The Nature of our Arguments and the Christian Worldview

The circular nature of our debates goes something like this: A believer may begin by quoting the Bible to us, like John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

So we pick on one of the issues in the quote, and we may say something like, “I see no reason for God to condemn us for our sins. The punishment does not fit the crime.” And the debate begins.

The believer may argue that our sins do indeed deserve eternal condemnation because they are an offense against an infinite God.

Then we may respond that hell is such a terrible punishment no civilized person would punish their worst enemy by casting them into hell.

The believer will probably respond that people in hell prefer to be there than in the light and glory of God in heaven.

We might ask why God ever gave us free will in the first place if people end up in hell.

Believers might respond that God wants people who freely worship him.

Non-believer: Besides, it has been shown that there was a long process of transmission of the texts of the Bible along with a long process of canonization that we cannot really know what the Bible truly says, and if so, why do you believe it?

Believer: Because God guided this process perfectly behind the scenes.

Non-believer: How do you know God exists in the first place?

Believer: There are some strong philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

Non-believer: No, all of them have holes in them.

Believer: But they add up cumulatively to the existence of the God of the Bible, besides, there is very strong evidence for the resurrection of Jesus which confirms both that God exists and that the Bible is God’s word.

Non-believer: No, the evidence for the resurrection is very weak coming from an ancient superstitious world.

Believer: The rest of the ancient world was indeed superstitious, but early Christians were different and based their beliefs upon evidence. And Jesus died on the cross for my sins to I can be saved and rose again.

Non-believer: I see no way that a human sacrifice can do anything to save me from my sins.

Believer: Jesus took upon himself the punishment for your sins so you can be forgiven.

Non-believer: Then what about those who have never heard?

Believer: God knows their hearts.

Non-believer: What about all of the intense suffering in the world?

Believer: God gave us free will, and even if I cannot say why there is so much suffering, God knows the reason why, and I trust him.

Non-believer: Why do you trust God when it comes to all of this?

Believer: Because the Bible is true and is confirmed by arguments for God’s existence and the resurrection of Jesus.

--------------

Okay? This is the nature of our debates, and it goes round and round.

Here’s the rub. We are dealing with a whole worldview. Worldviews serve as a set of control beliefs that reinforce one another. When an argument is weak on one issue the Christian can lean upon other background beliefs to support the weaknesses in any one particular issue we’re speaking about. But we can only speak of one issue at a time! We cannot effectively deal with all of the issues of the whole Christian worldview.

That’s why I wrote my book. It deals with all of the major issues of the Christian worldview. The Christian who has a hard time defending hell who must punt to a separate issue, like the omniscience of God, or the resurrection, will find those other issues dealt with in that same book. In my opinion we cannot effectively deal with the whole Christian worldview unless the Christian is willing to read up on all of the issues in a skeptical book like mine.

So round and round we go. Where we stop nobody knows.

Christian, if I hadn’t written my book, I would still highly recommend it. If you seriously want to deal with the whole range of issues you must defend, then I challenge you to get it and read it. You will not have the option of retreating to background beliefs to support your other beliefs, because they are all dealt with in my one book.

I dare you. If you think your faith is on solid ground then you have nothing to lose. If you can read my book and your faith becomes stronger, then I have helped you. If your faith falters then your faith wasn’t worth having in the first place. Think about it, there is nothing to lose. And you will learn a few things in the process, no matter what you conclude when you're done with it.

57 comments:

metaphyzxx said...

I suppose this argument works with someone whose faith is based on what they've been told by someone else. A christian who is a christian based on the say-so of other christians instead of a copy of the template, Jesus himself. I played that scenario with myself and got about 4 questions in before my OWN response to those questions diverged.

If you keep the conversation on a one-on-one level, it's a whole 'nuther conversation with me.

Let's be honest here, both of us exercise faith. Not that "christian-ese" faith, but the REAL thing. You believe in your innermost heart, you're confident there's no God, and thus all of your actions are based on that confidence. Mine is the opposite.

Not trying to accuse you of being religious in an alternative fashion, just to let you know where I see our shared starting point, because I know a counterpoint is coming.

metaphyzxx said...

Just to let you know, I made SURE that I have a link to your site on my site.. which I really need to work on bringing up. I personally think it's a shame that you're perfectly willing to link to apologetic resources and the so-called "defenders of the faith" don't even want to acknowledge your existance... or even worse, HIDE from you.

If you can debunk their religious approach to God, you've got my back on this, and MY faith is in your corner.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

From the post: "Believer: Because the Bible is true and is confirmed by arguments for God’s existence and the resurrection of Jesus."

If God can be reduced to a literary work, then of course He can be debunked. But, by the spirit, (and this can be confirmed by scripture) faith comes by the spirit - a free spirit and the life of faith is a practice (meaning that it doesn't necessarily equate in immediate and complete compliance to the faithful life). If God could be constrained by man then of course He would be corrupted into our image.

It seems that instead of trying to erase and run away from Y'shua, we ought to turn to Him when people mistreat one another rather than say, "Since people get infected with and incite evil, let's erase God and allow people to govern!". This equation no longer makes sense to me, although at one time it did.

Faith is not demonstrated in compliance with outward circumstances - on the contrary - the expression of faith comes from an internal peace and is demonstrated in how one responds in the face of distressful circumstances and mistreatment.

Thanks, MMM

Gribble The Munchkin said...

Manifesting Mini Me wrote:
"Faith is not demonstrated in compliance with outward circumstances - on the contrary - the expression of faith comes from an internal peace and is demonstrated in how one responds in the face of distressful circumstances and mistreatment."

Thats quite beautiful but not even close to the truth. It may certainly be true of very spiritual mystics and certain holymen/women, but not of your average christian, muslim or jew.

Most followers of the Abramic religions are motivated not by peace but by emotion. Back in my christian days many of the church goers had all kinds of issues, just like the rest of us. They didn't have a faith based on peace, they had a faith based on what they were bought up with, what they felt comfortable with (the community of the church helps with this) and as a way of assuaged their fears over the unknown.

Scared of death - don't be, god loves you and you go to heaven when you die.
Scared of gays/muslims/atheists - thats ok, god says they are scum who will burn forever.
Scared of being lonely - enjoy the community of a church
Curious about the universe, scared by its enormity - heres a nice cosy world view to make you feel good.

Christianity did not prosper all these years because Europe (the bedrock of the faith) was a peaceful content place, it wasn't, it was ravaged by war and death and religion was the only thing that made it tolerable. Serfs tolerated slavery because the church assured them that was their lot and by taking it they'd get to heaven. The rich tithed 10% because they were told it got them inot heaven and excused their sins.

Christianity may have calmed down a little but you can look to all kinds of christians with anything but peace in their hearts.

metaphyzxx said...

"Scared of death - don't be, god loves you and you go to heaven when you die.
Scared of gays/muslims/atheists - thats ok, god says they are scum who will burn forever.
Scared of being lonely - enjoy the community of a church
Curious about the universe, scared by its enormity - heres a nice cosy world view to make you feel good."


What the HELL?
What God is THIS? Seriously, is this the God YOU serve? No wonder people don't want anything to do with him. Heck, that's the one that made me an agnostic back when I was one.

Joseph said...

The God of the Bible is very scary, when he's not so nice, metaphyzxx. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever...and if Jesus is God...then Jesus is the same God who said to put homos to death, stone rebellious children, and exterminate women and children. Not the kind of God I'm interested in serving. But, then again, the Bible is so open to interpretation that we can pretty much find any God we want to in there, can't we?

that atheist guy said...

Re. the post: That pretty much sums it up!

Re. the comment by Metaphzxx, you wrote, "Let's be honest here, both of us exercise faith. Not that "christian-ese" faith, but the REAL thing. You believe in your innermost heart, you're confident there's no God, and thus all of your actions are based on that confidence."

I can't speak for John, but I find that comment to be a little odd. First of all I assume you are talking about Yahweh. Why can't I say I just disagree with your claims about the existence of such a being? Why does my disagreement have to be described as a faith in my "innermost heart"? I think it would be odd to say I believe in my innermost heart that fairies/ghosts/aliens on other planets don't exist. I just haven't seen good evidence for any of those things so I disagree with people who believe those things do exist.

All all of your actions based on the confidence that Zeus doesn't exist? Maybe to the extant that we aren't going to any ancient Greek temples to worship him, but it just seems odd to focus on it.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Gribble - I understand your comment when you say "that is not even close to the truth". I am growing more to value God's way over the ways of those who could care less about me.

I used to be expected to comply immediately to the demands of authority (an often impossible expectation to place on someone). That sort of authority is unrealistic and pretty inhumane, especially when it requires stifling heartfelt emotion and crying.

Grace is not immediate or strict compliance to an imposed demand, but rather a healing or softening process - quite the opposite of what most people practice, so it is difficult to perceive and understand God when there are so many portrayals to the contrary - but, there is grace even for distortions of the gospel message.

Granted, the words of Yshua are often strict - but they are prophetic in demonstrating the difference between man's way and God's way. Y'shua's strict words are in opposition to the harshness and mistreatment that we impose on one another.

Thanks for conversing! Take care! MMM

Thranil said...

My typical argument goes slightly differently... It usually starts similarly, but I just keep going with the "well, prove that what you say is true" aspect. Here's a sample:

Believer: If you don't accept Jesus then you are going to hell.

Me: Ah, and how do you know that hell exists?

B: Because the bible says it does. Jesus says it does.

Me: Ok, and why should I believe that your holy book has any more truth than the Q'ran, Upanishads, Bodhisattvas, Dianetics, etc? I mean, you don't believe that those books are true, right? Well, make your case why I should believe yours.

I usually find at this point that believers usually do one of three things: invoke a "personal experience" of god, blow me off , or actually try to present some sort of evidence/arguments in favor of the bible. For the few that try to present evidence, I simply deal with any evidence that they bring up one piece at a time... I just take the tact that since THEY are making the claim, THEY have to back it up, not me.

So far, no one has been able to remotely prove to me that the bible should be taken any more seriously than any other mythical writings...

metaphyzxx said...

Joseph: My mom is 67 years, 5'4" and about 130lbs, not the most intimidating physical presence. At the same time, she's terrifying if you piss her off. Unfortunately, this is one of those uncomfortable "Deeds/Ways" arguments that's difficult to argue without making assumptions that can't be made in this forum. Let's just say this, I know what to do and not to do that would/wouldn't piss off my mother. You don't, but that's only because you don't know her or understand how she operates.

metaphyzxx said...

t.a.g: Come back to me when you actually decide to stay on the subject. Since this is a site dedicated to the purpose of discussion on legitimacy of belief in God (specifically directed toward evangelical Christianity), the distant argument about belief in Zeus indicates to me that you don't take anything I say seriously... Thus, that conversation is over.

Thanil: You, my friend are exactly the kind of person I'd love to have a discussion with, primarily because you know what it is you're talking about, and you're at least willing to keep it close to the vest. Only question I have for you is this "If someone WAS able to give you reason as to why you should follow the god of the bible over the other religions, how would that actually impact you? Would you actually DO it??

Joseph said...

Fine, mataphyzxx, but the God of the Bible is infinitely more scary than your mother! I'm responding to your earlier statement that seemed shocked that anyone would believe in a cruel deity, such as the one Gribble describes.

And, I don't think the atheist guy's interjection of Zeus into the picture is irrelevant at all. In fact, I like what Thranil has to say: "Ok, and why should I believe that your holy book has any more truth than the Q'ran, Upanishads, Bodhisattvas, Dianetics, etc?" Christian assume that their book is superior to the others and I doubt any of them have done a thorough study of the alternatives to Christianity. I mean, why bother? You've found what you are emotionally happy with and that's that. Which leads me to conclude that Christianity is a choice based on anything but compelling evidence and reason.

Thranil said...

metaphyzxx: Absolutely I would. But to be fair (and not keep *all* my cards to my vest), I'd have to point out that I am a former evangelical christian who was on my way to becoming a missionary when I deconverted. I haven't heard a new apologetic argument in a LOOONG time, so I wouldn't get your hopes up :).

Also, in response to your comment about John's "faith", I have to say I think your definition of the word seems off. Faith is the belief in something without evidence... or as I once heard it "Faith is believing in something for no good reason". I have a lot of beliefs, but I have NO faith... and my guess would be that John is similar: beliefs - yes, faith - no... but that is merely speculation.

that atheist guy said...

Metaphyzxx wrote, "the distant argument about belief in Zeus indicates to me that you don't take anything I say seriously..."

I am being serious. As you know Zeus/Jupiter was "God" in ancient times, and early Christians were called atheists for not believing in him. Anyway, the point of my comment was to dispute your description of an atheist's nonbelief as something in his innermost heart. Maybe for some atheists it is like that, but for me I just see it as a disagreement. I'm sorry you thought I wasn't taking what you were saying seriously, but please understand from my point of view the stories in the Bible are equivalent to the stories in the Greek myths about other gods.

To answer the question you posed to Thranil, if I was shown good evidence for the truth of the Christian Bible and the existence of Yahweh, then I would certainly believe it. If someone showed you irrefutable evidence for the truth of Islam, wouldn't you believe it?

I certainly don't have anything against a benevolent god existing. It would be great if one actually did!

Again, I apologize if the tone of my previous comment was not appropriate.

Shygetz said...

Let's be honest here, both of us exercise faith. Not that "christian-ese" faith, but the REAL thing. You believe in your innermost heart, you're confident there's no God, and thus all of your actions are based on that confidence.

That is untrue; I hold belief in gods to be unjustified; the more specific the God, the more unjustified the belief. It is analogous to belief in intelligent aliens existing in our galaxy. I have no reason to believe they exist or don't exist; if you claim to know they exist, that is an unjustified claim. It doesn't mean I know they DON'T exist.

Now, if you say that not only do intelligent aliens exist in our solar system, but they are bipedal, green, and four eyes, and will suck up my soul with a cosmic vacuum cleaner when I die to power their cities unless I wear a tinfoil hat on my head when I sleep, then I can be pretty confident that you are not correct. Not confident because I have evidence that this is NOT true, but confident because you just made a VERY specific prediction without any reliable evidence, so statistically speaking the likelihood of you being correct by sheer chance is infintesimally small.

The same is true of gods. If you say gods exist, then you have some liklihood of being correct by sheer chance, just as if I say alien life exists in this galaxy. If you say one and only one God exists, and he wants A, B, and C, and will do D, E, and F in times and spaces where we cannot observe, then your liklihood of being right on accident has decreased greatly. It requires no faith, just statistics to justify disbelief.

Let's just say this, I know what to do and not to do that would/wouldn't piss off my mother.

But how do you know this? Did you mother come to you in a dream, or as a small still inner voice, or a feeling of awe and wonderment, that told you how not to piss her off?

Or did you see her wrath in response to your actions enough times first hand, and hear her words enough times with your own ears, to know what would piss her off?

I'm betting it's the second. If that is the case, then how am I supposed to know what pisses God off when he won't show me what pisses Him off until I'm dead and it's too late, and He won't talk to me in any intelligible way?

Let's say that your mother never told you or showed you in any way what pissed her off, and when you turned 18 she added up all of the punishments she'd been holding back and heaped them all on you at once, without any explanation of what they were for. Could you still claim to know what pissed her off? If so, how?

Shifting gears to mmm...

Grace is not immediate or strict compliance to an imposed demand, but rather a healing or softening process - quite the opposite of what most people practice, so it is difficult to perceive and understand God when there are so many portrayals to the contrary - but, there is grace even for distortions of the gospel message.

Will your God throw me into eternal torment for doing the wrong things (e.g. blaspheming the Holy Spirit)? Screw that, will your God throw me into eternal torment for thinking the wrong things (e.g. Jesus was not the Son of God), yes or no? If the answer is yes, then don't try to pass off this crap of Jesus being all about healing and love--he's demonstrably not, as he plans on doing hateful things that not even the most monstrous and vile human despot has done. If the answer is no, then do you not think it is misleading to call yourself a religious Christian as opposed to a philosophical Jesus-ite, in the vein of Jefferson?

Granted, the words of Yshua are often strict - but they are prophetic in demonstrating the difference between man's way and God's way. Y'shua's strict words are in opposition to the harshness and mistreatment that we impose on one another.

Jesus is the one who introduced eternal torment of sinners to the Abrahamaic tradition. As Christopher Hitchens is fond of pointing out, at least you can die and leave North Korea; it is Jesus, meek and mild, that promises to torture you for eternity if you do not think to His specifications. I would take all the harshness and mistreatment any human can heap upon me over eternal torment; at least I can die and escape human mistreatment.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi "That Atheist Guy" -- you wrote "I certainly don't have anything against a benevolent god existing.."

My conversion, upon initial "impact" was not peaceful and in fact, very difficult. Why? Because I had so much contempt and stigma attached towards that realm it was difficult to remove those obstacles from my personal perspective. I carried with me, internally, all the messages of condemnation and judgement. When Y'shua says do not condemn and judge lest we be judged in the same manner, I have come to experience what that means firsthand. It creates quite a dissonance to desire that which is condemned.

If a flying spaghetti monster can serve the purpose of promoting a love and propagation of delicious pasta meals that is innocent enough. However, if a benevolent God is not expressed in grace and mercy, then we ought to ask ourselves what god, indeed, have we propagated?

Thanks, once again, MMM

metaphyzxx said...

Joseph:
Well, you're in dialogue with at least one that's searched alternatives, and to be honest with you, when I was first 'brainwashed' into christianity, I found such distaste for it that I went to find SOMETHING else out of disgust. Personally, I fell in LOVE with Daoism, and actually read the Daodejing regularly... good stuff. Still, I discovered God for myself, and it lines up with biblical Christianity better than any other "organized religion" (I hate that phrase). Fact is though, I'm not so enamored with Christianity that I'm not willing to allow it to fail. But in the end, I like the results of the lifestyle enough to keep up with them even if God WAS "Debunked".

Thanil: I'm sure you're familiar with this statement then: faith isn't believe in absence of evidence, but is the evidence itself. Light doesn't have a taste, and sound doesn't really have an optical component to classify it's evidence, but it's evidence to the proper sense receptor. In the end, my definition of faith is unrelenting trust. To have faith in something with no evidence, as far as I"M concerned is rather moronic, and is little more than superstition, which in general is why I feel it has such a bad rap.

metaphyzxx said...

by the way, I love talking with you guys. We disagree, but at least you're reasonable about it. Trying to have this same conversation with indoctrinated 'x-tians" is like arguing with a pile of bricks sometimes. (once again, evidenced by trying to talk to my own mother...)

Thranil said...

metaphyzxx:

The only thing that faith can provide evidence for is that you have a belief in something. Faith does not provide any evidence that the thing that you have faith in is true or not.

For instance, I could have faith that there are invisible pink unicorns living in my closet. Now what do you think that my faith provides evidence for: a) that the invisible pink unicorns in my closet are real, or b) that I think that there are pink unicorns in my closet?

You can play word games as much as you want, I suppose, but I fail to see how that gets anyone anywhere.

metaphyzxx said...

t.a.g
Sorry to get hostile regarding the miscommunicaton there. Allow me to clarify my own statment there, in light of MY definition of faith. According to my subjective definition, personally believing that there IS a god, then I hold that you live your life in the manner you do, concious of the fact that you don't believe in God, and therefore are unconcerned with his opinion of your lifestyle. Instead, you're the final judge of your own actions and motivations. I on the other hand believe that there IS a god, and you most likely believe that I'm less than 'sensible' for living in a fashion that denotes that I belive that my actions and motives will be judged upon the completion of my life.

I do believe that, in your innermost heart, what I'd classify as your spirit, you do in fact believe that there is no God. It's not just something you've convinced yourself of. it's not just an assent to something someone else told you, but a believe you've come to within yourself, and it's the rock upon which you make all of your arguments.

metaphyzxx said...

thanil: where it gets us is on level ground. I'm not playing word games, just trying to make sure we're using the same terminology to describe the same thing. What you call faith, I call cognitive assent. As the bible says "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen". Again, a quote with which I'm sure you're familiar. Thus, the faith isn't the unseen aspect but the tangible (at least how I read that). So for me, faith is what Hope looks like before there is tangible evidence.

You can 'believe' that there are pink elephants, but you don't have faith in pink elephants until you start putting out food for them.

Thranil said...

metaphyzxx:

Question for you: Who is the person to be more admired?

1) Someone who believes in your god, and therefore does a lot of good things in the world (feed the hungry, aid the sick, etc etc) because of what your god has commanded... so in essence, doing whatever good they are doing in order to gain your god's approval (and possibly avoid his wrath).

or

2) Someone who does not believe in your god (or any gods for that matter) who does good things (examples listed above) simply because they want to help people... without any concern as to whether there is a judge of any sort watching what they are doing.

metaphyzxx said...

in the end, you are correct, that faith in something untrue is rather dumb. In our combined illustration, once the pink elephant food goes uneaten, you either have to explain to yourself why the elephants aren't eating, or acknowledge that "maybe there arent' any pink elephants in my closet"

Thus, this is where the quote "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of god" kicks in, related to the faith I have in the God of the Bible.

In order to know where to direct my faith, I've got to have some grounds by which to test it. I followed a rather simple method for testing, being a trained engineer and all. I considered something that I wanted, and found scripture in the bible that said how to acquire it, and looked for other corresponding scripture that indicated that God has answered that methodology for someone else. Bible says that God doesn't change, and isn't a respecter of persons. I fulfilled my conditional part of said scripture, and waited for God to fail. If it didn't come through, then THAT scripture is wrong. If THAT one is wrong, then it cant' be trusted. If that one can't be trusted, then who's to say that there aren't more that can't be trusted, so just dump the whole thing. In the end, I was willing to put the whole thing on the line. Either God comes through like he said he would if I did 'such and such', or the whole Bible is a lie. He came through for me, so I repeated the test with other scripture... As far as MY faith is concerned, God is ALWAYS on the hotseat. The only thing I make it a point NOT to do is tell God HOW he can make it happen... After all, the hebrews didn't approach the shore of the red sea with the expectation that God would part it.

So, back to the original point, no, putting faith in something doesn't make it true, but putting faith in something that's been tested before at least makes some sense.

metaphyzxx said...

Thanil: By and large, it really doesn't matter does it, since the same deed got done.

Bible says, Some preached the word to see god's will done, and others preached it out of selfish ambition, but in the end, the word got preached.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Shy, do you believe yourself to be more gracious and merciful than God? That is a difficult burden to carry -that of acting out in love even to those who mistreat you - that can actually be a very sadistic and brutal relationship if one does not have something of value to sustain the sacrifice and consequences of such interactions.

You spoke quite eloquently of hell and damnation - I used to be offended by the idea of hell, but that was because I began with an errant presupposition that people didn't want to be in hell. I learned differently. Sometimes people want revenge and punishment more than they desire peace - sometimes people desire lies and pretense more than they pursue truth - sometimes people hunger for power more than they seek faith.

As usual, thanks! MMM

Joseph said...

metaphyzxx, I can appreciate your perspective. You're exactly where I was at in the last year of my Christian walk, before I deconverted this summer. Christianity as an "organized religion" is not entirely bad. In fact, it has many advantages--one of which is a distinctive moral lifestyle and a devoted family of believers who encourage one another to stay true to that lifestyle. BTW, I still attend church with my wife (though, as I've said in other comments, it's getting harder and harder to sit through the average worship service). I enjoy the fellowship, but not the periodic diatribes against gays, atheists, evolution, etc. I can also appreciate the Bible in a limited sense (the Proverbs and Jesus' teachings offer a lot of practical wisdom), but I don't see that it the 66 books gel together as one coherent theology.

Thranil said...

metaphyzxx:

FWIW - there is an "r" in my name. Doesn't bother me, but it made me miss one of your replies at first...

WRT definition of 'faith': This goes back to my original post in that you're going to have to prove that your holy book is true before I'm willing to have a theologically-induced word-skewering session with you. The book(s) that I use to for defining words is a dictionary (Websters, Dictionary.com, etc). That's all I'm going to say about that as I'm really not interested in having a discussion about semantics.

WRT to your pink elephants example: Ok, but still the reality of the situation is that even though said person is putting food out for the pink elephants, this provides NO proof that the pink elephants exist. More to the point, any person in our society that was putting food out for pink elephants will probably be put into a mental hospital (or at least Alcoholics Anonymous).

metaphyzxx said...

shygetz: in the end, I know what gets on my mom's nerves because of the relationship I share with her. At the same time, I know very little about what gets my Dad's ire, but I can get an idea from my older brother and sister since they were raised by both parents.

At the same time, I spent more time WITH mom than either of them, and that time more recently, so I know her better than them.

In the end it's about direct relationship. I say that I do know what god does/doesn't like because I make it a point to try to find out. Not for the purpose of avoiding wrath, but just like the relationship I have with my mom, the closer I am, the more that relationship itself actually benefits me. I don't care about hell, because it doesn't affect me. I'm not worried about heaven, cuz I'm in no rush to get there. I've got God HERE and NOW... that's sufficient enough for me.

Martin Gamble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thranil said...

"So, back to the original point, no, putting faith in something doesn't make it true, but putting faith in something that's been tested before at least makes some sense."

So why don't you put faith into Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Scientology, or Mormonism? All of these religions have been tested, and they are all still around. So how about testing these as well?

Thranil said...

"Thanil: By and large, it really doesn't matter does it, since the same deed got done.

Bible says, Some preached the word to see god's will done, and others preached it out of selfish ambition, but in the end, the word got preached."

Cop out. When you are ready to give a real answer, feel free.

metaphyzxx said...

Joseph: personally, I'm very contrary regarding organized religion, since my experience has most 'believers' just going by what someone else tells them instead of what the word itself says. I've been run out of my share of churches as a heretic... But hey, I'm in good company according to the book. Personally, I prefer the company of atheists/agnostics most of the time anyway, since they're at least willing to THINK and RESEARCH what they say.


Thranil: sorry about that spelling thing, funny since I got it right the first time. Again, I understand what you're saying. At the same time, that's why I make the effort to make sure you understand where I'm coming from when I use certain words. I don't want the semantics to get in the way of the communication.... but that's just me operating as an english minor.

metaphyzxx said...

Thranil: Actually, I have tested several of them. In the end, I came to my own conclusions about God. I call myself a christian, not because I chose to be a christian, but the conclusions of what I've discovered of God are most closely matched in Christianity.

And as to the "cop out", it's not. Realize that you said someone that believes in 'MY' God. A person that believes in "MY" God (example: myself) is specifically mandated NOT do do the good works for purpose of admiration, as the admiration would become it's own reward. You are the one that added the qualifier:
"so in essence, doing whatever good they are doing in order to gain your god's approval (and possibly avoid his wrath).

The person that believes in 'MY' God (example: myself) basically doing the SAME good deed out of the SAME motivation that your non-believer in the example given...

"simply because they want to help people... without any concern as to whether there is a judge of any sort watching what they are doing.
"

You asked which PERSON is to be more admired... not which motives. Since the same deed got done, and no mention was made to the general disclosure of motives, I judge the individual from what I'd be able to see.

If I were to donate $10,000 because I felt God wanted me to do it to a local charity, and you donate $10,000 to the same charity because you wanted them to have $10,000, would they hold either of us in more contempt than the other, or would they say thank you to BOTH of us, and deposit $20K in their account?

In the end, as a believer, I say no one can judge another person's motives but God. I can pick nits with the best of them, and better than most.

Thranil said...

metaphyzxx

BTW - You seem to fall into the first category of believer that I mentioned in my first post. Just thought I'd point that out.

metaphyzxx said...

Now I present the exact same scenario to YOU:

Question for you: Who is the person to be more admired?

1) Someone who believes in your god, and therefore does a lot of good things in the world (feed the hungry, aid the sick, etc etc) because of what your god has commanded... And discloses his motives so that God gets credit for the good deed he's done

or

2) Someone who does not believe in your god (or any gods for that matter) who does good things (examples listed above) simply because they want to help people... And discloses his motives to try to cast the Believer in as bad a light as possible?

Thranil said...

Apples to oranges.

You could do: 1) to glorify god and 2) to do it 'just because'

or

1) To show up the unbeliever or 2) to show up the believer

Joseph said...

Metaphyzxx: I suspect that the reason we have tens of thousands of Christian denominations today is because people ARE reading the Bible themselves and coming away with conflicting ideas.

GordonBlood said...

I dont even know where to begin... John will probly throw a fit but il say it anyways. John, I dont know about other people, but the reason I and many others are not going to buy your book is that were well aware of the arguments. The problem of evil, the hiddenness of God, the bible not being completely inerrant. And guess what? Were still Christians. You arent the first person to write an anti-Christian manifesto, in fact its been going on for nearly 2000 years (im thinking of writings like Celsus). While I appreciate your call for all us Christians to buy your book as an effective money-making ploy, lampooning us as being afraid or whatever else is simply nonsense which isnt going to work in the real world, especially when, again, theres plenty of anti-Christian stuff out there.

metaphyzxx said...

Thranil:
You could
a) answer the question
or
b) answer the question

metaphyzxx said...
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metaphyzxx said...
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metaphyzxx said...

Joseph:
Tens of thousands? Hyperbole much? I'll give you dozens, but thousands?

And I'll submit that the exact opposite is the reason behind most of the denominations to begin with. People getting TOLD what the Bible has to say instead of learning for themselves. For the most part, there are only a few valid divisions, ie: Catholic vs. Protestant, Armenian vs. Calvinist. Others are just based on human interpretation of something that's said, but not expounded on in the Bible, which really should relegate the matter to a minor issue (are tongues for today, baptism by immersion or sprinkling).

Shygetz said...

martin, perhaps I wrote unclearly. I do not claim that Jesus was the first Jew to have thought of eternal torment for unbelievers. I'll go ahead and say it: I don't think Jesus conveyed a single truly original thought, but combined various thoughts that had previously been present in various other cultures. But Jesus' teachings are the first time that eternal torment became a part of the sacred writings in the Abrahamaic tradition. The closest in the OT is Daniel 12:2, which only says that the most evil will be doomed to everlasting reproaches and separation from God, not torture. Jewish tradition has all sorts of conflicting beliefs about judgement and afterlife, from annihiliation of evil souls to reincarnation to torment of limited periods to everlasting torment, but everlasting torment was never in the OT.

metaphyzxx, you make my point. You only know your mother's mind because she told you. You don't get it by ESP or telepathy or anything else; you get it because you can see her, hear her, and tell what makes her happy and what makes her sad. Yet you can't do any of those things with God.

If we examine what we know of the world, we will find that the only creatures that we can communicate with without using our senses are imaginary ones in our head--if you disagree, provide a counterexample. You communicate with God without using your senses; you just "know" what makes Him happy without ever seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, or smelling Him, just like my daughter "knows" what the boogeyman likes and doesn't like. Sure, the boogeyman is a real experience to her and impacts her in real ways, but it certainly isn't real in any metaphysical sense.

The only way out of this conundrum is to assert by fiat that God has interacted in a sensual way with you. Many Christians claim He did this through sacred writings, but that ties you to the writings as the only way of knowing God's real character and having to justify the God-authorship of the writings. Others claim visions or actual voices talking to them, also which can be challenged if they are not evidenced (which they never are).

I'm sure you have a real experience of God, but I'm not convinced that God is the real, metaphysical cause of your experience. Perhaps you shouldn't be so sure, either.

Thranil said...

metaphyzxx:

I did answer your question. My answer is that your question is poor an not answerable in a multiple choice fashion in its current form. If you wish to rephrase the question (and I offered two possible ways to do so), then I will be happy to answer in a multiple-choice fashion.

Listen, I can put forth poor questions all day. How about only being able to answer yes/no with "Have you stopped molesting children yet?" Do you get my point?

that atheist guy said...

Man, I can't keep up with you guys. Anyway, quoting from way up there...

GordonBlood wrote:
"...were well aware of the arguments. The problem of evil, the hiddenness of God, the bible not being completely inerrant. And guess what? Were still Christians."

Not everybody stays Christian forever. Most atheists/agnostics I encounter either online or in person have deconverted from some form of Christianity. Many people are not familiar with the arguments John makes, and it isn't true that you can't change peoples' minds.

On a side note, I am personally curious what percentage of people are passionate about these topics. I love discussing religion, philosophy and other hard questions about our existence. But most people I know in my life, whether religious or not are pretty apathetic about these things.

metaphyzxx wrote:
"I hold that you live your life in the manner you do, concious of the fact that you don't believe in God, and therefore are unconcerned with his opinion of your lifestyle."

I guess so, I just think it's a strange way of looking at things. In my daily life going about my business I don't feel conscious of the fact of my disbelief. It's just not in my mind. I'm not constantly thinking at every point of the day "There is no God, therefore I choose to do this action." I have heard about some believers who do go about their days like that, even with trivial things saying to themselves in their minds "God, please let there be a parking space..." etc. all day long. Think about how you live your daily life. Are you conscious of the fact that you don't believe in Vishnu? I suspect that the issue is almost never in your mind at all. It's the same for me and Yahweh.

metaphyzxx wrote:
"I do believe that, in your innermost heart, what I'd classify as your spirit, you do in fact believe that there is no God. It's not just something you've convinced yourself of. it's not just an assent to something someone else told you, but a believe you've come to within yourself, and it's the rock upon which you make all of your arguments."

Again, I suppose that is true in some sense, but I would never describe my non-belief as a "rock upon which I make all my arguments". Again I should ask if your disbelief of Vishnu is such a foundation for all your arguments? The only thing I would say is a "rock" for me is the common-sense use of logic and evidence based reason.

metaphyzxx said...

Thranil: Again, you're not answering the actual question. I said "Which person is to be more admired", not "Which actions"... which in the end is the same question you asked.

Shygetz: It's kind of funny, because, from my perspective, we're both proving each other's point. I agree wholeheartedly that unless you actually KNOW god, then his ways seem whimsical, however if you actually DO know him, it's a little more predictable how he'd react.

As for the 'experience', know this, I don't associate god with any emotional sensation, or any "feeling" in general. I (for lack of a better word)'test' my God for results. My thing was, I was willing to admit, when I started my own search, that I didn't know one way or the other, but the Burden of Proof was in God's corner.

t.a.g.: I can't argue, seeing as I was an X-tian for a while, then agnostic, then tried my hands at a few other religions

Martin Gamble said...
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zilch said...

Sorry, metaphyzxx, I couldn't let this go by.

I agree wholeheartedly that unless you actually KNOW god, then his ways seem whimsical...

Hmmm... "whimsical" is perhaps not the adjective that comes most readily to mind for what God commanded the Israelites to do in 1 Samuel 15... but I guess I just have no sense of "whimsy".

Shygetz said...

Although, IMHO, the distinction between eternal reproach and eternal torment is a trifle academic.

The Hebrew word used for reproach is the same one used for abhorrance or aversion or contempt; it means that the godly will turn from them. VERY different from eternal unquenchable fire. Jesus' imagery of the torture of souls tracks the imagery used in Isaiah 66:24, which refers to the eternal desecration of the corpses of the enemies of God, and talks of unquenching fire and undying worms...and eternal reproach. Even in the OT, the ideas were separate and used separate vocabulary.

metaphyzxx: I (for lack of a better word)'test' my God for results.

Ok, fair enough. You test your God, then measure the results of that test to determine what God wants. Seems reasonable to me.

How do you "test" your God? How do you measure the results?

Martin Gamble said...
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Shygetz said...

The concepts are quite different. One is a shame concept; the other is a physical immolation concept. Your equating the two is similar to saying the crucifixtion was not really different from being insulted; both are punishments, after all.

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