Christian holy book leaves people confused over the doctrine of salvation then I would have to say that the holy book is not a good holy book.  Since there are "holes" in obtaining a correct understanding of how one gets to heaven I would start calling this book a "holey book".

You make a good point.     

Quote
author=OldChurchGuy link=topic=26327.msg603541#msg603541 date=1393760964]
Sometime back I led a series of lessons with the adult class on religions of the world.  This included philosophies like Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as religions of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and various others.   There seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and loving others. It seemed to me that with so many religions saying the same basic message they were either copying each other or they were dealing with the same God.  I concluded (rightly or wrongly) they were dealing with the same God.

As with other beliefs, I cannot prove these conclusions are accurate or even valid
.

Quote
Well, judging from one of your previous posts I would have to conclude that your conclusion is not accurate or valid because you are contradicting yourself.  Now I'm the one who is confused.  In post #59 you write, "I see the Bible as a collection of writings written by many people over a long period of time all trying to explain what it is like to experience God".  Well, the author of Exodus writes to only love the god of the bible because this god is a jealous god (Ex. 34:14). 

So how can other religions be dealing with the same god when.....clearly......the god of the bible is not the same god as......say......the god of Islam?  I would encourage you to do a lot more research before you lead such a class because the people who are "trying to explain what it is like to experience God" are explaining two different gods when it comes to Islam vs. Judaism/Christianity.   

As a side note, adherents to Confucianism and Buddhism do not "love a god" so these people might be going to hell just like I am according to your requirement needed for salvation to "love any god".  These people should be viewed just like atheists are according to your requirement.  So when you say, "There seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and loving others" you should not be including Confucianism and Buddhism in this "pattern".   

In addition, Hinduism has many gods.  So, if you think adherents to Hinduism have a shot at heaven then your requirement needed for salvation has changed from" 1. Love god and love your neighbor as yourself to 2. Love ANY god and love your neighbor as yourself to 3. Love any GOD(S) and love your neighbor as yourself.

So your requirement needed for salvation has changed twice already throughout this exchange.  I also know you teach Sunday school.  My ultimate goal is to get you to teach your students that atheism is a path to your god.   ;D

Since I see the Bible as a collection of writings written by many people over a long period of time all trying to explain what it is like to experience God, why am I obligated to adhere to the passage cited in Exodus?

I am guilty of poor grammar.  My intent was to use the phrase "there seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and/or loving others".  My apologies for the confusion.  Perhaps Confucians and Buddhists are atheists.  Again, their salvation, like all others, is up to God.  As a mere mortal, it is not my responsibility to determine what happens to an individual upon death. 

Would you please explain how atheism is a path to God?  I suspect I am misunderstanding you as, on he surface, it appears to be an oxymoron. 

Continuing to enjoy the exchange I remain,

OldChurchGuy
« Last Edit: March 04, 2014, 06:13:54 AM by OldChurchGuy »
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Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #100 on: March 04, 2014, 10:56:55 AM »
All sacred texts are contradictory and cryptic at best, incomprehensible at worst

Since "all sacred texts are contradictory and cryptic at best, incomprehensible at worst" it kind of makes all religions that are based on sacred texts superfluous at best, and fraudulent at worst!


And since he realizes that most people are raised in a different belief system from Christianity, god has to account for that as well. No loving god would send Mohandas Gandhi and the Dalai Lama to the same ultimate not-good-
Christian end as Pol Pot and Stalin. Or would he? :?

Would a loving god send the "Chinese Schindler"[1] to hell for not accepting Jesus as his lord and savior? (Or Schindler for that matter, because he was Catholic? And what about the Jews themselves--if they are just doomed to hell, why does the Holocaust even matter?) Would he reward a repentant pedophile priest (who destroyed children all his life) with eternal heaven while giving an unrepentant atheist (who saved children all her life with Doctors without Borders) eternal hellfire?

What about abortions, miscarriages, babies who die at birth, children who die as toddlers? What about severely retarded people? Do they all go to hell automatically, or does it help if other people throw water on them or pray to the correct god(s) on their behalf?
 1.  Ho Feng-Sha who saved Jews during WWII

^These are questions I wish I would have asked my youth group teacher.  There are a couple of options why I didn't.  Either I was apathetic or I was brainwashed to not even think about these things, let alone ask these difficult questions. 

I know that if I was to ask these questions in youth group and if an honest person like OCG was my teacher, I don't think I would have had as strong of faith as I did.  If the answers I received in youth group was "I don't know" or "I'm confused" over questions dealing with salvation, I would have a lot of questions as a teenager.  The questioning would probably go in this order:

1.) I would first question if my youth group teacher was possessed by a demon since not being certain about the doctrine of salvation would seem to me like my teacher is "paying attention to deceitful spirits" and teaching "doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).

2.) I would then question if the requirements needed for salvation was confusing in the bible.  After a careful study I would conclude that my teacher was just being honest and the doctrine of salvation is unclear.

3.) I would then question the usefulness of reading the bible and going to church.  I would probably conclude that if Churches can't even lay out the exact requirements needed for salvation then at best, this institution is superfluous and at worst, fraudulent.

4.) I would question the sanity of my parents for making me go to Church every Sunday when the institution has no clue what the exact requirements needed for salvation are.  In conclusion, there would be an outcry from my parents and the youth group teacher would be "fired" because fundamentalist churches are really intolerant towards honesty.   :) 

5.) I would then question the existence of the place called hell because the rabbit trail of questioning would inevitably lead me to this place.

6.) And then, the biggest question I would have after all of this is: Why is my youth group teacher still a Christian???     


It's the last stop on the believer railway. The only reason to hang on to god-belief at that point is because it feels more scary not to. No rational person can stay there long, IMHO. You have to go back into hardcore choich, or....... :angel:

Are you talking about "hell" being the scary thing?  If it is, generally, you are probably right.  This wasn't the case for me though.  For some unknown reason, I was not scared of hell at all.  When I lost my faith, the only scary thing for me was losing my relationship with Jesus.  Yes, I seriously thought I had a relationship with Jesus.  Losing this relationship became less "scary" for me as time went on as I realized this relationship I was in was somewhat abusive and highly imaginary. 


For me, that was where I was standing right before I realized I was an atheist.  8)

Nogodsforme, what was the catalyst(s) to your deconversion?  Did finding out the doctrine of salvation is unclear contribute at all to your deconversion? 
[/quote]
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #101 on: March 05, 2014, 09:17:16 PM »

Your kind words about my honesty are most appreciated.  I don't recall being hammered by anyone (high schooler or adult) regarding the doctrine of salvation.  I like to think I would answer them as honestly as possible, present the various ideas and ask them which one they believed. This would probably need to include the phrase "I don't know" if asked which idea I thought was correct.  If that means I am not qualified to teach since I don't have the black and white answer then I believe the church leaders would replace me either of their own accord or by the request of members of the church.


Hey OCG.  Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you.  Once again I appreciate your honesty.  Going back to the OP, why do you call your god god?  Having a deity fail at communicating the exact requirements needed for salvation seems like a good reason to me to not call this deity god.  Why do you call him god?  Is it your personal experiences?

IMHO, it would be real strange if I taught a Sunday school class and I was confused over what the exact requirements needed for salvation were.  I would feel like I was the blind man leading the blind.  I would definitely question this god's omnipotence.    I would then ask myself, what good is the bible if after reading it I am confused over the most essential doctrine of salvation?  What is the use of studying how to get to a destination when you don't have the right tools to get there?  As a result to my confusion, I really couldn't teach students how to get to this destination and instead, I would inevitably be teaching them how to drive in circles.

This question might be too personal so don't feel obligated to answer:  Would you feel like you are doing a huge disservice if a teenager asked you what the requirements needed for salvation are and you honestly answered that you are confused as to what these requirements are as the requirements are not clearly laid out in the bible.  The reason I ask is because if I heard this from my youth group instructor I would probably lose my faith as mentioned in the above post.  You probably think it is a strange question because on the one hand you want to remain honest but on the other hand you probably don't want to let your students know the bible lays out contradictory requirements for salvation.  Maybe you don't think you would be doing a disservice in trying to increase the numbers in god's kingdom but if I heard this "truth" as a teenager I would run out of your class.  If you ask me, I think you have an obligation as an honest man to give your students the "truth".......and that "truth" is that the doctrine of salvation is unclear in the bible. 

I would run out of your class but I would have nothing against you.  In fact, during my run home I would kick Jesus to the curb and think of you as my new personal savior because your "truth" saved me from the oppression of religion and the boredom of church on Sundays. ;D           


Since I see the Bible as a collection of writings written by many people over a long period of time all trying to explain what it is like to experience God, why am I obligated to adhere to the passage cited in Exodus?

Well, I guess if you don't believe these experiences from the biblical authors to be valid, then I would say don't worry about the passage in Exodus.  But if you don't think some of the biblical authors explanations are valid as they "experienced God" then why do you even see the bible as some source of truth?  Once you say you don't have to adhere to one passage then you will end up picking and choosing what verses have truth and what verses don't and you end up creating god in your own image.  If you ask me, this is not an HONEST way to read the bible but I was raised as a fundamentalist so I hope you can see where I'm coming from. 


I am guilty of poor grammar.  My intent was to use the phrase "there seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and/or loving others".  My apologies for the confusion.  Perhaps Confucians and Buddhists are atheists.  Again, their salvation, like all others, is up to God.  As a mere mortal, it is not my responsibility to determine what happens to an individual upon death. 

Would you please explain how atheism is a path to God?  I suspect I am misunderstanding you as, on he surface, it appears to be an oxymoron.


I don't see how you think this might be an oxymoron according to your implications.  You just said, "perhaps Confucians and Buddhists are atheists" and then you said "their salvation is up to god".  By saying this, I believe you are implying that atheism could also be a path to your god. 

In all actuality, you can't really say that atheism is not a path to god since you imply that it is possible for atheist's to be saved because "salvation is up to god".  You might say it appears to be an oxymoron but how would you really know since you are unsure as to the exact requirements needed for salvation? 

In addition, referring to other religions and philosophies you say, "there seemed to be a pattern of loving the god AND/OR loving others".  You said these other religions and philosophies are also paths to god.  I was just joking when I said my goal was to get you to teach your students that atheism is a path to your god.  But since you now added the AND/OR to this pattern then I would like to strongly argue for atheism to be included in one of the paths to your god.  Your requirement needed for salvation is no longer necessarily two-fold since you added the word "OR".  Your statement now says "OR" so many atheists, although they don't love god, do in fact love others.  Since many atheists "love others" my recommendation is to get this "truth" out and teach your students that atheism is a path to your god according to your requirement(s) needed for salvation.  ;D   

In my opinion, you really kind of shoot yourself in the foot when you say other religions and philosophies are paths to your god.  I don't know what verse or verses you are pulling from to get this idea but I can give you lots of verses that go against this notion.  One verse off the top of my head is John 3:18: " Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

I know you don't really want to think of your religion as intolerant of other philosophies and religions but it is.

Looking forward to your responses!   

 

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #102 on: March 06, 2014, 06:48:01 AM »
Quote
Hey OCG.  Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you.  Once again I appreciate your honesty.  Going back to the OP, why do you call your god god?  Having a deity fail at communicating the exact requirements needed for salvation seems like a good reason to me to not call this deity god.  Why do you call him god?  Is it your personal experiences?

IMHO, it would be real strange if I taught a Sunday school class and I was confused over what the exact requirements needed for salvation were.  I would feel like I was the blind man leading the blind.  I would definitely question this god's omnipotence.    I would then ask myself, what good is the bible if after reading it I am confused over the most essential doctrine of salvation?  What is the use of studying how to get to a destination when you don't have the right tools to get there?  As a result to my confusion, I really couldn't teach students how to get to this destination and instead, I would inevitably be teaching them how to drive in circles.

It is my understanding belief in God is a personal experience for all theists.  I've only had a few students over the years who were evangelical / literalists and, as I recall, they basically ignored me when I posed open ended questions.  I don't recall them asking me pointed questions but maybe they did. 

Quote
This question might be too personal so don't feel obligated to answer:  Would you feel like you are doing a huge disservice if a teenager asked you what the requirements needed for salvation are and you honestly answered that you are confused as to what these requirements are as the requirements are not clearly laid out in the bible.  The reason I ask is because if I heard this from my youth group instructor I would probably lose my faith as mentioned in the above post.  You probably think it is a strange question because on the one hand you want to remain honest but on the other hand you probably don't want to let your students know the bible lays out contradictory requirements for salvation.  Maybe you don't think you would be doing a disservice in trying to increase the numbers in god's kingdom but if I heard this "truth" as a teenager I would run out of your class.  If you ask me, I think you have an obligation as an honest man to give your students the "truth".......and that "truth" is that the doctrine of salvation is unclear in the bible.

I have no idea if I would feel I'd done a huge disservice or not.  I probably would be disappointed and, hopefully, learn from the experience.  Reviewing our correspondence it appears a key difference between us is you prefer a black / white world and I am comfortable with grey.  What do you think?

Quote
I would run out of your class but I would have nothing against you.  In fact, during my run home I would kick Jesus to the curb and think of you as my new personal savior because your "truth" saved me from the oppression of religion and the boredom of church on Sundays. ;D

Glad you would not hold it against me.           


Since I see the Bible as a collection of writings written by many people over a long period of time all trying to explain what it is like to experience God, why am I obligated to adhere to the passage cited in Exodus?

Well, I guess if you don't believe these experiences from the biblical authors to be valid, then I would say don't worry about the passage in Exodus.  But if you don't think some of the biblical authors explanations are valid as they "experienced God" then why do you even see the bible as some source of truth?  Once you say you don't have to adhere to one passage then you will end up picking and choosing what verses have truth and what verses don't and you end up creating god in your own image.  If you ask me, this is not an HONEST way to read the bible but I was raised as a fundamentalist so I hope you can see where I'm coming from.

I think I understand where you are coming from.  What would you consider to be an honest way to read the Bible?


I am guilty of poor grammar.  My intent was to use the phrase "there seemed to be a pattern of loving the god and/or loving others".  My apologies for the confusion.  Perhaps Confucians and Buddhists are atheists.  Again, their salvation, like all others, is up to God.  As a mere mortal, it is not my responsibility to determine what happens to an individual upon death. 

Would you please explain how atheism is a path to God?  I suspect I am misunderstanding you as, on he surface, it appears to be an oxymoron
.

I don't see how you think this might be an oxymoron according to your implications.  You just said, "perhaps Confucians and Buddhists are atheists" and then you said "their salvation is up to god".  By saying this, I believe you are implying that atheism could also be a path to your god. 

In all actuality, you can't really say that atheism is not a path to god since you imply that it is possible for atheist's to be saved because "salvation is up to god".  You might say it appears to be an oxymoron but how would you really know since you are unsure as to the exact requirements needed for salvation? 

Good point.  It just strikes me as odd an atheist would consider the possibility of an afterlife and salvation.  But, painting all atheists with a broad brush is also a mistake.

Quote
In addition, referring to other religions and philosophies you say, "there seemed to be a pattern of loving the god AND/OR loving others".  You said these other religions and philosophies are also paths to god.  I was just joking when I said my goal was to get you to teach your students that atheism is a path to your god.  But since you now added the AND/OR to this pattern then I would like to strongly argue for atheism to be included in one of the paths to your god.  Your requirement needed for salvation is no longer necessarily two-fold since you added the word "OR".  Your statement now says "OR" so many atheists, although they don't love god, do in fact love others.  Since many atheists "love others" my recommendation is to get this "truth" out and teach your students that atheism is a path to your god according to your requirement(s) needed for salvation.  ;D   

In my opinion, you really kind of shoot yourself in the foot when you say other religions and philosophies are paths to your god.  I don't know what verse or verses you are pulling from to get this idea but I can give you lots of verses that go against this notion.  One verse off the top of my head is John 3:18: " Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

I know you don't really want to think of your religion as intolerant of other philosophies and religions but it is.

Looking forward to your responses!

For some, Christianity is intolerant of other faiths / philosophies.  For me, it is not.  If that means I am not a true Christian, so be it. 

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #103 on: March 06, 2014, 11:43:43 AM »
I have read long, involved explanations on apologist websites of the most contradictory passages in the bible--like whether works or just faith or neither (god's grace) is enough for salvation. They start out by saying, "the bible clearly states that..." and proceed to skip around in the bible, taking verses from various different places. 

Then they make fallacy-filled arguments to link the verses together in a way that is so confusing that it is hard to even follow. I have also noticed that they shift the meanings of words in the same piece, so you find yourself having to change your thinking in the middle.

I can't help but think about the fact that nobody in history ever linked those verses together that way before, or you would not have to write that convoluted patchwork biblical term paper. And, if that was the way the bible was supposed to be read, how come those verses weren't together to begin with?

Now, if anyone can't understand the argument, it is attributed to not having enough faith, or for being too wrapped up in worldly things. As a reader, I think I must be just too stupid to understand what the bible "clearly states". Like, just shut up and believe, dammit.

I challenge anyone here to go and read this short piece and tell me if faith alone or works will lead to salvation, based on what is written here. It took me one google click to find this egregious example. The guy takes 12 different bible verses that say it is faith, and then finds a few more that disagree with the 12 and say works. It even says, after giving obviously contradicting verses, "there is no contradiction." Like, don't believe what you just read, ducky.
http://carm.org/are-we-saved-faith-alone-or-do-we-need-works-too

I remember the one piece that magic miles linked to, supposedly explaining that the bible did explain how to cure leprosy, but the bird's blood was only a spiritual cleansing cure because leprosy was symbolic for sin or some such nonsense.  :?

If I have leprosy what should I do? If I want to go to heaven what should I do? The bible does not give a clearly stated answer (that is not either contradicted elsewhere in the same book, contradicted in real life, or in both) in either case.

I think that the only way they get away with this stuff is to put all the blame on the reader for not really loving god enough to just go with it, whatever "it" is, no matter how little sense it makes. :P
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 11:48:21 AM by nogodsforme »
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Wasserbuffel

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #104 on: March 06, 2014, 11:58:26 AM »
Guys,

I think you are all missing the main point. You are focusing too much on inconsequential details instead of the main emphasis of salvation. It's like getting a million dollars and complaining that the bills are a little too wrinkled.

It's really not.

It's more like everyone telling you that you've won a million dollars and all you end up with is a giant pile of worthless wrinkled paper.

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #105 on: March 06, 2014, 04:50:39 PM »
Yup. Where, pray tell [heh] is the million dollars?

All anyone can show us is a promissary note issued by the (bank) religion on behalf of their (lender) god. Although most people do buy the notes, nobody in history has ever cashed in a note and gotten the million dollars. The (bank) religion just keeps changing the payout dates. This has gone on for thousands of years.

Periodically, a few people who hold the notes demand payment immediately[1], some people (atheists) are beginning to suspect it just might be a scam.

To add to the overall scam-like nature,

1) every (bank) religion says that only their notes are good, and all the others are fakes;

2) all the notes have small print that the (banks) religions say you should just ignore as unimportant, ie "inconsequential details";

3) all the notes look as if they were hastily written up by high school advanced placement kids and then printed on an old copier in their parents' basement.[2]

4) new (banks) religions constantly open up different branches and issue their own notes.[3]

5) when people read their notes carefully, start to wonder about #3 above, go to their (banks) religions to try to ask questions, they are told to just hang onto the note, not doubt the lender's trustworthiness or the note's validity-- or else they will forfeit the million dollars.[4]
 1. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahid or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_martyrs or
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven's_Gate_(religious_group)
 2. The language is fancy and poetic, the ideas are complex, there are signs of scholarship-- but there are lots of factual mistakes on them, numbers and dates don't add up, some parts are illegible etc.
 3. They also say that all other notes are fakes, although they have clearly copied most of their information from the others. The older note holders denounce the new notes as fakes.
 4. Most people obey, but a few of these questioning people finally realize they are being scammed and become atheists.....
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline screwtape

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #106 on: March 06, 2014, 08:31:06 PM »
It's not like getting a million dollars.  It is like getting one of those Nigerian emails saying you've won a million dollars...
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What's true is already so. Owning up to it does not make it worse.

Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #107 on: March 07, 2014, 01:05:43 PM »


I think I understand where you are coming from.  What would you consider to be an honest way to read the Bible?

I think an honest way to read the bible is to get rid of all your presuppositions.  For instance, you might have a presupposition the authors of the bible make it clear to be tolerant of other religions so you might try to figuratively interpret the verses or pretend the verses that LITERALLY make god look intolerant are not in the bible.     

In addition, I think an honest way to read the bible is to read it as LITERAL as possible.  As far as I know, I believe Jesus interpreted the OT literally.  I might be wrong....do you know of a verse where Jesus did not interpret the OT literally?

gotquestions.org put out a good article.  I agree with what they say here about interpreting the bible literally:

"When we make ourselves the final arbiters of which parts of the Bible are to be interpreted literally, we elevate ourselves above God. Who is to say, then, that one person’s interpretation of a biblical event or truth is any more or less valid than another’s? The confusion and distortions that would inevitably result from such a system would essentially render the Scriptures null and void."

Link:  http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-literal.html

As a funny side note:  I sometimes like to ask tuff questions to this online ministry (gotquestions.org).  I actually was privileged enough to get into a discussion with the president.  I asked him what he thought about god being intolerant towards people with defects (Lev. 21:16-24) even though he created these people with defects.  He said I should not interpret these verses literally as these defects should be interpreted figuratively as they point to certain sins.  For instance, "lameness" = defective Christian walk or "dwarf" = immaturity and on and on.  I responded by writing this above paragraph back to him and asked him if it sounded familiar to him.  I just wanted to show him his hypocrisy and I, in turn, had a good laugh.  I know, I have a warped sense of humor.   


 
For some, Christianity is intolerant of other faiths / philosophies.  For me, it is not.  If that means I am not a true Christian, so be it. 


I can't see how one can think Christianity is tolerant of other faiths after LITERALLY reading all the verses that go against this belief.  I would really be curious how you interpret even the two verses I gave you - Ex. 34:14, John 3:18?  How do you get tolerance out of these verses?

And by the way, what is a true Christian???  Is there such a thing???  I thought there has been disagreement over who a true Christian is ever since the founding of the religion.   :laugh:
« Last Edit: March 07, 2014, 01:21:55 PM by Andy S. »
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline wheels5894

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #108 on: March 07, 2014, 01:45:11 PM »
Andy,

I think we have to allow ourselves to be a bit more careful about being too quick to interpret literally. Sure there are large tracts of the text when it makes sense but I think there are also parts where it does not.  For example -

Genesis and Creation, if taken literally, make no sense of the order of creation - green plants first and then the sun and so forth. It is taking this stuff literally that has got us into so much mess with Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent Design. Does it not make more sense to see this as the mind of man attempting to understand his world and, at the same time, acknowledging the greatness of his god? It certainly doesn't diminish the text to do this but rather enhances it.

At the Last Supper Jesus takes the cup and the bread and hands them to the disciples saying 'take, eat this is my body / my blood[1]' Now Rome takes this literally - the the bread and wine of the mass are literally the body and blood of Jesus and promptly uses Greek Aristotelian philosophy to show how this could be when everything looks the same. It makes much more sense to see this is a non-literal sense - eating and drinking together remind people of Jesus who is perhaps spiritually present but not literally?

I have to cook dinner soon so haven't time to think up more examples but I hope this illustrates the point that one has to consider the text and the context rather than be dogmatic of interpretation. Finally, though, there is a quite a bit of poetry in the OT and that needs to be seen like poetry with which we are more familiar and interpreted in a non-literal way.
 1. Paul, who never met Jesus records it like this
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #109 on: March 07, 2014, 05:13:28 PM »

Genesis and Creation, if taken literally, make no sense of the order of creation - green plants first and then the sun and so forth. It is taking this stuff literally that has got us into so much mess with Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent Design. Does it not make more sense to see this as the mind of man attempting to understand his world and, at the same time, acknowledging the greatness of his god? It certainly doesn't diminish the text to do this but rather enhances it.

I never had a problem with reading the creation account literally as a former Christian.  I literally interpreted it and if things didn't literally make since I just said to myself, "supernatural things don't have to have a natural explanation".  As a former believer I thought god was all-powerful and he could do anything he wanted to.  For example: Samson's hair being the reason for his strength etc. 

At the Last Supper Jesus takes the cup and the bread and hands them to the disciples saying 'take, eat this is my body / my blood[1]' Now Rome takes this literally - the the bread and wine of the mass are literally the body and blood of Jesus and promptly uses Greek Aristotelian philosophy to show how this could be when everything looks the same. It makes much more sense to see this is a non-literal sense - eating and drinking together remind people of Jesus who is perhaps spiritually present but not literally?
 1. Paul, who never met Jesus records it like this

Depending on one's interpretation, I think the bible gives permission to interpret the bread and the wine issue figuratively or spiritually because of what Jesus says after this strange saying.  John 6:63 says, "...the words that I have spoken to you are SPIRIT and are life".

I told OCG that, IMO, we should interpret the bible as "literal as possible".  I know it makes more sense to interpret some things figuratively such as Jesus' statement, "I am the door...".  I don't think Jesus is actually a door. 

However, when it comes to thinking that god is tolerant of other religions I say this can't be so because I read the bible as literal as possible.  I mean, how can one possibly think that god is tolerant of other religions after reading Deut. 12:1-13:16? 

If one doesn't interpret the bible literally then what figurative interpretation should he/she accept?  Nobody knows!  If nobody knows then how can we know what god is trying to say?  If people can start figuratively interpreting the bible then you can make verses say pretty much what you want them to say which translates into.....creating god in your image.  That is why I am a little more dogmatic than most in interpreting the bible as literal as possible.

I do think it would have been helpful if god would have laid out all the times to interpret things figuratively like he did in John 16:25.  Unless it's obvious like Jesus and the door.... or the bible in some way gives permission to interpret the bible figuratively then I would say the most HONEST way to interpret the bible is literally.  However, I know, what is obvious to some people is not obvious to others and that's why I said an honest reading is reading the bible as "literal as possible".  If the bible was interpreted more literally then I think we would have less books in the Christian bookstores entitled:

       "Two views on Women in Ministry, How Jewish is Christianity? Two Views on the Messianic Movement; Three view on the Rapture, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond: Three Views on Creation and Evolution; Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism; Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: Three Views, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views, Show Them No Mercy: Four Views on God and Canaanite Genocide; Understanding Four Views on Baptism; Who Runs the Church? Four Views on Church Government; Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, Four Views on the Book of Revelation; Four Views on Eternal Security, Four Views on Hell; Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: Five Views; Five Views of Law and Gospel; Five Views on Sanctification; Five Views on Apologetics; Exploring the Worship Spectrum: Six Views, and more." (John Loftus, "The Christian delusion")

Whether one has a tendency to interpret the bible literally or figuratively, I still conclude that god is either a crappy communicator or there is no divine mind behind the human authors.  I should not even have to open up this section with the statement, "Depending on one's interpretation".  The bible conveys a different meaning to each reader.  Friedrich Nietzsche stated:

     "A god who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who does not even make sure his creatures understand his intentions -- could that be a god of goodness?"   

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #110 on: March 07, 2014, 07:57:31 PM »


I think I understand where you are coming from.  What would you consider to be an honest way to read the Bible?

Quote
I think an honest way to read the bible is to get rid of all your presuppositions.  For instance, you might have a presupposition the authors of the bible make it clear to be tolerant of other religions so you might try to figuratively interpret the verses or pretend the verses that LITERALLY make god look intolerant are not in the bible.   

In addition, I think an honest way to read the bible is to read it as LITERAL as possible.  As far as I know, I believe Jesus interpreted the OT literally.  I might be wrong....do you know of a verse where Jesus did not interpret the OT literally?
 

To the best of my recollection, I grew up with a literalist understanding of the Bible and held that until teaching my first High School Sunday School class and our study of Revelation.  The multiple interpretations were an eye opener as each author seemed able to justify their understanding. 

So I switched from a literalist to a non-literalist. 

Did I have a pre-conceived notion about the Bible since I remember being a literalist until my mid-20's? 

Understand, I have no problem with those who take the Bible literally since any given interpretation cannot be proven one way or the other.  Where I have a problem is when a person presents their interpretation (literalist or non-literalist) as irrefutable fact. 

I always find it fascinating when an atheist tells me, a theist, how to properly interpret a book they no longer believe in.  :)

Quote
gotquestions.org put out a good article.  I agree with what they say here about interpreting the bible literally:

"When we make ourselves the final arbiters of which parts of the Bible are to be interpreted literally, we elevate ourselves above God. Who is to say, then, that one person’s interpretation of a biblical event or truth is any more or less valid than another’s? The confusion and distortions that would inevitably result from such a system would essentially render the Scriptures null and void."

Link:  http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-literal.html

As a funny side note:  I sometimes like to ask tuff questions to this online ministry (gotquestions.org).  I actually was privileged enough to get into a discussion with the president.  I asked him what he thought about god being intolerant towards people with defects (Lev. 21:16-24) even though he created these people with defects.  He said I should not interpret these verses literally as these defects should be interpreted figuratively as they point to certain sins.  For instance, "lameness" = defective Christian walk or "dwarf" = immaturity and on and on.  I responded by writing this above paragraph back to him and asked him if it sounded familiar to him.  I just wanted to show him his hypocrisy and I, in turn, had a good laugh.  I know, I have a warped sense of humor.


The story reminds me of some correspondence a few years ago with a website regarding Ezekiel 28:12-18.  This is the passage for the king of Tyre that is interpreted by some as also explaining the fall of the Satan.  I never could get an answer as to why this particular passage is symbolic rather than literal nor could anyone explain why all the other letters that Ezekiel was asked to write were to be taken as literal. 
 
For some, Christianity is intolerant of other faiths / philosophies.  For me, it is not.  If that means I am not a true Christian, so be it. 


I can't see how one can think Christianity is tolerant of other faiths after LITERALLY reading all the verses that go against this belief.  I would really be curious how you interpret even the two verses I gave you - Ex. 34:14, John 3:18?  How do you get tolerance out of these verses?

And by the way, what is a true Christian???  Is there such a thing???  I thought there has been disagreement over who a true Christian is ever since the founding of the religion.   :laugh:

Exodus 34:14 pertains to God being a jealous God and John 3:18 says those who do not believe in Jesus are condemned. 

Since I don't believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally unless there are similes in the wording, I acknowledge the verses exist but have no way to prove they were truly inspired by God or written by well-meaning mortals. 

And I agree, defining a true Christian is an impossible task.

I notice no response to my earlier question about black and white vs grey.  Does that mean I might be right? 

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #111 on: March 08, 2014, 06:41:46 PM »

Since I don't believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally unless there are similes in the wording, I acknowledge the verses exist but have no way to prove they were truly inspired by God or written by well-meaning mortals.

Your personal requirement for a "divinely inspired inerrant word of God" is confusing to me.  Can you expound on "unless there are similies in the wording".  Sorry for the lack of initial understanding on my part but would love for you to explain to me what this means. 

Could you give a few examples (biblical verses) of these "similies" you are talking about?     

I notice no response to my earlier question about black and white vs grey.  Does that mean I might be right?

Sorry OCG.  I don't want to be seen as one who dodges your questions.  If I don't answer it is truly because I have been extremely busy lately. 

You asked, "Reviewing our correspondence it appears a key difference between us is you prefer a black / white world and I am comfortable with grey.  What do you think?

Judging from this correspondence, that is an accurate assessment on your part.  A like to see myself as one who prefers a black / white world.  I think "let your yes's by yes and your no's be no" is a wise saying.  I don't like being hoodwinked or bamboozled by anyone so yes, I prefer a black / white world.  I especially prefer a black / white world when examining the doctrine of salvation within the Christian religion.  IMHO, there should be no GRAY areas within the requirements needed for salvation.....eternal paradise or damnation are in the balances!!!  This stuff should be clear!!!  The requirements should be clearly understood and laid out in the bible so every human ever created by this creator has complete knowledge and understanding.  Do you think I'm asking too much?



I also noticed no response to one of my questions in post #101.  I will ask again:

"Going back to the OP, why do you call your god god?  Having a deity fail at communicating the exact requirements needed for salvation seems like a good reason to me to not call this deity god.  Why do you call him god?  Is it your personal experiences?  Or is it something else?" 

This is one of my favorite questions to ask Christians.  I am really looking forward to your response because I believe I have run into one of the most honest Christians ever.  I thought my dad was one of the most honest Christians but you have one-upped him because he would never admit to the requirements needed for salvation being unclear in the bible even though the evidence is staring him right in the face.

Sorry for the delay.  I look forward to your response!   

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #112 on: March 10, 2014, 07:33:36 PM »

Quote
Your personal requirement for a "divinely inspired inerrant word of God" is confusing to me.  Can you expound on "unless there are similies in the wording".  Sorry for the lack of initial understanding on my part but would love for you to explain to me what this means. 

Could you give a few examples (biblical verses) of these "similies" you are talking about?

Similes are words such as "like" or "as".  For example, Matthew 13:44 describes the kingdom of heaven is "like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." (NIV)

or

Matthew 13:31 "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field." (NIV)

The kingdom of heaven is not a hidden treasure in a field or a mustard seed; rather it is similar to these ideas. 

Quote


Sorry OCG.  I don't want to be seen as one who dodges your questions.  If I don't answer it is truly because I have been extremely busy lately. 

You asked, "Reviewing our correspondence it appears a key difference between us is you prefer a black / white world and I am comfortable with grey.  What do you think?

Judging from this correspondence, that is an accurate assessment on your part.  A like to see myself as one who prefers a black / white world.  I think "let your yes's by yes and your no's be no" is a wise saying.  I don't like being hoodwinked or bamboozled by anyone so yes, I prefer a black / white world.  I especially prefer a black / white world when examining the doctrine of salvation within the Christian religion.  IMHO, there should be no GRAY areas within the requirements needed for salvation.....eternal paradise or damnation are in the balances!!!  This stuff should be clear!!!  The requirements should be clearly understood and laid out in the bible so every human ever created by this creator has complete knowledge and understanding.  Do you think I'm asking too much?

I don't know if you are asking too much or not, frankly.  Just because I can live with grey doesn't mean I have a universal understanding which should apply to everyone.  If you believe you are not asking too much, who am I to argue the point?



Quote
I also noticed no response to one of my questions in post #101.  I will ask again:

"Going back to the OP, why do you call your god god?  Having a deity fail at communicating the exact requirements needed for salvation seems like a good reason to me to not call this deity god.  Why do you call him god?  Is it your personal experiences?  Or is it something else?" 

This is one of my favorite questions to ask Christians.  I am really looking forward to your response because I believe I have run into one of the most honest Christians ever.  I thought my dad was one of the most honest Christians but you have one-upped him because he would never admit to the requirements needed for salvation being unclear in the bible even though the evidence is staring him right in the face.

Sorry for the delay.  I look forward to your response!

I call God, God, as I don't know what else to call God.  I am happy as a theist.  The times I have tried embracing atheism, I felt an emptiness that did not go away after a few weeks.  Each time, an event has occurred which I interpret to be a sign from God that God is around.  I freely admit these interpretations are my own and I could be wrong.  I don't think so, but there is no way to prove my conclusions are totally correct. 

As always,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #113 on: March 10, 2014, 10:14:18 PM »

Similes are words such as "like" or "as".  For example, Matthew 13:44 describes the kingdom of heaven is "like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." (NIV)

or

Matthew 13:31 "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field." (NIV)

The kingdom of heaven is not a hidden treasure in a field or a mustard seed; rather it is similar to these ideas.
 

Thanks for the examples!  I have got to honestly say, this is one of the most oddest things I have heard when it comes to interpreting the bible.  You said in post #110, "I don't believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally unless there are similes in the wording, I acknowledge the verses (Ex. 34:14, Jn 3:18) exist but have no way to prove they were truly inspired by God or written by well-meaning mortals".

So, it begs the question of WHY do you think the bible is only the "divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally" when similes are in the wording?  What is so great about similes?  Were you taught this?  I find it to be a strange teaching?  Can you enlighten me?  Maybe I was looking at the bible all wrong.  I do know I would be cutting out a lot of verses out of my bible with scissors as a lot of verses don't contain the words "as" or "like" etc.


As a side note, I'm sure you know that the bible contains many textual variants.  What do you do when the simile "as" or "like" is in one of these textual variants?  For instance, Luke 22:43-44 is not found in many early manuscripts and these verses contain the word "like" in them.  According to your strange requirement, are these verses considered to be the "divinely inspired inerrant words of God to be taken literally" if they are not found in some early manuscripts?

Link:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_textual_variants_in_the_New_Testament   

   "MT: Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
    CT: Verses marked as a later addition"


I would also like to point out that the sentence to Matt. 13:31 carries on into verse 32 where it says "and this (the mustard seed) is smaller than all other seeds".  The parallel passage in Mark says, "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth".  Do you find it strange that you think these verses are the "divinely inspired inerrant word of God" since it contains the word "like" in it when the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on the earth?  You say this is "inerrant" but I spot a scientific error in the text.     

I call God, God, as I don't know what else to call God.  I am happy as a theist.  The times I have tried embracing atheism, I felt an emptiness that did not go away after a few weeks.  Each time, an event has occurred which I interpret to be a sign from God that God is around.  I freely admit these interpretations are my own and I could be wrong.  I don't think so, but there is no way to prove my conclusions are totally correct.

After my deconversion, I also felt an emptiness for a couple of weeks but then that feeling went away.  My stuffed raccoon used to be my imaginary friend.  I also was a big fan of the comic Calvin and Hobbes.  This was a comic based on a child having an imaginary relationship with a stuffed tiger.  What you just wrote here made me think of this image of the boy all grown-up who still has this imaginary relationship. 

http://www.moonbasecurio.com/2012/03/29/grown-up-calvin-and-hobbes/ 

I know it feels good for some people to have this imaginary friend.  It helps you to not feel so "EMPTY".  I know you are a happy theist and I think that is great.  It was a comfortable feeling for me to have a "relationship" with Jesus just like I was happy to have a "relationship" with my stuffed raccoon as a child.  It took me till the age of 33 to realize my "relationship" with Jesus was highly imaginable as there is absolutely no good evidence for this deity being real.  I do have to say though, most of my relationships have been comfortable and even fulfilling..........even my imaginary ones! 

"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #114 on: March 10, 2014, 10:29:19 PM »
Quote
 

Thanks for the examples!  I have got to honestly say, this is one of the most oddest things I have heard when it comes to interpreting the bible.  You said in post #110, "I don't believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally unless there are similes in the wording, I acknowledge the verses (Ex. 34:14, Jn 3:18) exist but have no way to prove they were truly inspired by God or written by well-meaning mortals".

So, it begs the question of WHY do you think the bible is only the "divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally" when similes are in the wording?  What is so great about similes?  Were you taught this?  I find it to be a strange teaching?  Can you enlighten me?  Maybe I was looking at the bible all wrong.  I do know I would be cutting out a lot of verses out of my bible with scissors as a lot of verses don't contain the words "as" or "like" etc.


As a side note, I'm sure you know that the bible contains many textual variants.  What do you do when the simile "as" or "like" is in one of these textual variants?  For instance, Luke 22:43-44 is not found in many early manuscripts and these verses contain the word "like" in them.  According to your strange requirement, are these verses considered to be the "divinely inspired inerrant words of God to be taken literally" if they are not found in some early manuscripts?

Link:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_textual_variants_in_the_New_Testament   

   "MT: Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
    CT: Verses marked as a later addition"


I would also like to point out that the sentence to Matt. 13:31 carries on into verse 32 where it says "and this (the mustard seed) is smaller than all other seeds".  The parallel passage in Mark says, "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth".  Do you find it strange that you think these verses are the "divinely inspired inerrant word of God" since it contains the word "like" in it when the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on the earth?  You say this is "inerrant" but I spot a scientific error in the text.

The use of the phrasing about similes goes back to some fundamentalist / literalist types I have read or corresponded with in the past.  I suspect it was their way of heading off criticism for declaring the Bible as the divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be interpreted literally.  Adding the caveat about similes helps diffuse criticism.  Just an observation with no sources to back it up. 

Regarding the mustard seed being the smallest seed, it is my understanding for the time the manuscript was written, it was seen as the smallest known seed.  In light of the 21st century, your point is well made.

Quote

After my deconversion, I also felt an emptiness for a couple of weeks but then that feeling went away.  My stuffed raccoon used to be my imaginary friend.  I also was a big fan of the comic Calvin and Hobbes.  This was a comic based on a child having an imaginary relationship with a stuffed tiger.  What you just wrote here made me think of this image of the boy all grown-up who still has this imaginary relationship. 

http://www.moonbasecurio.com/2012/03/29/grown-up-calvin-and-hobbes/ 

I know it feels good for some people to have this imaginary friend.  It helps you to not feel so "EMPTY".  I know you are a happy theist and I think that is great.  It was a comfortable feeling for me to have a "relationship" with Jesus just like I was happy to have a "relationship" with my stuffed raccoon as a child.  It took me till the age of 33 to realize my "relationship" with Jesus was highly imaginable as there is absolutely no good evidence for this deity being real.  I do have to say though, most of my relationships have been comfortable and even fulfilling..........even my imaginary ones!

You seem at peace with yourself and the world.  I am happy for you and wish you every happiness. 

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle - Philo of Alexandria

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion - Dalai Lama

Offline Andy S.

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Re: Omnipotent, Malevolent, Confusing, or Non-existent
« Reply #115 on: March 11, 2014, 04:24:13 PM »

The use of the phrasing about similes goes back to some fundamentalist / literalist types I have read or corresponded with in the past.  I suspect it was their way of heading off criticism for declaring the Bible as the divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be interpreted literally.  Adding the caveat about similes helps diffuse criticism.  Just an observation with no sources to back it up.


I would really be interested in knowing more about these fundamentalist/ literalist types that you have "read" that say only the verses with similes in them are the "divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally".  This seems really absurd to me.  I would like to read some of their stuff and I am really curious how they would get someone such as yourself to interpret the bible this way.  Do you have any sources or other references I can read?

I would really like to know WHY it was a way of "heading off criticism".  It doesn't make sense to me that the verses with similes are the only "divinely inspired inerrant word of God to be taken literally".  How does interpreting the bible like this "diffuse criticism"?  What is their/your logic or reasoning for interpreting the bible like this?  This just doesn't seem logical to me. 

Why would you apply this kind of hermeneutic when you don't even know for sure WHY the people you learned this from interpret the bible this way?  There has to be more than just "diffusing criticism".  If this is the only reason why, then I am extremely surprised that an honest man such as yourself would accept such a dishonest way of interpretation.  This is subjective on my part but if you are going to interpret certain verses in a certain way just to "diffuse criticism", then IMO this is a dishonest hermeneutic.   

Regarding the mustard seed being the smallest seed, it is my understanding for the time the manuscript was written, it was seen as the smallest known seed.  In light of the 21st century, your point is well made.

I don't like disagreeing with you because you seem like such a nice guy but in this case I have to.  I believe your previous understanding is wrong.  The mustard seed was not the smallest known seed "for the time the manuscript was written".  I found a Christian source that makes this apparent even though a lot of their other rationalizations are unconvincing to me.  Speaking about the time of Jesus, this source says, "There would be numerous plants familiar to His audience with smaller seeds, of which the best example would be the seed of the black orchid".

Link:  http://ww2.odu.edu/~lmusselm/plant/bible/mustard.php

Do you have a source that disagrees with this?

If you find your previous rationalization for the mustard seed to be false, will you consider changing your mind on the way you interpret scripture?  I'm trying to get you to apply reason and logic to the hermeneutic you accepted.  I honestly think you should look at divine inspiration with black or white goggles.  The bible is either the divinely inspired inerrant word of god or it's not.  If you try to find gray areas like saying only verses with similes in it are divinely inspired and should be read literally.......you sound.........well..........confused.  And what student wants a confused Sunday school teacher?


I can't promise you anything but these might be my last questions for you.  This has been an absolute joy.  Thanks for all your time.  Except for the way you interpret the verses in the bible with similes, you have been one of the most honest Christians I have run into.  I wouldn't have so much of a problem with Christianity if more Christians were like you.  I have really only been exposed to Christian fundamentalism.  I don't understand people like yourself but then again, you probably don't understand many atheists.  I look forward to more conversations with you in the future! 

   
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race, have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."
~Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)