All throughout my years as a Christian I remember hearing the story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. I remember hearing about how awful a person Judas had to have been in order to turn his back on his friend and teacher for a couple of pieces of silver. He was easily one of the most demonized figures in biblical teaching.
All that said, if you take into account the whole reason that Jesus came to Earth according to the bible, don’t you think that Judas kind of gets a bum rap? I mean, without Judas’ betrayal there would have been no trial of Jesus. Without the trial, there would have been no execution of Jesus. And without the execution of Jesus there would have been no opportunity for him to rise again, thus beating the bonds of death and serving as a stand in punishment for humanity’s sins. Doesn’t God’s entire plan fall apart without Judas?
It seems to me that Judas should be celebrated for what he did. What option did he have? It almost seems to me that he didn’t even have any free will in the process. The plan was made and executed exactly as God had laid it out. And Judas has taken the fall for it. When you actually take a step back and look at it this way, the story really seems silly (it’s silly for lots of other reasons too, but I’m gonna stay on topic here).
I apologize ahead of time. This is going to be a LONG post!
A few weeks ago I posted a video interview of Christopher Hitchens on my Facebook page. In the video he discussed his current prognosis regarding his cancer, and his outlooks on life and death. Most of this is unimportant in regards to the topic of this post. It’s the ensuing discussion on the posting that is really the matter.
I’ve pasted the entire conversation below. But I believe that I should include a little bit of background to set the stage. I’ve removed (painstakingly) all personal names as to protect the privacy of the individuals. Christian #1 is a very liberal Christian minister that I’ve found on a podcast online. While we obviously have theological disagreements, he’s one of the most open-minded religious folks that I ‘know’. He’s open to discussion and questioning, and relays his own doubts on a regular basis. Generally, a really good guy. Atheist #1 is a Facebook ‘friend’ whom I’ve never met. Before this conversation we’ve had next to NO interaction whatsoever.
For those that actually take the time to read this whole thing, I have some questions. Is Atheist #1′s approach to this conversation the way we, atheists, in general should handle our interactions with believers? Is there really ANY good that can come by being insulting, ignorant, and generally ‘an asshole’? Personally, when I have dealings with people like this, my mind shuts off to them. At that point, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing that they have to say that I need to give any consideration to. I believe tact should nearly always be in play. We should be ‘the bigger people’. If we want to be respected, we need to act in a respectful way. Talk in a respectful way. And generally exude calm, intelligence, and respect at all times. I’m genuinely interested in what other folk’s thoughts are on this. So, please feel free to provide some feedback.
The initial part of the conversation started on the day I posted the video and it the part between me and Christian #1 at the beginning. It then dropped off of my main page and a few days later Atheist #1 decided to start commenting (odd that he must have been scrolling my page to find it at that point, but whatever). Initially everything went along just fine. I actually wasn’t around during most of the early parts between those two. Then at some point Atheist #1 must have googled Christian #1 and found out some personal information about him. He decided at that point to use it as ammo for personal attacks. That’s when I started to intervene a bit.
Anyway, here’s the post. It’s extremely long. So…enjoy! 🙂
Christian #1: The convicting thing about this video for me (a Christian) is that he seems to have managed the kind of comfort and peace of mind in the face of death that we (Christians) typically reserve for the converted.
Me: I agree, Christian #1! Something to be said for that don’t you think? In his book that I’m reading he paraphrases Lucretius at one point in saying “the prospect of future annihilation was no worse than the contemplation of the nothingness from whice one came.” I find that there IS some comfort to be had when comtemplating the innevitable by looking at it in that way.
Me: ignoring the typos of course!
Christian #1: This is good food for thought as I am working on some homework for (another person not involved) in preparation for the next round of pod-casts.
Me: excellent! I can’t wait until they are up on the website!
Atheist #1: Christians are horrified of death. It’s those who don’t believe in fairy tales that can meet it with a rational mind.
Christian #1: I’m not horrified of death, and I am a Christian. I do not like death, but I am not afraid of death.
Atheist #1: Good for you Christian #1, but it would seem you are in the minority.
Christian #1: You are probably right.
Me: I would tend to agree that Christian #1 is not exactly cut from that same cloth as a lot of christians out there! and that’s a good thing.
Atheist #1: But why is calling yourself a Christian something to be proud of? For millions, it is a sign of credulity and weak-mindedness.
Christian #1: Well, just because many people who claim the title “Christian” are bad people, doesn’t mean that the title means “bad person” it means “follower of Jesus” which is what I am.
Atheist #1: Ah and how is it you are so certain Jesus was actually a real person, or so sure of what his teachings were? And Jesus also said in matthew that he wishes not at all to discredit any of the laws from the old testament, but to uphold them, so he is in favor of slavery, genocide, stoning to death for adultery, infanticide and the subjugation of women. Yeah, he’s a remarkable guy.
Christian #1: Well, I think it is reasonable to believe that he existed. I also believe that it is reasonable to believe that the gospels are historically accurate. Jesus actually said that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, which is not the same thing.
Atheist #1: The gospels are historically accurate? You can’t be serious. Dude, do a little reading. They can’t even agree on which day he was supposedly crucified, or which day he was born. They have hundreds of discrepancies. Each of the four give a different account, and they aren’t just different on subjective things. They are different on the supposed facts.
Atheist #1: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
matt. 5:17 So Jesus condones slavery. Why don’t you own slaves then Christian #1, you follow the teachings of Jesus?
I interpret his statements differently. When Jesus talked of abolishing and fulfilling Torah (the Law), he was using first century rabbinic language to describe his interpretation and application of Torah.
When someone misinterpreted the me……aning of Torah, first century rabbis would say that person had “abolished Torah.” Conversely, when a person interpreted the meaning of Torah correctly (or at least correctly in the mind of the Rabbi) they were described as “fulfilling Torah.”
So when Jesus said he had not come to abolish Torah but to fulfill it, he was claiming to have correctly interpreted the meaning of Torah. His interpretation (in part) is what follows in Matthew 5,6, and 7 or what we commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount” and can be summarized in his assertion that the central moral teaching of Torah is to love God and love people.
So yes, I think he was a remarkable guy.
As far as incongruities of the Gospels, I have read about it, quite a bit actually. For me, factual discrepancies do not at all discredit the overall record of the Evangelists. After all, Ancient Near Eastern concepts of history, historic……ity, and historiography were all quite different than ours.
Actually, I think the fact that these minor incongruities (and they are minor, and far fewer than “hundreds”) persisted throughout the transmission of the oral tradition and later manuscripts establishes the credibility of the original witnesses. They wrote what they thought happened, and obviously felt no compulsion to harmonize their account with the accounts of others.
Atheist #1: Just like a Christian, to interpret the bible just how it suits them. The gospels are not a history, nor do they claim to be. They are simply the “good news.” You didn’t answer the question. Why do you not own slaves?
Atheist #1: Minor incongruities? wow. There are hundreds of questions I could ask you about jesus and the answer you would give me would totally depend on which gospel you read. Get a clue man.
Atheist #1: the central moral teaching of the Torah is to love god and love his people? Oh ok. I guess that excludes slaves, people god doesn’t like (because he commits genocide on them) and homosexuals, as well as women.
OK, I thought I answered your question. I’ll try this… I do not follow the moral/civic/religious code of the OT because Jesus reinterpreted it (as per the sermon on the mount) and established a new covenant between God and his people. Be…sides, the old code didn’t command people to own slaves, it simply commanded them to treat slaves with dignity.
As far as incongruities in the Gospels, the big stuff is consistent, the little stuff varies. This is what happens when different people record the same event from different points of view. It happens all the time. Just watch the news.
Finally you are mistaken about the Gospels and their claims to be history. Luke explicitly claims to be history (or at least an orderly account of what really happened) and Matthew strongly implies the same by starting with a record of
genealogies. Furthermore, the early church (first/second century C.E.) strongly relied on these documents as history and I suspect they were more familiar with the genre than you or me.
Atheist #1: Ah Jesus reinterpreted it! Silly me! Of course he did! The big stuff is consistent? Who appeared first at the tomb of Jesus then Christian #1? That’s a pretty big thing. On what day was Jesus crucified? That’s a pretty big thing. What exac…tly did Jesus say while he was on the cross. That’s a big thing too. I could go on and on and on. Christian #1, no I’m not wrong. Luke is biased, and I don’t take my information from him, nor does any scholar. They simply claim to be the good news. If that is the case, name me one thing that happens in the gospels that actually happened in recorded history. yeah that’s what I thought.
Atheist #1: And the genealogies don’t even concur. They can’t even agree on who the grandfather of Jesus is. What a surprise.
Yes Jesus interpreted the Law, this is what pissed religious leaders off so much, his interpretation of the law.
No those are not big things.
The resurrection is a big thing, who saw the empty grave first is a minor detail. The empty grave is a major detail.
The crucifixion is a big thing. What Jesus’ exact words when he was being killed is a minor detail. His death was a major detail. Same goes with the day of his crucifixion. Does it matter if one writer got it correct and another didn’t? They agree on the fact that he was crucified.
Certainly Luke is biased, most ancient histories are VERY biased (see Josephus) this doesn’t mean that what they wrote wasn’t history. Many scholars glean information from the history in Luke (we could trade lists, but that would probably futile, eh?)
Hmmm, historical events in the Gospels that are verified elsewhere. How about Pontius Pilate ruling as Roman Prefect in Judea? This fact is verified by Philo and Josephus.
Josephus also wrote about John the Baptist
Josephus is not regarded as a reliable historian, I am sure you know this. I love how you just shrug off all the inconsistencies Christian #1, that’s very convenient for you. Why was Jesus in Bethlehem at the time of his birth? IS that a major …or minor detail? Hmmmm they dont’ agree on that either. You have a right to your own opinions but not your own facts. And the facts are, none of he gospels are reliable. Pontius Pilate was not a Prefect, they got that wrong too. He was a Praetor. Do your research. And that’s the only thing you can muster? hahahahahahh Herod is also mentioned and he was a real person. The writers of these books did that to try to make their stories seem believable. ANd what of this census of Quirinius? Never happened. Complete hogwash and made up. But you’ll say that is a minor detail. LOL. Come on man, get real.
Atheist #1: And I’m glad the gospels agree that Jesus was crucified, because Roman authorities sure don’t there is no record of him at all. Funny you mention Philo because he was a contemporary of Jesus, and make not ONE mention of him in all his writings. As a Jewish historian PHILO would have found it very important that someone called himself the king of the jews and was crucified. Short answer. Didn’t happen.
Atheist #1: Is naming Peter his successor a big deal? The gospels don’t agree on that either. THAT certainly is a big deal.
Atheist #1: Luke says that Jesus was born during the census of Quirinius, which he claims took place in 6 CE. Matthew tells us that Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod, who died in 4 BCE. Luke contradicts himself, stating that John the Baptist and Jesus were conceived six months apart in the reign of Herod, but portrays Mary with child at the time of the census of 6 CE, creating, one of the rarely mentioned miracles of the New Testament- a ten year pregnancy!
Of course Josephus is not “reliable” by our standards but very little of Ancient Near Eastern history is reliable by our standards. It’s all we have though. Besides the general scholarly consensus is that Josephus’ citing of NT personalities are authentic (except for maybe the Testimonium Flavianum).
Yes, why he was in Bethlehem is a minor detail.
I do have the right to my own facts, or at least the interpretation of the facts. I cannot prove my interpretation any more than you can prove yours.
Philo may not have heard of Jesus, since he lived in Alexandria. Philo doesn’t mention Jesus, two reasonable explanations are that Jesus did not exist or that Philo never heard of him. Both are reasonable (mine is more reasonable I think), I chose one you chose the other.
Christian #1: Again, their dates are off. Doesn’t bother me at all, in the slightest. Incorrect dating does not mean that the event didn’t happen.
No you are wrong again to say that the general scholarly consensus is that Josephus is reliable.
Josephus- he mentions Jesus but critical scholarship has shown this to be a later addition to his text. It is not his same writing style, and …Josephus was in fact a pro-Roman Jew. Early Christians would have seized on anything written by Josephus as conclusive proof of the historical evidence of Jesus, but early Christians never mention him. It wasn’t until the 4th century CE that the bishop Eusebius, the propagandist of the Roman Church, suddenly produced a version of Josephus that contained the passages. ~ from the Jesus Mysteries by Timother Freke and Peter Gandy
Atheist #1: I don’t have to prove anything about the gospels, because they don’t stand up to examination. You have the burden of proof, not me.
Atheist #1: The gospels agree that Jesus’ father was Joseph, but Matthew says Joseph’s father was Jacob. Luke says it is Heli. They can’t even agree on one generation, and we are supposed to believe that Joseph traced his ancestry all the way back to David? Of course, if Jesus was born of a virgin, Joseph’s lineage becomes irrelevant.
Atheist #1: I’m glad it doesn’t bother you Christian #1, because it does bother rational people.
Atheist #1: I assume you don’t want me to continue to destroy you Christian #1?
Me: lol…look at all the fun I’ve missed. Good discussion. I’ll let you guys continue if you like. Let’s keep it civil!
I’ll leave you with a lovely quote from sam harris;
An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse- and there have been many ex…traordinarily arrogant scientists.
Actually, if it bothers you than you are being something less than rational. These are ANCIENT documents written in ANCIENT cultures and then transmitted by HAND for centuries. Not to mention the fact that the story of Jesus was likely transmitted via oral tradition for decades before it was ever written down to begin with.
Of course there will be discrepancies. To expect that there wouldn’t be is irrational. It also strikes me as ignorant of the processes of historiography and how those processes change over time and how difficult it is, even in our modern age with all our technology, to get every detail correct.
Atheist #1: Yet you think Jesus was a real person and worship him and believe the teachings that are supposedly his. I find this very entertaining.
Atheist #1: I’m sure you’re one of these Christians who believe evolution is totally compatible with their religious belief, right Christian #1? And why is it so hard for you to get rid of beliefs that were indoctrinated into your head by your parents?
So this is what it feels like to be “destroyed”? Hmmm, it feels more like discussing apples and oranges with someone who doesn’t understand fruit. Anyway, I am glad it entertains you.
My opinion is that it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus existed and that his teachings have been preserved.
Atheist #1: If there is anyone who doesn’t understand something here, it certainly isn’t me. Your faith is just that, faith. Reason trumps faith every time. I use my reason to tell me that Christianity is despicable, and it is. Evidence is important to me, and obviously not important to you.
Atheist #1: Every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim as you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling. I don’t find either’s reasons compelling or rational.
Christian #1: I never said anything about faith. My belief in Jesus and his teachings has very little to do with faith. Evidence is very important to me. You assume too much about me.
Atheist #1: There is no place in the New Testament where Jesus objects to the practice of slavery. St. Paul even admonishes slaves to serve their masters well. Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6: 1-4
Why don’t you own slaves Christian #1?
Atheist #1: Yet you claim you are a Christian. Christians worship Jesus. It’s not that hard of a concept to understand. You have to have faith that Jesus existed because there is no evidence that he did.
Christian #1: Because Jesus didn’t command his followers to own slaves.
Atheist #1: He commanded his followers to “take no thought for the morrow.” Do you subscribe to that too?
Christian #1: Yes.
Atheist #1: hahahahah okay, then why do you have a job, a computer, and why aren’t you homeless. This is becoming even more fun.
Atheist #1: The old testament is a part of the bible too. WHy do you cherry pick and decide not to believe all the horrible things in it? How convenient. Jesus this Jesus that. You didn’t answer my question about evolution. Do you believe in it or not, and how old do you think the earth is?
Christian #1: Because Jesus teaching against worrying is not a command that we live in poverty. Not worrying about tomorrow does not equal not having a job.
Atheist #1: Again, that’s your wonderful interpretation. You have such insight on what jesus really meant! You are truly gifted!
Atheist #1: Is the concept of original sin a moral concept? It’s disgusting.
Atheist #1: Jesus did NOT do away with the law of the Old Testament; he endorsed it. Matthew 5:18-19
You are going too fast, I can’t keep up!
OK, regarding the OT, I hold to the ancient Christian belief that the OT is empowered by God (not entirely sure what that means) and useful for discipleship (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This does not mean that the OT is morally binding, or even true, only that it is empowered and useful.
I am not sure what I think about evolution, it makes sense to me, but I think it is far from a forgone conclusion. I say let smart scientists wrestle with it for a few more decades and see what they come up with.
I think the earth is very very old.
Atheist #1: Wow, you’re a pastor, no wonder your head is all muddled up. Good day to you and shame on you for preaching such screwed up ideals, most likely indoctrinating your children too, (which is child abuse) and robbing them of reason. You make me sick honestly.
Christian #1: No, he FULFILLED it.
Atheist #1: Evolution is a fact. You betray an utter ignorance of science if you do not think so.
Atheist #1: Seminary! What a waste of a life! poor, poor choice. Brainwashed, that’s what I call it.
Christian #1: You don’t know what I teach and how I raise my children. Again, you assume too much.
Atheist #1: I see you are a pastor and I see that you went to seminary. Therefore my reason tells me you bring your kids to church and this is disgusting. Congrats on filling their heads with utter nonsense. Way to be a great parent.
Me: and this would be a fine example of what i did NOT mean when I said to keep it civil! there’s NO reason for attacking the person! argue about the topic…fine. but leave out the personal attacks!
Atheist #1: Delete me then, I don’t need a supervisor.
Me: you seem very angry Atheist #1! I don’t need to delete you, but can’t understand why you don’t want to have a conversation without resorting to insults.
Atheist #1: I very much enjoy ridiculing Christians. It’s all they deserve. Ridicule is the only weapon against unintelligible propositions.
Me: ridicule the position…not the person.
Christian #1: It’s no big deal, Me, I can’t say I understand entirely where the vitriol comes from, but I think I get it. If Atheist #1 thinks that Christianity is a terrible thing, and he thinks that all Christians are terrible because of their religion, then of course he would be concerned that I am exposing my children to it.
Atheist #1: I will ridicule whatever the hell I want to, thank you very much. And quit being such a pussy. Last time I checked, Christian #1 can defend himself. I think it’s despicable that he is a pastor and I, just like dawkins, would say he is a child abuser who fills his children’s head with bullshit. I have no scruples saying that.
Atheist #1: Indeed, Christianity preaches fear and hate. It’s bigotry at it’s finest.
Me: well enjoy your anger then. I prefer to enjoy life and not embrace anger so much. you and I are obviously very different people. You choose to insult, and choose rather to find common ground and have civil discourse. no good will ever come from firing insults.
Atheist #1: Millions are concerned about it Christian #1, as they should be. You are telling your children if they don’t behave they will burn in hell for eternity, and filling their heads with the bullshit concept of original sin. It’s child abuse.
Atheist #1: All because you were ensnared by the indoctrination of your parents, and don’t have the balls to think for yourself. Despicable.
Atheist #1: You prefer to kiss people’s asses. IF you knew more about Hitchens, who you so like to post, you would know he has a hell of a lot more in common with me than you. Check out his comments about Jerry Falwell.
Me: whatever dude. rage on!
Christian #1: I do not teach my kids this doctrine of hell, because I do not believe it.
Atheist #1: You call it rage, I call it being rational and expressing my frustration with people who believe in sky daddies. I can assure you I’m not throwing anything around my apartment. As you can see, Christian #1 conveniently doesn’t care about anything that questions his faith. Because it’s faith. ya don’t need evidence for it.
Me: hitchens has civil conversations and debates with religious people ALL THE TIME! you should try his tact sometime
Atheist #1: yeah, and he also calls them out and says they are delusional.
Atheist #1: I’m far less tactful than Hitchens, quite true. I can be because I am not on TV.
Me: saying their delusional and telling them they are horrible parents are two different things in my opinion. it’s about delivery. the points can be made without being an asshole!
Atheist #1: Apparently you have not read much Richard Dawkins. I am an asshole, I make no bones about it. I pride myself on being a prick to religious people, because they are arrogant and bigoted, and their ideas and policies hurt society.
Atheist #1: And moreover, pastor and reverend are not titles to be held in esteem. They are titles that denote a charlatan.
Me: and you’re an asshole to people on your own side too, apparently. maybe you ARE just an asshole, but at least you admit it and are ok with it.
Atheist #1: The sad thing is Me, you aren’t on my side because Christian #1 is your friend. However much you might agree with me, you play the nice guy because you don’t have any balls. I do, and I don’t give two cents what either of you think of me.
Christian #1: I don’t think I am a charlatan. Besides, I always preferred the title “Bishop” or maybe “High Potentate”
Oh, and I want a hat to go with the title.
Atheist #1: If I’m an asshole because I call religious people out and reiterate the point that they are dumb asses, then give me another drink of asshole because I haven’t had my fill.
Me: then the feelings are mutual. I prefer to build relationship and bridges rather than instantly stick a wedge in the whole thing by being tactless. But it’s not sweat off of my brow either that you don’t like my style. I really couldn’t care less.
Atheist #1: Indeed, at least we agree on something.
Me: we agree on a lot of things whether you want to admit it or not. you’re just closeminded to the fact that there are people out there who are not wired the same as you are, and because of that…they a pussies and have no balls. I’d say that’s a personal fault that you may want to examine, but I highly doubt that you will.
Atheist #1: I’m glad you don’t think you are a charlatan Christian #1. I’m hear to tell you differently. I’m not buying what you are selling and woe to the people who are. I hope your congregation abandons you, and I hope all your ushers steal from the offering plate.
Atheist #1: If you can’t have the courage to say absolutely what you think, you are spineless. “The great consolation in life is to say what one thinks.”
Me: I think you’re an asshole…does that count?
Christian #1: Atheist #1, why would you wish harm on other people? Our religion makes us happy. Why can’t you just let us be happy? As an atheist, you should know that it is immoral to rob other people of their happiness. We do no harm, we sit here in the cornfields of the Midwest and enjoy our opiate. Who are you to say we cannot have this happiness?
Atheist #1: excellent! That’s what I am talking about! Am I offended? No. Just as you shouldn’t be offended when I tell your pastor charlatan friend that he is a child abuser. If it isn’t the case, what’s the worry?
Atheist #1: Your religion may make you happy, but that says nothing for it’s truth. The truth is everything, and I am sad that facts and evidence mean nothing to you. It is not admirable to tell someone a lie because it will make them feel better.
Atheist #1: Those who give false consolation are false friends.
Me: no worry. i just chose to not be an asshole. assholes are repellants. I prefer to not be a repellant.
Atheist #1: The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”
Atheist #1: Thanks for your opinion Me. Noted. Bye now.
Me: yeah…it’s my wall…I can post my opinion if I likie. just remember…you knocked on MY door…not the other way around.
Atheist #1: Christian #1, I really have to go now, but you are delusional and leading other lemmings to the slaughter. You personify the “ignorance is bliss” phrase, and that is not to be commended. Hopefully, 20 years from now, when you are rational and an atheist, you’ll remember this little spat, and how an asshole told you exactly the problems with your “harmless” faith. Adios.
Atheist #1: And I told ya to delete me if ya don’t like what I have to say. Trust me, I don’t know who the hell you are anyway, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world. LOL
Me: I know Christian #1 only slightly better than I know you. so what’s your problem. Do you go into your friends houses insulting them too?
Me: nah…i won’t delete ya. that would give you too much satisfaction I think! I think I’ll keep you around and annoy you with my passivism!
Atheist #1: My problem is religious idiots. I don’t have religious friends for that very reason.
Christian #1: I guess there are angry, unreasonable, fundamentalist atheists just like there are angry, unreasonable, fundamentalist Christians. Atheist #1 you seem to fancy yourself a younger Christopher Hitchens, but I think your more like a younger Fred Phelps.
Me: you seem to treat atheist the same way
Atheist #1: Christian #1, should you go abuse your children by telling them some biblical parable before bed? Surely you have a sermon or something to work on? No Me, I just don’t like pussies like you who feel the need to jump in and defend the hopeless religious nut. It’s so funny to me.
Atheist #1: And I find it so amusing also that as soon as Me comes in, it’s now an attack on Atheist #1 instead of the discussion that was at hand. I’d don’t blame ya Christian #1, you didn’t do such a good job defending your pathetic faith.
Christian #1: You see Alan, when you say things like “Go abuse your children” all I hear is “God hates Fags” Different belief system, same ideology.
wow…you really live in quite the hateful little world. must be a lonely existence. I feel sorry for you. I really do.
all I asked was for the discussion to maintain some sense of civility. it’s obvious now that you are completely incapable …of that. Adios muchacho!
Atheist #1: I’m not concerned with what you hear Christian #1.
Atheist #1: Goodbye fuckstick!
Christian #1: …and I feel I responded to all of your questions, and am happy to answer any more that you have.
Atheist #1: You don’t have any answers. All you have is “that doesn’t matter to me.” You’re a delusional bigot, and someone I am happy I don’t know in person.
Christian #1: I am going to go look in my Bible to see what it teaches about “fucksticks”
Atheist #1: It’s a term I developed myself. I am quite proud of it.
Christian #1: I actually would like to meet you in person. I feel like a couple of beers could smooth out the rough edges on this conversations.
Christian #1: I sense a debate on the etymology of “fuckstick” emerging. En garde, pagan!
Atheist #1: You really think I would want to have beers with a Pastor? No thanks. I’d rather such the pus out of an open wound.
Atheist #1: I’m no pagan. They worship nature and are basically pantheists. Not quite as delusional as you, but similar.
Atheist #1: Anyway, it’s been fun, a goodnight to you, I really have to eat.
Christian #1: OK, take care. If you like we can pick it up later. Maybe through email. I hate to litter someone’s wall like this.
Pascal’s Wager is probably the most popular tool that believers use to try to use to get non-believers to reconsider their positions. It’s also one of the easiest to refute. So, I’m not going to go into the arguments in either direction, as there are literally gazillions (I love hyperbole) of articles out on the web that do just that. Go look them up if you’re curious.
What I would like to do in this post, however, is discuss the hypothetical situation where I find out that I’m wrong. First though, here’s a definition of Pascal’s Wager for those that don’t actually know what it is:
An argument according to which belief in God is rational whether or not God exists, since falsely believing that God exists leads to no harm whereas falsely believing that God does not exist may lead to eternal damnation.
Look, if I end up being wrong, and there IS a god that I have to meet after I die, I would expect that he’s probably a reasonable guy (wouldn’t you expect that the creator of all that is would be?). I hope that he examines me honestly and understands that I went out of my way in life trying to learn the things that I needed to learn to believe that he existed. It wasn’t like I just turned my back and said ‘screw you’. I know myself, and I know that I’ve examined the possibility honestly and with massive amounts of thought and research. If that isn’t enough to convince him to spare me of some eternal torture based on rules that he put into a book several thousand years ago, then there’s not much I can do about that. I can’t force myself to believe something when all of the logical and rational processes of my mind tell me it’s untrue. But before he damned me to eternal hellfire, I would hope I could at least ask him a few questions. Questions like:
“What was with all the hiding?”
“Where’s the evidence?”
“What’s your hangup with foreskins?”
“Slavery? Slavery is ACTUALLY ok in your view? please explain!”
“You created women, and immediately turned around and wrote a book that demeans them in every possible way. What’s up with that?”
“Thou shalt not kill, but wiping out entire civilizations is ok as long as YOU command it?”
“If your book is divinely inspired, why are there so many inconsistencies and contradictions?”
Seriously, though, Pascals Wager is so tired that I can’t believe it’s even used anymore. But, alas, I hear it all the time.
Predestination is a concept that I’ve thought about many times throughout my life. It’s probably one of the main ideas that have given me pause over the years, particularly my years as a believer.
Webster’s dictionary defines predestination as follows:
And therein lies my trouble. How can an all-knowing God NOT have predestined human beings for salvation or damnation ahead of time? I realize that Calvinists firmly believe in this concept and that God has pre-chosen an ‘elect’ set of people whom will be saved. I have no trouble with their beliefs on the subject. If you are to accept the idea of an all-knowing God, I don’t see how you can reject the concept of predestination. So, therefore I don’t find what they believe to be hypocritical in any way (at least on this topic).
Many of the people who I’ve talked to over the years like to say that God has given us free will. We are free to choose or reject him. But those same folks also claim that God is all-knowing. I really don’t see how you can have it both ways. If God is all-knowing, then he knows (and has known throughout all of time) who among us is to be saved and who among us will be damned to hell. I don’t see how it’s any more complicated than that. If God is NOT all-knowing, then there’s a limit to his power. And if there’s a limit to his power in THIS subject, how are we to know that there are not other limitations?
The concept of an all-knowing God is one that has always caused me difficulty. For as long as I can remember there have been times when I’ve tossed this around in my head. When I was a believer, I would just blow it off after a while and say to myself “All will be revealed when we meet God”, but there was always a nagging feeling that something was wrong with this concept. Now as a non-believer, it makes a LOT more sense to me. There is no trouble with an all-knowing God concept when you realize that there is no God to believe in in the first place!
The other day I read a passage in the book I’m reading currently that mentioned the fact that, according to the bible, all men must face judgement after death. And that simple statement kicked off a big-time flashback to childhood for me.
I can remember being terrified of this when I was just a very young child (between 6 and 9 years old). I remember vividly picturing the scenario in my head. It went something like this…
I was dead (obviously ;)), and standing before the throne of God for my judgement (after waiting in a LONG line of other recently deceased souls! Can you imagine the wait that must be? Having to stand there while each and every human soul is judged on everything they’ve ever done in life? Not to mention if you were to be taken up in the rapture…the huge influx of souls all at once would certainly cause a bottleneck the likes of which the universe has never seen before!). What I was seeing was basically a HUGE movie screen. And on that screen was projected everything bad that you had ever done in your life. I remember thinking how amazingly embarrassing some of the things that would be shown would be. Kind of like the ultimate ‘He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake’ scenario. I also remember thinking how unfair it all seemed that all those waiting in line were able to sit in and enjoy the ‘show’.
Now that I realize that this was all a product of the indoctrination that I had as a child, as an atheist adult I am able to see how silly that all was. It also shows how easy it is for religion to control people through fear.
I’ve kept this post to rather light-hearted in tone, but the reality is that while I was living those years, there was real and tangible fear in me about this. I remember having a LOT of fear as a child. I’m glad that I’ve been able to create what I hope is an environment without all of these irrational fears for my daughter. I hope when she looks back at her childhood when she’s an adult, that she only has images of joy, hope, love, and fun. I know I can’t shelter her from all of the REAL sorrows that are a part of life, but at least I know I can avoid having her suffer needlessly concerning things of this nature.
I just finished reading Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D Erhman. It was one of the easiest reads I’ve done in quite a while. Not because it was over-simplified or non-scholarly. It is quite the opposite really. I think it was so easy for me, because it’s a topic that I find great interest in and one that I was deeply immersed in from childhood through young adulthood. In this book, Erhman discusses the many inconsistencies and discrepancies within the New Testament. These inconsistencies are not only in the actual words within the various manuscripts that we have of the books, but also its major theological themes between the various writers of the books (many of which are anonymous, contrary to popular belief).
Erman discusses how this information is found through the historical-critical method of biblical study. This is what all seminary students are required to learn. He outlines how we have no original manuscripts of the gospel books. And the versions we do have were passed down via word-of-mouth for several decades after the supposed death of Jesus before they were written down by people who never even knew Jesus. He also discusses the evidence that shows that Paul didn’t actually write many of the books that are actually attributed to him.
While I already knew of a lot of the inconsistencies and the history of how the bible was put together, Erhman’s scholarly approach was very interesting. The information he presented in the book is widely accepted throughout the world, by biblical scholars, as legitimate.
Erhman is a self-proclaimed agnostic even though he was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. He maintains throughout the book that the historical-critical study of the bible did not lead to his loss of faith. The last chapter of the book is dedicated to a high-level explanation of what led him, ultimately, to disbelief.
What amazed me most from what I read in this book is what I mentioned in an earlier paragraph: That all seminary students are presented with the historical-critical perspective as a part of their religious education. Ehrman explains, most Christian parishioners that he has talked to over the years, have never heard this information from their pastors. Why is it that pastors chose a devotional/emotional approach from the pulpit rather than ever discussing the history that they’ve been taught? Are they afraid of losing some of their congregation due to the obvious questions that would result from finding out that the bible is not the inerrant word of God? Are they merely history deniers? I wonder what the reasons would be. I know that in all the many years that I spent in church, I never heard this information until I started digging for myself, and from my perspective this information just goes to further secure what I’ve already been questioning for many years.