Christianity Simply Reinvents Itself Over and Over in Every Generation

One of my problems with the Christian faith is that in every generation it reinvents itself to face the challenges of each generation. One would think that if a faith that was "once and for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) this wouldn't be the case.

Christian theology has changed so much that one would not even recognize the Christianities of the first century or two.

Let me just mention some theological changes:

Creation - Not until around 200-700 AD did the church accept creation ex-nihilo.
Hell - From fire and brimstone to the absence of God to annihilation
Baptism - Probably from Immersion to sprinkling; from adults to infants.
Atonement - From ransom to satisfaction to penal-substitutionary to moral influence to relationship theories
Predestination - Possibly "mixed" to Calvinism to Arminianism to Calvinism back to Arminianism
Christology - From Paul to Chalcedon to Kenotic theories
Inspiration - From who knows what to mechanical to verbal-plenary to inerrancy to neo-orthodoxy.
Women - From servants who obey in quietness to teachers and ministers and professors
Slavery - From Paul (Philemon) to southern Slavery to abolition to anti-racism.

There are other theological ideas not mentioned, and there are many details to fill in about these particular ideas, but I dare say if today's Christians went back in time to first century Christianities they would not fit in, nor would they be considered orthodox in most Christian communities. Most all Christians today would actually reject the Christianities of the past. They would reject their theologies, their ethics, and perhaps their church polity (not mentioned previously). In fact, they would simply reject the Christianities of the past!

But what happened is that the church reinvented herself over and over in every generation in response to the challenges of her day. The church and her theology is like a chameleon to me in this respect. But the point is that it changed so slowly that few notice in today's world these drastic changes. Christians today wouldn't even admit that many of the earliest Christianites would be considered Christianity at all! And I know for a fact that the Christianites that will exist in the future will almost certainly be considered strange to the Christianites that exist right now.

I'm not looking for an explanation here, although I know what Christians will say. I'm simply pointing out that Christianity today is probably so far removed from the earliest Christianities that this is evidence that the church is a human not divine organization, one that flows downstream along with the history of human intellectual and cultural life. And I'm claiming this will continue to be true in the future too. At 54 years old I myself have seen these changes slowly take place inside the evangelical church for instance, with "Open Theism," the "Emergent Church," eschatological "Preterism," and an acceptance of babies out of wedlock, divorce in the church, abortion, homosexuality, and so forth.

So I ask, which Christianity is the correct one? There are a multitude of them which exist today all claiming to be the true church, but most all of the present ones would reject most all of the ones in the past, certainly the earliest ones.

Do church history. Do historical theology. It'll probably change your views about the church being a divine institution. It's not at all. The evidence suggests otherwise. Follow the evidence, okay?

59 comments:

Jason said...

If you came across a faith that was "once and for all", to what extent would this change your outlook of Christianity? At the end of the day, would it really matter?

Anthony said...

Jason I think the point is that if Christianity was truly of divine origin then each succeeding generation would for example re-evaluate new challenges and clarify its position, but it would essentially stay the same. But that is not what we see, change is constant, there is no consensus on anything within Christianity. Hence, as John says, we see an institution that has all of the marks of human origin and not divine.

But as you say, even if you could find a church that has not changed (very doubtful) it really doesn't matter.

Jon said...

By the emphases that front the post, despite previously being a pastor, I have to wonder how much one could understand it if you believe the church as a whole swapped between Calvinism and Armenianism, the varying definitions of slavery throughout the centuries, hell versus annihilation, etc. It is a human invention to change or remove what is in Scripture. The slavery of the south was not the same as slavery in the first century (same word can have ludicrously different meanings when you cross the centuries; such as "gay" do most people think 'happy' or 'homosexual'?) Those who consider annihilation simply don't want to show God as cruel but they remove God's justice, or even the need for repentance in the process...

When Paul said "I have become all things to all men," he did not speak of changing the message, but how that message was presented. Very admittedly, however, many churches focus much more on the human perspective, and what people want to hear for the purpose of filling the pews, and forget God entirely, and that is why much of this has come about.

AndreLinoge said...

>>>Those who consider annihilation simply don't want to show God as cruel but they remove God's justice

I admire the honesty you show in admitting that your god's "justice" is essentially cruel.

strangebrew said...

'It is a human invention to change or remove what is in Scripture'

If that were so, and it was more or less the extent of it , I could agree!

But it is not simple changing or removal, it is the blatant twisting and bending of the intent that betrays the humanity behind the attempt, only usually it is not humane, more often then not it is bigotry, intolerance and hatred rather then divine revelation.

The bible is a handy tool for that...it can be used to deliver the fundamentalist Genesis account....or it can be the reading between the lines account...depends on what suits the mood!

Street corner ranters and internet 'holier then thou's' love the flexibility of scripture.
Anything can be claimed.... and here is a nice handy piece of medieval text delivered out of context and out of sync with the christian value it was originally meant to instill.

Seemingly it has less to do with piety and a great deal more to do with opportunity to deliver a damning and incontrovertible seal of divine approval on a very human peccadillo or desire...

Slavery in the deep south was a case in point!
And that was neither biblical nor humane....neither was it borderline misinterpretation.
Same goes for that very christian version of SM, Christian Domestic Discipline...
And a dozen other dubious excuses to practice a very human trait but with the cover story of divine instruction.

And I contend....although maybe some folks will not agree with this....that 90% of this pirating of biblical verse can be directly attributable to the training of the priest or minister hood...

I am not saying they are directly responsible for customizing the scriptural message...but their actual knowledge of ancient history and context of most of the bible is lamentable to say the least.

They end up in a situation where they have to back up many claims made by other firebrands in their congregation because they simply are not educated in theocracy enough to challenge the claim that the bible says this or that.

You end up with David Karesh...or Jim Jones..Or Kent Hovind or Ken Ham....get the drift!
None of those were seminary trained...yet all were titular heads of ministries or cults that are EVIL.

Most parrot the catechism ...'the word of god'...either to try and impress their audience or because they have not a clue on the how or the who actually wrote the bible and the subsequent translations and mistranslations that have occurred down the centuries.

It is wide open for enthusiastic and determined folk to find a piece and rework it...not difficult...and no one calls them out...because no one can!

Christianity only changes intent...in rarely changes the premise...and only every now and then does it actually teach true Christianity.

Harry McCall said...

Change is, has been and always will be a historical part of the Judao-Christian landscape!

The Hebrews and their God(s) are not the Israelites and their God are not the Maccabees and their God are not the early Jesus sects / the post-Easter Christians and their God are not the Pauline churches and their God are not the Judaizers and their God and so on just as the God of Vatican II is not the God of Gregory the Great.

With over 20K Christianities in the world today (and still growing); so are the new Christian theologies which are all being lead by their one true and never changing Gods!

Harry McCall said...

With the crushing facts of modern science along with the freedom of and from religion, the “Everybody plays and everyone wins” feel good gospels of the Robert Schullers and Joel Osteens types are the transfusion Christianity must have if it is to stay alive.

Even Bob Jones university is nothing what it was when I was a student there in 1971. The old hardcore fundamentalists have either retied or died and when Bob Jones III kicks off, Stephen Jones will lead the school further into the popular feel good gospel.

The thing is, with the cost of tuition sky high for Christian Universities (It was $19.00 per credit hour when I started and climbed to $45.00 per credit hour when I finished at S.W.U. Now it’s at $460 per credit hour) and along with the declining enrollments, the old dogmas of Christianity just won’t do anymore!

Students are simply not going to put up with a bunch of outdated Christian moral and ethical dogmas while paying close to $500.00 per credit hour! Remember, God / Religion function s on money and not prayer.

In the end, Christians from Bob Holding and his Tektonic Ministry to the Christian University level are now forced to either change or die!

Fact is, yesterdays liberals are today’s conservatives!

The fact that conservative Christians deny change is the very denial their Catch 21 their God needs to survive!

Jason said...

Anthony,

In all fairness, there's quite a bit of consensus within Christianity. By definition itself, Christians are united in their belief in Christ. The amount of agreement on the existence of God, His fundamental identity, and the basic process of salvation is almost complete (since the list is so small). The vast majority of differences between Christian denominations are generally agreed to be non-salvic issues (e.g. the worship of Mary, purgatory, the role of women, predestination). On certain issues which are generally believed to be salvic issues, there is almost a complete consensus among theologians on what they are.

It's an incorrect statement therefore to say there is no consensus on anything within Christianity.

Christianity changing to fit the times is indicative of the need to fill the pews and coffers, as Job alluded to. It's not indicative of the divinity, or truthfulness of the original message.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason, you amuse me to no end. As I said, do church history. Do historical theology. Despite the fact that you may claim to have done so, who knows(?), you haven't by a long shot. Get a master's degree in the subject, okay? It'll do you good. Now I can do what I promised to do, ban you for being so ignorant and simple. This is an educated forum. Finish High School, take a few college classes, and then you can come back. I'll be watching.

kiwi said...

But if Christianity is true, all the diversity of opinions shows is that some people are mistaken on some issues, for whatever reason (example: an erroneous interpretation of scripture). How does the non-divinity of the religion follow?

strangebrew said...

' How does the non-divinity of the religion follow?'

Because it is not the religion it is all about the followers...
The religion seems to have been thoroughly leeched out!

Religion gets tailored to fit the prejudiced...ignorant...view and general mood of the congregation!

That might be why there are so many different cults and denominations...
Certainly global religion follows that template...a religion to fit the local frame of reference!

Question is when does religion stop being religion and become a movement or a party?

When does god recede or the jeebus teachings...when does personal likes and dislikes take over the administration and demeanor of a ministry?

And why is that so often politically reflecting the right wing of society?
When the premise of the bible might be said to actually reflect left wing bias or at the very least liberal and inclusive leanings ?

Anthony said...

How does the non-divinity of the religion follow?

Let's put it this way, what are the marks of a religion that is of divine origin? Can we come to a consensus on how to identify such a religion that cannot be explained naturally (i.e. of human origin)? The fact that there is no one type of Christian or Christianity speaks volumes.

Anthony said...

It's an incorrect statement therefore to say there is no consensus on anything within Christianity.

Jason, come now. The fact that you are a Christadelphian which mainline Christianity rejects as a cult and damnable (putting you in the same category as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) shows that there is no consensus.

If there is any consensus at all it would be that Christianity believes that there is a god and believes that there was a man named Jesus that they have some type of reverence for, beyond that there is no agreement at all.

kiwi said...

"The fact that there is no one type of Christian or Christianity speaks volumes."

Speaks volumes about what? Could you clarify what you mean?

It seems people are trying to make a argument, but no one put in clear terms what the argument is.

Suppose that Christianity is true. What would stop people from misinterpreting scriptures? What stop people to make up new theological ideas? What would stop people to speculate about the details of the faith? Nothing, as far as I can see. So shouldn't the diversity of opinions be expected, regardless of if Christianity is true or false?

Jason said...

John,

What exactly is your problem? Nothing in my comment deserves that kind of disrespectful reply. If you believe I've erred in what I've said, deal with it like any other mature, intelligent person would do and simply refute my points. Criticizing me for being uneducated and simple is uncalled for.

Harry McCall said...

After having dealt with Jason over a number of posts, I’m convinced he is harmlessly stupid when it comes to Christianity.

Secondly, I suspect the I.Q. level to be a Christadelphian is very low since, in spite of all the facts Jason has been presented with by any number of people here at DC, he still can seem to get his brain working logically.

All the arguments and denials Jason presents to keep his Christadelphian Christianity alive and functioning could also be use to keep Santa Claus alive and well at the North Pole too.

I’ve written Jason of as a Simpleton who can understand logic about eight months ago.

Jason said...

Anthony,

Strawman. Whether or not mainstream Christianity rejects the things I believe in has no bearing on anything. As others do, I personally disagree with the Catholic teachings of purgatory and venial sins for example, but we do agree with each other on other fundamental matters.

Even with strong disagreement on a variety of issues, Catholics, Baptists, Christadelphians, Mormons, etc. all agree on the existence of God, His fundamental identity, and the basic process of salvation. We can safely conclude that a consensus does exist on some level, just not on a level that you're expecting/requiring.

Case in point, I might not agree with Kiwi all the time but I do fully agree with and support Kiwi's comments here.

Doug said...

Once again I'm finding that the premise of the original post to lack a certain unwillingness to be applied universally. Let me propse a similar idea:

Science Simply Reinvents Itself Over and Over in Every Generation

Scandalous!!

But reasonable to assert. Maybe the right word in both of these cases is not "reinvent" but "reevaluate". This sounds more reasonable and easy to talk about.

One of the things I've noticed throughout my involvement in the sciences is that current science is (reader alert: you could be offended by the next few words) not always correct! I don't think this statement needs a whole lot of explanation since it's not too hard to look back over the centuries to find times when science came up with some nutty ideas. But one thing we can also observe is that the scientific community rigorously tests and modifies the prevailing theories until they become stable. This is science reevaluating itself, and its good. Science that doesn't reevaluate itself kills itself.

You could say the same thing about Christianity. Over the years Christianity has also had some pretty nutty ideas about how the world works, but why bother adhering stubbornly to something that doesn't stand the test of time? To criticize Christianity of reevaluating itself in light of new experiences and information is to criticize the scientific method itself.

Granted there are some individuals and factions that refuse to reevaluate in the light of new information, but I won't draw conclusions from their clearly annoying assertions. The ones who do reevaluate, well, I'd like to know what they think and why they think it.

Anthony said...

Even with strong disagreement on a variety of issues, Catholics, Baptists, Christadelphians, Mormons, etc. all agree on the existence of God, His fundamental identity, and the basic process of salvation.

Jason, this is wishful thinking. You may all agree that god exists but that's about it. Do you really think there is general agreement on god's "fundmanetal identity" when you have trinitarianism, modalism, arianism, the deity of Christ (or lack of), does God exist in time or outside of it, does he have absolute foreknowledge, if the trinity is true then how do the different members relate to each other after all there is monarchianism, subordinationism, is Christ eternally the son or only after his incarnation, etc. These all deal with god's "fundamental identity" and these is no general agreement.

Nor is there any general agreement on the process of salvation. Is it by works, which works, how much, is it by faith, what kind of faith, is baptism, the eucharist, or other sacraments part of that process. Is salvation conditional or unconditional, just when is someone saved? in eternity? at faith or baptism, at the resurrection? What is the nature of salvation, is it from eternal hell or annihilation? Let alone the ancient debate over Augustinianism and Pelagianism (or Calvinism and Arminianism). Again there is simply no consensus on this issue either.

Anthony said...

Doug, I believe there is a fundamental difference between Christianity and science when it comes to the issue of reinventing or reevaluating itself. The very nature of science means that there will be changes and there will be times when scientists are wrong, this isn't scandalous at all. Christianity on the other hand is based upon revelation from God. As I stated earlier in this blog if Christianity were true then it would indeed reevaluate new challenges and clarify its position but it wouldn't substantially change.

Science is expected to change, but Christianity? Not to the extent that we see in history and the world today.

Anthony said...

Kiwi, when I was a Christian I believed that all of the many versions of Christianity were from misinterpreting the Bible, of course I thought I had the correct one. The problems for Christianity are more fundamental than just simple squabbling over specific interpretations.

The essence of what John is saying (and I agree) is the fact that Christianity continually reinvent's itself and the more it does the greater the amount of diversity within it. This all has the marks of being human in origin, not divine.

Doug said...

Anthony, I'm with you on the revelation from God part. I think that's a core issue to any kind of faith that involves a supreme being. The problem I'm seeing with that is you have a perfect mind (God) revealing things to imperfect minds (humans). To think that humans are going to get it right from the get-go is a fairly absurd notion. There's got to be a learning curve in there.

Also, I'd encourage you to identify which parts of Christianity are purely faith-based and which are culture-based. Let's look at a couple examples:

Equality of women. In a patriarchal society, the norm is for men to have power over women. This bleeds into the faith in subtle yet damaging ways. Do you think God clearly intends for this to be the norm, or are humans in patriarchies struggling with the God-revelation for everyone to love one another as one's self?

Slavery. In a pre-civil war America, slavery was the cultural norm. That's just how things worked and it was considered economically and socially dangerous to rock the boat on this topic. The religious leaders in the south were adamantly pro-slavery (but those from the north were against it). Do you think God intended for slavery to be the norm, or were humans struggling with the God-revelation that he wants justice equally for all nations?

My beef with some of Christianity is that it doesn't often seek to make this distinction. Whatever is the cultural norm somehow gets mixed up with God-revelation, and people twist up the bible to ry to prove it that way. So without any kind of reevaluation, how to get out of under all this oppressive junk that Christianity has to offer? If the disposition is "no reevaluation, God already told us all this stuff and we fully understand", then I don't want to have anything to do with it.

I can't imagine taking anyone seriously who says "I understand everything God wants to communicate" because that in essence is saying "I know everything God knows". It's as preposterous as saying "I fully understand everything science will ever reveal about the universe". Reevaluate, please. It's good.

strangebrew said...

Hi Doug,

'Once again I'm finding that the premise of the original post to lack a certain unwillingness to be applied universally.'

The premise of the original text was applied to the Christian dogma....trying to muddy the water might well be the apologists best tried and trusted technique ...but it does not change the original intent !

'Science Simply Reinvents Itself Over and Over in Every Generation'

There might be kids reading this so....
That is one of the most asinine and ignorant comments I have ever heard or seen!

'Scandalous!!'

Nope!... just ridiculous!

'But reasonable to assert.'

So you say...it does not make it valid though!

'Maybe the right word in both of these cases is not "reinvent" but "reevaluate".'

In the case of science the only premise that change occurs is through evaluation of hard evidence.
Either observational or experimental...and it can be verified by other researchers elsewhere..it is quantifiable and falsifiable...it is not a 'belief' that changes on a whim or on the latest fashionable way of impressing a priest or the hard of thinking...like ID or Creationism!

Re-evaluation is indeed carried out periodically but change only occurs when evidence dictates!

'One of the things I've noticed throughout my involvement in the sciences is that current science is (reader alert: you could be offended by the next few words) not always correct!'

Present a few examples please....scientists might be interested...I know I would be!
Not offended by the comment but weary of the same charge from religious apologists over and over again...it is never coherent however many times it is said...not does it become any truer!

'I don't think this statement needs a whole lot of explanation since it's not too hard to look back over the centuries to find times when science came up with some nutty ideas.'

That is a very child like statement it requires no explanation just pity!

And this is not kindergarten so maybe a certain derision might be appropriate!

You are of course alluding to science carried out when it was not science just questions requiring answers...
Most of them were subject to the religious doctrine of the time and it was tried to incorporate that facet on pain of death usually!

...it did not work...that was when Science and religious mumbo jumbo went their separate ways...science has never looked back...the same cannot be said for religion...which even today has great problems with relating to the real world!

What a ridiculous notion...what did Darwin know of Genetic science or DNA...even RNA or what did Galileo know of stellar formation and gravitational forces...or Newton know of General relativity....

Science develops and at each stage copious and multitudinous testing of either law, evidence or premise is the guiding light...not wishful thinking or shrugging of shoulders and muttering 'twasgodwotwentandgoneanddidit'

'But one thing we can also observe is that the scientific community rigorously tests and modifies the prevailing theories until they become stable. This is science reevaluating itself, and its good. Science that doesn't reevaluate itself kills itself.'

That was better formulated...but do not forget that the evidence must be accounted for with due regard to other lines of evidence...it must collaborate...theories that do not are not pursued!

'You could say the same thing about Christianity.'

This is where we part company again...Christianity is stuck and hog tied by the dogma formulated at the council of Nicaea in 325ad...it has never evaluated itself since in any meaningful way...

There are still Christians that believe the Earth is 6000 years old...there are still Christians that swear black and blue that the ark carried all the surviving species...and Evolutionary theory is the bogey phrase used in any Christian conversation....

It is a backward middle ages inspired delusion with a dogmatic and totally unchanged story...how so many Christians can argue about it has more to do with personal pompous preference then biblical fact!

'Over the years Christianity has also had some pretty nutty ideas about how the world works'

Amen brother!

'but why bother adhering stubbornly to something that doesn't stand the test of time?'

I have no idea but Christianity does so quite stubbornly.

'To criticize Christianity of reevaluating itself in light of new experiences and information is to criticize the scientific method itself.'

Rubbish!
What reevaluation has Christianity ever done?...what experiences? what information...?

'Granted there are some individuals and factions that refuse to reevaluate in the light of new information'

Yep and usually the titular heads of the religious ministries that perpetrate the same creed year on year!


'but I won't draw conclusions from their clearly annoying assertions.'

Nope cos that would damn Christianity!

'The ones who do reevaluate, well, I'd like to know what they think and why they think it.'

Are you referring here to those that lose the faith and are 'born again' Atheists?
I thought that would be obvious...they found rationality a little more palatable then defending a notion of a magic sky fairy!

Jon said...

I was hesitant to post as I know some will hear ‘Christian rhetoric’ and dismiss this entirely. John spoke of not knowing church history, thus I have provided to open with; though generally, especially Protestant, Christians should know this anyway…
***
Human versus Divine… Church history quite easily reveals the human capacity to sin, or twist what was God-given to suit our own desires; the church is not outside of this. Prior to the Reformation, the Catholic church operated as head-of-state, even having its own armies, and human pride snuck in (much earlier) to bring the world under its control. Rather than relying on God for provision, it taxed and attempted to sell salvation, rather than relying on the work of Christ on the cross. “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs;” yet another way of easing the masses when unbelieving relatives died (to say they could still make it).
The purpose of the Reformation was to show that such practices were unbiblical. Martin Luther initially considered that the Pope was in the dark to these practices, and simply that bishops had twisted or added to Scripture. Yet he found that even the Pope, despite his position, was a fallible human being – even if saved – who still had the capacity to sin.

Needless to say, even the leaders of our churches these days are the same. Though (hopefully) trained in understanding in exegeting the Scriptures accurately from the original texts, they are also human and prone to wonder. That is why John says, in 1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Speaking of those ‘spirits,’ or people, who seek, intentionally or not, to lead people astray. Sadly, very, very few who claim to be Christian even know what Scripture actually says, and thus have no basis for testing against it. Many pastors also know this, and for this reason rarely admonish “Test me in this.”

One may wonder, “so which is it, they’re not being tested, or they’re reevaluating their approach to clarify their message?” The simple answer is “both.” Some do it out of vain conceit, to lift themselves to a more recognized and prideful position; some diligently seek to clarify God’s message to the world. Needless to say, in the attempt, many get it wrong and change the message instead of clarifying it…

Jason said...

Anthony,

God is the sole creator of the universe, the giver of life, slow to anger, merciful, eternal, immortal, etc. This identity of God is consistent across the board, whether one is a Unitarian or Trinitarian, Catholic or Mormon, a damnable heretic or a good Christian. When it's all broken down, Christians are worshiping exactly the same God.

As for salvation, the basic process is described quite well by the Catholics: "It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner's heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God". They then go on to talk about the importance of the death of Christ. Mormons also believe in salvation, given by the grace of God, coupled with obedience to the gospel, offered through the death of Christ. Baptists believe salvation is offered to those who accept and have faith in Christ, who by his blood obtained eternal redemption for man. Protestants believe salvation is offered to those who have faith in Christ.

I trust you can see the consensus amongst these groups: that salvation is being offered by God, that faith is a requirement, that Christ is the central figure, and that the grace of God is a vital component.

Again, consensuses do exist, just not on a level you find acceptable.

strangebrew said...

Just goes to show what a little over 1000 years and a fevered desperation can manufacture as to the entrapment of a human mind...
That it is successful well maybe...certainly...but then the strategy and construct to prop up the delusion has been refined by weasel words and the greatest tool 'denigration' of those not so afflicted!

Talk fast enough talk metaphysical enough and talk salvation enough...but keep talking whatever and voila you have your converts and sheep to a delusion...

Because in the end that is what all the christian apologetics are designed to do ...enslave the mind in fear and pretend it is self fulfillment and the glory of some rather mid league god....... and exhortations to consider your soul all boil down to...a social and deeply self anointing and self deceiving delusion....

The fact that others around are similarly deluded gives the afflicted heart...but question the premise or the intent even the story and you will go to hell...fear the priests maxim...do as I say or you will burn....!
Very little has changed since that halcyon age.
Just that now it is ostracism in the community.

It is a massive con trick played on children...in a cynical attempt to gain a mind for life...the method usually works...but greater and more desperate measures require Creationism and ID to infiltrate classroom...the moderate dogma is fading...soon a generation of untainted will emerge...then the 'persecution' the Christians always claim will indeed be a reality...they will just be ignored....a silent 'persecution'....hmm!.....good for the soul I hear!

6p0105371fda42970b said...

Hi all!
This is my first post here, visiting via Dave Schmelzer's blog. Just wanted to make a comment or two for the sake of procrastinating (!)...

Christians today wouldn't even admit that many of the earliest Christianites would be considered Christianity at all!
Actually, I think most educated Christians know all about this, and they/we would be willing to admit to all kinds of things. But I can't speak for the others who post here trying convert ya'll (!). I think the criticisms leveled on this blog (in general) do in fact work against newer, more "liberal" or "emergent" forms of xty, but they work a lot better against fundamentalists and strident evangelicals.

...the Christianites that will exist in the future will almost certainly be considered strange to the Christianites that exist right now.
True. Actually, they will probably consider many of us "heretical," or the whole project will just seem quaint. Hard to say, though; the "orthodox" xty that survived from, say, the time of the gospel writers and Acts until today doesn't seem that strange to a lot of Christians today. But it is true that the cultural and political ruptures of the last 100 years have done a lot to change things.

Christianity today is probably so far removed from the earliest Christianities that this is evidence that the church is a human not divine organization...
This is hart to gauge; depends on what one considers to be the core criteria on which to judge change. For example, the date of creation is, to me, a completely laughable criterion to use to show how radically and disastrously xty has changed...I guess you've been debating a lot of fundamentalists lately?! Other criteria/changes are more telling, and you point out some of these.

Do church history. Do historical theology. It'll probably change your views about the church being a divine institution.
I would wager that you, dear John Loftus, do not know more about church history, historical theology, the history of interpretation, etc. than I do (I know, that's such an arrogant thing to say!), and thus I would like to say...wait, actually, I'm not sure to what extent "the church" is "a divine institution"--I think only Catholics really believe this?--though I am a Christian. Nevertheless, as you may know, some people (idiots!?) come away from a study of these topics and feel better about their faith. Note: I can't necessarily say I'm one of those people, but I know some of them personally...and they're really smart (though, if they were really smart, they'd de-convert, write a book, and cash in on this atheism trend as well has you have! [Sorry for the snark there, just trying to make lighthearted joke...since we could all go on and on, at great length, about those who have, in Kierkegaard's words, cashed in on the death of Christ!]).

Anyway, sorry to ramble here; thanks for the fun blog!
-brian

Doug said...

strangebrew, thanks for your thoughts. I'll try to address them.

As far as some places where science has produced incorrect results, here's a few I think think of:

I remember a while back when nutrition science stated that eggs were healthy, because they are loaded with protein. But some time around the 90's it was discovered that eggs contained cholesterol which was strongly linked to heart disease. So the nutritionists said, well of course, eggs are bad for you, because cholesterol is bad for you. But then it was discovered that there are two kinds of cholesterol, good (HDL) and bad (LDL). And it was discovered that eggs do have both kinds, but are especially good for HDL cholesterol. So they say now: eat the eggs, especially the yolks! I, like all science-monitoring citizens, also vaccilated on this position until more information was uncovered. But wouldn't it have been great if science just got it right from the beginning?

In physics I studied Newtonian mechanics which does a great job at describing bodies in motion. There is a lot of good stuff to be applied from that knowledge. However, Newtonian mechanics breaks down when bodies approach the speed of light. It wasn't until more recently in science that the theory of relativity was articulated to describe these mechanics. The beautiful thing about relativity is that it still works when objects are traveling at mundane speeds because the factor of speed essentially cancels itself out at low speeds. But again, wouldn't it have been nice if science had got it right from the beginning?

Psychology as an emerging science has also had a lot of trouble over the past few decades since it was previously dominated by (now) crazy ideas on cognition, sexuality, and deviant behavior. But today we have a much better understanding of how the human brain works and there's now a large community of psychologists effectively employing the scientific method to know even more. It seem we just barely understand how the brain works!

And to think that science has everything correct right now is, at the very least, arrogant. If we have it all correct, then all the pure scientists out there can pack up their labs and retire because there is nothing new to know. This is why science needs to be continually reevaluated -- there's no forseeable end to the universe of knowledge to be gained.

To thump our science textbooks and demand that all truth is declared within is just as offensive (to me) as a fundamentalist thumping a bible for the same reason. If God is as powerful and complex as they think, why should we think that one text has all the answers? Isn't there anything to be said for individual and group experience?

The Council of Nicea did make a bunch of assertions about theology, but the thinking didn't stop there. There were ongoing councils of theologians representing all kinds of thinking. In particular, the Catholic religion kept going and adding more dogma on top of what was already decided. To say that any of that still remains valid, well, that's where Martin Luther Protestants stepped in to disagree! And who says the process will stop there?

The point I'm trying to make is that it's very much a good idea to continue to hash out old and new ideas on any truth claim, be it science or faith. American Christians, in my mind, don't monopolize thinking on a supreme being. I think anyone can add information to the mix simply by relaying their own observations and experiences and learning to discern which ideas are loaded by culture and which tap into something more universal for all people for all time. This is the human condition. I think all forms of art also communicate this condition and desire for understanding. As you may have noticed, art also reinvents itself continually (probably more often than Madonna!). Great art always boils down to a communication of human experience and will always be taken seriously.

Art, science, faith -- I say let them all keep reevaluating, changing, revealing. Why impose limitations on any one and not another?

Damien said...

Doug,

Something I feel I should point out is that "Science" isn't a body of anything. Science shouldn't be the label we put on the leather binding of accumulated human knowledge. Nor is science an institution which encompasses people with scientific degrees.

Science is much more like a method to discern truth from untruth. When you say science has to evaluate itself over and over, that's not an evaluation of science because we assume the scientific method to be true when we use it to see if the "science" was right or not. What you might mean to say is that scientists use the scientific method and the best available evidence to reevaluate things we thought we knew beforehand, whether we learned them scientifically or not.

If you see it this way, science is the yard stick to which all truth claims must stand against and see what they measure up to. People shouldn't be labeling science in a way that makes it appear to be an institution with strict adherence to the truthiness of the mysteries it unravels about the universe. I think if you want to judge science, you should investigate a time when you think the scientific method failed and not the primate who interpreted the evidence, and then give us a better way to measure truth claims.

(After reading what I just wrote, I feel like I just filled in a Mad Libs for a defense of religion and switched words like "Bible" and "Religion" with "Scientific method". Hahaha! Although I don't feel bad because I stand by the eternal truth that is the SM, and all praises to Charles Darwin and his glorious kingdom on earth forever and ever, amen.)

oscarspaz said...

1. May be need to take a different angle to examine why this Delusion not only survives in extremely bad political/social environment but managed to thrive throughout history.

If "Christianity" does not have a "life of its own" so to speak, it should be have been buried in history by now. This applies to other religions as well.

2. In applying the "outsider's test", need to take into the reality that in countries that openly persecute Christians, people still become Christians. Cannot just brush them off as being uneducated and buy into a lie. These people put their lives on the line by becoming Christians. They act totally in contrary to survival instinct.

I am not trying to say that Christianity is the one true religion. I did not find anything that in this blog that examine the above 2 point(1. Why it survives so long? 2. People become Christians in an environment that is totally hostile to Christianity.)

Please point me to the right direction to read up on these 2 topics.

Thanks

Jon said...

Damien,

Now you're just playing semantics. Most who speak of 'science' speak of the thus-far accumulated knowledge the scientific method has deduced. I'm certain you know this already; which makes me wonder why, instead of addressing the actual presented issue (that scientific deductions need to be reevaluated from time to time) you seek to redefine the word used in the postulation?

strangebrew said...

Hi Doug,

I hope you do not mind if I paraphrase...

"Eggs have HDL & LDL cholesterol one form better then the other...
'But wouldn't it have been great if science just got it right from the beginning'

Hmm!...it was in 1996 when The identification of the subclasses of lipoproteins and the determination that the ratio of high density to low density lipoproteins became a strong indicator of cardiovascular disease.

It required extremely expensive equipment and cutting edge technique and a high tech lab in Berkeley California to finally unravel that information!

The information was new and outside folks interpreted it differently...
the application of Science made the discovery...bit unfair blaming science for certain other groups of folks misunderstanding the import!

This was in 1996 after a few years analysis and research...sorry it was not quick enough for you...or that folk not privvy to the research misunderstood the information...it would have been quicker coming but funding was a major problem in 1996 because the Bush administration had cut budgets to all major science projects in the USA...I wonder why?..something about voter base I believe!

Last year it was also discovered that Seven new cholesterol-regulating genes had been identified...maybe you contend that information should have been available to the Berkeley Scientists back in 1996!
Pity Science did not get it right first time then!

I wonder if Madame Curie feels like that?...probably.

Argument from ridiculous perspective...next...

'In physics I studied Newtonian mechanics which does a great job at describing bodies in motion.

Newtonian mechanics breaks down when bodies approach the speed of light. It wasn't until more recently in science that the theory of relativity was articulated to describe these mechanics.'

Wrong...Special Relativity was formulated to explore Space/Time constraint and the General theory of Relativity was to bolster understanding of Newtonian Gravitational theory...nothing to do with the theoretical anomalies at or approaching speed of light...although it was predicted !

You might be thinking of Quantum mechanics which is a study of fundamental particles and their forces...but that has nothing to do with light speed per se!

'The beautiful thing about relativity is that it still works when objects are traveling at mundane speeds because the factor of speed essentially cancels itself out at low speeds.'

Again nonsense...relativity only impinges when bodies move approach or are at light speed...which they cannot quite achieve!

'But again, wouldn't it have been nice if science had got it right from the beginning?'

Get what right...?
They did get it right...Einstein was spot on...so are the thermodynamic properties of Quantum physics...but one needed to blaze a trail for the other...how would it be possible to get to C without going to B first?

Sorry nonsense example and methinks you are none to comfortable in theoretical physics...

'Psychology as an emerging science'

Yes it is...desperately underfunded and the cinderella of the health service..but we required Freudian technique to get as far as we have...although a lot of his research is now invalid...he showed the way!

'has also had a lot of trouble over the past few decades since it was previously dominated by (now) crazy ideas on cognition, sexuality, and deviant behavior.'

I am not a psychiatrist nor have I studied it deeply...but I know when barking occurs on the intertubes..hark I hear it now!

What crazy ideas on cognition, sexuality, and deviant behaviour?...

I know Creationists and ID clones lie psychotically...is that deviant behaviour?
And Cognition has always been a problem for the hard of thinking that prefer sky fairies to reality...but what is your problem with those terms...or indeed sexuality?

'But today we have a much better understanding of how the human brain works and there's now a large community of psychologists effectively employing the scientific method to know even more.'

yes it is called research and learning..you have to do that to actually know anything...and lets face it they get a tad further then if they just left it up to jeebus to sort it out...methinks there is now't in the bible that diagnoses and treats mental maladies like modern medicine.

'It seem we just barely understand how the brain works!'

Yes agreed...the mind is a wonderful tool and can however be ones worst enemy!

'And to think that science has everything correct right now is, at the very least, arrogant.'

I never said that...but based on the available evidence and observation of the subject...it is as correct as it is possible...always room for improvement of course...meaning more evidence is required...but at least science acknowledges that fact...and is morally a better option then just believing something with out a scrap of 'proof' !

'This is why science needs to be continually reevaluated -- there's no forseeable end to the universe of knowledge to be gained.'

Science needs to be applied...not reevaluated...evidence can be reevaluated but not science.

'To thump our science textbooks and demand that all truth is declared within is just as offensive (to me) as a fundamentalist thumping a bible for the same reason.'

Who is thumping the text book...not I...nor any scientist I know...from Dawkins to Hawking...no scientist as ever done that...except of course Creation 'scientists'...but they are only playing make believe and don't count...and they only bash a bible....like you suggested in the text... anyway!

'If God is as powerful and complex as they think,'

They do not think that is the problem they only claim...

'why should we think that one text has all the answers?'

I have no idea...maybe desperation at the paucity of other tangible evidence.

'Isn't there anything to be said for individual and group experience?'

Yep...hysteria!

'The Council of Nicea did make a bunch of assertions about theology, but the thinking didn't stop there. There were ongoing councils of theologians representing all kinds of thinking. In particular, the Catholic religion kept going and adding more dogma on top of what was already decided.'

As far as I can see there were three councils of Nicaea in total...although other separate councils were held by the different denomination over the centuries...but the three main councils were the ground rules so to speak the last council was held in 680ad...
Since then the doctrine has been individually tweaked but not substantially changed at all.

'To say that any of that still remains valid, well, that's where Martin Luther Protestants stepped in to disagree! And who says the process will stop there?'

Yep! lets us have more discord and fractionism...Christianity has not enough...always nice to know who is holier then who!

'The point I'm trying to make is that it's very much a good idea to continue to hash out old and new ideas on any truth claim'

It seems a good idea but any claim of truth requires evidence...in religious terms that is not possible...that is the problem...no one has a greater saying then anyone else it is subjective at best!

'be it science or faith. American Christians, in my mind, don't monopolize thinking on a supreme being'

Maybe not but they like to think they do!

'I think anyone can add information to the mix simply by relaying their own observations and experiences and learning to discern which ideas are loaded by culture and which tap into something more universal for all people for all time.',

Subjectivity again..that is not evidence that is at best wishful thinking at worst outright lying for jeebus...whatever it is it is unsubstantiated...it can not be tested observed catalogued indexed cross indexed falsified prodded or poked is not evidence!

'This is the human condition.'

More like the christian condition.

'I think all forms of art also communicate this condition and desire for understanding. As you may have noticed, art also reinvents itself continually (probably more often than Madonna!). Great art always boils down to a communication of human experience and will always be taken seriously.'

Or not...the Turner prize is a debacle and Hockney a pretentious geek as for Hirst he is just a con merchant...

Art is as subjective as religion.
There is no right art...there is a lot of wrong art...there is art which impresses...there is art which is pretentious...there is some art in pornography...again subjective and none of it is truth of art on a grand scale.

'Art, science, faith -- I say let them all keep reevaluating, changing, revealing. Why impose limitations on any one and not another?'

Why indeed...Art for Art's sake maybe...Science for humanities sake and religion for god's sake!

One requires observation and abstract thinking...one requires evidence...falsification...observation...peer review and logic..the other requires cognitive dissonance abstract ignorance...subjectivity...hysteria...naivete oh and belief...but no evidence....says it all really!


Do you have any other examples where science should have got it right first time?
Because the above are rather vague and in some cases seems somewhat confused slightly!

But interesting debate nonetheless!

Doug said...

OK, so it appears that there is some contention about how one uses the word "science". To help further that discussion (not debate -- discussion), it might be helpful to talk about the difference between pure science (seeking knowledge for knowledge sake) and applied science (research and development toward some end). It seems that people here are more like to use it to describe the former than the latter. The line seems kind of blurry to me, though. Take the Manhattan Project for example. A lot of pure knowledge about the atom was uncovered through that project, but the whole thing was organized under the idea that the information could be used to develop a weapon to shut down America's enemies during WW II. That makes it sound like there was some interpretive bias during the whole process. And I wonder if that is true to some degree today. I imagine that there might be scientists uncovering more information about cancer (pure science) motivated by the fact that they're losing a loved one to the disease and would love to see a cure (applied science). I'm sure we all have our biases and motivations that prevent pure science from being totally pure, not that they invalidate any discoveries.

The whole thing about choelsterol in eggs is not to niggle about the speed at which discoveries are made or criticize interpretation, but it does say something about pure vs. applied science. I'm sure nutrition scientists are churning out new information all the time, but there are other scientists who are looking to interpret and apply that knowledge ASAP, which seems to be the reason for myths forming such as the one about the goodness of eggs for health. Fine, that stuff happens. But if we're so afraid misinterpreting the (always incomplete) information pure science produces, then it makes sense for pure scientists to withhold all new information indefinitely so no one can risk acting on it incorrectly. But that seems to hurt the functioning of the scientific community which depends on the open flow of information. I don't know about you all, but I'm willing to take a few hits in the interest of expedience and efficacy of applied science instead of playing corporate lawyer with information. If a researcher has information that could help my father's heart condition, then by all means, interpret and apply it! And if it's wrong, please reevaluate it.

In typing this out, I starting to see that the word "science" itself can be fairly loaded, and maybe people are still tempted to talk past one another because of the thoughts and feelings that come up when it's used. Which is really not too different than the terms "Muslim" or "art", as I have yet to observe a majority of people think and feel the same things when it comes to either one of those concepts. I'm sure you, the reader, are convinced that your thoughts and feelings are the correct ones though, as do I. :-) (I feel compelled to point out that was a sarcastic statement which does not beg a response!)

How to relate all this to world religions? I see religion in some way an expression of the struggle to understand the nature of relationship. I'm going to posit that if all of humanity fully understands the nuances of human to human relationship, then we should all be getting along royally right now. Maybe this is why all major world religions have some statement of the Golden Rule and hold that up high. I should think that this idea came about not by some enlightened thinkers in isolation (pure religion?) but rather as a collective experience to be desired (applied religion?). But does it end there? Certainly you could go on to criticize the shortcomings of the Golden Rule. How do I even know how another person wants to be treated? Does this work in all situations? Guess it's time to reevaluate! If religion is a struggle to express the desires for relationship, I could see how ideas of a supreme being would be helpful. If there is a God that universally cares for all people for all time, perhaps that is a mechanism through which all people can effectively care for one another. Just a thought. Trying to be open-minded about it. But I do criticize religions in going too far in prescribing rigid thought and behavior, as those things seem to work against good relationships. Maybe if religions backed down from dogma but encouraged more faith, that would help. But I think the key here is to experiment -- and reevaluate -- as needed. What works and doesn't work? Do successful marriages reveal anything about good relationship? How about vibrant neighborhood communities? Perhaps the scientific method can be applied here to good effect. Try stuff, and if it doesn't work, reevaluate. Keep the good stuff, reject the bad stuff. I certainly want MY relationships to work out! Being in isolation with all my information and material goods is unsatisfying.

In the same way that science rejects ideas and concepts that don't work in the physical world, I feel it's reasonable to reject any aspects of religion that create division among people. However, I'm totally open to learning anything I can to get along with the rest of the world, and if there is a God or a faith that helps this, that may be worth pursuing.

strangebrew said...

Hi Doug,

'OK, so it appears that there is some contention about how one uses the word "science".'

An appeal to wikki produces...

"Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge" or "knowing") is the effort to discover and increase human understanding of how physical reality works. Its purview is the portion of reality which is independent of religious, political, cultural, or philosophical outlook. Using controlled methods, scientists collect data in the form of observations, records of observable physical evidence of natural phenomena, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work. Knowledge in science is gained through research. The methods of scientific research include the generation of hypotheses about how natural phenomena work, and experimentation that tests these hypotheses under controlled conditions. The outcome or product of this empirical scientific process is the formulation of theory that describes human understanding of physical processes and facilitates prediction."

I cannot improve on that really...but you are welcomed to check other sources by all means!

To me that is what science means...

'it might be helpful to talk about the difference between pure science (seeking knowledge for knowledge sake) and applied science (research and development toward some end).'

Possibly... but most scientific discoveries are products of applied science rather then pure science!
They are attempting something else and end up 180 degrees with something totally different...but useful...like Alexander Fleming and Penicillin.
What is serendipitous is usually human gain....
Materials science is thus...and also Chemical reactions producing isometric compounds or discovering catalytic agents or polymerization processes...the list goes on.

Pure science produces spin offs also.
Space research...Medicine...Atomic physics...Aeronautics...all have high yield products!

It is neither one nor the other...but a tandem display!

'Take the Manhattan Project for example.'

I take the point...but it was not just an enemy basher...it was a race against Germany...because they were near enough to scare the bejabbers out of the American senate.
A very close race it was as well...
That is why only enough fissionable material was refined for two bombs...that was all the time they had...one slightly larger then the other...with the distinct threat that a third one in the wings!...which it was not!
So political expediency was the prime mover...and it was a veiled threat to Russia also...so win win!

Whether your scenario is accurate about a scientist researching for a cancer cure for his loved one I know not...but I do not doubt the point...and why not!

'but there are other scientists who are looking to interpret and apply that knowledge ASAP, which seems to be the reason for myths forming such as the one about the goodness of eggs for health.'

Not necessarily scientists...but their companies usually press for release to stump the competition..this can result in utter disaster as Thalidomide proved...
Prob is the company control the purse strings and finance the research...they are the client...and they get what they want...Scientists are trapped between the devil and the deep blue...because the results do belong to the company that financed the research...and usually they are not scientists that is the problem!

'How to relate all this to world religions? I see religion in some way an expression of the struggle to understand the nature of relationship'

But it is one way that is the problem I have...it is make believe...
Prove it different...tis impossible...anyway..

'I'm going to posit that if all of humanity fully understands the nuances of human to human relationship, then we should all be getting along royally right now.'

Problem is they do not and are not... usually because a mythological being gets squarely in the way!

'I could see how ideas of a supreme being would be helpful. If there is a God that universally cares for all people for all time, perhaps that is a mechanism through which all people can effectively care for one another.'

Maybe but more likely is the reaction my god is better then your god..my religion is more righteous then yours...and so on and so forth...Religions do not want a one size fits all...they want to dominate...that has been the bottom line since before the crusades!
God does not come into it!

'Perhaps the scientific method can be applied here to good effect.'

Science is not really geared to social interaction....folks either get on or not...scientific method has no way to qualify that stance!

'In the same way that science rejects ideas and concepts that don't work in the physical world, I feel it's reasonable to reject any aspects of religion that create division among people. However, I'm totally open to learning anything I can to get along with the rest of the world, and if there is a God or a faith that helps this, that may be worth pursuing.'

But folks are not keen on their dogma getting ditched...usually because it is their identity...it is who they are...and what is adopted to fill the void...I cannot see xians bowing to Mecca...nor can I see Muslims taking the sacraments...best way is to ditch religions completely...start on a flat playing field...

Maybe a naive statement...but nonetheless heartfelt!

Eric said...

"Science is expected to change, but Christianity? Not to the extent that we see in history and the world today."


I have to agree with Kiwi here.

"It seems people are trying to make a argument, but no one put in clear terms what the argument is.
Suppose that Christianity is true. What would stop people from misinterpreting scriptures? What stop people to make up new theological ideas? What would stop people to speculate about the details of the faith? Nothing, as far as I can see. So shouldn't the diversity of opinions be expected, regardless of if Christianity is true or false?"

The notion that change in Christianity and disagreement among Christians says something significant about whether Christianity's origins are divine is being thrown about as if it were self evident, and as if anyone who disagrees is a moron. Let me provide a counterexample: John Polkinghorne's 'critical realist' approach to Christianity is consistent with both change in Christianity and with the notion of its divine origins. Now, I'm not arguing, "Polkinghorne has spoken -- end of debate!" Rather, I'm presenting first, the example of an undeniably brilliant man who knows his church history, theology and science and who sees no serious problem with change in the Christian tradition; and second, the example of a historically and theologically informed approach to understanding Christianity that is not only consistent with 'differences,' but which in a sense presupposes and embraces them.

Jon said...

Strangebrew –
“As far as I can see there were three councils of Nicaea in total...although other separate councils were held by the different denomination over the centuries...but the three main councils were the ground rules so to speak the last council was held in 680ad...
Since then the doctrine has been individually tweaked but not substantially changed at all.”

As the topic of this post concerned who Christianity kept fundamentally changing, it’s good to hear someone say it’s been tweaked but not really changed – which I agree with. In the efforts of full disclosure, there were actually seven councils in Nicaea, the last in 787ad. In terms of accepted doctrine, however, you are correct that this is approximately where agreement between Catholicism and Protestantism stopped, generally speaking.


Doug -
But I do criticize religions in going too far in prescribing rigid thought and behavior, as those things seem to work against good relationships. – Jesus said the same against the Pharisees…

Perhaps the scientific method can be applied here to good effect. Try stuff, and if it doesn't work, reevaluate. – The sad thing is that many, we’ll use marriage as an example, ‘seek’ to test and evaluate. Except when it doesn’t work out, they divorce, remarry, and try the exact same thing again. When it comes to relationship, there are many out there who misinterpret this approach and simply try the same thing until they find someone it works with… I’m not opposed to this idea, but very few use it correctly.

Back to strangebrew –
“…more likely is the reaction my god is better then your god..my religion is more righteous then yours...and so on and so forth...Religions do not want a one size fits all...they want to dominate...that has been the bottom line since before the crusades!”

I could be wrong, but I do not consider “my god is better than your god” is likely; generally I think it is more “My god is and your god isn’t.” It is not about whose is better or more righteous but what they believe to be true. And though some may desire to dominate, I do not think it is across the board (maybe the just don’t want the other guy to dominate; freedom of religion?). The crusades were a man-made quest under the guise of religion to take more territory, and especially wealth. Jihad was a retaliation to this, but also an effect of Islam believing the following Allah’s command is of utmost importance, because he is not a god of relationship but of dominance. There is not love for creation in Allah, only that he wants it to follow his will. (tangent, my apologies)

“folks are not keen on their dogma getting ditched...usually because it is their identity”
Admittedly true for many. In cultures where one is catholic, Christian, Buddhist, etc simply because they grew up in a catholic, Christian, Buddhist, etc family, it could be expected that a backlash would occur if everyone else did; or it may simply be ditched it everyone else thought it should be ditched. However, for ‘true believers’ this would never happen; only group-think.

Piero said...

Scientific theories have never changed because of a change in theology. Theology, on the other hand...

Damien said...

Jon,

"..why, instead of addressing the actual presented issue (that scientific deductions need to be reevaluated from time to time) you seek to redefine the word used in the postulation?"

1. Just because the average person uses the word "science" to describe bodies of things doesn't make it the right thing to do or the right way to see things. I mostly don't like it because relgionists often use it as a tactic to separate science from their religion to uphold the idea that they are competing for truth down two different paths. Of course, they are only competing when scientific findings contradict scripture or dogma, otherwise religionists leave it up to scientists to discover the truth about anything not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Like how to build those cars that get you to church.

2. The fact that scientific deductions need to be reevaluated from time to time doesn't need a defense because nobody ever pretended that they don't. Science doesn't even claim to know the truth, only what's theoretically true based on the observable phenomena of nature. Their truth is always conditional.

3. Other people pointed out already that the comparison of science and religion was a weak one. Name one religion that states that all of its practices, dogma, and knowledge are subject to change based on better information in the future. Many religionists believe that we already got the best information and we've just been corrupting it.

4. An attack on the conditionally true scientific theories does nothing to undermine science in any way because it will always be scientists that corrects the mistakes with the exact same method of science and usually newer observations.

Jon said...

I wasn't putting forth that it was a good argument by any means. I was simply stating that he was not addressing the postulation but redefining it instead, again without serious address...

"I mostly don't like it because relgionists often use it as a tactic to separate science from their religion to uphold the idea that they are competing for truth down two different paths."

I don't like it either. If a religion is true, there should be no competition with science. But different interpretations of the findings are warranted so long as the actual facts are not denied (yet even the non-religious can misinterpret the facts)

Doug said...

So much good stuff here! Thanks everyone for responding.

strangebrew -- Point taken about companies, governments, and other authorities that can drive an interpretation of science to a bad end. I can't help but wonder though if scientists might also play a dual role sometimes. One the one hand, applying effort to make discoveries, and on the other hand, going along (eargerly or tacitly) with the policies of an organization that seeks to use those discoveries. I guess that's kind of a problem with being human. I recently had a similar dilemma where I worked for a startup doing great, helpful things for music, movies, and TV for many years, but they changed their direction toward squeezing dimes out of unwelcome advertising, which I found most unpalatable. I chose to stop creating software for them and instead went to higher ed in the private sector. I had to reevaluate what I was doing and who I was working for. Perhaps scientists have an ethical responsibility to take a stance like this when it matters.

To my original concern, all this stuff can get wrapped up under the umbrella of "science" in people's minds. To the unaware public, scientists engaged in research geared for, say, WMDs could be considered just as lousy as the governments they work for, giving science a bad name.

It's pretty clear that some people leave their religions for the same reasons, myself included. Call that a reevaluation too. I have absolutely no desire to be labeled or to subscribe to a belief system. However, I am open to talking about issues of faith and hearing what's been useful for people to try. Like I said before, I see religion as a kind of expression of a desire to understand relationship. Whether or not it's make believe isn't the issue (for me). But the desire to understand relationship is still there. That's why I'm interested in opening up the discussion around that point.

I'm not convinced that science isn't suitable to apply toward social interations. Certainly sociologists try this all the time. (But doesn't it seem hard for "social scientists" to to have a first-class representation in the scientific community!) For example, I know that, from experimentation, what my wife likes and does not like. Sometimes she's unable to articulate that clearly and so some trial and error is needed to smooth over those rough spots.

I'm totally sympathetic to your desire to ditch religion and start over. I don't think that's necessarily naive. My question to you (and others of atheistic leanings) is this: have you had any experiences in your pursuit of atheism that supports good relationship? I can ask the same question of other religions, and they have answers. Sometimes really unhelpful, uneffective answers, but answers none the less.

I can have all the knowledge of the natural world, but if I'm living a dry, solitary life, at distance from everyone around me, all that knowledge is for naught.

strangebrew said...

Hi Doug.

'One the one hand, applying effort to make discoveries, and on the other hand, going along (eargerly or tacitly) with the policies of an organization that seeks to use those discoveries.'

Maybe you have a point...but methinks these days it does not quite work like that...

A large project...say ...for the point of example... developing a medicine to combat Alzheimers disease!

This will be split up into different facets of the development...
And usually...because most drug company policies dictate...they work in isolation...no one knows what the lab across the way is working on...

One lab team might be analyzing pure GP data...another might be sample collecting.
One lab might be gene sequencing or expressing...another might be checking anti-bodies or a dozen other variables...
DNA comparisons in families...or other sufferers.

Could be up to 20 odd labs involved from different parts of the country...tasked with a specific goal...they are not told the why!

They know folk talk...the less they know the better from a companies perspective...all this to corner a market and out fox the competition...who are probably doing exactly the same thing!

The Americans did this during the Human Genome analysis...
They kept it fairly quite what they were actually doing...although the implications were kindda obvious....
The scuttlebut was..."Oh be another 5 years before we have it!'
They released the full sequence 6 months later...after having managed to secure patents on several aspects of genome elements...

The why is speculative....but possibly the major insurance companies want access to specific DNA profiles..obvious reasons...but they need a map to work out the prognosis of the owner of their DNA sample.....remove parts of that map for legal reasons removes an effective overview...

That is the benefit of doubt good point...the other side of the coin is...they want to make money by selling relevant snippets to the Insurance companies using the knowledge locked under legal key..
This means they retain the power...insurance companies have to come to them for analysis!

So it is not straightforward...when science gets goosed by business there is only one winner with a smile!

'To my original concern, all this stuff can get wrapped up under the umbrella of "science" in people's minds.'

Which is exactly what the religious bunnies try and do...all the evil in the world all the negatives can be laid at science's door....thus encouraging folks to reject this evil Satan inspired endeavor!

Tis a classic wedge document that has always been flaunted at a religious indoctrination target.

'I'm not convinced that science isn't suitable to apply toward social interations. Certainly sociologists try this all the time. (But doesn't it seem hard for "social scientists" to to have a first-class representation in the scientific community!)'

There is a standing epitet that Scientists apply to this uneasy classification b'twixt 'n' b'tween social science and 'real' science...

'We had to part company over scientific differences...we were scientific...they were different!'

Take that how you will...but the point is social sciences is a far different kettle of worms then science generally gets involved with.

Not saying it cannot be...but the error bars get wider and less useful!

'have you had any experiences in your pursuit of atheism that supports good relationship?'

Yes ...the fact that you alone are responsible for action words and demeanor...in other words...you cannot commit a crime and claim that god told me to...examples the Yorkshire ripper or more lately the Bush/Blair unholy alliance...

There is no safety net of divine ...'go to church pray forgiveness and all will be well'

Atheism means growing up intellectually...it means relating on a one to one basis with the world...not a one+invisible fairy to one!!

You alone are responsible to the world...it is a great honor!

'I can have all the knowledge of the natural world, but if I'm living a dry, solitary life, at distance from everyone around me, all that knowledge is for naught.'

Why must that be so?...the only reason is directly related to the abject paranoid and terrified hysteria of the afflicted that wants atheism outlawed..because it is a threat to their own delusions...if atheism spreads they will be the minority and they will indeed be the looneys in society confirmed...they know that and are wetting themselves with doubt.

akakiwibear said...

An advantage of getting to a post late is you get to review all the comments and form an opinion of who is ahead, who has a real case and who is blustering to save face.

On this one it is clear that the theists have a good lead. Solid comments by Jason (I guess that’s why JWL wants to ban him) Doug and Brian have been met with little better than rhetoric and bluster.

Nowhere has anyone explained why Christian theology should not evolve as human understanding grows. I suspect if it had not developed we would hear the same voices raised in criticism of that!

Come now children … why should that which has been written not be studied and our understanding not be enhanced by that study? How can rational beings think that we should not learn? ... but this atheist argument hinges on Christians not ever learning.

Now John, since you clearly feel Jude to be the authority on these matters you will have no dispute with Jude 18 “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires” which this post certainly seems to have proven true ;)

OK John I know your point is that a literalist interpretation of the passage may lead one to the conclusion you have extracted here; that if every detail of faith were constant then there would be no change.
Certainly I agree that your interpretation is not supported by the range of Christian beliefs … but so what? ... there are two conclusions that can be draw here.
Either (as is the point you try to make) that Christian belief is flawed OR that the interpretation you have based you argument on is flawed. The latter is clearly the case – and by implication your argument needs it to be so.

So ALL you have demonstrated is that a particular interpretation (and one in which the full implications of the word “faith” has provided food for many a biblical scholar) is suspect.
You have NOT in any way demonstrated that Christianity is a flawed belief – only that there are multiple interpretations of what has been written … no big win there for you, demonstrating the obvious.

Sala kahle - peace

Harry McCall said...

Hey Akakiwibear, please check out my latest post The Buckle on the Bible Belt Loosens Again: N.C. Presbyterians Vote To Approve Ordaining Homosexuals

"Jude 18 “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires” which this post certainly seems to have proven true ;)"


Based on the actions of the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day; Jesus himself was prophesied here!

akakiwibear said...

Hi Harry,
Not sure what your point in The Buckle on the Bible Belt Loosens Again was - although I liked the tongue in cheek title.

As for your Based on the actions of the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day; Jesus himself was prophesied here! well that is interesting in that Jude is dated around 90AD ... I guess it just proves the value of hindsight ;)

Sala kahle - peace

strangebrew said...

'On this one it is clear that the theists have a good lead. Solid comments by Jason (I guess that’s why JWL wants to ban him) Doug and Brian have been met with little better than rhetoric and bluster.'

Someone that considers changing the record might be more advantageous for Christians then pretending a hollow victory is more important!...and that would be a change!

Harry McCall said...

Akakiwibear, I would placed Jude in relation to when (outside of Paul) Jesus became THE Christ.

Since the advance Christology of Jesus (as presented in the Gospel of John) dates from about 90 + CE, I would place Jude before John and thus, prophecy.

Piero said...

"Nowhere has anyone explained why Christian theology should not evolve as human understanding grows."
It should not, because it implies that Paul, for example, had a less evolved notion of God than you. Hence you would have no reason to take him seriously. Hence you should dismiss his teachings. Hence you would not be a Christian. Hence you and everybody else would be happier.

Harry McCall said...

Well put Piero!

If truth is absolute; if God never changes; if the Bible is the inspirited World of God (the truth once delivered to the saints); then Christian apologist have created their own “Catch 21” problem.

Doug said...

Wow, getting deeper. That's great.

stragebrew, it's interesting that you mention Alzheimer's. My grandfather (father's father) is currently suffering from that. Rather, I should say that my grandmother is suffering more since she has to take care of him. In this whole discussion, I see my father, who I previously mentioned had a heart condition, is very much unconfortable seeing his father in such a sad state because he knows there very well be a genetic component to the disease. Anyway, my first disposition is to say: I encourage all science to share AND compete openly on information to this issue! But corps may not see the sharing part as I do. But who, in reality, opposes development for a cure or at least some ease for Alzheimer's? (As opposed to, say, a cure for AIDS?) Again, my beef with religion. I won't say any more.

As for social sciences, no need to go on. All I seem to remember from college sociology is that you're free to have an opinion and make observations to that point, but no solid conclusions may be drawn because they're highly subjective. But that doesn't prevent me from applying scientific method to my own discoveries. Reiterate my experiences with my wife. Only through trial and error can I really know what will make the both of us satisfied. (Valentine's day is a particularly troublesome topic, for all you keeping track at home.)

You said: There is no safety net of divine ...'go to church pray forgiveness and all will be well'

I can neither confirm or deny this point, but I'll point out that this isn't an experience, but an assertion (or conclusion?). I'm looking for experiences, which is to say, thoughts and feelings that occurred from actual life events.

You said: You alone are responsible to the world...it is a great honor!

Again, not a point I can or desire to argue from my cultural upbringing. But I will point out that this is an almost patently American conclusion. The Western world has glommed on to this kind of individualism. However, the East and Near-East would disagree whole-heartedly -- not on the theological terms but on cultural terms. The Eastern half of the human population believes that people share fully with each other in their resposibility to make the world a better place. There is little or no "guilt" in individual wrong-doing, only group honor is at stake. If you do something wrong, it shows poorly for your friends and family. If you do something well, everyone shares in the honor. It's not about the person, it's about the relationships with the larger group. This is a point of view I don't understand fully because of my individualisting upbringing, but a valid one no less. I don't want to be ignorant of it.

So my question again is this: what are your personal experiences in atheism that support your conclusions? Tell me stories of how it went well for you. I'm not looking for assertions or truth claims, just experience. That is to say, what are some times in your life that support your assertions and conclusions. I'm open to the richness of atheistic life if it presents itself to me.

As for my statement "'I can have all the knowledge of the natural world, but if I'm living a dry, solitary life, at distance from everyone around me, all that knowledge is for naught" -- I think you misunderstand. Let me share an experience to illustrate.

I can isolate myself in a room for a weekend with nothing but my computer, a high speed internet connection, the finest sushi, craft beef, NHL hockey, and video games. (I do earn enough money to make this a reality on a regular basis!) And when I imagine that, I this "SWEET!". But I know from experience that this is a well of pleasure that runs itself dry over time. I would MUCH rather experince each one of those things with someone else who appreciates them. In some sense, I don't care if the people who share my enjoyment are loony with respect to religion. I just want some company on common interests. Hence my interest in relationship.

Or maybe I'm doing it wrong! Maybe my anticiptaion to see the next the Gordie Howe hat trick should be replaced by an interest in football, or maybe sushi is inferior to Indian cuisine, or maybe there is no reason to interact with people on the internet. But as far as I can see, my relationships give me a reason to savor life from day to oday. And a reason to tell my occasionally suicidal, entirely bipolar best friend to keep seeking the best in life.

akakiwibear said...

Guys, you make this too easy for me!
it implies that Paul, for example, had a less evolved notion of God than you. Do you not think Paul’s notion of God would not have developed if he had access to a couple of thousand years of Christian scholarship? Really? He has contributed to what we understand today, but theologians did not stop thinking after Paul ... maybe you did?

If truth is absolute; if God never changes; if the Bible is the inspirited World of God (the truth once delivered to the saints);
Your argument is valid (i.e. if the premises are true the logic flows) but it is not valid - the premises are not correct.

1) Let’s deal with the first two. It is patently false to suggest that because something is immutable (unchanging) that our ideas about it cannot change. Our ideas are not identical with that in which be believe ... you can't just apply reasoning. about one to the other - philosophy 101!

2) The “inspired word” – OK but that in no way places a limit on the revelation (or did I miss the bit that says 'thou shalt not increase thy knowledge'). As with (1), if the revelation of the faith to the apostles is unchanged that place no restriction on our understanding of the revelation as it applies to our time - Jude says it should not be deviated from – nothing about increasing ones understanding of it.

… but then I tend to the Catholic view that the doctrine = scripture + tradition and a non-literalist approach to the bible (true in revelation about salvation but not intended to be treated as scientifically or historically accurate).

So perhaps what you and JWL have done is demonstrate the superiority of the Catholic approach over that of the evangelical churches … :) what you have not demonstrated is that Christian theology should not evolve! … but then perhaps you equate all Christianity to the extremist view we both think benefits form a good debunk now and then!

By the way Harry – neat side step on Jude as prophecy! … my sources date Jude between 60 and 100 – but I liked your quickness of mind.

Sala kahle -peace

Piero said...

"Guys, you make this too easy for me!

Do you not think Paul’s notion of God would not have developed if he had access to a couple of thousand years of Christian scholarship? Really? He has contributed to what we understand today, but theologians did not stop thinking after Paul ... maybe you did?"
We don't make it easy for you. You make it easy on yourself by not addressing the issues.

strangebrew said...

Hi Doug,

'Alzheimer's. My grandfather (father's father) is currently suffering from that. Rather, I should say that my grandmother is suffering more since she has to take care of him'

I am sorry to hear that...it is a terrible and tragic malady...I wish you and your family strength...

I saw my Mother suffering with terminal Cancer in the last few weeks of her life...and you are right...the carers have it all to do...and after three weeks of it I was shattered both physically and mentally!
She died within three days of my having to return to work in another country...it was none to soon...

But anyway the good news...
Alzheimer's will be brought under control possibly within five years!

The research seemingly has a green light from the White house...and restrictions will be lifted soon...
The researchers know where they are going...and they will get there!

Hope is tangible...for the first time in medical history...pity it has been delayed for so long...we would be there by now otherwise!

'But that doesn't prevent me from applying scientific method to my own discoveries.'

No of course not...nothing like a bit of Bayesian statistical analysis to clear the air ;-)

'(Valentine's day is a particularly troublesome topic, for all you keeping track at home.)'

Ahh! yes indeed...but if you really want to hear the female dragon roar....forget their birthday....tis awesome dude!

'here is no safety net of divine ...'go to church pray forgiveness and all will be well'

I can neither confirm or deny this point, but I'll point out that this isn't an experience, but an assertion (or conclusion?).'

It is seemingly a very real experience for some folks though...it allows them to go out and do exactly the same thing again the following week...tis why RC is so popular after all!

'You alone are responsible to the world...it is a great honor!

Again, not a point I can or desire to argue from my cultural upbringing.'

Why do you consider your previous indoctrination sacrosanct?

'The Western world has glommed on to this kind of individualism.'

Ahh! but that is the point...Atheism requires...nee... demands that co-operation and report is the glue that will secure society...

Cooperation must be achieved globally...my point earlier is that this seems extremely unlikely because religion forbids this by default...
That barrier must be removed sooner rather then later otherwise it will do for us all East and West !

This begins with family...community...state ...country etc etc...

It is not individual interest...it is because you are individual that you are morally obliged to work together with other individuals...otherwise there will be no more individual...simple like so!

'what are your personal experiences in atheism that support your conclusions?'

Freedom to choose without threat of hellfire or guilt...
There are bad folks...there are good folks...there are Atheists...there are theists...belief in any personal spirituality does not garantee freedom from human frailty...be that mental or physical or greed or hate...etc
Atheism just releases the shackles to pursue a freedom that is personal and responsible...that is the greatest gift anyone can offer humanity...truth and responsibility towards it...
'Experience'...every day is an experience....and being thus mentally free is the greatest experience...and it is a human right!

Atheism is not quantifiable as a religious nirvana or revelation...there is no witness statements to a great light descending from heaven...that you can use to justify your stance...it is not religion in any way...it does not resemble religious delusional experience it is a way of life...simple like so!
Being honest to yourself is a prerequisite to joining the club...some can...some cannot!
That is why it is Atheism and not Religion....diametrically opposing points of view... except one does not require delusion or hysteria to function as a bona fide position!

If you are looking to see what you can expect from Atheism...then you can expect to find the most important thing in your life...

You find yourself!

'I don't care if the people who share my enjoyment are loony with respect to religion. I just want some company on common interests. Hence my interest in relationship.'

well no one says you cannot...
And sharing and caring is one of the natural worlds most wonderful gift.

Everyone deserves a partner in life to live with...childhood prepares us for that commitment...and one day we may choose ...it does not matter if it happens to be the same sex or if it is the opposite sex...it is a natural and perfectly normal thing to do...but you...in yourself...must feel comfortable with that relationship...that is the bottom line!
otherwise it is false.

Ostracism for a religious point of view or non-religious point of view is not a good enough or even legitimate enough reason that it should be denied...folks who do that are not worthy of any love...let alone their version of some spurious God's love!

'Maybe my anticiptaion to see the next the Gordie Howe hat trick should be replaced by an interest in football, or maybe sushi is inferior to Indian cuisine, or maybe there is no reason to interact with people on the internet.'

Be true to yourself...that is the whole point...if you enjoy watching Gordie Howe hat tricks then why deny it by looking at something you think you must watch but which does not capture your same admiration!
If you enjoy interacting on the net why not...I do not see the dilemma...mind you as a confirmed and life long atheist that might sound trite!

I am not suggesting over indulgence...or greed or a dozen other hedonistic Romanian delights...I am suggesting moderation in pleasure and relaxing the uptight guilt ridden straps that hold human expression to a minimum!

Responsibility in all things...not just who you want to bed or eat or see!

As for you bi-polar friend...just be there for him...in the end it is the only thing that you can do!

Deist Dan said...

Jesus said he would send his holy spirit of truth to guide his disciples into all truth..

Joh 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Yet Christians kill people, try to dominate the world, and cannot agree on anything. The list of doctrinal differences covers nearly every doctrine imaginable, many more than John listed. Thus Jesus is a false prophet and the bible is not true.

Jesus also said he would return to judge the world in that generation, which did not happen...

Mat 24:34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

How many things does Jesus have to get wrong before Christians realize they have bought into ancient superstitions?

I heard Christians on the radio the other day explaining how the reformers could put to death heretics and yet remain saved disciples of the prince of peace! Christians will say and do anything to justify their precious fairytale.

Here is a challenge to all Christians visiting this site, and i would like John to post this as a separate post/challenge.

Show me where Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, James, or Jude said Jesus is God. The most fundamental doctrine of Christianity is non-existent in 99% of the new testament and based entirely on a handful of passages from John and Paul. The gauntlet is thrown and I will personally refute every argument made from those books if John permits it.

Doug said...

Deist Dan -- Was that on topic or within this conversation AT ALL?

stragebrew, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

The thing is that even with a five-year discovery for a cure for Alzheimers looming, there is no hope or or good news that science has to offer for my grandfather who is 90 now and has other conditions to deal with. I imagine other lives will benefit from the fruits of research, but my family will not forseeably be among them. This is leaves me with my original sentiment: wouldn't be nice if science had gotten it right sooner? It is no fault of the scientific community to get this information out sooner, but it's not reasonable to place my hope in the process.

My bi-polar friend places all his hope in the every-changing landscape of medications available to him, but the latest news from him last week is that his condition is getting worse. I wouldn't recommend for him to stop taking medication, but at the same time, I'm not sure putting faith in the meds are going to make his life better. :-(

I'm all about Baysian statistics -- that's what we used in my last startup to match up people with media they would enjoy. But that's totally an aside. :-)

I'm not quite tracking you with the experience of "there is no safety net of the divine". This is an ontological statement -- an assertion of what is or is not. A communication of experience, on the other hand, involves an expression of the thoughts and feelings of the person or group at a some time or over a period of time. What has been your experience that would lead to your conclusion? I certainly know the experience of forgiveness when I encounter it, and I know that my sincere pleas for forgiveness have been accepted (by my wife!). That's the kind of thing I'm looking for.

You asked if I consider my previous indoctrination sacrosanct with respect to your statement that "you alone are responsible to the world". My previous experiences with religion aren't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the influences of western culture in general. American is a highly individualistic culture in that the independent individual is idealized over over teamwork or dependence on others. ("I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." -- Henry David Thoreau) Eastern culture is exactly the opposite -- the group defines the individual. (These are generalizations, but accurate.) But then you go on to say that "cooperation must be achieved globally", which I agree with, but I don't see how that jives with statement "you alone are responsible to the world".

I can see how you would say that religion forbids global achievement. But I don't see how exploring the idea that there is a god to be experienced comes into direct conflict with global achievement. Wouldn't that be imposing an assumption about the god being sought? Note that I don't equate religion with seeking a higher power.

Likewise, how does the experience of freedom to choose come into conflict with what I'm proposing? Are God and free thought mutually exclusive (again, imposing no assumptions upon that being)? To be clear, when I use the term "God" or "god", I am not assuming a Christian or Musim or Buddhist god. Just a supreme being.

Is the atheistic notion of finding one's self (as you say) also incompatible with seeking God? To be open-minded about this, if God did create everything around us, wouldn't it stand to reason that knowing the creator might reveal something about the created?

Please explain your assertion that you "must feel comfortable with that relationship...that is the bottom line! otherwise it is false." There are so many ways I can think of that this doesn't jive with atheism's proposal to cooperate globally. If I'm uncomfortable with the way someone looks or smells, or maybe I'm uncomfortable with women because I've been reject by so many of them, or another person unintentionally says something to offend me, does that mean my discomfort has invalidated the relationship? I think these points of discomfort are exactly the kind of things that come in relationships that build character and acceptance over time. I would like to be in good relationship with everyone around me, even those that offend me from time to time. I think this is the spirit of the Golden Rule stated by so many world religions.

I understand what you're saying about moderation. That is good common sense and I practice it as much as I can, but is this something peculiar to atheism that I should aspire to fully understand?

Again, I ask the question: what is the atheistic experience? I'm not looking for assertions or advice, just ways in which your or any lives have been enhanced. I totally get the free thinking thing, but I don't see that it's incompatible with seeking God, as much as I have an open mind about God might actually be like. Religion, on the other hand, is a different matter. If I'm asked to conform my thoughts to a rigid belief system, that offends my free-thinking sensibilities.

akakiwibear said...

Doug I totally get the free thinking thing, but I don't see that it's incompatible with seeking God, as much as I have an open mind about God might actually be like. Religion, on the other hand, is a different matter. .... oh yes !!

As children we are taught about God in terms kids can understand – generally absolutes – this becomes what we believe. At some point we need to transition our beliefs from this simplistic model an adult worldview … but … along the way we have to “lose” our belief/faith and develop a new one – one that encompasses shades of grey one that is more sophisticated than the bible literalistic model.

Some (most)denominations do not provide a means for this transition; they are themselves stuck in a simplistic religious model based on an inerrant literalistic interpretation of the bible. So, as in my case, I was tempted by atheism to replace my simplistic “Sunday School” beliefs.

Certainly atheism responded to the emotional side of my feeling let down by religion (it won the “heart” side if belief) – but it failed to meet the intellectual challenge (it lost the battle for the “head” element of belief).

But the more I read and studied and participated in discussion sites like this the more I came to realise that:

* I had to research until I found an internally consistent rational model (atheist or theist) that made sense of all the available evidence

* replacing my old beliefs with atheism required a bigger leap of faith than believing in God

Like you I recognised that an open mind was not only compatible with seeking the truth but essential. You can’t but miss the irrationality and bias in the rhetoric of both sides. My blog sort of reflects my journey – on it (and here) I have tested my developing theist beliefs against whatever & whoever atheists could offer up – and I have to thank those atheists who helped me to become a theist.

Yes I believe there is a God – do I have all the answers? I wish.

Hamb kahle - peace

Deist Dan said...

Doug,

Yes it was on topic, because my post spoke of theological changes, and also unfulfilled prophecies that Christianity needed to invent new explanations for.

The deity of Christ doctrine is absent from the supposed writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke/Acts, Peter, Jude, and James. The doctrine is based entirely on presupposition and a handful of obscure passages by John and Paul and 99% of their writings distinguish Jesus from God also. The evolving Christology from primitive Christianity to today's Evangelical Christology was clearly the result of years of debate and warring and several councils (of inspired, holy men no doubt).

Unfulfilled prophecies are related because they show that Christians do not care about being honest and faithful to their holy books, but rather are simply interested in self preservation and trying to remain useful and relevant today.

The fact that their is so much reinventing and doctrinal disagreements is proof Jesus prophecy of sending the holy spirit to guide his disciples into all truth is unfulfilled.

Now maybe you can try to explain how it is fulfilled if you believe that.

James B said...

John,
Great forum and insights! New reader here. Like most of my life, late on the seen, but glad to have found this web site. Quick question, can you recommend an author/study that shares more details about the development of christian dogma? Thanks, James

John W. Loftus said...

James B, thanks for visiting! I did a search over on Amazon for you and here are the results. Which books you get will depend on how much in depth you want to go. You can also do searches for specific topics and see the various views represented. There are also Christian Theology works which will articulate the various views (most of which will argue for their particular view but you'll get the point).

Cheers.

Urban Monk said...

John, good points. It seems as though the "apostle" Thomas agrees with you, that is, if we can consider the book "Disappearance of the Universe" to be authored by Thomas of present(Gary Renard) and Thomas of 100 years in the future (one would need subscribe to the idea of transmigration of souls to accept this).

This book relates what happened from Thomas' point of view. None of the desciples were all that keen on what Jesus was all about. And they were in disagreement as to what the resurrection was all about. Thomas had a hunch it had more to do with mind...like an awakening state of mind. Others thought it had to do with getting a new body after we die. For his slant on it, Thomas was snubbed by the others, who maintained an eschatology more in line with traditional orthodox viewpoints, as represented by the school of thought of the Pharisee class.

The NT represents a mutilated Christology devolving from some very early misinterpretations that tied an otherwise unrelated worldview to Jewish roots.

As such, it is based on sandy premises...a faulty foundation that has to continually be propped up by neo-thinkers. It's like a lie that has to be backed up by more lies that get more and more rediculous as it goes along.

However, there was a grain of truth to be found in the authentic teaching legacy of Jesus as represented by Thomas, Stephan and Mary (Magdelene) who were all shunned (silenced, suppressed) in one way or another. Their legacy is shunned to this day among the "orthodox" believers. I work part-time to revive their legacy (as I have understood it from the aforementioned book) and get a lot of animosity and cold shoulder from the ortho-crowd (the popular path). My experience with this suggests that the problem is embedded within the thinking mind of man...a tendency to resist reason and truth. And this is because "man" and "truth" are mutually exclusive. The truth is antithetical to man's apparent existence. So, it must "die" in order for "man" to be "saved". The thing is, salvation is not for man. It's for the mind of the Son of God, who suffers as he imagines himself to be something he's not, namely, the world of man.

Urban Monk