Ray Boltz, Popular Christian Music Artist, Comes Out

This recent article in The Washington Blade is causing a lot of anguish among my Christian friends. Christians coming out of the closet as gay really gets under the skin of many evangelicals (I had one Christian friend tell me that as bad as my atheism was, at least I wasn't gay), but Boltz's story is particularly difficult, because of his popularity as an artist, and character Boltz shows in making the decisions he's made, to finally be honest about himself and his life.

I was never much for Christian music. I spent most of fifth and sixth grade listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, over and over, and I think that is a bit of inoculation for what has been contemporary Christian music in the last 30 years. But Ray Boltz is a familiar name, and several of his songs are instantly familiar to me. Recently, Ray has disclosed that he is a gay man, has divorced his wife, and moved to Florida to start on a new path, a fresh start. The article provides some interesting background on Boltz's thirty year struggle with his homosexuality, and how he managed to build a successful marriage to a woman he loved and raised his kids while dealing with the inner conflict of his disposition.

This is agonizing for many of the Christians I talked to. He's so well known, and not just famous (in evangelical circles), but his songs were "so true, so filled with the spirit, so heart felt" to quote a Christian friend's recent lament. After thirty years of being a Christian, and very visible, inspiring leader in the Christian community, how does a man so immersed in the Gospel, the culture of the Gospel, in an otherwise healthy and happy family situation just decide to go off the reservation? This is not a case, so far as we can tell, of a Christian coming forward and confessing his struggles with sin, his battle against temptation. Rather, he decided that being homosexual wasn't just something he did, which is the typical view in evangelicaldom (see the frequent comparisons evangelicals frequently supply to show they understand the homosexual struggle against temptation: the lure of gambling, alcohol, gossip, even sweets are commonly trotted out as badges of solidarity with those struggling with their homosexuality), but something he was.


As is evident in Boltz's current situation, post-coming-out, one can make large theological adjustments, gerrymandering around what seem to be strong prohibitions in the Bible and still live as a Christian, albeit a non-traditional one. But here I think we see the playing out of seismic pressures where Christianity and living experience grind together. It's difficult to read Paul in Romans 1 and miss the invective:
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This isn't hemming and hawing about the historical accuracies about genealogical timelines in the mists of Genesis. This is Paul laying it on heavy in moral and soteriological terms. On a face value reading of the text, Boltz has aligned himself with the absolute worst all creatures in God's eyes -- full of every kind of evil. I don't know how Boltz harmonizes passages like that with his current beliefs, or even if he tries. But this passage and others in the Bible do not seem to grant much leeway on this topic. I've heard the arguments for Paul being "read of context" here, with the suggestion profferred that Paul was only speaking about the homosexuality practiced in local pagan rituals of the time, and not of homosexuality in general. That's quite a stretch, and if that kind of adjustment holds, there's little in the Bible propositionally can survive the intent application of such "adjusting" hermeneutics.

Rationalizations borne of necessity aside, Boltz's revelation has been deeply discomforting for Christians I've talked to in the past few days. One of the realizations that is finally sinking in in evangelical circles is the waning of traditional hostility toward homosexuality of previous generations in the culture. Homosexuals are still widely detested and shamed, thanks in large part to evangelical Christians, but the stigma is not what it was, even recently, especially among young people. Ray Boltz just changing course and charting a new path toward life as an actively gay man just highlights how compelling the the homosexual as counterfactual to Paul and the Bible has become. I don't know Boltz personally, but I think one would be hard pressed to reconcile the stream of evils Paul tells us characterize those who "do what ought not be done". Of course the claim will be made that homosexual practices are themselves desperately wicked, but the Biblical view suggest something much stronger and pervasive obtains for the homosexual. Pretty much you turn into the worst kind of human being in every way, to hear Paul tell it.

“If you were to hold up the rule book and go, ‘Here are all the rules Christians must live by,’ did I follow every one of those rules all that time? Not at all, you know, because I kind of rejected a lot of things, but I’ve grown some even since then. I guess I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.”

- Ray Boltz


According to the article, Boltz has a friendly, supportive relationship with his ex-wife (they have since divorced) and his kids (who were grown and out of the house by the time this came about). Boltz has made enough money to provide for his family, and while there must have been a lot of pain and anguish in the way all this played out, Boltz and his family have emerged on as positive a note as one might hope. Carol Boltz now is active in a gay advocacy group called Soulforce.

Maybe the process Paul is describing in Romans 1 just hasn't played out yet, and it will take some time for Ray Boltz to embrace the various kinds of wickedness Paul enumerates for the unrepentant homosexual. But as Boltz proceeds with this new chapter in his life as a gay man, as his "Boltz-ness" remains, and the qualities and virtues he demonstrated in his life over the past 30 years continue, he's yet another point of dissonance for the Biblical Christian. This isn't how it's supposed to be, the gay man who's decent and kind, responsible, talented, giving. If Paul was the inspired "hand of God" they suppose he is, what do we do with Ray Boltz?

92 comments:

Rachel said...

Touchstone,

So you think that in Romans 1, Paul is saying that homosexuals will eventually do all those bad things? If so, I have never heard anyone say that before, nor do I think it is a valid interpretation of Rom. 1.

Rom. 1 condemns the Gentiles (i.e. pagans, non-Jews of the time), Rom. 2 condemns the Jews (the very law they were proud of condemns them), and Rom. 3 condemns everyone and then offers the way out. The passage you quoted is clearly referencing those people (in vs. 21), Gentiles, who did not honor God. As a whole, they rejected him, so God removed some of his sin-restraining influence. This is not saying that individual homosexuals will do all these bad things. It is merely a list of all the types of things that could be found among the pagans who rejected God.

Thus, Ray Boltz may be a wonderful guy the rest of his life and not contradict a single thing from the Rom. 1 passage.

Touchstone said...

Rachel,

I think it would hard for anybody to knock down all of the items on Paul's Shopping List of Evils™. That would be one prolific evil-gay-man!

Am I understanding you right in reading you to suggest that perhaps this is void because Boltz remains a Christian? He continues to honor God, so he's not "given over" to shameful lusts? Do you suppose that's possible, that Boltz is "gay with honor" with respect to Paul?

Hmmmm.

I've read commentaries that suggest something like you say here, that the "safety belts" come off, per God's cosmic shrug, and people "fall into the abyss", so to speak, indulging in whatever kinds of depravity they find most, well, depraved.

But that doesn't help here, does it? Because Boltz is engaging in just the thing that produced "every kind of wickedness" in the homosexuals around Paul. If you tell me, well, not everyone indulges themselves in homosexuality, 'sinning against the body as a the result of their rejecting God I will agree, but it's irrelevant if so, because Boltz is, after all, a gay man engaging in the activities Paul denounces. He's implicated in the actions Paul is talking about in verse 27.

Just so we're clear, though, I think it's totally impractical for any man to embody all those evils Paul listed. But I do understand Paul to be pointing to this progression for the homosexual.

Dishonor God-> Given over to shameful lusts -> sin against their bodies -> filled with all manner of wickedness (or some practical subset).

If Paul is offering the point as you offer it, there's no need to focus on, or even mention, homosexuality. Instead, here's a list of all the bad stuff that happens when the pagans reject God. Note that the list of bad stuff is "prologued" by homosexual activity(vv 26-27). Why do you think that is, Rachel?

If it's not connected, why is it there?

-TS

Rachel said...

TS,

Am I understanding you right in reading you to suggest that perhaps this is void because Boltz remains a Christian?

No, I wasn't suggesting that at all. My point is that Rom. 1 is saying that when the Gentiles as a whole rejected God, God eventually allowed them as a whole to continue down a general path of depravity. This led to various people committing various sins and evil deeds.

The analogy would be (and I'm not saying this is necessarily the case, just giving an analogy), America as a whole has rejected God, therefore God has allowed Americans in general to continue down a path of general depravity. Thus, some commit homosexual acts, some murder, some are envious, gossip, some slander, some hate God, etc. etc.

You seem stuck on the idea that Rom. 1 says that homosexuality produced all these other evil deeds. But the text doesn't say that at all.

3 times we are told that "God gave them over" for a certain reason. 1st time: the people worshiped something (an image) besides God (vv. 23-24). 2nd time: the people worshiped something (created things) besides God (vv. 25-26). 3rd time: the people didn't even acknowledge God anymore (v. 28).

Nowhere is homosexuality listed as causing or producing all or any of these bad things. It is simply included in the list of sins that God allowed people to do after they rejected him as a whole.

I don't see why Paul wouldn't have listed homosexuality. It doesn't have to be the cause of these other bad things for him to list it. Certainly it was probably a prominent "deviant" feature of other religious cults and cities (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah). And homosexuality doesn't "prologue" the bad stuff, not even close. It all starts in verse 18, when the people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness". They then reject God, don't honor him, and worship anything and everything but him. THEN God gives them over to more wickedness.

here's a list of all the bad stuff that happens when the pagans reject God.

Precisely.

Volly said...

"This is agonizing for many of the Christians I talked to. He's so well known, and not just famous (in evangelical circles), but his songs were "so true, so filled with the spirit, so heart felt" to quote a Christian friend's recent lament."

Note that past tense. Not sure what career path Boltz is taking now (if any - maybe he'll live off residuals forever but I doubt it), but it seems likely that he will continue making music. It also seems likely that he will continue making Christian music, unless he abandons faith entirely, which has been known to happen even among straight people (ironic little LOL). But should he release more CD's he is sure to be boycotted by his former legions of fans for no reason other than his lifestyle.

Doesn't that present the fan base with a dilemma? How long has Boltz been recording and how long has he known that he was gay? Can the fans say "Well, he was straight when he made this one, so I'll keep it"? Or will they listen to something he did in 1987, and say "Ah-ha -- hear that lisp when he sings 'Savior?'"

Reynold said...

Hah. Well, we can start to see what the reaction of the religious right is here, and here Note that the section under where the first linked forum has this is in: "Apostasy".

Touchstone said...

Rachel,

OK, I understand why think my reading of Rom 1 was unusual, now. I don't take from the text that homosexuality is the *cause* of all those things, but that it is *one* of those things itself. What's significant about the homosexual behavior is it's being singled out for special denunciation, particularly lurid and execrable among all the others he list.

Maybe Paul allows for a "nice" way to a homosexual, and do the "indecent" things he decries, where the sin of homosexuality is engaged, but the person is otherwise just a regular guy. If so, I don't think he share it with us. As is it, our example here is homosexuals as particularly vivid and noteworthy examples of those God released to descend into every kind of wickedness. I imagine it would be hard for Ray to read that and not understand that he'd been (or was being) given over to follow his shameful lusts, and all that comes with it. Boils and sores are note the *cause* of the disease, but a symptom. So too, per Paul, homosexuality is the disgusting symptom that one has the "disease" of rejecting God and embracing every kind of wickedness.

-TS

Touchstone said...

Volly,

Boltz is sure to receive a lot of derision and rejection for this, but for most of the Christians I know, having the homosexual urge isn't sinful, but just a part of the struggle against the flesh. It's only in acting it out, or more strictly (see Jesus' words about committing adultery by committing lust) actively engaging the urge in the mind.

I'm sure that some would expect that even if Boltz was not actually engaging in homosex all those years, he was "lusting in his heart" for men, and thus practicing evil even then. But really, Boltz was proceeding as Christian would demand: Have all the urges you want, just don't act on them.

One reason I think this story is relevant for this blog is that while Boltz remains a Christian by profession, after decades of living under the evangelical teaching on homosexuality, he came to a point where his own life and experience debunked that part of (his form) Christianity. In the war between dogma and experience, the experience won out.

But I think unless it comes to light that Boltz was actively engaged in homosexuality during that period, they are unlikely to find the music "tainted", but just a sad reminder of what a great guy Boltz was -- past tense.

-TS

Toby said...

When I was still a Christian, I did thousands of hours of research on homosexuality. I even did my dissertation on gay parenting. What frustrated me most, is that individuals who had never read a single medical or psychology journal on anything, let alone homosexuality, felt more than qualified to offer their opinion "as an expert" as to the etiology of homosexuality. I don't mind as much when their opinion agrees with the vast majority of experts, but when their opinion is based on their own biased paradigm of life and nothing more, I get angry. I have to bite my tongue so that I don't lash out in anger against their ignorance. Now I understand that their are some individuals who disagree with the majority of research done in the area of homosexuality. However, it is telling to me that this small minority is made up of fundamentalists. Even so, I still read and evaluate the research published by such individuals (ie P. Caameron). Usually they point to the limitations of current research, or the problem areas of current research. Most of the time, I find their conclusions as being mostly unsubstantiated.

klas_klazon said...

Rachel,

I've read and re-read Romans, and I think Touchstone is correct when he writes

"Dishonor God-> Given over to shameful lusts -> sin against their bodies -> filled with all manner of wickedness (or some practical subset)."

You should take a look at verse 27 again.

All this aside, it's obvious that Paul thinks "homosexual behavior" is sinful. That, I think, is the biggest problem with Romans.

Charlie said...

More of touchstone's superficial, pretentious musings.

"Maybe the process Paul is describing in Romans 1 just hasn't played out yet, and it will take some time for Ray Boltz to embrace the various kinds of wickedness Paul enumerates for the unrepentant homosexual. "

Read it again, touchstone. Paul is not saying that gays will "embrace the various kinds of wickedness" mentioned. He is describing a specific pagan culture that rejected the biblical God.

But I guess since you prefer to read things at "face value", you wouldn't care.

Congrats to Ray Boltz for having the courage to be himself. I'm sure the last thing he needs is a pseudo-skeptic like you analyzing and poking away at his decision, especially given how prone you are to distorting peoples' religious beliefs, and especially given your carelessness when it comes to interpreting complicated texts.

Charlie said...

This "Klas_Klazon" character is a sock puppet here to provide illusory support for the atheists having trouble in disputes.

"I've read and re-read Romans, and I think Touchstone is correct..."!!

And from another thread:

"Great post, Scott! I have read both Harris's book and his further clarifications...and I have to say that [Charlie is wrong]..."


Fake.

Robert_B said...

(off topic, but interesting)

The 'Big Bang' Argument for the Existence of God (1998*)by Theodore Schick Jr.

Schick's missive includes a right nice little ole refutation of Thomas Aquinas' and Hugh Ross' First Cause arguments.

Evan said...

Charlie what evidence do you have that Klas is a sock puppet?

Charlie said...

Are you getting defensive, Evan? Why?

Robert_B said...

charlie mentioned reading things (biblical texts?) at face value.

By all means, yes. That is in keeping with the grammatico-historical method.

Dr. Robert M. Price in *The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible: A Critique*

alerts the reader that:

*Second, the claim for biblical inspiration is pernicious because it straitjackets the open-ended, inductive reading of the Bible. Once one holds normative beliefs about what an inspired book may or may not be found saying, one has abandoned both the Protestant axioms of Sola Scriptura and the grammatico-historical method. Sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone!") means that the text of scripture shall have precedence over any theological claim. The grammatico-historical method means that scripture must be read in a public, secular manner, the same way we interpret any ancient literature. We cannot admit of secret meanings and special rules appropriate to Holy Scripture. That was the way Martin Luther ruled out Roman Catholics reading their own doctrines into a text which, plainly read, said nothing of purgatory or popes. But when fundamentalists forbid any reading of the text that would imply biblical error or contradiction because “Scripture cannot err” they themselves are trying to control the reading of the Bible according to prior doctrine. Again, claims to inspiration dishonor the Bible since they prevent us from reading it honestly and without prejudice.*

Charlie said...

Robert,

Yeah, providing an outdated paper by Schick from 1998 is really "interesting". Have a gift in return: here

Charlie said...

And Robert, no, I didn't mention that. Touchstone did. I quoted him. Further, I agree with that passage you provided from Price. He is not saying we should read the Bible merely at "face value". He believes we should use the same (secular) techniques we use for other ancient literature. Touchstone should take his advice.

Rachel said...

Klas,

I'm sure TS appreciates the encouragement, but you didn't give any reason WHY you think he's right, so I have no reason to consider your view. Verse 27 doesn't say a thing about homosexuality causing or producing or leading to any other wicked acts in particular. The "indecent acts" of verse 27 ARE the homosexual acts: "men with men committing indecent acts". The indecent acts are not separate from the homosexuality. They are the same.

Homosexuality is discussed more in this passage than the other sins, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Paul thinks it is "worse". He may have chosen to highlight that one because it was an obvious one. No doubt most of these acts were taking place in orgies and so forth, so were likely public. Whereas, say, greed, or arrogance, or envy aren't as easily identifiable and aren't as public.

So too, per Paul, homosexuality is the disgusting symptom that one has the "disease" of rejecting God and embracing every kind of wickedness.

You seem to be missing my point. Paul is not saying that every individual homosexual has necessarily rejected God and is embracing every kind of wickedness. He's simply saying that the Gentiles rejected God, therefore God gave them over as a whole to whatever depraved things they wanted to do, including envy, murder, homosexuality, and being unmerciful. Theirs was a general culture of evil. We see this exemplified in the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites, etc. This is not an individual issue, this is a group issue.

Geoff Hudson said...

One should think of Romans as originally an epistle written to Judean prophets by a leading prophet (James) exiled in Rome. Paul was completely fictitious. The first chapter of Romans originally contained a criticism, not of Roman Gentile behaviour, but of the priests of Jerusalem. It was the priests who had sunk to lows. They were dying at an early age due to sexually transmitted diseases, as the skeletons exhumed from the graves at Qumran attest.

klas_klazon said...

Haha, a "sock-puppet" and a "fake"? Oh boy. :)

charlie,

instead of playing a very grumpy Sherlock Holmes, why don't you interact with what Scott wrote in that thread? Until you do that, and you do that good, he's clearly the "winner".

And if anyone is interested, I'm a student from northern Europe. I usually don't make long posts because I find it a bit cumbersome writing in English. And I believe just writing "Good post!" or something similar at least is of some value to the blogger, but I certainly don't write that if I don't mean it. I've definitely seen some rather bad posts here as well (that includes comments).

April said...

I found this site quit by accident...as a "born again" christian (please don't hate me) I read the Blade article about Ray I was sad that he struggled all those years alone. That he didn't feel he could say "hey this is what I struggle with..." I hate that he felt he needed to "follow the rules" or get out.

I feel like he missed the point about being a Christian. It's not about a religion but about a relationship.
If that's just being ignorant than "ignorance is bliss" I know what I have, I know the experiences I have had and I know that God is real. I just feel bad that most Christians would ostracize him or other gay people. It's not our "sin" that separates us from God but a lack of a relationship with God. Christians still sin, but in our relationship we can say "God I'm sorry please forgive this" and be forgiven.

I will still listen to the music I have of Rays, because it still speaks to me. And yes I will be praying for him, that he would find what he truly is looking for.

Touchstone said...

April,

Glad you stopped by. I think Ray Boltz believes you can be an actively gay man in an ongoing sense, and remain a Christian. Do you think he can do that? I know I've heard from the pulpit many times that if you aren't willing to repent all of your sins and renounce them going forward, your claims to following Christ are fraudulent. You must at *least* declare an intention to give up the things the Bible calls sin and assert that you despise them, even if you fail to live up to that, according to mainstream evangelical thinking.

Or am I mistaken on that?

That seems a problematic view for Boltz. One must either decide homosexual practice is not a sin, or decide that one can affirm a commitment to some sins and still claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Anyway, welcome, I hope you'll participate here.

-TS

Touchstone said...

Rachel, you said;

You seem to be missing my point. Paul is not saying that every individual homosexual has necessarily rejected God and is embracing every kind of wickedness. He's simply saying that the Gentiles rejected God, therefore God gave them over as a whole to whatever depraved things they wanted to do, including envy, murder, homosexuality, and being unmerciful. Theirs was a general culture of evil. We see this exemplified in the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites, etc. This is not an individual issue, this is a group issue.

Thanks for the clarification, because that is not what I understood you to be saying, the idea of this being a "group issue".

In light of that, then, would you say one (say, a popular CCM artist) COULD arrive at a declaration of homosexuality in identity and practice and NOT be "exchanging the truth of God for a lie", as Paul put it? Is he somehow able to sneak under Paul's suppressing fire by virtue of being an individual, and moreover an individual that otherwise affirms his status as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ?

I'll admit I did not see a categorical distinction between Boltz being (ostensibly) a "rogue individual" and a part of some "group" that has done something salient in a collective sense against God. I still don't see that distinction in Rom 1, or elsewhere on homosexuality, but if that's you're position here, I'd like to know it and understand if Paul's "group issues" don't apply to individuals in the here and now.

That is, if you have a single gay man, deciding to embrace a gay lifestyle in middle age, is he "exchanging the truth of God for a lie", such that God will give him over to his florid array of lusts to go wild like those he talks about in Rom 1, or is he just mistaken about which body parts go where in the Biblical view and a "nice-but-errant homosexual" that Paul wouldn't recognize in his own text of Rom 1?

-TS

Charlie said...

And if anyone is interested, I'm a student from northern Europe. I usually don't make long posts because I find it a bit cumbersome writing in English. And I believe just writing "Good post!" or something similar at least is of some value to the blogger, but I certainly don't write that if I don't mean it. I've definitely seen some rather bad posts here as well (that includes comments).

Nobody indicated that they were interested, did they "klas"? Would a legitimate poster be as worried as you are about convincing people he's not a sock-puppet? You don't have to answer that. Just a thought...

You're conveniently around to announce success for atheists when disputes arise and you haven't yet said anything substantive. Then you post complicated explanations to relieve worries that you're a sock-puppet -- even though nobody asked you to. If you're not a sock-puppet, you sure do a good job of making yourself seem like one.

klas_klazon said...

Charlie,

"That you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you" -- some guy

Hahaha!

Charlie said...

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!


Marmion. Canto vi. Stanza 17.

- Sir Walter Scott

Jeff Carter said...

Kudos to April, who put it so simply.

Christianity intends to be an absolute refutation of the idea that following a moral system brings salvation or union with God. Salvation comes from trust in Christ, not adherence to moral laws.

If Mr. Boltz has the Spirit of Christ living in him, then he has eternal life, regardless of his sins. If he has not the Spirit of Christ, conquering his homosexuality is not going to help him one bit.

BTW, there are PLENTY of Christians who believe that you can't undo your spiritual birth.

I don't see Mr. Boltz as a bit different from the rest of us Christians - we all sin and fall short, his sin just happens to be different from mine.

Touchstone said...

Jeff,

What do you make of the idea that repentance unto salvation renounces all sin? If Mr. Boltz has decided to pursue an actively gay lifestyle, isn't that a problem in terms of renouncing sin? Or is homosexual practice actually not a sin in and of itself in your view, something that might be just fine if accompanied by a profound trust in Christ?

I think there's some strong equivocation happening here if you suppose that homosexual acts are sinful. If I declare my submission to Jesus as Lord, and renounce my sins, that entails surrendering any commitment I may to, say, stealing. If I go on to stumble and steal again the next day, I repent of that and further renounce stealing, and hope that I may avoid that temptation tomorrow, lest I start to look insincere in my renunciations.

But Boltz is doing something different, if in fact you hold homosex to be sinful. That is a plan of action Boltz is purposely embracing in a determined way. He hasn't renounced it, but embraced it.

Sin is sin, but sin purposely embraced as a lifestyle is different than sins we hope not to commit, repent renounce when we do commit, and resolve to avoid in the future.

Unless you are telling me you have sins you want to keep for yourself and not renounce, or that homosexuality is not sinful, I think your sin is profoundly different than Boltz's. As I understand it, he's decided that homosexual practice is not sinful.

-TS

Heather said...

I almost wish I hadn't read this blog today! I am so completely torn by this subject.

I saw April's post and almost jumped with joy at her comment about Christianity being a relationship with God, not a religion. Then she goes on to say that one can ask forgiveness for a sin, and yes you are forgiven. However, she forgot about repentance. Repentance is a change of thought and action to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from the one wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against Him, and resolving to live according to His law. I don't think a person could ask forgiveness for being a homosexual on a daily basis and have the relationship with God that is based on Holiness and truly repent.

I do believe that God loves the sinner, hates the sin. As we should also. How any person, including this man, chooses to live his life is entirely up to him. Do I think that in continuing the lifestyle, he is living as God wants us to, no, I don't.

The other thing that I found interesting was Touchstones posts. I think I agree with them, IF what he is saying is that by participating in the "evil acts" one cannot have a relationship with God and without a relationship with God, one is prone (I said prone, not a given)to participate in the "evil acts". I feel that there are so many things that pull at the flesh, and with out God's help, we are unable to resist. Therefore, with God, we are able to do a better job. Not that anyone is perfect, Christian or not, and that we all don't stumble. But we have to get back up again.

I hope I am not opening myself up to a bombardment of comments...ugh Like I said, I wish I hadn't even read it! :)

Philip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Paul said a lot of things. He said it's "shameful" for men to have long hair, for instance (although I'd like to know when a hair's length becomes "sinful" ... is it 3.75 inches or 3.766?). He also said that slaves should remain slaves and that women should keep their heads covered when they pray and not wear the things that "pertaineth to a man" (note, all you pants-wearings fundamentalist Christian ladies!).

That's all been jettisoned, apparently, but of course, the prohibitions against homosexual conduct remain fully enforceable, just as it's one of the only Leviticus commandments still binding.

Edward T. Babinski said...

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong [satire]

1. Homosexuality is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

4. Heterosexual marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if homosexual marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Brittany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

6. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Homosexual couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Oh and let us not forget the show "Who wants to marry a millionaire".... lets not forget how it portrays the sanctity of marriage.

Edward T. Babinski said...

DAUGHTER TELLS WHAT HAPPENED WHEN HER CHRISTIAN MOTHER FOUND OUT SHE WAS GAY

I was 24 years old when my mother, through a series of mishaps, found out I was gay. My mother came over to where I worked, screaming, and told me I was “dead” to the family. She called me “sick,” “crazy” and “of the devil.” She said that I would never see my family again. For more than five years after that day, I heard nothing from my family. No birthday cards, no invitations to Christmas or Thanksgiving events. It wasn’t just the loss of my immediate family that was difficult, but the loss of my extended family as well. Since my mother refused to be in the same room with me, it forced my aunts and uncles to choose sides. I have not been to a family reunion in more than a decade. When my partner, Trisha, and I decided to have a child, we were not unlike most couples making this decision...The only thing unusual about our pregnancy was the critical necessity of a lawyer. Given my mother’s abject hostility toward gay and lesbian people, in the process of my pregnancy we had to spend thousands of dollars protecting ourselves from her potential interference. In spite of the fact that she has never, in more than a decade, visited me, and has written numerous articles comparing me to pedophiles and people who have sex with animals, according to the law, my mother has more rights to our child than Trisha.

ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/1004/25fields.html

Edward T. Babinski said...

CHRISTIAN REPUBLICANS ARE DESTROYING THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE!

*Ronald Reagan - divorced the mother of two of his children to marry Nancy Reagan who bore him a daughter only 7 months after the marriage. *Bob Dole - divorced the mother of his child, who had nursed him through the long recovery from his war wounds. *Newt Gingrich - divorced his wife who was dying of cancer. *Dick Armey - House Majority Leader - divorced *Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas - divorced *Gov. John Engler of Michigan - divorced *Gov. Pete Wilson of California - divorced *George Will - divorced *Sen. Lauch Faircloth - divorced *Rush Limbaugh - Rush and his current wife Marta have six marriages and four divorces between them. *Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia - Barr, not yet 50 years old, has been married three times. Barr had the audacity to author and push the 'Defense of Marriage Act.' The current joke making the rounds on Capitol Hill is 'Bob Barr...WHICH marriage are you defending?!? *Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York - divorced *Sen. John Warner of Virginia - divorced (once married to Liz Taylor.) *Gov. George Allen of Virginia - divorced *Henry Kissinger - divorced *Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho - divorced *Sen. John McCain of Arizonia - divorced *Rep. John Kasich of Ohio - divorced *Rep. Susan Molinari of New York - Republican National ConventionKeynote Speaker - divorced

Edward T. Babinski said...

INTERSEXED CATHOLIC SEEKS ANSWERS AT “CATHOLIC ANSWERS” FORUMS:

I am an intersexed individual. I didn’t want to get too detailed, but I will try to use non-offensive language. I have a small penis and also gonads. Biopsies of the gonads showed them to be testicular tissue, but there were stripes of ovarian tissue in them too. However at birth they appeared normal, just small and undescended which is not extremely uncommon in males. That’s why I was assigned male, there wasn’t that much of an issue, I showed no visual oddities until puberty when my breasts appeared.

The priests I have visited have said I am a man definitively because I have something that resembles a penis. They would support me marrying a woman, despite the fact we’d look like a lesbian couple, see pic: http://solfire.com/geekpics/conpics/fc06/DSC_1321.JPG That’s me in the red shirt in the back left. Being intersexed from birth, I’m somewhat androgynous, I will look “wrong” to someone no matter what gender I present when I attend Mass. If I go dressed as a male many look at me with disgust thinking me to be a lesbian because of my feminine facial features and breasts, when I go dressed as a female no one asks questions regarding my general appearance, but then they notice I’m over six-feet tall and my voice sounds a bit low, and so they assume I’m a transsexual. They may not be intentionally pushing me away, but my life is very lonely, except for my male fiance... whom the church says I should dump and “just be friends” with.

But giving up my love for my fiance and seems a cruel, cruel sacrifice. I don’t recall Jesus ever telling anyone to give up love. Through loving others, you love Jesus.

“And Jesus answered him, THE FIRST OF ALL THE COMMANDMENTS IS, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt LOVE THE LORD THY GOD with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And THE SECOND is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
- Mark 12:29- 31

I don’t see how loving my fiance violates either of the greatest commandments our Lord gave us.

And right now I have bill collecters calling me every day, I am on the verge of becoming homeless and likely will be within a few weeks. So, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be on this forum. No one will hire me, so I may have to live in my car over the summer until school starts again, I can’t live with my fiance because that might tempt us to sin. My boyfriend and I are only engaged, not married--I may question the church’s stance about my own situation, but not about premarital sex!

[As for other “options”] according to the church intersexed individuals are specifically not allowed to take up holy orders to become monks or nuns. In fact, I have heard of cases of intersexed nuns being forced to “retire” when their medical issues came to light.

From my discussions with priests, they all seem to consider me as having a gender identity issue and push me towards courage and to just “carry my cross.” However I don’t see how my circumstance is the same as that of a homosexual, theologically speaking. I am sterile, irreversibly, from birth. There is nothing to fix this, thus any surgery regarding my sex/gender will not affect my status. I don’t function as a male or female and never can. According to the priests I cannot be married to either a man or a woman, no matter what because of my intersexed status. The priests added that I was also an unfit candidate for layperson work, unless it is an emergency, due to my disordered mind as a result of my disordered body.

So I should break up with my fiance? That’s hardly an option for me, I love him with all my heart. Without him I’d probably have commited a worse sin, suicide, over my trials and tribulations. My heart would die if the church told me I have to be single. I’m willing to be celibate, but I will not leave him and he will not leave me. If that’s a sin, then so be it. I love him and he loves me. So I should break up with my fiance? That’s hardly an option, I love him with all my heart. Without him I’d probably have commited a worse sin, suicide, over my trials and tribulations. My heart would die if the church told me I have to be single. I’m willing to remain celibate as the Church teaches, but I will not leave him and he will not leave me. If that’s a sin, then so be it. I love him and he loves me.

If the changing of genitalia is done right after birth to “clarify sex/gender” then the Catholic Church considers it moral, because it brings the body closer to the male/female binary that God created, marriage is allowed. Though actually the medical community has started to stop the practice because so many children question why they have all these scars, peers mock them for their differences (Children are so mean... I was called a faggot and a fairy constantly because of my effeminate form and body. Nevermind the fact I couldn’t help the way God made me!), and some question that assignment. Since the surgery is irreversible there is nothing to be done should the child realize they are opposite their surgery assignment. So now they recomend to hold off until the child has a true sense of self and can say “I am an X.” They do not however say to raise the child androgynously, you assign a gender/sex, just not with surgery.

However, when puberty intersex issues come to light, or someone questions their original sexual assignment, like myself (I wasn’t operated on, but “told” I was a “boy” and raised that way. Later I tried testosterone treatment for a few months to try and enhance my “male-ness” but became suicidal and nearly killed myself by trying to overdose on sleeping pills), and Lynn (another intersexed Catholic Answers forum member who had surgery at birth to sexually assign her as “male,” but who is today female) it becomes very cloudy. Like Lynn has noted, there are people that more or less hijack the system, thus the church cannot distinguish between intersexuals/transexuals and transgenders. After reflection and digging through websites, this is why, I think, if the Church were to say “intersexuals can marry after surgery” then a transgender could abuse it and marry in a Catholic setting.

But I am not a homosexual, nor someone of a definite physical “sex” who is seeking an operation to “switch” sexes. Hence I see no reason why I cannot wed. If I were to not find out until after I was married I had these problems, would they tell me to get an anullment? I know intersexed people that are married by the Church that did not find out until after.

Under current church doctrine, if I had genital normilzation surgery as an infant, which the church advocates for the benefit of the child, I would be able to be married, but because I did not, I cannot be married and if I were to have surgery now, they consider it a transsexual surgery and I am harming God’s Temple.

The church is being unfair and hypocritical.

I don’t mean to oversimplify things here by saying this, or to offend, but basically... The only reason my body feels like a cross is because of the church. When I am outside of the church with my friends and at school I have total acceptance and understanding of my state of being. Only in the church am I forced to feel different and to have a “cross.” I wouldn’t even KNOW this was a cross if not for the church telling me it was. My family is in agreement with what I am doing, they approve of my boyfriend and are frustrated with the church as well on the matter.

Oh, just for informational purposes. Since this involves a fairly technical topic, Wikipedia has a huge pile of information on it, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex, mostly because people like me are sort of overrepresented on the internet. All sorts of social problems go along with our issues, so we flee to the internet where people don’t judge us by our bodies. Hence why I’m here at a Catholic internet forum instead of talking to my fellow parishioners and priests. I feel stigmatized.

The term “hermaphrodite” is considered extremely offensive. “Intersexed” is the correct term. There are plenty of people with intersexed issues that are XX. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia causes elevated levels of testosterone in both XY and XX individuals. The case can be so strong that an XX individual can appear almost entirely male “downstairs” and that’s just one disorder. My karyotype shows XX, XY and XXY chromosomes in my tissues. I was forcibly given testosterone “to make me a man” in my puberty. I am not homosexual.

I have a myriad of other issues that have come from my other sections. I suffer panic attacks so strongly that I have seizures and collapse to the floor with complete blackouts. They’re fairly certain it’s genetic because no amount of medication will make them stop completely. I also suffer from both migraines and cluster headaches, the latter can be WORSE than migraines, believe it or not. My back was deformed from birth and likely I’ll need steel rods jammed into it eventually, not to mention asthma. I have fifty-years at most according to most doctors. I already have osteoporosis and I’m only twenty-six.

My boyfriend is the only thing I have in the world right now. My church has abandoned me and I am not welcome there, no matter what sex I come as. It doesn’t matter what the “official” stance is on my body in some ways. I am not welcome I don’t know how else I can explain this, but people at church are uncomfortable with my very presence at Mass. What else am I supposed to do then, if I am to live a celebate life and the church congregation itself thinks me odd and discriminates against me?

I have no one and it seems some try the best to make sure I can’t even have God.

I hope I don’t come across too strongly, most people are ignorant of the offensiveness of the term, but “hermaphrodite” to me is on the same level as the “N word” because it refers to and brings to mind something that almost NEVER happens. We are between, not both.

SOURCES: “Intersexed Catholic” at Catholic Answers Forums, a thread begun by Rachel [AKA “Pathia” her forum name], April 2, 2006, 07:43 PM

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=106284

Continued at “What life should an intersexed Catholic live?” June 5, 2006, http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=116722

Pathia’s second thread was “closed out” by the administrators after only a single response.

Edward T. Babinski said...

WHAT ABOUT SEMI-SAME SEX MARRIAGES?

Paul the apostle wrote in the first chapter of his letter to the congregation in Rome that it was wrong for a woman to “burn” for another woman. But what if the other “woman” has both a vagina and a penis (where her clitoris is usually located)? Such people exist. What kind of condemnation should apply to them? Are such people allowed to “burn” forpeople of either sex? Cases of inter-sexed human babies include different degrees and types ofinter-sexuality. “When all causes of inter-sexuality are considered, asmany as one in 2, babies are affected.” (Altheaea Yronwode, “IntersexIndividuals Dispute Wisdom of Surgery on Infants,” Transgender Tapestry, Issue #88, Fall 1999)

The American Medical Association has decreed that doctors ought to operate on the genitalia of such infants to ensure that every inter-sexed baby is “made to fit” into either the “male” or “female”categories that society prides itself on being able to easily distinguish. In the case of a baby who has not been operated on (because their parents did not allow it), and who has grown into an adult having breasts, avagina, and a penis instead of a clitoris, what decision should churches make? To allow such a person to wed a partner of either gender is to approve of “semi-same sex” marriages. (How far is that from approving of “same sex” marriages?)

Another option would be for churches to insist onoperations for all babies born with inter-sexed genitalia -- in otherwords such children must be mutilated for having messed up the neat and tidy categories of human sexuality with which the Bible deals. The AMA is beginning to shy away from continuing such operations, so maybe churches will need to mount a counter campaign to maintain them. Or maybe churches can continue theological questions that “inter-sexed” people raise. Certainly the Bible gives little assurance as to how to proceed and “what to condemn” in such cases.

Some people who have undergone surgery because they were intersexed at birth, such as the famous case of a boy with a tiny clitoris-sized penis who was surgically made into a female, later couldn't understand his attraction to females. He still grew up loving women even though he'd been raised as a girl his whole life. Such are the failures of both science and religion to fit everybody neatly into one category or another.

Charlie said...

Note to self: never give Ed Babinski my email address.

Touchstone said...

Heather,

Welcome. You *are* opening your self to a bombardment of comments here, in response. But I suggest that's best seen as a good thing. Don't let the noise get in the way of the signal, and it can be a good thing.

Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts.

-TS

Frank Walton said...

When you meet Ed Babbelinski stay about five feet from his breath, toss him a stick of gum, and say it's from Frank Walton.

April said...

Thank you Touchstone for the welcome...

I agree with Heather in that there does need to be a repentance, a turning away of the sin.
I guess right now Ray thinks this is the way to go, so thats what he should do. No I dont agree with him but I hope and pray that he will turn from his sinful lifestyle. And until then, if and when that happens then "christians" need to support him. No they don't have to agree with him or pretend he isn't sinning. But neither should we hate him or throw stones at him.

I think the longer he lives this way the duller he will grow to hearing the voice of God. As we all grow duller when we practice tuning out our "conscience". Then things we once knew to be wrong become okay. Just like listening to your friend convince you that stealing something "just this one time" over and over, you finally give in, as you have pushed the thought that it is wrong to steal further, and further away.

So I guess I would have to say that if he does continue this lfestyle, it does say that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. But I also have no idea what this man talks to God about or where his heart is.
I can only answer for myself.

Jeff Carter said...

Touchstone,
What about me? I renounced sin and I'm saved, yet I still sin.

In fact, find me a Christian who's not Christ that's any different.

James said...

April, pretend for a moment you live in a universe where heterosexual attraction was "sinful". I know, it's crazy, but use your imagination.
You have these books telling you how AWFUL it is, but you can't seem to NOT think of men in only non-romantic or non-sexual terms.

If you told to repent, would you do so with SINCERITY, not just because you were afraid you were going to have the skin burnt off your bones for all eternity?

James said...

Sorry ... scratch the NOT ... double negative!

;-)

Charlie said...

I must confess that the Christians here have demonstrated patience in dealing with the constant distortions and misunderstandings that touchstone produces. I'm not even a Christian and I understand the religion better than the Christians-turned-atheists here.

World Religions 101: Treat everything you see on "Debunking Christianity" with extreme epistemic caution.

Charlie said...

When you meet Ed Babbelinski

Sorry, who said that would ever happen?

Heather said...

Jeff Carter - I know your comment was directed at TS, but, I have to ask...Are you willfully sinning? Do you go about saying, I know that it is a sin to "fill in the blank" but who cares, I will do it anyway. Or, are you merely human. Trying to live a Holy life with the help of Jesus. God knew that we can not live a sinless life, hence Jesus died on the cross for us and wiped away our sins. If you are saved, that does not absolve all future sins. Each sin has to be dealt with, repented of.

April said...

Well James yes I would have a harder time sincerly repenting if it were just coming from some "books" but it is coming from God. A God that I firmly believe loves me, and because He loves me wants only the absolute best for me. And yes there are things I don't do, because I know where they lead me to. Not only seperation from God, but here on earth, they lead to increase chance of disease, pain emotional and physical, and death!

Just because I enjoy doing something doesn't mean it's good for me. So yes sometimes I refrain from doing things, because I have faith and believe in the One who loves me. Just as when I was a child I looked to my parents to protect me from harm, "why can't we play ball in the street? There aren't any cars and if we see one we'll run to the side..." As a child I didn't understand, but as I grew in maturity I realized my parents loved me and wanted the best for me even though at the time I didn't understand the reasoning behind the "rules" I had to have FAITH in their love for me, and their desire to protect me from harm.

That is how I feel about God, I may not understand the No to something but I trust Him. So while it may be difficultto do I try to obey for my own happiness and out of a love for God.

eheffa said...

Hello April & Heather,

The primary difficulty I see with the Christian response to Ray Boltz's problem is the (mis)perception that the Bible & the Book of Romans in particular, were somehow inspired by God & accurately represent his opinion on these issues.

Where does that idea come from? Who wrote the Bible? Who decided that it should be the authority over all that we think & do? Do you really think that a council of sycophantic churchmen from the 4th century should have a say over what you think and do?

-evan

Touchstone said...

Heather,

Yes, right on. Couldn't have said that better myself. It's one thing to renounce all sin and transgress afterwards. It's another to withhold the sin from renunciation in the first place -- it's just calling it "non-sin", in that case.

-TS

Charity said...

So this man has come out as gay, and because he is a Christian artist could very well end his career.

Yep sure does sound like something he CHOSE to me.

Wouldn't we all CHOOSE to be gay so that we might lose a job that we love?

It makes perfect sense that he would choose his gayness over a lucrative career.

Rachel said...

TS,

In light of that, then, would you say one (say, a popular CCM artist) COULD arrive at a declaration of homosexuality in identity and practice and NOT be "exchanging the truth of God for a lie", as Paul put it?

Yes. This is not a matter of "sneaking" under Paul's descriptions. It is a matter of an entire group of people as a whole "exchanging the truth of God for a lie" (although not necessarily every individual). God then allows sin to fester and manifest itself over time in various ways.

It's not as if these are all the same people, because these things don't all happen immediately and spontaneously. It's not like the moment God removed his restraining influence that everyone immediately started doing all these sins. It's sort of a "trickle-down" thing, kind of a gradual procession. People in the group (and their descendants) became more inclined to commit various acts of sin as a result of the removal of God's restraining influence. It doesn't mean that everyone who commits any act at the end of the chain ALSO committed each act along the progression of the chain. It's merely a chain of events, a gradual progression that likely takes place over many years and even many generations to get to the place where these sinful acts become common. I honestly don't know how else to say this. Romans 1 gives no indication that each and every person who is a homosexual also commits any other sinful act described in Rom. 1.

Charity,

The article TS linked to indicates that Ray Boltz has been retired for a few years now. He is not currently a recording artist, and the article indicated that he was wise with his finances and is basically set for life, along with his ex-wife.

Eheffa,

Who wrote the Bible?

Many people. Perhaps you mean, who wrote Romans. That would be Paul.

Who decided that it should be the authority over all that we think & do?

No one "decided" that. Paul wrote his letters around the 50s or 60s, and most, Romans certainly, were pretty much immediately accepted as being authoritative, i.e. from God. Considering that the people closest to the situation would have been the best ones to determine such authority, coupled with the wide acceptance of Paul and his letters as authoritative, there's pretty good reason to think they came from God. Unless, of course, you hold to an atheistic presupposition, which is a separate discussion.

Do you have specific reason to believe that Romans is NOT authoritative, beyond thinking that God doesn't even exist?

Do you really think that a council of sycophantic churchmen from the 4th century should have a say over what you think and do?

No. I don't know of any councils of sycophantic churchmen from the 4th century who told me what to think and do. Sounds like someone's been reading too much Da Vinci Code. Most of the NT (certainly Romans) was considered authoritative WELL before the 4th century.

Beyond that, why don't you list the names of the men at whatever council you're referring to, and provide your evidence for determining that they were "sycophantic".

Shygetz said...

No. I don't know of any councils of sycophantic churchmen from the 4th century who told me what to think and do. Sounds like someone's been reading too much Da Vinci Code.

No, more like too much Ecclesiastical History. You should try to slog through it sometime...you might find it enlightening.

Most of the NT (certainly Romans) was considered authoritative WELL before the 4th century.

By whom? The whole point of canons 59 and 60 of the Synod of Laodecia (mid-4th century) was to try to come to a consensus about what was and was not canon and then to limit readings to this canon, as people were reading all types of scripture during their services. Yes, Romans was one of the earlier books adopted, but it wasn't universally adopted THAT early. Paul's status itself was disputed well into the second century, and is still disputed (albeit not at all widely) today.

If you mean to tell me that you have closely examined all of the canonical and apocryphal texts yourself and come to the exact same conclusion as your forebearers, well, I don't believe you.

Kevin H said...

Christians can and do have homosexual proclivities. Like heterosexuals, they should be committed to sexual purity as followers of Christ.

The Scriptures do not condemn the homosexual, they condemn the behavior. It is not a sin to be tempted.

I'll tell you one thing: those crappy sappy sentimental songs Ray Boltz sang, devoid of any good theology or content, sure didn't help matters!

In fact, it is reflective of the anti-intellectualism which has plaqued the church since WWII.

I suspect that's why most of you are here. And I hope it's not too late. The intellectual tide is turning, and what many of you wished for the church is actually coming about!

K

zilch said...

Ed- thanks. In the immortal words of the Bullfrog Blues, "laughin' just to keep from cryin'".

Charlie- I, too, often just post my appreciation of posts I think make good points. Does that make me a sock puppet too? I don't know where Klas Klazon is in Northern Europe, but I'd be surprised if you posted anything at all at, say, Dutch or Swedish blogs, in your second or third language. What's your beef?

Robert_B said...

(off topic - but important in light of the FED and Treasury nationalizing the huge pile of bad debt held by the banking industry)


Free people can say "no". Slaves cannot.

eheffa said...

Well Rachel,

I wasn't too impressed with Dan Brown's scholarship nor with the book itself but that's beside the point.

I did not ask these questions just to be a smart a$$ but because they are important basic questions for which the standard Christian answers are sadly lacking.

Rachel said:
Considering that the people closest to the situation would have been the best ones to determine such authority, coupled with the wide acceptance of Paul and his letters as authoritative, there's pretty good reason to think they came from God.


I too once believed that this would be a good indicator of God's inspiration, but having looked a little more closely at the history of the NT (esp. the anonymously penned Gospels) I have been impressed that these "holy" scriptures do not bear too much close scrutiny. Your rationale for acceptance of the inspiration of canonical scripture (general consensus & an ancient ecclesiastical stamp of authority) could just as easily apply to the Koran or the Hadith. How would you decide which writings are inspired or do you just accept the "Christian consensus"? Have Church councils ever been wrong before? How could God allow such an important question to be errant or subject to such a flawed process?

I was once a committed Christian who declared to others that I believed in Jesus because it was rational and sensible. I smugly quoted CS Lewis' trilemma as a good apologist, never daring to honestly question whether the "historical" gospel accounts of Jesus' words & deeds might be contaminated with any mythical or legendary embellishment. After all the authors died for their testimony right? or did they? (People die for delusions & lies all the time; just look at Iraq, Palestine or Waco Texas.)

I finally took my bold claims for the Christian scriptures seriously enough to consider the possibility that I could be wrong & if the truth mattered, I needed to investigate these issues further. Perhaps you too might find that these Holy Scriptures don't look very inspired on closer examination.

Anyways, you have quoted Romans as if it has any bearing on the fate of this poor soul struggling with his sexual identity; as if God himself inspired this Pauline diatribe. Have you seriously considered the possibility that God had nothing to do with the sentiments expressed by this self-promoting first century prophet? What about when he forbids you (as a woman) to speak in a church gathering? I assume you also recognize his authority in keeping your head covered & not cutting your hair?

Hmmm. It doesn't all add up does it?

Philip said...

Indeed, the first step towards my deconversion was the rejection of Paul's authority. I'd started to wise up. "Hold on, here's this guy who was minding his business, suddenly had a 'vision,' converts, then starts acting like he has authority from God. Why should I believe him, especially when he says such things regarding women, gays, and celibacy? Why I do what he says, just because he claims authority?"

Christians put an awful lot of trust in men, more than I do. They're willing to believe someone when they claim God's telling them what to do. So much for putting one's trust in God alone.

Kevin H said...

I'm sure that some would expect that even if Boltz was not actually engaging in homosex all those years, he was "lusting in his heart" for men, and thus practicing evil even then. But really, Boltz was proceeding as Christian would demand: Have all the urges you want, just don't act on them.

KH> Lust is not a mere desire or natural reaction. Lust crosses the line in the mind. It goes the next step and begins to objectify a person.

Lust crosses over into using a person as a thing.

Lust is taking steps toward what one knows would be wrong if it were to be played out, or acted on. Yet, uncontrolled thoughts are the first step.

That's what Jesus was talking about.

K

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

The message that I am getting from Mr Boltz's confession is that he is being set free from hypocrisy - a life of image maintenance and pretending - a sin that is akin to being a son of Hell. I'm glad to hear the good news!

The message of Jesus is not that He will completely irradicate sin in this world(there will always be wars and poverty) but that He irradicates the belief that God condemns sinners. As a believer, I now see that my involvement in sin was the punishment and the condemnation. As a believer I still can be moral and just sometimes or not (same as when I was a nonbeliever) but now I know these are not the sole and ultimate end pursuits of life, but my progressive rejection of victim/victimizer roles serve as a means of keeping the path clear towards something that is worth dying for- a connection to a loving and free spirited God. So for me, morality and justice are path clearing practices - not the ultimate goal. If I am connected with God, I have no desire to be involved in victim / victimizer roles (which can happen in sexual relationships or other other practices as well). Sometimes I still gravitate towards those positions, but the difference for me now is that I know the healer and I don't get trapped by fear and compulsion.

Thanks!

Kristofer said...

Here's my two cents. I am a Buddhist and an Episcopalian (another story altogether). I am NOT a biblical literalist. The Bible isn't the inerrant word of God about man. It is the flawed but enlightening word of man about God. While truth can be found throughout the mythology and symbolism of the Bible - as in the holy texts of other religions - the culture and prejudices of its writers and their era must be considered. Not everything in the Bible is wholesome for building doctrine - certainly not its subjugation of women nor its attitude toward homosexuality. Look deeper, folks. Faith and homosexuality are by no means incompatible. Blessings to Ray Boltz in his new life.

Charlie said...

Christians and Buddhists: give up. Whatever you say, the contributors on this blog will likely either distort or misunderstand it. They're not careful thinkers, they're merely out to defend their dogmatheistic ideology at whatever cost.

goprairie said...

go, touchstone and k_k
boo, chuck
there - am i a sock puppet too?

eheffa said...

So says Charlie:

They're not careful thinkers, they're merely out to defend their dogmatheistic ideology at whatever cost.


Yes. Thank you for this erudite observation.

I've noticed how different and refreshingly respectful the Christian blog sites are (eg Triablog for one); with their careful thinkers graciously submitting their well-reasoned opinions for peer review and consideration.

Take the dogma and unsubstantiated revelation out of Christianity & what do you have left? Not much.

At least the atheist has the freedom to be wrong and make corrections as new evidence dictates without the fear of eternal damnation; a small luxury not afforded to the people of god.

-evan

Edward T. Babinski said...

From a Christian blogger who questions the "anti-gay proof texts" approach to the Bible:

Nature, Scripture and Homosexuality
Friday, September 19, 2008‏

http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/09/nature-scripture-and-homosexuality.html

See also this recent discussion of the scientific evidence:

Do recent neurological studies prove once and for all that homosexuality is biological?
Sept. 12, 2008

http://www.salon.com/env/mind_reader/2008/09/12/gay_neurology/

Kevin H said...

Do recent neurological studies prove once and for all that homosexuality is biological?

KH> Even if this is so, it is no justification for the behavior.

As you know, in Christian theology nature is fallen. That does not fare well for genetic proclivities or neural tendencies. In fact, the theology predicts it.

Let's just open the prisons and let everyone out who has genetic predispositions to pedophilia, abuse, anger, drug abuse, and rape.
Right?

In fact, genetic influences and mere cultural/social influences can lead to the same effect. So take your pick.

Homosexuals, in either case, do not usually choose their proclivities. It is foisted upon them either way.

K

Philip said...

Kevin,

Are you seriously comparing homosexuality to rape, pedophilia and abuse?

Cole said...

The message I'm getting from the Holy Ghost is that mr. Ray fucked up and is on his way to hell for all eternity. Have fun buddy. God loves you.

Michael said...

I apologize that I have not read all comments prior to writing my own.

We discussed this Romans 1 thing in a college intro to theology course I attended. The professor showed us that, while the passage does show the writer has a bias against those people who engaged in homosexual activity, the specific "sin" of homosexuality was not the point of the beginning of Romans. He did this by showing if one reads on past the arbitrarily placed chapter breaks, one sees the writer is trying to say "See these people who do all these really bad things? They do, don't they? They're really bad, yeah? Oh, wait, you know what? You're just as bad." The writer is using the "sin" of homosexuality to get the readers on his/her side, so he/she can then pull the old switcheroo. The writer actually does not show this "sin" to be any worse than any other. Reading the text as such does not remove the aforementioned bias, but it does show the writer does not give any theological reasons why homosexuality should be considered the "unforgivable sin," as many Christians now see it.

That being said, I just want to make clear: I do not believe in sin, nor do I believe there is anything wrong with homosexuality. Just a disclaimer. Guess I could've put it at the top.

Scott said...

Charlie wrote: Christians and Buddhists: give up. Whatever you say, the contributors on this blog will likely either distort or misunderstand it. They're not careful thinkers, they're merely out to defend their dogmatheistic ideology at whatever cost.

Charlie,

It seems you've made another false assumption.

Personally, I subscribe to much of the philosophical aspects of Buddhism. Where I differ is on metaphysical issues such as reincarnation, etc. The quote...

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger

...is a true now as it would be then. Cause and effect can have just as much of an impact now as it could in another life. As such, my motivation to avoid negative outcomes is clearly based on observable and testable results and not dependent on being born again.

I have no vested interested in whether The Buddha actually existed or actually said the things he is attributed as saying. If the what the Buddha taught has value then it would remain valuable regardless if he was man, myth or something in between. But, most importantly, it should be demonstrably valuable.

Nor do I discount or deny what people might consider religious experiences. I simply think they are part of nature which doesn't require a supernatural being. For example, the benefits of meditation are reproducible and have been confirmed by neuroscience and other studies methods.

Finally, I agree with the Dali Lama, who on often says.... when science proves that Buddhist scriptures are incorrect, then the scriptures should be rejected.

So, to say that everyone who contributes to his blog misunderstands things, such as Christianity and Buddhism seems to be a false and sweeping generalization.

Instead, my position is that most religious people misunderstand and distort value found in religious teachings when they subscribe to it's metaphysical aspects. The are so busy trying to quench their superstitions and fears that they can't separate wisdom from wishful and even dangerous thinking.

As it is with every religion, the wisdom of the Buddha is trapped in the religion of Buddhism.

Scott said...

The Bible isn't the inerrant word of God about man. It is the flawed but enlightening word of man about God.

Kristofer,

Perhaps you can elaborate on what you mean by "God"?

While there are theistic sects of Buddhism, these appear to be remnants of it's Hindu origins.

To quote the Buddha:

"No one saves us but ourselves,
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path, 
But Buddhas clearly show the way"

The Buddha was not a God but a man who led by example.

tigg13 said...

Re: Hate the sin but love the sinner.

Christians who insist that their religion never changes should take a good look at how their religion's view on tolerance has evolved in the last 50 years or so.

In that time our society has undergone a paradigm shift led by feminists and equal rights advocates that has effectively demonized bigotry. To make a statement that is even slightly non-PC can get you some serious stares and cold shoulders.

And while christianity was able to addapt to the idea that the neighbors you're supposed to love can belong to other races and cultures - or even being female (which was a hard pill to swallow) they have a much larger problem when it comes to loving homosexuals.

The bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin and must never be tolerated. This puts christians in a lose-lose situation: if they discriminate against homosexuals then they are bigots, if they don't then they are not following the word of god.

A lot of christians have tried to solve this problem by sitting on the fence. They insist that they have nothing against homosexuals (hey some of my best friends are...) but they (gay people) are still doing something that is unacceptable (and will burn forever for it).

Hate the sin but love the sinner.

Well, not love really. More like pity.

I have even heard some christians say that everyone would be better off if "those" people would just stay "in the closet" - where they belong.

I wonder how much more liberalism is going to invade and change christian theology. I wonder if homophobia might go the way of slavery and become another of those "cultural" observances that don't apply anymore.

Maybe we'll start to see churches re-translate the bible in such a way that jesus and some (if not all) of the apostles are depicted as being gay.

It sure would explain a great many things...

Edward T. Babinski said...

Gay student commits suicide at Wheaton College, atheist student at Wheaton blogs about it, and about the "gay" issue‏:

http://leavingeden.wordpress.com/2007/09/22/the-church-and-homosexuality/

Another Wheaton student produces excellent heartfelt documentary film about her conservative Evangelical upbringing, and how she fought gay urges:

http://snagfilms.com/films/watch/born_again/

The film, above, appears automatically in sections, followed by a short ad and then another segment of the film.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Two founders of Exodus International (an evangelical Christian ministry that specialized in "turning gays straight") fell in love with each other

Exodus International attracted media attention in 1978 when two of its founders, Gary Cooper and Michael Busee, left the ministry after falling in love with each other. Together they went on the talk show circuit in the early 1990s to tell their story. Busee and Cooper repeatedly called ex-gay ministries a fraud that promote homophobia and self-hatred. They told stories of people who went through the Exodus program and had emotional breakdowns or committed suicide. After interacting with hundreds of people, Busee and Cooper said they hadn't met one person who successfully changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight.

From Refuting Information and Recommendations of Organizations of the Religious Right http://www.mtn.org/~cpcsm/programs_refuting.htm

Estimates of Success Rates of Reparative Therapy
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_exod1.htm

Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth by Wayne R. Besen, Published by Haworth Press, 2003

- An in-depth, well-researched, and historically significant account, Anything but Straight is full of startling facts and alarming surprises. The book includes:

- the inside story of the night the author photographed 'ex-gay' poster boy John Paulk inside a gay bar

- previously undisclosed bizarre techniques used by the 'ex-gay' ministries and 'reparative therapists'

- the author's exclusive in-depth interviews with leading 'ex-gay' leaders--they disclose their deepest secrets, hidden desires, and true motivations

- an extraordinary new study that shows that most 'ex-gay' leaders have suffered from substance abuse or severe emotional problems--while many 'ex-gay' leaders claim they were 'unhappy being gay,' this report helps prove that their dissatisfactions came not from their homosexuality, but from poor life choices and irresponsible behavior

- new revelations that one of the nation's leading 'reparative therapists' belonged to a secretive cult that was scandalized for practicing nude therapy

Going Straight, by Decca Aitkenhead, The Guardian, Saturday April 3 2004 (Article on the ex-gay movement, pro and con, the questions come toward the end of the article)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2004/apr/03/weekend.deccaaitkenhead

google: Christian clinic 'reparative therapy' homosexuality

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/repeat-after-me-the-reparative-therapy-echo-chamber

http://jakechanged.blogspot.com/2007/10/year-of-therapy.html

Debate Over Gay Reparative Therapy Heats Up

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070718/debate-over-gay-reparative-therapy-heats-up.htm

http://www.beyondexgay.com/narratives/brandon

http://groups.google.com/group/soc.men/msg/0bbc5b58355cb8c9

http://leejagers.wordpress.com/2006/07/24/a-thoughtful-christian-perspective-on-homosexuality/

Edward T. Babinski said...

The history of anti-homosexual laws and persecution of homosexuals
in Christendom goes way back. A practical liberal secular wish for people to get along in society has produced, even upon conservative Christians, a relative mildness towards gays today, but Christians for nearly two millennia used to preach and promote the death penalty for homosexual practices (including in colonial American times), and there were laws on the books in the U.S. until a decade or so imprisoning people who practiced "sodomy" (which included such acts practices between men and women), and there's laws banning sexual self-pleasing devices in some southern states.

Today there's not only Gay Christian ministers, but a gay Anglican Bishop in the U.S.

Rev. Mel White was ghostwriter for Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell, who tried like hell to no longer be homosexual, but in the end came out as one, and who preaches in Metropolitan Baptist churches.

Harry McCall also mentioned to me in an email the case of a gay fundamentalist Christian missionary:

I have a gay friend I've know since I was in Seminary in 1976 who has served as a Christian missionary in Africa for over twenty years. He is now back in the United States and is pasturing a large church. He has never been married. When I asked (I'll use the name "John Doe") about his
sexual nature within Christianity, he said he does not want "to be like this" and has been to a number of churches to be spiritually healed, but no matter how hard he tries, nothing has ever change for him. He has been
sexually active.

My Question is: A: How is God able to let John minister in Africa for
over 20 years and "bear fruit" in the Christian ministry?

B: Why does God not change John (if homosexuality is just a sin) when he has been prayed over and counseled in several churches? The fact he came to these churches for help proves he wants / wanted to change. He has told me such himself.

C: If God does indeed dislike gay ministers, than why does He (God) call gay people (Such as John) into the ministry by letting them be a missionary for over 20 years and now a full time pastor (To says God "didn't really call him begs the question)? If God does disapproves of John than why is his ministry in a large well know non-gay church "blessed" (I base this "blessed" on the fact that he gets larger Churches with each "Calling" / move)?

In the theocracy of the Hebrew Bible, Israel could simply kill this type of individual and not have to deal with such a problem, but how does Christianity face such facts as I have listed above? I don't think Christianity is as simple as the Apostle Paul often wanted it to be Romans.

Sincerely,

Harry McCall [McCall's testimony is in LEAVING THE FOLD, McCall attended both Bob Jones University in S.C. and then, Columbia seminary in Georgia before leaving the fold]

Rachel said...

Sorry for the late reply, I had a partial response written, then my sister-in-law came over and was using the computer and lost my post. The rest of the weekend has been busy.

Shygetz,

No, more like too much Ecclesiastical History.

Do tell, what part of EH says that a council of syncophatic churchmen from the 4th century told everyone what to think and do? From what I've read of it, Eusebius seems to say the same thing I am - that most of the books of the canon were generally accepted as authoritative very soon after they began to be circulated. The later councils simply formalized what was already accepted by the church at large.

The whole point of canons 59 and 60 of the Synod of Laodecia (mid-4th century) was to try to come to a consensus about what was and was not canon and then to limit readings to this canon, as people were reading all types of scripture during their services.

What about it? The point is that most of the books were already accepted as authoritative. The deciding of the canon was for the most part a matter of formalizing what was already accepted by the church at large (yes, I'm repeating myself, because you're repeating the problem). Neither you nor evan have produced even one bit of evidence that proves his statement that "a council of syncophantic churchmen from the 4th century" just up and decided what everyone should think and do... as if there were a bunch of documents out there, all with equal weight and validity, and this council (whichever one evan was talking about) just sprang up and drew names out of a hat to pick the ones they wanted. You guys so often leave the impression that the early church was using a multitude of documents chaotically until a council with ulterior motives came along and randomly picked whichever ones they wanted, and now we're all forced to follow the ones they picked. There's just no evidence to support that, yet it's repeated uncritically so often that people begin to believe it.

Yes, Romans was one of the earlier books adopted, but it wasn't universally adopted THAT early.

What do you mean, "THAT early"? I didn't set a date. But it certainly was considered authoritative pretty soon after it was written, and it has pretty much never been disputed - Romans is in just about every canonical list we have.

The point is, evan had asked "who decided [the Bible] should be authoritative?" and implied that it was merely some council who had randomly decided whichever books they wanted as authoritative. This is clearly NOT the case, the books that are in the Bible were considered authoritative very early by the church at large (i.e. a large group of various people, not just one council of a few "syncophantic churchmen") who were contemporaries of the message and the messenger.

Rachel said...

evan,

they are important basic questions for which the standard Christian answers are sadly lacking.

Perhaps you should look further than the "standard" Christian answers then.

Your rationale for acceptance of the inspiration of canonical scripture (general consensus & an ancient ecclesiastical stamp of authority) could just as easily apply to the Koran or the Hadith. How would you decide which writings are inspired or do you just accept the "Christian consensus"?

Primarily because the NT writings were authored at a time when the people who were contemporary to the events and people described therein were still alive. If the events and people described in the NT were made up and/or lies, it is unlikely to the extreme that the NT books would ever have gained any kind of acceptance, let alone the authority they were granted by such a variety of people, and so soon after they were written.

The Koran, on the other hand, comes along several hundred years later, written by only ONE person, and teaches many things that starkly contradict what had already been accepted as authoritative by the contemporaries. Surely you can see the ease with which the Koran is then rejected as not from God.

Have Church councils ever been wrong before?

Probably. But as I said to Shygetz, what about it? No council determined the canon, it mostly merely recognized and formalized what had already been accepted by the church at large.

How could God allow such an important question to be errant or subject to such a flawed process?

What's so flawed about it?

(People die for delusions & lies all the time; just look at Iraq, Palestine or Waco Texas.)

Yes, but people don't die for what they KNOW to be false. That's the difference.

Perhaps you too might find that these Holy Scriptures don't look very inspired on closer examination.

Too late, I've already examined them for a variety of problems over the last several years, and they came out even better than they were when I started.

Anyways, you have quoted Romans as if it has any bearing on the fate of this poor soul struggling with his sexual identity; as if God himself inspired this Pauline diatribe.

Yes, I do believe God inspired Romans. But Touchstone is the one who brought up Romans. I was simply addressing his interpretation of Romans 1. It's not like I read the article and thought about Romans 1 and how it applied to the guy. I saw an error in TS' main point, and decided to address it. I did not quote Romans 1 toward Ray Boltz, in fact I am not even addressing the issue of Ray per se. The point is that Ray being a good guy does not contradict Romans 1. That's what I said in my first comment on this thread, and that's all I was saying.

Have you seriously considered the possibility that God had nothing to do with the sentiments expressed by this self-promoting first century prophet?

Yep. But the evidence FOR inspiration was so strong, and the evidence AGAINST it was so weak, that I chose to go with inspiration.

What about when he forbids you (as a woman) to speak in a church gathering?

He doesn't. Normal learning practices at the time dictated that ALL people (men AND women) were to be silent when being taught. The fact that Paul admonishes the women to be quiet indicates that certain women were NOT following standard, respectful learning practices. Besides that, just a few chapters earlier Paul said that a woman could pray and/or prophesy in the church, as long as she kept her head covered. Seems to make the "silent" thing pretty clear.

Speaking of head coverings...

I assume you also recognize his authority in keeping your head covered & not cutting your hair?

Actually, I recognize the difference between a cultural command and a moral command. I do recognize Paul's authority (the moral point behind the cultural command) in keeping my appearance in sync with what is appropriate for women, rather than dressing like a prostitute or connecting myself in some outward way to sinful practices.

Hmmm. It doesn't all add up does it?

You must be using that "new math" because everything I see adds up perfectly.

Rotten Arsenal said...

Surely you can see the ease with which the Koran is then rejected as not from God.

I can think of 3,000 or so people right off the top of my head that would disagree with this statement. If it was that easy, the Koran wouldn't be the book of choice for the second largest and fastest growing religion on Earth.

eheffa said...

Rachel,

I have asked these questions in a rhetorical sense not to annoy you but because I think the standard apologetic arguments you use are unconvincing and only satisfying to someone already convinced of the veracity and integrity of the Bible and the NT in particular. Yes, your answers are the standard Josh McDowell, NT Wright, WL Craig type arguments & they do fall far short of the mark.

I used to use these same answers myself in my personal apologetics and defense to skeptics who questioned the reasons for my Christian faith. I have since looked at these issues a little more closely without insisting on Biblical inerrancy as an a priori assumption. The result is that I have now come to believe that the gospels and the NT are by and large a pious fabrication. A man-made religion like all other religions in the world. I may be wrong in this but have yet to encounter any good evidence to dissuade me.

So without belaboring this too much I'll make a couple more comments but will leave it to you to look for our own answers. If you think your apologetics are sound and logical, well good on you, but they are far from satisfying a skeptic's need for some reasonable evidence. If you really want to test their mettle, try reading a little bit of Richard Carrier or a few other well informed skeptics.


I can't spare the time at the moment to argue each of your points in turn but you should recognize that these are tired and old arguments that have been thoroughly trashed by much more intelligent and articulate authors than myself.

For example, you make the following statement:
"Primarily because the NT writings were authored at a time when the people who were contemporary to the events and people described therein were still alive. If the events and people described in the NT were made up and/or lies, it is unlikely to the extreme that the NT books would ever have gained any kind of acceptance, let alone the authority they were granted by such a variety of people, and so soon after they were written."

First of all, what evidence do you have that the NT gospels were authored contemporaneously to the events they describe? "Mark" was almost certainly written after the fall of Jerusalem (i.e. > ~80 CE) & his plagiarizing copycats, the authors of Matthew & Luke written sometime later & perhaps well into the second century (~100 - 115) If you think that is far-fetched, how many other authors of that time actually refer to or quote these books? How exactly would a skeptic of the early second century go about corroborating the claims of the Christians or the Gospel writers?

Even if one accepts the unfounded assertion that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses and within a generation of the life of their chief protagonist, do you really think that the movement would have failed because of a general skepticism on the part of the people of that day?

I'll leave you a quote from Richard Carrier's excellent essay on this topic:
Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/kooks.html

His opening statetments:

We all have read the tales told of Jesus in the Gospels, but few people really have a good idea of their context. Yet it is quite enlightening to examine them against the background of the time and place in which they were written, and my goal here is to help you do just that. There is abundant evidence that these were times replete with kooks and quacks of all varieties, from sincere lunatics to ingenious frauds, even innocent men mistaken for divine, and there was no end to the fools and loons who would follow and praise them. Placed in this context, the gospels no longer seem to be so remarkable, and this leads us to an important fact: when the Gospels were written, skeptics and informed or critical minds were a small minority. Although the gullible, the credulous, and those ready to believe or exaggerate stories of the supernatural are still abundant today, they were much more common in antiquity, and taken far more seriously.

If the people of that time were so gullible or credulous or superstitious, then we have to be very cautious when assessing the reliability of witnesses of Jesus. As Thomas Jefferson believed when he composed his own version of the gospels, Jesus may have been an entirely different person than the Gospels tell us, since the supernatural and other facts about him, even some of his parables or moral sayings, could easily have been added or exaggerated by unreliable witnesses or storytellers. Thus, this essay is not about whether Jesus was real or how much of what we are told about him is true. It is not even about Jesus. Rather, this essay is a warning and a standard, by which we can assess how likely or easily what we are told about Jesus may be false or exaggerated, and how little we can trust anyone who claims to be a witness of what he said and did. For if all of these other stories below could be told and believed, even by Christians themselves, it follows that the Gospels, being of entirely the same kind, can all too easily be inaccurate, tainted by the gullibility, credulity, or fondness for the spectacular which characterized most people of the time.


Anyways, if you wish to carry on this dialogue, I would be happy to continue but not until next week at the earliest as my plate is pretty full.

Respectfully yours,

-evan

Rachel said...

evan,

You say you've investigated all these things, but the issues you raise have already been so "thoroughly trashed" (as you say) by a variety of apologists that it leaves the impression that rather than seriously looking for the answers to your questions and being willing to follow where the evidence led, you simply followed the first objections you found. It's almost as if your earlier insistence (as a Christian) on ignoring all skepticism backfired so that when you finally allowed some skepticism, you didn't have the balance to adjust your views appropriately. Instead you just chucked the whole thing.

First of all, what evidence do you have that the NT gospels were authored contemporaneously to the events they describe?

Now see, this is getting a little frustrating. You made several assertions in your last couple of posts, and when I asked for your evidence you produced none, and are now making more assertions w/o evidence and then asking ME for evidence. I have no problem producing evidence, but I hope you can see how that would be frustrating.

Beyond that, you must be aware that this a HUGE question! Surely you do not expect me to name and explain all the evidence for each of the 4 canonical gospels being contemporary with the events they describe?!

(Lee Randolph, if you're reading this, see what I mean?)

"Mark" was almost certainly written after the fall of Jerusalem (i.e. > ~80 CE) & his plagiarizing copycats, the authors of Matthew & Luke written sometime later & perhaps well into the second century (~100 - 115)

What is your evidence for this? Generally the main reason for dating the NT gospels after 70 AD is an anti-prophecy presupposition. Which of course isn't actually "evidence". There is good evidence for all the NT gospels being written before 70 AD. Generally speaking, Mark's Gospel reflects people and events and terminology that would have been likely in the times fairly close to Jesus' death, and certainly before 70 AD and the fall of Jerusalem, and quite peculiar AFTER 70 AD. Matthew and Luke were almost certainly written after Mark, but they also have good evidence for being written before 70 AD. A couple of good links about Mark are here and here. Both of those sites have info for the other Gospels as well.

how many other authors of that time actually refer to or quote these books?

How many other authors of that time would have good reason to refer to or quote these books? Also, how many other ancient documents do we have today that are referred to or quoted in other contemporary works, versus how many ancient documents that are NOT referred to or quoted in other contemporary works (yet are still considered reliable)? This is special pleading - insisting on a level of evidence/set of standards that is simply not required for any other ancient documents.

Even if one accepts the unfounded assertion that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses and within a generation of the life of their chief protagonist, do you really think that the movement would have failed because of a general skepticism on the part of the people of that day?

Yes, very much so.

I see your Richard Carrier article, and I raise you my Glenn Miller response article. In response to your Carrier quote, I'll leave you with a quote that Miller uses:

"On the other hand it must be admitted that in the relatively peaceful and stable period of the first two centuries the irrationalism which first appeared at the beginning of the first century was unable to strike roots. There continued to be rationalist movements alongside it. In his dialogues Lucian mocked his contemporaries' belief in the miraculous. Oenomaus of Gadara mocked the oracles, and Sextus Empiricus once more brought together all the arguments of scepticism. Even where increased irrationalism was notable--for example in Plutarch's development--it remained within bounds, without eccentricity or fanaticism. There was no decisive change before the great social and political crisis of the 3rd century AD."

Miller's article makes it clear that there's no good reason to think that the people of Jesus' day and soon after were super-gullible or superstitious.

Anyways, if you wish to carry on this dialogue, I would be happy to continue but not until next week at the earliest as my plate is pretty full.

Well, I'm not really interested in continuing to dialogue about 10 different topics in every comment. But if you have something specific to bring to the table, I'd be glad to address it whenever you have the time.

Scott said...

Rachel wrote: Actually, I recognize the difference between a cultural command and a moral command. I do recognize Paul's authority (the moral point behind the cultural command) in keeping my appearance in sync with what is appropriate for women, rather than dressing like a prostitute or connecting myself in some outward way to sinful practices.

Rachel, I don't quite follow your line of thinking.

Why would God define what is sinful based on a cultures definition of modesty or slavery? Does God define murder differently for cultures that include the practice of cannibalism?

Instead, wouldn't it seem logical that, since God is supposably timeless and the very objective definition of morality, that he would decree the same standards for every culture?

It appears that you think what would normally be considered inconsistent behavior really isn't inconstant for God merely because God is depicted as giving cultural commands in the Bible and you presuppose the Bible is the divine word of God.

However, as someone who does not share your Biblical presuppositions, this behavior doesn't make sense. (Actually it does make sense, but when we see Yahweh as a tribal protector created by men, not a all knowing, supernatural being)

If we must depend on our own moral compass to separate that which is moral and which is immoral as depicted the Bible, exactly what does the Bible provide in the way of moral teaching that we couldn't obtain elsewhere or on our own?

eheffa said...

Hi Rachel,

If the quality of Miller's rebuttal satisfies you then you're welcome to that belief. He quotes from the educated skeptics of the day and essentially argues that the credulous uneducated masses referred to by Richard Carrier therefore did not exist or somehow followed the leading of their more educated countrymen in being skeptical. This would like arguing in 4008 CE that a popular belief in Creationism in the USA could not have existed in 2008 when the 2008 scientific community so clearly wrote that a naturalistic evolutionary explanation for the origin of species was the generally accepted scientific view. (This analogy assumes that the Creationists' writings would have be lost or that they were perhaps regarded to be illiterate. The scientific community's arguments against the ID proponents & creationists would at least attest to the existence of such a non-scientific movement. In contrast, why weren't there first century skeptics writing arguments against this vigorous thriving Christian movement? Why didn't Philo or Josephus recognize it as a significant threat to their form of Judaism?)

The argument that you put forward, i.e. that the Christian religion could not have been embraced enthusiastically by the great unwashed unless it was "true", falls flat here.

Unlike me, you seem to have all the difficulties & issues around the history of the early church resolved: you see well-preserved, unrevised, early and historically accurate gospels, an educated and skeptical public unwilling to believe anything but the most verifiable of miraculous claims etc. You are perhaps not too troubled by Luke's familiarity with Josephus' writings & how that and a few other details places his writings into the second century?

OK. I asked my initial rhetorical questions in the (slight) hope that you may not have considered the many anachronisms & difficulties of the orthodox christian position. I was hoping this might prompt you to consider your presuppositions.

I myself was once willing to accept these (anachronisms) at face value, but the whole house of cards only holds up as long as you keep the a priori idea that the Gospel Jesus story must be true & everything must be subordinated to this magnificent claim. Throw that question into the mix too & see where the evidence takes you. No-one can do that for you, but I wonder whether you have had the courage to try it. You may be surprised where it takes you - I know I was. The fatal step in my de-converting from Christianity was when I decided that a search for truth would have to mean putting all presuppositions on the table. My search for the truth eventually brought me out of the Christian faith as the arguments for an orthodox Christian position failed to satisfy even the most basic standards of veracity & good evidential support. I now look at the apologetic arguments & it seems obvious that no-one (including myself) could hold these orthodox views without a pervasive & tenacious commitment to the faith. A position that holds dogma in higher regard than verifiable evidence. Do you think anyone could become a Christian on the strength of the evidence alone? (Another rhetorical question BTW)

If you wish for me to respond to each of your arguments in turn, I can do that next week. I am relatively new to arguing the other (nay) side so it it would be a lot of work for me to do that. You seem to have it all neatly explained away already so perhaps I needn't bother rehashing what may be old hat to you; but, if you wish, I'll do my homework & get back to you.

Cheers.

-evan

Scott said...

Rachel wrote: In response to your Carrier quote, I'll leave you with a quote that Miller uses:

Rachel,

Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that irrationalism which first appeared at the beginning of the first century was unable to strike roots. It seems clear that irrational beliefs formed before or during that time were "grandfathered" into culture and systems of belief as being "rational" going forward.

For example, it's been estimated that over 35% of adult Americans believe in astrology. Is this some kind of new idea that recently appeared on our radar? No, it's not. Instead, it can be traced back to the Babylonians in 3,000 BCE.

So, it appears that astrology survived despite the formation of a "rational" movement that supposedly formed after it.

How do you know that Christianity didn't slip though the cracks as well?

As for the rest of Miller's argument, it's not conclusive. For example, Miller cites an example of what he claims is a Christian discounting credulity over statues of Alexander and Proteus. However, one could just as easily interpret his reaction as having specific credulous beliefs which directly conflicted with the foundation of the statues worship.

"But of the statues of Alexander and Proteus (the latter, you are aware, threw himself into the fire near Olympia), that of Proteus is likewise said to utter oracles; and to that of Alexander…sacrifices are offered and festivals are held at the public cost, as to a god who can hear. Is it, then, Neryllinus, and Proteus, and Alexander who exert these energies in connection with the statues, or is it the nature of the matter itself? But the matter is brass. And what can brass do of itself, which may be made again into a different form, as Amasis treated the footpan, as told by Herodotus? And Neryllinus, and Proteus, and Alexander, what good are they to the sick? For what the image is said now to effect, it effected when Neryllinus was alive and sick."

As a Christian, it's likely the act of suicide would be considered a sin, which would have automatically disqualified Proteus from being worthy of worship. Likewise, since Alexander was not raised from the dead, then he too would be discredited.

As such, Athenagoras's complaint appears to be partisan in nature as, some other credulity other than his own, is being funded with tax dollars.

Charlie said...

ATTN Scott:

I understand that you have a strong desire to uncritically parrot atheistic cyber memes, but your illogical comments have gone too far. Your failure to actually understand religions before you critique them is unprecedented. Your posts are riddled with fallacies, caricatures, and non-arguments. With respect to Buddhism in particular, your understanding is hopelessly confused, irresponsible, and, at best, one-dimensional. Effective immediately, you are prohibited from critiquing anybody's religious beliefs until you have taken the trouble to understand them.

While these restrictions may seem harsh, I assure you that they are being enforced for your own benefit, lest you continue embarrassing yourself by critiquing that which you don't understand.

For future reference, Buddhism is not an inherently atheistic philosophy or religion, as many of its adherents believe in a God or god-like spiritual beings, depending on the kind of Buddhism practiced.

Your compliance is appreciated,

Mgmt

Rachel said...

evan,

If the quality of Miller's rebuttal satisfies you then you're welcome to that belief.

Why yes, it does. Thank you very much.

He quotes from the educated skeptics of the day and essentially argues that the credulous uneducated masses referred to by Richard Carrier therefore did not exist or somehow followed the leading of their more educated countrymen in being skeptical.

Did you read the article, beyond what I quoted here? Seriously. Miller has THIRTY-TWO points in his concluding summary. The first few quotes hardly represent the scope of his argument, even if I concede that your description is correct (which I don't). Miller gives many reasons for why the people of Jesus' time and for awhile after were NOT gullible and superstitious. But even if we assume that the uneducated were gullible while the educated were not, the biblical authors were apparently among the educated to some extent because they were writing and reading. So then you have to come up with some kind of conspiracy theory to say that all the biblical authors made up wild stories of miracles and a resurrection in order to fool the easily gullible masses, or something like that. Which of course is not only ridiculous and completely unsupportable, but conflicts with the obvious nature of the NT writings. As Miller points out,

"The incessant calls in the bible to 'critical thinking' and 'be not deceived' and 'watch out for charlatans' and 'wake up' locates the authorship/readership in a social situation of anti-gullibility and anti-credulity. The 'test all things' motif is pervasive in the NT, in line with the social setting we have noted for the gospel authors/recipients (e.g., Luke's 'scientific' preamble, in the genre of the Hellenistic schools."

Seems to me that that gullible people don't go around insisting on evidence and testing of claims.

Why didn't Philo or Josephus recognize it as a significant threat to their form of Judaism?

Again, for your silence theory to work, you need to produce people who would have had good reason to write about Christianity but didn't. Josephus DID write about Christianity in a quite negative way. Philo died in 50 AD, so Christianity may not have seemed a "threat" during Philo's lifetime. Also, silence was a common way to insult someone in those days - similar to a boycott today. It's as if they were saying, "you aren't even worthy of notice or response".

The argument that you put forward, i.e. that the Christian religion could not have been embraced enthusiastically by the great unwashed unless it was "true", falls flat here.

Well, you haven't really given any reasons why it falls flat. And anyway, the point is that Christianity was embraced enthusiastically by many people from ALL walks of life, educated and uneducated, rich and poor. Acceptance by such a wide spectrum of people does not lend itself to your theory of "the gullible masses" very well.

You are perhaps not too troubled by Luke's familiarity with Josephus' writings & how that and a few other details places his writings into the second century?

I might be troubled if Luke really was familiar with Josephus' writings. In reality, I'm more troubled by the stretches that must be made to pretend that Luke's account of, say, the parable of the hated king "sounds like" the Josephus' comments on Herod. Most of the attempts at parallels between the 2 are just as bad as the attempts at parallels between Christianity and pagan myths.

Unlike me, you seem to have all the difficulties & issues around the history of the early church resolved: you see well-preserved, unrevised, early and historically accurate gospels, an educated and skeptical public unwilling to believe anything but the most verifiable of miraculous claims etc.

That's correct. You would do well to get these issues resolved as well, rather than throwing your hands up in despair because you found some questions. You've said several times that the Christian answers you've seen were lacking, yet you haven't explained why they were lacking and why the alternative answers were so much more appealing.

Frankly, you seem to have more questions than answers. You've asked several different questions in this thread. I've answered each of them, yet the only response you have is to say they were rhetorical and move on to a different question. If you haven't "done your homework", then how can you hold a position on these issues? It's one thing to go back and grab details for a position; it's another thing when you don't even seem to have the ready knowledge to offer any kind of evidence for your claims whatsoever. I appreciate your honesty in not pretending to offer a filibuster answer, but that doesn't change the point that you have brought assertion, assumption, and questions, but no evidence. The mere existence of many questions against Christianity is no reason to toss the whole thing. Let the questions drive you to search and find the best answers - go where the evidence leads. Even if you still end up a non-Christian, at least you'll have reasons for it, rather than just questions. And you never know, you might be surprised at what you find.

If you wish for me to respond to each of your arguments in turn, I can do that next week.

As I said earlier, I don't really want to discuss 10 different topics in detail. Plus this thread has gotten quite a bit off topic. If you have one specific issue you'd like to dialogue about, perhaps you could bring it over to my blog, or ask one of the contributors here at DC if they would post it for you. Otherwise, I'm sure I'll see you around.

Rachel said...

Scott,

Why would God define what is sinful based on a cultures definition of modesty or slavery?

You do seem confused. Perhaps you are not familiar with the specifics of what evan and I were talking about. Evan referenced a passage from 1 Corinthians where Paul talks about how Christian women should keep their head covered while in church, as well as how a woman should have "long hair" and not cut it off.

God was not defining cutting off of hair or not wearing something on your head as sin. The reason Paul gives this instruction is because in the culture of the day, these things were symbols of prostitutes or that a woman was the casual partner of a man (or men) other than her husband. My whole point is that God's morality is indeed unchanging - it's the specific application of it that changes, based on the culture.

Moving on to your next comment...

So, it appears that astrology survived despite the formation of a "rational" movement that supposedly formed after it.

Well, certainly no one is saying that superstition was zero during this time, merely that it wasn't rampant, common, or reflective of "virtually everyone". The fact that some superstition survived doesn't affect the point that many people of the time were NOT credulous.

How do you know that Christianity didn't slip though the cracks as well?

See my last comment to evan above.

However, one could just as easily interpret his reaction as having specific credulous beliefs which directly conflicted with the foundation of the statues worship.

It certainly could be that Athenagorus had specific beliefs that directly conflicted with idol worship, but they don't have to be credulous. Indeed, if he was just as superstitious as the people he decries, his reasons wouldn't have been grounded in reality. He wouldn't have appealed to real-world evidence because that same evidence would have overthrown his own superstition.

No, he did have other beliefs that contradicted these, that's why he complains about these. He had evidence and reason for his beliefs, while he is bothered that these people were worshiping statues that had no evidence whatsoever.

As a Christian, it's likely the act of suicide would be considered a sin, which would have automatically disqualified Proteus from being worthy of worship. Likewise, since Alexander was not raised from the dead, then he too would be discredited.

I don't know about the suicide thing, but otherwise you're right - Athenagorus doesn't worship these beings/statues, because they fail evidential tests of worthiness. That doesn't sound gullible, but rather quite reasoned. You seem to be assuming that belief in God in and of itself makes one gullible and superstitious. And if you make that assumption a priori, then you're just as gullible as you think ancient people were.

As I said to evan, this thread has really gone off topic. Assuming you're the same Scott that posted on my blog a few days ago, you know where to find me if you want to discuss more specifics. Otherwise, I'm moving on from this thread.

Scott said...

Charlie,

The last time I checked, the philosophical core of Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which can be found here. These core teachings are designed to help facilitate discovery of the true nature of one's self and the world around them though mindfulness. A belief in gods, goddesses or even reincarnation are not necessary.

Are you suggesting this is something I've made up or distorted?

While it's true that some sects of Buddhism, such as Tantrayana, place emphasis on a transcendent God in their quest for Nirvana, the overwhelming majority are non-theistic. That is, there is no God that has a personal relationship with man, serves as an objective basis for morality or provides salvation thought Nirvana.

Yes, some forms of Buddhism posit deities that are believed to provide material needs or inspiration, but these lesser gods do not provide a path to salvation. In addition, many of these gods are also shared with Hinduism. Given their close proximity in culture and geography during Buddhism's formation, this should come as no surprise.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Zen Buddhism. Since the historical records of early Zen are missing, much of it's teachings are based on a rich history of legends and myths. In fact, many scholars think that the Bodhidharma, (who is traditionally credited as transmitting Chan Buddhism to China) is a combination of various historical figures over several centuries.

Zen de-emphasizes the metaphysical as it lead the practitioner to seek answers outside one's self. Instead, introspection is used to find one's own true nature. This reflection is based on how the Buddha's own awaking was depicted as a direct result of his meditation practice, not any scriptures he discovered or though the assistance of god or goddess.

It was based on this observation that I asked Kristofer where is belief in God came from.

it seems that, as with Harris, when presented with views that you don't agree with, you make indirect ad hominem attacks instead of addressing the actual argument the person is making.

Charlie said...

Thanks Scott, but I'm sure everybody here has access to wiki already.

Getting back to your initial mistake (before you started backpedaling): you cannot seriously suggest that Buddhists are "distorting" their own religion if they choose to believe in an Ultimate Mind or God or God-like beings. These metaphysical committments have been part of their religion for centuries. So you are the one who is not understanding that Buddhism is multi-faceted and it includes theists and atheists; you are distorting their religion. I know of several Buddhists who wouldn't appreciate a psuedo-skeptic who posts on a site called "debunking christianity" asserting that they don't understand their own religion.

tigg13 said...

Jeez Charlie, did you even read what Scott wrote?

He never said that Buddhism was completely atheistic. In fact, he said, specifically, that there were Buddhist sects that were theistic in nature. He even named one.

And he never asserted that he didn't understand Buddhism, you did.

You know, you've got to be really starved for attention if you've got to go around picking fights with Buddhists.

Kevin H said...

Kevin,

Are you seriously comparing homosexuality to rape, pedophilia and abuse?


KH> Of course not. I'm demonstrating the difference between proclivity and activity - and where the "my genes made me do it" excuse leads you.

K

Scott said...

God was not defining cutting off of hair or not wearing something on your head as sin. The reason Paul gives this instruction is because in the culture of the day, these things were symbols of prostitutes or that a woman was the casual partner of a man (or men) other than her husband.

Reading 1st Corinthians 11 in context, why is there symmetry here? Why is there a distinct hierarchy presented?

If Paul's teachings are considered Biblical, are they not inspired by God? In other words, are you suggesting that we should follow Paul's instruction merely because he was a thoughtful and proactive guy who wanted to make sure women were not accidentally confused with prostitutes?

3Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.

Here, a woman who's long hair is NOT covered is being equivocated with the same level of dishonor as short hair. It does not follow that whatever cultural dishonor short hair was associated with was the direct motivation behind Paul's command to cover a woman's hair, regardless of it's length.
This is like saying, unless you wear article of clothing x, which - due to y and z - is a sign of authority, you might as well be naked. This does not mean that lack of such an article would be confused with nakedness.

Instead, Paul comes right out and give his reason.

A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

My whole point is that God's morality is indeed unchanging - it's the specific application of it that changes, based on the culture.

I was aware of your underlying theme of unchanging morality. This is why presented examples of where God's morality was depicted as changing.

Well, certainly no one is saying that superstition was zero during this time, merely that it wasn't rampant, common, or reflective of "virtually everyone". The fact that some superstition survived doesn't affect the point that many people of the time were NOT credulous.

My point is that, even with the vast increase of knowledge we have today, many people can still compartmentalize superstitious beliefs. Perhaps the word credulity isn't exactly the right word, but when you subtract nearly 99.9% of this knowledge, you leave a huge gap to be filled. And history has shown how, time and time again, these gaps were filled with myths and superstitious based on fear, opaque natural processes, etc.

Scott wrote: How do you know that Christianity didn't slip though the cracks as well?

Rachel wrote: See my last comment to evan above.

First off, Miller is not addressing the integrity of the entire Bible as a whole. Instead, he specifically addressing miraculous behavior attributed to Jesus and others in his time.

In focusing on belief that individuals performed miracles, Miller ignores the vast array of beliefs about the day to day intervention of Gods and Goddesses in the world, etc. In picking a narrow criteria, it's no surprise that the number of claims wouldn't be a 'dime-a-dozen' or have a pronounced impact.

Those considered 'educated' were still missing 99.9% of the knowledge we have today regarding how the our universe actually works. For example, astrology was, at one time, taught to those who were 'educated' as science. However, we now know that astrology is false. Alternate explanations for what they observed or thought they observed were simple were not available.

Indeed, if he was just as superstitious as the people he decries, his reasons wouldn't have been grounded in reality. He wouldn't have appealed to real-world evidence because that same evidence would have overthrown his own superstition.

The evidence behind his belief is what's in question. The interpretation of what one hears, observes or thinks he observes, in combination with the lack of alternate 'explanations' is the issue.

What Miller needs to show is that those who are responsible for the core theology of the Bible were not credulous, despite this lack of information and thousands of years of religious foundations laid earlier. He falls short of doing so.

I don't know about the suicide thing, but otherwise you're right - Athenagorus doesn't worship these beings/statues, because they fail evidential tests of worthiness.

Let's look at the proposition that Alexander was not a God who could hear. As a Christian, while it might seem logical to you, the rejection of Alexander due to his death without resurrection doesn't necessary follow that he could not have become a God who could save others.. These are qualifications that are part of Christianity. A vast number of theologies could be constructed which explain why Alexander could have reached such status, despite his sudden onset of illness and death, which was thought to be cause by poison.

I don't know how you can cite lack of resurrection as 'evidence', when said evidence is what is in question.

That doesn't sound gullible, but rather quite reasoned. You seem to be assuming that belief in God in and of itself makes one gullible and superstitious. And if you make that assumption a priori, then you're just as gullible as you think ancient people were.

I'm pointing out that what was (and still is considered to be some as reasoned), is based on a time when false religions were found in abundance and alternate explanations simply did not exist. As Daniel Dennett proposes, religion appears to be one step in an 'evolutionary' process of understanding the universe around us.

Again, given the options at the time, perhaps credulity isn't exactly the right word. Instead, it might be more accurate to say 'likely to base their belief on false conclusion due to the lack of alternatives and past traditions / beliefs, etc.'

When we combine this with other significant problems, such as why an infinitely wise being would choose this particular time and place to reveal himself to humanity, Miller's conclusion becomes even more dubious.

Scott said...

Charlie wrote: "These metaphysical committments have been part of their religion for centuries. So you are the one who is not understanding that Buddhism is multi-faceted and it includes theists and atheists; you are distorting their religion.

Nowhere did I say all Buddhists were atheists. However, those who are theists are in the extreme minority. Nor does their theistic beliefs appear to be based on what the Buddha taught or the way he became enlightened. The existence of Buddhism as a philosophy also indicates that it can remain coherent without metaphysical baggage.

Most importantly, Buddhism doesn't fall apart even if one assumes the Buddha never actually existed historically.

These are not assertions I've pulled out of thin air, but a well known distinctions in contrast to other religions. However, your comments seem to imply that they are.

If this is the case, what are your arguments to support that view?

I know of several Buddhists who wouldn't appreciate a psuedo-skeptic who posts on a site called "debunking christianity" asserting that they don't understand their own religion.

More ad hominem attacks?

I'm not saying that people do not have a grasp of what their religion claims to be true. I'm saying that these metaphysical claims obfuscate what appears to be valid, predictable knowledge found in religion.

To quote Harris, Among Western Buddhists, there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus. This is not the spiritual breakthrough that civilization has been waiting for these many centuries.

Yes, this is what some sects of Buddhism teach, and those who believe such things are being faithful to such teachings. My point is that I see such metaphysical teachings as a unnecessary detours to the core message that Buddhism presents. It casts a credulous shadow on what appears to be highly practical and useful information.

For example, based on their conflicting metaphysical propositions, it's likely that Christians will reject the core teachings of Buddhism since it does not conform to their views of an all powerful God who ultimately saves them. This is despite the existence of similar Buddhist-like themes in the their own Bible. They simply interpret them within the belief of theism, which vastly changes their meaning.

Being what I'd consider a rational person, theism appears appear to be contradictions in terms. However, Buddhism is not dependent on such beliefs. When presented in a rational and practical way, the value of Buddhism is clear and doesn't require commitments, such as men being born of a lotus.

In other words, I see conflicting, yet unverifiable metaphysical beliefs as a stumbling block to a wide range of valuable teachings found in religion.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.