I'd like to first introduce myself and then move onto slightly confusing questions that I've encountered over the course of my time before hesitantly becoming an atheist. I have been hovering around this forum for a week or two and read some topics throughout the site. I was interested by the more 'intellectual' and somewhat of a 'jovial' atmosphere in this forum than the other websites which have all-out flame wars between the religious and the non-religious; youtube comments being one of them.
Firstly, I checked out the rules (Below) for newcomers and FAQ and haven't located the restriction of introduction threads. However taking the example of "I WANT TRUTH"'s thread, I will start by introduction and funneling down to the questions that have pecked at my mind for the past year or so.NOTE: If you would just like to skip over the introduction part, you can just go to the questions I have at the bottom.
I have tried not to make this a "tl ; dr" post, so I made some fonts and paragraph spacinghttp://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?PHPSESSID=a45cc13abc53ef4a882aa5bc67f67a3d&topic=5628.0http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?PHPSESSID=a45cc13abc53ef4a882aa5bc67f67a3d&topic=4259.0http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?PHPSESSID=a45cc13abc53ef4a882aa5bc67f67a3d&topic=3998.0http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?PHPSESSID=a45cc13abc53ef4a882aa5bc67f67a3d&topic=3998.0
To start off, my name is C, my age is 16, and I live in PA.
I, like many of you it seems, was born and raised in a Christian household.
From age eight to present day, I have had troubling questions that made me feel abnormal compared to other kids in Christian communities. It all really started with the culture shock of seeing Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia's children just like me in utter poverty; living in abandoned stone temples with feet for shoes and skin for clothes, surrounded by hundreds of black ants and alone in a life of begging.
The sights troubled me, a year later my Grandfather died, then two years later my grandfather on my mother's side died. The latter was an intriguing experience. My mother and I along with my brother basically raced from the Eastern coast of the U.S only stopping to sleep in an airport terminal in Los Angeles then finally arriving in the Republic of South Korea, only to find that my grandfather had died just an hour after we landed. I was taken aside and told that both my grandfathers were now residing in Heaven.
I accepted the "fact" of heaven but still slightly questioned why God, this loving Father that watched over me, my parents, the world would let poverty run rampant, let my grandfather die before my mother even reached the hospital?
I pushed all these questions away for that period of time until a third death struck into my life.
A Thirteen year old boy, the exact same age as mine at that time, fragile, innocent, and isolated in hospitals rarely going to school or venturing to the outside world. My cousin died of cancer/leukemia, I was never told, all I knew was that his hair never grew, he couldn't grow much, and I thought he was just having some difficulty but would still live to a considerable age. He died at the age of thirteen, finally cracking my belief that God watched over him or us. The irony was that my cousin was a fervent believer, a Christian with a poster of Jesus on his wall and gospel quotes all over the house. Again, I was taken aside and told that God called him and he went to heaven.
My doubts sprung up in the forms of questions and actually reading the Bible. I was astounded by the mere fact that I had never thoroughly read the Bible, and that I only embraced God for Heaven and "eternal life" and glossed over his seeming unwillingess to help those children in Africa, to stop rapes and murders, and to stop natural disasters. After the day of me blurting out loud "Why should we trust such a stupid book?" during the middle of "Bible Study" for young students; I decided to research religion, specifically Christianity.
So, with Christianity, I:
Prayed (Before the events above)
Went to a Catholic school and observed the rituals/worship.
Went to mass every sunday and kept reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, trying to interpret passages on my own.
Tried conversing with other Christians, though I failed to do so.
Went to the Internet and searched for other peoples' opinions in forms of blogs and forums such as these.
Read some scholarly books regarding Christianity
Read many accounts of prayers being answered and including contacting Lee Strobel after I read his "Case For Faith Student Edition".
....and many other things that people here probably have done.
During all this I saw many examples of Christian beliefs in the forms of protests against homosexuals and abortion usually with the words "Hell", "Fags", "God Punishes"
involved. I witnessed contradictions and clashes of religion with a very dependable tool called Science, and annoying Christian advertisement from door to door often intruded; though I solved this last one by borrowing my friend's Kippah(Yamaka) and telling them I was Jewish.
Then I realized there were multiple religions and mentally slapped myself for not really realizing it; so I asked a few Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu friends to see if I could go with them and their families to each cultural and religious sites (i.e synagogues, et cetera) and even observed some of their own "rituals" and what their traditions are in an effort to be open-minded.
I also read up on these religions through "World Religions"
and other books. I also asked my grandmother to show me Buddhism and what she practiced.
So after months and a couple of years, I was forced to conclude that if there is a God, then it is impossible to look for him through all these religions that differ from each other and until I am proven wrong and shown personally to gods or a God, that I will become/remain an atheist. When I announced my belief to some of the church community's youth members, they became a bit distant or as one said to me "You're going to go to hell." which I admit made me stubborn and consolidated my position on the matter.
Of course, my parents are still struggling to show me that God is real and that the Trinity; Holy Spirit, Lamb of God, and Father has looked over us and the world and told me that I must have interpreted the holy scripture wrong. So I was convinced to talk to my pastor because I was still a bit inclined towards the idea of eternal life and I really, really
wanted to be convinced. Which leads me to the questions that arose from my conversation with Pastor. Through emails I asked him questions varying from common sense and morals to Noah's ark, and of course to Jesus, original sin, God's omniscience, the Laws (slavery, rape, etc).
This is the email below:From: Pastor K
C, Very quickly for now, I would just say two things. Thanks for engaging with me however, I appreciate your thoughtful dialogue and words. I hope we can talk lots more. I am leaving D.C. and going to L.A. soon so I will write a few things quickly.
1) You, me, and no one was around even 50 years ago, let alone at creation, the time of Noah, the time of "Big Bang" as evolutionists believe, etc. You, if you don't believe in God and what the bible says, that is ok. But what you say too, you were not there and without evidence for it, whatever you believe or think is subject to the same questions. Moreover, you may think that you have empirical evidence for your views, but it is theoretical and from a subjective starting point. It is no different in many ways from what you say about Christianity. You show your subjective critique of Christianity. That's fine. But remember, it is subjective.
2) As to your questions about God, you miss a major element of who God is in all your questions about him...the work and person of Jesus. I am not trying to convince you that I am right, I am just letting you know that you cannot ask all those questions and question God without understanding the purpose of Jesus in all of it.
So I responded by saying I read the Bible, I know what Jesus did and who he was and what he did after he came back to life according to the Bible then he said this:
C, the Holy Spirit is everywhere, around you, in you, and in me and everyone else. Yes, I take the Bible as an accurate historical manuscript , like I said before, your critique of Christianity is subjective. And yes you were using Science not common sense to try to critcize Christianity; but what exactly is common sense? How can we flawed humans have this sense without Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior? Because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and as he was the ultimate sacrifice for mankind, God has given us this new covenant in which we can personally pray to him and receive what he is willing to give, you ask why there is suffering in this world. It's because God has a plan for everyone to relieve them of original sin when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
He really didn't answer any of my questions. So I thought to ask the questions here where the posts make much sense and people here are helpful in providing information whether through links or posts.
I will start with the basic questions I have:
1) Due to the assortement of various religions on Earth, is it possible that even one of them may be the "true" religion?
2) In some books, Christian authors point out to the delicate and firm balance of 'life/molecules, et cetera' needed on Earth to sustain life which should require intelligent design and a designer but not random chance. Is this true?
From what I know, Christians pointed to the structure of the eye in the past as proof of intelligent design, but it was later proven that the eye is anything but "perfect", but the amount of specific matter needed to support life isn't something I looked into.
3) If we rule out omniscience in the factor of God, would that make the image of God better?
4) For Christians/Theists, I received many answers from a lot of Christian friends and community members regarding some aspects of the Old Testament. They say that some parts of the OT is not actually literal (Garden of Eden, Flood) and that certain laws regarding the rights of women only applied to Israelites long ago and not now. Your opinion?
5) Without religion, would the world be a better place? A scenario would be a nihilistic society, without religious morals, would there be an increase of crime or the opposite?
Lastly (For Now),
6) Although historical factors are involved (i.e Constantine, Western Civilization, international missions), what is the point of Christianity and the worship of Jesus if the Savior was "only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)?
I appreciate that this forum,the website, and the people are available. I also realize that some of these questions might be considered mundane by some here, but I will be looking forward to your replies and opinions.