You Wouldn't Believe That. Would You?

Here's a comment I wrote over at Christian Cadre:
What I find very strange is that if someone told you a snake or ass talked, you wouldn't believe they talked just because someone told you they did. But you believe they did and everything in the Bible precisely because it's in there. You would be skeptical of every single claim in the Bible if someone came running up to you and said an old lady turned into a pillar of salt, or that lifting up the hands of Moses caused a military victory. You wouldn't even believe it if someone else came up to you and confirmed it. You would want to see for yourself, wouldn't you? Or are you truly a gullible person? But you are more than two millenia removed from such claims and all you have is a text that says these things happened. Where are your critical thinking skills? Be consistent. Be as skeptical about those claims as you are about the same claims today. Test these claims as an outsider. If you conclude Christianity is false, then see what you believe, like I have. But I cannot be asked to believe these things actually took place without good evidence. You do realize how superstitious these ancient people were, who heard the messages of the prophets and apostles, don't you? [I have a long chapter in my book relating such incidents as these]. Then why believe those same stories just because they did?

26 comments:

sduford said...

But they believe the Bible because they've been brainwashed with it since they were young kids, and by the people they loved and respected the most. They are no longer able to critically think about that subject.

Benny said...

I don't believe in the Bible, but I have to say I'm uncomfortable painting all Christians with the "they've been brain-washed since childhood" brush. I have known some very intelligent, very rational people who adopted Christianity late in life. Now, I happen to disagree with that decision, but my point is that we would do well not to make sweeping generalizations about why people believe.

Noxidereus said...

I often wonder the same thing. Not only do they accept incredible stories that they would not otherwise accept, but some believe that because Atheists do not accept these claims without evidence, that we deserve to burn in hell. That is the same as telling Christians that they deserve to burn in hell for not believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's silly.

I totally agree with you, sduford. People are brainwashed as children, when they are learning about the world. We see that the majority of children raised Christian are still Christian as adults. The same is true for Judaism, Islam, etc. Parents try to keep their kids away from 'bad' influences... If we know that the people around you shape your view of the world at a young age, then it should be obvious to us all why some people are Christian - because they were brought up that way - because they were influenced when they were most vulnerable to influence - as children. Not because it is true.

As adults, guilt and fear that is built into Christianity prevents them from questioning it. I am an ex-xian and know that fear. If one is saved by faith, then questioning that faith is disrespectful to God and puts salvation in jeopardy.

I was born again xian for the 1st 30 years of my life (I am currently 32), so I do not think religious people are stupid because I know what it is like to be brainwashed. It certainly does not feel like being brainwashed, except in retrospect. It was only when I allowed myself to REALLY question the existence of God that I was able to wake up from it, and it was HARD. I encourage everyone to never stop questioning EVERYTHING.

Noxidereus said...

benny, I agree that not all Christians are brainwashed, but it is the vast majority of them. I know people who went through rough times and 'found Christ' late in life also, but in my opinion it is another example of being indocrinated at a vulnerable time. Scientoligists know that people are more easily converted at vulnerable times, right? That's why they have Narconon. I know there are very intelligent Christians (I have some in my family), but I would say the most plausible reason for why MOST Christians can accept incredible claims is either because they were brainwashed as children or were at a vulnerable point in their lives... BUT this does not apply to every case, I agree. I know a lot of moderate Christians that don't accept most of the bible literally, and thus have less logical inconsistencies to reconcile.

Anonymous said...

John, is your book also offered as an e-book?

Noxidereus said...

I know The word 'brainwashed' has negative connotations. Please note that when I use that word, I am using the following definition:


brainwash - To teach to accept a system of thought uncritically: indoctrinate, propagandize.

Anonymous said...

Okay, get your gullible and/or delusional judgements prepared to throw here...

This writing relegates an 'either/or approach' to the unseen/spiritual. There was mention that one would either be skeptical or gullible to believe in certain experiences. There is a third option, which is faith.

Faith is expressed in acts of love, so while I have faith for certain miracles (not all, I confess a degree of skepticism still remains for some OT things but I'm not punished by God for that) I know that Jesus downplayed the miraculous but was willing to interact in such a manner for more pragmatic purposes. Even so, Jesus's miracles remained scrutinized and denied by many who witnessed them so our response to miracles/scripture is not in itself evidence of God's existance or not.

Just for the record, I used to try to read scripture and was offended by so much of it. But I experienced some events that I did later find happening to people in the Bible. So, for me, I don't feel as though I can condemn anyone for relating a story of the miraculous. Can the miraculous be used corruptly? I believe I have witnessed such being used to draw people into schemes that that exploit peoples' fears and vulnerabilities, but Jesus didn't try and collect followers for conforming to a strict standard - He did set people free from fear and compulsion and tend to their needs.

So, in regard to pillars of salt or talking donkeys, I confess my lack of faith or, perhaps, misunderstanding about how people related stories of what was meaningful in their lives but I also believe that God is good and that is a miracle to me.

Thanks!

Anon 1035

John W. Loftus said...

No, my book is not offered as an e-book.

Noxidereus said...

Anon 1035,

I agree that faith is required to accept the bible. What I took from this post is that some claims in the bible would be incredulous to Christians if removed from their religious context.

The question is - why continue to have faith in something otherwise illogical (like John's example of talking animals)? I personally don't feel that people who have faith are necessarily gullible or of low intelligence even though I disagree with them. I feel that their faith is simply a miscalculation in their logic that I once held myself.

You mention that you are skeptical of certain miracles, so this post might not pertain to you as much as it would someone who unquestioningly believes every word of the bible literally. While I assume that there are some beliefs that you hold that I would find to be silly, I understand that you accept them through faith so that's cool (just like my mom, dad, wife, etc).

I find John's post to be really interesting because the whole reason why I (and many other) atheists became atheists is because faith alone was not strong enough to maintain my beliefs in what I now consider to be mythological tales.

Anonymous said...

Noxidereus, thanks for graciousness - the literal inerrency of scripture is something I only encountered just prior to ending some years of atheism. I don't fully understand the doctrine or source of bible inerrency but it seems a heavy burden to impose on people. Perhaps there are some who are afraid that God won't exist if their practices are challenged or examined. I felt very much intimidated by the authoritarian and oftentimes, condemning attitude of those who spoke so boldly as representatives of God. I really don't possess a level of faith or courage just yet to approach or influence the people I encountered who devote so much time towards defending the literal interpretation of scripture. It's hard to respect that God loves them more than I do so I will wait and see if my heart softens.

Thanks so much for withholding stone throwing at my post - I treasure up the kindnesses extended here.

1035

live-n-grace said...

Just read Hebrews chapter 11.

For those who think Christians are brainwashed read this.

It takes more faith to be an Athiest than it does to be a Christian. That you are the center of the universe. That there is nothing to life but yourself and others. When you are troubled there is no one to turn to. When a loved one dies, is that it? If you are homeless and poor, what's the point of living. That the universe came to be by chance. That life is all on our own knowledge.

I find that there is more to this life. That we were made for more than this. I find this answer in a loving, graceful, and merciful God.

david ellis said...


It takes more faith to be an Athiest than it does to be a Christian.


This claim would only make sense if there were compelling evidence for the existence of God.

You have offered no such evidence.


That you are the center of the universe.


Nonbelief in God does not make me think myself the center of the universe.


When you are troubled there is no one to turn to.


When troubled I turn to family and friends. But even if I had no one to turn to this would hardly constitute reasonable grounds for thinking a good exists....rather, it would be grounds for WISHING one exists.


When a loved one dies, is that it?


I wish there was an afterlife....but wishing doesnt make it so.

I am more concerned that my beliefs be true than that they coddle my fears and insecurities.

david ellis said...

Typo. That should be god rather than good above.

One Wave said...

I'm superstitious.

Troy Waller said...

A reply to: live-n-grace

It takes more faith to be an Athiest than it does to be a Christian.

Good god (small 'g'), if I had $1 for every time I heard that line. Have the Xians published a book of clich├ęs to throw at Atheists since I left the fold?

Ok, I'll bite...why does it take more faith to be an Atheist than a Xian? I love jokes BTW...

That you are the center of the universe.

Now who said that? I think it was the pre-Galilean Xians that said that no? Not the Atheists.

That there is nothing to life but yourself and others.

Um...and EVERYTHING ELSE!!! It's a friggin' big universe. I heard that for every grain of sand on the earth, there are 100 billion stars. You only have all that plus God. OK, you have more...you win.

You seem to like to take things you THINK we have or believe and make them very small. I don't think you even know what Atheists (and Agnostics...don't forget us) believe or don't believe.

When you are troubled there is no one to turn to.

Rubbish, I find my non-Xian family to be far more helpful and consistent in their support than my Xian friends ever were. Just 'cos you speak to the sky doesn't mean the sky has ears (although I have heard the walls have ears...perhaps you should talk to the walls. LOL)

When a loved one dies, is that it?

Let me turn that one back on you...when an UNSAVED loved one dies, is that it? No, not at all...it's an eternity of BBQ loved one. God is good!

If you are homeless and poor, what's the point of living.

Well, getting a home and some money would be a start. You're an American aren't you? If someone is poor then they have no meaning in life? Only an American would dare to say that...or maybe a Singaporean would. Singapore is a frightfully materialistic culture too.

That the universe came to be by chance. That life is all on our own knowledge.

You really haven't even tried to understand the non-Theist point of view at all have you? You really ought to publish that book of clich├ęs I mentioned earlier.

I find that there is more to this life. That we were made for more than this. I find this answer in a loving, graceful, and merciful God.

...and you're wrong.

Sayonara.

Anonymous said...

Troy, I'm not too well acquainted with your writings, but I do know this - that as a nonbeliever, I was very idealistic and caring, and I see that in the writings of those here, but I was also heavily burdened and distressed by many issues that were way beyond my ability to understand or realm of influence to bring relief towards.

Those who write here express a love of freedom, righteousness and justice and you commented about materialism being frightful.

Those are all foundational elements of faith. But without spiritual love, our love becomes pretty conditional and territorial even when we desire the right and loving thing for ourselves and others, especially under distressful conditions where people start throwing stones at one another (whether it be verbal, emotional, mental or physical). You may have noticed that a lot of people who are law abiding can disintegrate into self-righteousness and condemnation in a minute when they are challenged to be compassionate towards those who are struggling with being set free from mistreating themselves and others. I think these observations are self-evident, especially if we search our own hearts.

I abandoned belief because I did not understand God - He looked punishing and demanding and rejecting - but if one is interested in spiritual liberty, it is eye-opening to just try and follow Jesus's advice - try coming to Him with your worst feelings and see what happens. Try not condemning and judging others and see what happens. Try turning the other cheek and loving the enemy without becoming hostile, defiant or antagonistic (the people who mistreat you and then try defining what 'mistreatment' means). Well, okay, maybe don't try the last 2 items until you're fully equipped to suffer the fruits of martyrdom, but I think you might understand what I am saying.

Also, while I can say the words, "I forgive you" to someone who has hurt me, try forgiving them from the heart. This is where the true progression towards spiritual freedom and full life living begins. Even though I prided myself as being tolerant (not realizing that that was a position of self-superiority)a lot of things used to offend me, but I never realized that taking offense is a position of diminishing boundaries and territorial disputes - all life robbing ventures and definitely not a recipe to increase my capacity to love and embrace others.

As far as evidence of God, I have these words of encouragement and understanding to offer - perhaps they are of no value to you, but I wouldn't have minded hearing someone say them to me when I was a nonbeliever.

Take care and the best to you in China!
Okay, bye!

Anon 1035

Troy Waller said...

1035

Thanks for your post. I guess you sensed my 'anger' huh? Yeah well, we're all human...even on the weekend. :)

I agree with you in part that some of Jesus' moral teachings are great. Truly great. And the world would be a better place if we more of us put those moral teachings into practice in our lives. Don't lie, don't steal, don't judge, don't cheat on your spouse, do unto others... All good! Aristotle taught us to be and pursue virtue...simply because of the inherent good in these things.

Thanks for the reminder to do and be good.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's okay! I see it as impassioned writing - very nicely articulated also since some may miss out on knowing and loving people who are possibly just passing through a period of questioning and examining beliefs -

I heard it once said that no one of true faith avoids questioning or examining it.

At any rate, good to talk to you!

Anon 1035

MothandRust said...

http://russellsteapot.com/comics/2007/welcome.html

Good ol' Russell has a comic for every occasion. Pictures speak a thousand words. pictures AND words speak a thousand and fifty-seven.

live-n-grace said...

In some ways that is a good comic strip. Many religious people think it's by knowing things and ideas and doing certain things that you are saved rather than faith in Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

"Slavery was a cultural thing, would you rather have had them kill captured enemies?"

No, but why didn't God tell anybody to end slavery? Shouldn't he have told him that their "culture" stank?

Anonymous said...

I think it's good to examine beliefs and learn to articulate what our understanding of real life is first and then compare it to scripture.

One of the recurring ways that I have described faith is "being set free". But in fact, my freedom is bonded, or rooted, in a specific way of expressing love that did require overcoming for me.

I no longer consider it freedom if I condemn or destroy a source of mistreatment or become hostile, anatagonistic or prideful towards that source. But freedom by faith means bonding with God.

So why wouldn't this God say not to keep slaves? As a believer, I am a servant - albeit, servitude can be stigmatized by human example, but in fact, I am, by nature, either in servitude to God or towards something else in the seen world. As one who seeks to bond, I am, by faith, made more aware of whom/what to bond with that will liberate and give freedom and who can be entrusted with my life as Lord over it.

The term "Lord" does imply a relationship of overseer. But, some can be entrusted in that position, while others cannot. Jesus said His spirit is a free one, but one that requires overcoming, especially from that which does not necessarily seek or promote freedom.

Anon 1035

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight... Matter cannot be created or destroyed, so all that is must have existed forever, right? Hmm, that's interesting. I've never experienced anything like that before. But does an atheist need proof of this to support his worldview? Apparently not. Then one day the matter started to change, and eventually, what started out as a bunch of random molecules became every variety of plant and animal life that we know today and more. Wow, now that is really something, and no one has ever witnessed such a thing, nor can they provide any tangible proof that it ever happened. It must be convenient to be able to label your position as the default - the ultimate insider position - from which there is no need to examine yourself as an outsider, since there is no such thing as an outsider to your position. Come on now, lets be honest here. The label 'free thinker' sounds attractive, but in reality, the foundations of your thought were buit by other people throughout the ages. Your worldview rests on the wisdom and testimony of other men as much as any Christian's does.

Aaron

Benny said...

Aaron,

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, so all that is must have existed forever, right? Hmm, that's interesting. I've never experienced anything like that before.

Have you ever experienced a creation of matter (or energy) that violates the conservation of matter and energy? Unless you have, matter (and energy) not being created or destroyed is *exactly* what you have experienced. Assuming you weren't there to witness God's creation of everything, that's the claim you should be skeptical of.

Then one day the matter started to change, and eventually, what started out as a bunch of random molecules became every variety of plant and animal life that we know today and more. Wow, now that is really something, and no one has ever witnessed such a thing, nor can they provide any tangible proof that it ever happened.

Did anyone witness God creating everything? Does someone have tangible proof of God doing so? Ok then.

So here's what we do have. We have the universe and everything in it. We know that there is plant and animal life now, but they haven't always been there. So what remains is finding out how that life came about. It's bizarre that you have such a hard time with something like evolution, when we have ample evidence of it, when it's so easy for you to invoke an imaginary being for whom there's zero evidence.

The evidence for evolution:http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

It must be convenient to be able to label your position as the default - the ultimate insider position - from which there is no need to examine yourself as an outsider, since there is no such thing as an outsider to your position.

Is this a strawman? Because I don't see anyone besides you claiming that there's no such thing as an outsider to "our" position. You certainly seem to be an outsider to "our" position :)

The label 'free thinker' sounds attractive, but in reality, the foundations of your thought were buit by other people throughout the ages. Your worldview rests on the wisdom and testimony of other men as much as any Christian's does.

I suppose you can say that science rests on the wisdom of others. There are certain brilliant minds without whose insights science would not be where it is today. But I don't know what you mean when you claim it rests on the "testimony" of others. It doesn't matter who proposed a theory; what matters is what evidential support the theory has. Anyone is free to review the evidence and propose alternate theories.

Contrast that with Christianity. Tell me, what test(s) would convince you that God does not exist? I'm guessing there is none. So you believe, 100%, supernatural claims from the errant recordings of ideas from a pre-scientific people who lived thousands of years ago. Now that's resting one's worldview on the testimony of others!

Do you see the difference here?

James F. McGrath said...

I think that a wide range of different viewpoints are being lumped together under a single heading. I have a discussion of some recent books by Keith Ward, a proponent of liberal Christianity, on my blog at http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/blog I wonder what those here would make of such views.

John W. Loftus said...

James, I live about 2-3 hours north of you. Thanks for visiting. I've already linked to your Blog and look forward to some good discussions with you.

Remember, our focus here is on fundamentalist Christianity, although much of what we write goes against most all brands.