Your religious beliefs typically depend on the community in which you were raised or live. The spiritual experiences of people in ancient Greece, medieval Japan or 21st-century Saudi Arabia do not lead to belief in Christianity. It seems, therefore, that religious belief very likely tracks not truth but social conditioning.
— Gary Gutting
If I had been born in Iran instead of the United States, I have little doubt that I would be a Muslim today. And if I grew up in a predominantly Catholic, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist culture, I have little doubt that I would’ve emerged as one of those.
As a Christian, I found this fact a little unsettling. My geography seemed to have more to do with my religion than any kind of free will choice. The obvious problem with this is that if only one religion leads to heaven, then the odds of us finding that religion are greatly diminished when God places us into a “deceived” culture. God is effectively blocking us from salvation, He is saying, “I don’t want you in heaven, so I’m placing you over here.”
As Christians, we’d all like to think that if we had been born into another culture, God would eventually lead us back to Christianity, but how realistic is this? Especially when most people seem to take on their parent’s religion, or a religion that is prominently featured in their culture.
So how does God go about reconciling these inequalities? I can think of several possibilities:
1) Our souls are predestined, so it doesn’t matter where God puts us,
2) We have free will, but God is unfair,
3) God somehow makes allowances for these situations, or
4) God has nothing to do with it.
1) Predestination of the soul
If our souls are predestined, we might reason that God would place us into non-Christian homes because we were either designed to reject God, or He’s pre-cognizant of the fact that we would reject Him regardless of our circumstances.
“Before the creation of the world, he chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in his presence.”
~ Ephesians 1:4
In many ways, predestination makes perfect sense. After all, if God creates the game, the rules, the players, the scenarios, and every atom in our brains, how could He not be controlling the final outcome?
But if God knows or controls the outcome, then the problem with predestination is similar to the problem of evil: if God designed you to go to hell, or He knew for certain you’d go to hell, why did He create you at all? Especially when it’s His desire that everyone become saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)? If God knows all this, and creates you anyway, then isn’t He guilty of being evil?
The other problem with predestination is that it means we’re mere puppets, playing out roles that God has written for us. If that’s the case, why didn’t God just create some of us in heaven and some in hell, and skip this whole charade?
2) We have free will, but God is unfair
God may insist He’s fair (2 Thessalonians 1:6), but life certainly seems unfair. There is inequality everywhere you look: some children are born into wealth and others into poverty, some are born healthy and others are born sick, some are born geniuses and others are born developmentally disabled, some live to 8 while others live to 80, and some are born into Christianity while others are born into other religions. With all these variables, how can we say that God has created an even playing field, where everyone has the same odds of getting into heaven?
For example, if God knows that 99% of Muslims will never convert to Christianity, He isn’t giving us much choice when He delivers us to Muslim parents in a Muslim country. He has, in no uncertain terms, assigned us to Islam. And when we eventually die, is it fair for God to ask “Why didn’t you convert to Christianity?” Our response would be something like, “Seriously? You placed me in a culture that was 99% Muslim! You knew exactly what would happen! I should be asking you why you placed me in a Muslim culture if you desired a Christian! The Qur’an also taught that ‘For those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe punishment in this world and the Hereafter,’ (3:56) so why should I be punished for believing what I thought you instructed?”
For the Christian, this would be like arriving at God’s judgement and being asked “Why didn’t you obey the teachings of my prophet Muhammad?” We would be in shock, not feeling like we had much say in the matter. “How was I supposed to know my religion was wrong? You placed me where I would be raised with the Bible, which teaches that it is impossible to please you without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Did you really expect me to investigate every religion, just in case it wasn’t faith that pleases you?”
3) God somehow makes allowances for these situations
If we have free will and God is fair, but our world is unfair, we can only assume that God must make allowances to compensate for all the variables encountered in each of our lives.
Perhaps, for example, God gives or takes away points based on every advantage or disadvantage we experience in life, thus compensating for all inequalities. And for the sake of example, lets assume you need 1000 points to gain access to heaven. Assuming that’s the case, God’s judgement would still seem unfair to the person with 999 points who gets eternal punishment, while someone with 1,000 points gets eternal bliss.
Even if God is giving allowances for all these differences, His all-or-nothing punishments now seem grossly unfair, especially when the final score is so close.
We can’t preserve God’s fairness without multiple levels of punishment and reward. In this example, the person with 999 points doesn’t go to hell, but they don’t get a mansion, either. Perhaps they’re awarded a nice tudor in a suburb of heaven, one without a private pool.
But even then, is it fair that God should levy eternal punishments for temporal infractions? Is there never any hope for reprieve? Even after 10 million years?
If God does make allowances, than this also suggests that our choice of religion doesn’t ultimately matter, since all roads can lead to heaven. (E.g. God realizes you never became Christian because you were surrounded by Muslims, so he makes an allowance for this and lets you into heaven anyway.) But many religions would vehemently disagree with this idea.
For example, John 14:6 says that “No one comes to the Father except through me,” so most Christians will not readily accept Buddha as a substitute for Jesus. And Muslims insist that believing Jesus is God will land you in hell, so they too are not about to say that your religious beliefs don’t ultimately matter.
While the idea that many paths can lead to heaven is now gaining in popularity, it still strikes me as an attempt to evolve religion into something new, and something more reasonable.
4) God has nothing to do with it
If there is no God, then the question is moot. These religions are all just human stories and explanations that took hold in various locations for various reasons. The stories you hear as a child are simply the ones that had the greatest influence on your parents or in your particular area. And the reason religious contradictions exist is because God had nothing to do with organizing them. (If God’s “spirit of truth” revealed the same truth to everyone, all cultures should share the exact same revelations.)
To avoid the need for all these special allowances, God should make all our experiences similar and our options clear, somewhat like He did with Adam and Eve, where the choice was simple: obey God and live, or eat the fruit and die.
Instead, we are born into a world with far too many complex choices. The world says to us: “Hi, and welcome to earth! Here are plans A through FF. One of these plans leads to heaven… or nirvana, or reincarnation, or your own planet, or 72 virgins, or something nice like that — we’re not exactly sure; and the others lead to eternal torment… or purgatory, or eternal isolation, or a lower level of heaven, or 2 ugly non-virgins with crabs, or unconsciousness — again, not really sure… in fact, we’re not even sure which plan leads to which! But it is important that you choose wisely, or you will suffer eternal consequences for being wrong. Good luck!”
“For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.”
~ 1 Corinthians 14:33
The whole situation just seems nonsensical and unfair. A good and just designer should create a uniform test, yet God creates an inconsistent test that requires Him to make special allowances (or become unfair). And even accounting for these inconsistencies, God is then said to only levy extreme punishment or reward, with no hope for a reprieve. We excuse God by saying He only deals in absolutes, but He comes across as being absolutely unfair.
If there is no God, then there is no great equalizing event. It is nature that is unfair, though she can’t even comprehend her own unfairness, she rewards the strong (good or evil) and punishes the weak (good or evil). It’s only we humans that comprehend nature’s unfairness and try to make up for it, with religious explanations and other deeds.
I’d say number 3
Early church was living in such a rapid development of the church that they where thinking that everything would be over in one or two generations. This did not happen due human failures. It is also probable reason they did not ponder this very much in bible.
Idea of what happens to those that have not heard must have crossed the mind of the early christians tough. Paul was a smart fellow and had a university degree of his time. Maybe he was thinking this when he wrote romans 2:12-16:
“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”
I’m not saying there is sure salvation outside Christ. Just MAYBE some mercy for those that have not heard.
Now if “pagans” are judged by the law inside them why evangelize? Well you would be missing those people that are going in to wrong direction despite the law inside them. Maybe they will turn if they just hear the gospel.
As a christian I can’t see any salvation outside Jesus Christ but God is also just. We will see one day how much. Until the this is just a lot of guessing and maybe bad theology. His ways are not our ways.
Howdy BHS, good to hear from you again.
I’m currently working on my next question, which is specifically about people who never hear the gospel. I intended to cover it in this post, but it turned out to be a unique and fascinating question all its own, with verses like the one you mentioned that seem to specifically address that situation.
As a Christian, I would’ve gone with #3 as well, but the idea is not without its problems (how can we not be predestined if God creates everything, creating multiple levels of reward and punishment for every situation, eternal rewards and punishments, the exclusivity of most religions, etc.).
If God exists, I would hope he is just, but my observations here on Earth suggest otherwise. Upon seeing Him correct all this injustice, I would happily change my mind, though I don’t know if our injustice can ever be undone, short of God not creating it at all.
It gets to be so complicated we end up resorting to saying things like…
Now don’t take this personally, I realize it’s the Bible that says this, but I see it as the Bible’s authors encouraging us to remain ignorant. They’re saying “Some things are just too complex and you’ll never be able to understand them, so just stop your thinking and have faith.” Either this is TRULY what God wants, or faith has become man’s way of handling all the vagaries, contradictions, and logical inconsistencies that tend to show up in religion — a catch-all for everything that would otherwise cause us to doubt.
And it’s not just the Bible. What if a Scientologist was asking us to “Just have faith that Xenu was once the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, and brought billions of people to Earth!” And “Just have faith that he had good reasons for blowing them up around volcanoes.”
Or maybe an ancient Roman might ask us to “Just have faith in the Gods on Mt. Olympus.”
There’s an endless list of things people could make up and ask us to have faith in, but believing in them obviously doesn’t make them real, it just makes us feel like they’re real.
In our case, the authors of the Bible are asking us to accept that their god is real and has reasons for doing what he does, and if you find illogical inconsistencies in the story, well, it’s beyond you and you just need to have faith.
Didn’t mean to go too far off track. I really need to do a question on faith, as it seems to be at the crux of everything.
Better yet, the Punic nation demanded faith in Moloch Baal, and asked for people to simply accept that it was necessary to sacrifice little children to it. And the Bible demands us to believe that there is a benevolent god, that just had to order the ancient Hebrews to do genoside to the Amorites to conquer their land and property. What does the “law inside us”, tell of that? My insides are turned out, especially since this same god is alledgedly allmighty, so there must have been a better way of dealing with the Amorites.
Many religions demand us to accept horrific things, and the cultural relativism, that it was supposedly not as horrible to the people of those days, does nothing to justify a god to act thus. Ultimately cultural relativism only leads to the idea that it was OK for the natzies to kill the jews, because in their culture it was OK to kill jews. A god could have demanded the nazies to do so, and if it was ever even claimed a god told them to do all that, then we would just have to believe it was OK, because “his ways are not our ways”. Truly, his ways are not ours, an allmighty and benevolent god could have stopped the nazies from causing all that pain simply by appearing (through his incarnation the “Metatron”) to each and every nazi and telling this is not what a god wants. What would it have costed the allpowerfull god? Do you think the nazies would have not believed their common vision? Most of them were christians after all, and some even sincerily believed what they were doing to the jews was what god wanted.
I salute the idea of BHS that he would like even other people than the christians not to fall into eternal pain. That is a benevolent thought. Yet, the evangelism is putting good people into a terrible hazard. Let us say an indian everyday family man whose entire family and all ancestors, neighbours and their ancestors, as far as he knows are Hindus hears about Jesus and christianity from a random missionary on the street. Now, because it is a completely strange notion to him, he dismisses it outright and gives no second thought for it. If he was a very good man and bound to Heaven “judging from the law inside him” before this incident, is he really responsible for ending up in eternal pain and torture because of this silly incident? That really does not sound very just at all, does it?
Besides the point, what is the eternal torture anyway? Is it like Dante Allighieri describes it? Is it a burning lake, or does it just mean a man ends up in the same compartment in the afterlife as his mother in law? What about a man who has married a few times, does he get to spend the eternity with several mother inlaws?
Amorites? – God’s judgement thus God’s business
Nazies? – Surely not christians
Man married several times? – Matthew 22:29–30
You need to back up your claims here…. How can you know for certain that the Amorites actually deserved what they got? How can you be certain the nazis weren’t christians, that the Jews didn’t “get the memo” 2000 yrs ago and deserved what they got, or that the nazis weren’t doing god’s will – just as he’d ordered the Israelites to commit the genocide of the Amorites? (and the Hittites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites… Wow, he really did enjoy wholesale genocide!)
(Side note: it sounds to me that the Israelites were the Nazis of their time, how else to explain the murders of men, women, fetuses, and the joy of dashing babies against rocks? At least the Nazis didn’t ALSO murder their donkeys, goats, sheep, and house cats to top things off)
Glad to be here
Well is that not how a religion is supposed to work?
Problem is not God, but your western educated rebellious brain. This is not something you choose with your head but your heart.
Amorites – a genoside sanctioned by a god = an evil god. Gods can not be beyond ethics, because that is the only neutral philosophical ground we humans are able to evaluate all the alledged different gods.
Nazies – Most were, in fact, devout christians. You may call them heretics, or whatever, but they firmly believed they were christians and supporting the cause of a god. So, why did god not deliver them from that false belief, if they were wrong?
Motherinlaws – I admit that one was a bad joke about how an eternity may feel like even longer to some guys.
Are we now responsible for our western rebellious brains and to be punished by eternal torture because of that? How are we to know better? By reading the “good book”? I have read it, thank you very much. It raised more questions than answered. By accepting faith to something one seems as obvious fable and totally unplausible? How? Is it like muslims, who are somehow responsible for being born muslim culture, hindus being born in hinduist culture, buddhists being born into buddihst culture, shintoans being born into shintoan culture, taoist and konfutseans into taoists and konfutsean culture and so forth? That seems to me, to be the entire point of this original post. You can not really blaim people for their cultural backround not corresponding with a particular cultural heritage alien to them offered by a bunch of missionaries from this or that religious group. Especially when any of those systems of faith do really not make any more sense in any particular universal sense, than any other such cultural heritage. Why is it that in any religion most adherents are born into the culture of the one and true faith?
Now you approach God like He should form His image according to your wishes. The whole point of religion is just the opposite. You find God and conform yourself into His image. That is what worship is about. Modern western brain is rebellious just because of that fact. We assume that all ideas are ok and we should not interfere with others business no matter how immoral.
As for Amorites. You very well know that they where not some innocent peaceful tribe of the mountains. They where warlike tribe. And their God worship was, lets say, not nice. As for murdering every infant .. we do it still today by millions in abortions.
Now a worst case scenario. God does not exist. Then Amorite destruction was just another useless genoside in human history.
What if God exists then? He surely takes sin seriously! And judges nations fiercely by their character! Fortunate for us we are living in new testament times and ordered to turn the other cheek. How lucky for us but that makes one wonder when we are going to be judged.
During nazi rule most of the german church fell under their charms. However many rose in opposition. My favorite theologians of all times is Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was the leader of underground church to oppose nazism. He paid a high prize for his courage. Another interesting figure to that time is Corrie Ten Boom Thus there was a true witness available for Germans during whole nazi rule. Both of them are a case study of true christianity and we do well to learn from them. Believer or not.
You will always find reasons for not believing. There will never be total intellectual reason for believing. If God appeared to you right now you could still think you saw a hallucination. Thus this is decided by heart. I find it in mine to believe. God certainly gave us free choice in this matter.
No, I do not approach any gods simply as I would like them to be. That is a false claim. You see, I approach the philosophical notion of gods from the perspective of ethics. That is a compleltely different matter. Ethics is a method of finding out what is right. If ethical process shows something to be wrong by my sense of compassion, it is very hard for me to find justification for it. But gods have been used for thousands of years to subdue the sense of compassion and replace it with tribal moralism, and the Bible is just one perfect example of that.
No, I do not think the modern western brain assumes everything is allright. It is more about how we define what is immoral and what is not. If an old book says eating pig and gay sex are immoral, that is hardly a very substantial claim for a base of morals. Not in comparrison to the philosophy of ethics, that everyone of us employs everyday when choosing what actions are right and what are wrong. By evaluating them through our sense of compassion.
As with the Amorites, what evil had they done to justify their extermination? We have no other record of their worship of their gods than that of their enemies the Hebrews. Propaganda is a weapon rarely dismissed by any warring parties. Most human cultures are warlike, were the ancient Hebrews not warlike? Are not the modern US a warlike nation? Should a god give an order to some chosen nation to destroy them all? The Amorites were certainly protecting their own land from the invading Hebrews. Did they not have the right to do so? Many indian nations had cruel and strange religious practices and did horrible things when they fought their enemies, does that mean the US government had every right to infect them and their children with the smallpox?
It would seem to me that your worst case scenario is absolutely correct.
Yes, there were German christians, theosofists, jews and atheists alike who opposed the nazi rule. You see even from their totally different world views and without the help of any old books they could recognize what was wrong and act against it, even sacrificing their personal safety. It was not their faith in gods, or theological understanding of old scriptures, or even their love for a supreme creator being that told them what was right and what was wrong. But still, most nazies were christians and no god ever appeared to tell them they were wrong. Why? Infact they found substantial backup from the alledged “word of god” to support their faith in the justification of their actions. Nazies were quite eager to employ the christian conservatism to their use, when they needed support for their actions.
Can you not see how the alledged allmighty powers make your god entirely responsible for the genoside of the Amorites and partly responsible for the actions of the nazies? In the previous scenario we have an alledged confession of guilt. The latter is just like a policeman standing ildly by as some citizen is beaten to death right in front of the eyes of the policeman. It is not even a question of the policeman not abiding to law or doing his job, but about him not using the power he has to stop the violence.
Are you suggesting a god has created us such, that only by giving up reason can we find a god plausible?
You will never understand that part of the bible unless you start to think like a believer.
That does not mean to give up reason. It only means that God comes first in everything. He hates sin in us so much that there is nothing worse than that. We are under His fierce judgement. This is the lesson to learn from Amorites and old testament law. We can not please God with our own deeds. Our human goodness is dirty in His eyes.
Only trough His son Jesus are we set free from this curse. This is what Jesus meant when He said in math 22:37:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Deutronomy massacres are a hard pill to swallow for a modern reader but that was how it plaid out in those days. God sets the rules. Not us. He hated sins of those people so much that dramatic measures where called for.
Gods law is harsh indeed but fortunately we are living in new testament era. Jesus set the ultimate law and that is what we go by these days.
Natzism is as far from christianity as we are from the moon. Some of the church sadly went along with it tough. Out of fear or lack of true commitment I suppose. The whole picture is too complex to go trough here. Wikipedia has a nice article about it:
Reading that makes it clear. There was enough of those that opposed natzi rule to warn everyone involved not to go along with it. Suppose Jesus was thinking this when he said in Matt 24:9-13:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
BHS: “Well is that not how a religion is supposed to work?”
That is how faith works, but it doesn’t mean accepting things without evidence was ever a good idea. It is only by faith that you can get so many different people to believe so many different things. But to sort out fact from fiction, we need to resort to some other method of testing… or just accept that God wants us all to live in chaos and confusion.
Do you believe Islam is wrong? Why? How do you establish that claim? Chances are, it’s something other than faith alone. And chances are, Muslims could use that same measure to criticize Christianity.
One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen Roberts who said “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” It’s difficult to thoroughly dismantle someone else’s god(s) or religion without discrediting your own.
BHS: “Problem is not God, but your western educated rebellious brain.”
Rautakyy made the point I would’ve made. If God has placed us in a Western society, then I’d say it IS God’s problem, which is my whole point.
BHS: “You will never understand that part of the bible unless you start to think like a believer.”
As a former Christian, I have to agree with BHS that it makes a certain amount of sense. The genocides HAD to occur in order to clear the Promised Land and eliminate a future source of evil, it was for the greater good. And God can kill whomever he wants, since He’s the one who made us. Does it make Him genuinely evil? Maybe, if He created them just to cause them to suffer and be cast into hell, it’s still hard for me to get around the problem of evil.
The more practical problem is, anyone with a god can make the same argument. For example, God has also told the Muslims THEY will inherit the earth, so maybe THEY see nothing wrong with killing you, or your children, or your grandchildren. Is this okay? Maybe… if God is REALLY on their side, but how do we know? Like you said, religion is based on faith, so many people continue to be killed on little more than faith in a particular religion.
This is where someone in charge needs to say “Now, now… faith is fine and all, but we ALL think God is on our side. If God REALLY wants someone dead, then perhaps He should be the one to do it. Otherwise, we may just be making a terrible mistake.”
Personally, I think what happened in early Israel was a terrible mistake. If God wanted to give this land to the Hebrews, He could’ve easily cleared it Himself (See question #3. Why didn’t God clear out the Promised Land before the Jews arrived?).
BHS: “‘…and you will be hated by all nations because of me.'”
I don’t hate you. 🙂
Case in point… http://i.imgur.com/g4BhR.jpg.
Are they right? Who knows, but if they had the ability to kill all us infidels, they probably would… and history would say it was Allah’s will.
From christian point of view that is religion vesion 1.0. We are currently 2.0 depending of course from ones point of view. Some say we need 3.0.
Click to access Cole_Church3.0_Sample.pdf
By the way. Did you know that christianity is arguably world’s most persecuted religion?
@BHS, if your god is the ultimate creator and allmighty, it is also responsible for the people who lived during the religion 1.0 era. If the massarcres were a historical necessity, then your god should have committed them without involving the ancient Hebrews. If this god of yours is “omnicsient” it would have been able to know how this kind of using people as tools would affect our modern minds in terms of plausibility.
How nice for you, it just so happens, that you live in an age and culture that have the opportunity to choose the right god and be saved. So god loved you that it placed you in a time and place where you have by far better chances of choosing the right religion, than some poor fellow somewhere who just heard about it from a foreign missionary. God has truly been good for you, and that is what ultimately matters, is it not?
Christianity is the most widespread religion, so it is arguably persecuted all around the globe. On the other hand, christians have persecuted many religions to extinction, so the amount of persecution is a question of how such things are measured. One also has to remember how christianity has spread so far and wide. By violence, and as you know violence begets violence. Christianity is also the religion that has persecuted all the other religions the most. It is also the one religion that has the longest record of persecution of other adherents of the same faith. Not a particularly compelling story. Where has god been during all this persecution?
How am I expected to start to think like a believer? Which faith should I choose and by what logic? What contemplation should lead me in to a situation where I accept the obvious lies of this or that religion without a question? How am I to throw away my humanity and ethics, and find justification to massacres and genosides staged by this or that god? Maybe I am just stupid, but I really am not able to understand.
Shamanism/Animism = religion alpha software
Polytheism = religion beta software
Judaism = religion 1.0
Christianity = religion 2.0
Mormonism = religion 2.5
Islam = religion 3.0
Scientology = religion 4.0
Moderatism = spyware, often unnoticed and unaware of potential harm caused
Evangelism = virus, sole purpose is to replicate itself in as many hosts as possible
Fundamentalism = malware, difficult to remove
Atheism = predates all religion, default state of all humans
Humanism = nonreligion system, often develops naturally from default state, 100% compatitibility with every version of human hardware (though the human software might need a hard reset)
We been through these somewhere before have we not 🙂
I am of course talking about stepping inside christian head if you want to see our version of God. Adherents of other faiths are more capable of describing their faith.
Why kill all those people? Well I dunno. Maybe to test Israel nation? To tell other nations that ours is a kick ass God? Bible does not give any clues so this is a mystery. It tells something about how seriously He does take sin.
God created us in His image. Thus I think he feels somewhat same emotions as us humans, just in a perfect Godlike way. There is of course love but then there is hate and other emotions too. Today it is popular among christian circles to promote just the God of love. That in my opinion not the complete picture. You take God of the bible as he is.
You might be right there that perhaps God chooses us and places us in a position where we can accept Him as a savior. That is a bit calvinist view and not something I or anybody on earth can answer in a completely satisfactory manner.
A lot of unanswerables there. But hey! This is theology after all. 😉
Ha! These conversations seem all too easily come to the same questions, that are the unanswerable ones. But there are answers also. It of course depends on our willingnes to hear them out. 😉 Right?
One thing about any gods I have never really grasped, is just that. Why is it necessary to put us into boxes according to wether or not we believe in these deities that never appear anywhere. If the gods are as powerfull as ever portrayed, they could easily present themselves in a way that would leave no argument open about their existance. Yet they never do. Do they? We humans are expected to believe in their existance on circumstantial evidence only (if you can call it even that, when we are expected to find gods plausible by blindly believing in the stories other people tell us about them).
Within christianity there are two obviously different aspects to this believing business. I do not know very well all the evangelical movements, but historically this division prevailed in the reformation of the western church, when the so called protestants broke of from the catholic church. Both of the catholic churches (just as the other christian sects destroyed by them as heretics) had traditionally set of from the aspect of mysticism. That the truth they represented was unquestionable and therefore needed no logical explanation. It was faith in the unexplainability of their god. The protestant legacy however, is clearly an attempt to reason with god. To find some logic from the customs and contradicting dogma. This attempt was of course doomed from the beginning, because logical deduction leads to the place where there are so many unanswerables and logical fallacies in the founding book of christianity, that the more you know, the less believable the god of the Bible becomes. So, in a historical sense, the reformation was the initial kick that led to the secular state and philosophical atheism in the western world. I suppose it is just because so many of the other religions are so strongly based on mysticism, that atheism and modern secular state with the values it represents was launched in the western culture. However, it seems to me that, when the locig of the faith is questioned, the believers always retire in mysticism. I suppose there is no harm there as such. As long as the mystic superstition does not justify something ethically wrong. As it so often does. Like for example on both sides of the crisis in modern day Israel.
I honestly do not see, what was it supposed to be a test of, to send the anceint Hebrews to kill babies. The problem about the Bible is just that. In theological terms it does not explain this needles violence. In historical and humanist terms the explanation is clear and there is nothing unanswerable about it. When people murder in a religious frenzy, it is because of the same reasons why they kill other people in the first place, but gods and other supernatural reasons are there to sanctify the evil deeds. It is a typical human behaviour model to override any ethics by leaning on to the imagined ultimate source of morals to give excuse to do the murder or other atrocities. Usually it involves stealing the property of the other people and most often taking their land and even slaves. Gods are appeased by giving them sacrificial portions of the loot, and often enough this part ends up in the pockets of what ever priesthood that told “deus vult” god wants it to give the initiative for the violent action.
How can you tell if god has feelings? Who told you so, and how much do you trust that persons judgement on the issue? What kind of connection to a god does that person have and how do you know it is for real? Is there not a good possibility that that person is simply mistaken? Or do you just find faith in whatever he/she tells you?
If gods have feelings, is it because they are indeed andropomorphic? The reverse image is that we humans are the images of gods, but then also the chimpanzees are images of gods, as are most mammals. Most mammals are just as capable to have the same form of emotions as we humans do. Are horses the images of god, and as we have moulded them by selective breeding, have we tampered in the image of god there? Are mammals somehow more like god, than fish, wich alledgedly have a lesser range of emotions to mammals? What about amebas and bacteria? Does your god feel fear or jealosy? Only in a perfect godly manner, right? We all feel fear or jealosy from time to time, but as hate they are regarded as lower echelons of our emotional chart. Are these not lower emotions when it is felt by a god?
What is sin? Something against the will of god, right? What was the purpose of the perfect creator of entire universe to give way to such a thing? Alledgedly this god is omniscient so, all that happens or has happened is inevitable to it, unless it decides to change things by the allmighty powers it is also alledgedly weilding. The only logical conclusion is that it wanted the sin to enter the world and all suffering that comes as a result is only done at the permission of this alledged god. It really makes no sense to punish one little nation of their sins by putting a nother little nation to exterminate them.
“I believe God is a sadist, but propably does not even know it.” Stg. Steiner in the “The Cross of Iron”
It is a major logical fallacy, that in order there to exist free will of the individual, evil would be necessary to exist. People do all the time very good things from their good will. Are they somehow representing less free will, by choosing in what good stuff they will next engage in? Of course not.
“Why is it necessary to put us into boxes according to wether or not we believe in these deities that never appear anywhere.”
Don’t they? He appeared all right during Jesus. He appeared during the old testament times. He will appear soon enough again in force. Between these times He appears in more quiet way. That was the case before and that is the case now. There are miracles to prove His existence, but we already discussed the impossibility of proving miracles at length before.
“so many unanswerables and logical fallacies in the founding book of christianity, that the more you know, the less believable the god of the Bible becomes”
What unanswerables are we talking about? I see only mysteries. No fallacies.
“How can you tell if god has feelings? “
Cause bible tells me so.
If there is a omnipotent deity He sure is bound to have characteristics. We are the crown of His creation and thus there is a little bit of His image in each of us.
God can be found in his ekklesia. When we combine all of our minds as a congregation we get closer to reflecting His total being. Accepting that He of course has no sin. Congregations are here to help us deal with that sin and reflect Jesus to the broken world.
How sin entered the world? Read your bible.
By the way it is a good tactic to say things over and over again and wear down anyone not in agreement, but that is not a polite tactic. Let’s stick to the subject at hand shall we 🙂
I am sorry, if I repeat myself. I try not to do that. I can assure you, I am not intentionally using any “tactics”. I would not know how to. I merely follow the flow of the conversation. 🙂
However, I think my comments have been in line with the topic. The historical division of christianity is in my view a major point about a god setting people to be born into different religions and having different and unequal chances for the alledged salvation. Why? Most of the different christian sects declare they are the only, or at very least more secure path to salvation, but only a very small fraction of humans are born and indoctrinated to any of them. If there actually existed such a powerfull god as alledged in the monotheistic religions, it could easily remedy this, even without poking into our free will. Why does it not help us?
Even if Jesus was a historical character (as I do suppose) his divinity is somewhat debatable. In light of historical research methodology, it would seem there is none what so ever of evidence of that. The stories of gods appearing in the Old Testament are quite obvious folklore and on the same level of evidence as any other ancient stories about gods in any religion. They are more easily explained by human psyche, than by theology. As for gods future appearings. Well, that remains to be seen, but the expectation by some people of such hardly serves as evidence of it…
One logical fallacy in the Bible is the problem of gods lack of morals compared to the allegation of god being the source of morals. Such, as in the case of the so called promised land genosides. A nother group of logical fallacies is the “mystery” of what parts of the Bible should be taken literally and what are mere myths. Similar fallacies are prone to most religions I know of. It is easy to come to such dead ends, when what is given as the absolute truth is expected to be assumed as faith and not to be questioned by logic. And there are of course a lot more logical fallacies, propably at least 500… 😉
It is not typical only for religions, but human thinking in general to assume we humans are the “crowns” of “creation”. In nature we are just one organism among others and we ourselves give us the value we think we have. The obvious fact that we are far from perfect needs an excuse and “sin” is the religious explanation to it. It, never the less, is in direct contradiction of the ideal characteristics we have given to the demiurgi or all creator god in monotheistic religions. It is a remnant from cultural evolution. An obvious reminder of the pantheistic mind where gods are given much more human characteristics. Such as emotions like love, hate, anger, jealosy and such. Most of the Old Testament was written during a time, when only the nomadic cultures held a notion of monotheism.
If a god somehow appears in the congrecation of the faithfull, why is it that it does not appear reliably elswhere? That is the topic of this post after all. Why are some people (a very small group indeed) priviledged to be born and indoctrinated into part of that unity with god and most others being part of the wrong religions only think they are? What is the logical explanation to that? Or is it just a mystery that gives a very negative impression of any god to an outsider who comes across this question? Most people by far are and have allways been outsiders to most religions. So, is god a sadist, or not?
I have not found any logical explanation of the purpose of sin from the Bible I read, that was not in contradiction to the alledged superpowers of the god in that book. As mentioned above. Has anyone?
I read all your comments again this morning and really enjoyed them, thank you.
BHS: “I am of course talking about stepping inside christian head if you want to see our version of God.”
rautakyy: “But there are answers also. It of course depends on our willingnes to hear them out. Right?”
I spent 30 years inside a Christian head, and I could defend most of it. There is a huge difference between the Christian and Atheist mind, and both sides make some powerful arguments (if they didn’t, the truth would be much more obvious).
As a doubting Christian, I found it very difficult to let myself get inside the head of an atheist. For me, it felt blasphemous to even consider that Jesus was anything less than God. But these Christian thoughts were based more on emotional ties than logic or reason. My brain was programmed to think as a Christian, so that’s how I viewed the world.
I’m now of the mind that skeptics base their beliefs on logic and reason, while Christians base their beliefs on a story, faith, and emotions. That’s not to say there isn’t some logic and reason in Christianity, only that it’s usually based on the story (built upon sand, if you will).
You can see this kind of thinking in answers like BHS’s statement “Cause [the] bible tells me so.” That may make perfect sense to a Christian, but to a skeptic you might as well be saying “Because the Qur’an tells me so” or “Because the Book of Mormon tells me so.” If the story is flawed, you can’t trust the conclusion.
To find truth, we have to question the authority of these stories.
Problem is, as rautakyy said, these stories “are more easily explained by human psyche, than by theoloy.” We see plenty of evidence that humans can write fictitious stories, but little evidence that gods, miracles, or other mythical creatures exist.
rautakyy: “And there are of course a lot more logical fallacies, propably at least 500…”
Exactly what I was going to say. Not only do the plethora of myths imply that the Bible is just another such myth, but there are hundreds of other reasons for the skeptic to be suspicious.
Hear me o ye heathens and doupters 😉
Belief in naturalism should not be an obstacle for faith. Is it impossible to think that God could use human psyche as a tool to His ends? If we see visions is it not possible that it is God speaking to us? Maybe God chooses those whose brain is programmed for religion? Even if evolution is true and animals posses human kind of feelings why we can’t still be crowns of His creation? None of these in my mind shut the bible out of the equation. It is just God using nature He created to accomplish His ends.
Then there is christian presence in every corner of this planet of ours, so there should be an adequate culturally relative witness available to almost everybody. Certainly everybody that God wants. Look at this:
There are christians everywhere. It is just that we are a minority in some parts of the world.
To me as a faithful the bible is good enough reason to believe. Even though I don’t go to 11 when I think about how much truth is there in the old testament. Fortunately men wiser than me have been thinking about this so I don’t have to write about it (phew!):
Click to access Keller_white_paper.pdf
Actually none of what we are talking about is anything new. These same issues have been up for debate since biblical times 🙂
Now as for how mythological old testament actually is? I recently discovered this in youtube:
Interesting stuff. I googled some of it and it seems that there is a possibility of it being true. Tell me what you think? Especially you mr Rautakyy since you have an inside track to archeology.
Well now, It is hard to see that this film has any relevance to the topic or the former conversation we have had, and I do not see why you brought it up, but since you insist and at our hosts permission I try to answer shortly. First of all, I have never heard of these claims by the archeologists, that Don Patton Phd on the film is trying to dispute. In my understanding of archaeology, there are very few elements in the traditional account of the Bible that are not considered as a valid source for history of the Levant. Yet, there is nothing to support the supernatural elements in these stories. Is there? Of course it is natural that in strongly pathriarcal society it is likely that the conquering of a city is told as a divinal miracle of its walls crumbling down, rather than just as, well, the whores let us in and hence the whorehouse was spared from the destruction. One has to remember that during the early history of the Hebrews in the Palestine, they tried to remain as a nomadic people living of the herds, and the cities were rather destroyed than conquered. Later they however turned into sedentarism and rebuilt the destroyed cities (as these were built on sites where there was water, as that was the original reason to destroy them).
Later work in archaeology often reveals more than the earlier work. That is something even non archaeologists usually understand about the science. The scientists also make mistakes. Do they not? There is very much archaeological excavation done in the modern day Israel. Both by the official establishment and the religious private groups. The latter seem to have better funding and it pays better to the archaeologists working for them. The political situation is difficult. Archaeology is used as a political tool a bit like religion. There are a lot of people to whom it is important, that the history of the Jewish nation is found like it is described in the Torah as if it would give an excuse to the founding of the modern day state of Israel. But the area is infected by extremist religious and political groups. An aquintance of mine who worked in Israel said it was difficult since they could not use the walkie-talkies without cryptic messages since the local militant Jewish group would haras them, if they they discovered something “holy” in the ground.
This film is implying something a bit like saying that since the Machu Pichu was found from the mountains, the Inca sun god Inti has to be true just as well. Does the fact that following the myth of Troy the archaeologists who found Troy assured us that Poseidon is an actual deity? Do we take the Minoan gods as true just because the Mycenaen palaces are described in the Greek mythology accurately as labyrinths?
Many archeological finds connected to myths were and still are disputed to be what the myths describe, since it is very hard to come to solid conclusions in these matters. Yet, there they are. Myths are allways linked in history. It is only the supernatural parts that I find hard to stomach and so do you my friends. Exept, if your cultural heritage tells you one particular myth to be different from others, you may look at it and take it at face value when you would not accept the same fairy tale elements from other myths. But even though there are christians who convert to islam and hindus who convert to buddhism, most people will not convert to anything from their own cultural heritage. Some people start thinking and loose faith, and some people cling on to the faith as it gives them some sensation of safety or other form of fullfilment. Most people do not have the time to engage in these thoughts (like we do in this conversation) and by some religions they are sent to eternal pain for that. Certainly, most of the people I know would be the victims of such a god, if that was true.
Today there are Christians in every corner of the world, yes. That is the direct result of christian cultures violent conquest and domination of the world during the centuries after Jesus. Is that a god at work? Possibly, but it is not a very nice god at all, now is it? Still most people in the world are born outside christianity. The largest and fastest growing denomination of christianity is still Roman catholicism. The method is breeding, in such measure, it seriously threatens the enverioment. What is that to a poor Pakistani or Indian orphan in the slums of Kalkutta or Karach? Are they responsible for not turning christian if they happen to hear of Jesus from a foreign missionary? Most of them shall not. What about the poor christian orphans in the slums of Sao Paolo or Mexico City? Are those kids stealing glue to smell it to drive the hunger away automatically sent to heaven after they die? What if they, in their desperation, sell sexual favours, are they braking the laws of god? Do they get punished by eternal pain in the afterlife? What is the purpose of their suffering, if there is an allmighty, and supposedly benevolent god? No, I do not see any benevolent gods anywhere. Do you?
Yes, I do think it is more logical to think that a god could be using natural world to achieve some mystical goals, than to take some old myth literally. But it is a slippery slope as mentioned earlierly. All religious thinking is eclectic. People choose what parts of the “holy” truths they find convincing and also often enough convinient. Fundamentalists are usually people who greatly disaprove of such “religious shopping”, but in the end that is just what all gods are claimed to expect of us. We humans are expected by the religions as systems to choose what gods we find plausible and then worship them (and pay tribute). The gods are playing hide and seek, so that we most often end up choosing the gods that relate to us best by our own cultural heritage and the values we find worthy of support. But it also seems, that people are fed values they would not otherwise support as a package with choosing any particular religion. Take it or leave it, seems to be the principle. That is to say, a demand to abandon ones own compassion and logic, for a political cause supported by the particular religious organization. And most people do. Only according to their own cultural heritage, what ever that may be.
In that sense this is just what I thought, the original post by our host, was all about. How, is it, that if there is only one true god, people choose to worship all other kinds of gods mostly according to their cultural heritage? Why does that one “true” god not reveal itself, indisputably. That should not be such a difficult task to someone who is being described as omnipotent and who alledgedly has created the entire universe. But alas, no. No gods appear anywhere, exept in old stories. What do these gods have to gain by putting humans through this guessing game where the quality of our reincarnation in the next life or the afterlife in general is measured by wether if we did bet on the winning horse?
In a theological, or logical sense it makes no sense at all. But it is quite a common model of human behaviour, no matter what the cultural heritage, religion or place of birth. That explains it quite clearly. Without any supernatural implications at all.
Sorry. I couldn’t help but to brake my own rules. Bit of an anarchist that I am 🙂 It was just too good a vid to let go without showing.
It is not at all said that everyone agrees that the old testament is a valid source of history. With this I’m merely pointing that this might not be the case at all. Bible is way it says it is. A valid source of history. It is up to you if you want to believe the miracles part of it.
Choosing religion. It is not as big a problem as you make it to be. As there is a culturally relevant christian mission in every corner of the world it is not impossible for God to deliver His message to those he deems worthy. And maybe use dreams and visions as well. This leads me to conclude that our God is fair. As an omnipotent deity surely He knows well in advance how that indian orphan will turn out. To us humans it does not look fair but God’s vision is different than ours. Or He makes allowances.
God is there if you are willing to listen:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
Well, on the video Don Patton Phd is resenting some earlier work of other archaeologists as holding some sort of grudges against the Bible as the “truth”, because they have not found the same amount of evidence he claims to have found. I do not know their agendas, but it is good scientific work not to assume any myths to be absolutely true. Every archaeologist knows that there are some truths to myths. There is much debate about different sites being connected to this, or that myth all around the world. None that I know of is because of any malign intent. He accuses of someone who died in the seventies for bringing “modern archaeology” to Israel, as if it was some sort of crime. I bet he uses more modern methods in his search than they did back then. Yet, his conclusions are scientifically questionable, because he makes them by methodology that was obsolete allready in the fiftees. A true scientist only believes the evidence of their research. They do not set out to campaingn against, nor for any old fancifull stories.
There is a difference between a modern doctor and a witch doctor. The witch doctor may have very good traditional healing methods the modern doctor is unaware of, but ultimately the witchdoctor does not understand the causality of diseases. Not if he thinks spirits caused the illnesses.
If the Bible is read as a historical source, it should also be under the same scrutany as any other historical source. We do not assume the supernatural to be true in any other historical sources either, why should we assume it is so in one particular compilation of texts? Because, either a god arranged it so, or perhaps since there was none in the first place there is no evidence of any personified gods in the world. There is just nature, and human psyche as part of that wonderful and complex reality.
So, I am not a believer because I am unworthy to be convinced by a god to become one? Is your god really so evil, that it chooses only a fraction of the entire population of the earth(past and present) to send dreams that convince them enough to find the alledged salvation? Could this god not do this in such a scale that no “false religions” were even necessary, that we would be beyond doubt of the existance of this one and only god? Why not? Is your god somhow impotent to help most people, or what? Are you saying, in essence, you are so much better in the eyes of a particular god, than I am (and my entire family), that you will end up in Paradise, while I and most other people in the world are deemed to be tormented for an eternity? Is that it, or did I get it somehow wrong? Sounds a bit selfrighteous. Does it not? 😉
Allah, Buddha, Krishna and oh, so many are there, if you are willing to listen, and many of them are closer to anybody on the planet day by day. Did you not know? How did you happen to choose yours from the lot of them? 1) A truly meaningfull dream, or 2) just cultural backround in western civilization, or perhaps 3) you were well aware of all the possible religions in the world to choose one, that had the most meaningfull content (oh wait that is exactly the same as nuber two), or maybe 4) you just tossed a coin, or 5) when in need of help, a particular nomination of particular religion helped you out, or 6) some other reason? I am sorry, if this is too personal, and I will not press the issue, if you rather not share this with the internet. There are billions of reasons why people convert to this or that religion. Where is god in this fracasse? Nowhere, I tell you. Gods do not much interfere in conversions, as proof of that, if there was only Allah, why would a muslim convert to a Hindu. Yet, it happens. If there was only your god, why would people convert from christianity into budhists? You must know, that these conversions are all done in the most deepest mindset of the faith. Yet, gods do not interfere. Why not? Because they do not exist.
Allright. This takes us to the ages old debate. God’s choosing vs free will again. I actually don’t want to go there too much because I don’t think there is anything meaningful I can add to this centuries old discussion.
As for my conversion experience. It was 1, 3, 5 and 6 for me. So I feel it was a combination of different factors. Conversion experience is unique for everyone. God tailors just right circumstances. And I know from experience that many have been called but not all of them answer. You certainly have that free will to use however you want. That is between God and you. And most certainly none of my business. 🙂
@ BHS, I would have a lot to say about the free will concept. Especially when it concerns what religions people choose, but actually most of that has been said in the original post. It seems very little free will is given to the individuals concerning their faith, if the hypothesis of creator gods is true. People are expected to choose, but in reality that choise is allready made by the culture where people are in born. Individual exeptions do not manifest any sort of benevolence from the gods, but simply point out how rare these occasions are in comparrison to the general populace of any given culture. Most mass conversions are direct results of subjucation of nations, so that does present a picture of loving gods either. Where are all the gods when people really need them?
Religion studies, wich is a separate research branch from theology (they are a bit like chemistry and alchemy, where chemistry is a sound scientific research methodology, alchemy -much like theology- has some major assumption based on folklore), says that every religious conversion happens in a personal crisis. All people do go through crisis and the more severe the crisis, the more likelier a person is to abandon former beliefs and to accept new ones instead. However, most people do not convert into anything. In reverse most people do not undergo a process where they completely re-evaluate their values. It is quite possible for a person to develope this sort of crisis by questioning their own set of values and world view. I personally think it is healthy to do so. 🙂
Yet, it is interresting that you chose number 3) instead of number 2) to describe your motivation. I know I claimed them to be the one and the same, but the flavour is a bit different. I personally doubt I will ever learn enough of all the religions of the world to make a choise between them, and the more I learn the less plausible any of the ones I have encountered seems to me. It is the age old truth, that knowledge only increases the pain.
You are right there that a later age conversion needs crisis. People feeling strong don’t usually need God but when we encounter our mortality we do. I found my life empty without God so I took this route. My life has been much happier after I did. Not that my life has bee trouble free of course but He has led me to the uncharted waters and made me more resistant to troubles. What a cool God.
Mass conversions do happen without sword on a throat. God is moving still and doing His work on people. It is a big mystery who God chooses though. Keep up the good work trying to figure that out. My life is too short for that 🙂
I am happy for you, that religion gives meaning to your life.
Mass conversions are of course not any more valuable than individual conversions, but the fact remains, that alltough some people convert to christianity others convert to islam, or buddhism, or what have you. Most people do not find strange religions very compelling. Do they deserve eternal pain because they are born in a very different culture from some other? If that would be so, it would be a manifestation of such pure evil. It seems to me that the greatest moral differences between people are not according to what gods they worship, but rather how they live their lives otherwise. A person may be a total monster wether he is an atheist, christian, muslim, or buddhist or what ever other denomination. A person may be the most caring altruist, wether he is an atheist, christian, muslim, or buddhist, or what ever denomination. And that is something concrete, that counts, nevermind gods.
I will keep up my little hobby of trying to understand different human cultures and even their fancy religions. It gives meaning to my life. Logic is my guide on that path, and I have found it serves me well.
Watch out, though! If your life is too short for you to find Allah, it may be you find out only after you die, that Allah is the only god, and because you did not embrace Allah during your short lifetime, you shall be tormented for ever. There are millions of people who believe so. Why should they not? 😉
Thanks for the attempts to stay on-topic. (I’m just as guilty as anyone.)
Rautakyy – “Why does that one ‘true’ god not reveal itself, indisputably… No gods appear anywhere, exept in old stories.”
I still say one good “fire from heaven” demonstration would clear a lot of things up. Elijah faced the same problem we have today: too many religions and no one is sure who the real god is. Back then, God had no problem providing a clear demonstration of power, but today… He’s a little camera shy. So we just have to take the Bible’s word for it that it happened, and that God (strangely) refuses to repeat the demonstration.
BHS: “To us humans it does not look fair but God’s vision is different than ours. Or He makes allowances.”
So are you saying religion doesn’t ultimately matter? That Christians shouldn’t try to convert Muslims because God makes allowances?
Rautakyy – “Could this god not do this in such a scale that no ‘false religions’ were even necessary, that we would be beyond doubt of the existance of this one and only god?”
I make a similar point in the next post. If God would just reveal the most important bits of his truth to all who seek Him, then missionaries wouldn’t be as critical, and we would know the difference between true and false religions. The true religion would be the one God reveals to you when you ask Him, the false one would be the one delivered by men.
Rautakyy also asked about conversion. My religion was passed down from my mother — I didn’t choose it, it chose me.
BHS: “Conversion experience is unique for everyone. God tailors just right circumstances.”
Yep, and it converts you into to many different religions, depending on your circumstances.
Rautakyy – “People are expected to choose, but in reality that choice is already made by the culture where people are in born.”
Rautakyy “… every religious conversion happens in a personal crisis”
As a Christian, we would often speak about how God reaches out to people when they’ve hit bottom. As a skeptic, this makes perfect sense. When you hit bottom, you’re desperate to try anything. It’s not God reaching out to you, it’s you desperately groping for meaning. You should convert when you’re emotionally drained, but when you’re thinking clearly. But personally, I think religion is based more on emotion than reason.
You can even see this in BHS’s words (sorry to use you as an example, BHS). He says “People feeling strong don’t usually need God…” and “I found my life empty…” and “My life has been much happier….” The emotions are driving the decision making.
Rarely do people say “I wasn’t in any emotional crisis, but after a rigorous examination of all the religious and scientific evidence, I concluded that the story of God creating the Universe, and the fall of Adam and Eve, and the virgin birth to the son of the Creator, was the most reasonable explanation.” No one would make this conclusion, because no hard evidence exists for such a conclusion.
Rautakyy – “Watch out, though! If your life is too short for you to find Allah, it may be you find out only after you die, that Allah is the only god, and because you did not embrace Allah during your short lifetime, you shall be tormented for ever.”
It’s not the Muslims. 😉
Also, ultimately our concept of fairness is completely human. Why should we think God has the same?
Hey! A great question for the 500 questions to god. I would ad, not so different, question to that: Since our concept of love is completely human, why should we think the alledged creator of the entire universe has the same?
That is an interesting question.
I seem to recall reading an argument where God’s definition of “X” was called into question. The premise was that if we can’t define what “X” is, then we can’t even begin to discuss it.
If words like good, fair and just have no meaning, they why is God (supposedly) telling us He IS these things? He wouldn’t, unless we could comprehend what they are. Otherwise, He might as well tell us He’s blam, sham, and wallabam, because words have no meaning.
This begs another interesting question, which is who gives words like “fair, good and just” their meaning? Is something fair because God says it’s fair, or is it fair because there is some universal natural law beyond God that defines fair? If God says “It’s fair to torture babies,” then is this suddenly fair? If He determines what is fair, then He can say “I’m fair” and it means nothing, because it means whatever He wants it to mean.
Ignostics think along the same lines about God. They say that “a coherent definition of a deity must be put forward before the question of the existence of a deity can be meaningfully discussed. If the chosen definition is not coherent, the ignostic holds the noncognitivist view that the existence of a deity is meaningless or empirically untestable.” Again, unless you have a working definition of something, it makes it difficult to discuss.
I was baptized and brought up Christian, but I never liked going to church, never paid attention to sermons, never read the bible beyond the first page, and the stories I did know were too hard to swallow as facts. I’ve only prayed when I really really wanted something but in the same vein as wishing on a dandelion (which I’ve done a lot more often). Many people in this area are Christians, but I’ve often found myself questioning what makes our religion right over the others. I noticed many of my other questions are addressed on this blog too. Now as an adult I don’t got to church. If I do it’s just for appearances. I could count on one hand how many days out of the year. I never felt like I got anything out of it, and the fact that dad stayed home while mom dragged us to church every Sunday made me wonder what the point of it all was. I was never totally sold on my religion and believe in it less now. I don’t think it’s because I don’t want to accept it but I can’t because I just don’t feel it in me. I can’t make enough sense out of it. When I see people who appear to be really moved by the spirit it weirds me out. I find the fact that a person could suddenly become so frantic just from hearing a man talk about God a little scary. I wonder if there’s a special place in hell for people like me, people who are good people and were raised Christian but for whatever reason just didn’t buy what the church was selling.
If there is, maybe we can hang out there. 😉
There’s been some interesting new research in the area of what makes some people beleive more than others; it may just be a matter of whether we come to rely on logic or intuition: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-critical-thinkers-lose-faith-god
that is sad that you would make a joke about hanging out “there.” yes we shall see if you will have that same smiling emoji when you end up “there.” aloe’s “people who are good people” comment is where it needs to be confronted. we are not “good people.” there’s no such thing as a “good person” darling…. christianity is not about going to a building called church with a bunch of people with fake smiles plastered over their face, while listening to some boring sermon about how to forgive people.. believe me, ive been there… but our souls are on the line here.. plead the blood. thats the only way to be reconciled with god, and for his judgment to pass over you.. you people are too smart for your own good. or so you think.
You say there is no such thing as a good person, but what makes someone good? Is it showing love and concern for the well-being of others?
Say, for example, you knew that if you got pregnant and had a child, it would suffer in great pain every day of its life. As soon as it could talk, it would beg to die, until it was finally able to take its own life. Knowing this in advance, would you have a child? Probably not, because you’re a good person, and you knew this child is better off never being born.
Now imagine you’re God. As God, you know if you create humankind, that the majority of them will end up suffering in hell for all eternity.
Do you create them?
There are many different names for one God … seems to make the most sense to me.
Again, I know him in how he reveals himself to me and am not put on this earth to judge but to love.