Infallibility.

Can god be seen?

No.
God is invisible and cannot be seen.
There shall no man see me, and live. Exodus 33:20
No man hath seen God at any time. John 1:18, 4:12
And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. John 5:37
Not that any man hath seen the Father. John 6:46
The invisible God Colossians 1:15
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17
Whom no man hath seen nor can see. 1 Timothy 6:16

Yes.
Many have seen him.
Abraham saw God several times.
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. Genesis 12:7
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him…. Genesis 17:1
And the Lord appeared unto him [Abrham] in the plains of Mamre. Genesis 18:1
And I [God] appeared unto Abraham. Exodus 6:3
And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran Acts 7:2

Isaac saw him twice.
And the LORD appeared unto him [Isaac], and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Genesis 26:2
And the LORD appeared unto him [Isaac] the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not.Genesis 26:24
And I appeared unto … Isaac. Exodus 6:3

Who was God’s firstborn son?

Israel
Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn. Exodus 4:22

Ephraim
Ephraim is my [God’s] firstborn. Jeremiah 31:9

Jesus
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29
… his dear Son … Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. Colossians 1:13-15

Can God be found?
God will be found by those who seek Him.
If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:3-5
Those that seek me early shall find me. Proverbs 8:17
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matthew 7:8, Luke 11:9-10

God will not be found by those who seek Him.
The cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. Psalm 18:41
Then shall they call upon me but I will not answer; they shall seek me early but shall not find me. Proverbs 1:28
Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. Lamentations 3:8
Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through. Lamentations 3:44
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Luke 13:24

What does the earth set upon?

Nothing.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. Job 26:7

Pillars.
The pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he hath set the world upon them. 1 Samuel 2:8
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. Job 9:6

Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders?

Yes.
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Mark 16:20
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. John 3:2
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. John 20:30
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know. Acts 2:22

No.
An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.Matthew 12:39, 16:4
And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. Mark 8:12
This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. Luke 11:29

Was Abraham justified by faith or works?

He was justified by faith.
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory. Romans 4:2

He was justified by works.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? James 2:21

Did Jesus tell his disciples everything?

Jesus told his disciples everything.
For all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. John 15:15

There were some things that Jesus didn’t tell them.
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. John 16:12

Did Jesus baptize anyone?

Yes.
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. John 3:22

No.
Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples. John 4:2

When will the end of the world come?
Before the gospel is preached to all the cities of Israel.
Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Matthew 10:23

After the gospel is preached to all the nations of the earth.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.Matthew 24:14

Is God the creator of evil?

Yes.
Behold, this evil is of the Lord. 2 Kings 6:33
I … create evil. Isaiah 45:7
What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Job 2:10
Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? Lamentations 3:38
Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?< Amos 3:6

No.
For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. Psalm 5:4
God is love. 1 John 4:8

Does God forgive sins?

Yes
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:34

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. 1 John 1:9

No
God … will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. Joshua 24:19

Does God love everyone?
Yes, God is love and he loves everyone.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:8
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

No, God hates some people.
He hates entire nations sometimes.
And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. Leviticus 20:23
He hates all workers of iniquity.
Thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Psalm 5:5
He hates wicked people and those who love violence.
I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings. Hosea 9:15
To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike. Wisdom 14:9
The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Psalm 11:5
He hates false witnesses and busibodies.
These six things doth the LORD hate … A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16, 19
And (for some strange reason) he hates Esau.
And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Malachi 1:3
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. Romans 9:13

When Was Jesus born?

Before 4 BCE.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king. Matthew 2:1
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. … After those days his wife Elisabeth conceived. … And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said … thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. Luke 1:5-31

Herod the Great died in 4 BCE.
Wikipedia: Herod the Great

After 6 CE.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) … Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, in Judea … To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Luke 2:1-4
Quirinius (Cyrenius) became governer of Syria in 6 CE, nine years after king Herod’s death.
Wikipedia: Quirinius

When was the ressurection supposed to happen?

Matthew 16.21
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and ON the third day be raised.

Mark 8.31
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and AFTER three days rise again.

Luke 9.22
“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and ON the third day be raised.”

Matthew 17.22-23
“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and AFTER the third day he will be raised.”

Mark 9.31
The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days AFTER being killed, he will rise again.”

Matthew 20.18-19
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and ON the third day he will be raised.”

Mark 10.33-34
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and AFTER three days he will rise again.”

Luke 18.31-33
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and ON the third day he will rise again.”

The End Times

Matt 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Mark 13:30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Luke 21:32 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

The context of these passages describes the the second coming and the end time. “But in those days, following that distress, “’the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

It is now 20 centuries later.

The two contradictory creation accounts.

The Book of Genesis begins with two contradictory creation accounts (1:1-2:3 and 2:4-3:24). In the first, God created humans (male and female) after he finishes making all of the other animals. In the second, God made one man (“Adam”) and then created all of the animals in order to find a helpmeet for Adam. God brought all of the animals to Adam, but none of them appealed to him. So God made a woman from one of Adam’s ribs to serve his helpmeet.
Here are two of the more obvious contradictions between the two creation accounts.

In the first creation story, humans are created after the other animals.

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:25-27
In the second story, humans were created before the other animals.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. Genesis 2:18-19
In the first creation story, the first man and woman were created simultaneously.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:25-27
In the second account, the man was created first, then the animals, then the woman from the man’s rib.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them…. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Genesis 2:18-22

A Christian Nation, Miracles, The Supernatural, and Biblical Contradictions

What is below is a response to a friend. You’ll be able to piece together the argument based on my responses.

I believe we’re all honest individuals. I engage in this conversation to illustrate the counter-arguments so there’s not giant cultural divides. You may think i’m an atheist. I’m not. I’m an honest person who doubts the understandings of ancient desert-locked shepherds who’s world view was based on 100’s of miles instead of a global multicultural picture of humanity. If anything ever were observably attributed to the supernatural, much of what was presented would be GREAT points, but since the advent of modern science, the invention of the camera and video, not one thing has been attributed to the supernatural, or a verifiable miracle documented.

As to your assertion about god acting upon the natural world from outside time and space, If a being doesn’t act in time, or upon space (or matter), it’s a non-event.

You also have to explain how a complex conscious being comes into complexity out of nothingness. This is generally the argument from complexity that theists assert—ie., that our existence can’t arise from nothingness. This argumet applies to a complex conscious deity too. Just because we don’t know what came before the big bang, (yet) does it mean “insert bible. ”

blessingsclick

Look, i’m open to “miracles”, so it’s not simply a matter of believing. Or, even having faith. I’d love to see evidence of the supernatural happening in a church—If any place had the potential, it’d be there.

well…, so much for that: http://www.christianpost.com/news/child-drowns-in-baptismal-pool-of-indianapolis-church-70141/

The assertion that the multitudes of anonymous ancient biblical authors had some kind of knowledge about the nature of reality that somehow trumps the past 200 years of modern science, is laughable. When you focus more on asserting that unverifiable biblical miracles and resurrections are “true” when they are truly just literary claims that are un-observed by science and biology, you present arguments that are easily refuted by basic science and you miss the opportunity to share the good things Jesus has to offer to the conversation.

The beauty of understanding the multiple branches of science and world religion and how they reflect the overall study of anthropology is that you find out that we all share an ability to speak veritable truths. It’s not about being our own god(s). Especially since belief in a singular god is not even an ubiquitous human experience.

When i can appeal to that observable fact, my “beliefs” are irrelevant. I’m open to there being a singular being, but i’ve not seen much in nature that doesn’t coexist with something else.

From here, I present my rebuttals. I make 13 points + sub-points based on the quoted assertions and in many cases towards the latter half, i’ll use the bible to back my points.

1. 95% of the founding fathers were of a Christian or higher being faith…

I acknowledged that, however all of them didn’t unanimously believe in the bible and specifically the Christian god. I’m pretty sure that’s about par for the course, especially 200+ years ago. But, this is a good opportunity to illustrate another example where a majority setting breeds the same sense of mitigation of other beliefs who may be dissenters and hiding themselves from the face of mob mentality—How do attitudes like this proffer inclusion? Do you think this is a healthy environment in the education system?

Let’s remember that it’s behind the veil of religious faith that our country’s religious fought to the death using the bible to defend the practice of slavery. Also note that the bible and Jesus say nothing to abolish the practice of human slavery. The bible actually condones human slavery and gives us directions.

Understanding the multitudes of human suffering that have transgressed across humanity because of slavery, there are serious theological issues inherent to that point.

Let’s also look at biblical values gone horribly wrong via Manifest Destiny. The idea of manifest destiny fueled the movement that god compels us take land based on divine providence which lead to the almost complete decimation of the entire race of Native Americans. Just like the crusades, the inquisition, the witch trials, the hanging of who knows how many for blasphemy, apostasy, demonic possession, and the implementation of Christianity by Rome, these examples illustrate that most major jumps in the presence of Christianity through various populations have been by mechanism of fear and by force in many cases.

2. “the constitution, mentions God or higher being, 5 times…”

God, higher being, and/or creator appear nowhere in the Constitution. Here’s a link in which you can do a search from top to bottom using the find field.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

The notable exception (which i mentioned) is found in the Signatory section, Article VII, where the date is written thusly: “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”. The use of the word “Lord” here is not a religious reference, however. This was a common way of expressing the date, in both religious and secular contexts.

3.”the founding fathers were genius in their bill of rights and letters and writings…”

Yes, let’s appeal to their writings. (this one is for fun)
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/07/04/35-founding-father-quotes-conservative-christians-will-hate/

None of the founding fathers believed in theocratic states. The foundation of democracy is powered by the consent of the people (E. Pluribus Unum) and not by their collective and subjective personal religious beliefs. Our constitution begins with “We the people” and does not invoke God in any sense. The constitution’s authority is based on the idea that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” which is contrary to the biblical concept of rule by divine authority. If the founding fathers used their religious beliefs to craft our founding documents, that’s great and all, but that doesn’t mean turn public schools into a religious circus.

4.”because they were trying to protect a people from the government, not protecting the government from the people being religious in the public square or workplace…

I don’t disagree. This is a freedom we all enjoy. But, the founding fathers were inclined to craft a government completely separate from the church allowing citizens to support the religion of their choice, or none at all.

5.”except that you think that because a teacher prays on a school campus that that school is sanctioning a religion, excluding all types of people, and harming the minds of minors…”

This is a false argument as i support your right to pray, but this is antithetical to what was taking place at Chestatee HS when the complaint was made. Regardless, this is shifting the argument from what the complaint is and how the courts have ruled on these exact situations.

Here’s a pastor’s take on the whole thing.

pastor

6.”the clauses are so that nothing will infringe upon the free exercise of religion, but what you, or not you per se, are trying to do is exactly that!”

No. The courts observing Separation of church and state” is a helpful shorthand that describes the effect of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause, and most of the Bill of Rights, is binding against the states via the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. There is a large body of case law on the Establishment Clause as I’ve provided (multiple times now) with all the cases cited delineating the line between church and state that are an observance to equality for all. In a plural culture, this line will most likely continue to advance. Even if the delineation isn’t always clear, students and teachers as individuals have religious rights in school, but schools themselves must maintain a “strict and lofty neutrality as to religion” and that’s how our courts have ruled. You can argue with me if you want, but the case laws are established.

The courts have used Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists as the deciding factor in the separation of church and state issue.

“Gentlemen, The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Thomas Jefferson, Jan. 1. 1802.”

Also, to the note that ‘separation of church and state’ that i regularly see does not appear in our founding documents…, well, Christians should stop using the word ‘trinity.’ ‘Trinity’ appears nowhere in the Bible. Neither does Rapture, Second Coming, Original Sin, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Supernatural,Transcendence, Afterlife, Deity, Divinity, Theology, Monotheism, Missionary, Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Christianity, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Transubstantiation, Moral, Morality, Ethics, Apostasy and Monogamy.

Did you REALLY mention “prophecies” and talk about America’s “smart meter” in the same rebuttal?

Prophecies are a culturally and personally subjective phenonmenon. Subjective interpretations of a singular book from a specific time period that has no relevance to non-christian cultures, or any evidence of relevance in modern plural cultures, is a hell of a leap to say over 300 biblical prophecies have come true. The same subjectivity is applied to Nostradamus’s “prophecies” and people’s subjective interpretation of either source neither proves nor disproves their validity.

That said, I need only appeal to one biblical prophecy to disprove all prophecies:

Matt 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Mark 13:30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Luke 21:32 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

The context of these passages describes the end times and the second coming.
“But in those days, following that distress, “’the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

! !  —> 20 centuries later and we’re still here. <—  ! !

Let’s remember the bible speaks of talking snakes, talking bushes, 900 year old people which there is zero paleontogical evidence, an inbred population that the entire field of genetics, in conjunction with the Human Genome Project (headed by a Christian, Francis Collins) disagree with the bible on that point. The bible speaks of a flooded earth that is not verified by any geologist, archaeologist, paleontologist, or botanist (Trees that out-date the “flood”), along with a person living in a great fish for 3 days (lol), a magical boat ride that fit all the world’s population of animals on a vessel 1/4 the size of Titanic (a real boat which held only 3000 real people) , two conflicting creation narratives in which one creation narrative places the plants on earth before the sun is even in the sky to power photosynthesis, assertions of a flat earth (in multiple places), and a warning of all the plagues of the bible being cast upon you for knowing more than what is claimed in the bible.

If there’s any hindrance to Americas education system, it’s mainly attributed to the dysfunction of bureaucracy compiled with religious fundamentalists holding science education back because of their religious sensitivities.

You can visit the National Center for Science Education site and Facebook page and see how many anti-science bills right-wing religious politicians continually try to push through. It’s as scary as it is entertaining.
http://ncse.com/

7. “Culture is changing in America and we have more humanist/secular people put into the places making law and the people, me included, get what we vote in. “

And there’s good reason for it. The politicization of religion is one of the GIANT reasons and it started when fundamentalist religion got married to the Republican party in the days of Robertson/Falwell. It worked very well for them for quite some time but now is jumping up to bite them. Many of the younger generation despise right wing politics, and losing them politically has resulted in also losing them religiously.

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is collectively labeled the “Nones,” otherwise known as “spiritual but not religious” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents.

Gay rights is another big item. In today’s world, most younger people are personally acquainted with gay people, and know damn well there isn’t any “gay agenda”, that gays are zero threat to the country, that homosexuality isn’t a “choice”, and that allowing them civil marriage or to die for their country in the military hurts no one. Denying civil marriage to gay people is nothing but INSTITUTIONALIZED BIGOTRY, and the youth of today recognize institutionalized bigotry as evil.

Another reason is the ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM of FUNDAMENTALIST religion. The assault on science by the Christian right has played out and the far Christian right has lost and continues to lose. Too many people understand that every bit of progress in the real world has been based on science and knowledge, and not on faith.

Evolution is evidence supported fact. If you’re still a detractor of evolution, let me introduce you to the Clergy Letter Project that is a compilation of over 13,000 active, living clergy from multiple faiths (mainly Christian) who understand evolution: http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/

For intellectual honesty, the list of 500 outlier “scientists” from the Discovery Institute and Ken Ham’s field day of crazy over at Answers in Genesis who apparently failed basic reading comprehension:
http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=660

The modernity of the 21st century is here despite those who want to drag it back to the Dark Ages when the church and the government were one.

8. “instead of teaching love one another, don’t steal, don’t kill, blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding…”

Love does not need to be taught because it’s something that is practiced. Empathy and altruism precede love and love is not owned by any particular prophet or religion. You loved your family and other people before you were taught what love is or you even understood religious teachings. AND, we can observe as sentient beings that stealing and killing causes harm and/or pain to others. You don’t need religion or Jesus to understand that. If you can’t determine right from wrong, you lack empathy, not religion.

From here, this conversation gets kinda muddy because you’re basing your argument on faith-based claims.

9. ‘im right, you’re wrong’ stance.”
“I say ‘sort of’ because, its not me. it isn’t an ‘I’ it is Jesus is right and nothing else compares.”

Are you mitigating the spiritual experiences of all other individuals who identify with existing faiths again? smh. wow. Did you know there are more people in the world who are not Christian than who are? Christians make up 30% of the 7 billiion people in the world.

9b. “Christianity isn’t ‘technically’ a religion, it is just Jesus.”
It is. To say it isn’t a religion is a cop out. From its beginnings, Christianity has been an apostolic, missionary faith based on Jesus’ exhortation to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) and is reinforced by declarations such as i noted previously that are based on conversion and not inclusion:

Luke 19:27 “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me!”

MATTHEW 10:33 “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

JOHN 15:5-6 5. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

10. “im right and you’re wrong’ is usually measured on emotional and psychological benefits that almost every religion or other groups provide. Go try them out and see which one makes you feel nice and warm inside, any will do if that’s all its about. All religions and even atheism claim truths but can those truths be verified? christianity is different because it all rests on Jesus. it crosses culture, borders, and races.”

Really? No. it’s not. If science practiced what “felt good” and didn’t have other intellectually honest observers and peer-reviewers to refute bad science, we’d have a whole host of problems with technology primarily, and basic observations gone horribly wrong across psychology, anthropology, art history, and natural history. Of note, what feels good to the other 1.3 billion people who are not Christian has zero to do with Jesus in the bible. I would ask, why is it non-faith and the rise of secularism and Buddhism are the go-to options for those who leave the Christian faith? Is it a feel good thing ya think?

Either way, you’re kinda leaning on the transcendence argument again here regarding Jesus. If transcendence via god’s word through the old testament to Jesus and the new testament “crosses culture, borders, and races” then each and every unrelated geographically disassociated culture across the world would have written exact copies of the bible and identified Jesus as the son of God without having ever come in contact with Christianity.

Where do you see this is a reality in separate geographical cultures?

We only need to appeal to the reality of the geography of a culturally diverse planet to illustrate the fallacy committed here and this has nothing to do with free will as the free-will argument removes any culpability from an omniscient creator responsible for a planet who’s religious and non-religious adherents arose concurrently.

The Christian God is defined as a personal being who knows everything. According to Christians, humans have free will. In order to have free will, you must have more than one option, each of which is avoidable. This means that before you make a choice, there must be a period of potential: you cannot know the future. Even if you think you can predict your decision, if you claim to have free will, you must admit the potential (if not the desire) to change your mind before the decision is final. A being who knows everything can have no state of “uncertainty.” It knows your choices in advance. This means that you have no potential to avoid choices and therefore lack free will. Free will argument refuted.

11. “take away the building, the money, the tenets, the preacher, all of it, it is still there, jesus. its a spiritual connection or relationship with an alive person. When you are connected with this person then his Word becomes alive. There’s a reason why they call it a living word.”

Is this not the same exact experience that is had through any literature or poetry such as the works of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman, Poe, Mark Twain, or even Newton or Einstein? They live in our hearts and minds when we read their words and their words/stories will still remain unchanged in another 2000 years.

12. “jesus made amazing claims “

He didn’t actually. Biblical authors did. Which we know to be multiple anonymous scribes. We know that Jesus didn’t write any of  the bible and we know around AD 50, as late as a full generation after his death and up through AD 150, that a number of documents circulate among churches including epistles, gospel accounts, memoirs, prophecies, homilies, and collections of teachings that lead to the books of the new testament. All of this was pulled to together at the Council of Nicaea around 325 AD. This is backed by the dead sea scrolls which originate about this same time. How any reasonable person educated in literature, or even the history of the bible rests a logical observation of a person’s death at year 0 of the Gregorian calendar and documents compiled 300+ years later as “perfect” or “unchanged” is simply a failure to reason logically about the time period we’re referring to.

13. “no other religious leader or non religious person has died in full view of thousands of people and trained military men, had a guarded tomb, and then appeared to more than 500 people at the same time after his death. His resurrection is an account that we can examine, investigate, and conclude if it did or did not happen. [sic] supernatural…, roll eyes…, won’t understand…”

The supernatural is not a matter of belief. It’s a matter of evidence. A book that attempts proves it’s own assertions when the authors of the new testament had a copy of the old testament handy to create linear narratives is an easy task when peer review, intellectual honesty, and modern science didn’t. even. exist.

Jesus predicts that he will be “in the heart of the earth” for three days and three nights. If by this he meant that he would be in the tomb for three days and three nights, then either he was mistaken or the gospels are in error. According to the gospels (this is one of the few things they all seem to agree on), Jesus was in the tomb for only one day and two nights. Matthew 12:40

Biblical scholars who start with a pre-suppositional positions when analyzing these texts commit the fallacy of confirmation bias, appeals to authority, circular reasoning, and appeals to faith which are not based on observable or repeatable evidence.

We can look at biblical contradictions about the tomb as evidence against your point here.

Would the Romans have guarded Jesus’ tomb?

The gospels disagree on what happened.

Matthew 27:62-66 – A guard is stationed outside the tomb the day after Jesus’ burial
Mark, Luke, John – No guard is mentioned. In Mark and Luke, the women who approach the tomb do not appear to expect to see any guards

When Did the Women Visit the Tomb?

Whoever visited and however many there were, it’s not clear when they arrived.

Mark 16:2 – They arrive after sunrise
Matthew 28:1 – They arrive at about dawn
Luke 24:1 – It is early dawn when they arrive
John 20:1 – It is dark when they arrive

Whom did the women see at the tomb?

answer 1. An angel:
Matthew 28:2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

answer 2. A young man:
Mark 16:5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

answer 3. Two men:
Luke 24:4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.

answer 4. Two angels:
John 20:12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

How many came to see him at the tomb?

One person:
John 20:1
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

Two people:
Matthew 28:1 As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

Three people:
Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

Five or more people:
Luke 24:1, 10 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

further discrepancies here:
http://articles.exchristian.net/2004/04/easter-facts-quotes-and-quiz-for-you.html

Also, what about the amazing event at Matthew 27:52 during the resurrection: “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.…”

Why did no other contemporary biblical author write about this FANTASTICAL event of the old testament saints rising if it was seen by “many” ??? Seriously, what happened to all of those guys at the end of this party? Where’s that book? and why is it only documented by one line in the entire bible? Talk about a supernatural event worth documenting. There should be like 500 different books about this event from a variety of witnesses.

Below is a list of  writers and historians who lived supposedly around the time of Josephus and Tacitus who Christian apologists always refer to, but all of these authors didn’t even live during the time of Jesus. Some of the below writers were explicitly interested in writing about the Jews and none of these guys mention him?

Appian Petronius, Arrian Phaedrus, Aulus Gellius Philo-Judaeus, Columella Phlegon, Damis Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom Pliny the Younger, Dion Pruseus Plutarch, Epictetus Pompon Mela, Favorinus Ptolemy, Florus Lucius Quintilian, Hermogones Quintius Curtius, Josephus Seneca, Justus of Tiberius Silius Italicus, Juvenal Statius, Lucanus Suetonius, Lucian Tacitus, Lysias Theon of Smyran, Martial Valerius Flaccus, Paterculus Valerius Maximus.

Somehow Jesus was a carpenter who left behind no archaeological evidence, caused major political and societal upheaval, rose from the dead and yet none of these writers bother to mention that?

These inconsistencies can hardly be relied on as factual accounts. At this point we’re not having a conversation based on evidence or facts, but simply a conversation based on conjecture because of ancient literary claims. 

Snarky sample (click)
circular reasoning

When any source makes a claim about the supernatural, it becomes a matter of science. Conveniently all examples of the supernatural are non-existent in contemporary times. Even across all of physics. In the marketplace of world ideas, everything is subject to scrutiny—Even faith claims. Scrutiny of the religious writings of ancient authors isn’t persecution or a denial of god(s)… It’s simply acknowledgement of reality looking at a multicultural planet in which there will always be geographically separate cultures with varying beliefs.

If we want to speak about truths, I’m all for truth, but let’s be honest about the nature of reality firstly and appeal to reality experienced by all cultures versus appealing to a singular piece of ancient literature that has it’s fair share of observable problems.

Feel free to comment.

SNAP KNOT!!!

Big thanks to the SnapKnot wedding photography directory for offering this great camera giveaway!

great theological discussion

Below is a conversation that went down on Facebook earlier this week. The participants are basically two people of faith and a couple secularists, including myself. It’s sort of Catholicism-centric, but we get into broad spectrum and much deeper points in latter parts of the conversation. The guy who starts it off more or less leads the conversation. Check it out when you time to read it. It starts with an article about the Pope and blossoms from there. all participants names have been changed to a number. It was an awesome discussion and quite a good re-read as even I missed some of the finer points on the first go round.

Enjoy.

1

Can someone please proffer a valid case why this institution is still around? (seriously, this is not a rhetorical question. i have smart friends, some of whom must have a compelling argument)

Pope Benedict XVI: Gay Marriage A Threat To ‘Future Of Humanity’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/pope-benedict-xvi-gay-marriage_n_1194515.html#s424515&title=William_R_Johnson

7 Habit. (pun intended!)

3

Well if you ignore disagreements with the church in terms or social issues (gay rights) its easier to see them as a neutral organization. Thats pretty difficult to ask of someone but just follow me here.

Ignoring whether or not you believe in the Church or agree with their views the Catholic Church is still (in black and white terms) the largest charity in the world. Besides that the Vatican is arguable the greatest artistic accomplishment in the history of man and it is open to the public.

Reasons alone that validate its existence above most other organizations in the world.

Now I get that the homophobic stance is a deal breaker but there are several social issues that are actively supported by the Church. AIDs ministries, medical clinics and education in poor countries etc. Those are areas that the Vatican actively participates in. As far as Gay Rights go.. the church doesn’t hold political offices that determine the actual discriminatory laws.

Its kind of like saying your neighbor is an asshole for being close minded to gays despite the fact that he runs multiple soup kitchens, reeducation programs for the homeless AND helped fund the local museum.

Thats not an excuse. I’m just pointing out that there are obvious reasons the Catholic Church exists.

2

It’s easier 1) to have no responsibility for your actions (go to confession, say a few “hail mary’s” and you’re good. see you next time!); 2) to be told how to be good (instead of discovering yourself how); 3) not to think too much about the validity (or vanity) of your experience and put all that on a group of ornately-dressed men who live in the middle of Italy; and 4) look forward to a “heaven” because life on earth is so shitty. There. No, wait. It’s actually just laziness.

1

3,

I appreciate your response. It def. has many valid points.

However, my primary disagreement comes with your request to bracket the Church’s ideology and its attendent blowback. I’m not sure one can seriously ignore the social implications of the church. and in spite of the material good works they enact, how does one account for the indoctrination that goes along with those acts. Isn’t there a danger of fostering and disseminating inflammatory and bigoted views through through the charitable acts? Doesn’t the Catholic Church view such acts as outlets for proselytizing? Do they only teach abstinence in the AIDs ministries when its obvious birth control does much to counteract such epidemics?

And while the Church doesn’t hold political office, it surely influences public policy, no? There are plenty of PAC filled to the brim with high-ranking Church officials.

The Church also ruined a bunch of really substantial classical art because that art featured a penis.

I mean what if your neighbor did all of the things you just mentioned—runs multiple soup kitchens, reeducation programs for the homeless AND helped fund the local museum.—but turns out to be a racist, homophobe or something absurd like a neo-nazi? do we still give him the benefit of the doubt?

I guess i respond to 2’s point a bit…good works in my eyes count for little if the ideology backing them is unethical, marginalizing, and outmoded. there are lots of charitable institutions that do their works without all the baggage. unfortunately the Catholic Church has roughly 1700 years of wealth and prestige to cement its monopoly on such acts.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the Church is a complex organization that has internal dissension, and there are plenty of forward thinking and inclusive adherents within the Church hierarchy. It just seems a strange and paradoxical position to take. Why not dispense with the patriarchal hierarchy all together, and just move forward with the supportive communal elements?

o

1

2,

Also valid points. Perhaps I’m just (naturally?) disinclined to arguments from authority, or at least authorities who rely on revealed truths. The whole “it’s a mystery (i.e. it makes no logical sense) and therefore it must be true” thing feels so awkward.

Perhaps people are too lazy to work out their own ethical stance, or too conditioned by habit to critically reflect on such things. I actually think it would be an easier and less anxiety-producing exploration if people weren’t already saddled with an ethical system that tends to discourage such adventures.

I also think fostering an attitude of “the next world over this world” does a disservice to humanity over-all. but i’m not sure how many Catholics actually take this to heart. As 3 pointed out, there are lots of people who do good works in the name of the Church, and I’d guess don’t subscribe to some of it’s more discriminator tenets.

Again, I’d argue for keeping the charitable thrust of the Christian ethical stance, but drop the male-oriented tribal imperatives and bureaucratic Roman organization.

o

1 just realized i’m starting to sound like a Protestant. yikes!

o

2 well, as a recovering catholic, i totally appreciate your question and thoughts about this. believe me, it was at once an exhillerating and frightening discovery that i can shape my own moraility and truth. as a result of a catholic upbringing, i then tend to be greedy now and would say i’m a polytheist.😉

o

5

this wins:

“good works in my eyes count for little if the ideology backing them is unethical, marginalizing, and outmoded. there are lots of charitable institutions that do their works without all the baggage. unfortunately the Catholic Church has roughly 1700 years of wealth and prestige to cement its monopoly on such acts.”

wealth… yes… maybe not so much prestige.

i almost spit out my coffee at this:

“Vatican is arguable the greatest artistic accomplishment in the history of man and it is open to the public.”

More like the greatest hoarder of artistic accomplishment. volumes and volumes of religious relics and documents on lock-down

Nonetheless all of this coming from a pope who has a long standing and unabated history of sheltering known and repetitive pedophiles.

Disgusting.

o

3

Well first to 2’s comment: Thats in no way in line with what any Christian faith actually teaches. That an unfortunate and over simplified popular take on religion thats completely hallow and divorced from any of its original intentions. I know that christians as a hole have created that image for themselves. Theologically though it makes no sense to the teachings of any major religion.

To 1: I think its a dated and flawed idea that the Church is out to gather a mass of people to indoctrinate and abuse. That definitely stems from historical things that the Church has committed as well a stereotype caused by hate between Catholics and Protestants. Proselytizing is kind of a ridiculous concept if you realize they are targeting the poorest of people. The vast majority of churches run on paper thin margins and no one gets a bonus if the congregations increase. Catholic priests often don’t even control where they get to work and live. At the end of the day if you actually saw the good work done in places like Haiti the positivity would be obvious.

On top of that you’d be amazed at how liberal minded the teachings are. An example: I have only once in my life heard judgmental words against gays in a church. I have never heard a priest imply how anyone should vote. Almost every sunday I hear a request for prayers or action for disaster relief, political action/awareness against genocide and pleas for humane laws regarding immigrants.

You mentioned PACs. I think you are lumping all Christians into one group here.
You might know more than i do here.

There are certainly very good examples of most major religions being flawed and at times loathsome. I’m just asking you to be open minded to their value.

You mention supporting charity but not the faith. Thats great even though the entirety of the catholic faith is founded on charity. The popular culture take on Christianity is as distorted as its take on Islam. (By the way I’ve been part of Catholic churches that shared buildings with Jewish Temples and Islamic organizations so that each of them could save money).

Now i feel like am pleading. I wont go into it too much but I’m curious why you would think a Judaeo Christian faith would be the easy way out (or any faith). Is it some how harder for you to be ethical? Are there difficulties or commitments that make it harder to be good?

Any religion is overwhelmingly complex even for the people that practice it for years and years. Theology even with out faith is also complicated. I don’t think huffington post or Facebook can even hint at ways they can be practiced or improved.

o

1

perhaps “clout” would have been a better word, over the value-laden “prestige”, although in some quarters i’m sure the institution is still considered blessed.

i hear both of you on the art thing. yes, the Vatican’s Vault is filled with stuff they don’t want people to see in case it foments dissension in the ranks. nonetheless, St. Peter’s is pretty impressive. at once for its testament to the absurd egos of the various Popes as the chosen interlocutors of god, but also to the brilliance of some of Italy’s finest craftsmen/progagadists. i am appreciative the Vatican is open to the public. better than nothing?

there’s plenty of sophisticated religious thinking going on, i just never see it at the highest ranks of the institution. those who do so are often ostracized like Paul Tillich, someone who immediately softens my approach to Christianity. why aren’t voices like this ever catapulted to the top instead of reactionary 80 year old men?

o

2

i hear you, 3! not only did i have a pre-vatican II upbringing, but i also have a degree in judeo-christian theology. the origins of both religions are beautiful and impressive — each a rebellion to the staus quo and each a declaration of independence. “catholic” means universal. its original tenets were those of faith, hope, and love. i’m a huge fan of jesus. but i’m not a huge fan of those who now purport to be his representatives here on earth. because those are the very people that jesus would have thrown out of the temple and branded mere sepulcheres.

o

2

1’s question was why this bastard of an institution still has a place in the world today. it is a thousand miles away from the very humble and loving teachings of jesus christ. the catholic church, in its current iteration needs to go. it hoards its riches while it watches the poor starve and die. jesus would never have let that happen. and then it makes proclamations of hatred from the pulpit, when jesus hung out with tax collectors, thieves and prostitutes. i’m sure that if he were alive today, he’d be a marshall at pride one of these times. but, alas, today’s catholic church is not even a mere shadow of its beginnings.

o

2 ‎1, that’s because tillich was reasoned and actually explores the place of existentialism vis-a-vis christianity. he was not an unreasonable dictator like that dude with a funny hat in the vatican.

o

1

3, You make great points. A lot of my knowledge of Christianity stems from a) secular studies of original texts, in which, if one is open to metaphorical readings, i find much of value; and b) European history, especially the power-plays of princes and popes. as you mentioned, the straw-man thesis that Christianity gives you free reign to be a tyrant and then offers absolution on your death-bed stems from such interplays, the political maneuvering of power-hungry psychopaths.

i appreciate you sharing your personal experience. as someone who does not attend church, i have very little to draw on. i did go to Catholic high school, and was often moved by *some* of the sermons and the priests. some were deep and profound. others seemed like empty recitation of ritual. but you’ll find sophisticated thinkers and not so sophisticated thinkers in any realm.

i think part of the problem, for me, stems from the whole “squeaky wheel gets the oil” thing. where squeaky wheel is right-wing zealots who would probably suck *regardless* of which ideology they buttressed their arguments with, and where the oil is, for lack of a better word, “press time”.

my question is, where are the moderate voices in secular debates? or even public debates? are they not newsworthy? is it a media bias? am i looking in the wrong places? i feel like those voices need to be broadcast better.

3, i’m not sure i think Judeo-Christian morality, or tying to follow it, is necessarily easy. but i do think it gives you a prescribed system from *very early on* and discourages you to question that system (is this true? prolly not). if someone does intensive work and ends up a Christian, that’s awesome if it works. i just think organized religious sets up a system in which critical reflection and potential heated disagreement is discouraged in the laity (if not in the theological seminary). my other big gripe is that such systems tend to found ethics on supernatural forces rather than within humanity itself, as if, without God’s grace, humanity has no inherent value. is this true? in your experience 3, is this the message that has been conveyed, or is it more nuanced?

o

3

I’ve been to St Peters and its the greatest experience of my life in terms of viewing/experiencing art. So I am sticking to my original statement of it being the highest artistic accomplishment of man. Sorry you went there and felt upset that you didn’t get to see more relics.

To 1 latest posts: I’ve talked to a lot of sophisticated and thoughtful people about faith. The thing is those people are soft spoken sophisticated people that go to church to talk about faith. They don’t go on TV to have those conversations so why would hear them? Its a catch 22.

I think this also speaks to 2’s point. The face of religion is horribly obscured. Unfortunately, I don’t really think you can make any headway into figuring out its true value with out making a big commitment to a religion. The teachings are right there and they are as positive and loving as 2 says. I don’t know why those aren’t the ideas that get people elected to office or powerful positions in the media. Those are small intimate things people talk about in church and temple every week though.

At this point I’m writing about why Christianity exists. My original points i believe are still valid.

o

1

‎”The thing is those people are soft spoken sophisticated people that go to church to talk about faith. They don’t go on TV to have those conversations so why would hear them? ”

I think this is an unfortunate state of affairs. of course, much of it has to do with the fact that there are very few platforms that allow for sustained discussion in today’s public sphere. oh well.

for me, you’ve reinforced my inklings that lived religions differ from institutions. which is why i think when everyone started talking about ethical systems there was little disagreement. unfortunately the two seemed so deeply intertwined they can’t be teased apart.

o

2

if i may, 1 : as you well know, in catholicism you are born in original sin. so there…you’r already marred from the start and you’re making your way out from under that. what a beginning! meantime, all over the gospels, jesus was saying you don’t have to worry about that ’cause i paid up your debt! somehow, that all got lost in translation as the catholic faith progressed through time. so, yeah, in a way, “humanity has no value” (without the catholic church to throw out indulgences and penances)

o

1

yah..it seems such a strange and pessimistic view of humanity to found a religion on. then again, in spite of my venting against such axioms, i often find myself casting misanthropic aspersion against the entire human race in the face of all the harm we seem to be doing to the planet and other species, and i boast about how Hobbe’s view of human nature was correct. so, in the end, i’m just a hypocritical closet original-sinner i guess.

o

3

I dont believe its that we are taught humanity has no value. Actually its almost hammered over your head how God loves man limitlessly. The idea is that humanity and all life and all existence gains their value through God. I hope the difference makes sense.

As far as penance and excuses to be a tyrant go no one gets free absolution. That idea is inaccurate. I think its a romantic idea played up by indulgent people and also a concept that was abused by people taking advantage of illiterate europeans. Thats not how Jesus forgave sins so how could it be a way for man to forgive sins.

o

1

‎”Thats not how Jesus forgave sins so how could it be a way for man to forgive sins.” – good point.

“The idea is that humanity and all life and all existence gains their value through God. I hope the difference makes sense. ” – this starts to make sense to me when God is not anthropomorphized, but is more a name we use to designate (bear with me) emergent, higher-order consciousness that arises from human communities. (in my own thinking, i don’t consider the human being the upper-bound of organisms). When god is reduced to a human figure i feel it does a disservice to the spiritual intuition of humankind.

o

2 but then, that’s where jesus came in. he was god incarnate in human form.

o

1

‎@2 yah that’s where you lose me. i go the other way. “god” is the name humans give to their intuition of the active, evolving, and creative universe, a universe which has no personal interest in the human race, because the ‘universe’ is radically other, radically anti-human, infinitely greater than our teeny-weeny brains. to claim that “all that out there” a) has knowledge of us, and b) decided to come visit once and only once a long time ago, thereby kicking off centuries of obscure debate and persecution…well…you know where i’m going with this.

o

1 also, thanks to all for the stimulating dialog

o

2 oh..i wasn’t doing a jerry falwell on you, 1. i was merely pointing out the tenets of the true christian faith (sans catholic indulgences, that is)

o

5 nice hats?

o

4

I was reading this dialogue and one thing stood out that I simply could not get past, and that was the statement (and I paraphrase) that “all religions are extremely complex even for those who practice them”. I could not disagree more. All religions boil down to a very simple nexus: you either believe it, or you don’t. Faith. And that is a very simple concept. Now, as scientific advancements have come into popular culture, the churches of the world must somehow keep up lest they appear outmoded, thereby creating artificially “complex” institutions. Religion for all intents and purposes was a way to explain the “unknown”, i.e. why aren’t my crops growing, where does the sun go at the end of the day, etc. Well, good ole science is figuring those things out, so the churches are scrambling to keep up in a world with increasingly less and less need for faith in god, hence the “complexity”.

o

1

couple responses:

a) i agree that faith is the linchpin of religious practice. regardless of cross-pollinating dialogs and ameliorative measures, when it comes right down to it, there are those who do and those who don’t. it’s a line etched in stone, and i seriously doubt one can straddle it for any prolonged length of time

b) i also agree that religion, in part, functions/functioned as an explanatory device for the unknown. in my view, religion originated from our nature as social beings, our desire to know how things work, a deeply rooted anxiety in the face of our finitude, and our cognitive priming to (over)-recognize agency in the world (false positives are evolutionarily acceptable, false negatives are not); when this latter faculty overruns its proper course we end up with ghosts, spirits, dead ancestors, angels, demons, gods, goddesses, and finally God. however, i think, do to complex feedback networks among the individual, social, cultural and political spheres, religion has grown into something more complex than it was during the hunter-gatherer period. this was how i understood 3’s statement. further, i’d imagine that for many individuals reconciling the contradictions of their faith with their own subjectivity must be a complex process. i will never understand how a homosexual, or a woman for that matter, could subscribe to the tenets of a Judeo-Christian religion. yet i know many intelligent people of both categories who do so. try as i might, this just seems a logical puzzle i can solve. but then again, faith is the rejection of reason and logic. so i guess it makes a strange sort of sense. maybe these aren’t the types of complexities 3 was referring to.

c) in spite of science’s capacity to serve as a viable oracle for “how”, people still have a need for why? personally, my answer to that question is “there is no why, so the question doesn’t make sense. there is no inherent value to being, only the value that human’s project onto that being. however, this fact in no way diminishes the <gasp> miraculousness of that state of affairs. this is the only way I can make sense of the continued relevance of religion for so much of the world’s population. in spite of some interesting experiments in Scandanavia, there are huge swaths of religion throughout the world. and there appears to be no slowing it down, in spite of secularist’s predictions. and while i’m somewhat sympathetic to science’s attempt to capture the mystical/numinous and miraculous nature of what it has discovered (e.g. Stuart Kaufmann’s ‘Reinventing the Sacred’), these attempts feel a bit futile. Why?

I’m not sure, I think peering into a nebula, literally viewing the ancient past is incredibly more moving, sublime, and awe-inspiring than any reading, literal or metaphorical, of a scripture concerned with an anthropomorphic god.

so, 4, I agree wholeheartedly that there is less and less a need for God. but how do we account for the growing want for God?

o

4

People haven’t changed that much since the first farmers started banding together to form societies. They (we) are still relatively simple, and ultimately the ego wants to believe that there is a “purpose” to life, and death is scary, we want to believe there is something more.

Not to mention the traditions ingrained from generation to generation make that cycle of faith difficult to break. It’s hard to think “are my parents really that gullible, are they stupid?”.

Maybe the way to answer “why”, is to think about your one personal reasons “why not”(assuming).

o

2 am not in the conversation now, but i thought it was brilliant that i read this line just now (from “never any end to paris” by enrique vila-matas) — “the downfall of the believer is finding his church.” sadly, in my experience, it’s true more often than not.

o

1

‎@4, i agree people haven’t changed much. but i’d argue strongly that culture has changed a lot. i don’t really believe in genetic determinism, and i accord environmental factors as much if not more causal efficacy with respect to neurological development given the plastic nature of the brain. so i think it is important to take the material considerations of contemporary society into account when framing discussions of religion as a complex system.

i tend to think the clash between us as relatively simple beings (def. true), and the growing complexity and interconnectedness of larger-scale networks (material, social, political, yadda yadda) is one of the primary reasons why there has been a resurgence in religion, a sort of retreat into and desire for religion’s ostensibly palliative effects.

it is jarring to realize what some of the older generations take on faith, especially when it comes to social values. it’s scary to thing some of their offspring readily accept the same values. it’ll be interesting to see if a similar gap exists between us at 80 and the 20/30 somethings of that age.

@2 i love that quote!!!! don’t know the author. the book sounds interesting…very “meta”

o

5

1 et al., i highly suggest The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. hits a lot of points here.

I like the Jesus being humble part:

15:6 “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

yeah, not exactly the poster child for humble. —Believe me or burn.

While i don’t completely agree with the following text and the author rails on faith, i came across it a few months ago and parts resonated pretty strongly.

excerpt:

“Human life takes place in a social context: we are all part of the body politic. Equally inescapable is nature’s prime directive: “survive”. But these are not constraints or limits on our experience. They’re the impetus for our quest. We have only one life: one quest for experience. A quest driven by curiosity. Along the way, we love, learn and (hopefully) understand.

But people of faith — people who seriously pin their hopes on a highly conditional and dubious promise of an afterlife — are led by an ancient authority, not by their own personal quest. Nothing about our experience of reality needs or requires faith. The only reason anybody needs faith is to accept unreality. Things not known to exist. “Faith” as claimed by most, isn’t about the truth: it’s about denying the truth. Staking one’s life on faith is surrendering one’s quest for understanding. Faith and truth are incompatible. If you have faith, you don’t want the truth.

Faith is the opposite of curiosity. Curiosity is about experience and learning: faith is about the afterlife and death. By denying the finality of death, faith prevents us from accepting it. It must be terribly frightening to face death knowing that your faith in a baseless promise of immortality will be put to the final test. And even then, your immortal soul could be destined for hell if you don’t measure up to God’s standards. Was your faith pure enough? Did you make God proud?

Curiosity is far better than faith; especially if it leads you to accept life for what it is. Coming to terms with death, means coming to terms with life. And vice versa. Besides . . . would a Creator of the universe really be so petty and vindictive that he would punish you forever? “

o

2 1, isn’t that a brilliant quote? and vila-matas is a recent discovery. he writes in spanish but this book i’m reading is so super-meta. he specializes in meta fiction and i’m super-digging it. i love that quote just happened to surface while we’re talking about this.

o

2

5:being a person of faith, but not necessarily religious, i beg to differ about that definition of faith. it’s a bit myopic. my faith is tied to “there’s got to be a reason for all this…some meaning.” i really have given up about afterlife. i’ll either accept reincarnation or nothing. but while alive, i want to attach life to meaning. and that is where i apply faith. because really, what’s it all about? though i don’t subscribe to any one canon of faith. i’d rather poke my eye out than do that.

o

1

‎@2 awesome, i will pick it up. i wrote my thesis for my previous Masters on Metafiction, def. a fan.

@5 i’m a pretty big fan of sam harris. i loved End of Faith when it came out, although in retrospect i find it a tad incendiary. kinda feel the same toward all the Brights/New Athiests, although I do love Dawkin’s smarmy and arrogant wit. With respect to The Moral Landscape, I actually wasn’t too impressed. My pithy review from GoodReads states: “Should be subtitled “How *Reason* Can Determine Human Values”, and, in that light, nothing new here, just regurgitated utilitarianism with some “one day science will back up these ideas” peppered throughout.” I felt he fell short of substantive claims on science and was instead just arguing ethics. which is fine, but i think i had different expectations which colored my reception of the book.

if you are into that type of stuff, and don’t know it, the Science Network’s “Beyond Belief” video series has some great lectures, Harris included.

http://thesciencenetwork.org/programgroup/beyond-belief

TSN: Beyond Belief

thesciencenetwork.org

o

1

‎@2 not to drag you back in, but does the meaning necessarily need to be transcendent, to come from without? would it suffice for that meaning to be a construct of the human mind and social experience and therefore immanent to the human experience, but not necessarily imbued within existence itself? typically when i talk to religious people that type of internally (to the human species) sort of meaning seems to fall short, and they instead profess faith in a meaning that is greater than and transcendent to human-kind.

o

2

fair point, 1. so, with that in mind, i’m in flux. certainly, there have been signifcant experiences in my life that necessitated some sort of “faith” — whether by my ability or some external something i hold on to. but experientially (and perhaps because of my strict religious upbringing) i hold on to some sort of faith. this is why hitchens’ essays during his cancer battle meant so much to me because i’m reading another point of view — right from a bonafide humanist. i’m just quasi-humanist. but yeah, i don’t pray to any entity but perhaps it is our collective energy as humans that i hold on to. and admittedly, it is a belief in the unproven. and it has nothing to do with the afterlife, but everything to do with life, right now.

o

1

yes i think the last point is key. and meshes nicely with those spiritual traditions with which i sympathize. there’s def. a difference between blind faith (which i think christian’s quote was speaking of) and an enlightened faith, of which many of the great religious minds have spoken of.

are the Hitchen’s essays anthologized? online? i haven’t read any of his stuff post-diagnoses. we’ll have to have a book swap once i’m back in august.

o

5

I agree. Thought it was pretty slow on the major front half and a little weightier in the latter 30%. Harris definitely still carried a bit of the incendiary in spots and he def has the argumentative tone w/o Dawkins zing. Yet. the neural aspects were kinda dope for me.

Faith can be a lot of things, but I don’t think it’s that myopic of a view. Modern humans have proliferated for the past 40,000-75,000+/- years. Neanderthals proliferated for the previous 350,000+/- years. The point that we know the window of time when early “man” first controlled the use of fire
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_of_fire_by_early_humans
compiled with our understanding of the life and death cycles of stars and the implications that has on our own existence being the 3rd rock from the sun, literally makes my brain melt.

With that kind of focus,
i think faith stems from emotions closely related to our innate need for companionship. We’ve always had that hoping seeking nature about us and hence why most religious teachings bank on the most natural of yearnings.

As it’s traditionally been taught to us, I don’t equate not having faith with life not having meaning. But i feel ya. =)

o

2 1, i don’t think hitchens’ “cancer” essays were anthologized. although i wouldn’t be surprised if they were included in his last book. looking forward to a book swap in august. and yes, sam harris rawks (this coming from a girl of “faith”)🙂

o

2 5:as a very emotional person, i totally agree with you that faith stems from emotion and a need for connection — to something/someone. hence my not being such a huge fan of buddhism (because i think it’s bereft of emotion), although i do dabble in some buddhist precepts.🙂

o

2 ‎….but 1, here’s his last essay before he passed away: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hitchens-201201

Theology, Anthropology, God, the Bible and Homosexuality vs Reality.

A letter i wrote to Erick Erickson of WSB’s radio talk show and http://www.redstate.com in response to his discussion on air. I wrote it from the position of a believer merely for the fact of the recipient.

Firstly, let me say Greetings and hello. I am Christian. Literally, my name is Christian. I was listening to the show and decided to call in. I have a common thread with you… I was raised fundamental southern baptist so, please walk with me through this and let me know your thoughts.

Where i caught the 6/21 show, you were talking about a Methodist minister who is female and now openly lesbian and has admitted to marrying other lesbian couples in her church.

You stated that homosexuality is banned by the bible, against God’s approval, the doctrinal bylaws of her Methodist church and asked why a minister would knowingly admit to being homosexual and marrying other gay/lesbian couples when it is forbidden.

You added that some of the mainstream, i guess more progressive churches, are straying away from traditional teachings like we grew up with and taking a more relaxed approach on homosexual relationships.

This is where you said, and i understand this, that the way you were raised, “puts the fun in fundie.” ie., fundamental southern baptist and finished your point with [paraphrasing] “God says it clearly in the bible being against his wishes/commands and through the changing times and current opinions of a specific progressive Pastor’s view on the current state of things, it’s not okay and that “God does not evolve” as people’s changing opinions do.”

So i call the show as I have some fundamental problems with what you said.

I am not a homosexual, I have a wife and daughter, but here’s my thought… [which i was told by the call screener my thought would alienate too many people and i wholeheartedly disagree.]

In all i know of God, humanity, and all of creation, homosexuality is evident and exists on every continent, in every culture, in every race, across all of man, around the entire globe, since all recorded time—with there even being occurrences of homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

It’s common across our entire human existence.

So, the reality is, regardless of what is written in the bible, it’s a fundamental Truth of our existence as evidenced by God himself through creation.

On a biological level, heterosexual couples/families, Christian and non-Christian, are giving birth to homosexual children across entirety of the human race.

So, would homosexuality really be such a unilateral occurrence across our existence if it were just a choice?

Really. Please put some serious thought into that.

Do you and most Christians really believe that in another 2000 to 5000, say even the next 10 to 20,000 years of existence that, regardless of what’s written in the bible, God somehow didn’t plan for this piece of his creation and that it is our current job as the stewards of his creation to continue to live in the mindset of the authors of the bible denigrating and judging others to preserve some sense of romanticism with stories and moral beliefs of times long since passed,versus lifting our heads up, taking a look around, acknowledging this and continuing to act like we still live in pre-historic times fostering an anthropological understanding equivalent to that of Sunday school 4th graders?

Are we really that shortsighted?

As to “God does not evolve,”
it’s odd to me that Christians who follow the bible to it’s Nth degree believe that God is somehow stuck in the mentality of the times of pyramids when men worshipped other men and that one of God’s tasks is damning all of these beings of his creation to hell for something most of the Christian community believe is a “choice.”

I know that in talking you’re painting inside the lines of your listenership, but It’s also quite deplorably scary that the major majority of Christian’s read the bible and interpret it as to assume that the last thing God ever had to morally say was written and finalized with the last page of the bible. If God spoke through Jesus and the authors of the bible of those times, does he not still speak through us?

This is a freaky unrealistic mentality not based on any sense of reasonable thought if you ask me. Could just be my own assumptions.

It’s also amazing to me that as a devout Christian, i assume you are, would make such a bold assumption as to know what God does and does not do in his own existence. Whether He evolves or not? Really?

You know this because it’s in the bible? Pretty bold assumption on a believer’s behalf.

We simply can’t assume as lesser beings that we “know” what the All Powerful can and can’t do based solely the writings of men from 2000 years ago—and, the evidence of reality all around us says exactly the opposite of what’s in the bible regarding homosexuality [and much more.]

This raises the question, are fundamental and conservative Christians so focused on the past and the teachings that they’re missing a piece of their own humanity?

Isn’t that missing out serving him?

Why choose to turn a blind eye and claim that “well, It’s in the bible? ”

Sorry, i do have to say, it is not me alienating themselves as your screener so told me.

Most people believe the bible because it’s what they were taught and they never decided to look outside and peek into what is fundamentally true across other cultures and the rest of our known existence.

This isn’t controversial, it’s just common sense. I really wish that when people spoke about God, especially in/on a mainstream outlet, they did so responsibly and respectfully.

I feel you completely stepped outside of your bounds in what you said regarding this even though it was short and in line with scripture, it makes me think that these were only talking points that you and other Christians don’t put much  thought into…

i hope this makes you think hard about the mainstream line of Christian thinking and I would love to know your thoughts on this as a Christian and as a commentator.

Please don’t respond with biblical quotes to justify your thoughts. I know them, but thanks for your time and reading.