ARCHIVES:

Posts in this section were archived prior to February 2010. For more recent posts, go to the HOME PAGE.

Archived Articles

1/11/2007                                                                                       View Comments

300 million year old rock

By Lauren Becker

The summer before my senior year of college I worked as a park ranger guiding hikes in one of the most beautiful state parks in the country. Its central feature was a 256-foot waterfall that plunged down through a gorgeous natural amphitheater, cutting through bands of limestone and sandstone and collecting in a deep pool, the perfect hangout for summer swimming. My favorite program was the hike to the base of the falls. Layers of rock are like chapters in a history book and this canyon, carved so deeply, told an ancient story. Standing at the bottom, calling out over the roar of the falls, I got to teach the exciting conclusion, "The layers of slate and shale beneath our feet tell us that 300 million years ago, this deciduous forest was a tropical jungle."

"What book d’ya get that out of?" came the reply one day. And thus it began, for this waterfall was not only located in ancient rock, it was also in the heart of the Bible-belt. I had heard there were people who believed the Earth was only 6,000 years old, but I never thought I would actually meet any. That summer, and every other summer I worked teaching science to the public, I met a lot of them. Though most objectors would just walk away from the program, some mothers would cover their children’s ears to protect them from the “blasphemous park ranger.” One man, after I patiently explained how we know the age of rocks, finally just threw up his hands, exclaimed, "The Devil made that rock look that old to turn you away from God," and led his family back up the trail.

At the time, to a college kid with a summer job, these responses seemed bizarre but relatively harmless – they were local, "everyone's entitled to their own beliefs," "no skin off my back," "whatever"... But now, 15 years later, I understand these taunts to be the threat they truly are: dangerous beliefs made more dangerous because more and more people believe them.

How does believing a 300 million year-old rock is only 6,000 years old become dangerous? It is a reflection of where and how we find answers. A 300 million year-old rock is the answer resulting from decades of observation, research, field study, laboratory testing, comparative studies and critical thinking. A 6,000 year old rock is the answer because God said so.

Is the accurate age of a rock really important? Interesting, yes, but important? Maybe not. But what if the question is about Polio? Should we seek an answer from decades of observation, research and field study, discover a vaccine and destroy a worldwide plague or does the answer lie in God's plan?

What if the question is about food? Decades of observation, research and field study have shown us there is only so much arable land that can produce only so many calories of food energy. Currently, we burn 10 calories of oil energy to make 1 calorie of food energy. Our world population of 6 billion people is barely sustainable, let alone the 12 billion projected in another 40 years. Should we answer with conservation or with prayer?

What about your right to vote or just your rights in general? Eons of history, research, comparative studies and critical thinking have brought us to the advantages of a representative democracy based on individual rights and the checks and balances of limited governmental power. Is government of, by, and for the people the answer for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or would we prefer one nation, under God, defined by his will and authority?

Let's think about this: If, as many people are demanding today, we want our government to be based on God's authority, the first problem is to decide exactly which God we want to follow. There are many. God is a very ambiguous, schizophrenic deity. This is why, as Carl Sagan explained, "When you ask, 'Do you believe in God?' if I say yes or if I say no, you have learned absolutely nothing." So we have to be more specific. How do we get 300 million people to agree to a specific definition of God's identity and will? We can't, of course. A democratic populace with the freedom to think for itself never will. Okay, forget individual freedoms. The answer is a theocratic dictatorship that can force the people to live according to its particular interpretation of God's will.

And that's how a 6,000 year old rock becomes dangerous.

But it was just a little rock! Yes, but it is a big metaphor.

The man who claimed that the Devil had made the rock look that old to turn me away from God was trying to warn me that I shouldn't believe everything I see. He believes the Devil works through deception so anything learned from observation can’t be trusted. The church tells him Satan sends demons to trick his senses and his mind. Consequently, according to him and the 30 million Americans who agree with him, we can be saved only through faith.

Of course, there's no denying that our minds can be easily fooled. After all, it is the basic premise underlying all marketing, entertainment, and campaign policies. But the idea that we must turn to faith for our salvation is fundamentally flawed. Credulity is a disastrous reaction to deception. If we wish to succeed in life, we need a more skeptical way to react to the world around us. How can we possibly work through the deceits of the world and the whims of our minds and come to a true understanding of reality?

That answer is the Scientific Method. It is a process of constant questioning, testing, verifying and questioning again, until the smoke and mirrors are removed and reality is revealed. Then you do it all over again. It is an adaptive mechanism, a hybrid of contemplation and observation and the best technique we’ve invented to help us figure stuff out. Constant questions. Constant testing. If an idea doesn’t hold up, we throw it out. It’s ruthless, but it works. There is no "argument from authority" because authorities make mistakes. And, as Sagan reminds us, "Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong." Nothing is sacred and that is how lots of very diligent people figured out that a 6,000 year-old rock was really 300 million years old. Cherished ideas often must fall by the wayside, but at its best, the method keeps us honest.

Honesty is difficult. It requires heroic efforts of introspection and self-awareness. This honest portrayal of reality is at the heart of the conflict between science and religion. While science is a natural response to reality, religion demands that we distrust our senses and our intellect, instead relying on a supernatural explanation. In this way, faith robs us of the best tool we have for learning about our world and understanding our true position within it. Religions, especially fundamentalist religions, get stuck because they are based on an immovable, unchangeable, unquestionable authority. But without doubt and questioning, there is no way to acknowledge, much less correct for errors. That is how a 6,000 year-old rock becomes dangerous.

It also explains the hostility on the hike that day because the danger goes both ways. If we want to believe that the universe was created for our benefit, almost every scientific discovery of the past 400 years has been a real downer. First we find out that the universe, literally, does not revolve around us. Next, we discover that our Sun is really a quite average star and, not only that, we live out in the boon-docks of an average spiral galaxy that is just one of 20 other galaxies (given the appropriately non-superlative name The Local Group) zipping through space outward from the center of the cosmos which, did we mention, is very far away from us. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this planet that was supposedly created for us was hanging out for almost 5 billion years before we even showed up and, by the way, we didn’t look like this when we first got here.

If your sense of self-worth, your purpose in life, is based on the belief that you and the universe were created specially for one another, science is truly a harbinger of doom. You can shoot the messenger, but ignoring reality is no guarantee that it will go away. Like a talk-show celebrity, the significance you desire is, sadly, based on unmerited importance. Truth be told, though the performance was entertaining, your show is just a dot among 6 billion dots on a bigger dot flying around a brighter dot lost amid a billion, billion more dots separated by vacuous space.

But here's the cool thing: at least you are a dot. I am a dot, too. This means that, though we are insignificant to the cosmos, we are incredibly significant to each other. We and our fellow dots. What should we do? Don't be afraid. The lack of a deity is not an opening for chaos. It is a call for responsibility. Besides, there are some really smart dots over there that have figured out how to learn and they can teach us how to survive. It’s all really quite amazing. Did you know that this rock is over 300 million years old?

Our species has continuously found meaning, purpose and comfort in the idea of god or gods. Unfortunately, if we want to know what is actually going on, and our survival depends on understanding reality, religion is utterly bereft of explanatory power. A belief in god’s existence is a useful and powerful illumination of our own desires for life, but it is not a reflection of what life is.

The discovery that a rock is 300 million years old is the result of lots of questions by lots of people who devised lots of different ways to ask the Earth about itself. Much to our delight, she is talking. Science is how we listen and the scientific method is how we understand what she says.

To deny that a rock is 300 million years old is to deny the process that got us to that understanding. Since this process of inquiry is our best tool for succeeding in the world, its denial is a grave threat to our future prosperity. Far from making us stronger, faith cripples us because it takes away our greatest advantage: our ability to question, to learn, to adapt and, therefore, to live.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lauren Becker is a science interpreter who has taught at museums and parks around the country. She is Public Relations Assistant for the Center for Inquiry.

81 comments:

Spirula said...

faith cripples us because it takes away our greatest advantage: our ability to question, to learn, to adapt and, therefore, to live.

Bingo. (Of course, this is precisely the goal of religion...control the masses)

I was raised and educated in a conservative christian home, school and college. My deconversion began as a result of being a biology major. I realized that the "answers" Christian biology teachers gave regarding scientific discoveries/theories (esp. ToE) were intellectually dishonest and intentionally deceitful. So, here is one EX-Christian who started his deconversion BECAUSE of the conservative christian "science" regarding evolution.

(I got the pleasure of having to deal with these same tired fundy objections when I taught college biology...at a state college)

ryan said...

That bit about satan planting fake rocks in the ground made me laugh. I have heard the same thing about fossils--the devil put those bones there to trick us.

The best one I have ever heard is about the light of the stars. There are stars out there that are a hell of a lot farther away than 6000 lightyears, but we can see them. Here is the answer: when god made the earth and the stars, he also made the light between them.

No matter how you challenge fundies, they can always come with something as an explaination. An explaination, not an argument.

Jamie G. said...

Great article!

eel_shepherd said...

Lauren wrote:
"...And that's how a 6,000 year old rock becomes dangerous.
But it was just a little rock!..."

Give it time; it's still young...

John Fensworth said...

To ryan, that thing you said about the light of far away stars... just wow. I've never had to deal with ignorance that's so bad as to believe something like that, or to actually believe that the "devil" is making rocks look older than they are. Wow. Do these people even listen to what they're saying? I've never encountered this ignorance myself, so I easily find this all VERY appalling. It's so absurd that I want to laugh, but the shocking reality of it just makes me unable to laugh. It's unbelievable that anyone could believe something so ridiculous as supernatural "demons" physically changing scientific results to deceive us. I mean, I gues it was understandable for unenlightened individuals in the Middle Ages, but look where we are now, and we still have people so uninformed as to believe these things and purposely ignore knowledge? Every time some new thing like this pops up, it just makes me lose more and more faith in people.

Anonymous said...

I personally hold the theory that civilisation ends south of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Pecos River...

jfraysse said...

Great Piece, Lauren! You Rock! (he-he-he). Fellow Dots unite!

Anonymous said...

Lauren that was excellant, thanks!

John, you'll enjoy this one. My fundy father says that Hollywood plants fake dinosaur bones around the country to decieve people from finding God..yeah it sucks!

More ignorant sayings;

God hobbled space so man could not explore the universe.

The Good-book takes presidence over all knowledge, past, present and future.

The moon was created to light the night, a prophesy fullfilled.

Satan is in control of the world, right now.

Jews are God's favored people.

The Earth tilts, because God caused the seasons.

God is in control of the weather.

God controls who dies and when.

God is the man upstairs, looking down.

God knows how many hairs are on everyone's head, yeah that's important to a God.

I'm sure there's plenty more, I've wiped them out of my mind.

Sandman said...

I had a similar experience once at the Grand Canyon.

I was there on honeymoon with my new wife, admiring the rather spectacular view at the Abyss Overlook. There was just me and the wife, and a few yards away an old couple dressed in what I now recognise as American Rural Chic...ie plaid shirts and baseball caps.

The old guy pointed at the far rim, and said that fossil seashells and starfish had been found over there....and that was proof of the Flood in the Bible....

I had never come across Creationalists before, and so in my polite English manner I walked over, apologised for listening in, and asked the man to expain what he had just told his wife. He then began a 10 minute lecture on how the earth was made in 7 days, the Flood leaving seashells in the desert, etc. Then came the killer question ...."Why...ain't you a Christian son?"

I explained that yes, I had been raised a Christian and had attended a seminary school. Then I tried to explain that as a geologist I could assure him that those shells were a lot older than he said they were, that the Old Testament was an allegorical set of semi-historical tales, and that Catholisism (now) taught that ignorance was a sin.

He smiled at his wife and said "well all that science is just the Devil's work, and Catholics aint real Chistians are they?"

I smiled and bid them goodbye and walked away shaking my head.

As my grandfather always told me..."Never kick a mad dog or argue with a fool".

xrayman said...

A new one I heard was that the earth appears to be billions of years old because of the wear and tear of sin, in the same way a human who abuses their body will appear to be much older.

John Fensworth said...

To Bentley, please say you're joking about your father. Honestly, I just can't comprehend in my mind how it is even remotely possible to believe something like that. Sounds like some sort of symptom of paranoia or something, ha.

D Laurier said...

My favorite is when I mention a simple fact, and the christard responds with "Who told you that?"

They honestly expect you to give the name of either an atheist or a "demon" who is somehow whispering to you all the time,

The idea that I might have done some actual research through multiple sources is simply unthinkable to them.

Shannon said...

Yes, it would be nice to connect all the dots.

Zen said...

Lauren Becker: What if the question is about food? Decades of observation, research and field study have shown us there is only so much arable land that can produce only so many calories of food energy. Currently, we burn 10 calories of oil energy to make 1 calorie of food energy. Our world population of 6 billion people is barely sustainable, let alone the 12 billion projected in another 40 years. Should we answer with conservation or with prayer?

Zen: Great article, Lauren! I admire you..
Recently, the earth produces around 600 million tons of wheat, 600 million tons of rice, 600 million tons of corn, and 300 million tons of other grains. (See FAO website for more exact numbers).
Just consider the global warming (caused by petroleum pollution and illegal logging) and its effect on arable farming and grains production.
Can we survive by destroying earth?
3 billion of human races are only praying in churches and mosques, fighting each other (crusade versus jihad), and never think about conservation seriously like you and your colleagues (scientists).
I think there will be global famine first before we reach 12 billion of our population.
The end of the day will come true to meet their prayer!

Bently said...

Yes John my dear friend, I'm afraid it is true, ignorance is taught here in the south as truth. Sandman said, never argue with a fool, so my argueing days are over, because this is all there is around here, superstitious fools...lol

I remember another idiotic saying; Jews control all the money in the banking industry and want to take over the world, it's sickning I know, there's a deep hatred of Jews here in the south, wasn't Jesus supposedly a Jew?

Preachers here say that, Jews, Catholics, Atheists, Muslims, Homosexuals, Hindu's Buddha's are going straight to hell, Jerry Falwell has said that many times, anyone who does not believe in Jesus, is going straight to hell.

So many here believe that shit. TC

ryan said...

Good Morning, and a special hello to all.

To John Fensworth: friend, I could write a book. I have another one for you: the locusts in Revelation 9 are 4-engine bombers. Their stinging tails in verse 10 are the tail-gunners. My teachers and preachers told me this shit with a straight face.

As we all know, the enemy gets crazy over two things: creation and prophecy. These things function like book-ends, holding up the whole sorry structure of wingnut religion.

The tabloids pander to this shit--the latest thing is that armageddon is starting in iraq. Ever since the year 2000, the tabloids have been specializing in prophecy.

Bently, when it comes to kooks, Indiana has you beat. We have a subculture here that we commonly call "hillbillies". The standard joke is that they are the trash that the South drove out. As a rule, they drink themselves into early graves or at least wind up in jail. But, drunk or sober, they come together in churches--called pentecostal, pilgrim holiness, or something with "tabernacle" in their name--and the show of madness is breathtaking. Shouting; screaming; dropping unconscious; rattlesnakes.

The good part is that "billie gals" become sexually active at an early age. I dated a pentecostal (or was she holiness; hell, I don't remember) and she had the appetite of a muskrat. thank you jesus.

And thanx all for your contributions to this great site.

paul said...

Dear Lauren, it is good that you got some time to visit the canyon and observe the stones. Unfortunately you are not aware that the methods used today to date the rocks are yielding contradictory data. Let me give you one example: In 1986 the world’s leading science journal, Nature, announced that the most ancient rock crystals on earth, according to isotope dating methods, are 4.3 billion years old and come from Jack Hills in Western Australia.

W. Compston and R.T. Pidgeon (Nature 321:766–769, 1986) obtained 140 zircon crystals from a single rock unit and subjected them to uranium/uranium concordia (U/U)1 and uranium/thorium concordia (U/Th)2 dating methods. One crystal showed a U/U date of 4.3 billion years, and the authors therefore claimed it to be the oldest rock crystal yet discovered.

A serious problem here is that all 140 crystals from the same rock unit gave statistically valid information about that rock unit.3 No statistician could ever condone a method which selected one value and discarded all the other 139. In fact, the other 139 crystals show such a confusion of information that a statistician could only conclude that no sensible dates could be extracted from the data.

A further problem is that the 4.3 billion-year-old zircon, dated according to the U/U method, was identified by the U/Th method to be undatable. An unbiased observer would be forced to admit that this contradiction prevents any conclusion as to the age of the crystal. But these authors reached their conclusion by ignoring the contradictory data! If a scientist in any other field did this he would never be allowed to publish it. Yet here we have it condoned by the top scientific journal in the world.
So, Lauren, many times the evolutionists are using flawed techniques to determine the age of the earth. Sometimes they use cyclical methods. The paleontologist determines the age of the fossil based on the age of the layer in which it was found, which was determined by the geologist, who dated it based on the age of the fossil, which was determined by the paleontologist who used the data from the geologist who worked there. The cycle goes on. In other words, they copy the ages from each other.
Darwinism is dangerous not because it is questioning the religion but because it is not science and it is not worthy to be taught in our public schools. That is why we are fighting against it in our county.
Your problem with over population. Should we answer with prayer or conservation? My answer is both. God gave the Eden to Adam and told him to cultivate it. Our conservation does not work if God is not gracious towards us.
your next question - Which God should we believe in? My answer is God of the Bible. Let us take the same democratic values you extolled. In India, the 85% people would tell you their god is Krishna. In Iran, 99% of people would tell you that their god is Allah. Here in America, with Jews, Christians and Muslims comprising 90% of the population we should believe in the God of the Bible. Muslims do believe that their God is the same God of the Bible. That is why I argue that we should put Biblical God in our public offices and public schools.
Your solace on getting significance is making me to laugh. You are a dot and I am a dot. Good, all these dots will be blotted when the next comet hits our planet, just like the dinosaurs were blotted out by the comet 65 million years ago. There is no significance in a Big Bang based universe. We are expendable at any moment. But God created us on this planet for His own glory. He gives us purpose and meaning, not by joining the dots. We are immortal and precious souls in the sight of God. Yes, there are 165 million galaxies out there. God created all of them. That is why we call God = Almighty. Our heavenly Father gives us significance and meaning. Instead of looking at little rocks, look at the Rock of Ages - Lord Jesus Christ.

ryan said...

paul, you have, as usual, provided comic relief to some otherwise dreary days.

Your reply to the question "what god should we believe in" was nonsense. I do not give two flying fucks into hell what the citizens of this country believe. Let them worship their gods, for all I care. Are you saying that the majority should decide what gods to follow? Let me tell you a thing or two: I am an American and proud to be so. I am a Vietnam veteran, a taxpayer, and a property owner. I am also an atheist. This is my right, not only as an American, but as a sentient being. The majority can take their religion and fuck themselves.

Now this is the tricky part. Your show of scientific erudition does not impress me. It makes me no difference if there is a creator, and I do not care if the earth is 6000 years old or 6 years old or 6 billion years old. If that god exists, he has created me as a free man. It is unthinkable that he made us only so we can worship him and obey him, or be punished by him. It is obvious that he does not care what I do or what I think. I am a sophisticated animal on my hind legs. Perhaps god finds me interesting. I do not know or care.

You wish to talk science? Science is done by observation and testing. Now, look out at the natural world and tell me what sort of god made that world. We see only the strong vs the weak; the lucky vs the unlucky. There are no ethics in nature. Nature does not reveal a judeo-christian god.

Do not take the easy way out by blaming these things on the "fall of creation". That is relgion. If you want to talk science, do not flip flop back and forth between science and religion. And you have the balls to say you are laughing at Lauren.

You final paragraph was sickening. What is your favorite reading, The Sugar Creek Gang? You certainly showed us what a scientist you are by saying we are here for god's glory. By what experiments have you arrived at that conclusion?

Anonymous said...

Paul:

---------------------------
But God created us on this planet for His own glory. He gives us purpose and meaning, not by joining the dots. We are immortal and precious souls in the sight of God. Yes, there are 165 million galaxies out there. God created all of them. That is why we call God = Almighty. Our heavenly Father gives us significance and meaning. Instead of looking at little rocks, look at the Rock of Ages - Lord Jesus Christ.
--------------------------

God created all those Hitler types in history for His Own glory. God created cancer, aids, inheritable diseases and all those other nasty microbes for his own enjoyment!

*I felt my IQ drop to below the average wintertemperature in siberia reading his trash.*

freedy said...

There were seventeen resurrected saviors before Christ.
Many laid claim to miracles
and were crucified,(Krishna,Mithra many more).
One theory a fundy came up with is that the devil knew the plan of salvation,and created these false messiahs to discredit the real one,..Jesus,(when he finally arrived).
Man,that devil seems to be smarter than "The Almighty"!
You crazy fundies,...ya'll have an answer for everything!

matthew said...

Hmmm, you've all met some interesting creationists. I don't remember ever meeting one that said the devil made it look old or even that God made it look old (though i've read both arguments on the internet, usually on sites like this).

All the creationists I know simply think uniformitarianism is built on faulty assumptions and that, therefore, the 300 million year date is very much the product of circular reasoning. I've never been impressed with uniformitarian assumptions.

Anonymous said...

In our country there is also gouvernment given right to freedom of religion.

Which means that one is free to worship yahweh, allah, vishnu, jupiter or zeus or THE RIGHT TO BELIEVE in no god nor his/her man-written so called holy books.

Which also means that the gouvernment should also keep the bible as education material from public schools.

If christians or muslims want to have christian lessons at their schools, let them raise money together in their church, for all I are, and build a christian school for all I care. As long as no tax money is spent on it I'm fine with whatever sort of religious education.

The gouvernment should never ever favor one or another religion over the other with their tax-payed schools!

P.S. Sorry for the writing errors, if there are any. (I'm from the Netherlands, English is my second language.)

Vixentrox said...

Hey Paul....what does evolution have to do with geology aside from the fact they they are both science based? Just curious.....

.:webmaster:. said...

Matthew,

I was taught that the Devil made things look old. You haven't been around much.

Dano said...

You have to ask yourself: Is turning yourself into a "Paul," someone who must be of the same human race as the rest of us, but totally lacking in any critical thinking skills, and just another robot, repeating some form of Christian theology, every time he attempts to communicate, WORTH the state of bliss that he seeks, by giving up his right to be a real person?

If all of the intelligence quotients, of all of the learned scientists in the world, who consider natural selection as rock solid, and the very foundation of most of the natural sciences, were added up, the figure would be infinite.

I would suggest to you Paul, that you type into your search space at the top of your computer (Dover, ID, ruling), and if it takes the remainder of your life to comprehend it, it would still be better than "going to glory," as an ignoramus.
Dan (I wonder?)

Sarge said...

To my annonymous friend from the Netherlands, your English is just dandy, no need to apologise. I speak German, Russian, Esperanto and at one point was pretty decent in Japanese and Vietnamese. Hartd to believe, but it's gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years.
Even though I speak Esperanto like a native (I have, in fact, been told that!)

I don't think that anyplace has a monopoly on fundies or other mooks, here in central Pennsylvania we're slopping over with them. About three blocks away an old church is being refurbished, new congregation. They call it "The St. James Reformed Church (with Signs)". Sent a bunch of people around door to door surveying people, wanting to know what would make one attend. Flavor of the 'megachurch' sort of thing, I guess. I asked what this church's reforms consisted of, what did the signs say, why did they feel a need to post them? Interesting questions, they said, but they really couldn't answer me. I told them sorry, I preferred an "Incorrigable" or even a "Recidivist" church to any "reformed" ones. A young friend observed this, told me that he could very well understand why an 'Incorrigable" church would suit me.

As has been stated before, these people get something out of such a belief. I see a definite lack of curiosity, for reasons. There is THE Way, there is no other. The bible is to the christian the equivelent of 42 in the Hitch hiker series by Douglass Adams.

Thought is, of course, very dangerous to people who run religeons. Today we can laugh, but what happens tomorrow when the powerful decide to use American Christianity as a power house? And an 'orthodoxy' is imposed? I know a lot of people who don't necessarily think that all crime is a sin, but many believe that all sin should be treated as a crime and punished most severely. Heresy, unbelief, and blasphemy are way up top of the heap. I can't help it. This alleged entity which seems to crave things for it's 'glory' being brown-nosed by doofus's and hustlers interested in benefiting from this 'glorification' makes me extremely nervous.

Sarge said...

Almost forgot. Many people around here among the more hard core twice born tell me in no uncertain terms that one had freedom OF religeon, not freedom FROM religeon. I have been told on more than one occasion that people like me (atheists) were people who were dangerous and people who should, and one day would have something done about them. People have said this to me in varying tones: pleading, arrogant, and with a lot of anticipation. One of these days...?

matthew said...

Webmaster,

I am very sure that many people were taught that. I don't tend to hang around such people. Just goes to show that most people who leave Christianity came from strange versions of it.

jim earl said...

Sarge said:

I have been told on more than one occasion that people like me (atheists) were people who were dangerous and people who should, and one day would have something done about them. People have said this to me in varying tones: pleading, arrogant, and with a lot of anticipation. One of these days...?

Jim Earl: BRING'EM ON!!!

.:webmaster:. said...

Oh, I see. You, Matthew, have the TRUE VERSION of "True Christianity™."

Got it.

Man, it's a good thing another "True Christian™" is here to educate all us who were decieved by one of the 33,000 FAKE versions of Christianity believed on by millions of FAKE believers.

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan said...

Just to set the record straight, Paul's pseudo scientific critique is a copy & paste from an Answers in Genesis article. Only the abstract of the Nature article is available for free. The oldest rock article at Wikipedia refers to a paper describing a zircon dated at 4.4 billion years old, and I can't find any mention of that article at AiG, no surprise there. Another confirmation of the 4.5 billion year age estimate for the Earth is at the US Geological Survey.

Spirula said...

I don't tend to hang around such people. Just goes to show that most people who leave Christianity came from strange versions of it.

In addition to the WM comment, is there a version that ISN'T strange? You know, one that doesn't involve talking snakes and donkeys, women being impregnated by angels and spirits, the dead rising and walking the earth, a global flood survived by one family that managed to round up two of EVERY animal an put them on a big boat, someone swallowed by a big fish a spit out on land, alive three days later, burning, talking bushes, someone riding into heaven on a fiery chariot, etc.. You mean that not strange version?

Jeff said...

Let us not forget that there are certain ghosts flying around in the universe, some ghosts being holier than other ghosts, depending on if you believe in Jesus or not, if you believe in Jesus then this Holy Ghost will enter into your heart.

Although these ghosts are invisible, and no one has ever seen one, nor has a ghost ever been proven to exist, only those with faith, that these invisible ghosts exist, will enter the kingdom of heaven.

If Jesus(or Saul/Paul) says over 2000 years ago, that these invisible ghosts exist, then they must surely exist, no proof needed.

Amen there, Paul, Matthew?

matthew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
matthew said...

webmaster,

I never said people who believe stupid things aren't true Christians. Christians are not defined solely by what they believe. Obviously, many Christians believe some very stupid things.

Nor do I pretend that I am correct in all areas. I get physically sick sometimes. I don't know everything. I sometimes do the wrong thing. In light of my physical, mental & spiritual shortcomings, it would be quite absurd for me to think I am doctrinally perfect.

matthew said...

spirula,

Although half of the items on your list of 'weird' things aren't things I believe in or are misrepresentations of what Scripture says, I take no issue with the fact that to someone who rejects the supernatural, the stories of the Bible are very strange and even stupid.

twincats said...

xrayman said: "A new one I heard was that the earth appears to be billions of years old because of the wear and tear of sin, in the same way a human who abuses their body will appear to be much older."

Certainly a new one on me!

boomSLANG said...

I take no issue with the fact that to someone who rejects the supernatural, the stories of the Bible are very strange and even stupid.

Then fortunately for us, your work here is done. Yes, for in order to detect the "supernatural"...you'd have to be super-human. To the best of my knowledge, none of the non-theists on this website are "superhuman". If you can detect the "supernatural", then please use your superhuman capabilities to produce some objective evidence for anything "supernatural" for us mere human-beings. Waiting.

matthew said...

Why would one have to be super-human to accept the reality of the super-natural?

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice that the article Paul cut and pasted contains no references or footnotes to the original material?

Anyone want to bet that the article has no grounding in reality but plenty of basis in the hope of the "author"?

Jeff said...

Matthew: "Why would one have to be super-human to accept the reality of the super-natural?

Let me guess....Doh... because the super-natural world is invisible.

I know you'll say that air is invisible and you can feel it, but air has mass and is a gas, but spirits and ghosts require faith to exist.

No-one was born with a knowledge of ghosts, Gods, spirits, Jesus, Allah Santa, your language, etc.

All beliefs come through mimicking what is taught by other humans only.

The people that wrote the Bible were dumb asses, it doesen't say that in the bible, but trust me they were.

Now to prove to you that a God nor Jesus exists, all thoughts taught to you, disappear when you go to sleep, they disappear when you are unconscious, they disappear when you are under anesthesics, they disappear when you are dead, so this proves 100% that all things learned while your brain is conscious disappears when your brain is either dead or unconscious.

You, nor anyone can prove me wrong!!!

I challenge anyone to prove my statement in Bold above, to be wrong!

boomSLANG said...

Why would one have to be super-human to accept the reality of the super-natural?

First, do you accept the "reality" that human beings, themselves, are natural beings? If "yes", then how would they, in general, possess the capability to detect what is beyond this natural realm? What specific "thing", or sensory function, do they use? Answer?

Moreover, if you suggest that natural human beings can use their natural senses to detect the "supernatural", then what they're detecting and "accepting" can, in no way, be "supernatural"....i.e.."beyond" natural. It's a blatant contradiction.

On the other hand, if human beings have some "extra" sense(maybe like you?) with which they can detect the "supernatural", then they are beyond natural; beyond human..i.e...superhuman.

Listening.

matthew said...

Christians don't believe that we find God. We believe that God finds us via revelation. Once again, you're starting with the premise that the natural realm is all there is to work with.

xrayman said...

Paul,
Thanks so much for the great information. I can't believe I was duped into believing my entire life that scientists were straight shooters with many checks and balances within their communtiy. Because of you I now know they base their conclusion on the age of our planet on flawed techniques.
One guy probably tested a rock and found that rock to be 4.5 billion years old, and that was about it. Once the insturment gave an irregular reading, the cover up began. No one has ever gone back and discoved why these tests are sometimes flawed and corrected the problem. Anyone knows scientists will test something once, maybe twice and they will never revisit that experiment again. It's in their bylaws that once a scientist makes a discovery, no other collegue shall attempt to refute his findings until the end of time.

The fact that they falsify their findings, as Paul has stated, is making me think that I have been deceived about everything in the world of geological sciences my entire life. Perhaps the whole truth of our natural world does lie in the Bible and we should use it as the primary science textbook in our schools, and to think that some think of Darwinism as science. The information within the Bible has certainly proven to be far more factual than that carbon dating hogwash. It does say right in the Bible that its words are the truth. Who could argue with that stone cold evidence? Why earth scientists continue to retest theories and what we assume are facts, I will never know. You would think they would just pick up the good book and learn from the minds of stone age men and move on to other career options.

I just think the grandest fucking irony ever entertained on this planet is when a person will tell us we shouldn't trust modern day scientific data, yet we should trust a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and improved by hundreds of annyomous authors, editors and copyists unknown to us and unknown to each other, which was written over a period of hundreds of years. OK I admit for the most part I copied those last few lines. I will give Dawkins credit where credit is due.

Jim Arvo said...

matthew said "Once again, you're starting with the premise that the natural realm is all there is to work with."

Then by all means let us start by assuming a supernatural realm and see where it takes us. As we have no direct knowledge of this realm, I presume we must immediately tax our imaginations to dress it with fantastic (yet necessarily unknowable) attributes and populate it with equally fantastic beings who are likewise beyond our comprehension (yet not our imaginations). Let us place above this supernatural realm a super-duper-natural realm, for we've no reason to stop here, and populate it with still more fantastic beings who lie infinitely further beyond our understanding (yet not our imaginations). Have we now advanced our knowledge?

Anonymous said...

Mattew: "Christians don't believe that we find God. We believe that God finds us via revelation. Once again, you're starting with the premise that the natural realm is all there is to work with."

So where do we begin to start to look for devine revelation?

Oh let me guess, in a book written by men, over 2000 year ago.

How come none of us here ever thought of that?

Gee Matthew, I guess this website will be shutting down very soon, thanks so much.

.:webmaster:. said...

Matthew wrote: Christians don't believe that we find God. We believe that God finds us via revelation. Once again, you're starting with the premise that the natural realm is all there is to work with.

Well, Matt, in that case, there isn't much point in you witnessing here or anywhere else. Until I or anyone else has a personal revelation, there isn't much to discuss. I mean, even if I assume the existence of YOUR supernatural realm, then I still have to wait for your god to find me and reveal herself to me.

Matthew wrote: Just goes to show that most people who leave Christianity came from strange versions of it.

Matt, I think you missed the point of my sarcasm when I ranted about "True Christians" in response to your statement above. First, you are assuming a supernatural realm in which all manner of strange and unnatural things routinely happen. You also say that god searches out and finds Christians and reveals herself to Christians. Then you make the assertion that there are strange versions of Christianity.

You appear confident that your particular version of Christianity is not strange, and you think that those who leave Christianity, have left versions of it that you consider strange.

Please define a strange version of Christianity as opposed to a normal version. And please explain how you KNOW that your version is the most correct.

matthew said...

I'm not trying to convince any of you of anything. I just think your site would be more intellectually honest if you didn't almost always use a version of Christianity that thinking christians don't adhere to as your punching bag. It's a good thing there are no stupid atheists or I'd have opportunity to reverse this mighty attack!

Anonymous said...

Matthew: "I'm not trying to convince any of you of anything. I just think your site would be more intellectually honest if you didn't almost always use a version of Christianity that thinking christians don't adhere to as your punching bag. It's a good thing there are no stupid atheists or I'd have opportunity to reverse this mighty attack!"

Thinking christians??? There's an oxymoron for ya!

Matthew it's such a shame to be on meds at such an early age, we understand tho, it takes on alot of stress preaching fairytales and myths and still hold up a straight poker face.

Try to get over yourself, will ya?

.:webmaster:. said...

Matthew wrote: "Christians don't believe that... We believe that..."

You're completely sure you have the authority to speak on behalf of all Christians and what they believe, are you?

Perhaps you should rephrase these types of blanket statements to "I believe." I sincerely doubt you've been voted spokesperson for all "revealed" versions and branches of Christianity.

Anonymous said...

I've come to the conclusion that it takes a traumatic event in one's life to turn to fairytales and myths and therfore leading people to a beleif in the Bible.

Life itself is a traumatic event, but until a person is faced either with a life threatening event or see's or hears of another person's life threatening event, it's the survival mode of the brain that has become overwhelmingly steeped in emotional fear, that leads so many to seek an answer that the brain is comfortable with.

The Bible in many instances, provides just this comforting answer where everything is going to be just glorious and wonderful, but all we have to do to seek this wonderful comfort, is to believe, to believe in a here-after where everything is calm and peaceful and laying down beside the calming stream and listen to Jesus tell us how wonderful we are for believing.

Isn't that what people really are seeking?

A pseudo comfort for now, to still and to calm their weary mind, for knowing that in the future there awaits them a promise of peace and glory that they cannot find for themselves in this realm.

A book that reassures them of a coming saviour and a better world than what they perseive for this moment.

You know what? We can see the effects of a traumatic event in Christians lives, by the way they defend their beliefs, by the way they quickly try to appear to be the victim and persecuted by what anyone says opposing their silly childhood beliefs.

It's the automatic defence system that Christians kick in, in order to preserve their silly beliefs, they want their Bible and Jesus to be true so much, they long for the Bible and Jesus to appear to be true, they stake their whole lives upon a promise and wish for what they wish and hope becomes true.

The first words that God spoke written down on paper by the hand of men, does that mean that God has not spoke in thousands of years, because his work is final, God has remained silent for thousands of years.

Is there no one worthy to write down the spoken words of God today?

Perhaps Billy Graham, Binny Hinn, Pat Robertson, surely God has new revelations for us infidels and sinners for today, maybe God has increased the temperature of Hell just a few degrees or maybe a new carpet in Heaven or perhaps some remodeling in Heaven to appease the new Pope.

In the end, I think it's a traumatic event in people's lives, based on emotional fear, that leads people to seek comfort and solace outside of this present realm, because they do not trust this world to be all there is, and the Bible gives people a false pseudo hope, so much that they become fanatical in their beliefs, this is what we non-believers can so easily detect, but christians like to think we are doomed, because they have chose wisely, therefore they are saved, so they have been told.

Jeff said...

Bently, I tend to agree. The Bible paints just such a picture of grandiose splendor with streets of gold and jewels everywhere, why just who in their right mind wouldn't want to go there?

Did Jesus rise after three days? Of course he did, to make his prophesy become to appear to be fullfilled.

Why it took three days for the resurrection, no one knows.

Did the rest of Jesus's crew rise to Heaven in three days, who knows, why is it not mentioned in the fabulous holy Buybull?

Now there's nothing else for Christians to look forward to, except death to see Jesus.

I think you're right, it was a traumatic event based upon the fear of dying that leads people to look for a false hope, somewhere, anywhere they can get some form of comfort, they never realize the Bible was written by people whom also had been traumatized, thinking that they had been inspired to write, of course it could have only have come from a God, where else could such nonsense have come from?

Anonymous said...

Yeah the brains says, I need some of that Jesus insurance, just in case it all turns out ot be true.

Jim Arvo said...

matthew, there is nothing quite so predictable around here than this: When the position of a Christian is challenged the Christian responds by attacking everything but the substance of the challenge. You, for example, attack the "intellectual honest" of the site, accusing us of picking the wrong version of Christianity as a "punching bag". Amusingly, you imply that if we were "stupid", then you might be able to punch back. Your arguments, like those of the majority of your visiting brethren, are filled with hostile metaphors and accusations, yet totally silent on any substantive issue. Can you blame me for suspecting that you position is weak?

matthew said...

You can seriously read through this list of comments and interpret me as the hostile one? My original statement was that I don't agree with the opening assumption of uniformitarianism. Just like last time I commented on this site, the response to my response had nothing to do with my comment and everything to do with spitting back your list of objections to Christianity in general.

boomSLANG said...

Fair enough. Okay, if you don't have evidence for your belief other than "revelation"..i.e.."the bible"; if you are "not trying to convince" any of "us" of anything----can you please make like your "God" and become invisible?.... undetectable to the physical senses? Enough, already.

matthew said...

I am certainly not interested in being an unwelcome guest. I find the site helpful to me personally, but if you'd rather I not share my thoughts I'll oblige. I'll take no response as an affirmation that this is the wish of the members of this site.

thanks for the thoughtful articles,
matthew

xrayman said...

Matthew,
Just remember I really appreciate folks like you and Paul stopping by and posting because you bring out the best in the brains of this operation. I will say you've got guts coming into this hostile enemy territory. I don't really get why because I wouldn't go near a Christian message board. My lack of belief has been stregnthened significanty because of the responses your comments inspire. Without your various religious points to be refuted, this forum would be a lot less informative to this rather new atheist. A big thanks to you and Paul.

boomSLANG said...

I find the site helpful to me personally, but if you'd rather I not share my thoughts I'll oblige.

I'm personally curious to know how this site is "helpful" to you. From what I can tell, it's definitely not strengthening your position, and/or, the theist position, in general. And I think you're being a tad disingenuous when you say you're not here to convince anyone of anything. In fact, I think you've tried quite hard to convince us that you "know" there's a "supernatural" realm, where "sits" a "supernatural" deity, and that that deity is none other than "Jesus Christ". Just for ol' time's sake---where the hell is your Jesus this very second, other than in your head and in the pages of a book? And if you answer, please tell us how you "know".

In any event, if the articles help you in some way, you can still read them as a bystander, right?(Rhetorical)

matthew said...

The site is helpful to me because I've always been a person who wants to hear all views about life. The articles are well written and pointed. I like discussion and conversation. I have tried my best not to put forth arguments for Christianity at all, though I have responded to some direct questions. I just like to see how atheists and agnostics argue there position and respond to initial critique.

Actually commenting is unnecessary to fulfill my purpose in visiting, so, as suggested, I will simply read.

Anonymous said...

matthew said: "Actually commenting is unnecessary to fulfill my purpose in visiting, so, as suggested, I will simply read."

*ack*
how mawkishly pious
btw, it wasn't suggested! it was rhetorical! (bloomslang, previous post) But I suppose that was your way of bringing this to a higher level

Naomi

Dano said...

Matthew,
I've been reading and commenting on this site now for about 4 years. I Have seen many people come here and begin some very long discourses. It appears to me that the most avid commenters identify themselves as Christian Preachers or some greater or lessor degree thereof. It seems obvious to me that the reason the "Preachers" or "youth leaders," or "Deacons" are the most tenacious about trying to defend their stated belief in Christianity and the bible is that, #1. It takes a dominating personality to label yourself as one of these and take the stance of teacher. #2 These type A types, usually have had some success at posing as "teacher," or leader, and therefore have the confidence, that leads them to believe they are going to straighten us out on the subject of faith.

They most likely will have blog sites where people holding similar beliefs make comments and agree with everything they say or they just accumulate a large collection of "Christian stuff" and go into the business of setting themselves up as authorities on the bible and how to "Get saved." In short, they have a lot invested in "Being a good Christian"

You are intelligent, and stubborn, but I have seen some Christian apologizers come here who were obviously bonifide geniuses, but you and they, all do the same thing. You all totally ignore the most salient points, made here by the regulars, some of whom in my opinion are the smartest people on the net.

You and some very intelligent others, consistently fail to recognize the fact that when you argue about the existence of supernatural things, you are at a huge disadvantage with those who have been where you are at, and came to the eventual conclusion that it is impossible to believe in the unknowable, intestable, unverifiable tenants of any "Faith based creed"

You don't seem to understand the simple fact that it was ok for bronze age folks to get all caught up in the stuff in the bible, but along came "The scientific method" and Darwin, and all things requiring faith took a back seat.

Faith now is obsolete. It doesn't work anymore. It's broke. You can't just say "IT says in the bible: Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah," anymore because the knowledge we have today has proved that the bible, although containing some good stuff, is at best not true, and at worst harmful. We know you can't prove the "Jesus Story," because we have seen some very brilliant people go down in flames trying, after they allowed one little bit of reality to seep into their thought processes.

The bottom line is, Matt, like you, we really, really, wanted to believe there was a sure fire way to never die, and that an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, God was up there watching everything we do, but that belief crashed headlong into reality and truth.
Dan (agnosticreincarnationist)

xrayman said...

I would like to quote me myself and I, along with yours truly,

"Matthew,
Just remember I really appreciate folks like you and Paul stopping by and posting because you bring out the best in the brains of this operation."

Dano I think you more that made my point with your last post. Once again you have given me more great stuff to share and to live by. Excellent material which was all made possible by Matthew. Thanks Dano.

Bill

eel_shepherd said...

Matthew, replying to WM, wrote:
"...I'm not trying to convince any of you of anything. I just think your site would be more intellectually honest if you didn't almost always use a version of Christianity that thinking christians don't adhere to as your punching bag..."

and then later labeled the members of this messageboard as "angry" or "hostile" or whatever the adjective was.

Matthew, just because a person delivers their stuff in an up-tempo happy, calm, etc. sort of style, doesn't mean that they're the "good guy" of the piece. When you (and here I actually mean _you_, Matthew) calmly duck/ignore real questions that are put to you, you needn't think that we don't recognise that for the sort of passive-aggressive hostility you accuse the members of.

The WM asked you a real question, that had weight and occupied space (just to refresh your memory, he was asking for the particulars of your version of Xtianity, since you had previously dissed other low-rent easy-target varieties, and accused the members of picking them as straw men), and you were, to use a lawyer's term "non-responsive", choosing instead just to motor on with your own no-interlocutor-required agenda. Hoping that "your karma would run over his dogma", as the feller says.

Just as a side topic, not explicity directed towards the above message (...not to say revelation...) to Matthew, I'm a Bridge-player, and I've noticed one really major difference between [culturally] Jewish and [culturally] Christian players. The nominally Christian players will often get into the following loop with their Partners:

"Why on earth did you play that card, at such-and-such a point in the hand?"
"Well, what _should_ I have played?"
"Well, not _that_ one, at any rate."
"Okay fine, not that one. Which one, then?"
"Well not the one you did play." etc etc etc ad infinitum/nauseum

At least the Jewish players will give you an answer, how ever smart or dumb the answer is. It's positive, y'see? It _posits_ something, no matter how goofy the response might happen to be. I'll take that any day.

Okay, Matthew, you can tune back in now, and give us the particulars of your brand of Christianity. We're waiting and watching for it. Until it appears, I for one will be taking the approach, "if it ducks like a quack, it probably is a quack."

matthew said...

Since you've asked directly for what I believe are the particular beliefs of 'my version' of Christianity, I should say, again (since i feel I've already answered this question), that I don't consider myself to have a 'version' of Christianity. All Christian believe the following essential doctrines

1. God exists
2. God is good
3. Jesus came in the flesh
4. Jesus is who He claimed to be
(Messiah, son of God, Lord)
5. Jesus rose from the dead

To me, everything else is a secondary matter. In other words, I can disagree with someone on any and all fellow Christians and still consider them a brother or sister in Christ.

I hardly feel I've avoided direct questions, especially considering I said from the get-go that I wasn't here to argue for Christianity (and since I was asked to stop commenting). And It's not as if my comments have been responded to. The whole article was based on uniformitarian assumptions which nobody has argued for.

.:webmaster:. said...

These were also the things I believed as a Christian.

Yet, you said that those who leave Christianity, most frequently leave strange versions of Christianity.

Since I too once believed the five statements you posted, how is it you determined that the version of Christianity I left was strange?

Further, how do you determine that "God" is good? Do you have some idea in your mind of what "good" means, and your god fits that definition and therefore can be labeled as good? Or, instead, does your "god" define the meaning of good, and therefore whatever your god does is good?

Basically, what does "good" mean to you?

boomSLANG said...

1. God exists
2. God is good
3. Jesus came in the flesh
4. Jesus is who He claimed to be
(Messiah, son of God, Lord)
5. Jesus rose from the dead


Matthew, your "Sister in Christ", Shirley Phelps, of "Westboro Baptist Church" fame, believes points 1-5, as well. Furthermore, she and her congregation(her family) derive their beliefs by the very same "Divine revelation" that you admittedly do---that being, the Holy Bible.

Now wait, before you tell us that she is "misinterpreting" the scripture, stop and think.....because she'll tell us that it is in fact, YOU who is misinterpreting it. My point being, either anyone who elects themselves as a "Christian" IS a "True Christian", or else, NO ONE is a "True Christian". Again, there is no litmus test to being a Christian. Like all religious belief, it is purely subjective.

matthew said...

You both seem to be misunderstanding my point which leads me to believe I'm doing a poor job at communicating it. I will try again.

I am not saying that strange versions of christianity don't have truly christian members. I am saying that any version of christianity, though it adheres to the essential elements of the faith, that had distorted and untruthful views will be a big turn off to people. That is common sense.

My statement stands, that an awful lot of people that leave christianity leave over secondary issues and THEN, later, reject the essentials. I think this point is very telling.

I determine that God is good via revelation from God which He gives through creation, conscience & Christ. When I look around at the creation I see the work of a creator. When I am considering doing something that would obviously be wrong, I notice that my conscience speaks against such a thing. And when I study the life of Christ I see a man of goodness.

Boomslangs point that every that claims to be a christian IS or everyone who claims it is NOT is an aburd point in my estimation. First of all, we are not the one's who determine who's a true Christian and who's not. Second of all, that logic doesn't work in other cases. Claims are easy to make. I could claim to be President. President Bush may claim the same thing. It doesn't follow that we either both are or both are not. The litmus test exists, but not with us. We are truly Christians if we are truly following Jesus. Jesus knows His own, I can't identify them (hence the wheat & weeds parable of matthew 13). So, again, you are assuming secular humanism (that human thought is all we have to work with) and then using that assumption to disprove theism (that God's thoughts are real and matter). You are free to do that, but don't be surprised when it's not convincing to a theist. In the same way, I am not surprised when my theistic arguments aren't convincing to you

Anonymous said...

1. God exists
2. God is good
3. Jesus came in the flesh
4. Jesus is who He claimed to be
(Messiah, son of God, Lord)
5. Jesus rose from the dead

According to who? A book? Men?

Neither a God no Jesus, never wrote one word of the Bible. Yet we are supposed to believe they are real...ha ha ha ha

.:webmaster:. said...

So, Matt, you no longer think that people leave strange versions of Christianity, but that people leave Christianity for secondary (not strange) reasons.

Is that what you now are positing?

.:webmaster:. said...

Matt, to add to my previous question: Do you still believe that there are strange versions of Christianity, and if so, how do you determine which are the strange versions and which are the non-strange versions, and how would I be able to tell the difference, in you opinion, since most people are convinced that their particular version of Christianity is the most correct version?

Thanks.

boomSLANG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
boomSLANG said...

Boomslangs point that every(one) that(who) claims to be a christian IS or everyone who claims it is NOT is an aburd point in my estimation.

Firstly, the above wording is non-sensical. Maybe you typed it in a hurry?.. I don't know. Nonetheless, by your next statement, you not only make my point, but show that you haven't been absorbing one thing I've said on the matter.

Matthew: First of all, we are not the one's who determine who's a true Christian and who's not.

No shit? Now....do I need to go back and find statements that you made where you talk about "false" or "fake" Christians? Who says they're "fake" and "false"...YOU, right? Right..and who says Shirley Phelps isn't your "Sister in Christ"? Again..it is YOU who would confirm, or deny it....but in order to do that, you'd have to make the judgement of whether she was a "True Christian", or not.

Let's review: "..we are not the one's who determine who's a true Christian and who's not."

Matthew: We are truly Christians if we are truly following Jesus.

...::yawn::...

Everybody together now---and who is it AGAIN who determines if one is following Jesus, or not?

Review once more: "..we are not the one's who determine who's a true Christian and who's not."

So again: If "we"...i.e.."YOU" and "ME", don't determine who is, and who is not, a "True Christian", then it is up to the individual, thus, ANYONE can be a "True Christian", and no one can say otherwise. May original statement stands, whether it's butchered in a quote, or not.

matthew said...

webmaster,

I don't see the 2 as different. There are thousands of secondary issues within the realm of Christianity. Some of the positions taken on those matters are quite strange and off-putting.

Despite what you imply, I don't think it is always (or even usually) very difficult to determine which interpretation of Scripture is better on a given topic. This is done through research into other Scriptures, Greek/Hebrew, archaeology, history, reason, etc. Even for those who reject Christianity as a whole, it is hard to imagine one would argue that certain beliefs aren't more biblically sound than others.

Boomslang,

You seem to be mixing two different issues. There are people who can't reasonably be called Christians b/c they don't even claim to adhere to essential Christian doctrine. Then there are people who call themselves Christians, but don't actually follow Christ. I, and anyone, is very able to identify the former group. I don't have the capacity to identify the second group, nor the desire. Despite this fact, it is unreasonable to claim that I can't talk about the general existence of fake Christians simply because I can't pinpoint who's who.

Peter said...

Matthew: "Despite what you imply, I don't think it is always (or even usually) very difficult to determine which interpretation of Scripture is better on a given topic."

Okay, do you believe in the trinity or not? Whichever way you choose, you alienate the others who believe different using the same bible you use. And, the use of "always", is useless, unless you are going to present something you know that has "always" existed - show and tell?

Matthew: "This is done through research into other Scriptures, Greek/Hebrew, archaeology, history, reason, etc. Even for those who reject Christianity as a whole, it is hard to imagine one would argue that certain beliefs aren't more biblically sound than others."

Then why are there thousands of Christian denominations, using the same bible?

Matthew: "There are people who can't reasonably be called Christians b/c they don't even claim to adhere to essential Christian doctrine."

Yet, it's the Christian doctrine that is used to support thousands of Christian denominations. Thus, there are "no" true Christians, unless you accept "all" Christians as true Christians regardless of doctrinal belief.

Matthew: "Then there are people who call themselves Christians, but don't actually follow Christ. I, and anyone, is very able to identify the former group. I don't have the capacity to identify the second group, nor the desire. Despite this fact, it is unreasonable to claim that I can't talk about the general existence of fake Christians simply because I can't pinpoint who's who."

Uh, Matt, in order for you to place yourself in a position to talk about the "general" existence of fake Christians, you are reflexively suggesting that you are generally a "real" Christian based on some criteria.

So, generally speaking... what do you suggest is the "real" Christian test. Doctrine can be interpreted many different ways - that doesn't seem to be a great test. Jesus never wrote a passage in the bible, thus, you have nothing to suggest that someone isn't acting as Jesus wanted them to. Matt, by all means, show everyone how to test a Christian to see if they are real or fake, thanks.

Luke said...

How to identify a "True Christian" by their fruits!

You get up Sunday morning and take a bath and put on your best clothes and pretty shoes and go to church.

Then you walk into church with a big selfrighteous grin and tell everyone how wonderful they are and how lucky they are to be in church with you.

Then you all pretend that you are worshipping an invisible deity and then you pray to this invisible deity and you get all puffed up over yourself for being in this man-built church.

Then you pretend to sing songs to this invisible deity.

These are the "True Christians", the one's that are pretending along with you that day.

Then the "True Christian" will never miss a Sunday or a prayer meeting, nor will they ever sway nor read anything opposing their beliefs, because they have found the one "True Belief".

The "True Christian" believes their Bible holds all truth and wisdom obtainable in one's lifetime.

The "True Christian" believes that there is no greator truth and wisdom and knowledge available anywhere in the world today, except from a book written by men, over two thousand years ago.

The "True Christian" knows that he is now superior than people that do not believe as he believes.

The "True Christian" feels selfrighteously superior than non-christians, because his bible says he is.

The "True Christian" is all about what he can obtain for himself, he's got a belief, a belief in a book, a book written by people on halucingenic drugs.

tigg13 said...

Pardon me, matthew, but while you're trying to figure out how to get around this "what defines a true christian problem", you might also want to consider this:

Since you yourself have said that it is possible for someone to claim that they are christian but not really be christian, why should we trust anything you have to say about christianity when you yourself may not actually be a true christian?

You need to establish some objectively verifiable credentials, matthew. Just like you said, anyone can say that they are christian.

So, to recap, you need to provide a system by which we can determine who is and who is not a true christian and you need to prove that you are a true christian in a way that is independant from your system so that we can be sure that both you and your system are legit.

Once you have done these things, then you may proceed to discuss your faith.

matthew said...

Peter,

The fact that there are thousands of Christian denominations matters not to this discussions since 1) Christianity doesn't claim that people are saved by denominational affiliation 2) Most people in denominations don't pretend that only their denominations is 'true' christianity 3) Denominations derive from different emphasis regarding secondary issues, not essential christian doctrine.

In regards to your question about the trinity, I do believe in the trinity, but I would not dis-fellowship myself with someone who didn't believe in the trinity as long as they agreed with the 5 items I listed above.

And I'll state again that I am not responsible, nor do I have the capacity to make a 'test' to determine who is a true Christian or not. One is categorically not a Christian if they disagree with essential Christian doctrine, but anyone who claims to adhere to essential christian doctrine is accountable to God, not me.

tigg13,

It wouldn't matter if I were a priest or a porn star. Either my points are true or not. If they are true, they are true even if I am a faker.

Of course, most people on this site will reject what I'm saying. That's your freedom. I have no plans to 'discuss my faith' as you say. I simply made a comment that I have never met a creationist who argued the position stated in the article. I then stated that I disagree with the underlying assumptions of uniformitarianism. The only reason for further commenting on my part has been in response to direct questions asked of me. I was asked to stop commenting, and I'll gladly do so once people stop addressing me specifically.

In case this IS my last comment, I want to express, once again, that I find the site well put together and spiritually stimulating. I appreciate the quality of the articles and I wish you all the best in your pursuit of truth.

.:webmaster:. said...

Matt,

Your unwillingness to specifically identify a single version of Christianity you believe to be strange, is telling.

The fact is, all manner of individuals throughout history have decided the best version of Christianity "through research into other Scriptures, Greek/Hebrew, archeology, history, reason, etc.," and have come to widely divergent conclusions. A simple study of the literal and figurative wars that were waged and still rage regarding Pelagian, Arminian and Calvinistic, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Baptist doctrines provide a starting point. People died for various according-to-you-unimportant distinctives in these opposing camps and believed and still believe in many cases that their distinctives to be essential to salvation.

It is good that you approach life a bit more pluralistic, but my point is that millions of Christians did not see things the way you them. And in a different time period, the way you see things would be considered heresy, and could likely have gotten you imprisoned or killed. To deny the trinity was an absolute capitol offense for centuries.

Interestingly, the dynamic and holy ghost filled scholars and Christian leaders of the past, who many times disagreed with each other to the point of shedding blood, were as dogmatically confident of their respective positions on things as you are. Yet, it appears easy for you to completely dismiss men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Wesley, Melanchthon, Knox, Cromwell, Augustine, Pelagius, Arius, Athanasius, and on and on and on.

These men changed the world. Yet, many of them did consider each other as the most heinous of demonic heretics, and devoid of salvation. For a quick study in the doctrine of the Trinity and how important it was (is) to Christians, see here: Trinity

So, your unwillingness to identify which version of Christianity is strange belays that you really know there is no way to do so. Basically, your personal opinion is all you have in differentiating between a strange and a non-strange version of your religion.

However, I'll make it easier on you. I suggest that all versions of Christianity are strange, because the believer is required to accept all manner of odd and impossible stories and beliefs based on nothing except the mystical fantasies written in an ancient collection of writings on which no two "Christians" are able to come to complete agreement.

boomSLANG said...

Said perfectly, Webmaster.

Just in case, a third review of Matthew's statement: ...we are not the one's who determine who's a true Christian and who's not.

AmEn!... and likewise, "we" are not the ones who determine if people have left the Christian cult for "strange" reasons, or not. What one "True Christian™" sees as "strange", another sees as completely normal. It's really not hard to grasp. ALL religious belief is SUBJECTIVE.

Bye now.