Evolving Moral Standards Are Evidence Against the God of the Bible

I learn how to defend what I believe better because of the discussions I have with intelligent Christians. Here's an exchange I recently had with Steve Hays on David Wood's Blog:

Both David Wood and Steve Hays criticized Christopher Hitchens for lacking a moral standard to revile Christianity with. This is usual fare among Christians. In Steve's words:

What Hitchens does...is to attack Biblical theism and Biblical morality alike by his extrabiblical sense of what is right and wrong.

Since that is how Hitchens has chosen to frame the argument from evil, he needs to explain and justify his own source and standard of moral valuation.

I had said with Hitchens that Christians do not live up to their own morality. And sometimes they cause suffering when they do follow it.

Steve Hays:
What examples can Loftus cite without begging the question?

John W. Loftus said...
Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain, pure and simple. Hitchens...has shown how professing Christians have caused suffering in the world though, and professing Christians are the ONLY kind of Christians we see. According to your own belief system a Christian isn't a perfect person (but instead one who believes), so you cannot plausibly argue that the ones causing this suffering are not true Christians without also claiming Christians are sinless, in my opinion.

As far as God commanding his followers to do what we now consider evil goes, I consider the following commands evil: your God declared that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21). A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

I consider the evidence of evolving moral standards--standards that you yourself now accept--as evidence against the God of the Bible...or can you justify honor killings? Answer me this. In obedience to God would you have stoned a virgin pledged to be married, along with her rapist?...or not?

I'm awaiting his answer.

65 comments:

Lee Randolph said...

Moral standards are still evolving. The more we learn about people, the more we learn about behavior and it doesn't boil down to good and evil. There are some biological factors to behavior that weaken the concept of 'sin'. Psychopaths and tumor victims, are one example of how when there are problems in the brain, the distinctions between what is right and wrong are blurred on non-existent. I am researching an artitce on this right now.

der Scheinende said...

Mr. Loftus, I'm not sure what is weaker, your so-called "atheism" or your "arguments."

I posted a response to your comments on the other blog:

http://www.problemofevil.org/2007/06/hitchens-wilson-debate.html

Goldstein said...

Actaully, moral standards are devolving.

And atheism of course offers nothing here; since most scientists are atheists (according to Dawkins) they have no problem filling the world with weapons that have the potential to eliminate humanity.

Fundies may talk about the end of the world, but atheistic scienctists have made it possible.

After all, if you put guns in the hands of waring gangs, you can hardly claim innocence.

Michael Ejercito said...

Morality = obedience to God

Immorality = disobedience to God

Dennis said...

It’s funny that John wants to talk about morality while dishonestly representing Deuteronomy 22 to make it appear that Old Testament law condoned rape.

Any honest person with modest reading comprehension can read verse 25 and see that only the rapist is the one who is punished by death. Contrary to John's misleading suggestion, verses 23 and 24 are talking about consensual sex because the woman doesn't cry for help. Verses 28 and 29 are also talking about a consensual act. Notice the phrase "and they be found out." This implies a conspiracy to hide what they did. Given the strict punishment for a rapist, there would be no reason for a woman to be a part of a conspiracy to hide what happened.

lowendaction said...

John,

What I read in your post, is a delectable stew of facts and scriptures, but you've completely thrown out context and relevance.

First of all, Christian morals are not our own, but are Gods; big difference.

Second, I find the scriptures are literally packed with imperfect people. In fact, in most cases it is these very types of persons that God chooses to deal with. Any claim that Christians are perfect is simply not scriptual.

Furthermore, though we do claim that our sins (in fact ALL mankinds sin, not exclusive to "Christians") have been forgiven, this does not make us infallible. For though Christ did enable this gift, we must choose to accept/recognize it. Though this might seems like a trite or simplistic process, it is in fact much harder when done in sincerity.

And finally, I find your references to the Old Testament regarding God's "justice" rather interesting. When taking in to account the culture and laws that were in place at the time, these actions were all the consequences of breaking those laws. Though they may not fit into our "modern" civilized way of thinking/governing, I find them to be just; though I will admit a bit harsh. Again, I would like to point out, that this was our "old covenant" with God, which was then "fullfilled" with the arrival of Christ. Who then ushered in an entirely different and arguably more intimate relationship to God.

Of course, all of these points are silly, because I maintain the truth of the bible as my foundation, whereas you doubt its authentisity and validity...so where do we reach common ground to enable a fruitful discussion? i don't know...

Mechphisto said...

The intellectual dishonesty in these comments are astounding!
First of all, lowendaction, this whole old vs. new covenant thing is very confusing and seemingly relative depending on what you're trying to defend when you take into account:
"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." -Jesus, Matthew 5:18-19
and
"But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail." -Jesus, Luke 16:17
That seems to me to say God incarnate is saying, "You know all that stuff I told Moses? It ALL still counts, period."

Which means, we are still supposed to kill our children if they become rebellious, kill our families if they try to lead us astray, etc.

So, you say we have to take into account culture when we decide what's moral (be it action, or REaction to behavior)?! That reminds me of a little something I read:

Naturalist: As there is no way for us to determine absolute morality, we must determine it as best we can with what we have.
Christian: Ah—but we have Absolute Morality!
Naturalist: Grounded in what?
Christian: God.
Naturalist: And what is God’s morality?
Christian: As there is no way for us to determine God’s morality, we must determine it as best we can with what we have.
Naturalist: And this is different from me….how?

If what's "right" and "wrong" (even at worst, how we punish people) changes, as we see fit, based on changing cultures and times--how is that not relativistic? How is that not evolving? Bottom line, though, it's STILL not following "God's Word" which according to God's Word, is unchanging and set in stone until the end of time.

(By the way, Dennis, according to the RSV and NASB, two of the most accurate translations, the guy can buy the girl he "seized", which sounds like rape to me. Regardless, we're talking about buying people, basically. And anyway, by trying to shift the argument to semantics of rape or consensual, you're ignoring the oh, countless passages of advocating slavery and killing people for minor infractions.)

Michael, see my question above regarding the relativism required to figure our WHAT God's morality even is. If we have to have countless denominations, translations of the Bible, seminars and symposiums and councils, etc etc ad nauseum, all to try to figure out what God's morality is, and STILL not come to any set, universally agreed upon standards--then God's morality is absolutely relative.

Mechphisto said...

Oh, and Goldstein, that's a ridiculous argument. Morality is not derived from the tools that get created, but how they're used. The majority of Nobel Prize winners have been atheists (or at least agnostic.)
And these godless atheists of yours have also provided the world with cancer treatment, organ transplants, antibiotics, methods of improved crop harvesting, improved irrigation, technology to better track dangerous storms, are working on ways to predict earthquakes....
For every atom bomb and recoilless rifle invented, there are a million other technologies invented and developed to improve life. Like, oh, the very computer and Intertubes you use to comment on blogs. Without godless science, human life expectancy would be about 35 years, there'd be more chronic disease, no food preservation, no protection from disease, and back breaking labor for everyone.

Meanwhile, you put a Bible (or Koran) in someone's hands and there's as much of a chance they'll be an intolerant hater of various people and potential murderer in God's name as there is they'll become a peace-loving advocate of mercy.

Michael Ejercito said...


Michael, see my question above regarding the relativism required to figure our WHAT God's morality even is. If we have to have countless denominations, translations of the Bible, seminars and symposiums and councils, etc etc ad nauseum, all to try to figure out what God's morality is, and STILL not come to any set, universally agreed upon standards--then God's morality is absolutely relative.

God's morality is that He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

The Bible is very clear as to what happens to those who defy God.

Jason said...

Mechphisto,

The old law vs new law is only confusing if you don't bother reading Scripture. lowendaction is absolutely correct: Christ did away with the old law.

Christ's death fulfilled the 'till all be fulfilled' statement. This is precisely why his sacrifice was able to atone for sins. Luke 22:20 "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.”

"That seems to me to say God incarnate is saying, "You know all that stuff I told Moses? It ALL still counts, period.""

Really? If it all still 'counts', then why did Christ teach the necessity of baptism (a foreign concept in the OT)? Why didn't Christ or his disciples teach the importance of animal sacrifices as a means to forgive sins? How could Christ be considered a priest if he wasn't from Aaron's lineage? Why was circumsicion no longer mandatory? Etc....etc....etc.

Ultimately, if the old laws were still in place, what was the point of Christ dying?

All in all, Mechphisto, I'm not sure you could be further from the truth regarding the old law.

Gal 3:24-25 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." Pretty straightforward, no?

B H said...

The old law vs new law is only confusing if you don't bother reading Scripture. lowendaction is absolutely correct: Christ did away with the old law.

So why haven't heaven and earth passed away?

Mechphisto said...

BH, good question.

Jason: "The old law vs new law is only confusing if you don't bother reading Scripture." I've been reading scripture since I was 8. You know what started me on the path to atheism? When I stopped reading only the passages I was told to read by pastors and youth group leaders and church camp, etc, and actually read it cover to cover at 18. Then it took me another 15 years to FINALLY stop banging my head against the apologetic wall of trying to rationalize away all the conflicting, confusing contradictions and foundational chaos and realize: the bible is just a book. Without an a priori assumption that it's somehow all Truth, it makes a LOT more sense!

So explain to me please, what it means that Jesus says, "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail"? If I were to assume as you do that everything in the bible is "right," then you take that passage, and look at your "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," and you have two options:
(a) He's contradicting himself, changing his mind, not exactly sure what he's talking about, or, (b) He's clear that the Old Law remains, and that this new covenant has nothing to do with getting rid of the Laws of Moses and must mean something else. I mean, the first passage is clear and unmistakable: The Old Law will not pass until existence does. The comment about the covenant is a lot less clear and open to interpretation.

Liberal Christians latch onto that passage as a way to try to resolve the cognitive dissonance found is trying to rationalize the horrendous immorality found in the bible, advocated by God, and today's awareness that stoning people for minor crimes is barbaric and not very merciful and loving.

By the way, who's words are more important to you? Jesus' or Paul's, when there's uncertainty and contradictions in meaning? If I were a Christian still, I'd lean more toward Jesus, the God on Earth, and think of Paul more like the Pope, God's Voice on Earth (who by the way, did you hear, stated that only Catholicism is right.)

Oh and Michael, IS it very clear? Why then are there hundreds of Christian denominations? Why are there dozens of translations? Why do we have to have countless books trying to pin down what the bible is saying and meaning? Why are there endless seminars and councils and meetings that try to figure out and pin down what the bible means? Why is there strife and even violence among Christians who interpret the bible differently? If it were really as clear as you say, wouldn't there be only one denomination, one English translation, no necessity for stores full of books trying to explain the bible? Ya think? Sounds like the Holy Spirit has fallen down on the job working at helping Christians understand God's meaning.

Jason said...

BH,

Why would heaven and earth pass away? Perhaps a modern translation of this verse might help: “I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God's law will remain until its purpose is achieved.” (NLT)

Mechphisto said...

Perhaps a different translation that has a slightly different meaning of that thing that is supposed to be the crystal clear,immutable, and incorruptible Word of God might help.

For the love of god, can you not see the absurd intellectual dishonesty here?!
Let's look at several different translations of the supposed Word of the Supreme and Perfect Being:
http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/versions.pl?book=Mat&chapter=5&verse=18&version=KJV#18
take your pick of which one fits your agenda better.

Another cause that helped me along toward atheism, was when I listened to a sermon that used nearly every quote from the NIV translation, except for two instances when the pastor decided to use the King James. I checked it out in both and the KJ had a harsher, more intolerant wording for something he was railing against than did the NIV.
How perfect, how clear is the Word of the Supreme Deity when a person can pick and chose various "correct" translations to craft a meaning they want--which could be very different from a meaning crafted with a different translation?!
I would like a serious answer to this.

Jason said...

Mechphisto,

That was a nice story.

As stated before, the fulfillment of the law was the death of Christ. This is why his blood was the “new covenant” - without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Leviticus 17, Hebrews 9). So while you’re correct in saying “The Old Law will not pass until existence does”, you neglected to mention the rather important qualifier: “until”. In other words, the law couldn't change until it was fulfilled.

Whose words are more important – Jesus’ or Paul’s. This is an old, amusing and illogical argument and it’s nothing more then an attempt to prevent Christians from quoting Paul to easily prove their points.

Which of these essential doctrines, taught by Paul, contradict the teachings of Christ and Scripture in general?

1. The Bible: the word of God, inspired - Acts 13:26,27, Acts 24:14, Acts 26:22
2. One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power - Acts 17:24-29
3. Jesus, the Son of God - Acts 13:23
4. Jesus, a mortal man - Acts 13:23, Acts 17:31
5. Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice - Acts 13:27-29, Acts 26:23
6. Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension - Acts 13:30,31,34, Acts 17:31, Acts 26:23
Promises to Abraham: land inheritance - Acts 13:32,33
7. The second coming - Acts 17:31
8. Resurrection and judgment - Acts 17:31, Acts 24:15,21, Acts 26:8
9. Promises to Abraham: land inheritance - Acts 26:6,7,18
10. Promises to David: kingdom restored - Acts 13:23,34
11. Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism - Acts 13:24,38, Acts 17:30, Acts 26:18,20
12. One body: fellowship and breaking of bread - Acts 26:17,18,20,23

Peter, Philip and Steven all taught precisely the same doctrines, all recorded in the same book of Acts. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) and Luke (Acts 13) also attest to the validity of Paul’s apostleship. It's simple then to conclude that Paul’s words are just as “important” (valid) as Christ’s given the above. Unless you have something that effectively counters the claims of Paul and Luke and counters the doctrinal consistency between Paul, Philip and Steven, quoting Paul's writings are a valid means of responding to your old law claims.

Gal 3:24-25 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."

Jason said...

“Perhaps a different translation that has a slightly different meaning of that thing that is supposed to be the crystal clear, immutable, and incorruptible Word of God might help.”

A slightly different meaning? What are you struggling with? The old law could not be altered in any way, shape or form, until everything was fulfilled. That’s what the verse says.

If the old law was still in place, why did Christ teach the necessity of baptism (a foreign concept in the OT)? Why didn't Christ or his disciples teach the importance of animal sacrifices as a means to forgive sins? How could Christ be considered a priest if he wasn't from Aaron's lineage? Why was circumcision no longer mandatory? What was the point of Christ dying?

People can pick and chose different translations to explain away individual verses until the cows come home. Translations don’t change the overall message of Scripture. Jesus is still the Son of God in the KJV as much as he is in the NIV. Baptism is still a necessity in the RSV as it is in the NLT. More importantly however, Christians have access to the original Greek and Hebrew that all translations are based on. If there’s any question, simply have a look at the original word. It’s not difficult. Questions about the existence of the immortal soul? Take a look at the use of the Hebrew ‘nephesh’. Questions about ‘hell’? Look at ‘sheol’. But people are lazy. They prefer to be spoonfed by pastors using multiple Bible translations. ;)

Mechphisto said...

Again, we're dealing with differences in translations, differences in wordings between gospels, to try to come up with some agreed understanding to a confusing message--and that alone to me is proof that the bible is a very human created work and NOT the work of a supreme and omniscient god who would have foreseen the centuries of confusion, and still provide his Truth in the form of a disputed and debated over book written during a time of superstition and primitive views of the world.

God so loved the world as to send his son...but he doesn't love it enough to make his message clear and undebatable, leading to centuries of strife and misunderstanding and misuse in his name?!

I read that earlier passages to mean the Law of Moses stands until the earth passes away. That's exactly what it reads as. Until, yes, until "heaven and earth pass away". Did heaven and earth pass away yet? (*Checks around my desk...*) Nope, don't think so. And let's not forget Psalm 119:151-2 as well as Psalm 119:160. Unless these aren't part of God's Word, they say his word is everlasting. So...it's only everlasting...until he changes his mind, right? His Law is everlasting...until...it's not.

Bottom line: God changes his mind. Or his plan. Or I'll give you the benefit of doubt--he changes how WE see his plan. That's not relative? One day it's OK to kill a raped girl and sell your daughter, the next day a guy dies in a sado-masochistic murder on a cross (by the way...why? I mean, God obviously changes his mind...why couldn't he just change his mind about forgiveness instead of convince himself to change it after a disgusting murder?) ...murder on a cross and the next day it's no longer OK to murder people for farming wrong and you can eat shellfish now. Even if the omniscient God knew he was going to change his mind about all that, WE didn't (ergo Psalms proclaiming God's word is everlasting...until he makes NEW covenants...) that STILL from our point of view, relativistic morality from God!

By the way, yes, Paul and Jesus shared similar messages--and they also have conflicting messages. So did Jesus and James. Quote Paul all you want, really, his words are no more valid than Jesus' or Homer's for that matter. But when you have Jesus saying the Law shall not pass until the earth does (as well as things like the world will end within his disciples' lifetimes, which from a mindset that the End was neigh explains why he tells people to hate their family when the Old Law says kill your family if they disobey you,) and Paul saying if you're a gentile, don't follow the Old Laws....you have to make a decision somewhere.

Again, please answer me this: If God so loves the world that he WANTS us to "get it right," why send his one and only message in the form of a book that's disagreed on and fought over by even faithful and devoted Christians for centuries? I dunno, I'd think God would be smarter than that, kinda find a way in which his message was undebatable and impossible to be misused to commit atrocities in his name. He creates immutable Laws of the Conservation of Energy, but can't make his Word clear and exact without debate?
Weird, that.

Michael Ejercito said...

He creates immutable Laws of the Conservation of Energy, but can't make his Word clear and exact without debate?
What makes you think he can't make His Word clear?

He chooses not to make His Word clear.

Mechphisto said...

Jason, please, you can't be that naive. There IS no "original word." We have no one original document of any of the gospels (nor I believe Paul's letters.) The oldest copies we have are copies of copies. There are alterations and differences even among different versions of the same gospel from near the same time periods.
I ask again--this is the best way an omnipotent and omniscient god could come up with to pass on arguably the most important information about eternity ever?! You seriously, truly believe that?

You're working backwards in trying to explain why the Old Law is no longer relevant. You're doing the same thing I used to do to try to defend my liberal Christianity.
1. The Bible must be Truth. All else must come from that.
2. The stuff in the OT is barbarous and psychopathic--and not at all what we believe moral today.
3. Ergo, Jesus must have changed all that old stuff.
4. Even though the OT, inspired by God, says his word is everlasting, it must not be.
5. Even though Jesus says the Law remains until the earth passes away, I don't like that.
Thus, we have to rationalize the incongruity by cherry-picking examples of how Jesus did things differently than the OT, and twist his words to mean that he's changing the rules and still not be "going back" on the whole immutable and everlasting thing.

Michael: That kind of makes his a colossal dick, doesn't it? He sets it up so we are all damned unless we follow the right religion, and then he mucks up the waters and sows confusion and makes it hard to believe, to the point that most of the world doesn't believe the Christian way? What happened to "so loved the world"?!

What happened to 1Cor 14:32? "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints"

Dennis said...

Mechphisto wrote:
One day it's OK to kill a raped girl and sell your daughter

Show me where the Bible says a raped girl needs to be killed and I will show how you are unable to correctly interpret even the easy to understand passages. May I suggest you actually try to understand any verses you quote before you jump into your reply?

Michael Ejercito said...

That kind of makes his a colossal dick, doesn't it? He sets it up so we are all damned unless we follow the right religion, and then he mucks up the waters and sows confusion and makes it hard to believe, to the point that most of the world doesn't believe the Christian way? What happened to "so loved the world"?!
That is our problem, not His, because if we do not obey, it is us, and not Him, that will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb of God, with the smoke of our torment arising forever and ever and not receiving any rest day nor night.

Mechphisto said...

Dennis:
Deu 22:28 "If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found,
Deu 22:29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her; he may not put her away all his days."
In this case, if she's not betrothed, she can simply be sold to her rapist. Nice.
Earlier in verses 23-24:
Deu 22:23 "If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her,
Deu 22:24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you."

I'm guessing your next reply would be to argue semantics and translations and claim that the woman in the city who is betrothed wasn't being raped--she adultered, yes?
In any way, you're completely ignoring the entire point by forcing the argument down into minutia. Looking at one tree to try to take the focus off the forest.
I'm not going to repeat myself: the point in question is in John's post and my previous replies.

Michael: Wow, your god is a prick. Or you're willingly checking your brain at the door.
How do deal with the cognitive dissonance?
On the one hand you have a god that's supposed to be the ultimate example of love, mercy, and justice. He "so loved the world." He is "not the sower of confusion." He's compared to a loving father.
On the other hand, he creates the human species without our say, and then dooms us to eternal torment for eternity due to a "human nature" he instilled in us, affected by the "sins" he created or allowed to be created (he's omniscient, right?) Ah, feel the love!!

Btsai said...

"I'm guessing your next reply would be to argue semantics and translations and claim that the woman in the city who is betrothed wasn't being raped--she adultered, yes?"

If Dennis decides to go down this path, I hope he will show us the passage where the bible *does* condemn rape in a city. Or does God condone rape in cities?!? If that's the case, our (hopefully) shared revilement at such a loophole in the bible would seem to serve as a perfect example of how our moral standards have evolved beyond the one contained in the bible.

Jason said...

Mechphisto,

Let’s stay on topic, shall we?

"I read that earlier passages to mean the Law of Moses stands until the earth passes away. That's exactly what it reads as. Until, yes, until "heaven and earth pass away". Did heaven and earth pass away yet? Nope, don't think so."

Correct. The old law stands until the end of time. UNTIL it’s fulfilled. It’s right there in the verse. What do these words mean to you: “until all be fulfilled”?

"And let's not forget Psalm 119:151-2 as well as Psalm 119:160. Unless these aren't part of God's Word, they say his word is everlasting. So...it's only everlasting...until he changes his mind, right? His Law is everlasting...until...it's not."

Did Christ “destroy” the old law or did he “fulfill” it?

“By the way, yes, Paul and Jesus shared similar messages--and they also have conflicting messages. So did Jesus and James.”

Examples please.

“Quote Paul all you want, really, his words are no more valid than Jesus' or Homer's for that matter.”

His words are valid when discussing the old and new law. Gal 3:24-25 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." This is Scriptural proof that people today are no longer under the old law. I can provide more references if necessary.

"But when you have Jesus saying the Law shall not pass until the earth does and Paul saying if you're a gentile, don't follow the Old Laws....you have to make a decision somewhere."

That’s right. And the only decision to make is that the old law is no longer in place. If it is still in place, why did Christ teach the necessity of baptism? Why are animal sacrifices were no longer required to forgive sins? Why did Christ die? How could could ge be a high priest without being from the line of Aaron? The floor is all yours.

Jason said...

"The oldest copies we have are copies of copies. There are alterations and differences even among different versions of the same gospel from near the same time periods."

We have access to the same Greek and Hebrew words our Bible translations are based on. If you’re going to use the 'copies of copies' argument, please provide examples of Bible doctrines, not single words, that have been subsequently corrupted as a result of translation errors.

"I ask again--this is the best way an omnipotent and omniscient god could come up with to pass on arguably the most important information about eternity ever?! You seriously, truly believe that?"

Actually, I do believe that. What are you struggling with?

"You're working backwards in trying to explain why the Old Law is no longer relevant. You're doing the same thing I used to do to try to defend my liberal Christianity."

Jesus said “This is the new covenant in my blood”. This seems to be causing you some confusion. What is it about Jesus’ words you’re unsure of?

Mechphisto said...

This is obviously one of those situations where no one is going to convince the other of anything--so there no point going on.
To just answer a cpl of your questions:

"Correct. The old law stands until the end of time. UNTIL it’s fulfilled. It’s right there in the verse. What do these words mean to you: 'until all be fulfilled'?"

Do you not see the problem here? The verse says "until the end of time," and somehow you're taking that to mean the same thing as "fulfilled". Even if I were to play mental gymnastics and just assume Jesus' death fulfilled something, that still doesn't solve the problem that the words of the verse are: "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Where in that verse does that say anything about fulfilling as opposed to the very clear, unambiguous message that heaven and earth have to pass away before the Law does.

In any case, if the Law no longer matters, why does Paul say it does to non-gentiles? If Jesus' fulfilling of the Law (despite the lack of heaven and earth not passing away), why does Paul go on in Romans (maybe Timothy...wherever it is he goes on and on about the rules of circumcision,) about who should still observe the Law? Isn't that contradictory? Isn't it fulfilled or not fulfilled--not only partially for certain people?

"Jesus said “This is the new covenant in my blood”. This seems to be causing you some confusion. What is it about Jesus’ words you’re unsure of?"

You mean aside from the fact that I doubt he even existed as there's more evidence that he didn't than there is that he did? Or even if he did, it's estimated he may have actually said only about 18% of what is attributed to him--and that passage isn't one of them?

Well I have a problem with the fact that that statement is meaningless without having to subjectively ascribe meaning to it that can be interpreted in many ways. For one thing, what does a covenant mean? After all, God told Noah his covenant was that he wouldn't destroy the world with flood again. Maybe Jesus' new covenant deals with that. (Odd that the omniscient God acts like he didn't anticipate having to flood the world, didn't anticipate the wickedning of humans, and felt remorse at having to do so.) When you take into account that Jesus says the Law stands until the end of time and earth, that "new covenant" could mean something completely different and doesn't necessarily mean a repeal of the Law.

By the way, this is all beside Loftus' original point: God's Law is relative, or at least not permanent, no matter which way you look at it! He decides he created abominations and you shouldn't eat shellfish and you should kill your neighbor for farming wrong, then he decides eh, nevermind. You tell me how that reflects a permanence and immutable absolute moral standard. If what's moral changes with god's mood, by definition, it evolves and is not absolute.

By the way, if he's omniscient, why didn't he just START with the sado-masochist death of himself instead of a few centuries of advocating honor killing and genocide and slavery and whatnot? I mean, all this evolution of God and his plan and will and whatever, is all too linear for a supposedly omniscient god who is outside of time.

Oh yeah, and there's plenty of texts out there that go into great detail about the difference in the various extant copies of the gospels we have. "Misquoting Jesus" is actually the slightest but most entry-level of them.

Jennifer said...

By evolved morality I think you mean:

1) Making drugs to cure the diseases that are spread by what the Bible states is sinful and harmful.

2) Creating a society that condones the break up of the family for the sake of individual happiness even if the only individuals who are happy are the parents with their newly found freedoms and excitements.

3) Taking guns out of the hands of the responsible so that the only people with guns are the police and the criminals. How fast can the police get to your house if you have a violent criminal breaking in?

4) Devaluing ultimate authority so that we all do what is right in our own eyes. (A system relying on people who are born compliant.)

5) Instilling the idea that men and women are equal as long as women become more like men.

6) Making reason the absolute measure of truth so that anything outside of the obvious experiences of the senses is explained away by psychological processes that rely on the psychological processes of phsychologists, who themselves have turmoil and disfunction in their lives.

Is anything really being solved in our evolving morality? Not in my opinion.

Nothing I said is to judge anyone or to say that I am a saint. I don't believe there will ever be a perfect morality; excepting labotomy :), on earth, but we can work toward it which makes progress toward a better corner of the world.

There can't be a better world unless peoples' hearts change and I challenge any of you to list the cultures who, although they have many praiseworthy aspects to them, have been able to better themselves physically and mentally without the influence of the new testament morality, which is what the old testament began with. (I know, another topic!)

Michael Ejercito said...

Wow, your god is a prick.
My statements about God are based on the Bible.


If the Bible contradicts my statements about god, feel free to point it out.

Btsai said...

Hi Jennifer,

1) Making drugs to cure the diseases that are spread by what the Bible states is sinful and harmful.

I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that you're talking about AIDS and homosexual activity. Without going into a discussion of Christian condemnation of homosexuality, you should be aware that homosexual activity is not the only way by which AIDS can be transferred. Victims raped by AIDS-infected rapists and babies born of AIDS-infected women also get infected. Are you saying that because your holy text condemns homosexuality, the victims and children who got AIDS through no fault of their own should be left without medical recourse? And this is somehow "moral"?

2) Creating a society that condones the break up of the family for the sake of individual happiness even if the only individuals who are happy are the parents with their newly found freedoms and excitements.

US divorce rate by religion:

Born-again Christian divorce rate - 27%
Other Christians - 24%
Atheists, Agnostics - 21%

Summary of Barna Research Group's findings on divorce and religion in the US

3) Taking guns out of the hands of the responsible so that the only people with guns are the police and the criminals. How fast can the police get to your house if you have a violent criminal breaking in?

Where does the bible give you a right to bear arms?

4) Devaluing ultimate authority so that we all do what is right in our own eyes. (A system relying on people who are born compliant.)

I would say it is the system that needs an ultimate authority that relies on born compliance. What is wrong with encouraging people to be moral on their own, rather than because of an external authority figure? Your statement seems to have the unstated premise that people cannot be moral without an external authority figure, which you need to prove or otherwise support before your statement has any weight.

5) Instilling the idea that men and women are equal as long as women become more like men.

I assume that it is the latter, rather than the former, which you object to. I would like to point out that the very idea of gender-equality is a big step forward from biblical morality. For example, Ephesians 5:22-24 says:

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

6) Making reason the absolute measure of truth so that anything outside of the obvious experiences of the senses is explained away by psychological processes that rely on the psychological processes of phsychologists, who themselves have turmoil and disfunction in their lives.

I assume this is an objection to naturalism's discounting of personal revelation? Then give us a better alternative to naturalism and reason. Given conflicting accounts of personal revelation from multiple religions with mutually exclusive claims, tell us how we can decide which accounts are genuine and which are not.

As for your challenge, I doubt there are any cultures that would satisfy all the requirements. Any culture that has praiseworthy aspects and able to better itself probably has some moral values endorsed by the bible. But I see this as testament to bible morality being a condensation of the moral values of its authors, who happen to have gotten some things right, as opposed to evidence of the biblical morality being divinely inspired.

I share your beliefs that there won't ever be a perfect morality, that we should nonetheless work towards one, and that we won't get there unless people's hearts change, I just disagree about the specific implementation details :)

Btsai said...

Btw, Jennifer, you said you used to go by OneWave, right? This is Benny, saying hi :) How did your move go?

Jason said...

Mechphisto,

“Do you not see the problem here? The verse says "until the end of time," and somehow you're taking that to mean the same thing as "fulfilled".”

Yes Christ is saying “until the end of time” qualified by the phrase, “until all be accomplished”. I’m mystified as to why you’re having so much trouble with this. No part of the law, at any point in time, would EVER change UNTIL what had to be done was accomplished. In other words, until “it” is accomplished, the law couldn’t be changed, not even until the heavens and earth passed away (i.e. the end of time).

"Even if I were to play mental gymnastics and just assume Jesus' death fulfilled something, that still doesn't solve the problem that the words of the verse are: "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

What does the phrase “until all is accomplished" mean to you?

"In any case, if the Law no longer matters, why does Paul say it does to non-gentiles? If Jesus' fulfilling of the Law, why does Paul go on in Romans about who should still observe the Law? Isn't that contradictory? Isn't it fulfilled or not fulfilled--not only partially for certain people?"

Chapter and verse please.

"Well I have a problem with the fact that that statement is meaningless without having to subjectively ascribe meaning to it that can be interpreted in many ways. For one thing, what does a covenant mean? After all, God told Noah his covenant was that he wouldn't destroy the world with flood again. Maybe Jesus' new covenant deals with that."

So you’re saying that the whole point behind Jesus’ sacrifice is tied into the Flood? In other words, Jesus’ death has brought about the future destruction of mankind by a global flood. Really. I’m interested in where else this Jesus-Flood idea is taught in the NT. Indulge me because this is a new one.

"When you take into account that Jesus says the Law stands until the end of time and earth, that "new covenant" could mean something completely different and doesn't necessarily mean a repeal of the Law."

If Christ didn’t repeal the law, why did he teach the necessity of baptism? Why are animal sacrifices were no longer required to forgive sins? Why did Christ die? How could he be a high priest without being from the line of Aaron?

"Oh yeah, and there's plenty of texts out there that go into great detail about the difference in the various extant copies of the gospels we have. "Misquoting Jesus" is actually the slightest but most entry-level of them."

I’ll ask again: please provide examples of Bible doctrines, not single words, that have been subsequently corrupted as a result of translation errors.

Mechphisto said...

What does the phrase “until all is accomplished" mean to you?

It means you're parsing the phrase and missing the point. the WHOLE phrase includes "until heaven and earth pass away". It's not either-or, he's equating "all accomplished" WITH the end of time. He didn't say "until heaven and earth pass away, or until my death accomplishes...something." That statement is a statement of equivocation between end of time and "all accomplished." The reason YOU'RE having problems with it and twisting the meaning around is because you can't rationally accept that the gospel has Jesus teaching non-Law behavior AND stating the Law stands until the end of time and that the bible MUST be infallible--so your cognitive dissonance makes up some irrational connection between "end of time" and his crucifixion in order to alleviate the conflict in rationality your conscious mind is trying desperately to repress for the sake of your continuing in an irrational belief. I don't have a problem with that verse because I realize it's all fable and myth--it doesn't have to make sense.

This merry-go-round is getting ridiculous, so just a cpl comments of clarification:

So you’re saying that the whole point behind Jesus’ sacrifice is tied into the Flood? In other words, Jesus’ death has brought about the future destruction of mankind by a global flood. Really. I’m interested in where else this Jesus-Flood idea is taught in the NT. Indulge me because this is a new one.

No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying the point is, you can't say with 100% certainty what EXACTLY Jesus is talking about with the covenant business. That word has a lot of baggage, and you have to force meaning into it where it's not crystal clear. Because "covenant" has been used in various contexts, just saying "new covenant" requires subjective interpretation as to its meaning and intent.

"When you take into account that Jesus says the Law stands until the end of time and earth, that "new covenant" could mean something completely different and doesn't necessarily mean a repeal of the Law."

If Christ didn’t repeal the law, why did he teach the necessity of baptism? Why are animal sacrifices were no longer required to forgive sins? Why did Christ die? How could he be a high priest without being from the line of Aaron?

That's exactly what I'm saying: The reason why is because the bible was written by men with various agendas, various cultural backgrounds, the gospels written by different people about a man who very likely didn't exist (or at least not at all like he's being depicted,) and they're describing a myth through a game of telephone tag. The reason there's contradictory philosophy, events, lessons, etc, is because the bible is NOT the infalable word of god any more than the Odyssey is truth about Greek myth.

I’ll ask again: please provide examples of Bible doctrines, not single words, that have been subsequently corrupted as a result of translation errors.

Actually, like "Russel's teapot" the burden of proof is upon you to prove your religion, not mine to disprove it. If someone came to you and said Odin is the god of all, or Zeus actually exists, you would demand proof, it wouldn't be encumbrant upon you to disprove them. And your comment about translation errors is an ironic reference to the main question and challenge I keep asking that keeps getting ignored: How can a god who "so loves the world" be so dense as to come up with the ONLY means of spreading his message, through a book that can be subjected to translation errors and mistakes and misuse by believers and disbelievers alike? What kind of god would set existence up so that we're all doomed to eternal torment for at best 90 years of "sinfulness", and tell us about this AND the supposed ONLY path to salvation, and ONLY put it in a book that has to be spread around the world by believers, and misquoted and misused and mistranslated and abused?
What kind of god is that? Either one that's horrendously stupid (and since this would be a god that also created the Laws of Thermal Dynamics, I doubt that's the reason,) or a god that's a royal ass and really has no concept of love, mercy, and justice, (reading the OT, that's believable,) or...he doesn't exist and Judeo-Christianity is just as made up as Mithras. What would Occam's Razor decide here?

Jason said...

I’ll ask again since you didn’t answer it the first time: What does the phrase “until all is accomplished" mean to you? Is not Christ saying the law will not be changed for the remainder of time until all is fulfilled?

Here, let’s try this:

Until the fabric of time combusts, the polar ice caps will continue to melt until carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 400%.

This is what a layman would conclude:

1. The polar ice caps are melting;
2. The polar ice caps will continue to melt indefinitely;
3. The polar ice caps will continue to melt indefinitely until emissions are reduced;

This is what you would conclude:

1. The polar ice caps are melting;
2. The only way the ice caps will stop melting is if the fabric of time combusts;
3. If the fabric of time hasn’t combusted, reducing emissions will have no effect on the melting polar ice caps.

The layman understands that ‘the fabric of time combusting’ is a statement concerning a duration of time and ‘the reduction of emissions’ is the qualifying statement. The layman would naturally conclude that emissions must be reduced in order to prevent the ice caps from melting.

On the other hand, you believe the ‘fabric of time combusting’ is the qualifying statement. From your perspective, the only way the polar ice caps can be saved is if the fabric of time combusts. Therefore, reducing emissions doesn’t achieve anything.

Greenpeace would have a field day with you…

"The reason YOU'RE having problems with it and twisting the meaning around is because you can't rationally accept that the gospel has Jesus teaching non-Law behavior AND stating the Law stands until the end of time and that the bible MUST be infallible--so your cognitive dissonance makes up some irrational connection between "end of time" and his crucifixion in order to alleviate the conflict in rationality your conscious mind is trying desperately to repress for the sake of your continuing in an irrational belief.

Such big words. I don’t have a problem with anything. And neither did the disciples or first century church. In fact, I’m personally not aware of anyone who is as confused by this verse as you.

So you’re saying that the whole point behind Jesus’ sacrifice is tied into the Flood?...No, I'm not saying that."

Yes you are. These were your words: “…God told Noah his covenant was that he wouldn't destroy the world with flood again. Maybe Jesus' new covenant deals with that.” I'm asking what verses you have handy to support this interpretation?

"I'm saying the point is, you can't say with 100% certainty what EXACTLY Jesus is talking about with the covenant business."

Yes I can. “This is the new covenant in my blood”. From this I gather that Jesus is talking about the new covenant. What was the old covenant? Whatever it was it had to do with blood. Let’s check out the first time a covenant was sealed with blood: “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” Exodus 24:7-8 The new covenant was also sealed with the blood of a sacrifice. Jesus’ blood was poured out for the sins of mankind. This was the end of the old covenant and the beginning of a new one.

"That's exactly what I'm saying: The reason why is because the bible was written by men with various agendas, various cultural backgrounds, the gospels written by different people about a man who very likely didn't exist (or at least not at all like he's being depicted,) and they're describing a myth through a game of telephone tag. The reason there's contradictory philosophy, events, lessons, etc, is because the bible is NOT the infalable word of god any more than the Odyssey is truth about Greek myth."

Which NT author contradicts another regarding the establishment of the new law? Which NT author, Jew or Gentile, contradicts anything about Christ and what he accomplished with his sacrifice? If there are no contradictions, then on what grounds are you an authority?

"Actually, like "Russel's teapot" the burden of proof is upon you to prove your religion, not mine to disprove it. If someone came to you and said Odin is the god of all, or Zeus actually exists, you would demand proof, it wouldn't be encumbrant upon you to disprove them. And your comment about translation errors is an ironic reference to the main question and challenge I keep asking that keeps getting ignored: How can a god who "so loves the world" be so dense as to come up with the ONLY means of spreading his message, through a book that can be subjected to translation errors and mistakes and misuse by believers and disbelievers alike? What kind of god would set existence up so that we're all doomed to eternal torment for at best 90 years of "sinfulness", and tell us about this AND the supposed ONLY path to salvation, and ONLY put it in a book that has to be spread around the world by believers, and misquoted and misused and mistranslated and abused?"

That's an awfully long-winded way of saying you have no examples of bible doctrines that have been corrupted as a result of translation errors. I suspected as much. Thank you.

Btsai said...

Mechphisto,

Pardon me for sticking my nose in, but I don't think there's any point in continuing to engage Jason. As you pointed out, he starts with the premise that the bible must be Truth, but refuses the burden of proof for accepting this premise. At the same time, he is unwilling to acknowledge, consider, or look into anything that might threaten this premise. Instead, he responds with thinly veiled condescension and disrespect. I observed this in previous exchanges he had with myself and others, and it appears he's stuck with the same modus operandi with you. I think you have done an admirable job of addressing his points, and any further exchange will just be a waste of your time. Anyway, that's my two cents.

Mechphisto said...

Thank you, Btsai.
And I agree. :)

Mechphisto said...

OK, I can't let it go, but I don't want to waste much more time on this. If you're really interested (which I doubt) look into the Bishop's Bible, which was the standard Bible for greater Europe for centuries. Horribly mistranslated.
Wycliffe, which was one of the first English bibles, also terribly translated.
The King James, while the first real scholarly bible, also got a lot wrong.
Even the two most respected bibles for accuracy, NAB and RSV, have differences between them that change the meaning of words and phrases.
Compare "The Good News Bible" with the RSV and tell me that there's not HUGE changes in the meanings of phrases.
blueletterbible.com can help you compare current translations.
And I already gave the example of "Misquoting Jesus" as a place to begin to get loads of information regarding the changes and differences in scripture over time and place.
One example I can provide you is the end of Mark. Some "original" manuscripts have it ending where the women run off in fright. Later "original" manuscripts have the added ending.

But again, you, and every single believer I have ever asked this, have failed to address the more important, fundamental question, and I know you will continue to ignore it:
How can a god who "so loves the world" be so dense as to come up with the ONLY means of spreading his message, through a book that can be subjected to translation errors and mistakes and misuse by believers and disbelievers alike? What kind of god would set existence up so that we're all doomed to eternal torment for at best 90 years of "sinfulness", and tell us about this AND the supposed ONLY path to salvation, and ONLY put it in a book that has to be spread around the world by believers, and misquoted and misused and mistranslated and abused?
What kind of god is that? Either one that's horrendously stupid (and since this would be a god that also created the Laws of Thermal Dynamics, I doubt that's the reason,) or a god that's a royal ass and really has no concept of love, mercy, and justice, (reading the OT, that's believable,) or...he doesn't exist and Judeo-Christianity is just as made up as Mithras.

Goodbye.

Jason said...

Whether Mark has a short ending or long ending, what doctrine has been changed either way? This is what I'm getting at. No one's saying the translators were inspired but the point is, even with this being the case, no one, not even Christianity itself, has been able to change or insert an entire Bible doctrine at any point in history. Why? Because the Bible is more then just another man-made book.

As for my responses being condescending and disrespectful, I find it incredibly telling that some atheists, like Btsai, are so quick to judge a Christian who is standing up for what they believe and yet the same turns a blind eye to one of his own who says "your god is a prick" and "horrendously stupid" and "a royal ass". Why is that? I'd like an answer.

As Michael said previously, if the Bible contradicts my statements about god, feel free to point it out. If the Bible contradicts Christian beliefs regarding the new law, feel free to point them out but don't do it just to pick a fight, do it because you have PROOF that Christianity is wrong.

Jesus ushered in the new law. How many verses prove this? A dozen? Two dozen? And yet I'm the one who doesn't want to acknowledge that Jesus didn't actually usher in the new law. Sure, it makes perfect sense. I'm supposed to take the words of an atheist, who has no proof to back up their point, over Scripture. Here's a novel concept - what if atheists simply took a Christian's word on matters pertaining to the Bible. Gasp!!

To top it all off, I'm being accused of ignoring "fundamental questions" while countless questions of mine can be ignored without any problems. Why is that? According to you, Paul and Jesus have conflicting messages. What are they? Psa 119 - Did Christ “destroy” the old law or did he “fulfill” it? Where's your Biblical references tying Jesus' sacrifice in with Noah and the Flood?

As for your question...what is your question? Take out the sarcasm and disrespect and ask again.

Btsai said...

Jason said,

As for my responses being condescending and disrespectful, I find it incredibly telling that some atheists, like Btsai, are so quick to judge a Christian who is standing up for what they believe and yet the same turns a blind eye to one of his own who says "your god is a prick" and "horrendously stupid" and "a royal ass". Why is that? I'd like an answer.

People deserve respect, ideas don't. When *people*, whatever their beliefs, are disrespected, I speak up (see my posts as Benny in this thread). The 3 quotes you provided were all targeted at the *idea* of a god who would do things like leave his message in an error-prone document that is easily mis-translated, mis-quoted, and mis-used, and condemn people to eternal torment for no more than 90 years of sinfulness. Mechphisto has shown no disrespect towards you. You have not extended the same courtesy to him.

As for your question...what is your question? Take out the sarcasm and disrespect and ask again.

As Matthew 7:3 asks, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Regarding your other questions, I see no reason why anyone should address them. You've given no indication of being interested in any actual discussion. See ya.

Jason said...

As an atheist, you choose to mock the God I believe in and revere. Calling Him a "prick" and a "royal ass" is disrespecting and mocking my beliefs, it's mocking my choice of religion and it's mocking something I hold to be important.

"You have not extended the same courtesy to him." For example?

Regarding your other questions, I see no reason why anyone should address them. You've given no indication of being interested in any actual discussion. See ya."

Oh, I'm interested in discussion. But it's tough to do when the other side keeps sulking off when the going gets tough. Michael made the comment, "If the Bible contradicts my statements about god, feel free to point it out." The response? Utter silence. This is what makes discussion rather difficult.

Jennifer said...

Please excuse me, Jason and Mechphisto.

Benny,
I feel a bit like an itruder here with the exchange going on...I didn't read it all the first time.

Thanks for asking about the move, it went well and we are very happy with our new place. Are you ready to talk about red shift because I'm ready to look it up again ;)

Anyway...you got me on gun control, it's not in the Bible but it is part of the evolving morality today and having experience with what I mentioned has prompted me to be 100% in favor of the right to keep and bear arms.

The rest is based on the opinion that the reason we are where we are today is not because of the Enlightenment but because of many key steps that were taken and key people who helped bring about change. I'm fairly confident that you will find that the influence of biblical morals has allowed people groups to thrive...not follow the biblical blueprint perfectly, but to attain to a high moral standard which has resulted in the state of relative peace and prosperity we enjoy today in our country.

I think the trail of Christianity as a religion and a way of life, but moreso the way of life, has been one of healing and helping humanity. Yes, there have been horrible things done too, but overall the influence of Christianity which has it's roots in the God of the Bible, has brought the world to a better place.

If not; why is it that the only countries that can boast of prosperity (I challenge the definition of prosperity as we know it, but that's a different topic) descended from a biblical heritage, even if it is a loose one?

Not everything in the Bible makes sense to me and I won't bend it and fit it into my neat little box, but I don't think that the message that is spoken throughout the whole book is made any less powerful because of the few things that I don't understand.

Thanks for responding, Benny, it's a pleasure to converse with you.. and a challenge.

Mechphisto said...

Why can't I leave well enough alone?
Everything you've mentioned, Jason, I've addressed except your cognitive biases won't accept it. And you have still to address the most important question of all: The discongruity between a loving and merciful god, and providing the ONLY means of salvation for people for the last 2000 years and the future contained in a book that is not clear, not decisive, not without debate and controversy, and prone to translation errors.

I really should ignore you now, but I have two follow-ups and one new comment.

Why is it, if Jesus was so clear in what he said, and the proof so obvious and rampant about his existence, there was HUGE strife and disagreement among even the Christians of the 1st-4th centuries? You have the Gnostics who were a large "denomination" who didn't even believe Jesus existed in the flesh. (Many biblical scholars believe Paul didn't either.) You do realize that there were a LOT of gospels aside from the four canonized ones, yes? Mary, Timothy, Judas, Nicodemus, and scores more. Each with some very different ideas about Jesus and his message.
One of the reasons for the Nicaean Councils in the 4th century was to get some stuff straight and create one set dogma and put an end to all the conflict and disagreement. And this was only 300 years after Jesus was supposedly there!

Also, thanks btsai for speaking in my defense. I don't have any respect for the idea that is created from the fundamental conflict between a loving and just god, and one who sets his creation up to be damned by default unless you come in contact with a book that's the sole keeper of the knowledge of salvation from eternal torment for a flicker of a lifetime of potential sin. And not even your OWN sin, but the supposed sin of Adam no less. A book written during a time of extreme superstition and scientific ignorance and rampant cults. An omniscient god would have known this would be a problem for thousands of years of future supposedly loved humans. All the evidence points to a god who really doesn't love us, is in fact slanted the field against us, or doesn't exist.

As for the ending of Mark: in one version you have the women commanded to go and tell people, but it ends with them running in fear. With a definitive end there, it implies that the message didn't get out and the events that followed weren't important. The latter additions imply humans didn't like that message, and so added an ending. but the point is this: That's proof the scripture is subject to editorial changes and adjustments, and that's an absurd way for an omniscient and omnipotent god to chose to get out the most important message of all time!

Finally, back to the ridiculous details of minutia: your interpretation of Jesus statement was said only days, weeks at best, before he was to be crucified, and he knew it. So, in essence, you're saying Jesus said: "Hear this, for it's very important: Every word of the Old Law stands until the end of time...or a few days. I know which it will be, but for you 30 or so people listening to me, just know that you follow the Old Law, period until one or the other happens. Which will be in just a few days by the way."

You're saying that God found it so very important that 0.00000000001% of the population at the time know in no uncertain terms that the Old Law should be observed for another few days, and that 99.999999999999...% of all the people who would ever live on this planet, it doesn't matter because he will have "fulfilled the law" by the time they read about it? That's patently absurd.

OK, everything important addressed, I know you won't ever address the most important and over-reaching question I've posed which ALWAYS gets dismissed by every believer I've ever asked it of (even though it's more important of a question than anything else said here), and nothing I can say will possibly get through your wall of cognitive bias. I will finally take btsai's wise advice and leave now.

Btsai said...

Hi Jennifer,

Don't worry, you're not interrupting much of anything :)

I'm very happy to hear that the move went well! Regarding red shift, I would love to pick up where we left off. But the most appropriate place would probably be the thread where that discussion was taking place, and I can't find it :(

I'm fairly confident that you will find that the influence of biblical morals has allowed people groups to thrive...not follow the biblical blueprint perfectly, but to attain to a high moral standard which has resulted in the state of relative peace and prosperity we enjoy today in our country.

I agree that certain moral values have enabled people to thrive and achieve high moral standards. What I challenge is the claim that they are exclusively biblical. Can you point to a single "good" moral value and demonstrate that it is exclusively biblical?

Yes, there have been horrible things done too, but overall the influence of Christianity which has it's roots in the God of the Bible, has brought the world to a better place.

If not; why is it that the only countries that can boast of prosperity (I challenge the definition of prosperity as we know it, but that's a different topic) descended from a biblical heritage, even if it is a loose one?


I think before we go any further down this path, it would be best if I asked you exactly what your defintion of prosperity is.

Thank you for your compliment Jennifer, the feeling is mutual.

Btsai said...

Jennifer,

I just found the old thread where we talked about red shift and other cosmology issues.

First, I would like to apologize to you. By the end of that exchange, I was incredibly rude and disrespectful to you! I'm truly sorry about that.

Second, I see that our discussion had nothing to do with the opening article of that thread. In lieu of reviving an old and off-topic discussion, would you be interested in taking our cosmology discussion to email? If you're ok with that, just send an email to bitsai@hotmail.com (and please post here to let me know if/when you do, because it's a throw-away account I check very infrequently), and I'll respond from my real email account. This way, neither of us have to leave our real email addresses here. This will probably sound silly to you, but unfortunately, there are some people here whom I have no wish to expose my email address to.

Mechphisto said...

If I may interject on the conversation, I've some feedback:

Yes, there have been horrible things done too, but overall the influence of Christianity which has it's roots in the God of the Bible, has brought the world to a better place.

If not; why is it that the only countries that can boast of prosperity (I challenge the definition of prosperity as we know it, but that's a different topic) descended from a biblical heritage, even if it is a loose one?


Confusing collation with causality is a common logical error. Because Western culture has seen more "progress" than other areas of the world may not be because of the predominate religion, but because of cultural elements that caused it to keep a hold of one religion IN ADDITION to the "progress" it saw.

Take ancient Greek culture circa 400 BCE. Thriving and modern! The earliest, best working example of democracy in action! Philosophy, medicine, cultural equality, science. And they had a large pantheon of "pagan" gods.

Then the Romans, and empire built heavily on the Hellenistic example. Irrigation, sanitation, thriving economy, also (for much of the time) a working and fair representative government. And a huge pantheon of gods.

Then what happens? Constantine makes Christianity one of the official religions. Then a later emperor makes it the official religion. And here's the rub: unlike 99% of the other Middle Eastern and lower European religions, Christianity was about one god only, and converting people. Mix that with the most powerful empire in history (which got that way BEFORE Christianity,) and all of a sudden you have the official religion spread out around Europe at the point of a spear.

So, you have a continent that already had the tradition and mindset of progress and improvement and assimilation. (The Romans were a lot like The Borg.) And a religion that was intolerant and selfish and hated competition. It's only natural then that as the West continued to "progress" that religion that got its tendrils intertwined in with it, came along too.

Ethical moral behavior has been around LONG before Christianity (even the Hebrews--just look at Hammurabi's Laws for one example), and in places untouched by Christianity. If anything, it can be said that Christianity has hindered progress in many ways. The Dark Ages were a time of intellectual stagnation due to The Church's desire to stifle science, innovation, and curiosity. The greatest collection of knowledge the world had ever seen, the Library of Alexandria was burned down by Christians.

During this same period, the Arabian lands were in the middle of a HUGE renaissance of sorts, developing algebra and art and social reforms. And they were moderate Muslims. Until the Crusades, thank you The Church, sparked a war that basically hasn't ended.

If you were to sort the bible and put in one column all the "good morals" (don't steal, don't lie...) and the "bad morals" (slavery, sell daughters, offer daughters to be raped by a mod, genocide,) you'll find two things: There is FAR more god-encouraged immorality than morality, and all the "good stuff" isn't unique to Christianity and can be found in most every culture.

Jennifer said...

I agree that there has been morality in every culture, of sorts. Romans had slaves, conquered by the sword, were not known for mercy and I wouldn't hold them up; in any stage of cultural development, as promoting gender equality.

The Roman Republic came about after years of the Roman Empire and interestingly enough was during the time of the highest Jewish population in the Republic.

The burning of the library of Alexandria has not been conclusive so it remains a bit of a mystery with several possibilities. While Christians, in name, may have been involved...I don't know...there are too many variables that are unknown. But it is well documented that it was Christian monks who copied books day and night. This was around the same period as the Book of Kells is thought to have been written.

Not a scholarly source, but a summary:
Irish Scribes

My point is not that a successful civilization cannot happen outside of biblical influence, but that biblical influence has brought about the very best in successful civilization.


Is the idea that we should love one another as much as we love ourselves, to the point of sacrificing our preferences for the sake of bettering someone else found in other religions? Maybe it is, but I haven't read it yet.

Another interesting thing to note about your examples is that the cultures listed all believed in some sort of god or gods and even if the leaders did not actually believe themselves, they saw the benefit of having a god to believe in. I don't think a person shoule believe in a god just because it is a good idea, but like C.S. Lewis found, all people seem to have a propensity for belief in a deity.

Russia and China didn't do very well with their anti-god based ideology.

Mechphisto said...

Jennifer, thank you for the thoughtful reply.

The bottom line, is "very best society" is VERY subjective. Being raised in a western culture, we're inclined to think of "the best society" from our point of view.
China had an amazingly advanced society with completely no contact with Judaism for centuries.
While the Roman Republic came about during a height of Judaism, Judaic influence upon the Romans was minuscule at best. And mainly in Judea. Their influence in Rome and southern Italy, Egypt, and Greece where nearly non-existent. In any case, Rome was on a course to their height long before Hebraic height.
In any case, while Rome's sense of equality of the sexes may be lacking by today's standards, it was FAR advanced by contemporary standards. Women owned property, they had a say in legal affairs (to a degree), thier sexual equality was even moreso.
Compare that to biblical treatment of women! In the bible, women did not own property, they were treated AS property! Daughters were sold, wives were considered the property of the husband. And that didn't change in the new testament. Paul said explicitly that women were to be subjugated by the men. They were not to speak in church. They were a tool for offspring and a release for men who could not choose celibacy for life--which was preferred, according to Paul. Revelations indicated that only 144,000 men who have not been "defiled" by women would be immediately taken to heaven. What kind of ethics is that to go by?

Speaking of slavery, Rome isn't the only culture guilty of it--ever read the OT? Yahveh heavily condones slavery. And Jesus never says a thing against slavery in the NT. In fact, he compares God to a slave master in several places.

The biggest defenders of slavery over the last few hundred years in America, and then opponents of racial equality, have been Christians using biblical examples. The biggest opponents to women's suffrage and women's rights have been Christians using biblical examples.

The bible is a horrendous source for moral guidance. Most Christians who think the bible, especially the NT, is full of good moral examples, haven't actually read it and are only going by what religious authority tells them. Jesus many times instructs his followers to leave their families, abandon them as useless. He many times shows his own mother the kind of disrespect he'd be stoned for under OT Law. For centuries, people have been using the bible as rationalization for some of the worst crimes. At risk of enacting Godwin's Law, I point to Nazis and Hitler as just one example.

Meanwhile, the problem with past "anti-god based ideologies" haven't been the anti-god, but have been the anti-reason and rationality. They supplanted religion in a supernatural god with religion in Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. They just substituted one religion for another. Is that any worse than Europe throughout the Dark Ages when pro-god based ideology stopped growth and progress? While ancient China's non-Christian ideology brought it great growth--until emperors came to power that basically formed religions around themselves.

The fact that most humans, more and more the further back into superstitious times you go, believe in some sort of god does not necessarily prove there's (a) god(s), but does prove the imagination and curiosity and ingenuity of the human mind. As sentient beings we realize we exist, we see phenomenon (such as weather) which we don't understand, so we make up reasons as best we can from our experience: Humans affect the world around us, so there must be super-humans who make bigger effects, and these become gods. The more we understand what causes earthquakes, how life evolves, tornadoes, how seasons affect crops, what causes disease...the need for gods to explain these things (be it Baal, Zeus, The Great Spirit, or Yahveh,) becomes increasingly unnecessary. We've discovered biological, neurological components to how and why we believe that C.S. Lewis wasn't privy to. Not to mention the fact that every year more and more people revert back to the ideology they were born with: atheism. No one is ever born with a belief in Allah, or Yahveh, or Odin, or Mithra. We're all born atheists, until we're indoctrinated into a religion by the chance of where and when we're born.

Mechphisto said...

Sorry, more...

No, loving each other and sacrificing for each other is the best was to live! But that's not a concept that's unique to Christianity. In fact, you find that kind of behavior all over the world and even in places untouched by Judeo-Christiandom. It's an evolved behavior that can even be seen in the animal kingdom--moreso the closer you get to the primates, and more so in the primates that form social groupings.

I counter that biblical influence has brought about the worst in society. Continued slavery through centuries, intolerance for all people not like themselves (a concept rare in non-Abrahamic religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, and animism.) It's encouraged ignorance and subjugation to religious leaders at the expense of human rights and liberty.

Look at the forming of the US 200 years ago. They set out to create a secular government free from the religion that the founding fathers observed as the source of political despotism and murder and corruption in Europe. Under secular government, America has flourished. Until starting about the 1950's when we sought to strike a greater difference between us and the USSR. We started seeing God inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance, on our money, and the beginnings of fundamentalism. Until over the last 50 years as America has become more religious and "faithful," we've fallen and fallen in education and risen in crime, abortion, teen pregnancy, and drug use. Meanwhile, countries like the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, have become increasingly secular and eschewing religion, and their education levels are higher, their GNP's are growing, they have less crime, abortion, and pregnancies. Greater tolerance among the races and sexes and sexual preferences.
(All this is with the exceptions of where fundamental Islam is starting to create strife and discord.)

Jennifer said...

Mechphisto,
We could go on and on! You have so many good points that I'll have to mull and then organize my mulling to give an appropriate response.

Btsai said...

Jennifer,

Doh, I just saw that you and Mechphisto have posted while I was composing this. And it looks like Mechphisto has already made some of the points I wanted to make. But I'll post this anyway, in hopes of still being able to contribute something...

My point is not that a successful civilization cannot happen outside of biblical influence, but that biblical influence has brought about the very best in successful civilization.

I don't think this claim has evidential support. To begin with, please explain your definition of a successful civilization, or list the civilizations you consider successful. The next part, the hard part, is to prove that biblical influence is the chief factor in these civilizations' success. As Mechphisto puts it, it is a mistake to believe that the collation of biblical influence and success proves that biblical influence causes success. I'm not aware of any sociological studies that come anywhere close to establishing something like that, and without such studies, I don't think there is sufficient reason to accept your claim.

Is the idea that we should love one another as much as we love ourselves, to the point of sacrificing our preferences for the sake of bettering someone else found in other religions? Maybe it is, but I haven't read it yet.

Values like love, compassion, and altruism were around long before the advent of Christianity. They are most certainly not exclusive to Christianity! For instance, Buddhism (which pre-dates Christianity by centuries) extolls its believers to cultivate the Four Immeasurables:

Metta/Maitri: loving-kindness towards all; the hope that a person will be well; loving kindness is "the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy."

Karuna: compassion; the hope that a person's sufferings will diminish; compassion is the "wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering."

Mudita: altruistic joy in the accomplishments of a person, oneself or other; sympathetic joy, "is the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings."

Upekkha/Upeksha: equanimity, or learning to accept both loss and gain, praise and blame, success and failure with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others; equanimity means "not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation."

Wiki page

And I hope you do not buy into the stereotype that atheists do not have compassion for fellow human beings?

I don't think a person shoule believe in a god just because it is a good idea, but like C.S. Lewis found, all people seem to have a propensity for belief in a deity.

A propensity for belief in a deity does not prove the existence of a deity. Nor does it prove that such a propensity is good or useful. And in any case, atheists such as myself would seem to be perfect counter-examples dis-proving C.S. Lewis' claim.

Russia and China didn't do very well with their anti-god based ideology.

As far as I know, most atheists do not promote an anti-religion ideology, a la communism. We prefer secularism, such as found in most western European nations. Who seem to be doing just fine, scoring higher than more religious nations (including the US) on most measures of quality-of-life (I used to have some links for this, but can't locate them at the moment; if you want, I'll dig them up this weekend).

P.S. When you get a chance, I would like to know what you think of my proposal about taking the red shift discussion to email...

Jason said...

Mechphisto, I appeal to you on the basis of the sheer weight of Biblical evidence regarding the new law. Here are just a few verses talking about the new law and what Christ accomplished through his death:

Jer 31:31, Mat 26:28, Luk 5:38, Jhn 1:29, Rom 3:21-25, Rom 8:3, 2Cr 3:6, Col 1:14, Col 2:16, Gal 3:24-25, Eph 1:7, Hbr 8:6-7, Hbr 8:13, Hbr 9:14-18, Hbr 9:28, Hbr 10:8, Hbr 12:24, Hbr 13:20, 1Pe 2:24, 1Pe 3:18, 1Jo 2:2, 1Jo 3:5

There are more but I think you get the idea. The point of this is to plainly show you that my/Christian beliefs have nothing to do with “cognitive biases”. The beliefs regarding the new law are based purely on Biblical evidence, of which there is plenty to prove the new law is valid and in place.

“The discongruity between a loving and merciful god, and providing the ONLY means of salvation for people for the last 2000 years and the future contained in a book that is not clear, not decisive, not without debate and controversy, and prone to translation errors.”

I don’t see what the “discongruity” is. It’s an opinion that the Bible isn’t clear or decisive (as many others have differen perspective) and debate and controversy stems from man trying to push his own brand of religion (or lack thereof). I’ve asked a number of times for evidence of translation errors that have affected entire doctrines.

"Why is it, if Jesus was so clear in what he said, and the proof so obvious and rampant about his existence, there was HUGE strife and disagreement among even the Christians of the 1st-4th centuries?"

I’m not aware of there being a general misunderstanding of the validity of the new law in the 1st-4th centuries...? For a Christian to argue the old law is still in place, then by extension they must also admit that the only means of being saved is if one were Jewish.

"You have the Gnostics who were a large "denomination" who didn't even believe Jesus existed in the flesh. (Many biblical scholars believe Paul didn't either.)"

I’m not sure what this has to do with the new law…? People can believe anything they want but just because someone says, “I don’t believe Paul existed” doesn’t mean we should simply take their word for it. Wouldn’t you agree?

"You do realize that there were a LOT of gospels aside from the four canonized ones, yes? Mary, Timothy, Judas, Nicodemus, and scores more. Each with some very different ideas about Jesus and his message."

Yes, I’m well aware of this. But again, what does this have to do with the old and new law?

"One of the reasons for the Nicaean Councils in the 4th century was to get some stuff straight and create one set dogma and put an end to all the conflict and disagreement. And this was only 300 years after Jesus was supposedly there!"

There were conflicts and disagreements during Christ’s ministry as well. This is the nature of man - refusal to accept authority. But again, I’m a little confused as to where you’re going with this… Let’s say you and I had a disagreement about whether Adam & Eve ate a forbidden orange or a forbidden pineapple. Who’s fault is it we’re having this disagreement: the ‘confusing’ Bible or the stubborn man?

"All the evidence points to a god who really doesn't love us, is in fact slanted the field against us, or doesn't exist."

Why? Because God gave us freewill? Because we have to voluntarily chose between right and wrong?

"As for the ending of Mark: in one version you have the women commanded to go and tell people, but it ends with them running in fear. With a definitive end there, it implies that the message didn't get out and the events that followed weren't important..."

I’m not arguing the existence of translation errors. I’m arguing that regardless of the number of translation errors, real or supposed, Bible doctrine has remained exactly the same for at least 2000 years. For example, even with a short ending in Mark, all of the events mentioned in the ‘long version’ can be backed up in the other Gospels. Jesus was still raised from the dead. He still appeared to Mary. The disciples were still skeptical. Etc. Etc. God's message remains unchanged. And it’s been that way for thousands of years even with hundreds of people translating it from one language to another to another to another.

"Your interpretation of Jesus statement was said only days, weeks at best, before he was to be crucified, and he knew it..."

Almost. In the verses that follow Matthew 5:18, Jesus gives his disciples the ‘new’ law, one that is based on the spirit of the old law instead of on the letter (2 Cor. 3:6). And that’s really all there is to it.

"You're saying that God found it so very important that 0.00000000001% of the population at the time know in no uncertain terms that the Old Law should be observed for another few days, and that 99.999999999999...% of all the people who would ever live on this planet, it doesn't matter because he will have "fulfilled the law" by the time they read about it? That's patently absurd."

Jesus was teaching his disciples about the new law because they were the ones given the responsibility to carry on his work after his ascension. Mat 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…”

Mechphisto said...

Why? Because God gave us freewill?

That's the only thing I'm responding to because everything else has been gone over ad nauseum.

Free will, eh? Let's look at this supposed free will.

So, God creates the universe, man, the capacity to sin, our "weak character," and eternal punishment and paradise, right? He set up the rules as to why we're all damned unless we accept the one true religion, and he's in complete control of this supernatural result of the human condition he created.
So he says, "I'm giving you free will! Isn't that great? I'm so wonderful. You have the ability to make your choice about the afterlife. You can choose (a) your way, and suffer eternity of punishment for your flicker of a life of sin, or (b) my way and get eternal paradise. Aren't I wonderful for giving you free will?!"

It's the equivalent of holding a gun to someone's head and telling them, "I'm going to follow you around the rest of your life with this gun pointed to your head. You're free to do anything you want, you have that choice. Just know that if you don't choose to eat a creame bagel at the 5th street deli every 3rd morning, I'm killing you. But hey, it's your choice."

God can keep his stinking false gift of "free will" via terrorism.

Your religion of default hell unless saved via a human written book is and then calling God merciful and fatherly is like this:
Imagine you had a huge family, many siblings. And they're spread all over the world with their families. And your father comes to you one day and says, "Jason, let me tell you something. If you or any of your siblings lies down when they sleep, I will cut off your legs and rip out your eyes. But, I'm ONLY telling just YOU! You are the only one privy to my plan. Now, go tell the rest."
And now you know that EVERYONE by default lies down in their sleep, so you have to try to reach all your siblings before nightfall to warn them what your psychotic father is going to do.

This is the salvation and free will of your religion. Yahveh loves us SO much, his special creation that he loves, that he's going to torture us forever.
Except! He gives this secret, special knowledge of salvation to a teeny tiny group of people in a remote part of the world, and they have to write it in a book, and try to spread this information about the only way out of God's demented love for us by hand. God is so smart, and so loving, and so merciful, that he gleefully tortures us unless his unworthy creation gets a book around to everyone.

Your idea of a merciful and loving god and his gift of free will is a sick f**king joke.

Michael Ejercito said...


So he says, "I'm giving you free will! Isn't that great? I'm so wonderful. You have the ability to make your choice about the afterlife. You can choose (a) your way, and suffer eternity of punishment for your flicker of a life of sin, or (b) my way and get eternal paradise. Aren't I wonderful for giving you free will?!"

It is no different than governments telling people to obey the law or go to prison.

It's the equivalent of holding a gun to someone's head and telling them, "I'm going to follow you around the rest of your life with this gun pointed to your head. You're free to do anything you want, you have that choice. Just know that if you don't choose to eat a creame bagel at the 5th street deli every 3rd morning, I'm killing you. But hey, it's your choice."

It is only equivalent if the person holding the gun is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Yahveh loves us SO much, his special creation that he loves, that he's going to torture us forever.
God, by virtue of His position as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, has decreed that the punishment for sin is eternal torment with fire and brimstone in the lake of fire.

Mark F. said...

More nonsense from Christians. The bottom line is that your God can do whatever he damn well he pleases because he's God. God wants to sodomize a 12 year old girl and he gets to do it. Why? Because he's God! Hot damn!

Michael Ejercito said...



More nonsense from Christians. The bottom line is that your God can do whatever he damn well he pleases because he's God. God wants to sodomize a 12 year old girl and he gets to do it. Why? Because he's God! Hot damn!

At least you understand what it means for God to be God.

Jason said...

Mechphisto,

Good, then at least we agree there's ample evidence/Biblical proof the new law is on place. :)

As for freewill, what part of this don't you agree with: Deu 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

Joshuah 24:15-22 is also relevant. The decision is still the same today: who to serve, God or man?

Jennifer said...

OK, now I know how Lee feels when he's got two people coming at him!

Mechphisto,
I'll get into some of your points later today, or tomorrow for sure.

Benny,
I think e-mail would work well for a discussion about redshift. I will send an e-mail later today..I'm up too late. No worries about being rude, I honesly don't remember. I think you are wise to not give out a real e-mail!

Here goes a bit:

I agree that certain moral values have enabled people to thrive and achieve high moral standards. What I challenge is the claim that they are exclusively biblical. Can you point to a single "good" moral value and demonstrate that it is exclusively biblical?

I am not claiming that good values are exclusively biblical as I believe in the imprint of God on all humanity. BUT..the only group of people who I observe consistently aiding their enemy and historically have demonstrated unequalled acts of compassion are Christian. It may be hard to believe, but I don't say that lightly or smuggly. I'm thinking; Red Cross, George Mueller, Franciscan Health Care, World Vision etc.. I am aware that there are many, many other organizations who help around the world, but historically it SEEMS that Christians led the way in philanthropy.

About Buddhism..
Those are excellent values. The observation that kept me from Buddhism was the emphasis on self. Being kind is good, but I don't see a genuine love of all peole coming from Buddhists. It seems they are more interested in reaching nirvana than in helping others to reach it too.

A prosperous civilization is:

1) able to support itself with it's own resources.

2) working toward harmonious family relationships.

3) knowledgeable of anatomy and physiology with advancing medical practice administered with respect.

4) sanitary.

5) able to put up a good defense against invasion.

6) unified in purpose.

That is my list of important basics, but for the argument above I was referring to the U.S. and U.K.. I do not admire every aspect of our lifestyle and am opposed to some aspects, but overall I think these two countries would be seen as the most successful.
Putting defense on that list is a double edged sword because ideally there would not be a need for defense. In reality I think there will always be a need for defense because there will always be dark hearts.

That's all I have time for!

Mechphisto said...

Jennifer, another thoughtful reply.
Buddhism does often focus on the self, because it's the self that you are in control of and have the most responsibility of. You can't control what other people do, but you can control how you react to people. And your behavior affects other people. Where do you star? With yourself.

Judeo-Christianity is also rather extremely focused on the self. More Judaism, admittedly. The goal is to avoid damnation and gain heaven. That's the most base level, but that's the level most people think about and most people try to convert others by. Implant fear of hell, offer gift of heaven.
On another level you have YOUR relationship with God as the focus. Still self focused. Once you do move into some of the lesser elements (I say "lesser" because the bottom line in Christianity really is: Will YOU get heaven or hell when you die?) you get "treat others as you prefer to be treated," and that's heavily focused on in Buddhism and Shinto.

As for a "prosperous civ'," that's a VERY subjective and western-centric list. I think you'd have a lot of cultural anthropologists disagree with you.
And the U.S. wouldn't qualify with your list.
We import a great deal of our goods. Food and oil. We CAN farm most of our own food if we had to--but it's unlikely the more land that gets used up for simple population support. Most of our oil comes from South America. And most of our scientific knowledge and students come from other countries. Every year less American students enter the scientific fields, and more are coming from other countries.

Other civilizations in the past did a better job at self-support. Also, some tribes in "primitive" areas do a find job supporting themselves. Wouldn't a "prosperous" nation also be one that has harmonious and fair trade with its neighbors?

Harmonious family relationships is encouraged all over the world in all cultures, past and present. The "family values" seen in the bible are pretty cruel and atrocious. "Harmony" in the bible was basically "behave or I have the right to take you to be stoned by the city gates. On my way to selling my daughter. Or handing her off to a mob to be raped in order to protect my houseguest."

The ancient Greeks were at the forfront of medical knowledge. And respect! The Hippocratic Oath, with its appeal to pagan gods for guidance by the way, came from Greece. The Romans and the pre-Muslim Arabia, and ancient China all also had pretty advanced concepts of anatomy and medicine for the time.

Sanitary, again, ancient Greece and Rome were at the forefront of sanitation. By contrast, the Christian dominated Middle Ages actually destroyed and eschewed the lessons of sanitation the Romans attempted to spread across Europe. The Christian dominated Middle Ages were plagued, literally, with filth and disease, and The Church looked down upon medical and anatomical research and education.

Good defenses is also found all over the world regardless of culture and religion.

Unified in purpose, with respect, and kind of an absurd element. It's way too subjective to be considered. What purposes? How grand or small? To what degree is unified?
From a general standpoint, the U.S. and modern west fail miserably at this, as democracy and free nations encourage and support plurality and difference in opinions. In a truly free and thriving nation, you have a mix of opinions and beliefs and dissent as well. You have questioning of politics and policies.
The best examples of truly unified purposes can be seen in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Communist China....

Jennifer said...

Mechphisto,
There are too many points for me to take at one time so I'll try to stick to the original concept of evolving morality through the teaching of Jesus.

Looking at the Middle Ages I think you can see the the flow of Christian influence for the good. The Roman Catholic Church was the most powerful group associated with Christianity, but they did not represent all of Christianity.

In thinking about what is different about followers of Christ is that we are willing to sacrifice our way of life and our lives, if needed, in order to help others know God and be fulfilled. Not all people who claim to be Christians would say that, but the very word "Christian" was first used by those who observed the followers of Christ behaving like Him. He said He came to give life more abundantly.

Paul said he would give up his own "ticket to heaven" or salvation, in order that his fellows would be able to go instead.

Men like John G. Paton brought betterment to people because of what he believed about God.

You may argue, as I once did, that missionaries ruined cultures, and some of that did happen in varying degrees of forceful inhabitation, but when weighing the good against the bad, I think the good is on the heavier side. Written language in "lesser" cultures is mostly as a result of Christian missionaries. There were and are many missionaries who did not seek to change a culture but only the heart. Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, Evelyn Brand, Albert Schweitzer, Bruce Olson (who is still alive and in the jungles of South America), and many more.

Christianity as a religion has skeletons, literally, but Christianity as a way of living out the message of Jesus has brought about, through a long chain of events, the best in society. I stick to that.

My list of a successful society was not complete and not exclusive to the U.S. and U.K. I was using those two countries as modern day examples of what sociologists would point to as successful. Like you pointed out; other major civilizations are remembered because of their advanced systems and that is what I was comparing.

Civilizations run into each other so much it's hard to tell where some of them begin and end and who influenced who. Without the Etruscans the Romans wouldn't have had aquaducts or bridges.

Gotta go.

Jennifer said...

About unity of purpose; I don't mean an end goal, but an system of shared values and ethics.

In the book I just finished, the Motilone tribe of Colombia didn't have any compassion for other Motilones outside of their own family. Literally, according to Bruce Olson, many families shared a community home but they would sometimes not even acknowledge each other. If a person from one family was dying right beside another family, nothing would be done to help. The Motilone did not reach out to other Motilones to help, they ignored each other. After the Motilone began to understand what Jesus did by "walking the trail to God", as they put it, their culture became stronger because they began to help each other and band together.

I don't see the examples of diversity making a civilization stronger...what examples would you give? A unified Europe has only existed in recent history and hasn't been around long enough to see if it is really successful. The most powerful civilizations in history were not diverse, but extremely exclusive. The countries you listed were exclusive and also very harsh in discipline. Take the Great Wall of China for example, that would have been a nightmare if you were a Chinese citizen.

I also agree that success is difficult to define because there are so many variables, but I think that success can be measured by how satisfied the inhabitants of a civilization are. I think you would agree..maybe.. that if a civilization is held captive by superstition that causes unrealistic fears, sickness, the inability to learn new things and grow, the oppression of the weak and other such devaluing behaviors, it is not successful. Yet every powerful civilization has used superstition to maintain it's power which has made it successful in the telling of history. I can hear you telling me that Christianity has been guilty of the same infractions and I agree. But I have also read, seen and experienced, the best of Christian teaching and living. I don't think anything else compares.

It seems that you are using education as the litmus test for success, is that right?

Mechphisto said...

I'll try to keep it short and babble too much.

Literally, according to Bruce Olson...

Olson is rather significant Christian missionary. He has a very ideological agenda and anything he says I consider suspect. In the many years I was a Christian and around a lot of conservative Christians with a mission, I saw a lot of "ends justify the means." People wouldn't...lie...per se', but if some (or a lot) of embellishing the truth could lead to more people coming to Jesus--that's all that mattered! Anecdotal evidence from one person is not to be trusted at face value.

I don't see the examples of diversity making a civilization stronger...what examples would you give?

Well, yes, western Europe and the U.S. I would give as examples. How long does a civ' need to be around before it's considered "successful"?

It seems that you are using education as the litmus test for success, is that right?

No, I don't believe I ever said that.
Perhaps I implied it by indicating examples of where civilizations were more successful because of their level of technical, medical, philosophical, mathematical advancement--but that's not necessarily education. That's a society in which allows a freedom of exploration, experimentation, discovery. Three qualities Christian dogma from 4th century to right to today strive to suppress, discourage, mistrust, corrupt.

Jennifer said...

Three qualities Christian dogma from 4th century to right to today strive to suppress, discourage, mistrust, corrupt.

This is what I am at odds with. Is Christian dogma what Jesus was teaching? I don't think Christianity should only be judged according to those who are dogmatic.

Have you met Bruce Olson?

Mechphisto said...

No, I've not met Olson and I don't need to. Unsupported anecdotal evidence should be considered suspect on the surface of it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_fallacy

But a brief Web search shows that Olson is a Christian missionary who has an agenda, and that as well should be treated as suspect when using what he says as evidence of cultural behavior. And the fact that all the books about Olson are less anthropological journal papers and supported research, but Christian press published sensationalist tellings of "a miracle in the jungle"--chances are...biased and likely embellished.

There are two ways to view Christianity: what is in the Bible as that's the ONLY source of what Jesus supposedly taught, and what people do with it.
First, if the godly believers that are supposed to be moved by the Holy Spirit primarily exhibit anti-exploration, anti-discovery, anti-science behavior at best, and cruel intolerance at worst, what's the difference? If what his followers do is what affects society and keeps societies in ignorance and superstition, then what does it matter what Christ taught when you're looking at whether a society is advanced by contact with Christianity (viz a vis, his followers.)
We're discussing societies as they're touched by Christianity. Since Jesus himself hasn't been seen in 2000 years, it's been his followers that are doing the touching. Making a distinction between the dogma they use and the teachings of Jesus becomes irrelevant in this case.

Secondly, Jesus didn't exactly have the most wonderful morality anyway. He was constantly petulant and intolerant of even his followers, (and fig trees), constantly calling them fools too stupid to understand his teachings (which makes me think, "Find a new way to teach!") He several times insults his mother, and even disowns her, and advises his followers to disown their own families (again, something that would have gotten them stoned according to Moses' Law). He stated he came to bring a sword, not peace, and set brother against brother. Just a few examples.

Then there's the Jesus Seminar, which was composed of dozens of historians, anthropologists, biblical and religious scholars, and after a decade of investigation came to the conclusion that only about 18% of what's printed in red in the NT was likely actually said by Jesus. And that 18% is very inconsequential stuff.

Jennifer said...

Mechphisto,
You have good points and we could back and forth and probably not convince each other of anything. I just have one last thing to say:

everyone has an agenda. :)

Mechphisto said...

True, but some people's agenda is to get at truth without human bias, and not try to convert people to an ideology founded in fallacy and superstition.

Btsai said...

Bravo, Mechphisto.

Sorry about disappearing. Was away this weekend helping my fiancee pack for her upcoming move. In any case, I don't think I could've contributed much more beyond what Mechphisto already said. It's been an enlightening exchange. Jennifer, Mechphisto, I look forward to reading more from both of you here at DC.