The Raving Theist

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Daily Headline

January 30, 2009 | 131 Comments

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131 Responses to “Daily Headline”

  1. Carla
    January 30th, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

    Oh yeah. I just love what you’ve done with the place!! Pieces.Of.Flair.

  2. Margaret Catherine
    January 30th, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

    There, that should make the people who’ve been complaining about all the pro-life posts happy. ;)

  3. jolly atheist
    January 30th, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

    Truth is truth for what it is, not what you hope for.

  4. Margaret Catherine
    January 30th, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

    Jolly – Very true. ;) But hope plays its role too…being a lifelong Christian, I’ve never understood what place or point hope has to an atheist?

  5. jolly atheist
    January 30th, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

    MC The point hope has for me is the satisfaction I get through the accomplishment of the hope itself. Don’t you have any hopes for this world – like getting your doctorate, like helping a neighbor in need, like trying your best to educate your child, like gathering your family around you in your old-age, like helping an elderly get on a bus, like making a good decision for your company?

  6. Keith
    January 30th, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

    Jolly Atheist: What makes those “hopeful” acts you describe meaningful is knowing that they, well, mean something because life is meaningful. When I was well on my way to being an atheist, its metaphysics sucked all the meaning out of my life because I knew how the end game would play out. It was all for naught…like enjoying the view on a ride that you know leads to death, destruction, nothingness. Atheists always chide us believers with being pathetic and weak, comforting ourselves with lies. But I don’t see many atheists deriving meaning consistent with their metaphysics/philosophy. Let’s man up to “truth for what it is”.

  7. BigDD
    January 30th, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

    Margaret Catherine, what does being an atheist have to do with having hope? I dont need god to have hope.

  8. Pikemann Urge
    January 30th, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

    A fellow fan of ‘Office Space’! Genius.

    Have you seen my stapler?

    The Buddhists see hope as an illusion. FWIW.

    And as for meaning: there is no meaning *of* life, but there is meaning *in* it. It just has to be created. I love mysticism.

  9. jolly atheist
    January 30th, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

    Keith, I must admit that your description of atheist understanding of life is really touching: “..enjoying the view on a ride that you know leads to death, destruction, nothingness.” But if it is this pain that leads me into believing in an after-life, then am I not creating it? That is, my PAIN is the CAUSE and GOD the EFFECT.

    UP Don’t the Buddhists hope(!) that some day they get rid of their bodies – stop re-incarnating – and become One with the universal soul/spirit?

  10. skeptimal
    January 30th, 2009 @ 6:35 pm

    “I don’t see many atheists deriving meaning consistent with their metaphysics/philosophy. Let’s man up to “truth for what it is.”

    So unless a non-theist is suicidal and hopeless, he or she is not being honest? The only way that life is hopeless without gods is if you define “hopelessness” as meaning “life without gods.”

    Clearly, you and all the others who believe in gods believe that life would be pointless without a magical daddy in the sky. Let me ask you: *if* there are no gods, wouldn’t you rather have the truth? If you accept the truth, then the hopes and dreams you have would be based on reality and not mythology.

  11. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    RT,

    In honor of you obsessive love of puns, I am reprinting an email I received today…

    + The roundest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

    + She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.

    + A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

    + No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

    + A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in ‘Linoleum Blownapart.’

    + A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

    + Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

    + I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then, it hit me!

    + A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

    + When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

    + Don’t join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

  12. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

    Jolly,

    Truth is truth for what it is, not what you hope for.

    HEY! That’s OUR line! ;)

  13. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

    Skeptimal,

    Clearly, you and all the others who believe in gods believe that life would be pointless without a magical daddy in the sky. Let me ask you: *if* there are no gods, wouldn’t you rather have the truth? If you accept the truth, then the hopes and dreams you have would be based on reality and not mythology.

    What if the truth is that God exists? Where does that leave you?

  14. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

    But if it is this pain that leads me into believing in an after-life, then am I not creating it? That is, my PAIN is the CAUSE and GOD the EFFECT.

    Does NOT believing erase your pain? Is there no pain in an Atheists life?

    Pain is not a cause. It just is. For us. For you.
    God is not the effect, He is a way to make sense of the pain. To give the pain meaning. To use the pain for good.

    Redemptive suffering turns pain into gain. If there is no God, then pain is just…well…pain. If there is a God, then pain is a vehicle. A tool. A weapon. Suffering to us, is not an objective bad.

  15. skeptimal
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

    “What if the truth is that God exists? Where does that leave you?”

    An eternal crispy critter, of course.

    Now my question: “if* there are no gods, wouldn’t you rather have the truth?”

  16. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

    Skep,

    I would prefer the truth whether there is a God or there isn’t. I abhor lies. That’s why I searched for a long time before accepting that “Truth” involves God.

    But IF as you say, there was no God, who exactly is going to “give” me this truth? How will I know that it is the “Truth”? Because you, or Joe Philosopher, or Karl Marx say so?

  17. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

    An eternal crispy critter, of course

    Not necessarily. It’s not like you believe in God, and reject Him. You just don’t believe in Him. Which is a different thing. We live in a strange world. I think it’s only a new concept that there is NO God as opposed to your God versus my God…

    Even Buddhism doesn’t discount the possibility. They just don’t define it. They think you can become “one” with it. Become part of it. I think the notion that God doesn’t exist at all is a relatively new one. But I could be wrong.

    It would be interesting to find out though…Do you know?

  18. skeptimal
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    “But IF as you say, there was no God, who exactly is going to “give” me this truth? How will I know that it is the “Truth”? Because you, or Joe Philosopher, or Karl Marx say so?”

    Since you can’t prove a negative, no one is going to be able to convince you. My point, though, is that it appears that most of those who believe in gods do so because they’re afraid not to, and not because they have a good reason to.

  19. frustrated(mk)
    January 30th, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

    Skep,

    Well I don’t. I believe in God because I have seen Him work in my life. I believe in God because I have a relationship with Him. I believe in God because I have experienced Him. Sure, those are subjective reasons, but your reasons for NOT believing in Him are just as subjective.

    I could just as easily say that Atheists don’t believe in God because they are afraid to , and not because they have a good reason not to. ;)

    What’s that famous quote by Chesterton?

    Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried?

    Accepting that there is a God would require you to change your life in ways that might prove too daunting.

    If I found out that God did not exist, I would doubt my sanity, but my life would not have to change that much.
    There’s not much I would want to do, that I don’t do now.
    I don’t refrain from certain behaviors because God told me not to do them. I have reasoned out why God doesn’t want us to, and found that it is a good way to live.

  20. Joanne
    January 30th, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    “If I found out that God did not exist…my life would not have to change that much. There’s not much I would want to do, that I don’t do now. I don’t refrain from certain behaviors because God told me not to do them. I have reasoned out why God doesn’t want us to, and found that it is a good way to live.”

    Ditto this.

  21. quantum_flux
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:32 am

    Ha, those are pretty good. Now I’ve got to get back to zzFlo’s “O” face.

  22. assmonaut
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:44 am

    What, you mean like this!?

    O Face

  23. quantum_flux
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:45 am

    You sure have a great eye for detail there assmonaut =)

  24. jolly atheist
    January 31st, 2009 @ 4:18 am

    All the theists: Could you please reconsider whatever makes you believe in a God and tell me why it has to be a (the) God and not Gods! The apologies above could well be made for polytheism as well.

  25. SCS
    January 31st, 2009 @ 7:19 am

    Pain is not a cause. It just is. For us. For you.

    That’s not true for anyone. Pain is the cause of many things regardless what your beliefs are. It is the cause of grief, of action, of reaction, etc.

    Pain never just is. Pain doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has a wide range of causes and a wide range of responses.

  26. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 7:35 am

    Jolly,

    Once you accept that there IS a God, the next obvious step is to figure out WHICH God…

    No other God has established a relationship with man.
    No other God has sacrificed HIS life for ours. Plenty require us to sacrifice our lives for them.
    No other God loves us.
    No other God claimed to be the One True God.
    No other God came to earth.
    All other faiths contain parts of our Objective Truths.
    Only the Christian Faith contains them all.
    The Christian God is the ONLY God that places emphasis on OTHER. All other faiths place their emphasis on “self”.
    Only the Christian faith says that to love God you must love one another.

    If everyone woke up tomorrow and was Catholic/Christian, and lived faithfully to the teachings of the Catholic Church, we would never have another divorce, unwanted pregnancy, STD, murder, theft, adulterous affair, lie, war, prejudice…we would live in a “perfect” world.

    If everyone woke up tomorrow and faithfully lived ANY OTHER RELIGION, you would still have lies and murder and unwanted pregnancies, etc…Even if you lived by their tenets, the ones that would lead to more peace, more goodness, would all be the ones that are drawn from the Christian Faith.

    Most religions have SOME truth in them. But only the Christian Faith contains and teaches them ALL.

    Do unto others what you would have them do unto you…Christian Faith
    Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you…Buddhism
    Do what you will, harm ye none…wicca

    This is an Objective Truth. Each of these faiths recognizes it. Only one gives credit to God. Yet they all KNOW that it is an objective truth.

    Buddhism says that you should empty yourself.
    Wicca says that you should please yourself.
    Christianity says that you should FILL yourself with love for each other and for God.

    Only one of these is Objective Truth. Christianity is the only one that recognizes this Objective Truth.

    Objective Truth just “is”. But only Christianity seeks to find, define, and obey ALL Objective Truth. Only Christianity seeks to know the Author of Objective Truth.
    While other faiths get some of it, we get it all. (I don’t mean we live it perfectly, but that we have “found” it all and that is what makes our “Rule Book”.

    Christians aren’t perfect. They are human beings. But the Truths that Christianity teaches ARE perfect. No other faith can claim that.

    Pretend you have to groups of kids. They both want to play baseball. Both groups have seen a baseball game.

    One group has the “Rule Book”. One group is “winging” it.

    Group one will be playing baseball in the way it was meant to be played. Because they have ALL the rules.

    Group two might play something that resembles a baseball game. Some of their rules might be spot on, but others will be (pardon the pun) out in left field.

    When group one has a difference of opinion, they can go to the book.

    When group two has a difference of opinion, where will they go?

    The Author of the book need not be present, for the rules to still work. Because the rules are objective. They just are the rules.

    Group two keeps saying you can’t prove that those are the rules. Group one says that without them you only have an imitation of the real thing.

    Group two says “but you still can’t prove it!” Group one says “The proof is in the game”. Group ones game works. Group twos works. Sometimes.

    The part that does work for group twos game is the part that just happens to follow the rules of the book, even when they don’t realize that that is what they are doing.

    You can’t be wrong all of the time. Sooner or later you’re bound to get “something” right.

    The Christian faith has the rule book, even tho the Author is not at the game physically. They have the Objective Truths. All other faiths, or non-faiths might get some of the rules right, but it is hit or miss.

    For me, this is reason enough to want to join the team that has the rule book.

  27. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 7:47 am

    SCS,

    You have to take that sentence in context. The statement was that pain is the cause of our belief in God. That is what my response was to. Of course pain causes things.

    My point was that pain exists whether you believe in God or not. Believing in God does not remove pain. Not believing in God does not remove pain. Pain just is. Whether you believe or not.

  28. ceil
    January 31st, 2009 @ 7:51 am

    mk
    beautifully put!! and so true. All religions are not the same and they dont pretend to all believe the same thing. We lived in a buddhist country for a few years and they are lovely peaceful people, but they are not called to help their fellow man in the way a Christian is, and you can tell when you live there. I also have a Muslim son in law who is a wonderful person, but Islam also has a fatalistic bend to their beliefs (as far as i can tell, he is not a practicing Muslim). It is only the Christian faith that wants to help their fellow man in concrete ways. Not that other individuals dont also do this, but it is the main teaching of the Christian faith, as Jesus commanded to take care of our brother.

  29. SCS
    January 31st, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    Right. But some people do develop what I’d call an addiction to religion in response to pain (trauma, suffering). Some people replace an alcohol, drug or sex addiction with an addiction to religion.

    We know people fall into all kinds of psychological traps and issues as the result of trauma. Dissociative states are a good example. It is therefore quite reasonable to assume some people become religious in response to a painful or traumatic event. For them, their “beleif”, genuine or not, does remove the pain.

    The question isn’t whether or not pain exists whether you believe or not, but whether pain can be alleviated through belief. Studies show it can. From there, you have to determine whether the belief in question is genuine or some kind of psychological response or addiction.

    Christ acknowledged there would be those who claimed belief but whom “he would not know”. I don’t think he was talking about psychologically traumatized people who went off the religious deep end, but it was an acknowledgement that there would be those who were religious for all the wrong reasons.

    Christ also calls all who are weary and overburdened to come to him, so he himself also presents God as an antidote to pain.

  30. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    It is therefore quite reasonable to assume some people become religious in response to a painful or traumatic event. For them, their “beleif”, genuine or not, does remove the pain. </i.

    It doesn’t remove the pain. That’s my point. It does, however, often make sense of the pain. It can, help them cope with the pain. But religion does not remove the pain.

    God never says come to me and I will make your lives pain free. He says I will give you respite. I will make your pain bearable. I will carry you when you can no longer walk. But NOWHERE does He say, if you believe then you will not have pain.

    If a mother loses her child and turns to her faith for solace, she doesn’t stop grieving for her child. But she does share that grief, share that burden, with God. Her pain remains, her ability to cope with it is what her faith offers.

  31. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 8:53 am

    I don’t think he was talking about psychologically traumatized people who went off the religious deep end, but it was an acknowledgement that there would be those who were religious for all the wrong reasons.

    This is true, but I believe he was talking about people who would use “religion” for personal gain. Not people who “Believe TOO MUCH”…is it a wrong reason to ask God for help through a terrible period in your life? Is it wrong to lean on your faith when you are weak? Is it wrong to trust God completely? Are you saying that you can lean on God, sure, but you must never lose sight of the fact that it is YOU, not GOD, that is making healing possible?

    What are you saying is the problem? I’m not seeing it. If, as you say, we have proved that believing CAN make things better, then what difference does it make if endorphins are involved? What difference does it make HOW the healing is accomplished? Just because a person brain might change, doesn’t prove that God didn’t cause the change…

  32. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 8:57 am

    From there, you have to determine whether the belief in question is genuine or some kind of psychological response or addiction.

    I guess what I’m asking is why are these mutually exclusive?

    Even if you determine that it is a psychological response, I will have to ask you, why is it that psychological responses are able to alleviate pain? You are only addressing the middle of the equation. I always go back to the first “cause”…

    Similar to the big bang. Sure, the big bang caused the earth as we know it. But that isn’t an answer. That is just an explanation of one small part of the bigger picture. I’m not willing to stop there. It is not enough for me to know that I AM a rational being. It is not enough for me to know that I AM inherently different than ALL other living things. I want to know WHY!

  33. skeptimal
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:03 am

    MK said: “It’s not like you believe in God, and reject Him. You just don’t believe in Him. Which is a different thing.”

    Thank you for that acknowledgment. Most Christians reject out of hand the idea that someone can, in good conscience, not believe in gods.

    “I could just as easily say that Atheists don’t believe in God because they are afraid to , and not because they have a good reason not to. ;)”

    OK, now *that’s* more like what I’d expect. :^)

    “If I found out that God did not exist, I would doubt my sanity, but my life would not have to change that much.
    There’s not much I would want to do, that I don’t do now.
    I don’t refrain from certain behaviors because God told me not to do them. I have reasoned out why God doesn’t want us to, and found that it is a good way to live.”

    In my experience, this paragraph puts you at odds with most Christians, and this goes back to my belief that most Christians believe because they’re afraid not to. Very often these days, when you ask a Christian what is so horrible about being a non-theist, they say it is because without God or Allah, they would be without any morality at all.

    I’ve asked the “what if there were no gods” question of many Christians, and yours is the first response that didn’t include a descent into moral chaos.

    (Joanne’s is the second.)

    I respect that a great deal, because I don’t think the other Christians would descend into moral chaos either. They just don’t realize it.

  34. skeptimal
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    MK said: “I believe in God because I have seen Him work in my life. I believe in God because I have a relationship with Him. I believe in God because I have experienced Him. Sure, those are subjective reasons, but your reasons for NOT believing in Him are just as subjective.”

    I guess that depends on how broadly you define “subjective.” Faith is always subjective, because when you go to faith-based logic, you are saying that your experience is more important than any evidence you may find. (I include in “faith” the absolute certainty that there are no gods.)

    When it comes to the *disbelief* in individual gods, however, it’s possible to have objective explanations for those disbeliefs. I imagine that you could give me fairly objective reasons why you don’t believe in Allah, Zeus, Buddha (not a god, but we won’t quibble), Thor, or any of the thousands of lesser gods.

    A Muslim might explain your rejection of Islam by saying you’ve made a *subjective* interpretation of the facts surrounding Islam. You would *probably* say that your reasons were objective.

    You and I would probably have the same disagreement regarding my rejection of Christianity.

  35. Carla
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    I would not equate my faith to a heroin addict. Heroin will lead to death. My faith in Jesus Christ is about life. The pain of abortion brought me to a crossroads. Kill myself. I tried and failed. OR seek Him. The only one who offers hope in a world that desperately needs it. Pain has a purpose. My pain has been redeemed and brought purpose to my story. There are others out there that feel the same pain. I can offer compassion and love because He first loved me. I comfort others with the comfort that I was shown. It is not because of anything that I have done, but because of who He is.

  36. SCS
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    I’m not the one saying you can lean on God in times of suffering but you must never lose sight it is YOU who are doing the healing. It sounds like that’s what you’re saying, purposely or not.

    You seem to be referring exclusively to physical pain, and when you say “pain”, you don’t mean the pain itself but the source of the pain.

    A relationship with God, in my belief, does alleviate pain and suffering, and, also in my belief, can remove many sources of pain and suffering. A sincere faith and a rich and ongoing relationship with God lead to less emotional, spiritual and mental suffering, and allow us to put our illnesses and injuries in perspective (meds take care of the pain itself).

    The point I’m really getting at, however, is that atheists have a point when they observe people often turn to established religion and can even create various beliefs in order to make sense out of their suffering and even to alleviate their suffering. For some people, religion is their drug of choice rather than being a genuine faith.

    In fairness, atheists have a point in some cases and to not take their points seriously does more harm than good.

    That’s the problem with boiling it all down to play books and rule books. A lot of these amateurish attempts at apologetics rely on copying and pasting from the books, not listening and acknowledging that your opponent may have a legitimate point. Play books and rule books are great for people who need to live a black and white life, but the really interesting work gets done in the grey areas. If you can only see in black and white, you miss out on the important stuff.

  37. Carla
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    I am talking about heartache, grief, remorse that drives you to the depths of despair.

  38. SCS
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:55 am

    I was originally responding to mk(frustrated), but I agree, Carla.

    Physical pain can often be terrible for people who are chronically or terminally ill, or badly injured, but we can address that with physical therapy, pharmaceuticals and even some alternative therapies (accupuncture has been shown to be a very effective tool in pain management).

    I think genuine faith can alleviate emotional, mental and spiritual suffering. I believe a lack of faith can be the cause of these things.

    But I know that some people turn to religion, or “religiosity” and legalism, in an addictive way, much like a crack addict turns to the pipe. They haven’t really alleviated their original suffering, or removed its source. They’ve just found a new drug that will work for a while but will ultimately fail them and lead to even more pain and suffering.

    The point, though, is that when an atheist says they believe people have created all their gods and religions as a way to respond to pain or answer the great unknowns, etc., their observations contain some truth to them and we have to acknowledge that if we’re to have any meaningful and productive discussion about it all.

    Can religion act like a drug? Can it enhance or alter brain chemcial activity? Sure. We can prove that. But then what? Does that mean faith and belief are just chemical responses to trauma, or can they be something more, or both, or what? Does the fact some approach religion or create beliefs for self-serving reasons negate the truth of Christ? Those are the real questions.

  39. Joanne
    January 31st, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    “We lived in a buddhist country for a few years and they are lovely peaceful people, but they are not called to help their fellow man in the way a Christian is”

    I lived in an Asian country for 2 yrs and as wonderful as some of the people were, the experience made me SO grateful that I live in what has at least traditionally been a predominantly Christian civilization.

  40. Carla
    January 31st, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    Hi SCS,
    Ok.
    I do not know what those who are into organized religion think or feel or believe nor do I know what atheists think or feel or believe.
    I cannot speak for anyone other than myself and speak to my own experience.
    MK knows about love. Being won by love. :)

  41. Geoffrey
    January 31st, 2009 @ 11:18 am

    “Let me ask you: *if* there are no gods, wouldn’t you rather have the truth? If you accept the truth, then the hopes and dreams you have would be based on reality and not mythology.”

    (For the purposes of this post, I shall assume the atheist worldview is true.)

    Not sure. What obligation does one have to follow the truth under such circumstances? Why truth? There is no reason in this situation to suppose that hopes and dreams based on reality would be better than those based on mythology; indeed, they might be far worse.

    It could be argued that religion rose in the first place because the hopes and dreams it inspired gave adherents an evolutionary advantage over their godless neighbors. Clearly, religion is very efficient at organizing and controlling a society, and putting various roadblocks in the way of free radicals in the social organism whose desires threaten their companions’ well-being.

    You see, from an objective atheistic perspective, there is no reason to condemn men like Stalin; he died happy in his bed, rich beyond his wildest dreams, and so what if he killed several million people? What sort of ‘intrinsic value’ or advantage did these organ sacks pose to you? He got his pleasure, what more is there in life? If a man can emulate Stalin, and be successful (many people are), who will punish him? The sky-daddy? The UN proposition writing court? Please.

    Christians always say you shouldn’t judge, but atheists can’t judge at all, even if they wanted to. They lack any sort of universal standard to do so.

    But yes, it is true you can condemn Stalin on a subjective level. You can project your own self onto his victims, and imagine how horrible he was to you. You can abstract his actions and picture them as taking place against your own family, and build up hate that way. Or, perhaps you can allow your social conditioning to automatically produce a biochemical reaction we call ‘disgust’ every time you here of murder. In any case though, your ‘morality’ or ‘judgment’ is purely illusionary. There is no substantive reason to condemn tyranny or anything else you feel to be unpleasant other than “ewww! bad!”

    In any case, considering most of the atheistic regimes we’ve seen have been very violent, there is every practical argument to suppose that widespread violence naturally arises from such governmental arrangements. Sure, I know there’s theoretical rebuttals to this conclusion, but theory is theory, and the empirical data points elsewhere. Like Thomas Jefferson once did, I ask you to cast aside your abstract musings about how things really truly are, and see them for how they obviously are and establish policies accordingly.

    Thus, if given the choice between freedom for all men in a godless world, or deceiving them into thinking some god imposes universal justice on all, I should choose the latter especially if I got to be in control. It would be in my best interest for everyone to believe in supernatural retribution where the retribution of man failed, because if they didn’t, they be more likely to take advantage of situations where the retribution of man failed.

    If a person can break a law to get something he wants, and not get caught or punished, he will do so. I call this the selfish principle, and it’s abundantly clear that it is just as unimpeachable a scientific and empirically verifiable law as natural selection. Religion helps us reduce this law’s manifestations and thus keep a more stable society.

    Anyway, why do you value truth so much? It seems to be a god for you. Truth for the sake of truth, it is better to live in the light rather than in the dark, to be miserable with knowledge than happy with ignorance? What the hell makes you think that? It sounds like the biggest wad of unverifiable metaphysical crap to me. Or, do the words of Christ still echo in your godless hearts: “and the truth shall set you free?” Oh really? There is no guarantee of this in a world without objective moral values, existing independently of us, and there is definitely no guarantee that “and the truth shall set you free” will hold for every individual in such a universe.

    The stupidity of most godless men never ceases to amaze me! You all are a lot of vegan-human-rights-mongering-moral-kowtowing cowards! You treat men as having some supernatural value transcending the personal pleasure they deliver to you, how foolish!

    What does it matter if you watch baking soda fizzle on your porch in the gentle sunlight, or fizzle in the dank shadows of your closet? Just so long as it makes you giggle and smile, very well. The same goes for men, those pitiful sacks of organs who always have a bad habit of inhibiting our own pleasure. Subjugate them all, if you can.

    After all, in a universe without meaning, there is only one course for actions to follow: that of the strong. Thus, I preach a new commandment, though it really is quite old: starve the hungry, waste the thirsty, beat the naked, disperse the homeless, slay the sick, shun the imprisoned, and consume the dead for your own nourishment. Hate your neighbor, and love yourself; thereby you shall store up treasure on earth, and pleasure in your belly. He that has an ear, let him hear my words; let him drink in the truth of my utterance. Until you recognize that this is the truth, and that you know it is the truth, you shall not be free; or rather, until you realize there is no truth, save for that you forge for yourselves.

    Your identity, your personality, and everything it means to be you will soon face the extinction common to all men. You can feel yourself dying, can you not? That never ending string of increasing medical ailments, spiraling ever toward the grave? Then why not conquer while you yet breathe? Why not rape a thousand women, string together the foreskins of a hundred kings, and dine in the presence of ten emperors, taking in the world’s finest music and art? If you succeed, and die comfortably in your bed, what punishment awaits your misdeeds? None! And think of the present pleasures they could acquire! So many, so uncountable many, delights await you, if only you are bold enough to truly follow your philosophy and kill the last remnants of Judeo-Christian ‘poison’ flowing in your weak veins!

    Do not fight my logic, you have no chance, other than refuge behind evanescent ‘universals’ devoid of true reality. It would be easier for water to flow uphill. Either submit to a cowardly death enslaved to morality, or come with me; I shall rapture your mind into my paradise of delights, if only you give lend me your sword! Why resist out of a sense of duty to mankind or family or friends? Who shall reward your trouble when you are dead, and the flames lap your body into ash? Who would there even be to reward? Reason is but a spark kindled by our beating heart; it shall be extinguished. The soul is but a puff of air; it shall disperse like the morning mist.

    Subjugate them all, everyone, without exception, and think of what pleasure and happiness such power could obtain for you!

  42. 5 5
    January 31st, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

    Biggest load of shit I ever heard!!!

    Not great ‘truth’ for the millions Stalin killed!

    Why can’t I accept the lie if it makes me feel good? Here’s why, because religion is not benign. There are godbots out there with bombs strapped to their ass trying to kill millions more, as have been done in the past. If I’m in the way, I don’t get to die happy in bed like Stalin!

    There are an uncountable amount of churches claiming “tax exempt” status, forcing the truth seeker to pay more, as the church enjoys the comfort of having the police and fire services available, that monetary burden rests with the rest of us!

    As for the “TRUTH” I say this. Atheists seek the truth because without it, there is no progress. Scientists search for truth in an effort to advance mankind, not dwell in the abscesses of mental deterioration. If not for truth, none of us would have the simple comforts of indoor plumbing, or the computer you are operating at this very moment!

    Next time you or someone you love is diagnosed with a terminal ailment, let your god fix it for you. Just pray. Then pray some more. But if you want to live, check into the hospital and use the scientific instruments that were the product of people searching, and finding, the truth!!!

  43. skeptimal
    January 31st, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

    Geoffrey…Wow. That’s an interesting stream of consciousness you have going there.

    “Anyway, why do you value truth so much? It seems to be a god for you. Truth for the sake of truth, it is better to live in the light rather than in the dark, to be miserable with knowledge than happy with ignorance? What the hell makes you think that? It sounds like the biggest wad of unverifiable metaphysical crap to me.”

    Both experience and logic tell me that having the truth is more important than short-term comfort for a person’s long-term survival and well-being. An illusory steak might be beautiful and smell great, but for extending my life, a real crust of bread is going to be better for me. You can make the empty chassis of a Corvette look great, but for getting across town, it would be better to have a rusty volkswagen with a real engine.

    When we put limitations on what kind of life would be worth living, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will try to re-shape life into what we want rather than appreciating it for what it is. So many people say “I would never want to live with (insert medical condition here),” but they don’t know. Terminal patients are often surprised by what they’ll accept for quality of life.

    And living without gods is a good quality of life (and not because non-theists live decadent lives), but that isn’t obvious to most theists .

    A woman very close to me has been very sick for a long time, and like everyone who loves her, it hurts me to see her suffer. The Christians in her life, though, seem to be especially miserable. Why? Because they can’t figure out if the sickness is because of her sin or if it’s the devil attacking her. The end result is that her condition makes them so miserable that they can’t appreciate the good things that happen to her. I’d do anything to see her well again, but at least I know that her illness is not a result of malice on the part of god or demons.

    Some things just happen. The causes are physical, not spiritual, and if we know that, we can look for real cures and we can comfort the sick without blaming them for their own sickness.

  44. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

    SCS,

    The problem is not when an atheist says thatsometimes a Christian uses their faith as a crutch. With this I don’t disagree, nor do I really even see a problem with. If I can’t totally lean on God when I need Him, then what is the point? The problem is when an atheist says that avoidance of suffering or fear of suffering is the ONLY reason a believer believes.

    And I too was talking about mental pain. Endorphins being released happens in both physical and emotional scenarios. My point was that, just because you can point to a physical explanation, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t also a supernatural influence.

    If you are asking me to admit that some Christians use their faith inappropriately, either by being addicted to the “high” that can come with faith, or by not facing reality and escaping into religious thinking, then ask no more. I admit it.

    Yes, some people turn to faith when crisis hit. Foxhole Christians. But this doesn’t make the faith, or the reality of God any less or more true.

    You also said that most Christians believe that without God the world would fall into moral collapse. I think there is a God and the world is STILL in moral collapse.
    I think people give in to their desires and urges, and the consequences are often insidious and far reaching. Would it be worse if there was no God? Well, it would be the same, I guess. The problem would be that if there is no God, then there is no Objective Moral Law. As now, we would have better times and worse times, depending on whose law we were following at any given time.

    Was life better under Caligula or George Washington.

    BUT, I believe that the fact that so many men, throughout ALL of time, have come to the same conclusions about right and wrong, that that in itself is evidence that there is Objective Moral Law.

    Again, I think Atheists find themselves at obeying it much of the time, but stop short of naming it, or attributing to a “someone”. This doesn’t mean they can’t recognize it, or follow it.

    Something as simple as saying “That’s not fair”, is an example of recognizing Objective Moral Law.

    It’s the difference between taking a watch apart, knowing how it works, and learning to tell time…and actually asking the question “What is time?”…

    School children can tell you that 2 + 2 = 4…but mathematicians ask “Why?”…They ask “What is 2?”. You say our view is simple, but I think it is the Atheistic view that is simple. They sick answers, yes, but they ask the wrong questions. There questions are simple. Theologians ask the tough questions. Atheists ask what, when, how, where…Theologians ask “WHY?”….

    Athesists already know that the answer can be found. It’s safer. Theologians tread where Atheists don’t dare to go.

    Carla,

    Awwwww, thanks babe.

  45. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

    Man! I gotta start proofreading…there are so many errors in that post I lost count…lol

  46. 5 5
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

    Yes, and all the errors were not grammatical in nature!

  47. Vince R
    January 31st, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

    Great badges! where can we get ‘em?

  48. Vince R
    January 31st, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

    Geoffrey, you said the following but it was not quite clear, please can you repeat it:

    Let me ask you: *if* there are no gods, wouldn’t you rather have the truth? If you accept the truth, then the hopes and dreams you have would be based on reality and not mythology.”

    (For the purposes of this post, I shall assume the atheist worldview is true.)

    Not sure. What obligation does one have to follow the truth under such circumstances? Why truth? There is no reason in this situation to suppose that hopes and dreams based on reality would be better than those based on mythology; indeed, they might be far worse.

    It could be argued that religion rose in the first place because the hopes and dreams it inspired gave adherents an evolutionary advantage over their godless neighbors. Clearly, religion is very efficient at organizing and controlling a society, and putting various roadblocks in the way of free radicals in the social organism whose desires threaten their companions’ well-being.

    You see, from an objective atheistic perspective, there is no reason to condemn men like Stalin; he died happy in his bed, rich beyond his wildest dreams, and so what if he killed several million people? What sort of ‘intrinsic value’ or advantage did these organ sacks pose to you? He got his pleasure, what more is there in life? If a man can emulate Stalin, and be successful (many people are), who will punish him? The sky-daddy? The UN proposition writing court? Please.

    Christians always say you shouldn’t judge, but atheists can’t judge at all, even if they wanted to. They lack any sort of universal standard to do so.

    But yes, it is true you can condemn Stalin on a subjective level. You can project your own self onto his victims, and imagine how horrible he was to you. You can abstract his actions and picture them as taking place against your own family, and build up hate that way. Or, perhaps you can allow your social conditioning to automatically produce a biochemical reaction we call ‘disgust’ every time you here of murder. In any case though, your ‘morality’ or ‘judgment’ is purely illusionary. There is no substantive reason to condemn tyranny or anything else you feel to be unpleasant other than “ewww! bad!”

    In any case, considering most of the atheistic regimes we’ve seen have been very violent, there is every practical argument to suppose that widespread violence naturally arises from such governmental arrangements. Sure, I know there’s theoretical rebuttals to this conclusion, but theory is theory, and the empirical data points elsewhere. Like Thomas Jefferson once did, I ask you to cast aside your abstract musings about how things really truly are, and see them for how they obviously are and establish policies accordingly.

    Thus, if given the choice between freedom for all men in a godless world, or deceiving them into thinking some god imposes universal justice on all, I should choose the latter especially if I got to be in control. It would be in my best interest for everyone to believe in supernatural retribution where the retribution of man failed, because if they didn’t, they be more likely to take advantage of situations where the retribution of man failed.

    If a person can break a law to get something he wants, and not get caught or punished, he will do so. I call this the selfish principle, and it’s abundantly clear that it is just as unimpeachable a scientific and empirically verifiable law as natural selection. Religion helps us reduce this law’s manifestations and thus keep a more stable society.

    Anyway, why do you value truth so much? It seems to be a god for you. Truth for the sake of truth, it is better to live in the light rather than in the dark, to be miserable with knowledge than happy with ignorance? What the hell makes you think that? It sounds like the biggest wad of unverifiable metaphysical crap to me. Or, do the words of Christ still echo in your godless hearts: “and the truth shall set you free?” Oh really? There is no guarantee of this in a world without objective moral values, existing independently of us, and there is definitely no guarantee that “and the truth shall set you free” will hold for every individual in such a universe.

    The stupidity of most godless men never ceases to amaze me! You all are a lot of vegan-human-rights-mongering-moral-kowtowing cowards! You treat men as having some supernatural value transcending the personal pleasure they deliver to you, how foolish!

    What does it matter if you watch baking soda fizzle on your porch in the gentle sunlight, or fizzle in the dank shadows of your closet? Just so long as it makes you giggle and smile, very well. The same goes for men, those pitiful sacks of organs who always have a bad habit of inhibiting our own pleasure. Subjugate them all, if you can.

    After all, in a universe without meaning, there is only one course for actions to follow: that of the strong. Thus, I preach a new commandment, though it really is quite old: starve the hungry, waste the thirsty, beat the naked, disperse the homeless, slay the sick, shun the imprisoned, and consume the dead for your own nourishment. Hate your neighbor, and love yourself; thereby you shall store up treasure on earth, and pleasure in your belly. He that has an ear, let him hear my words; let him drink in the truth of my utterance. Until you recognize that this is the truth, and that you know it is the truth, you shall not be free; or rather, until you realize there is no truth, save for that you forge for yourselves.

    Your identity, your personality, and everything it means to be you will soon face the extinction common to all men. You can feel yourself dying, can you not? That never ending string of increasing medical ailments, spiraling ever toward the grave? Then why not conquer while you yet breathe? Why not rape a thousand women, string together the foreskins of a hundred kings, and dine in the presence of ten emperors, taking in the world’s finest music and art? If you succeed, and die comfortably in your bed, what punishment awaits your misdeeds? None! And think of the present pleasures they could acquire! So many, so uncountable many, delights await you, if only you are bold enough to truly follow your philosophy and kill the last remnants of Judeo-Christian ‘poison’ flowing in your weak veins!

    Do not fight my logic, you have no chance, other than refuge behind evanescent ‘universals’ devoid of true reality. It would be easier for water to flow uphill. Either submit to a cowardly death enslaved to morality, or come with me; I shall rapture your mind into my paradise of delights, if only you give lend me your sword! Why resist out of a sense of duty to mankind or family or friends? Who shall reward your trouble when you are dead, and the flames lap your body into ash? Who would there even be to reward? Reason is but a spark kindled by our beating heart; it shall be extinguished. The soul is but a puff of air; it shall disperse like the morning mist.

    Subjugate them all, everyone, without exception, and think of what pleasure and happiness such power could obtain for you!

  49. SCS
    January 31st, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

    I didn’t say anything about moral collapse of anything, actually.

    If you’re not willing to look at the world from an atheist’s point of view, why would you expect an atheist try to look at it from yours? From theirs, it’s easy to understand WHY they would believe religion was created by man as a response to what can’t be known, understood, or dealt with in other ways.

    If, when an atheist makes this claim, you immediately jump in with “That’s not true! God is real!”, then you’ve discounted them entirely and only reinforced their belief that religious people are addicts who will do anything to defend their addiction. All you’ve done is refute their absolutist claim with one of your own.

    Now their absolutist claim is banging heads with your absolutist claim and there’s no room for discussion

    That’s the problem with organized religions that come complete with play books and rule books. The game plays and the rules end up meaning more than God.

  50. 5 5
    January 31st, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

    Truth…

    Truth is an easy concept to understand. It is the state of correctness. When asked “Is the sky blue?”, one could say “Yes” and that would not be the truth, because the sky is colorless. If asked, “Does the sky look blue?”, one could say yes, half of the time. This would be true, as there is night-time, when the sky looks black. So grey areas do exist in the definition. But when a child is asked if they just took a cookie from the cookie jar, there is only one truth, either they did or they didn’t. That type of truth is black and white, yes or no.

    Religious truth is easy to obtain, if one asks the correct questions in the correct order. To define the length of a string before knowing if a string is even part of the equation, would be an incorrect logical progression. To get to religious truth, you must first gather the equation’s components.

    To discuss god, you must define god. Also, since there are so many gods available, you must decide what god it is you identify with in your debate.
    What does your god look like? For example, his height, weight, looks, powers. If you can’t define what you are debating, then truth can’t be obtained. If you claim that nobody knows, then the debate over the truth about this god is moot. However, if you can define the traits of god, where did you obtain your information? For instance, if your god is the god of Abraham, then you may have obtained your information from scripture. It does say in scripture that god walked in the Garden of Eden, so he has legs and feet. He “called out” to Adam and Eve, so he has a mouth and vocal chords. He placed his hand over Moses’ eyes so he would not see his face and die, so he has hands and a face. He created man in his own image, so he looks like me. Etc…

    If this is the only reference available, and there are no irrefutable facts to present other than scripture, then one assumes the writings to be correct (true), which gets us closer to our goal. We must now remember what logical progression of questions to ask. We must first discover if the bible is telling the truth. Are the scriptures historical accounts of facts, comprised to educate the reader in absolutes? Or, is the scripture a collection of parables, meant to teach a group of people the life lessons important for survival?

    Most would say that scripture contains BOTH, then you will need to complete an index describing which stories are historically correct and which are parable! You will also need to ascertain how you were able to tell the difference and this index must align with everyone else in your group of peers. If I flew on 50-50 airlines, whose pilots crashed their airplanes half the time, should I EVER fly with them? Well sure, but I would need to know which pilots and which flights! For if I were to choose incorrectly once, it would be my last mistake! How could anyone be 100% positive which scripture is historical fact, and which is a fairy tale with a moral ending. As the “Goose that laid the golden egg” by Aesop, which teaches us that:
    • Greed destroys the source of good.
    • Think before you act.
    • Those who desire everything risk losing everything.

    It is my contention, knowing these facts, that the truth about religion cannot be obtained, since the scriptures cannot be positively categorized by fact or fable. The truth is, there is no evidence to support religious claims other than scripture. There have been many religions where the claims of a savior exist, including Horus of Egypt and others.

    Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie will grant you life everlasting in paradise, if you will symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he will lift an evil spell from your invisible soul, that exists in all humans because a woman, created from a man’s rib, was convinced by a talking snake to eat the fruit from a magical tree. Since scripture is not a fact, and there is no other evidence, I could be as blissfully happy in my unfounded belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pesto be upon him), since the FACTS (or lack thereof) are as equal to any other religion.

    The best practice to ensure you arrive at nirvana, heaven or paradise, while at the same time avoiding the fiery lake of hell, is to either join EVERY religion and believe in every god and read every scripture written, OR, believe in no god, which includes not believing in heaven or hell. For if you choose to believe in only one god, your chances of picking the wrong one, are great!!

    That’s the truth!

  51. Helen
    January 31st, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

    5 5,
    I am not as smart as some of the people responding to you, but I really wish to address what you said “Are the scriptures historical accounts of facts, comprised to educate the reader in absolutes? Or, is the scripture a collection of parables, meant to teach a group of people the life lessons important for survival?”.
    The Bible is a collection of books. Some are historical in nature, some poetic. Some are parables telling us how to live our llives. Honestly, there are parts of Genesis where it is difficult to differentiate which is which. That doesn’t make it less truthful. Just more difficult to understand.
    “Since scripture is not a fact, and there is no other evidence, I could be as blissfully happy in my unfounded belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pesto be upon him), since the FACTS (or lack thereof) are as equal to any other religion.”
    You could, I suppose, if it makes you happy. But is Flying Spaghetti Monster going to answer your prayers? God has answered the prayers of many of the people here commenting. I suspect he answered no to many as well. I also suspect you don’t find our experiences valid. That is your choice, which btw is what is meant by being created in His image: being able to think, choose, and love. Things all of us on this page can do. You are created in His image whether you acknowledge Him or not.
    As to your last paragraph, I don’t need to hedge my bets. God is merciful. I suspect you may give examples of when He seems not to be, but do we really see the big picture.
    Now, go ahead and tear me apart. It is okay. I promise to forgive you. Call me what you will, Christ has been called worse, and forgave anyway.
    No matter what choices you make, I hope you have a good afternoon, and an even better life.
    Helen

  52. skeptimal
    January 31st, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

    SCS,

    “I didn’t say anything about moral collapse of anything, actually.

    If you’re not willing to look at the world from an atheist’s point of view, why would you expect an atheist try to look at it from yours?”

    I appreciate your approach. As I mentioned earlier, many Christians take the approach that the only reason you wouldn’t be a Christian is willful evil.

  53. 5 5
    January 31st, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    Only one point Helen, that you are simply a believer, and I can live with that. What I can’t live with are religious folk who believe it is their DUTY to indoctrinate me, to convert me, and would constantly proselytize me. Even worse, are those who destroy other people who don’t believe as they do, such as the fanatic Muslim. I also have a problem with supporting the common welfare, by paying my share of the government taxes, AND paying the churches burden as well, while they are living high on the hog!

    BTW, there have been a lot of studies on the “prayer” aspect of religion. One study found that the prayers of people praying to a jug of milk, where answered as often as those to god.

    As for the humble attitude and your expectation that I would “tear you apart” are unfounded. I am not violent nor do I relish belittling someone. I see things from the perspective of the atheist who can logically explain the unfounded and exaggerated claims of zealots, who would quote the bible as if it were a book of facts, when they choose, and call them parables when it suits them. I am simply stating my case. I respect everyone who has a point of view. I do not respect organized religion, because it is simply a means to control people and relieve them of their funds. If you remember the cults of the 60s, where the children were indoctrinated and had to be “deprogrammed” upon their rescue. I believe they felt as strongly about their beliefs. Looking in from the outside gives you a whole new perspective. I believe you were programmed, and you will stick to your beliefs, regardless of how unfounded they are. It’s really not your fault.

    I wish you a good day as well, thank you. ;)

  54. Pikemann Urge
    January 31st, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

    Frustrated #18: “Accepting that there is a God would require you to change your life in ways that might prove too daunting.”

    Matthew 11:30, ‘For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

    BTW a Buddhist friend of mine experienced the presence of Jesus on two occasions (no, I’m not making this up to be obnoxious). She felt the most wonderful peace. He didn’t preach to her or berate her for not being ‘in the truth’. No, just pure, unpolluted peace. You can see how easy it is for me to follow the mystical path in life.

    Frustrated #25: “No other God claimed to be the One True God.”

    Because they knew better. I won’t bother with the rest. After Geoffrey’s huge dissertation below (which I won’t bother reading) I think we can all see the sanity of shorter comments.

  55. jolly atheist
    January 31st, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

    Helen, how do you know that ‘created in His image’ means being able to think, choose and love? What if it meant the opposite -thoughtless, tyrant and hateful? What if the Almighty is not what you think, but a monster? Please don’t get me wrong, but I’m trying to emphasize the fact that you just base your assumptions on wishful thinking. From what we encounter here on earth, we have no clue as to the qualities of God. There’s both evil and goodness in abundance in this world – actually there’s more evil.

  56. 5 5
    January 31st, 2009 @ 6:31 pm

    Pike,
    I have a christian friend who on MANY occasions(I’m not saying this to be obnoxious!) has met god face-to-face! He is addicted to crack cocaine. These meetings always took place while under the influence. We swore they were real. Should he stay high all the time, since it gets him closer to god? The American Indians would either smoke the peace pipe or take peyote buttons to induce hallucinations, so they could interact with their ancestors and their gods. Believing the holy ghost has entered you can release endorphins causing you to become high! I believe your friend was honest in her revelation. I believe my friend was as well! That is their truth!!!

  57. 5 5
    January 31st, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

    #25 and #53

    MANY gods have claimed to be the one true god! Where do you get your information. Are you making it up as you go along?

    1. Chrishna of Hindostan.

    2. Budha Sakia of India.

    3. Salivahana of Bermuda.

    4. Zulis, or Zhule, also Osiris and Orus, of Egypt.

    5. Odin of the Scandinavians.

    6. Crite of Chaldea.

    7. Zoroaster and Mithra of Persia.

    8. Baal and Taut, “the only Begotten of God,” of Phenicia.

    9. Indra of Thibet.

    10. Bali of Afghanistan.

    11. Jao of Nepaul.

    12. Wittoba of the Bilingonese.

    13. Thammuz of Syria.

    14. Atys of Phrygia.

    15. Xaniolxis of Thrace.

    16. Zoar of the Bonzes.

    17. Adad of Assyria.

    18. Deva Tat, and Sammonocadam of Siam.

    19. Alcides of Thebes.

    20. Mikado of the Sintoos.

    21. Beddru of Japan.

    22. Hesus or Eros, and Bremrillah, of the Druids.

    23. Thor, son of Odin, of the Gauls.

    24. Cadmus of Greece.

    25. Hil and Feta of the Mandaites.

    26. Gentaut and Quexalcote of Mexico.

    27. Universal Monarch of the Sibyls.

    28. Ischy of the Island of Formosa.

    29. Divine Teacher of Plato.

    30. Holy One of Xaca.

    31. Fohi and Tien of China.

    32. Adonis, son of the virgin Io of Greece.

    33. Ixion and Quirinus of Rome.

    34. Prometheus of Caucasus.

    35. Mohamud, or Mahomet, of Arabia.

    I could add to the list, as there are thousands, but I think you get the message.

  58. Lily
    January 31st, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

    Skeptimal–

    while I appreciate that there are Christians who probably do believe that atheists are intrinsically evil, I doubt that the majority do. We are not a monolith and whenever I deal with Internet atheists, I find myself asking myself what planet they live on. Seriously. They are describing a world I have never known.

    I grew up in an atheist family on the outer edges of the Bible belt and was an atheist until I was 25. I converted in grad school. I never met such people– not that they didn’t exist, I don’t suppose, but they had neither the numbers or the influence to even make a blip on my personal radar screen.

    I take from this a deep suspicion that most of you have no great experience or learning to support your beliefs. I posit that you are going on personal, subjective experience (and, in one case, the ability to cut and paste from the Internet and from that fine work of serious scholarship, The Skeptics Annotated Bible).

    More to the point, it is not a view that can be supported from what scripture tells us about the nature of mankind. We are told quite plainly that we were made in God’s image. That means, at the very least, that we have some share in his goodness. Paul says that his attributes are written into nature itself and that all men can see that. Indeed, how could we respond to the Gospel, if we were intrinsically evil? It is only because we were made for God that we can respond. As St. Augustine put it, there is a god-shaped vacuum in every human heart.

    I have never known anyone to say that atheists are atheists due to “wilful” evil. Ignorance, yes. Evil, no. But most of us, at least the adult converts, know that no one can be badgered into belief.

  59. frustrated(mk)
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

    5 5,

    For giggles I looked up one of your “gods”…beddru of Japan…you accuse me of making up facts, yet you present a made up god as proof that I’m wrong…niiiiccce.

    While it was an impressive list, it would be more impressive if you were to show me where each of these gods claim to be the ONE TRUE GOD.

    Right off the bat I can tell you that Muhammad was not and never claimed to be ANY sort of god, let alone the One True God. Same for Siddhartha Gautama. I’m not even going to bother looking up the rest of them. But seriously, nice try.

  60. Lily
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

    MK, You are far more generous than I. I have no patience with that sort of cut ‘n paste school boy nonsense. However, I would like to say that I am not entirely certain that the uniqueness of Christianity rests on its claims that our God is the one true God. While I obviously think that is true, I know that because I believe in the historicity of the Gospels. Christianity is unique because of its claim that God entered and acted decisively in history.

    I think that Christians themselves don’t always realzize how important the Resurrection is, historically speaking, nor do they always understand the evidence for it. As Paul said in Acts 17:31: “For he [God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

    I think we have lost sight of how important this is. The foundation of Christianity does not take place in a distant misty past but takes place at a specific time and place. The Gospels offer us an historical event as proof. Islam, for instance, cannot do this. It rests on private, unverifiable revelation to one man.

    In this regard I should point out that the Greek word for [i]proof[/i] (as in the verse I just cited) is [i]pistis[/i] which is almost always translated as [i]faith[/i] It is the most frequently used word for faith in the New Testament. Atheists believe, quite mistakenly, that faith means [i]belief without evidence[/i]. It would be hard to find a single book of the New Testament in which the factual basis of Christianity is not the overarching basis for everything that is said/taught. Everything else flows from that historical fact.

  61. Lily
    January 31st, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

    I hate fake html!

  62. Geoffrey
    January 31st, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

    “BTW, there have been a lot of studies on the “prayer” aspect of religion. One study found that the prayers of people praying to a jug of milk, where answered as often as those to god”

    Source, O great empiricist?

    “There’s both evil and goodness in abundance in this world – actually there’s more evil.”

    Wow, that’s almost as bright and cheery as my earlier stream of consciousness. In such a world, I can think of a thousand instance in which a lie would be more beneficial than the truth. Think of how much progress we have made under the delusion that “good will triumph over evil.” Uhuh, sure, unless the evil people have bigger guns, greater breeding strategies, and huge numbers. Which they typically do. There’s also that pesky little problem of the impermanence of all things.

    But hey! Why resign ourselves to the eternal cycles of good and evil! If we’re ‘good,’ convincing the ‘good’ people that they will always triumph over evil in the end might just help us a bit. Please disregard the fact that it’s a complete lie.

    Give me an atheist who’s ready to kill me and rape my wife, or do whatever it takes to obtain pleasure in a meaningless existence (the Joker from Dark Knight will do), and I’ll respect his philosophy as very, very consistent.

    Because look, without God, man makes the rules, and thus man breaks the rules. The rules aren’t real, it’s a big cops and robbers game. Do you understand what your philosophy entails? I repeat, man makes the rules. If a man can break the rules and get something really good, he will. People at the top can break rules easier because there’s not many folks to punish them, and they have power to keep folks from punishing them. Why do you think atheist rulers go hog-wild and kill people? For this very reason. That’s why atheistic societies turn very violent, very fast. Because men will, if they can, break the rules.

    Religion does not stop this, but it does reduce it. Why do you think the most violent period in mankind’s history just so happened to coincide with a rejection of religion on epic proportions in the West, indeed by the very same countries who killed more of their citizens in a few decades than in all previous history combined, period? The answer’s easy; because religion was the violence-control element, and we removed it. Ooops.

    Even if God is a lie, the truth hasn’t performed all that great over the past few centuries. Hmmm…I do not recall, in all the ages of religion, humanity ever possessing the means of killing everyone in one fell swoop. That took the modern scientific age to pull off.

  63. Pikemann Urge
    January 31st, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

    Hm, I can’t help myself. One true God? Okay, well, the prototype for the current version of Christianity won out over several fundamental variants. There was of course more than one reason.

    Some early Christians believed in two Gods, some one, some several (IIRC). Our Christianity became more popular and thus we have ‘one’ God.

    Hell, the issue of whether Jesus was a manifestation of God was not settled for a long, long time after the resurrection.

    Even if the Gospels teach that Jesus is God, there is never a requirement to believe this or even give it a passing thought. IOW: interpret how you wish.

    And Geoffrey, get real. Religion is not a violence control element. If religion makes you see the world in simplistic terms then that’s evidence enough that something is wrong.

  64. Margaret Catherine
    February 1st, 2009 @ 1:01 am

    5 5 – “I respect everyone who has a point of view.”

    I think you’ll find most people do.

  65. Margaret Catherine
    February 1st, 2009 @ 1:02 am

    BTW, I’m curious about the milk jug study as well. You can’t just tease with that and not provide a source, come on. ;)

  66. jolly atheist
    February 1st, 2009 @ 5:20 am

    MC Here’s the Great Prayer Experiment – though not the milkjug study – published in American Heart Journal in 2006: This experiment was done by Dr. Benson in a hospital with 1802 patients. They were divided into three groups. The first group received prayers, but they didn’t know. The second, didn’t receive prayers and they didn’t know. The third received prayers and they knew. The prayers were delivered by the congregations of three churches distant from the hospitals. And the result? There was no difference!

    Prayer just gives you hope – that is positive emotion – and for that, may be said to be useful and therefore, meaningful. However that does not make God real!

  67. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 6:47 am

    Pikeman,

    Hell, the issue of whether Jesus was a manifestation of God was not settled for a long, long time after the resurrection.

    What does that mean? Do you mean that people questioned the idea? If so that would mean that there was an idea to question.

    I mean, c’mon, the issue of whether Jesus was God is STILL not settled. Good Heavens, the question of whether God is God is still not settled. You yourself don’t believe it.

    To be Christian MEANT to believe that Jesus was the Son of God…

  68. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 6:51 am

    Lily,

    However, I would like to say that I am not entirely certain that the uniqueness of Christianity rests on its claims that our God is the one true God. While I obviously think that is true, I know that because I believe in the historicity of the Gospels. Christianity is unique because of its claim that God entered and acted decisively in history.

    No Doubt. But this line was pulled from a list that I made of the reasons I, personally, believe in the Christian Faith.

    I too, listed, that only Our God built a relationship with us…this was the list #25.

    No other God has established a relationship with man.

    No other God has sacrificed HIS life for ours. Plenty
    require us to sacrifice our lives for them.

    No other God loves us.

    No other God claimed to be the One True God.

    All other faiths contain parts of our Objective Truths.
    Only the Christian Faith contains them all.
    The Christian God is the ONLY God that places emphasis on OTHER. All other faiths place their emphasis on “self”.
    Only the Christian faith says that to love God you must love one another.

  69. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:05 am

    Jolly,

    The prayer study that you speak of (I read the New York Times Version) can really only tell us so much.

    We can never know the hearts of the people praying, who they were praying to, how sincere their prayers were, or what the outcome would have been if there had been no prayer.

    I’ve said before that you can’t use physical tools to measure metaphysical phenomena.

    The prayers of a person in a state of grace, to the one true God, prayed with a sincere heart are very different than the rote prayers of non believers that are not in a state of grace and are praying for people they have no connection to.

    Also, prayer goes hand in hand with sacrifice. Just mumbling a bunch of words 3 times a day is not prayer.

  70. Pikemann Urge
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:06 am

    Frustrated #66: I mean that the idea of Jesus as God was never an issue for some groups of Christians. They’d look at you funny if you mentioned it. (Or they might say, “Brilliant. We’ll use that!”)

    I am in total agreement that to be Christian meant that you believed Jesus to be God’s son. But that is different than being a manifestation or incarnation of God.

  71. jolly atheist
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:14 am

    mk
    About Jesus being son of god, you ask: “What does that mean? Do you mean that people questioned the idea? If so that would mean that there was an idea to question.”

    Yes there was. I agree with PU. We have discussed this elsewhere, but to repeat,until the Council of Nicaea,(around 500) Jesus’ being Son of God – that is in the metaphysical sense, of the same substance with God – was highly controversial. Arius objected and was excommunicated. Others believed this was only metaphorical – that is in the sense Roman emperors and pharoas were considered sons of god. Also, bibles rejected as apocryphal have been discovered lately, and they confirm the controversy. Jesus was considered to be a prophet like any other, not THE Son of God.

  72. Geoffrey
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:37 am

    “And Geoffrey, get real. Religion is not a violence control element. If religion makes you see the world in simplistic terms then that’s evidence enough that something is wrong.”

    Hmmm, have you made an argument here? It seems blatantly obvious, whether religion be true or not, that the function of religion in the social organism includes violence control. It also includes control over more civil matters as well.

  73. SCS
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:39 am

    We can never know the hearts of the people praying, who they were praying to, how sincere their prayers were, or what the outcome would have been if there had been no prayer

    Except that we do know they were members of mainstream Christian congregations, they were praying to what you claim is “the one, true God”, and, given that they were members of established Christian communities, one can only assume their sincerity was real. One group was not prayed for, so that takes care of your assertion that we don’t know what would happen had there been no prayer. Prayer vs. no prayer was the point of the study, actually.

    Anyway, I thought Catholics were big on intercessory prayer. Guess I was wrong. Prayers from strangers on behalf of others used to be a staple of Catholic teaching, but I guess they don’t teach that anymore.

    The prayers of a person in a state of grace, to the one true God, prayed with a sincere heart are very different than the rote prayers of non believers that are not in a state of grace and are praying for people they have no connection to.

    This is pride, elitism and exclusion at its worst. On the one hand you claim we can’t measure metaphysical phenomenon, and in the very next sentence you claim to have the power to discern God’s mind when it comes to who, how, why and when others pray.

  74. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:59 am

    I mean that the idea of Jesus as God was never an issue for some groups of Christians. They’d look at you funny if you mentioned it. (Or they might say, “Brilliant. We’ll use that!”)

    As they do now. But from the beginning Christians believed that Jesus was the Son of God and by that I mean GOD Himself. It was always believed that He was Human/Divine. If there were some that didn’t think so, it was no different than today.

    When I say Christianity MEANT believing that Jesus was the Son of God, I mean believing that Jesus WAS God.

  75. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:04 am

    Anyway, I thought Catholics were big on intercessory prayer. Guess I was wrong. Prayers from strangers on behalf of others used to be a staple of Catholic teaching, but I guess they don’t teach that anymore.

    How did you make that leap? What I said was that prayer from strangers who don’t really care is not the same as prayer from strangers that do.

    This is pride, elitism and exclusion at its worst. On the one hand you claim we can’t measure metaphysical phenomenon, and in the very next sentence you claim to have the power to discern God’s mind when it comes to who, how, why and when others pray.

    This is the teaching of the church. Being in a state of Grace can make all the difference. I’m not claiming any “power” to read God’s mind. This is what is believed. Being in a state of Grace means that there are no walls, barriers between you and God. It means that the lines of communication are wide open. I never said they weren’t in a state of Grace. I’m not judging their souls. I’m just saying that there were metaphysical variables and that you can’t measure these with physical tools.

  76. SCS
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:13 am

    How did you make that leap? What I said was that prayer from strangers who don’t really care is not the same as prayer from strangers that do.

    How did you make the leap that this particular group of church-going Christians didn’t care and weren’t in a state of grace?

  77. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:20 am

    How did you make the leap that this particular group of church-going Christians didn’t care and weren’t in a state of grace?

    You made that leap. I didn’t. I said we had no way of knowing. I never said that we knew they weren’t in a state of Grace.

    No way of knowing.

  78. SCS
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    Except that you were implying the study didn’t count because the people were strangers rattling off mindless prayers, and that there was a difference between that and the prayers of people who cared and were in a state of grace. You were the one who implied those in the study who were praying were strangers who didn’t really care. You also implied they might not really be Christians when you questioned who they were praying to, which was pretty insulting, given that they were members of established Christian churches.

  79. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    Pikeman– I am at a loss to understand where you are getting your information from. Christians believed from day 1 that Jesus was the Son of God. The Arian controversy was over his nature; not over his Sonship.

    No early Christians believed in two Gods. None. Nor was there ever any question of his being a “manifestation” of God. He is God. So they believed then; so we believe now.

    “Even if the Gospels teach that Jesus is God, there is never a requirement to believe this or even give it a passing thought. IOW: interpret how you wish.”

    You have never read a single Gospel have you? At least not in many years. So let me help. The Gospels plainly teach that Jesus is God. Of course it is required that one believe that Jesus is God, if one is going to claim to be a Christian. That is the definition of “Christian”. Why would anyone claim to be a Christian and not give these matters a passing thought?

  80. SCS
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Also, would it change your mind if you knew that, of the three congregations participating in the study, two were Catholic?

    One has to assume they were in this special Catholic “state of grace” which gives them full communication with God, no barriers, etc., unlike, I guess, all those lesser Christians God doesn’t really pay attention to?

  81. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:07 am

    Wow, you all have been active since I started and walked away from my last message to feed the cats …

    There is a fair amount of misunderstanding here about the development of early Christianity. So for example:

    Council of Nicea (325 a.d.) dealt with the issue of the nature of Christ (similar or the same?) posed primarily by the Church in Alexandria. The vote was not even close– Arius got two of approximately 300 votes cast to finalize the definition of the nature of Christ. In other words, the historic understanding of the Church was confirmed and codified in the Nicene Creed that came out of this council.

    There have not been and never will be “apocryphal” bibles discovered. There were many documents that didn’t make it into the canon of scripture because they failed the rather stringent requirements applied to selection– chief among them, they had to have been associated with a disciple (or someone close to one), they had to have been used in the liturgy (read aloud in the congregation), etc.

    The many gnostic texts we do have are all later than the books that were accepted for inclusion (with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas)and clearly do not fit the bill. You may see and read them at Early Christian Writings (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/)

  82. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    SCS,

    Except that you were implying the study didn’t count because the people were strangers rattling off mindless prayers, and that there was a difference between that and the prayers of people who cared and were in a state of grace. You were the one who implied those in the study who were praying were strangers who didn’t really care. You also implied they might not really be Christians when you questioned who they were praying to, which was pretty insulting, given that they were members of established Christian churches.

    If you were right, I would agree with you. I implied nothing. You inferred. All I said was that there were variables. Variables. Never said one way or the other which variables actually were happening, only that there were immeasurable variables that, being unknown, could affect the outcome.

  83. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    SCS,

    One has to assume they were in this special Catholic “state of grace” which gives them full communication with God, no barriers, etc., unlike, I guess, all those lesser Christians God doesn’t really pay attention to?

    And why does one have to assume that? Being Catholic does not put you in a state of Grace any more than being a carnivore does. You’re making an awful lot of assumptions based on my original statement. And none of them have the slightest thing to do with what I said.

    We can never know the hearts of the people praying, who they were praying to, how sincere their prayers were, or what the outcome would have been if there had been no prayer

    You’ve skipped over the KEY PHRASE…WE CAN NEVER KNOW…and jumped right into assuming that I claim TO KNOW…

    The entire point of the comment was that WE DON’T KNOW…if we KNEW, it wouldn’t be a variable, now would it.

  84. SCS
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:22 am

    The prayer study that you speak of (I read the New York Times Version) can really only tell us so much.

    We can never know the hearts of the people praying, who they were praying to, how sincere their prayers were, or what the outcome would have been if there had been no prayer.

    I’ve said before that you can’t use physical tools to measure metaphysical phenomena.

    The prayers of a person in a state of grace, to the one true God, prayed with a sincere heart are very different than the rote prayers of non believers that are not in a state of grace and are praying for people they have no connection to.

    Also, prayer goes hand in hand with sacrifice. Just mumbling a bunch of words 3 times a day is not prayer.

    This is what you said in response to the prayer study to which jolly atheist was referring.

    Here is a link, btw, to an overview of the study:

    http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/3_31STEP.html

    Your comments, in context, do indeed both imply that the prayers in this study were carried out by uncaring, perhaps non-Christian, insincere people who might not have been in a state of grace and therefore the study was unreliable.

    While I can agree that we can’t really measure the effects of prayer (mostly because we can never know God’s answer to anyone’s prayers and that attempting to measure outcome implies we have an expected outcome in mind), I can’t stand when one highly elitist group of supposed Christians demeans other Christians by implying they are something better in God’s eyes.

  85. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:24 am

    Thank you Lily.
    It’s easy to make assumptions when you don’t know what you’re talking about…which is why I stay away from Math. I’m perfectly comfortable admitting that I am out of my league there. I would never presume to tell a mathematician that what he is saying is wrong simply because it doesn’t make sense to me. I would assume that I, not he, am the one that is uninformed.

    Rather than throw out these accusations, I wish they would simply say, hmmmmmm…., what is the teaching on that and why do you believe it. But some people are very quick to cast aspersions on things they are not familiar with. And they accuse US of witch hunting!

  86. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 10:03 am

    Prayer is such an interesting subject. As you say, mk, there are variables involved, which we cannot know. Chief among them, of course, is the will of God. Two people praying to win a race cannot both win. Does that mean that God did not listen to the loser? Hardly. We know that God always hears us. He does sometimes say no.

    Jesus invites us to pray both for our own needs and the needs of others. No one is beyond God’s notice (“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father”. [Matthew 10:29])

    The idea of doing a scientific “study” of prayer simply makes me laugh. It so fundamentally misunderstands its purpose! Prayer is, ultimately, conversation with God. It draws us closer to him, as we examine ourselves. We are invited to ask for what we want but, as we become more mature Christians, what we want will become much more akin to what God wants. It is appropriate for a child to ask for a shiny new bicycle. It is, rarely, if ever, appropriate for an adult to ask for a shiny, new, fire engine red Corvette (believe me, I know). As we mature spiritually, so will our prayers. In other words, the conversations we have with God are for our spiritual benefit, he already knows the desires of our hearts.

    Where prayers for others are concerned, the first thing to take note of is that they benefit us as much and possibly more than they do the person prayed for. When we pray for others, God gives us an amazing gift– he allows us to share some portion of his burden of care for the one who is suffering (or has a particular need) When things turn out as we hope, we share the joy; when they don’t, we share the sorrow of the one we prayed for. Beyond that? We will not know in this life, if ever, exactly how our prayers effected the outcome.

    So what? Jesus prayed. He gave us the model prayer. He assured us that God hears us and loves us. What more can a Christian want? It makes no sense to believe in the miracles or the resurrection and not in the power and efficacy of prayer. The fact that outsiders can’t weigh it or measure it is completely irrelevant to us. If we get the big things right, everything else falls into place.

  87. jolly atheist
    February 1st, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    The controversy about this matter of Jesus’ substance – which is related to his being son of god – is obvious if you check Monophysits/Diophysits/Nestorians in Wikipedia. Just read a few lines and you will understand there was no consensus.

    “There have not been and never will be “apocryphal” bibles discovered.” That info is from Christian sources.

    There is always a discrepancy between what is declared by the members of the faith and those outside. And those outside deserve some credit too because members of the faith are usually biased.

  88. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    I don’t need to check Wikipedia. This is an area in which I have formal education. Yes, there were any number of men who came up with theories that were wrong. So what? They never had an impact beyond small groups of followers. The early Church codified its understanding of the Gospel it received in 325. The Nicene creed says it all and it has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of believers for all of the 2000 years of Christianity.

    There are no aprocryphal bibles. Name one please, since you appear to be insisting that there are. Where was it published? By whom? When?

    There are apocryphal books that were rejected (if they were early enough to be considered for inclusion in the Bible at all). This is simply a matter of historical fact. Speaking of Wikipedia, however, it does do a very good job of describing the formation of the canon of scripture. One could do worse than consult it– here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_Christian_Biblical_canon and here (the main article) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon

  89. SCS
    February 1st, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    Theoretically, according to Christ himself, one really only ought to ask to know God’s will for our lives and for the strength to obey God’s will for our lives.

    I think far too much time is spent praying for God to either do our will or to get others to fall in step with our will for them.

    Yes, prayer studies are ridiculous, but if religious people are going to claim material results from prayer, especially regarding something as important as the outcome of medical procedures, then someone is going to come along and do a study. Christians shouldn’t be making that specific a claim in the first place, but they do it all the time.

    What you then end up with is the heretical mindset in which one believer claims his prayer was answered positively because he is a true believer, but another person’s wasn’t because he isn’t a true believer (this is the heresy at the heart of all prosperity theology). People dance dangerously close to this heresy when they make claims about some prayers being more worthy or heard more clearly, etc., based on some supposed “state of grace”. No one, absolutely no one, can claim that the prayers of one group are superior to those of another group or individual, no matter how holy they consider the first group and how unworthy they consider the latter. No one.

    Spurious claims about specific, definite, material answers to these kinds of prayers also do terrible damage to those who may not recover. We are all going to die, and barring an unforeseen accident of some kind, we’re probably going to die after some kind of battle with a serious disease. To claim that one person survives as the result of prayer while another person who has been prayed for, who prays, etc., dies anyway is cruel. Does that mean God loved the other person more? Their prayers were more worthy? They had a hotline to God? Do you tell the mother whose child has died of terminal cancer that she just didn’t pray hard enough, or that her faith wasn’t sincere enough?

    The studies are ridiculous, but the claims that inspired the studies are just as bad.

  90. James Stephenson
    February 1st, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    “But if it is this pain that leads me into believing in an after-life, then am I not creating it? That is, my PAIN is the CAUSE and GOD the EFFECT. ”

    – Skeptimal

    Obviously you have no understanding of why people believe. To assume God is not there and that we believe because of some existential anguish. I became a Christian at 16 because I experienced God. I had no existential angst.

    It can be put the other way. I hear it said that atheists disbelieve because they cannot accept that there is an authority that they are accountable to.

  91. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

    Theoretically, according to Christ himself, one really only ought to ask to know God’s will for our lives and for the strength to obey God’s will for our lives.

    Hmmm. Where did he say this? The NT is full of examples of people praying for other people. We are specifically invited to pray for what we want. As CS Lewis pointed out eons ago, the early Christians weren’t namby-pamby Greeks, disdainful of the body and its needs. There really are too many passages to list but one might have a look at Paul writing from prison in Phil. 1:

    Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

    Then James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.

    Then the many times Jesus spoke of prayer:

    If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. Matthew 21:22

    There are so many more but anyone who is interested can do a topical search at say, Biblegateway.com and follow up on this or any other subject of interest.

    Yes, prayer studies are ridiculous, but if religious people are going to claim material results from prayer, especially regarding something as important as the outcome of medical procedures, then someone is going to come along and do a study. Christians shouldn’t be making that specific a claim in the first place, but they do it all the time.

    Sez who? Besides which, the one does not follow on the other. Prayer does have material results and no “scientific” study will ever prove or disprove that. Those who have eyes to see, will see. Those who do not are blind to the nature of reality. While I have a great deal of sympathy for what I take to be your position– that a certain due modesty is required when speaking of answered prayer, it is the case that God is, has been and always will be in charge of the outcome. Our part is to do what he has invited us to do– enter into communion with him and pray for one another. Exactly how our prayers effect the final outcome we may never know. That they did and do, is a certainty.

  92. Skeptimal
    February 1st, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

    James,

    I think you’ve got me mixed up with jolly atheist. I did raise the subject of whether a lot of Christians believe because they’re afraid not to.

    “I became a Christian at 16 because I experienced God. I had no existential angst.”

    How did you experience god?

    “I hear it said that atheists disbelieve because they cannot accept that there is an authority that they are accountable to.”

    I’ve heard that, too, and like me, I’m sure you get a chuckle out of it.

    Somehow or other, non-theists (including atheists, agnostics, skeptics, etc.) manage to keep from getting arrested in large numbers despite our inability to submit to authority.

    Surveys have indicated that very few convicts in our jails and prisons identify themselves as non-theistic. Also odd.

    Certainly it is true that no one in our society is more feared than an non-theist, because everyone knows that non-theists don’t submit to any authority, so they’re likely to go postal on you at the drop of a hat.

    Non-theists also are (on average) more educated than religionists, which is bizarre, given our inability to listen to anyone but ourselves. It’s all we can do in those classrooms to keep from clubbing the professors (who are majority Christian) to death for their insolence. I don’t know how we control ourselves.

  93. 5 5
    February 1st, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    Since the study is already posted, I will not be redundant. However, I continue to hear myself being taunted as an uneducated, uninformed child, not capable of intellectual thought processes. I tire of trying to reason with zealots, who use preaching and scripture as logical arguments to justify and rationalize the belief in an unprovable fairy tail.

    “Jesus says…”
    “God says…”
    “The bible says…”

    You have no proof that prayer works, save your own personal experiences, which are invalidated. You have no proof that god exists, save your own personal experiences, which are invalidated. You have no proof that miracles exist, save your own personal experiences, which are invalidated. The only thing religious adherers have is scripture, which is why, I suppose, you rely so heavily on them. They do not bring a logical argument to the table, they actually compound the issues with rhetoric, conjecture and a great propensity for violence.

    If I chose, I could be ostentatious, as the zealots aspire to be, with your false gnosticism. However, pontification is not my proclivity. I try to speak from the scientific and atheistic point of view, in terms that are understandable by the mass, so confusion will be kept to a minimum.

    I shall not post here again, as it seems there are zealots among you, who when confronted with hard questions concerning the proof necessary to assert specific and amazingly fantastic claims, resort to belittling and preaching scripture. If that doesn’t work, they “gang up” on the outspoken person. Most packs do this when logic fails them.

    I shall find a blog where the gang fights do not exist and the intellect is of a more logical commonality.

    Cheers and good luck to you truth seekers and scientists, as you really have your work cut out for you if you choose to stay here and defend logic. :)

  94. Geoffrey
    February 1st, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

    Prayer studies:

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/prayer.html

    And there have been more than enough showing that prayer does improve health, though this could be for natural reasons. Meditation and faith could very well play a huge role in calming the body and helping people recover from or endure surgeries.

    Intriguingly, several studies did show positive effects of remote prayer, and they were double-blind. Now, you could put this down to something involving yet undiscovered scientific laws (there could be something to all this “projection of positive feelings,” no?), but it also fits in with most God concepts.

    “BTW, there have been a lot of studies on the “prayer” aspect of religion. One study found that the prayers of people praying to a jug of milk, where answered as often as those to god.”

    And no one has yet cited this study, and that is the one we requested a citation for. Could it be that 55 lied because the truth was inconvenient at the time? Uhoh…looks like the truth of my stream of consciousness is asserting itself among the non-theists.

  95. Margaret Catherine
    February 1st, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

    The writer in me is going off to cry – and not over a spilled milk jug, either. Excuse me.

  96. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:13 pm

    SCS,

    While I can agree that we can’t really measure the effects of prayer (mostly because we can never know God’s answer to anyone’s prayers and that attempting to measure outcome implies we have an expected outcome in mind), I can’t stand when one highly elitist group of supposed Christians demeans other Christians by implying they are something better in God’s eyes.

    Again, I know what I wrote and I meant what I wrote. I don’t know how many ways or times I can say this…
    can’t KNOW if the prayers were valid.

    We can never know the hearts of the people praying, who they were praying to, how sincere their prayers were, or what the outcome would have been if there had been no prayer.
    *
    The prayers of a person in a state of grace, to the one true God, prayed with a sincere heart are very different than the rote prayers of non believers that are not in a state of grace and are praying for people they have no connection to.

    Where did I judge anyone????

    We don’t KNOW. That’s what I said. We don’t KNOW. Where did I say anything derogatory?

  97. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    5.5,

    Whatever. I’d sure like to know who these zealots quoting scripture are!!! Imagine the unmitigated gaul of a bunch of Christians using the name Christ and quoting the guy to boot! Insanity! And ganging up! Does this mean I can take off my leather jacket now?

  98. Margaret Catherine
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

    “Imagine the unmitigated gaul of a bunch of Christians”

    MK, watch your French! ;)

  99. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    Oh for heavens sake… ;) gall, I meant gall!
    Note to self: MUST PROOFREAD. MUST PROOFREAD. MUST PROOFREAD.

  100. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

    Well, it has been an interesting day. Jolly A got all upset responding to a 4 year old thread and says he won’t be back. 5.5 has thrown a polysyllabic hissy fit because we don’t accept as arguments poorly thought out atheist balderdash– even when it is embellished with CAPS and EXCLAMATION points!!!!

    I personally hope they change their minds. 5.5, why don’t you consider the possibility of asking honest questions (that would be questions that you would actually like to know the answer to. Not transparent set-ups like the perennially dopey Elisha and the bears story. Guess what? We have been asked about that story a million times. Yours was the usual response. Yawn!!!)

    Just imagine this. A question gets asked. One or more answers are offered. Maybe a conversation ensues. Perhaps agreement is reached. Perhaps we agree to disagree. In which ever case, we will have all benefited from thinking about the matter.

    I am pretty sure this would be worthwhile and that we would all enjoy such a conversation. The Internet being what it is, I don’t have high hopes but it surely is possible.

  101. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

    Amen Lily.

    I said as much earlier. We get accused of assuming all kinds of things about Atheists (most of which, as you said, I have never encountered or thought myself) yet I hear the same old, same old stuff about Christians over and over again…

    That’s why I tried with Irreligious (whom I thoroughly enjoyed by the way). He was open to an honest discussion. Sure it got heated, but it ended on a good note. We agreed to disagree, which as you’ve noted, is a perfectly acceptable outcome.

    I didn’t realize that Jolly left also. That makes me sad, as mostly he too, was a good conversationalist.

  102. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

    I was going to ignore this but it really needs to be laughed at on a regular basis:

    Non-theists also are (on average) more educated than religionists, which is bizarre, given our inability to listen to anyone but ourselves. It’s all we can do in those classrooms to keep from clubbing the professors (who are majority Christian) to death for their insolence. I don’t know how we control ourselves.

    No, actually they are not. Atheists like to say this but it is poorly grounded. The differences in IQ and education that have been noted are rarely statistically significant. The only real statistical difference is in the number of Christians in the sciences and even there, Christians are still well-represented. If it is necessary, I can provide a bibliography of studies on the subject but it is sure to get me tossed into moderation hell if I include links (I think more than 1 link looks like spam to the blog software).

    Moreover, the idea that a majority of “professors” are Christians is downright bizarre. I have spent my entire adult life in Academia–going on 30 years now. From New England to the Mid West to the South, Christians, while hardly unrepresented, are not nearly the majority. At a guess I would say that like most groups, the professoriate consists of people on all points along the spectrum of atheismtheism. There are few places in America more hospitable to atheism than a college campus. There are more than a few where it is the safest position to hold.

  103. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    Lily,

    Perhaps he attended Steuben ville?????

  104. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    I’m going to try to use my old email again and see if this posts…

  105. frustrated(mk)
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

    Hmmmmmm…the last time it only booted “long” comments. I’ll have to wait and see…

  106. Lily
    February 1st, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

    Honestly, MK. When are you and Margaret Catherine going to take your act on the road? :) Steubenville, indeed!

  107. Margaret Catherine
    February 1st, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

    Skeptimal: “Non-theists also are (on average) more educated than religionists, which is bizarre, given our inability to listen to anyone but ourselves. It’s all we can do in those classrooms to keep from clubbing the professors (who are majority Christian) to death for their insolence. I don’t know how we control ourselves.”

    5 5: “…Religious adherers…actually compound the issues with rhetoric, conjecture and a great propensity for violence.”

    Good heavens, can you imagine what happens when those non-theist students and Christian professors find each other out??? ;)

    Lily, interesting idea, but my act is planted firmly on the sofa right now. It’ll go to bed shortly.

  108. Pikemann Urge
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 4:01 am

    Frustrated #73 and Lily #78, just to clarify once more: being the Son of God is not the same as being and incarnation of God (I wonder if the latter idea came from Hinduism? Just putting it out there.)

    “The Gospels plainly teach that Jesus is God.” I beg to differ: they do not. You are welcome to interpret it that way (it won’t make you a better person either way) but don’t pretend it was from “day one”. It was not.

    We can’t even establish a reliable date for the Gospels yet. Two thousand years later and we’re still not sure. I won’t give up and neither should anyone else. But there’s plenty of work to be done to date them within a decade of whenever they were actually written.

    And yes, some early Christians believed in more than one God. It doesn’t mean they’re right(!) but they existed. E.g. Marcionites.

  109. Lily
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 7:25 am

    What is the point of denying the obvious, PU? Jesus did claim to be God quite clearly. John 17:5; Matthew 16:6, 23:62-65; John 10:23-25; Mark 14:60-62, Matthew 9:2-6; Luke 5: 17-25 and dozens more including the most famous of all “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)

    You keep making claims but offer no proof to back any of them up. PU. I can point to nearly 2000 years of scholarly or primary literature to back up our claims. What have you got besides a couple of names (whoever denied that there were heretics?)whose beliefs and influence you haven’t demonstrated that you know? The fact that a handful of early quasi converts believed things that were not true, as Christianity took root all over the east is simply meaningless. Historically interesting but theologically meaningless.

    It will also come as news to the scholaly world that we can’t date the Gospels. Of course, we can’t date them to the precise month or year but that is true of a vast number of ancient documents that have survived. We do have a great deal of agreement on the parameters:

    Matthew: 70-80 A.D.
    Mark: 60-70 A.D.
    Luke: 70-80 A.D.
    John: 80-90 A.D.

    Far better than a comment box discussion is a very reader-friendly book on the subject of the Gospels written by Mark Roberts, a Harvard trained Presbyterian pastor and writer. (www.markdroberts.com/htmfiles/resources/gospelsreliable.htm Scroll down a bit for hyperlinked chapter titles)

    There are a number of scholarly and very famous books you can go on to, if you like.

    Likewise, there is no need to wonder about the oncept, “Son of God,” and what it meant to the Jews and the early Christians. In order to answer that question, however, you must turn to those who have studied these matters– theologians or the scholars of Judaism and Christianity. There is a rich literature available to you on the subject and, thus, no need to guess.

  110. frustrated(mk)
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 7:32 am

    Pikeman Urge,

    The first Christians were the apostles. Period. Anyone that believed anything different from what they believed was not truly a Christian.

    They might have existed, but they weren’t Christian. The apostles ALL believed that Jesus was God.

    Seriously, you have to look no further than the first line in the Gospel of John…Not much interpreting needed there…pretty obvious to anyone that reads it.

    1
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    2
    He was in the beginning with God.
    3
    3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be
    4
    through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;
    5
    4 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
    6
    5 A man named John was sent from God.
    7
    He came for testimony, 6 to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
    8
    He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
    9
    The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
    10
    He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.
    11
    He came to what was his own, but his own people 7 did not accept him.
    12
    But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,
    13
    8 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
    14
    And the Word became flesh 9 and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
    15
    10 John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'”
    16
    From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 11
    17
    because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
    18
    No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, 12 who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
    19
    13 14 And this is the testimony of John.

  111. frustrated(mk)
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 7:46 am

    oooooo,

    I’ve just become one of those nasty zealots that quoted scripture! Crazy talk. Quoting scripture to prove that Christians believed Jesus was God…what was I thinkin’?!?!?

  112. Skeptimal
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

    “Atheists like to say this but it is poorly grounded. The differences in IQ and education that have been noted are rarely statistically significant.”

    You’ve mis-read what I said and you’ve missed my point. I didn’t say non-theists have higher IQ’s, and I’d be surprised if they did. Furthermore, higher education doesn’t make you any smarter. I’ve known some high school graduates who could kick the ass of any professor ever had if they went on Jeopardy together.

    Higher education *does* however require that you be willing to commit to a process not of your own design and to answer to authority, two things that many Christians say non-theists are incapable of doing.

    “Moreover, the idea that a majority of “professors” are Christians is downright bizarre.”

    Lily, I know you’re wrong, so the only question is whether you’re making it up or whether you believe it. Your own post is self-contradictory.

    In your post, you acknowledged that Christians are well-represented in the sciences. You also deny that there is any statistically significant difference in non-religious people attaining higher education (something required before you can be a professor). Why then is it bizarre to say that the majority of professors are Christians? The overwhelming majority of Americans are Christians. If you deny that the non-religious are more educated, how can the majority of professors be non-religious?

  113. Matthew in Fairfax
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    For info, here is one study of college and university professors from 2007.
    http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Gross_Simmons.pdf
    The respondents data is not tabulated, so it’s a little tough to extract the information you are looking for. Here is my take:

    Yes, most professors (52.6%) believe in God.
    “16.9 percent are of the view that ‘while I have my doubts, I feel that I do believe in God,’ and 35.7 percent of respondents say, ‘I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it.’”

    As to the religious affiliation of believers:
    “27.3 percent of believers … are Roman Catholics. 58.7 percent of believers are affiliated with a variety of other Christian denominations.”
    Together, that adds up to 86% of believers (i.e., “those who say they believe in God despite occasional doubts or that they have no doubts”) that are Christian.
    Believers make up 52.6% of respondents, so that multiplies out to 45.24% of all professors identifying themselves as Christian. That would be the largest group identified in this particular study. So no, not a majority if I understand this right, but a plurality.

    But… college professors are more likely to be atheists or agnostics than the general population:
    “About 23.4 percent of respondents to our survey … are either atheists or agnostics. This figure is much higher than for the U.S. population as a whole.”

    Hope this helps, and sorry in advance for any errors.

  114. Lily
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

    Matthew– great job. But I doubt Skep, even yet, gets my point.

    Lily, I know you’re wrong, so the only question is whether you’re making it up or whether you believe it. Your own post is self-contradictory. …

    Why then is it bizarre to say that the majority of professors are Christians?

    Had you read my post, you would know that I am not wrong and that my post is not “self-contradictory”. Matthew’s post really lays it out nicely, while my own “every point of the spectrum between atheist and theist” might have helped, too, if actually read.

    Atheists use “Christian” as if it described a monolith. It doesn’t. There are very weak Christians on up, up, up, the scale to actual, full-blown Zealots for the Faith. There are other religions to take into consideration, as well. Judaism springs to mind quite readily.

    To say that the professoriate is majority Christian (or however you put it, I am too lazy to go back and look) is to utter words that are mere noise. The majority is nowhere near “Christian” in anything but, maybe, name. In fact, a very young William F. Buckley roared into the public’s notice by pointing out that there was no place for God at Yale. And that was what? 51 years ago.

    Believing in God, weakly or strongly, does not equate to being a Christian. That word describes a particular set of beliefs, which, in turn, may be held weakly, moderately, or strongly.

    I know it makes for a better narrative, if you can paint atheists as the brave, but threatened, free thinkers in a sea of repression and oppression but it is faith in what just ain’t so.

  115. Pikemann Urge
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

    Lily #109, I sure am not ignorant of those scriptures. I can be dead wrong but I’m quite familiar with the Gospels. ;-) I won’t go through each one, but I will briefly explain John 1:1 below.

    “I can point to nearly 2000 years of scholarly or primary literature.” Okay, I bet you can. A bunch of people parroting each other, insisting that their interpretations are the only valid ones?

    “We do have a great deal of agreement on the parameters” No, we do not. Those are conservative dates but the reality might be more ‘radical’ than that. There’s evidence that John was post A.D. 100. Maybe Mark was post A.D. 100, too, though that’s the problem: we can’t establish even within a decade when Mark was written.

    Frustrated #110, “The apostles ALL believed that Jesus was God.” They did not. Not according to the Gospels. It doesn’t mean you can’t believe it, though. Why should Christianity not change?

    John 1:1? Okay, it might depend on the manuscript as to whether there is a key definite article present or not in that verse. If the ‘original’ John has the definite article, then you’re right, even with only that one verse.

    I don’t know Koine Greek, but indefinite articles are implied, definite articles are explicit. I.e. for you to be correct, it must read, “and the Word was the God.”

    Oh, and don’t worry about quoting scripture: I do it all the time!

  116. Lily
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

    PU– What is your evidence? I don’t care about your opinions, in this instance. What is your evidence? You don’t read Greek. So why are you basing any argument on the language? You are not in a position to do linguistic studies on your own. You are either pulling your opinions out of thin air or you are getting them from someone else. Who? What are his/her credentials? Any fool can have an opinion. Scholars ground them in something resembling evidence.

    Likewise– the dating of the Gospels. What is your evidence? Whose work are you depending on? What are his/her credentials? What is the evidence?
    What is your evidence?

  117. jolly atheist
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

    Lily: Thank you for correcting that the thread which made me disgusted was four years old. Somebody – who disappeared later/kimumbux, some name like that – referred to that post and I commented not knowingly. I must have missed the date. Well, just returned to post a wise and funny comment from the atheistbus donation page, from Don: “If God made us in his image, why aren’t we invisible?”

  118. Lily
    February 2nd, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

    Jolly! Cute joke. I’m glad you are back. Please stay around. Otherwise, we will bore ourselves agreeing with each other.

  119. Pikemann Urge
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 12:40 am

    Lily #116, I’ll stick with John 1:1. As it is I run into the danger of writing not a blog comment but a dissertation (and I despise those).

    Some background to make it interesting: Jehovah’s Witnesses are (in)famous for being non-Trinitarian. They’re also (in)famous for believing Jesus was nailed to a stake, not a cross. But that reasoning was, IMHO, for political reasons, and anyway they’re wrong about that (if it makes you feel any better? lol).

    Isaac Newton was a famous non-Trinitarian. He had to publish posthumously though as it was illegal at that time to deny the Trinity.

    Okay. To give you an example of a Greek manuscript, and assuming I can post URLs, have a look here:

    http://www.thedcl.org/bible/diaglott-nt/index.html

    If that doesn’t show up then go to the Wiki entry for ‘Emphatic Diaglott’ and you’ll find the URL at the bottom.

    Here is the interlinear English for the Greek, for the record (verses 1-5):

    In a beginning was the word, and the word was with the God, and a god was the word. This was in a beginning with the God. All through it was done: and without it was done not even one, that has been done. In it life was, and the life was the light of the men: and the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness it not apprehended.

    In (at least that) Greek I can say, “wine is a god”, for example. I would not be literal though. It’s like in our language where we say “isn’t she just divine?”. Pretty much the same thing. That’s what the Moffatt NT reads “and the Word was divine.” Moffatt chose to be figurative, not literal.

  120. frustrated(mk)
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 7:08 am

    Pikeman,

    Acts 3:15
    The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.

    Col 1:13-15

    He is the image 7 of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

    For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.
    (Col. 1:15 – Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the “firstborn” of all creation. The Greek word for “first-born” is “prototokos” which means eternal preexistence (it never means created). )

    “Tell us if thou be the Christ the Son of God. Jesus saith to him: Thou hast said it.” And the response of the high priest: “He hath
    blasphemed.” (Matt. 26:63-4)

    There are those who, in willful disregard of Jewish idiomatic usage, are blind enough to insist that Our Lord was denying His divinity with
    this answer: “Thou hast said it.” The truth is the contrary. This form of reply was the most emphatic way a Jew could respond in the
    affirmative. If it were a denial then why did Caiphas consider it blasphemy? Saint Mark, who wrote his gospel in Greek, transmits the
    exchange without the idiom:

    “Art thou the Christ the Son of the blessed God? Jesus said to him; I am.” (Mark 14:61-2)

    For all those who claim that nobody called Jesus , “God” , in the Bible I offer the following compilation of quotes directly from Holy
    Scripture:

    1. Upon seeing the risen Christ, the doubting apostle Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

    2. “Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and Our Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

    Saint Paul is referring here to the second coming of Christ in “glory,” in contradistinction to His first coming in humility and meekness.
    The “great God” and “our Savior” are both predicated to the same Person, Jesus Christ.

    3. “And we know that the Son of God is come: and he hath given understanding that we may know the true God, and may be in his true
    Son. This is the true God and life eternal.” (1 John 5:20)

    Saint John’s two epistles and the introduction of the first chapter of his gospel (the last of his writings chronologically) were written to
    refute the incredulous gnostics who, thinking to honor Christ as a mere man, they dissolved Him of His divinity, thus meriting for
    themselves this severe condemnation from the beloved apostle: “And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus is not of God: and this is
    Antichrist …” (1 John 4:3)

    I’m thinkin’ it’s pretty clear that they DID believe He was God…

    And thanks for allowing us to quote scripture…seriously, someone up there actually complained that we were using scripture to explain the faith…go figure!

  121. Jahrta
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

    Hopelessness, eh? Is that what you felt when you yourself chose the atheist label? Why do I just get the feeling that all this time you were “mad at god?”

    I’m an atheist. I live a full life, and I pay my taxes. I obey the laws of the land and I help people in need. There is no despair here. There is no hopelessness, no ennui here. Would you feel better about yourself if I told you there was?

  122. Skeptimal
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

    “I know it makes for a better narrative, if you can paint atheists as the brave, but threatened, free thinkers in a sea of repression and oppression but it is faith in what just ain’t so.”

    Oh, please. I was responding to a speculation that non-theists can’t handle authority by pointing out that a higher percentage of those pursuing higher education are non-theists. And that the majority of professors are Christians, which has been proven out by the stats provided.

    Non-theists *are* in fact second-class citizens in the U.S., but I wouldn’t call us persecuted. It does rankle however when Christians claim to be mistreated in the U.S., where you can get away with anything as long as you do it in the name of a religion.

  123. Pikemann Urge
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    Frustrated, as Christianity evolved, certain beliefs took hold. Some Christians believed that Jesus was God but not the father (what eventually became orthodox belief) while some believed he was God the Father in the flesh. Depends whom you asked.

    I have no idea what the first Gospels said so we have to go by the ones we have. Some of the modifications to the texts were made to promote or solidify certain doctrines – we can see that plainly. Some of the letters in their entirety have doubtful provenance.

    Point: nothing wrong with your version of Christianity but it was the result of many decades of moulding and change. It’s changing even today, although not dramatically.

    All the verses you quoted, dare I say, quite obviously do not mean what you are suggesting. Except for John 20:28 which is the strongest contender of the lot. Thomas is either calling Jesus God or making a statement to express his amazement. Why he would think Jesus as God for being resurrected I have no idea.

  124. frustrated(mk)
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

    Pike,

    Are you saying that Thomas cried out “My Lord and My God” the way you or I would say “Good God, what is that?”…

    The man doubted. Jesus said touch my wounds. Thomas responded…”My LORD and My GOD”…how else could one possibly interpret this?

    You made the assertion that NOT all of the Apostles believed that Jesus was God. Please show me something to prove this…anything. Seriously, where are you getting the idea that ANY of the apostles doubted God’s divinity?

  125. Lily
    February 3rd, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    Pikeman, this is simply not so. This insistence that there are versions of Christianity is simply untrue. The creeds express the core beliefs. Any group or sect that does not accept the historic creeds is not Christian. It doesn’t make them bad people. They simply are not Christian people.

    You do know what the “first” Gospels said because virtually every essential is found in the rest of the New Testament. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is the earliest NT document and can be dated to 55 AD. That is within 20 or so years of the resurrection. Scholars agree that 1 Cor 15:3-8 is an early church creed. We know this from the style and from the words Paul uses– “received” and “delivered”, which are rabbinic terms for passing on sacred tradition. We know it’s an early creed from some of the wording – for example it uses Peter’s Aramaic name “Cephas” instead of his Greek name. Even skeptical scholars recognize these points.

    Paul says he delivered this tradition to the Corinthians prior to writing the letter, which puts it at least at his previous visit to Corinth, dated to around 51 A.D. He received it earlier than that, most likely either in Damascus or Jerusalem around 33 to 38 AD when he visited the Apostles after his conversion to see if he was teaching correct doctrine. So this tradition originated within a few months to a few years (no more than 5 years) after the Resurrection.

    Dating is a complex issue and I can’t do it justice here but there is a huge body of scholarly literature you can consult. If you like, I can offer you a brief bibliography of scholarly and popular sources.

    You keep alluding to us not having the earliest written sources. So what? I would love to have them but we don’t. How is this ultimately relevant? As a point of logical necessity, the authority of the Church precedes the authority of the Bible, since the books accepted into the canon were produced by Christians and validated by the Church. The Church has been pretty darned clear on what it believes and in interpreting what the Bible teaches.

    These are not guesses. There is a wealth of primary documentation that you can read. Not all of it has been translated, I don’t think, but you can read what men and the early church fathers wrote about their beliefs and see how they line up with your contention that the Gospels don’t teach that Jesus is God.

  126. Pikemann Urge
    February 4th, 2009 @ 4:21 am

    As much as these issues interest me I don’t want to prattle on. Maybe TRT will write about theological issues someday (not that he has to). I’ll try to be brief.

    Frustrated #124, if you think that verse shows that Thomas thought Jesus is God then that’s cool. I mean, it could mean exactly that. And ‘could’ is the problem I’m talking about. It could mean something quite benign, too.

    As for the Church’s authority, yes, no problem. It’s perfectly fine for a RC to say “the NT is a product of the Church, not a foundation of it.” It is not for me to quibble. But where did it get its authority from? Should I take its word for it? :-P

    Lily #125, I’m still in the process of figuring whether or not St. Paul actually knew of any Gospel traditions. There is a good case that he did not. The Gospels’ Jesus seems far removed from Paul’s Jesus. From a scholarly, academic standpoint, I have much to check and re-check before asserting that claim.

    If I may be allowed to indulge in pure subjectivity, it seems that the Gospels are pretty much fictional, based on the OT. And in Mark’s case, probably on Homer’s Odyssey as well.

    Interesting counter-point to your 2nd last paragraph: Marcion is the spiritual father of the NT. But Athanasius was the one who catalyzed the formation of the 27 book canon that we use today. Point: this happend over a few centuries. It took that long to decide on which books were canonical.

  127. frustrated(mk)
    February 4th, 2009 @ 7:13 am

    Pike,

    Point: this happend over a few centuries. It took that long to decide on which books were canonical.

    I would think that was a GOOD thing. I wouldn’t trust something that hadn’t been researched, poured over, discerned and studied…heck, you don’t trust it even though it took a couple of hundred years…imagine if they just accepted everything from day one…

  128. Pikemann Urge
    February 4th, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    I’m not quite sure how to express this, but it should have been the opposite. A spiritual book should be intellectually verified before allowing it to be canonical? Never trust committees with anything! ;-)

    I ask rhetorically where the Holy Spirit was all that time. Where was its guidance, where was its correction?

  129. UnspeakablyViolentJane
    February 4th, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

    PU, certainly empathy and community are appropriate, but prayer implies making a request of God, right?

  130. Greg Conquest
    February 9th, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

    The two or three posts I’ve seen here read like the stereotypical ex-smoker being the rudest guy/gal in telling other smokers to quit. The button collection is crass and insulting.

    If there are things atheists should hear, then please, speak up, but making fun of them isn’t going to get any atheists to open up to something new.

    This all appears to be a pile-on, with the former atheist relishing in finally being able to join in with the Christians in their bashing of current atheists. And many of you just cheer him on . . .

  131. frustrated(mk)
    February 9th, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

    I ask rhetorically where the Holy Spirit was all that time. Where was its guidance, where was its correction?

    Oh he was talking. It just took a while to understand what he was sayin’…the fault was ours. Not his… ;)

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