The Raving Theist

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Pray & Go

May 23, 2009 | 90 Comments

I’ve contributed a feisty new pro-life post to one of the world’s finest blogs. However, before you read it, please say a prayer for my friend Ashli McCall, who is still awaiting the biopsy results from her ultrasound on Thursday. To see the post, just confirm that you’ve prayed by clicking here. God bless you!

Comments

90 Responses to “Pray & Go”

  1. Pikemann Urge
    May 24th, 2009 @ 6:19 am

    Not big on theology are you? ;-) Not that you *have* to be of course.

  2. Ruth Leone
    May 24th, 2009 @ 8:13 am

    RT:

    I have been including Ashli in my morning offering and other prayers since you first posted about her.

    And my prayers on her behalf continue.

    Ruth

  3. Ferinannnd
    May 25th, 2009 @ 1:24 am

    Сенкс. Интересно, и вообще полезный у Вас блог

  4. K T Cat
    May 25th, 2009 @ 9:44 am

    Prayer said, comment left over there. All our best wishes and prayers to Ashli.

  5. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 25th, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

    I sincerely hope your friend gets better, RA. I am a cancer survivor myself and know full well the anxiety associated with scans, biopsies, x-rays, the empty words of a doctor…

    But geez, come off this ridiculous plea for prayer that you know full well DOES NOT WORK! I mean if it did, wouldn’t just one prayer from you do the trick? Why do have to solicit the prayers from strangers? Is this God more persuaded and impressed by a petition of prayers than just one?
    What if she doesn’t get better? What would that imply?

    Ah, wait; it is fail-safe, guaranteed, whichever way it goes: here are the standard party lines:

    1) God has a “plan” with this that we…
    2) Cannot comprehend because we are not capable to see God’s amazing (yet amazingly cruel) plan
    3) It is actually powerless on earth; we are left to our own devices
    4) If she doesn’t make it, it is because this God just want to have her with him in “heaven” because it loves her “so much” (hitting forehead with hand)

    You may have adopted this silly religion, but not even you could have given up so much reason and intelligence in one go. Pro-life is a noble cause you choose to pursue, you do not need to taint it with religion.

    It actually hurts me to see you in this way.
    Please snap out of it.

    Good luck (I mean it).

  6. Carla
    May 25th, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

    Thanks for the post! Praying for Ashli and her family.

  7. Pikemann Urge
    May 26th, 2009 @ 2:50 am

    I always think of that verse where Jesus tells us that God knows what we need, so we only require one, simple prayer. We don’t need to shout about it.

    Am I wrong in saying that prayer is more about listening to God rather than requesting of him?

  8. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 6:22 am

    I do not understand this process. At all.

    Why does this god not negate the whole praying / begging / asking / reminding process by engineering that this poor woman don’t get sick in the first place?

    Why then if he didn’t, or can’t, do you think that prayer will change this? Does it act like a reminder that he let it slip past his attention? Does prayer somehow enable or strengthen it to cure this woman? Does he measure her eligibility for help by the amount of support prayers she gets?

    Do any of you ever think of the illogical nature of your most basic premises? Or do you revert to the fail-safe options I listed above to soothe your rebellious reason? Either way, it is god’s winning way. Iron-clad defence against reason, logic and scepticism.

    Sheesh.

  9. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 6:31 am

    Pikeman Urge:

    How do you listen to this god? Voices in your head? How do you know this is not your own brain and intuition? This seem very primitive to attribute these things to gods. Have you eliminated all other possible reasons why you would be think or act in a certain way that is natural and not “planted” there by gods? Are you sure?

    Why do you need to pray to open a line to this god?

    All of you use language and concepts I cannot even comprehend. How would you explain it to me in language I can understand? Or even define yourself?

  10. Lily
    May 26th, 2009 @ 7:27 am

    Poor WURA! For someone who cannot comprehend our language and concepts, he sure is certain that we are illogical! In the usual order of things, one studies a problem first and only after it is understood does one draw conclusions. We don’t usually admit utter ignorance but then claim that the subject under discussion is all wrong or nonsense!

    Pikeman– you have nailed one very important aspect of prayer. But there is more. WURA– pay attention here– your failure to understand does not make our “premises” illogical. Drill down deeper with us!

    Jesus very clearly and unequivocally teaches us to pray for what we need. Ultimately our aim as Christians is to so conform our wills to God’s will, that what we desire is what He desires. In this we are to imitate Christ–”Not my will but thy will be done…” So, you are right, Pikeman– we listen to God and we also speak with him as we lay our thoughts and needs before him.

    Do our prayers affect the outcome of the situations we pray about? The scriptures teach us that they do. One writer I ran across wrote something on the subject that I found memorable: “Every prayer changes the entire universe. … God is not “waiting up there” for our prayer, and then He acts. All has already occurred in God.” Our lives are doled out to us in seemingly linear fashion. This is not true of a God big enough to create the universe.

    Beyond all that, prayer grounds us in reality. When trouble looms, an important client threatens to leave, a beloved parent becomes ill with cancer; prayer reminds us that God is there and cares. We do not bear sorrow alone.

    As far as Ashli specifically is concerned, there are a couple things going on. God already knows what the trouble is and how it will end, so why should we pray?

    We pray because intercessory prayer is another gift God gives us. He allows us to share his burden of care for the one who is troubled. We offer what tangible help we can. Maybe all we can do is assure the afflicted one that we care. Or offer a listening ear and a kindly word. But those small acts of love are gifts from God, too. He so often works directly through us! He allows us the joy of sharing in a good outcome and he allows us to help bear the burden of sorrow when the outcome is not the one we wanted.

    All of this is opaque to the atheist, of course. Since WURA admits he knows nothing about this “process” (process! Ye gods!) at all, why, I wonder, does he think it is illogical? The claim that our premises are illogical is one that those without understanding frequently make but rarely try to back up. Of course, it is hard to back up but I don’t think those making the claim always realize that. Rather, I think “illogical” stands for “I don’t have a clue so you must be equally ignorant”.

  11. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    Lily, you are being ridiculous and incomprehensible on so many levels, I do not even know where to start.

    My posts are in response to the inane things being said here as if their veracity is assumed. It doesn’t take any sort of “deep knowledge” to dismiss this as pure infantile rubbish.

    How do I study god/s? What does it look like? Where does it live? What is it made of? What is its form? How does it communicate? How does it “will things”? What are the mechanics of prayer? Why does it communicate with some and not others? How do I trust the writings on this thing? Who wrote it? Where did they get this knowledge from?

    You agree with Pikeman about prayer, which implies RT doesn’t know this principle, as he is garnering prayer support on the internet. Is he still a junior? Do you all differ in opinions about how this works? What do you agree upon? By “you” I mean all theists?

    You quote this man / god / thing Jesus as if you have proof of its existence as well as what he may / may not have said. Where is it now? How do you know? (And for fuck sakes – don’t give me the party line about “historians” and “scholars”, ok? You should know better.)

    Why do you have to pray when in need? Why not solve it yourself? Why not apply your own mind?
    Why have you given up your own will? For what benefit? Why do you have to align it and trust another being? Is it superior to you? Why and how? How do you know the bible is true? At all? (And for fuck sakes, don’t give me that “historian or scholar” crap) How do you know what your gods desire? How does it know your desires? Doesn’t yours count? Why do you respect some other being’s will? Doesn’t it already know your needs and desires? Why then prayer?

    Your prayers do not affect outcomes. This has been proven, even under controlled experiments. How do you know those scriptures are true? How do you know for sure? The quote you find memorable is vacuous, untrue and pure theological mumbo-jumbo. How can one make a statement like that? You are being ridiculous. There is so much bullshit here – how do you even live with yourself?
    How do you know your god “created” this universe? How do you know it is “created”?

    And then the rest of your post is just blah, blah, blah. Pure drivel…don’t have the energy…

    Lily, if you claim there is an invisible green leprechaun sitting on your head, am I being illogical to dismiss this as ridiculous? Do I really need to study this claim? You are so close to your theological beliefs you have seemingly lost your sense of what is logical and reasonable to people not infected by your ridiculous beliefs.
    Ok, sunshine let us assume my ignorance (“I don’t have a clue”) – I will be happy to acknowledge it. So answer my questions in language I can even comprehend, or back up some of the fantastic claims you make right through your post. Of course you are likely to take the easy way out and suggest I study and search for knowledge elsewhere. This is simply an endless vicious circle of incomprehensible theological nonsense.

    Good golly.

  12. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 8:51 am

    So if you pray this woman will be fine and live, and I pray that she gets sick and dies – how does this work?
    Who decides? Whose prayer will come true? If she lives, I am wrong and prayer doesn’t work. If she dies, prayer still doesn’t work.

    If “something” decides these things, why pray in the first place?

    Wow.

  13. Andy
    May 26th, 2009 @ 9:23 am

    Time to work on those reading comprehension skills, WURA. Lily answered that very question already.

  14. Lily
    May 26th, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    WURA, I learned a long time ago that arguing with people who know it all is a waste of time. You have made up your mind and that is that.

    If you ever get to the place where you can pose those questions with a real desire to hear and consider the responses you get, let me know and we will consider the subject then. I am not one to spit in the wind.

  15. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    Bravo Andy, you got it. I do not comprehend HALF the language used by theists. Maybe you can help me. Spirits? Prayer? Heaven? Hell? Miracles? Angels? Talking snakes? Want me to list them?

  16. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    Lily, are you blind? Did you see all the questions I have asked? Would I ask them if I “know it all”? Atheists by default have NOT made up their minds about anything. Do you even know what an atheist is?

    What “place” am I suppose to arrive at? An asylum? A kindergarten? How will I change understand this sort of language? Will I feel somehting?
    Why do you talk about “we”? Who do you represent? Is this your blog? How do you represent the opinion of all? Do you even know the answers to the questions I have asked? How do you know they are true?

  17. Lily
    May 26th, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    WURA: You are in the wrong place. I think you want the Ravingatheists forum. There, bad manners, the assumption of superiority (moral and intellectual), lack of intellectual curiosity, and contempt for people you don’t understand are not merely acceptable but demanded.

    Of course, it is a virtual certainty that you are already a member there posting here under a different name. Or maybe it is simply that all unthinking belligerent atheists sound alike. Whatever the case may be, we have heard it all before. What else have you got?

  18. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 10:23 am

    Really? Let me see: the url is ravingatheist.com? Is this an exclusive blog? Am I not free to post here? For whatever motive?
    I do not post on ravingatheist.com, even though this website is maintained by the same person and server.

    Assumption of superiority? Are you insane? “Poor WURA! For someone who cannot comprehend our language and concepts, he sure is certain that we are illogical!” and “All of this is opaque to the atheist, of course.”Rather, I think “illogical” stands for “I don’t have a clue so you must be equally ignorant”. Do you even think before you type?
    The essence of your creed is that you think you are special enough that some powerful being out there have your special unique interests at heart. Goodness, you practically define the idiom “calling the kettle black” on the superiority score! The fact that you can’t even recognise this is fascinating in itself.

    Funny thing is, atheists have also “all heard it before”. That is nothing but total avoidance of answering questions. Classic. If you have “heard it before”, how about answering it for a change? Or start by thinking about it to start.
    Who is this “we” you represent?

    Is this really the best you can do as last line of defence to avoid uncomfortable questions?

    That wasn’t very hard.

  19. Lily
    May 26th, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    I am always right. It is a burden but what can I do?

    You are an old poster posting here under a new name. You just haven’t kept up with things. This blog and the forum separated what 2? 3? years ago? Can’t remember exactly but it is only of historic interest. It isn’t all that relevant.

    The essence of your creed is that you think you are special enough that some powerful being out there have your special unique interests at heart.

    What more is there to say? You have it all figured out, so go forth and rejoice!

  20. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 11:05 am

    I HAVE NOT FIGURED IT ALL OUT YOU THAT IS WHY I ASK QUESTIONS.
    Please confirm if you can actually see and read the above line. Please confirm that you can comprehend it too.

    You clearly have no idea what an atheist is.

    Actually, Lily, if you are not too obtuse you will recognize the stupendous irony and distillation of theism right there:

    “What more is there to say? You have it all figured out, so go forth and rejoice!”

    That is a LOL moment.

  21. Lily
    May 26th, 2009 @ 11:44 am

    I guess I am going to have to spell it out for you. You are hurling rude and downright abusive “questions”. If you want a response from me (or anyone else), I suggest you adopt a more civil tone. It wouldn’t hurt to frame your questions in a way that hints that you are actually interested in an answer and not an excuse for an argument.

    Beyond that I am unhappy that you have hijacked, unfortunately with my help, a thread intended to encourage and support Ashli in her time of crisis. I am really not pleased with you. You can be very grateful that I am not God.

    So here’s the deal. Either you *quickly* adopt a civil tone and find a way to ask your questions in a non abusive way or you can talk to yourself. You will get no further response from me. I can’t speak for anyone else but I am going to hazard a guess that you haven’t exactly persuaded anyone that discussing anything with you will be a pleasant or rewarding experience.

  22. Wake up, raving lily
    May 26th, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

    No sweetie. This is not a forum. It is a blog. It is public and free. If anybody makes any ridiculous comments and statements here, I will question it. I have noticed that you have “hijacked” a thread here that led to 298 comments. Are you in the habit of pointing accusations while being perfectly guilty of it yourself? “You can be grateful you are not God” Are you serious? Do you even realise what this reveal about you and your god?
    So is this now a pro-life site? Or an Ashli support site? What is it? What are you doing here? Are there restrictions and rules to post here? Where is it?

    Do you really think that the spectacular stupidity and arrogance you have exhibited in these posts have developed any desire from me to hear YOUR answers? How much currency do you think your answers will have with me? Or anyone for that matter.

    No Lily. You are not avoiding my questions due to my tone. It started well until you arrived. You are avoiding my answers because I do not think you know the answers. I think it pains and embarrass Christians to try to answer these questions (or even think about them) because it assaults even their faculties of reason (the bit that is left).

    I would love to hear some answers to my questions. I did not mean to offend anybody else here, but as Lily may have learnt, you will get it back with interest if you answer in HER tone and manner. All I ask is language I can understand. This means you need to define words and concepts. And prove what you claim.

    Cue to Lily, even though she is “ignoring me”:

  23. JoAnna
    May 26th, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

    Continued prayers, Ashli!

    Great post at TDP, TRT.

    Wake up raving _____:

    If a close friend/relative were to call you up and say, “I have leukemia,” (for example), what would your response be? (I have a point, I promise.)

  24. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

    JoAnna:

    I would probably say how deeply sorry I am, and share with them my experiences with cancer, and what to possibly expect. Because I understand what it is to fight that battle. And I would support them in every way possible, because I was there.

    Of course, I would NOT tell them that I would pray for them; I have seen firsthand how this doesn’t work. It creates false hope and anger. If you could only see the tears and sorrow and unbelievable pain I have witnessed, especially in the children’s hall (which was located next to ours).

    You pretty much make up your mind about god(s) when you are faced with a 12-year old who is going to lose a limb the next day in surgery due to osteocarcoma.
    You pretty much make up your mind about god(s) when they insert a 3-inch intravenous drip into a child of 3 years old with cancer for her chemo.
    You pretty much make up your mind about god(s) and praying when you hear those screams.
    You pretty much make up your mind about god(s) when you witness the facial deformity of a facial tumour in the face of 14 year girl, who just wanted to be like any other normal kid.
    You pretty much make up your mind about god(s) and prayer when you are puking for 8 hours straight after a “live” intravenous theatre dose of sysplatinum.

    Now, about that point…?

  25. Pikemann Urge
    May 26th, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

    Hey, WURA, you’ve certainly unleashed a WURA-wind of posts! ::ka-boom, tssss:: You probably got the impression that I am religious. This isn’t the case. If there is a God (and IMHO there is) it is not a caricature such as Yahweh but a vibe like The Force.

    That is my opinion, based on the best information that I have available to me up until time of writing this post. It’s based on knowledge, my experiences and the experiences of others. You are more than welcome to add to this pool of information.

    To answer JoAnna’s question, I’d read up on leukemia and figure out which type of treatment is the best ‘value’. Although I suspect that many persons with such a disease would not have the energy to demand their preferred treatment. And I’d want that person to get better.

  26. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 26th, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

    Sure thing Pikeman. I hear you.
    When I was a ‘Christian’ (and slowly losing faith in Yahweh and his boy) I also thought that if there IS a god the best description would in fact be some sort of benevolent extra-terrestial intelligence. That is reasonable. In fact I HOPE to this day there would be exactly such a being.

    But NOT the Old Testament version, PLEEZE!
    LOL.

  27. Melissa
    May 26th, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

    Still praying, RT. It’s like the poster we had in the prayer room which said that prayer isn’t about informing God, but engaging God.

    I have seen lots of answered prayers in my life – some right before my very eyes. Just this past Sunday, me and two sisters were praying over another sister in the Lord. One of the ladies knew what was going on in her life, but I did not. Yet, God put words in my mouth to speak over her that they both confirmed were specifically for her and what she was going through. I can’t read minds. The things I told her were only things God could have told me first. It’s things like this that always give me confidence in the power of prayer and the power of God! Ashli is in good hands!!! :) OXOXO

  28. Pikemann Urge
    May 27th, 2009 @ 5:43 am

    Assuming that Melissa’s experience is accurately conveyed, it seems that God doesn’t discriminate. I know some Christians who have had some great spiritual experiences; and I know some non-Christians who have had them also.

    This simply helps to confirm the mystical view of God. If you feel you need the religion, fine by him. You may be better off without hit but why should he interfere? Your choices and lessons are yours.

    When you say ‘X religion is the truth,’ you harm yourself, not God. God can wish you to progress, but he won’t – or can’t – stop you from falling. Only you can do that.

    WURA, that’s interesting about the ETs. Not my cup of tea though, but hey, who knows!

  29. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 27th, 2009 @ 6:31 am

    Well, Pikeman, if you have to be technical about it if “god” exists it doesn’t appear to “live” here, hence “extraterrestrial”. I guess the intelligence part is open to debate, but let’s assume that part then ; hence “extraterrestrial intelligence”.

    I agree; maybe a bit left-field; that was 20 years ago and my way in an effort to shoehorn this thing into believability.

    I like the way you write things Pikeman: “assuming Melissa’s experience is accurately conveyed”. Very refreshing from a theist indeed.

    I could write several pages in response to Melissa’s experience – but I get her honest, good intention. That is what matters I guess.
    But this of course fills me with even more chilling horror at the extent of how the biggest fraud ever commited by mankind over centuries have infected innocent, well-intended people like Melissa.

  30. JoAnna
    May 27th, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

    WURA: why would you tell that person you were sorry? What good would that do?

  31. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 27th, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

    Telling her that I am sorry would convey and imply to that person a genuine sense of empathy and understanding. These are not empty words; I mean it. It means that I feel sad for her because I have witnessed and experienced the pain, suffering, loneliness and uncertainty of that road, and she would have to walk that road. More than that: I would do small things for her to make her battle easier: a nice bunch of expensive magazines to keep her busy during the three hour chemo-drips, a small portable TV, etc.

    JoAnna, you may be trying to make your point by using an example which has been too close and personal to me. Maybe it is best you just come out and tell me. I will genuinely try to see your point.

  32. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 9:46 am

    WURA,

    It seems to me that if you truly “used” to be Christian as you claim, then you already know all of the answers to the questions you put to Lily. You just don’t accept them. Which is a different thing.

    If you aren’t really a former Christian, then why the charade?

    As for knowing what an atheist is, I do. Do you? An atheist HAS indeed made up his mind. He has made up his mind that God DOES NOT exist. (Caps are for emphasis, I’m not yelling). Perhaps you mean agnostic?

    And finally, I’d be happy to take your questions one by one if you would pose them that way. As it is your “questions” are muddled up with “accusations” and the tone of your posts is both insulting and condescending to those of us that DO believe. No one here has, or would, insinuate that you are mentally unhinged for NOT believing, and yet you feel no compunction implying that we are certifiable.

    It doesn’t feel good to be attacked, directly or indirectly, yet that is how I feel after reading your posts. Truly, you can see how your contempt shines through? I wouldn’t pet a dog that was growling at me.

    If you’d like to start fresh, and ask your questions one or two at a time, I’d be thrilled to engage. ?

  33. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 9:56 am

    To answer just a few of your points…

    No, all theists do not believe alike. All Christians do not believe alike.

    As far as I know, the Catholic Church is the only Christian Church (and here I include all the Catholic Rites as well as the Ortholdox) that hold to a firm set of rules. Doctrines. Dogma.

    One of the things we teach is that there is indeed a price to pay to offset suffering. Suffering is caused by sin. Sin must be paid for. It’s called reparation. St. Monica had to pray for St. Augustine for years. Who knows what the magic number of prayers was. All we know is that God finally said, enough reparation has been made, and I will soften Augustines heart. I myself have been praying for three years now for a set of people that I met on the internet. Some of them have changed. Some have not. Obviously, more reparation is needed for some than for others.

    I don’t believe that protestants see it the same way.

    As for listening verses asking…prayer is communing with God. There are MANY different types of prayer. Sacrificial prayer, The Mass, conversational prayer, acts of mercy, song, scripture, silence…there is no one way of praying. Just as there is no “one” way of having a conversation with a friend. Sometimes you confide in her, sometimes you make new memories, sometimes you rehash old ones. Sometimes you go to a movie together, sometimes you talk, sometimes you listen while she talks. Sometimes you just sit and be. None is better than the other.

    Right now, RT is asking for prayers of petition. He is asking us to storm heaven with our requests. Perhaps it will be enough, perhaps it will not.

    But IF the prayer is answered negatively (and that is STILL an answer), then we do not blame God. We blame ourselves. It is OUR sin, not His, that caused the suffering to begin with. Do you blame the jailer for the inmates crime?

  34. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 10:13 am

    As for Ashli. Be Not Afraid. If prayer counts for anything, (and of course it does) you my dear friend, are loaded!

    I haven’t checked to see if there were any new posts in a very long time. Just kept going straight to “You’ve got to be Jokin”. Imagine my surprise when I saw all of this…

    How beautiful that RT came out of hiding to ask for help. If anyone doubted his conversion before, rest assured it is as real as my own.

    Ashli, You are not alone. You have the entire Christian Family, all of heaven and the communion of Saints on the case. God will have a hard time sayin’ “no” to ALL of us… ;)

    As someone said earlier, (Melissa I think), just lie back, rest in His arms and know that “We’ve got your back”.

  35. Carla
    May 28th, 2009 @ 11:02 am

    I am in awe of Ashli’s grace and strength in this trial. I have watched many a believer suffer with a calm dignity and unshakable trust that only comes from Him.

    Looking forward to more updates…

    HI MK!! :)

  36. Lily
    May 28th, 2009 @ 11:29 am

    MK, where on earth have you been?? I almost sent you a message over at the other blog to drive you out of hibernation.

    On topic: I must say that I am really anxious for fresh news about Ashli. I hope RT has news he can share with us soon!

  37. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

    Hey Carla!

    Hey Lily,
    I didn’t realize that RA had posted again! Duh. I have the other thread bookmarked and just kept going to it. Wura reminds me of someone from a few months ago, tho I won’t mention any names. How about you? Does she sound familiar?

  38. Margaret Catherine
    May 28th, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    “Someone from a few months ago” was a Christian of some stripe, or at least claimed to be. But I’ve missed hearing “sweetie” used as a term of condescension.

  39. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

    MC,

    Lol…

  40. Wake up...oh never mind
    May 28th, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

    Nope, MK, you have it exactly the wrong way around. I used to accept these words (and their alleged meaning) without really knowing what they mean. Ironically it is a case of “once I was blind and now I can see”.

    So, before we can progress I need to understand the words you use: God, Sin, Prayer, Mercy, etc. None of your arguments make any sense at all without you and I share an understanding of the words you use. I guess a coherent description of a god would be a good start. To me, religious language is unverifiable and hence factually meaningless when it is used in a sophisticated and nonanthropomorphic way. This is why these dialogues are near-impossible. I am not just being passively obstinate here.

    And NO, on the second count about what you think what an atheist is. This is a regular error. For the benefit of the three regular posters here (excluding Lily who is thankfully ignoring this post), here is, once and for all, (hopefully), a full description of what an atheist is. Now you have no excuse for making this error again: (With thanks to my good friend Cliff Walker).

    The definition for atheism that we use, put simply, says that atheism is the lack of a god-belief, the absence of theism, to whatever degree and for whatever reason. The one thing that all atheists have in common, according to this definition, is that they are not theists. One either believes one or more of the various claims for the existence of a god or gods (is a theist) or one does not believe any of those claims (is an atheist). Though we do not recognize any “middle ground,” we do acknowledge the agnostic position, which spans both theism and atheism: a theistic agnostic thinks one or more gods exist but can say no more on the subject than this (is a theist); an atheistic agnostic doesn’t know if any gods exist (lacks a god belief, and is thus an atheist). Noncognitivists think all god-talk is meaningless, and thus lack any god beliefs (are atheists).

    Atheism does not single out any particular god. If you think that is so then you know exactly what it is to be an atheist in regard to Zeus, Vishnu, Allah, Brama, Juju or Quetzalcoatl. To the followers of these religions and gods you are the atheists.

    This, our working definition for the meaning of the words atheism and atheist, is known as the weak definition for the word atheism.
    To assume that atheism involves more than the absence of theism is an error. Atheists are not necessarily Communists (though some are). Atheists are not necessarily immoral or “wicked” (though some are), and more importantly for this blog, atheists are not necessarily pro-choice (though some or most are). Atheists do not necessarily assert that “no gods exist” (though some do). Atheism is but one component of an atheist’s larger philosophical outlook and can influence that outlook, but atheism is never itself that primary outlook.

    Some atheists simply lack belief (or even awareness) while others have carefully considered the various claims and have either found them unconvincing or have flat-out rejected them as pure falsehood. Even if a person has never heard someone claim that a god or gods exist, that person lacks theism and is therefore, technically, an atheist. Here we include babies and possibly some mentally retarded individuals.

    Nevertheless, most atheists would convert to theism if presented with a convincing argument, be they people who have yet to encounter claims for the existence of gods, or be they people who have honestly and carefully considered and rejected those claims that they have encountered.

    One very important feature of the atheistic position is the fact that we are dealing entirely with claims — claims that various deities exist. In discussing claims, it is always the person making the claim who is responsible for providing evidence and strong argument. The person listening to the claim need not make any argument at all. And the listener does not need to disprove a claim in order to reject it. If the person making the claim fails to make a convincing case, the listener rightly rejects the claim as falsehood (or suspends judgment, based upon the strength of the claim). In either event, the listener ends up lacking a belief in the object of the claim. While the world’s atheists have assembled a vast and powerful arsenal of anti-theistic arguments, it is never the atheist’s responsibility to prove or disprove anything. That job belongs to the person making the claim, which, in this discussion, is the theist.

    So, uderstand, in conclusion, that an atheist has NOT made its mind. Similar to us demanding proof for the existence of gods, we can technically offer none to prove the opposite (even though that is not how things work, do they?). Similarly I can plead noncognitivism and simply say that if I cannot even comprehend your god-concept, how have I made up my mind?

  41. Lily
    May 28th, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

    LOL! What a comedienne! Yeah, WURA is an old friend and clearly has a beef with me personally, since her/his reaction to my post can only otherwise be explained by some serious personality disorder. I know exactly whom you are thinking of but I don’t think so. That person was *never* nice to anyone (at least, not as I recall). WURA or WHRL (pronounced whirl, of course) actually responded to JoAnna appropriately. (In fact, I wondered if it was a different person!)However, I could be wrong, as I so often am …

  42. Lily
    May 28th, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

    On the other hand, I am not sure how to pronounce WUONM.

  43. Wake up...oh never mind
    May 28th, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    Lily,

    - I am not female. I am a 39 year-old male. Wrong count 1.
    - I have never encountered you before. I have read your previous posts. That was enough to make up my mind about you. So, wrong cunt 2.
    - I have no “beef” with you. That is your business I have no knowledge of or care for that matter. Wrong count 3.
    - I have no personality disorder. You have no knowledge of me and neither are you qualified to make such an assertion. Wrong count 4
    - Yes, you are wrong about most of the things you post.

    Now, please leave me alone with a grown up discussion with others here.

  44. Wake up...oh never mind
    May 28th, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

    My apologies to the other posters here for the above post. Clearly it just needed to be dealt with and got out of the way with.

    JoAnna, I hope you are around, I would like to hear from you,

  45. Lily
    May 28th, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

    I think if we pronounce WUONM with a german accent we are likely to get close to the appropriate “venom”.

    No, there is no personality disorder involved in an anonymous poster coming onto a Christian site dripping contempt and vulgarity, while demanding that I define all the terms I used in a post that had nothing to do with him and answer all the “questions” he cared to pose. It is amusing that you assume that I could be bothered to read a lengthy, badly written screed closely, much less answer it.

    Dear Venom– you really do lack reading, as well as, social skills. In your zeal to insult, you have made a number of amusing blunders.

    1. I assumed you were a male. Women are not usually as vicious and combative for no good reason. “Comedienne” was aimed at MK to whom I was replying.

    2. You *have* encountered me before by your own admission– I just have never encountered you (why could it not have stayed that way, O Great Flying Pink Spaghetti Unicorn???)!

    3. You obviously have a beef with me. Otherwise you would not have come out swinging (and missing– but props for trying, I guess.)

    4. I am perfectly qualified to assert that you have poor social skills. It is a kindness to attribute them to mental illness, as that is beyond your control.

    Rather than apologizing to the board after the fact, why didn’t you put a sock in it to begin with? You have disrupted and spoiled a thread that had an entirely different purpose. What is amusing (not), is that RT might very well have opened a thread for the discussion you claim you want, if asked. You could also have reopened an earlier thread. There was simply no need to ruin this one for whatever cheap thrill it gave you to hiss in my direction.

  46. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

    WU,

    Could you please explain this line…

    This, our working definition for the meaning of the words atheism and atheist, is known as the weak definition for the word atheism.

    Is that a typo, or are you admitting that this is a less acceptable, hence weaker, definition of atheism?

    I do not, and have never accused an atheist of being pro choice, immoral, or communist. All I have claimed is that you do not believe that God exists. That is an assertion an your part.

    You say that I cannot prove there is a God. You say the burden of proof lies on me. Why? Why should I have to prove anything? Seriously. I believe something. You don’t. I don’t need to prove what I believe. The world won’t blow up if I don’t. You won’t get struck by lightening.

    And what do you mean by prove? Do you mean show you a picture? Get Him on the cell phone? Are you making the mistake of thinking that “proof” means evidence that can be assessed through the five senses? Because there are MANY things that cannot be proven using the senses and yet we accept them.

    Can you prove love? Beauty? Truth? Honor? Can you prove Mozart was a great composer? Can you prove Michaelangelo was a great painter? Can you prove that you love someone?

    For that matter, can you prove that you’re definition of an atheist is correct? Can you prove that you are in fact an atheist?

  47. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 28th, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    MK,

    “Strong” and “weak” are philosophical terms. Basically, a strong statement will follow through to a conclusion and make an assertion, whereas a weak statement will fall short of asserting a conclusion and will stick to describing what is not the case.

    Therefore, “strong” atheism is the belief that the statements “A deity exists” and “Deities exist” are false statements, while “weak” atheism is the simple absence of a god belief for whatever reason (including having never heard a god claim). The “strong” atheist has examined at least one god claim and has concluded that the god idea is nonsensical, the god idea is impossible, or the god claims are delusions or outright lies. The “weak” atheist may or may not take it that far, and may or may not have even heard a god claim, but lacks a belief in gods nonetheless.

    MK, you are taking my generalized description of what an atheist is too personal. I was merely clearing up some popular misconceptions. For example, the one you make that “I do not believe God exists”. This is simply not true, and it is not just semantics. I hope you see this, otherwise I can explain – hopefully remove another misconception.

    MK, again, you take my description too personally about having to prove anything. Since you bring it up, and you and I are having this conversation (hopefully to learn from each other), why do you believe? Surely you don’t simply believe any fantastic story that come your way? Why do you disbelieve other god claims of the other 5000 or gods we as humans have fabricated over time? How do you reject a story of fairies, zombies, unicorns and vampires?

    If you ask me if I believe in stuff the answer is yes. Do I believe in love – yes – I have seen it, I can detect it, I have experienced. Do I believe in the compassion of human beings? Yes, I have seen it in action, and seen the effects of it. Etcetera. Yes, we can prove that these things exist, if not, we can detect their effects. Prove “truth”, etc? Are you being mystical or rhetoric here? Do you genuinely think these cannot be proven or detected?
    But none of this requires any acceptance or belief in the supernatural (I knew the discussion was going to go here). So maybe I am curious why or how did you come to believe the fantastical things about this religion. I am trying to understand how Christians think (if they do – this is not meant in the way you think).
    This difference is that you use the word “believe” – that is quite uncommon. Usually Christians use “know” or “truth”.

    We do not accept things that cannot be detected. This is simply untrue.

    What would I require as proof? The bar I have set over time for proof is actually quite low. What about any sort of evidence (whatsoever) of the existence of the supernatural? That prayer actually works? That people who are Christians suffer less misfortune? I can give you a number of possibilities that could be put forth as proof. I don’t think this is going to go anywhere – sorry if I am rambling. I am going to stop at this juncture as it is probably fair that I give you some insight into a process I followed to arrive at this point.

    I live in Europe, I am lucky to be totally financially independent and have two post-graduate qualifications admittedly not in theology or related fields. However, in preparation for my masters degree it was required to do something called “research methodology” – basically a full year course to prepare you to do proper research, language for clarity etc, etc. My side-interest has always been history and religion (don’t worry I am not THAT boring – this is alongside fishing, sailing and sports cars!). I decided to take a sabbatical to truly, for the first time in my life, undertake a mission if you will, to find evidence that the Bible story is in fact true. I also did this to find an answer due to my experience with cancer and seeing the suffering of others earlier in my life. This has required quite a few years, travels to the middle Near East and “Holy Land”, Germany, Italy, etc. I was lucky enough to get access to historians, interpreters, academics and archaeologists, even some rabbi’s! (Sorry this is a long story); but in essence I undertook this mission to understand the origin and veracity of this story – I started (please note) this journey as Christian. (It was also important to study religious developments in the same time-line in surrounding countries). History, language, ethnology, mythologies, archaeology all adds up to tell a story. As you can imagine – a massive undertaking. Which is why I get a bit hot under the collar when Christian apologists make claims about “historians” and “scholars”. (But that is another story. )

    MK, you shall not believe what I have found, again and again and again. My discoveries gave me cold chills, and on more than one occasion in exhausting emotional tears.
    This is a fraud committed and perpetuated on a massive, gigantic scale. It is literally a crime against humanity. I made peace with the fact that this was probably not done in a negative intention at the time (as I portray it), and I doubt if even those responsible for the development of this religion over centuries was aware that this religion would survive as long as it did. As a Christian, it was devastating to find that most of the things we were told and read and believed, are simply not so. It required massive effort, time and funds to do this, which is frustrating as few Christians will ever be able to find this truth. It is also a near impossible task to share, and hence, this religion stays iron-clad safe.

    I came here to find if raving atheist is still around. As it turns out he has converted. I know he was involved in the making of a movie about this very issue, so he was most certainly one of the more informed atheists. So I wanted to know why – maybe I have overlooked something – maybe there is hope – maybe he can share an angle I have not considered. This is why I am trying to find out why YOU believe – how and why. Why I challenge. Why I ask hard questions. Something I can grasp. Something that is “new” to me. Hopefully, I can get people to ask those questions themselves. Of course, you can also simply claim noncognitivism and say “I believe because I believe” – then I will not learn anything from you.
    I know I did not answer your points properly – and I probably didn’t make a real point here. But at least you can understand my presence. My initial entry here was not the most diplomatic, I am normally used to the typical sort of tone from Christians I got from poster Lily. I can see there are some decent folks here, so my apology to you.

    PS: Sorry for my language in some places, English is not my first language, and it is quite late here!

  48. JoAnna
    May 28th, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    WURA (hope you don’t mind if I stick with that; easier to type via iPhone!):

    Okay, so you’d tell your friend you were sorry about her cancer because you want to convey empathy and compassion. How is this different from telling a fellow Christian, “I’ll pray for you”? For Christians (at least, in my experience) those four words convey tremendous empathy and compassion.

    Apologies if I’m misunderstanding you, but your subsequent paragraph seemed to imply that Christians would not, in addition to prayer, also perform acts of charity for the ill person. It’s not either/or, however. Most Christians I know wouldn’t dream of merely offering prayer and then just throwing up their hands and saying, “Well, nothing more I can do!” On the contrary, they would BOTH pray AND perform acts of charity for the ill person.

    I experienced this over the weekend. My MIL was admitted to the hospital, and her prayer group was wonderful. In addition to prayers, they offered help in any way they could; one of her friends, for example, brought her a glass of her favorite iced tea to cheer her up. (MIL is fine and out of the hospital now, btw.)

    If I knew where Ashli lived, I’d be more than happy to offer physical help (assuming I lived nearby). Since offering physical help is beyond my capability, I instead choose to offer her empathy and compassion as expressed through my intention to offer continual prayers on her behalf.

  49. wake up, raving atheist
    May 28th, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

    JoAnna,

    I get your point. As a way of showing support.

    I have a problem that it implies that it will produce any effect whatsoever, see? That is false and irresponsible – there is no way for you to know that it will work or that “something” is listening.
    But nonetheless this myth gets perpetuated because if the patient live or die, it is all good to Christians, it is “God’s will”. Surely you MUST see how illogical this is.

    There was a wonderful Anglican priest who came to visit me regularly in hospital. I appreciated his compassion and care as a human being. I didn’t care much for the empty prayers and “God is looking out for me”. Especially not after witnessing what I did. You simply cannot reconcile the things I have seen in my life with any concept of any caring god. But I appreciated him, another human being. A real one.

  50. JoAnna
    May 28th, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

    WU,

    I don’t see it as illogical at all, because God can bring tremendous good out of a bad situation.

    An example from my own life: I had my first miscarriage in 2006. I was heartbroken. I prayed to God, asking Him to perform a miracle and save my baby. Didn’t happen. What DID happen is that I became pregnant with my son six months later, and he is an amazing, incredible little boy.

    Ashli’s story itself is another example. Her hyperemesis and subsequent abortion were very bad situations, but because of those experiences Ashli has helped countless women in that situation, through her books and her personal work.

    The primary end of prayer is not necessarily to obtain a certain end, but rather to bring us out of our inherent spheres of self-centeredness. Praying for others means we’re worrying less about our own problems and focusing more on loving our neighbor. It also brings us closer to God.

    I pray for certain intentions, but am always mindful of “Not my will, but Yours.” I recognize that God may allow evil to bring about greater good.

  51. MK
    May 28th, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

    WURA,

    Okay. I see where you are coming from. This conversation didn’t really start off on good footing, so I’m willing to begin again, if you are.

    But may I make a suggestion. I don’t know how many of my posts you have read, but I have said before that I have never been to college. I lack the “skills” necessary to debate in the correct “language”. I can certainly understand the concepts, if you use laymans terms.

    Since English isn’t your first language (tho I never would have known), I’m sure you understand how I feel.

    So I suggest that rather than go over and over the same old arguments (Which is why Lily comes across as so impatient…after years of hearing the same arguments, it feels like you are constantly climbing the same hill over and over and over…never reaching the top…it can get to you after awhile. I myself felt a little overwhelmed by a couple of your posts) we instead, start with what you have learned. Tell us something that you “found” out in your journey and let’s see where that leads us.

    As for the difference between our understanding of the word atheist, I still think it’s semantics. I understand that you do not believe that there IS a God, and not that you believe that there ISN’T a God. What confuses me is how strongly you object to OUR believing that there IS a God. None of the positions have “proof” that is empirical. All of them rely on our own reasoning.

    I can and have pointed to Eucharistic miracles, and a number of apparitions, which while lacking proof of a specific God, certainly point to something out of the ordinary…

    Would that be what you mean by evidence of the supernatural?

  52. Wake up, raving atheist
    May 28th, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

    JoAnna,

    It doesn’t make sense. If there is a God, and it cares for you, why the miscarriage? Why not prevent it? Why not prevent your heartbreak? Is it not in control of such things? Does he really have to use death and such cruelty to “teach you a lesson” of some sort? To make your son possible?
    So, you got pregnant again. This is natural. I don’t understand. You had a miscarriage and you tried again, you had a son. If the first one didn’t fail, your son wouldn’t have existed today. I don’t see the influence of a God here. At all. Where?

    Yes, great – Ashli has helped others. This is a human thing to do. If it didn’t happen to her, she wouldn’t have done it. It happened to her as a random event. Do you not see that if god devise these cruel events as intruments for others to benefit makes him a monster of no equal. We get sick. We die or get healthy randomly. Why do you think there is a god behind it all; controlling it? Making it happen or making it not happen? Surely it is more reasonable to ascribe it to pure random events. Everything you perceive as “planned” or “miracle” is likely pure chance. You get it?

    How does it bring you “closer to God”? Why is he far away? Where is that? Why have you given up your free will for something else that may very well not exist? Can you see how awful it is?

    What would you do if you find out that there is no such thing (ever) such as the god you believe in? That the Jesus you think really existed they way you think didn’t at all?
    Have you checked the facts that suppport your belief? Why do you believe, at all? Have you ever critically examined the things you read or others tell you? Do you ever….doubt?

  53. JoAnna
    May 28th, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

    testing…

  54. JoAnna
    May 28th, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

    I’ll have to break this up into several parts because I keep getting an error when I try to post the whole thing…

    Gee, WU, why don’t you ask me some tough questions? ;)

    It doesn’t make sense. If there is a God, and it cares for you, why the miscarriage? Why not prevent it? Why not prevent your heartbreak? Is it not in control of such things? Does he really have to use death and such cruelty to “teach you a lesson” of some sort? To make your son possible?

    There is a God, and He cares for me, but sadly we are separated by sin. The fault is not his, but ours. It is not His plan that there is suffering and death in the world; we brought that on ourselves. Specifically, mankind lived in a paradise with no death or suffering — but with free will. Adam and Eve chose the knowledge of evil. The rest of humanity lives with the consequences of that choice. God allows death and suffering because he respects our free will.

    Death and suffering are not “punishments.” They are consequences of sin. But, as I said previously, God can bring good out of a bad situation. Yes, my baby died, but as it turned out, I wouldn’t have my son if that baby had lived. Even though the situation was bad, good came out of it, and yes, I believe that is why God didn’t answer my prayer.

  55. JoAnna
    May 28th, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

    So, you got pregnant again. This is natural. I don’t understand. You had a miscarriage and you tried again, you had a son. If the first one didn’t fail, your son wouldn’t have existed today. I don’t see the influence of a God here. At all. Where?

    Maybe you’d have to know my son to see the influence of God. :) As I said above, however, my son is the reason God didn’t answer my earlier prayer to let my first baby live. Or rather, He did, but his answer was, “No, there is something better in store for you.”

    Yes, great – Ashli has helped others. This is a human thing to do. If it didn’t happen to her, she wouldn’t have done it. It happened to her as a random event. Do you not see that if god devise these cruel events as intruments for others to benefit makes him a monster of no equal.

    But as I said above, it’s not God’s direct doing. His permissive will only allows sickness and suffering because we (i.e., mankind) chose of our own free will to know of it.

    We get sick. We die or get healthy randomly. Why do you think there is a god behind it all; controlling it? Making it happen or making it not happen? Surely it is more reasonable to ascribe it to pure random events. Everything you perceive as “planned” or “miracle” is likely pure chance. You get it?

    I understand where you’re coming from, but I disagree.

    Have you read any C.S. Lewis (specifically, Mere Christianity) or G.K. Chesterton (specifically, Orthodoxy)? My response to your above question would be a rehashing of what they say much better than I can.

    How does it bring you “closer to God”? Why is he far away? Where is that? Why have you given up your free will for something else that may very well not exist? Can you see how awful it is?

    See above re: separation from God.

    Given up my free will? Are you kidding? I am more free than I ever have been before. “Ye shall know the Truth, and it shall set you free.” It’s not awful, not in the slightest. It’s wonderful.

    What would you do if you find out that there is no such thing (ever) such as the god you believe in? That the Jesus you think really existed they way you think didn’t at all?

    That’s like asking me what I’d do if I found out that water isn’t wet.

    Have you checked the facts that suppport your belief? Why do you believe, at all? Have you ever critically examined the things you read or others tell you? Do you ever….doubt?

    Yes; see C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, referenced above (I also found Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ helpful); yes; and of course I doubt.

    I actually converted to Catholicism at age 22 after being a lifelong Lutheran. I went through a period where I examined my beliefs and the rationale behind them, and concluded that not only did God exist, but that His Son, Jesus Christ, founded the Catholic Church 2,000 years ago.

    Something that might help you, WU, is to read the archives of The Reluctant Atheist: http://thereluctantatheist.blogspot.com/ She struggled with many of these same questions.

    Her new blog, Conversion Diary @ http://www.conversiondiary.com, tells about her life as a Catholic Christian.

  56. wake up raving atheist
    May 29th, 2009 @ 1:59 am

    JoAnna,

    You and I are using languages and concepts that are alien to each other. This is why atheists and Christians cannot even communicate with each other. I used to think and speak like you, because like you, I have simply assumed the meaning of things. I accepted as truth things I haven’t made sure about. Have you read my e-mail above to MK?
    1) You assert: there is a God: how do you know? For sure? You have gone beyond belief: you know. So you have gone through I process to absolutely verify this. Tell me?
    2) He cares for me. How? How do you know this? For sure? Do positive and negative things not happen to you simply randomly? If not, how do you “know”?
    3) What did you “bring upon yourself?”
    4) How do you commit sin before your existence if you were not present? How does one “inherit” sin? What sin are you talking about? In fact, what is sin to start with? By the way, I find the concept of “original sin” that you just have accepted as a concept, primitive and downright evil. I find Christianity evil for putting this idea in your head to forever make you feel inferior and second-class in the universe. I do not acknowledge sin. I acknowledge and live by morals. Those are dead easy to identify and define. It has most certainly nothing to do with any gods or religion. Far from it. If you want I can share this concept with you.

    Can you see the possibility that your religion, and all the related concepts you so freely accept as truth may be ENTIRELY made up by brilliant and creative human minds? Have you ever stood still, for one moment, and ask yourself and question some of the most basic things you believe?
    We have crafted gods, beliefs and religions to the tune of around 5000 since the beginning of mankind. What on earth made you decide THIS ONE is true?
    There was no “paradise” or Adam or Eve. Even Christians see this story today as a metaphor. How do you check this story? There has always been “death and suffering”. How can there not be? Have you thought of the logic you are saying? Were there a subset of super-species which would accidentally fell from a cliff, only to get up, dust themselves off and good to go? How did this work? Were they not of flesh and blood? Did accidents and natural disaster simply not happen in those days? Can you see how silly these ideas become if you try to think of the practicalities of it all?
    We are seemingly NOT going to change each other’s minds. But at least, JoAnna, STOP and THINK. I mean really, really think. Your religion craftily uses concepts to hinder you from critical thinking: “believe like a child”; “to doubt is evil or (worst even) the work of the devil”.
    Think carefully about every word you are using – ask yourself -what do I understand by this word? Don’t use a bible or a pastor’s answer. You have a mind – a wonderful one – force it to work!

    PS: Sorry, MK, I missed your mail above. Will get back to you. (You know, life and business needs to happen!)

  57. Pikemann Urge
    May 29th, 2009 @ 2:37 am

    ‘God allows death and suffering because he respects our free will’

    Not a silly arguement but a bit rhetorical. For instance, it’s not a stretch to suggest that even if I have the free will to kill someone, I need to be punished (or at least brought before a court to answer for what I have done).

    But if I cannot accept the rigid and dogmatic morality that comes from the Bible, for various reasons, I suppose I am presently still separated from this God?

    And it’s one thing for these laws/morals to be written but another for some self-righteous clergyman to insist I follow them. I guess that is a separate issue though.

    But once you’ve presented the case for suffering (which is not so simple after all but that is, again, another issue) you also have to present a case for natural disaster. Surely Adam’s sin cannot have triggered the natural disasters we experience?

    But wait – that is a rhetorical question, I think, just as its rhetorical answer: if we were still ‘perfect’ we wouldn’t be dying from earthquakes or falls from trees. Okay, fine. Have it your way.

    I have no issue with the ‘supernatural’ as WURA does. I accept is as a given. But I don’t insist that others do. How sad it would be for others to just go along with me out of good manners.

    WURA, if you have written (or plan to write) about your experiences in detail I’d love to read about them.

    The only real issue I have with Christianity is that some of its adherents insist either in its total truth or, worse and inexcusably, its exclusive truth.

  58. MK
    May 29th, 2009 @ 6:16 am

    Pikeman,

    Where do you see the Church “forcing” people to do it their way? As far as societal issues go, we speak our mind and like any other citizen hope things go our way. But the Church is not out their “running” the country.

    If we push for certain laws, it is because we are pushing for the greater good. Not because “God said so”.

    And why do you think that our believing we have the Truth, the total Truth is so offensive? Why would I believe in something that I thought was only partly true?

    If I believe in God, and I do, then doesn’t it make sense that I believe God tells the Truth? How crazy would it be if I said I was a Christian, I believe in God, but I think lots of what God said is baloney? Then why believe in Him at all. It is BECAUSE I believe that He is Truth, FULL Truth, that I believe in Him to begin with.

    How does this harm you? How does anyone’s faith harm you?

  59. MK
    May 29th, 2009 @ 6:24 am

    WURA,

    Since you bring it up, and you and I are having this conversation (hopefully to learn from each other), why do you believe? Surely you don’t simply believe any fantastic story that come your way? Why do you disbelieve other god claims of the other 5000 or gods we as humans have fabricated over time? How do you reject a story of fairies, zombies, unicorns and vampires?

    I have seen no evidence, other than folklore, that vampires, zombies, fairies or unicorns exist. I have had no personal experience with them. If someone could give me a reasonable argument for their existence, then I would have to rethink my position.

    No One, in their right mind anyway, believes in the existence of these things. Even those that believe in vampires these days, don’t believe that they come back from the dead. They drink blood, which technically makes them vampires, so I guess I do believe in them to that extent. I don’t believe or disbelieve in Bigfoot, but I’m open to the possibility. If someone were to bring me a unicorn, or if thousands of people came forward claiming to have been in the room with one, then I would change my mind and be open to that possibility also.

    Because it would reasonable to do so. Given what we know about God, to me, it is reasonable to accept Him also. Whether you go with the idea that it makes sense that there was a primary “cause”, or we go with recorded history, or we go with personal experience…there are many sound, sane reasons to accept the existence of God.

  60. Pikemann Urge
    May 29th, 2009 @ 6:44 am

    MK, worthy questions. But I do not claim that anyone forces me to do anything. They can try, of course, via legislation. Or if I had bad parents who forced their dogma on me (that can result in serious psychological harm).

    I suppose that you accept the validity of personal interpretation. Well, if that is valid then nobody can have ‘the truth’ in entirety.

    There are four main branches of the faith today: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism and miscellaneous. Which one is exclusively true? Many Christians are denominational by habit. Many by choice. Which choice is the truest? Never mind the varieties of the faith which eventually died out long before the Council of Nicaea.

    One can rightly propose that a religion is a starting point, not a finishing point. Thus it makes sense that maybe one’s faith is not the best or most true. Many Buddhists are students of other worldviews. Me, I look at what’s interesting to me and leave the rest for… maybe later.

    Why believe in only partial truth, you ask? Well what is totally true? What can be? I can’t think of anything that can. Isolated facts in themselves can be but that’s as far as it goes.

    What God says can’t be baloney – what people claim about him certainly can be. Look at the ’10 Commandments’. They are, for Christians, redundant. For me they are devoid of gravity and laughably negative. How much more majestic is the Christian view: love your neighbour, love God and pay heed to the Golden Rule. Marcion was, in a way, right (if I’m not a Christian I’m certainly not a follower of Marcion!).

  61. Lily
    May 29th, 2009 @ 8:04 am

    Pikeman– the 10 commandments are the minimum required for a functioning community, not the highest statement of Godly morality. That is why Jesus constantly expanded them in his ministry– you know things like “if you look on a woman with lust, you have committed adultery in your heart.” He continually emphasizes that the commandments refer to much more than just concrete acts– just as you say. But the commandments are a statement of the basics.

    I am curious what your question to MK means. What do you mean by the “validity of personal interpretation”. Catholics, at least, most emphatically reject the validity of personal interpretation of scripture– is scripture what you have in mind?

    I was really interested to read your comments above because I don’t recall that you have said that much about your thinking before.

    In regard to this:

    Not a silly arguement but a bit rhetorical. For instance, it’s not a stretch to suggest that even if I have the free will to kill someone, I need to be punished (or at least brought before a court to answer for what I have done). But if I cannot accept the rigid and dogmatic morality that comes from the Bible, for various reasons, I suppose I am presently still separated from this God?

    I think where it gets sticky is in the notion that you need to be punished (or made to account) for killing someone, if morality isn’t rigid (which I am taking to mean– unyielding, absolute). If it isn’t absolutely wrong to murder, you might well be hauled into court by your community and imprisoned or executed but it is hard to see how that is anything more than a ‘might makes right’ scenario. That is, the law that would permit you to be punished for your deed would not have a moral foundation but would be founded in something else; maybe some sort of primitive survival instinct left over from some earlier stage of our evolution.

  62. MK
    May 29th, 2009 @ 9:55 am

    Pike,

    Put aside the “Who can know the Truth”. My point was I believe it to be the Whole Truth, the Absolute Truth and what would be the point of adhering to a particular faith if I didn’t believe it was the Whole Truth.

    As to which faith is truest, which is the closest to the Full/Whole Truth…

    If you accept at all that there is a God, and then that there was a man named Jesus that claimed to be that God, and put that together with eyewitness accounts of miracles, the resurrection…well, then the truest religion to me, would be the one that God Himself instituted.

    No God gave the Muslims their religion. A man gave it to them. No God gave the Buddhists their faith. A man did.
    No God gave the Hindus their faith. Men did. Now they might each (sans the Buddhists) believe in a God, but the men that gave them their faiths, did not claim to be God. That’s a starting point if nothing else.

    Once you accept that there IS a God, then I believe logic and reason will bring you to believe that the God of the Jews is the real deal.

    As for the differences between protestants, Catholics and Orthodox, there really is no difference in the “bottom line”. We are believing in the same GOD. I honestly believe that if every Jew and Protestant were to open their hearts and minds, and truly study Catholicism they would find that it is the truest expression of what God wants from us. It utilizes ALL of the gifts that He has given us.

    The Orthodox are as Catholic as I am minus the pope and someday that will be reconciled, IMHO. What I am saying is that all of the major religions that adhere to a GOD, adhere to the same God. Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism…

    As far as Buddhists go, I don’t think they believe in God at all, so that wouldn’t be in the running when discerning which God is True.

    Hinduism presents a problem, because they believe in a completely different God, well, actually a whole set of Gods. I’m not sure where they came by the idea of these Gods…are you? That might help us discern the “Truth” of their Gods.

  63. Alexa
    May 29th, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

    Hi RT, any word on Ashli’s biopsy?

  64. MK
    May 29th, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    I’m going to go out on a limb here…some people have brought up that this thread has been hijacked and that not enough attention is being paid to the point of the post…namely, Ashli.

    However, by RA’s own admission, Ashli was instrumental in bringing him to the faith, which means she believed that spreading the word was a good and important thing. If I were Ashli, and I thought that my illness was bringing about conversations about Jesus, perhaps opening a heart or two, I’d be thrilled that my “sorrow” might possibly lead to someone elses joy…I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that RA and Ashli herself have thrown out a few prayers for the non believers involved in this conversation…

    If I’m wrong, I apologize and will refrain from commenting on this thread unless it has to do with Ashli…just say the word.

    THAT SAID,

    Yes, RA, give us some info! How is our girl doing? Physically, mentally AND spiritually???? Can we help?

  65. Elizabeth Esther
    May 29th, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

    Praying still. Praying every day.

    Ashli: may you find grace to help in time of need. May the God of all goodness grant you your request. May your heart be strengthened with hope, whatever the outcome. His grace is sufficient, His love has no end, His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

    He holds you. He will not let you go.

    ((hugs))

  66. Lily
    May 29th, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

    I don’t think it is “hijacking”, mk, when subjects related to the main subject of a post, or to the fundamental premise of the blog get discussed. I thought the usual definition of hijacking referred to a subject taking on a life of its own, particularly due to hostility, attacks on posters, unnecessary bickering, etc. It is hard for me to see that talking about the matters that are nearest to our hearts could be inappropriate, when carried out with a modicum of civility.

    I also long to hear news of Ashli!

  67. MK
    May 29th, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

    Lily,

    I have the hardest time understanding why people get so bent out of shape over your comments. I read them and think “yes” exactly! I couldn’t have said it better myself, and then the commenter will come back and say your being rude…maybe it’s because I agree with what you’re saying? Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I love you!

  68. Lily
    May 29th, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

    MK, I love you, too! You are the best and I wish I had it in me to be as tactful, as you are! Actually, I also love JoAnna, I love Melissa, I love Carla, I love RT and, as soon as I get to know them, I am going to love Alexa and Elizabeth Esther (Aren’t those both beautiful names???) and I am going to love … !!

    Your post cracked me up, though. I am so misunderstood!!!

    Well, ok. I might bear some tiny bit of blame. Part of the problem is that I say what I think and I refuse to back down or apologize for my beliefs, even when shown the error of my way. The rage of the Internet Atheist Warrior Class toward us can scarcely be described! Please, anyone reading this– learn from my mistake. I participated for several years on an atheist forum. It was a sewer. And you can’t bathe in a sewer without getting dirty.

    Another part of the problem, as I said before, is that I utterly lack tact. I am kind of the Bill Donohue of the Internet. You know– his heart is in the right place but his mouth! Yikes, what a blustery, stereotypical Irish Bostonian! Of course I am also half Irish …

    Hah! I’m not responsible after all! It is in my genes. I evolved to be exactly what I am and thus I am the proud product of a mindless process without point or direction.

    Whew! I feel so much better!

  69. MK
    May 29th, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    Hah! I’m not responsible after all! It is in my genes. I evolved to be exactly what I am and thus I am the proud product of a mindless process without point or direction. .

    I believe they call that Blarney!

    I don’t think your mouth is to blame. I think you just get impatient. Like I said, going over the same stuff time after time…That MOUNTAIN is never ending! Just remember that even tho YOU have gone over and over this, it might be new to the person you are talking to. You never know which of these folks were “Sent” our way, and how much the Holy Spirit is ready to roll if you let Him.

    Are you really in Boston?

  70. Lily
    May 29th, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

    No, but close– I worked in Cambridge for 3 years a number of years ago. Despite the taxes, the corrupt and intrusive government and the weather, I really liked it but that 4 hour commute (2 hrs each way!) to work was a killer. Now I live in the land of cotton surrounded by heat, tornados, hurricanes and insects.

    All in all, a definite improvement!

  71. JoAnna
    May 29th, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

    mk & Lily – I think you both could appreciate this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpWpdcR63ms

    :D

  72. Pikemann Urge
    May 30th, 2009 @ 4:34 am

    Lily #60, “is scripture what you have in mind?”

    Yes. So you’ve answered that.

    What do you do about elements in the canon (the NT) which are identified by some scholars as inauthentic? Sure, what they say may be more valuable than who wrote them, but still.

    MK #61, “what would be the point of adhering to a particular faith if I didn’t believe it was the Whole Truth”

    Why not? In fact I can demonstrate quite easily this principle. Once, there were babies in limbo. Now, there are not. Which is absolutely true? You obviously care about core truths as Christianity is an extremely simple faith (yet, in principle, powerful). So whether Christians can charge interest on loans or not, and similar issues, don’t matter.

    “If you accept at all that there is a God, and then that there was a man named Jesus that claimed to be that God”

    Except that he didn’t, even in John, the most divinity focused Gospel we have, which itself does not claim that Jesus was God the Son. Side issues… ;-)

    I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t believe that. After all I accept and understand personal interpretation. Which you don’t. Touché!

    But you can still say that God gave Jesus authority to institute the religion. But then: which one? Which version? On it goes, dragging us towards book-length discussions.

    “believe that the God of the Jews is the real deal”

    I keep thinking of poor Marcion. He did believe in the reality of the Jewish God, but did not accept what he saw as the corrupt God, the God which could never have given us Jesus.

    Of course I can’t say too much about whether Catholicism is a truer expression than Protestantism. I can see pros and cons in both, but for a believer who stands on his own feet and puts love first, then there isn’t a difference, I don’t think. Not every Catholic is servile to the clergy, and not every Protestant is against Catholicism.

    I’m afraid I have no idea where the Hindus got their gods from, but apparently there is one God, Vishnu, and all other gods (like Krishna) are avatars of Vishnu. Something like that.

  73. MK
    May 30th, 2009 @ 7:34 am

    Pikeman,

    Why not? In fact I can demonstrate quite easily this principle. Once, there were babies in limbo. Now, there are not. Which is absolutely true? You obviously care about core truths as Christianity is an extremely simple faith (yet, in principle, powerful). So whether Christians can charge interest on loans or not, and similar issues, don’t matter.

    First, Limbo isn’t and NEVER was doctine. It was just an idea thrown out there that stuck. No one was required to believe in it.

    Second, Again, I asked you to put aside what the truth “WAS”. My point was that I BELIEVE it to be the Truth, and why would anyone adhere to a faith if they didn’t BELIEVE it to be the whole Truth.

    Not why would anyone believe in a faith if it WASN’T the whole truth…but why would they adhere to a faith if they didn’t BELIEVE that it was the Whole Truth.

    This entire line of conversation came about because you said that one of the things that bugs you about Christians is that they believe they know the Whole/Absolute Truth. I’m saying, well how much sense would it make to belong to a faith if you DIDN’T BELIEVE it contained the Whole Truth. Not if it WAS the whole truth, but if you BELIEVED it was the whole Truth.

    Of course I can’t say too much about whether Catholicism is a truer expression than Protestantism. I can see pros and cons in both, but for a believer who stands on his own feet and puts love first, then there isn’t a difference, I don’t think. Not every Catholic is servile to the clergy, and not every Protestant is against Catholicism.

    I believe I said the same thing, didn’t I. That bottom line there isn’t any difference between the faiths?

    I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t believe that. After all I accept and understand personal interpretation. Which you don’t. Touché!

    If I didn’t accept and understand personal interpretation then why would I believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I’m well aware of the fact that the Jews of His time interpreted that He was God, then began to follow Him.

    I’m also aware that the term Son of Man, with a capital S and M was a Jewish term that was understood by all to mean the Messiah. And I can’t remember where, but there is a place where Jesus says He is OF the Father. Also in John, the first 10 sentences pretty much state that Jesus is God.

    As for the Hindus, they have a sort of Trinity also. Vishna, Brahma and Shiva. All three are equal, much like our Trinity. I forget what each one stands for, but one, I think Brahma, is the “creator” God.

    http://www.sanatansociety.com/indian_art_galleries/pieter_weltevrede/pw_go_trimurti_01_painting.htm

  74. MK
    May 30th, 2009 @ 7:36 am

    Pikeman,

    apparently, Hinduism has NO founder…another reason to wonder where it came from…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_deities

  75. Lily
    May 30th, 2009 @ 9:18 am

    JoAnna! That clip was great and so very true!

    Pikeman: you have raised a number of very interesting points that could each be an interesting discussion on its own. But here is what I would say (and am saying) on some of the issues you raised:

    There is only one God (a la Anselm we could say God=greater than which cannot be conceived). Paul says in Romans (if I remember correctly) that God has revealed himself in nature to everyone. Ergo, we all know him, no matter how dimly. We believe that God revealed himself fully in Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that all other religions are completely wrong. (I am channeling St. Lewis here.) It means that where they differ from Christianity, they are mistaken. But they are not entirely wrong.

    Jesus unambiguously declared himself to be God: Here are a few cites:

    You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come. (John 8:20)

    If we doubt that Jesus is claiming to be God, we have to come up with a reason for anyone to seize him.

    In the same chapter (v. 28)

    So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

    Perhaps the clearest of all is John 10:30-31:

    “…I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him …

    Why would they stone him except on the assumption that they clearly understood what Jesus was claiming?

    There are many, many more to be found, e.g. Matt. 11:27 and of course, Paul’s letters are brimming with declarations about who Jesus is.

    Pikeman, you also asked: What do you do about elements in the canon (the NT) which are identified by some scholars as inauthentic? Sure, what they say may be more valuable than who wrote them, but still.

    What do you mean? If what they say is more valuable than who wrote them, what are you asking? If you are only asking about authorship, that is a very interesting discussion in itself but doesn’t change anything about the claims made in the New Testament. We have known since AD 33 or so that there were lots of things being written and told about Jesus– So many so, that Luke starts off by saying that he made a careful study of all the things being said and written so that he could set out an “orderly account.”

    We have always known that the transmission of the written text has a rather colorful and complex history. Nothing was accepted into the canon unless it had apostolic authority (but not necessarily written by one, e.g. Luke) It is worth saying again that we Catholics have never worshipped the Bible. We have the unbroken witness of the church from its earliest days as to what Jesus said and did. The scripture is part of that witness but it isn’t the whole of it.

    As to which version? Christ instituted the Church (there is only one). Even though Christian bodies have differing understandings of things like baptism, communion, the place of scripture (sola scriptura vs the magisterium), we all believe the core teachings about who Jesus is; we agree on what he came to do, we agree on how we need to respond and we agree that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We are united by our baptism into one body. There is only one Church.

  76. Pikemann Urge
    May 30th, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

    MK #72, “First, Limbo isn’t and NEVER was doctine. It was just an idea thrown out there that stuck. No one was required to believe in it.”

    But it was allowed to exist for centuries? Well at least the Church finally put its foot down. Good work.

    “Second, Again, I asked you to put aside what the truth “WAS”. My point was that I BELIEVE it to be the Truth”

    Yes. However, I should be more clear. Why *would* you believe something to be the absolute truth? Believing in Christ would be vain if you didn’t think it were a valid thing to do (many are drawn to Christianity for a variety of reasons). But there is no compulsion I can think of to believe that it is exclusively true.

    In short: it makes perfect sense to believe in something which you concede may not be exclusively true.

    “Also in John, the first 10 sentences pretty much state that Jesus is God.”

    We have somewhat different understandings of what John is saying, it seems. There are fine scholars who would agree with you; there are fine scholars who would agree with me.

    Yes, Hinduism is so old (but not the oldest) that its founding is lost to history. I guess it just evolved from basic rituals to a full-blown super religion over the centuries.

    Lily #74 “God has revealed himself in nature to everyone”

    Ah, right, I see.

    Well we could go back and forth with interpretations of Scripture. Suffice to say that John aside, the other Gospels do not teach that Jesus is God the Son. Plus we have a second issue of the reliability of the Gospels.

    “What do you mean? If what they say is more valuable than who wrote them, what are you asking? If you are only asking about authorship”

    Well, I’m making the claim that some texts are forgeries (such as the Pastorals etc.). And Hebrews is certainly not an orthodox document, though it cannot be called a forgery.

    Which version? Well of course I speak of early Christianities, not of post-Reformation Christianity (which is reactionary as opposed to evolutionary).

  77. Lily
    May 30th, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

    Well, I’m making the claim that some texts are forgeries (such as the Pastorals etc.). And Hebrews is certainly not an orthodox document, though it cannot be called a forgery.

    Well sure, you can make that claim. But can you offer even the slightest persuasive bit of evidence? I can claim to be a head of lettuce but unless you can peel green leaves off me, I think a certain skepticism is in order.

    I am shaking my head at your claim that Hebrews is not orthodox. It happens to be my favorite NT book, after the Gospels, and one that I have virtually committed to memory. I would really like to see some evidence that it is not orthodox

    Which version? Well of course I speak of early Christianities, not of post-Reformation Christianity (which is reactionary as opposed to evolutionary).

    Version of what?

    Christianity, like truth itself, does not evolve. Its claims are clear and unambiguous. Now our understanding of it certainly evolves but the truth is the truth.

    The other Gospels do teach that Jesus is God; what on earth can you point to that suggests otherwise? This sort of claim has been made and debunked so many times that I suppose the books and articles that have been written on the subject would fill a football stadium. Maybe two. I don’t know how we could even approach discussing it in the comment box of a blog.

  78. MK
    May 30th, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

    Pike,

    We have somewhat different understandings of what John is saying, it seems. There are fine scholars who would agree with you; there are fine scholars who would agree with me.

    I wouldn’t be much interested in what a non christian scholar had to say. But can you show me a christian/Catholic scholar who would agree with you?

    In short: it makes perfect sense to believe in something which you concede may not be exclusively true.

    You think it would make perfect sense to center your life around, completely change everything about yourself, about how you see life, about you LIVE life…if you didn’t believe that what you believed was completely true? It might be possible, but it would also be nuts!

    Plus we have a second issue of the reliability of the Gospels.

    YOU, not I, have an issue of reliability. Obviously I accept them as true. Are you saying that they are made up, or that you personally don’t believe what they claim?

    I mean, they exist. So they are real. Whether you believe what they claim is a different story, and isn’t that the difference between you and me? I believe, you don’t. But you don’t seriously doubt that the Gospels exist and were written when they claim to have been written. I mean, what do you mean by unreliable???

    Well, I’m making the claim that some texts are forgeries

    Forgeries by whom??? What would be the point of forging the Gospels? Who would you be trying to fool? What am I missing?

  79. Lily
    May 30th, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

    It is worth looking at the beginning of Luke again in this context (of claiming that any of the books are forgeries). Luke says:

    Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

    There are a couple of interesting things to note from this passage. First, Luke attests to both a written (draw up an account) and an oral (handed down) tradition that comes from the apostles and the other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry. Next, he tells us that he has studied these sources carefully and is writing not to persuade Theophilus of anything but to confirm what he has been taught. The date range most widely accepted for Luke is 70-80 A.D. which is well within the life time of any number of eyewitnesses. Paul names a bunch of living eyewitnesses in one his letters to the Gentiles in perfect confidence that they know them, at least by reputation.

    Paul’s is the earliest account of the Resurrection itself, written between 55 and 57 AD. In 1 Cor. 15:3-8 he writes:

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

    This passage is universally acknowledged to have the form of an early creed. It uses Peter’s Aramaic name, and in it Paul uses two rabbinic terms when he speaks of receiving and handing on sacred tradition. His first visit to the Corinthians during which he passed on this creed took place in 51 AD. Paul’s conversion took place somewhere between 34-35 AD. So, he received this teaching within a few years of Christ’s death, it has had time to become a creed– clearly, there is an unbroken tradition already in evidence here.

    Forgery is the least likely explanation of any for what we have. There was no black hole, no decades of silence which would have made it possible for anyone to have gotten away with such a thing easily. Memories were still sharp and clear and well supported by the written sources we know were in existence, when all the texts of the NT were written.

  80. Pikemann Urge
    May 31st, 2009 @ 6:30 am

    Lily #76 “But can you offer even the slightest persuasive bit of evidence?”

    This is not a new thing. Some of the Epistles are accepted as forgeries by many scholars, some of those are believing Christians (it is not illogical to hold this view as Christianity is not a faith built solely on written commandments). It can’t by any means be summarized here. There are quite a few resources available, some for popular audiences (e.g. Ehrman’s current book) and some for more scholarly audiences.

    “I would really like to see some evidence that it is not orthodox ”

    Very quickly: it is written by a person who holds to Platonic philosophy (the duality of all objects, e.g. every Earthly object has a perfect heavenly version). One of the author’s points is that the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices must be performed on a perfect offering (Christ) in a perfect tabernacle (not possible on Earth).

    “Christianity, like truth itself, does not evolve”

    I think it has. Many early Christians would be taken aback by the doctrine of the Trinity. Or the Immaculate Conception. Or the clergy. Christianity was initially about the end of days coming soon. Eventually it had to abandon that teaching.

    “The other Gospels do teach that Jesus is God; what on earth can you point to that suggests otherwise?”

    That’s the kind of question I should ask of you! I’ve read the verses quoted above and can see that you have to interpret them to mean what you claim. The best one can say is that they are ambiguous.

    MK #77 ” But can you show me a christian/Catholic scholar who would agree with you? [re. John]”

    Catholic? Hell no. In order to join the RCC you’d accept the Trinity as a given. And those already in it don’t even suspect there is an issue. Other Christian scholars? None that I know of. I’d be very surprised if there were.

    “I believe, you don’t. But you don’t seriously doubt that the Gospels exist and were written when they claim to have been written. I mean, what do you mean by unreliable???”

    Well the Gospels were written between AD65 and AD90 (except for John which I’m thinking is after 100). Except that there are several reasons to reject their historicity. For example, they appear to present the theologies of the communities who wrote them, and sometimes that involves changing the narrative.

    There most certainly is a core of historical truth there – well, that is what people like Bart Ehrman conclude. There is no agenda on his part so I must concede at least something to him. Sadly, the arena of NT studies is in some ways nothing but chaos.

    Those contradictions that people keep talking about: those are not just mistakes or a conflict of people’s memories, some of them have a reason behind them (i.e. they’re deliberate). Some details are added (e.g. Jesus’ bloody sweat is probably a later addition) while some are changed.

    I think the German theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg, bases his belief in the resurrection on the Pauline letters, not the Gospels. Just don’t quote me on that, I could have this mixed up.

    “What would be the point of forging the Gospels?”

    Not the Gospels but some of the Epistles. One point might be to emphasize new or revised teaching.

    It is interesting to note, reflecting on Lily’s post #78, that the Pauline letters indicate that Paul knew nothing about most of the Gospel traditions.

  81. Lily
    May 31st, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Whew! I was afraid you might have something new to bring up that I hadn’t heard of. As long as Ehrman, Mack and that crowd are your sources, we are on firm ground.

    There is a huge difference between claiming that something is a forgery, which none of the Epistles are, and noting that they have been falsely attributed. We already know that 7 or 8 of Paul’s letters were likely not written by him. But how important is that? Are they inconsistent with what he and/or the Gospels teach? Were they been attributed to him because they were written by an associate of his, which would have made them authoritative for the early Church, assuming that they were doctrinally sound?

    The “rules” for including anything in the canon included apostolic authority (not authorship necessarily), that they taught true doctrine, and that they had been read aloud liturgically. Of these, obviously apostolic authority was the most important. To claim that the NT we have today is not the New Testament of the early church requires sweeping away the uniform testimony of those who knew and/or were taught by the apostles or men taught by them (Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement, for example) and throwing in with Marcion(!).

    There is abundant evidence that the early Christians knew and accepted the epistles as genuine. Early writers quoted them without further ado which suggests rather strongly that they were widely accepted from early on. Irenæus used them and quotes Paul frequently in refuting heretics. Tertullian was astonished when he heard that Marcion had rejected the letters. Eusebius states that the letters were universally recognized by the church. On and on it goes. I am afraid the debunkers haven’t made their case with most of us.

    As for the Greeks and the influence some claim to see in the scriptures themselves– ye gads! It is simply not there in the platonic sort of dress they want to clothe it in. Paul, as an educated Jew, was well schooled in rhetoric and it shows in all his letters but that is form, not content. It is certainly true that theologians, particularly from the 3rd century on, had to engage the heathen, esp. neo-Platonists. And certainly it is true that in the Middle Ages the influence of Aristotle decisively shaped the intellectual approach to trying to understand who God is, what omniscience, omnipotence, et al are, how one can, through the use of reason, prove God. But that is not the same thing as claiming that the Bible is somehow, philosophically, a platonic document.

    Many early Christians would be taken aback by the doctrine of the Trinity. Or the Immaculate Conception. Or the clergy. Christianity was initially about the end of days coming soon. Eventually it had to abandon that teaching

    The early Christians would not have been taken aback by either of these doctrines or the clergy (?) Are you talking about the hierarchy of bishops, et al.? If so, I think you are mistaken. Jesus had a model in mind for his Church that he knew very well as a Jew– the Sanhedrin and the early church councils, esp. as described in Acts, certainly resemble the way the Sanhedrin conducted business. The Immaculate Conception would have taken no one aback. No one believed that Mary was an ordinary sinner– they just didn’t develop a coherent doctrine for a couple of centuries. The Trinity is a word that describes what is clearly taught in Scripture, etc., etc., etc.

    It is certainly true that Christ’s early followers, incl. Paul thought that the end was coming soon. But Jesus himself said he didn’t know and that the date was hidden in God. How do their expectations change anything?

  82. MK
    May 31st, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

    Pike,

    Probably the only thing you got right is that everyone expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. If I had a friend that I wanted to get a message to, and I “knew” I’d be seeing them in a couple of weeks, I would write down every single thing I wanted to say to that friend…I’d save it for when I saw them.

    The “NEW” Christians didn’t feel the need to write down a doctrinal guidebook, because they were all alive and all believed the same thing. It was only when it became apparent that Jesus’ return was not imminent, and years later when certain “idea’s” were challenged, that things began to be clarified in righting. Our “rule” book is more a history of “Answers to Heresies”, than a description of our faith.

    A heresy popped up, it was confronted and then written down, so that future generations didn’t make the same mistake.

    Pauls letters were just that. Letters. They were not written as a handbook. They were meant to be read, like any letter, to the people to whom they were addressed.

    It’s like saying that Obama speeches are forgeries. He may not have “written” them, but he gives them. They are his. They have his approval. Same thing here. Someone else may have written them, but they were the teaching of Paul. And everyone (except of course for your scholars ;) knew it)

  83. MK
    May 31st, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

    Pike,

    Obviously this should have read “Would’NT”

    I would write down every single thing I wanted to say to that friend…I’d save it for when I saw them.

  84. MK
    May 31st, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

    Pike,

    Look at the constitution of the US. We had the original document. Then we have the Bill of Rights and all of it’s amendments. Every time a precedent setting case comes to the foray, we re-examine our laws and decide what to do about it.

    We have big laws. When those are challenged, we get smaller laws. When those are challenged we get even smaller laws, until soon it would take a lifetime to know all of the laws.

    Would you say the the Bill of Rights, the amendments or our laws are forgeries? Because they weren’t written by Thomas Jefferson?

    Something else to think about…
    The Catholic Church is the MOST democratic society in the world. It doesn’t matter what race you are, if you’re a man or a woman, handicapped, blind, poor, young, rich or old…once you identify yourself as a Catholic, nothing else matters to other Catholics. It’s the one place where all men truly are considered equal…

  85. Pikemann Urge
    June 1st, 2009 @ 5:23 am

    Lily #80 “Whew! I was afraid you might have something new to bring up that I hadn’t heard of.”

    Very droll, Lily, very droll. LOL

    “Are they inconsistent with what he and/or the Gospels teach?”

    Well, sometimes, yeah.

    “To claim that the NT we have today is not the New Testament of the early church…”

    It is a given that today’s NT is not the same as the pre-Nicaea NT. There is no disputing this. One only needs to point to the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus (which is being published progressively on-line). Those are just popular examples.

    “Early writers quoted them without further ado”

    Which they have every right to do. A separate issue to their authenticity.

    “But that is not the same thing as claiming that the Bible is somehow, philosophically, a platonic document.”

    It isn’t – I refer only to Hebrews.

    “No one believed that Mary was an ordinary sinner– they just didn’t develop a coherent doctrine for a couple of centuries.”

    1. Apart from Joseph’s lineage there was nothing out of the ordinary in either Joseph or Mary (of course they must have been honest folks); and who conceived Mary (St. Anne?) was most likely an ordinary sinner, unless she too were born of a virgin… ad infinitum.

    2. Couple of centuries: well there’s lots of room there to develop a mythology.

    “But Jesus himself said he didn’t know and that the date was hidden in God.”

    There seems to be some disagreement here. I think, like many others, that he was an apocalyptic prophet – the end was near. E.g. Matthew 24:34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

    MK #81, “Pauls letters were just that. Letters. They were not written as a handbook.”

    There is no issue here. He was not writing for a ‘New Testament’ any more than he was a contributing columnist for The Times.

    MK #83, “Would you say the the Bill of Rights, the amendments or our laws are forgeries? Because they weren’t written by Thomas Jefferson?”

    I am not sure that anyone has made that claim. Not does it require Jefferson’s approval to make new laws.

    “The Catholic Church is the MOST democratic society in the world…”

    I don’t know enough whether to agree with ‘most’ but otherwise there is every reason to agree. Even if most Popes were French or Italian. Thank goodness for variety, dammit. A Pole, then a German. What’s next? Maybe a Brazilian or Moroccan. :-)

  86. lily
    June 1st, 2009 @ 6:41 am

    Very amusing Pikemann– that comes right out of the fundy playbook! Lets read on (36ff):

    “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.

    I don’t think we have time to rehash the entire transmission of the Gospel but I will say one thing– there is nothing going on in the scholarly world right now that will detract or change fundamentally the New Testament that we have. It is too broadly attested from too many separate manuscript traditions; it has been quoted too often in the letters, sermons, glosses, commentaries, et al to leave any serious doubt that what we have is what the early Church had. What on earth do Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus have to do with anything? It isn’t as though they are newly discovered.

    The liberals keep hoping but I would remind them to look to Jesse Jackson. He kept chanting “Keep hope alive”! But he has become as irrelevant as disco, the pet rock and paisley bell bottoms. Somehow, this is what has happened to all the Bible’s debunkers.

  87. lily
    June 1st, 2009 @ 6:42 am

    Oops. Guess I should have closed the tag. (:

  88. Pikemann Urge
    June 2nd, 2009 @ 1:22 am

    “I don’t think we have time to rehash the entire transmission of the Gospel but I will say one thing– there is nothing going on in the scholarly world right now that will detract or change fundamentally the New Testament that we have.”

    That much is totally true. It’s as fixed as anything can be.

  89. Lily
    June 2nd, 2009 @ 6:43 am

    The canon is certainly fixed. If we ever discover new manuscripts of the books of the Bible, in whole or in part, we may be able to get better readings of the 40 or so lines that have actual meaningful questions about them.

    Like I said above, the readings are attested in the large body of extra biblical documents (glosses, sermons, catechisms, etc) that exists. The late Bruce Metzger, who is, after all, the single best known, best regarded biblical scholar on the planet has said that if the entire corpus of the NT disappeared, we could reconstruct it just from the citations provided by the Patristic fathers in their commentaries and doctrinal works.

    So while I really feel for Bart and all those who lost their faith when they realized that scripture wasn’t dictated directly by God, the Church is still in excellent shape with regard to its foundational documents.

  90. Pikemann Urge
    June 3rd, 2009 @ 2:33 am

    “Bart and all those who lost their faith when they realized that scripture wasn’t dictated directly by God”

    Except that that’s not why he lost his faith. :-)

    We may have occasion to take this up on another thread. But as a taster: in the context of your point about Metzger, remember my statement above about the chaos of NT studies.

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