ARCHIVES:

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

2/01/2007                                                                                       View Comments

The Thinking Christian

By Brian B

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and behold one of the strangest creatures in the world! He is sometimes thought of as paradoxical, almost oxymoronic, and yet he is far more common than most of you think! That's right folks, presenting to you tonight is that fascinating individual we call...the Thinking Christian!

The Thinking Christian is especially common in the more urban areas of Canada, and can often be seen on private Christian campuses. Many are students, and some are learned professors. But the Thinking Christian can be anyone-it could be that smiling father or that studious girl, or that friendly bus driver. On the outside, they appear normal. But if we delve into their minds and their inner workings, we discover a strange and confusing world.

The first thing to notice when examining a Thinking Christian's brain is that firm metal wedge driven right down the center of their brains, thus creating, in a sense, not one, but two brains. You will notice that on one side, there is a flurry of activity. Facts are processed, opinions are made, questions are asked, beliefs are challenged, evaluations are made. It is alive!

Now let us look at the other side of the brain. By contrast, it is surprisingly static. However, you will notice that it is not completely empty. There is an iron box inside, padlocked with a complex code. In this box is a list of religious doctrines, the title of which reads: "I BELIEVE THIS". These doctrines rarely, if ever, change. The other side might question from time to time why those doctrines are in there, but never are they taken out or removed.

For all the activity that goes on in the former part of the Thinking Christian's brain, never does it occur to him that the locked up list might contain faulty presuppositions. You see, this list was not written by him, nor was it contrived by careful thinking and analysis. Rather, it was put there by someone else.

Since the Thinking Christian is a clever individual, his subconscious knows that if he really thought about it, there is no good reason that this list of religious doctrine should be there at all. However, his need, his dependence upon these doctrines prevail against his good sense. Therefore, in order to maintain belief in these doctrines, he slams a wedge between them and the rest of his intelligent brain, with a sign glaring, "DO NOT TOUCH!" He may ask questions and think about anything else he pleases, but these doctrines must always be the default position.

This is how we can have Christians who will acknowledge the numerous historical problems with the canon of the Bible and yet proclaim it the word of God. This is how we have Christians who are troubled with concepts such as hell in light of a "merciful" creator, yet believe in it anyway.

Anyway folks, I hope this has been enlightening, but our Thinking Christian has another book on apologetics to read, so we'll let him go now.

75 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very well done!

Dano said...

Brian B,
I love the wedge. It is so effective in describing how smart people can believe weird things.

Also in the box is a contract that says: If you leave everything in this box un disturbed until you die, you can go to a place called heaven where everything will be wonderful forever.

Any breach of this contract will earn you a first class ticket to a different place called hell.

There is (SMALL PRINT) in this contract, but the provisions of this contract prohibit you from reading it.
Dano (ex believer in myths)

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian, I have read your comments and I am sad you are currently struggling with the faith you once held.

Somebody was once challenged about his faith in God,"why do you believe in God? look come and "enjoy" yourself like the rest of us, please yourself, throw off self control,If it "feels good" just do it!" to which the reply came, "If my faith is no more than wishful thinking, then I have wasted my lifetime. But if your wrong, and God really does exist, then you will deeply regret for all eternty, your rejection of his offer of eternal life.
I think I will keep my faith thanks!

I am not offended or feel defensive by your writings, just willing to engage in a conversation because I am a thinking man!

God bless,
In His Service
Steve Maloney.

ryan said...

I am the one who is offended. First of all, the way you slander those who do not share your religion makes you sound silly. Most atheists have not thrown off self-control and do whatever feels good. On the contrary, having no gods, we must be careful and alert, because there are no gods to correct us. There is great freedom in the rejection of external and binding moral codes; the freedom to make our own decisions, but those decisions involve reason and prudence.

Second, to argue in favor of a deity or a creator is one thing; to argue that this deity is in fact the judeo-xian god is quite something else. I believe in no eternal life; no eternal pain or pleasure. The "offer of eternal life" is what your religion teaches.

Third, you are re-stateing pascal's wager, a cheap and sleazy attempt to frighten non-believers. If that is the best you can manage, then I will keep my unfaith, thanks.

But the most offensive thing of all is your calling yourself a thinker.

.:webmaster:. said...

The thought that occurs to me after reading yet another fundamentalist posting is that Christians really don't do anything just because it is the right thing to do. They only do the things they do to avoid punishment and/or reap reward.

When a non-believer does the right thing in any circumstance, it is apparently more alturistically motivated than the actions of a Christian.

How can I say that?

Simple, the Christian is advocating a life lived for purely selfish motives: the gain of jewels in an eternal crown and avoidance of gastly everlasting torment. The non-believer who advocates doing the right thing, regardless of threats or promises, does so out of sense of love for fellow beings. There is no eternal payback for anything.

Ironic, isn't it?

A. Ford said...

You are so right about the wedge. However, most people never really convince themselves to believe in Christianity completely. They just believe what their parents teach them and never give a flippin' fart about what the Bible says. These are the "happy" Christians because they do what they want most of the time, all the while thinking that God loves them and wants them to go to heaven (e.g. "once saved always saved"). These are the truly dangerous Christians because they feel that God loves them no matter how inhumanely they act. It is a crazy world we live in, but I will never understand how someone can believe that an imaginary being called God exists and that the imaginary being loves them just by believing Jesus died for them.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, very well done. Despite those steel clamps and locked iron boxes, some of us still manage to escape from the bonds of xtianity. Now I fully appreciate what cognitive dissonance is!
I also had a youth group leader use that retarded pascal's wager on me when I was only about 15 or 16 and couldn't defend myself against it. Shame on him for trying to scare a young girl into believing a myth by threatening me with another myth.

Andrea

Spirula said...

Simple, the Christian is advocating a life lived for purely selfish motives: the gain of jewels in an eternal crown and avoidance of gastly everlasting torment. The non-believer who advocates doing the right thing, regardless of threats or promises, does so out of sense of love for fellow beings. There is no eternal payback for anything.

Very well put. I've tried to get them to see there is just selfishness in their alleged selflessness, but they are incapable of seeing it. That is why Christian "charity" is really just proseletyzing in disguise. Nothing they do is altruistic.

And "morality" out of fear is nothing to be bragging about.

BTW Steve, your "faith" is hardly honorable. Your just trying to hedge your bets. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Spirula said...

"morality" out of fear is nothing to be bragging about.

so true!!

Nvrgoingbk said...

Brian, great post!

Anonymous, you small minded man/woman. We were once Christians. We've already heard Pascal's Wager and used it on those we witnessed to. For god's sake (pun intended), come up with some original and ephiphanic argument in Yahweh's favor. Your's has a gaping hole in it, being that you too could be wrong regarding which God you are choosing to follow.

What if the Jews constructed the Old Testament to say what they did regarding them being the "chosen one's"? Think about this for a moment.

Jewish custom was that the first born always inherited the birth right. The Torah claims that Isaac did, regardless of the fact that he was born second in line. Now, I am completely aware of the Jewish argument and the elaborate excuse they made in favor of their nation being the one to inherit the blessing due to the fact that Isaac was actually the "promised" child, blah, blah, blah, but WHAT IF, it's all a lie. WHAT IF Ishmael really was the rightful inheritor, and the Israelites made damned sure to nip the truth in the bud? I mean, how the Hell would you know any different? WHAT IF Allah is the right God, and Muhammad really IS the final prophet? If that is the case, you are in danger of HIS Hellfire, which, from what I understand, blazes even hotter than your loving Christian Hell. It seems to me that you are left in a quandry. Hmm.....Whatever shall you do?

Let's take it a step further. In case you plan to use the argument that the Jewish writings are older than the Islamic ones, let's consider the oldest religious writings, which happen to be Hindu. There is some debate over that, but scholars all agree that they are much older than any Jewish writings. Now, what if their myriad of gods are the correct ones? Are you aware of how similar the lives of Krishna and Jesus are? Seems to me that the accounts of your "Savior's" life are BORROWED!

You see, Anonymous, you are in no better of a position than we are, if you are worshipping the wrong God. In fact, I venture to say that you are in a WORSE position seeing that you could quite possibly be guilty of Pagan worship. We all know it's worse to follow the wrong God, than to admit that you just don't know!

In conclusion, it is YOUR soul, my friend, that you should be the most concerned about. Considering that we don't believe in one anyway, we are hardly worried about any of the World's make-believe God's pouring out their wrath on us, but you, are in a precarious position aren't you? You feel that your soul's eternal destiny is dependent on which God you follow. Wouldn't you educate yourself fully then, on the origins of your beliefs and the foundation of any opposing ones, JUST IN CASE (which is the whole foundation of Pascal's wager)?


Of course, I'm sure your tiny mind has not even considered the possibility that YOU could wrong, since you obviously possess that "wedge", that is common to all your brothers and sisters in the faith.

Trancelation said...

The Thinking Christian is indeed a paradoxical creature that has more than once given me a migraine. Several people that I am close friends with are like this, intelligent people drawn to me by my compassion and intellect, yet who are also believers in this psychotic drivel we call Christianity. Strangely enough, they have no problems with my apostacy, however whenever we discuss religion and I go on the offensive, all they can ever really respond with is, "I don't know."

Truly, I think they are this way because of convenience. Christianity is very convenient, what with its broad social networks and easy-lie-Sunday-morning-cherry-picked beliefs. These people, being as intelligent as they are, are not intelligent enough to know how to deal with being completely ostracized, with being the subject of the intense hatred that comes with packing one's bags and leaving "The Fold". See the fundynonymous post on this page for reference.

And speaking of which . . . one of my all time favorite characterizations of the non-Christian is the projection of the true nature of the Christian (if it fells good, do it!) onto the non0-believer. I've been a victim to these notions many, many times, with absolutely no reason to infer I behave in such a way. But this behavior does not exist outside of Christian polemics. The thinking atheist is capable of morality, moreso than the Christian, because they have dared to ask the hard questions and not allow themselves to be fed the answers.

A great post. The image of the wedge and the lockbox are apt descriptions of the Thinking Christian thought process. Another good term for these people is the Wussy Moderate Christian.

Neocognitron said...

I must say that your article is well written and entertaining but I would suggest that its suppositions are faulty. As one with a metal wedge driven down the center of his brain (a believer in Christ), it is profoundly apparent that non-believers are just as likely to insert that metal wedge as believers. Believers and non-believers alike make decisions based on truths as each sees them. These truths are more or less apparent depending on the lenses through which we view the world. For those with rose colored glasses the world looks rosy, and those with gloomy lenses see the world as gloomy. For hundreds of years people rejected the idea that the Earth was round and even killed those who claimed otherwise, until the time people actually proved it by sailing around the world. Likewise, you propose that God does not exist while I propose that He does. In this difference only one of us will be proven right. And, since your proposed future does not hold a future worth fighting for I pray you are wrong.

So, kudos for an entertaining bit of poetry. May God multiply your gift of writing!

Trancelation said...

Neocognition:

Truth is not subject to the interpretation of a personal lens.

In a court of law, when a person has been proven to have raped and killed a child, the words "The way I see it . . ." don't carry much weight when they come from the criminal.

Christians are fond of claiming that truth is subjective, and yet ultimately objective, so long as that objectivity aligns with the subjectivity of THEIR truth. And while it's grand that you propose that each individual sees their own truth, only one of those truths can be right, right?

Right.

Many individuals propose that there is a God, and you are a proposing that there is a God, and you use the term He, so I only can infer that you must be a Christian, right?

Right.

Well, Neo, therein lies the problem. Based on the evidence we are given, your God, the God of Christianity, cannot and does not exist. How do we know this? Because the "truth" of your God does not match up with the claims made about it.

The Christian God is defined by the collection of documents known as the Holy Bible, whether you like it or not. I, for one, cannot stand wishy-washy Christians that attempt to define the God of Christianity outside of Christianity. Yes, yes, I am perfectly aware that Paul skewed Jesus' view of God (a view which was hardly new; in fact, it would be appropriate to say that by the time anyone who might have been called Jesus existed, the idea was old enough to be stale), but nonetheless, without Paul there is no Christianity, seeing as how Jesus never thought to systemize his views. So . . .

What are the characteristics of the fictional God of Christianity, and why is this God impossible?

Well, rather than bog down the page with text, I will simply provide a few examples:

"Take this quote from the Bible. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The impossibility of God is visible here as well. Based on Jesus' statement, let's assume that you are a child and you are starving in Ethiopia. You pray for food. What would you expect to happen based on Jesus' statement? If God exists as an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful parent -- a "father in heaven" -- you would expect God to deliver food to you. In fact, the child should not have to pray. Normal parents provide food to their children without their children having to beg for it. Yet, strangely, on planet Earth today we find tens of millions of people dying of starvation every year."

Similarly, if you ask Jesus to appear, he shall not:

http://www.godisimaginary.com/i50.htm

Ergo, the God of Christianity is impossible, and since this is the God you are speaking of, God is impossible, right?

Right.

Now, then, let's move on to the NEXT Christian fallacy you propose, Neo.

You propose that non-believers see the world through gloomy lenses. And, no, don't bother bullshitting me by claiming that is not what you said. I am well-versed in implied writing, and apparently so are you, so let's not bullshit the bullshitter here, okay? Anyway, you also propose that a future with God is the ONLY one worth fighting for. Again, don't bother bullshitting me by saying you didn't say that, because it's right there in your post.

My question for you is: WHY?

Why is a future with the God of Christianity the only one worth fighting for? Or is it the only future worth fighting for for YOU?

See, Neo, if the Bible is right, then you get to stick your hand in the eternal cookie jar. If not, you will die and pass from consciousness like the rest of us. Or, you will go to a Hell for not believing in the right God all along. Of the three, of course you want the eternal cookie jar, and of course you want to see those who disagree with you roasting in an eternal flame. Don't tell me that's not true; otherwise, you would be railing AGAINST the Christian God. You are either kissing the Christian God's ass, or you are not. And by what I can see, thou nose is brown.

*clears throat* See, Neo, it's funny that you say there's only one future worth fighting for, yet you also claim that the world is seen through multiple lenses, and that each of the lenses offers an exclusive, objective-yet-subjective truth. Ergo, you cannot say that a future without God is not worth fighting for, because through someone else's lens, it is, yet it is not because you say it is not. See the problem with your wishy-washy thinking? Like the Bible you draw from, your thinking on this subject is contradictory and indiciative of the placative nature of the Thinking Christian. Everything is okay, but it is not, yet it is.

Since God is impossible, I dn't see what you're so worried about.

Dano said...

Trancelation wrote to Neocognitron:
"See the problem with your wishy-washy thinking? Like the Bible you draw from, your thinking on this subject is contradictory and indicative of the placative nature of the Thinking Christian. Everything is okay, but it is not, yet it is."

To Trancelation from Dano:
I had read several posts by Neocognitron, and they left me struggling for a term that would describe my assessment of his writings. When I read your "wishy-washy thinking," I knew instantly that you had hit upon what I was struggling for!
Thanks,
Dano (Non Christian Deist (Maybe)

Neocognitron said...

Trancelation,

If you reread my post you will find that I did not say that truth is subjective, but that peoples’ perceptions of the truth are. And my statement is verified in your response since you perceived a truth that was not there and therefore nullify the strength of your argument.

You also commented that “the Christian God is defined by the collection of documents known as the Holy Bible.” Well, that is quite untrue. God is God no matter how we define Him. We did not create or define Him we simply seek to understand who he is and for what purpose He made us. In this phrase you also comment that these thoughts about Him are all “contained within the collection of documents known as the Holy Bible.” This also is untrue since these documents are the only ones “canonized” or believed to be of divine origin. There are many un-canonized documents as well as many proven false such as the recently revisited book of Judas. Scientific discoveries may eventually find new books worthy of canonization and others worthy of being un-canonized. Either way it is not how we “define” or believe God to be that makes Him who He is. He simply is.

You reference a passage from Mark 7:7 which tells us to “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” You claim this does not happen and that “if you ask Jesus to appear, he shall not”. But I claim it can and does happen on a daily basis. The problem is we look at humanistic problems, pray about them and expect humanistic solutions. We pray for things like $300 so I can pay the car note or for that girl in the corner to go on a date with me. Instead we must pray for godly gifts which God gives generously and which have value beyond this life. Things like: “Please help me make better decisions about how to spend the money you give me,” or “Please help me trust in you and have wisdom enough to ask that girl out in a way that honors you.” So, yes, we do receive the gifts we pray for. Sometimes they are material things but most of the time they are the riches of heaven: love, joy, peace, wisdom, strength, tolerance, etc.

Your next statement is again a misunderstanding. You assumed that “[I] propose that non-believers see the world through gloomy lenses.” I said and I reiterate that people with gloom-colored lenses see truth in gloomy ways. This is not to assume non-believers are wearing those gloom-colored lenses. Some do, some don’t. Some of the most up-beat and enjoyable people in my life have been non-believers, and I applaud them. Many times I find they show a bit of God that I aspire to show.

You next ask: “Why is a future with the God of Christianity the only one worth fighting for? Or is it the only future worth fighting for for YOU? ” To which I tell you, no, this eternity is not only available for me. It is for you. It is for any blogger on this site. It is for any Jew, Muslim, Buddist, Christian, America, German, Greek, Israeli, Iranian, Hindu, man, woman, child, race, color, creed, and person on this planet. There are no boundaries.

Why is a future with the God of Christianity the only one worth fighting for?
The future proposed in the biblical doctrine is worth fighting for because it serves all of us in both this life and the next. And even if you do not believe in God or believe that there is an afterlife the principals still encourage us to better ourselves. For example, God asks that we love our neighbors and do good to them, to not murder, cheat, steal, lie or encourage others to do the same. If we, even as non-believers, are courteous and open the door for a lady or allow another to take a parking spot we have every right to take, this world becomes a better place to live for those few moments. If we then make it our life’s goal to live in this courteous manner we make the world better for all whom our lives touch. Now if all people, believers and non-believers, live in this courteous manner we would not have to hide our children from the vulgarity spewing from the people sitting in the next booth at the public restaurant or be concerned about the government passing another law that tells us how to live. Therefore, I tell you it is most definitely a future worth fighting for; for my family and for your own.

Fighting the good fight… You may or may not agree that this future, this utopia, is worth fighting for. But for those who do agree it is non-believers who are less likely to succeed in changing their lives as they desire. Why? Because they are alone in their fight. They seek to better themselves without community support and without the image of a perfect leader, Jesus, to guide them. They try over and over to show compassion or mercy or kindness and think they are somehow doing it wrong because the beneficiary of their gestures responds rudely or even with hostility. They will succeed for a time but a lonely crusade to better one’s self is still a lonely crusade. Others seek to follow leaders who appear from time to time often becoming the victims of cults and gangs. Despite these difficulties this future is still worth fighting for, even as a non-believer.

Peace be with you all!

Trancelation said...

DISClAIMER: The author is writing this post under the influence of sleep deprevation and lack of visibility. Please forgive all spelling and grammatical errors.

Neocognition:

You said:

"If you reread my post you will find that I did not say that truth is subjective, but that peoples’ perceptions of the truth are. And my statement is verified in your response since you perceived a truth that was not there and therefore nullify the strength of your argument."

Remember when I asked you not to bullshit a bullshitter? Well, you're doing it here. There is not a single intelligent ex-Christian on this board who will say that individual perception of the truth is different from making truth subjective. They are one and the same. If you want to beat this horse, I am more than willing to bring the blunt utensils necessary to do so. If you would like to illustrate how having a perception of the truth is different from making the truth subjective, you're more than welcome to. I, for one, will be eagrly awaiting your revelations on this topic.

You said:

"You also commented that “the Christian God is defined by the collection of documents known as the Holy Bible.” Well, that is quite untrue. God is God no matter how we define Him."

So do you disagree with what the Bible has to say about God? Tell me, exactly which parts of the Bible are wrong about God, and what God "is"? Tell me which parts of the Bible are incorrect in their explanation of the characteristics and qualities of the one called God.

Because if you do not disagree with what the Bible has to say about the Christian God, then the Bible defines the Christian God. But until you tell me what parts of the Bible fail to correctly identify what God "is," I have no way of knowing how you feel that the Bible is wrong in defining God.

Somehow, I have this overwhelming doubt that you will disagree with what the Bible has to say about God. But I could be wrong. I just want to know exactly where the Bible got the Christian God wrong, according to you.

You make a comment on the canonized and non-canonized aspects of the Bible, though to what point I am unsure. You continue on this thread that no matter how we define God, God "is," yet I am still uncertain as how to where the Christian Bible that describes the Christian God failed to describe the Christian God correctly.

You said:

"You claim this does not happen and that “if you ask Jesus to appear, he shall not”. But I claim it can and does happen on a daily basis. The problem is we look at humanistic problems, pray about them and expect humanistic solutions. We pray for things like $300 so I can pay the car note or for that girl in the corner to go on a date with me. Instead we must pray for godly gifts which God gives generously and which have value beyond this life. Things like: “Please help me make better decisions about how to spend the money you give me,” or “Please help me trust in you and have wisdom enough to ask that girl out in a way that honors you.” So, yes, we do receive the gifts we pray for. Sometimes they are material things but most of the time they are the riches of heaven: love, joy, peace, wisdom, strength, tolerance, etc."

Here are the problems with your examples:

1. Money: You are asking for the exact same thing in the end. Whether you ask for more money or to make better decisions, making better decisions with money will ultimately reap MORE money. CDs, savings accounts, money market accounts, mutual funds, and the stock market provide ample opportunity for one to invest in and make monetary gains. But you are missing the point: the point is, that no matter what you pray for, you will not recieve it. I was afraid you were going to go off on a spiritual bent, but it appears that all you have done is reword the question so that if you do NOT get more money, then you can only blame yourself. This is a common tactic with Christian prayer, so that when it fails (which it always does), you can blame yourself and continue believing in your God.

Neo, the Bible does not provide a contract or legal guide by which we are supposed to be pray. It simply says ASK AND YOU SHALL RECIEVE. It does not provide a set of rules for what we are allowed to ask form nor does it make any of the implications you have provided in your respone to me. If you would like to provide scriptual basis for these claims, go right ahead. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting your revelatiosn on this topic.

2. Getting the girl: again, you are asking for the same thing no matter how you word it, only when you word it a certain way it comes out to be YOUR fault if you do not get the girl. God was simply trying to tell you what to do, and you were too proud-hearted to listen.

Or . . . maybe prayer just doesn't work. Maybe there are no guidelines, and that one need only ask in Jesus name. and maybe that just doesn't work.

You said:

"Your next statement is again a misunderstanding. You assumed that “[I] propose that non-believers see the world through gloomy lenses.” I said and I reiterate that people with gloom-colored lenses see truth in gloomy ways. This is not to assume non-believers are wearing those gloom-colored lenses. Some do, some don’t. Some of the most up-beat and enjoyable people in my life have been non-believers, and I applaud them. Many times I find they show a bit of God that I aspire to show."

Well, good for you. Yet I still find it ironic that you should mention:

1. A future without God is not worth fighting for; such a future is not a utopia; it is a gloomy future

2. Certain people see the world through gloom-colored glasses

*makes scale motions with hands* That's just too convenient for me, Neo. Too much coincidence in one setting. But if non-believers are so great:

"Some of the most up-beat and enjoyable people in my life have been non-believers, and I applaud them."

. . . then why the commentary on gloom in such close relation to non-believers?

You said:

"To which I tell you, no, this eternity is not only available for me. It is for you. It is for any blogger on this site. It is for any Jew, Muslim, Buddist, Christian, America, German, Greek, Israeli, Iranian, Hindu, man, woman, child, race, color, creed, and person on this planet. There are no boundaries."

No boundaries, it seems, except belief.

Ahhh, there's the kicker, ain't it?

But before we get into that, let me point out that you misinterpreted my comment. I did not ask if your ideal future was available to me. I asked if it was the only future you believed in fighting for. In your disguised reply, you have given me a resounding "YES!" I did not ask if it was a future worth fighting for for myself. I asked if it was the only future you saw as something to fight for, and you gave me a resounding "YES!"

I feel a great pity for you.

In the vein of belief: many Christians, including yourself, would like to propose that the Paradise of Christianity is available to all, that Christianity is some sort of open-armed utopia awaiting all who would enter it. It is not.

The Bible makes it clear that non-believers are not welcome to stick their hands in the eternal cookie jar.

What the Bible says about Non-Christians
They are without God.

"Whosoever ... abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." -- 2 John 9

They are all antichrists.

"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." -- 2 John 7

They should be shunned. Neither marry nor be friends with them.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? ... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord." -- 2 Cor.6:14-17

They should be killed.

"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you ... Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die." -- Dt.13:6-10

So there you have it. No boundaries save for belief.

You then go on to encourage the Christian polemic that the Bible teaches us morality, and that we should follow its example, and because this somehow serves us in this life.

Yet the secular moralities proposed in the Bible are not unique to the Bible, nor did the jews create these wonderful ethics. They were in existence for thousands of years before the Jews even existed, present in every society before that of the early Christians. So what good is the Bible if these ideas were already in effect to begin with before jesus ever even existed? Don't you think that's kind of strange?

Christians love to point out the morals in the Bible that everyone follows, even though those morals are not exclusive to the Bible, nor did they originate with the Bible.

Considering that, that the moralities we follow are NOT uniquely Christian, and that the moralities we follow are sometimes even ANTIETHICAL to Christianity, why is a future with the Christian God the only one worth fighting for?

You said:

:You may or may not agree that this future, this utopia, is worth fighting for. But for those who do agree it is non-believers who are less likely to succeed in changing their lives as they desire. Why? Because they are alone in their fight. They seek to better themselves without community support and without the image of a perfect leader, Jesus, to guide them. They try over and over to show compassion or mercy or kindness and think they are somehow doing it wrong because the beneficiary of their gestures responds rudely or even with hostility. They will succeed for a time but a lonely crusade to better one’s self is still a lonely crusade. Others seek to follow leaders who appear from time to time often becoming the victims of cults and gangs. Despite these difficulties this future is still worth fighting for, even as a non-believer."

. . . Neo, you're ging to have to forgive me. It is very late, and I'm very tired, and I am doing my best to keep my sarcasm in check. But this is too much. And once again, you resort to Christian polemics. Neo, I hate to say this to you, but . . . us non-believers are not alone in our fight.

This website you're posting on right now? It is a meeting place for non-believers. We non-believers regularly communicate with each other, and sometimes even meet in person, so don't bother bringing up the point about the 'digital distances' that so often come up when discussing the internet these days.

There are countless atheist and non-believers websites, many of which have charter groups that hold meetings for non-believers to come and openly discuss their apostacy. There are even non-Christian dating services, and dating services offer the option for those seeking online to view only profiles that match their religion or lack thereof.

Besides that, being a non-believer does not mean we can't get along with believers. Most of us get along just fine with our believer counterparts; I myself get along with ALL of my christian coworkers, as spiritual language is no stranger to me. Yet I feel completely uncompelled to revert back to the 'dark side'.

Why?

Because this is a personal quest, not a community one. So your point that non-believers have no community is moot, invalid, pointless, and totally irrelevant.

We are everywhere. We are not alone. And remaining in our non-belief despite the social pressures of Christianity only illustrates our powerful inner resolve. If Christians cannot stand a future in which they must look inward and face themselves, then that is a future I will fight for.

boomSLANG said...

It's not my debate, but my outside observation is that Neo' is the "poster child" for how those who label themselves "Christian" will use their "Holy" book as one big subjective "grab-bag"...i.e..picking, choosing, extracting which verses "substantiate" their own personal world-view, and ignoring or weasle-wording the verses that any reasonable grown adult can see are just plain irrational, and/or, conflict with science. "Science", meaning both testable and falsifiable.

Neo': God is God no matter how we define Him.

Perfect. Okay---non-existant is NON-EXISTANT "no matter" how we "define" it.

Trancelation said...

boom:

You're right about that. I commented earlier in my responses to Neo that he was the perfect example of the Thinking Christian, and being the poster child for the personal interpretation of scripture is the same thing, for this is an extremely common Thinking Christian practice.

Of course, when it comes to cherry-picking, I am most interested in knowing how the Bible got the God of Christianity wrong, seeing as how no matter how we define the God of Christianity, it is still the God of Christianity, even though the Bible is what defines the God of Christianity as the God of Christianity. In all my years debating Christians, I have never heard something like this. I am very eager to see if Neo will tell me what the Bible got wrong, or if the unending silence will only act as confirmation of his retreat.

and also, nn-existent is non-existent; no doubt about that.

eel_shepherd said...

Trancelation, to Neo-brainer wrote:

"...Somehow, I have this overwhelming doubt that you will disagree with what the Bible has to say about God. But I could be wrong. I just want to know exactly where the Bible got the Christian God wrong, according to you..."

Oh man, he's never going to go there. Nevernevernevernevernever. He could be Pacal-ing his way right out of the cookie jar.

Nvrgoingbk said...

Okay, I can't take it any more.

Neoturd: You are a moron. When Jesus assures us that whatever we ask for shall be given, he does not place any stipulations on the reader or the listener. What you are attempting to do is what ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO DO, which is to defend THE indefensible.

WHen it suits you, you are able to point to certain scripture and say, "You see, there it says such and such. It is a black and white issure", but when it comes to failed promises or prophecies on your Savior's part, well THOSE scriptures are just being interpreted wrong, correct? When it comes to the fact that Jesus told the disciples that there were some standing there that would not taste death before his second coming, I guess we just misunderstood him, correct? I mean, EVERYONE KNOWS, that isn't what he meant! When Yahweh claims to abhor human sacrifice but then allows Onan to do exactly that with his daughter, regardless of the reason, well THAT'S different, cause, uhm, cause...WHY is that different, again? Oh, that's right, because he's "God".

I find it riotous that CHristians claim that without God there can be no absolute morality, when their God can not even make up his own friggen mind what is right and wrong. Why exactly did God kill thousands for a census that he commanded David to take? WHY?!? Why did God punish Adam and Eve for eating of the tree, when they didn't even yet have a knowledge of right and wrong? WHY? Why was it somehow morally right for Lot to offer up his virgin daughters in place of the "angels" when God supposedly abhors such a thing? Why was it okay for Moses to command the Israelites to take for themselves the virgin women of other nations but to kill off everyone else? WHY?!? Wouldn't that be RAPE? I mean, you can't bullshit me and tell me that those young girls WILLINGLY allowed themselves to be handled by these men, and if they did go willingly it was only to avoid being killed for putting up a fight!

Throughout your unholy book, I am assaulted with contradictions and abhorent scripture. Any other "God" guilty of such atrocious acts and commands would be rejected by you.

You claim that God is God and that it is not only the Bible that describes his personhood or essesence, if you will, but it is that very book which you read to try and understand Him more! You claim that there are other "uncanonized" books out there referring to Jesus. Have you read them? I have. I've read the Book of Thomas, I've read Mary Magdeline and Judas. I own the Apocrypha. Are you aware that MANY of the Gnostic gospels do not refer to Jesus as divine? You claim that truth is subjective to each individual. Have you not considered the fact that perhaps the Gnostic versions are the correct ones? Of course you haven't. The Roman government and the powers that be were quicly losing their authority over the religious folk and sought to combine the many religious dogmas, rituals, and creeds into one, so as to regain complete control over the masses. They deified this Jesus and incorporated many of the surrounding religious practices into "Christianity". The Protestant Reformation sought to get out from under Catholic control, but they didn't go very far. They still maintain the same "pagan" holidays, Sabbath, and other rituals and beliefs that the Romans instituted to begin with.

The fact of the matter is, that Christianity is MAN MADE!!!! You yourself admit that everyone has their own truth. If man created Christianity how can you trust it is "divine"? If you had grown up in a predominately Muslim practicing community, you would believe the subjective truth of Muhammad.

We here at Ex-Christians fought our way our way to the intellectual freedom we now possess. We are not haughty. We once believed YOUR subjective truth, but through diligent study, we have concluded that it is all a LIE! It is not just a mistake, my friend. It (Christianity) is a cleverly devised LIE.

Truth is truth. Religion is outside of truth, because even Christians experience different versions of the Christian "truth". You have never heard God's audible voice. You have never seen God or his son with your eyes. All that you know to be "true" is based on your teaching and your feelings. You have lined up your thinking to go along with what you have learned about the Christian religion. I challenge you to conduct an UNBIASED study of your religion as though you had never been indoctrinated with it, and see where you end up.

If Christianity were the "TRUTH" we would all come to know it as we came to an age of accountability or enlightenment. If Christianity were the "TRUTH" there would be no denying it, but in fact millions of good people die everyday without a "saving knowledge of Christ". How is that? Those poor, unsuspecting millions just didn't have the opportunity to hear the gospel preached to them. What ever will become of their souls, hmm? And then there are the millions who reject your "truth", because they have been indoctrinated with a different "truth". Is it their fault for denying your truth when they have been warned of the wrath of their own God? And then there are those of who reject your "truth", because it is full of obvious contradictions and err. Could your wonderful OMINIPOTENT, OMNIPRESENT, and OMNISCIENT God not have come up with a perfect document, so as to avoid all of this mixup? I mean, couldn't he at LEAST get together with you Christian folk and clear up any misinterpretations and mistranslations among you, so that you could all be of one mind? NO, because TRUTH IS SUBJECTIVE RIGHT?
If your God is truth, if any God is truth, than it is HIS responsibilty to make sure we understand what that truth is, and yet two Christians sitting side by side in the same pew will disagree as to what this wonderful God really requires and just what attributes this wonderful God really possesses.

I am perplexed by your "truth". Funny, I alway thought that the "truth" shall set me free, but your "truth" has done nothing but ignite interdenominational disputes, national and international wars, and heinous crimes that should cause you to hang your hang in shame. So much for truth, huh?

Trancelation said...

Every Christian has a shatterpoint. For Neo, that was the issue over whether the Bible defines the God of Christianity corretly. I suspect the issue of whether or not subjective truth and perceptions of the truth were the same or different (they are the same) was also a nail in his coffin. I don't think I provided the best retort in the world on the "community" issue, and am surprised Neo has not returned to press the attack. Perhaps the two previous injuries were just too much.

nvrgoingbk:

The strangest aspect of Christian morality in relation to God is that they have two excuses for God's behavior:

1. God can do what it wants because it is God

2. We do not see the big picture like God does

Of course, both of these lines of rehtoric are absolutely, completely and totally motherfucking insane. God's behavior in the Bible, Old and New Testament, is inexcusable and unacceptable. Almost all modern Christians want to view their God as perfect, even though God possesses human qualities in the Bible.

(Hey, Neo, I'm still waiting for that explanation on where the Bible got it wrong, buddy. Was the Bible correct or incorrect when it described God with human behavior or with inhuman behavior? Which contradiction is correct?)

So if God possesses human qualities, I say God should be held accountable as a person. ALL humans are subject to justice in my book, including clergy. None deserve more because of whom they are, nor do they deserve less. Justice is meted out in accordance with the honor broken. And this God of Christianity has a lot of explaining to do.

But because Christians want so badly to fit into their precious "community," they will not go against the status quo. Simply go to amazon.com and read reviews for Christian books, movies and music by other people that are obviously Christian. You will not find a SINGLE glaring review. ALL of them will have nothing but good things to say. And that is the price of Neo's "community". To never be a Thinking Person again.

Neocognitron said...

Actually, Trancelation, I am not trying to fit in with my “community” as you suggest. I am trying to honor God by doing as He asks, to keep my mind on Him and to understand the things that are still confusing; and there are many. If my beliefs happen to be in line with modern religious principals then great! I will have company. But if I find no one who believes what I believe is correct in God’s eyes then I will walk alone with God.

You commented that Christians are unwilling to go against the status quo, but if you pay attention to what I say and do you will find my beliefs quite different from many other voices; Christian and non-Christian alike. After all, I am here posting on an obviously anti-Christian web site which most Christians would hide from; knowing that most who visit here would sooner spew venom than hold a rational discussion.

You showed surprise that I had not “[returned] to press the attack”. In that you are correct. I have not come here to attack you or any of your brothers or sisters. You have your reasons and your right to your opinions and I to mine. But I most certainly reserve the right to disagree with any point you might make even if it makes no sense to you. However, I will endeavor not lash out against you for your views.

Since my last post I have been busy on another thread answering questions; and now that I am done with those I am more than happy to answer yours and discuss topics of interest to you. But I will not respond to someone hissing or attacking. If you wish to converse and discuss the principals of faith (or other topics) then I am willing and will watch this thread until I decide to move on to a new one.

So, to those of you willing to talk with me about your beliefs or who have questions of me, ask. I would ask you all about your own beliefs but after reading so many of these posts I already know that you guys are all over the map. I am willing to discuss any matter but please limit your questions and control your tongues. I am not a scholar or a priest or a learned man but I will do my best to tell you the truth as I know it. Also, if any of you can convince me where I am wrong then post your evidence to prove it. Provide sound judgments to back up your claims and I will listen, but please do not ask 30 questions in a single entry or I will not reply to them. I wish to have a discussion with you, not a fight. I also don’t want to write a book of responses as I have found myself doing in the previous thread.

Lastly, I have a family and do not spend a lot of time online. This is the first blog site I have ever spent time on and I will return to it from time to time to respond. So don’t be surprised if I do not respond for a day or two between posts.

Jeff said...

Question to Neo, If Jesus was God, why did he say on the cross--My God, God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? Matt. 27:46

Neocognitron said...

Jeff,

That’s a great question! It has troubled believers and non-believers for centuries. There really isn’t a lot of information about why Jesus said this so I will tell you what I expect of the truth. But, again, I cannot give any hard evidence. We know that Jesus was the Holy Word made in the form of a man and that he was 100% God while being 100% human, since to be human is to take on God’s likeness (it is a subset of God’s characteristics). And, Jesus (The Word made flesh) is only one part of what is called the Holy Trinity: The Father, The Word (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit (or Wisdom). Be aware that the word Trinity never appears in the bible; it is only hinted at on occasion and was coined within the first 200 years after Jesus’ death. Anyway, these three parts work together as “God” just as your heart, hands, eyes and other parts work together to make up who you are. I believe Jesus cried out “My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?” because he was disconnected from the other parts of this union. Jesus was aware he was going to suffer and die at the hands of the Jews but when the sins of the world fell upon him God the Father could not bear to watch and turned away. During all of Jesus’ life he was connected to both The Father and The Spirit but at this moment of his death The Father could not look at Jesus because of the world’s sins bearing down upon him. Jesus probably felt the biggest hole in his heart at this moment that anyone can ever know. I presume it to be a like having a best friend who never leaves your side and who always whispers in your ear and laughs with you. Then one day troubles come and without telling you your best friend disappears and you find yourself entirely alone. There is evidence of God not being willing to look at people when evil is upon them so the idea that the Father would look away at that moment is plausible. But as I mentioned, there is little else I can cite to backup my idea.

If I may know, what prompted this question? It is probably the most difficult one any one has ever asked me. If you do not wish to answer, no problem! Your reasons do not require explanation.

Jim Arvo said...

Neocognitron said "We know that Jesus was the Holy Word made in the form of a man and that he was 100% God while being 100% human,..."

Um.... how do we "know" that?

Jeff said...

Thank you Neo for your brave attempt to answer my very difficult question.

I would like to post a follow up responce to your answer, but first I must ask you another perhaps difficult question, and your answer will determine the outcome and content of my follow up responce back to you.

Question 2
Do you think there is anything a person living today could possibly say or do to convince you that the Bible could possibly be bogas and a man devised fraud?

In other words you seem to be committed to the point of martyrdom for your beliefs, if that is not a correct acessment I do humbly apologize.

I'm not trying to pinpoint you as a religious fanatic, but I'm afraid I may be wasting my time asking you questions, because I have many more and they may get tougher and may challenge your commited faith.

If you would prefer to end our conversation now, I will understand and will still respect your position and your decision.

Thank you for your time.

.:webmaster:. said...

NeoCog et al:

Read this quick synopsis: click here.

Trinitarian Christianity didn't even exist before 325 CE. It wasn't even a "theory."

Quote: "The Trinitarian view has been affirmed as an article of faith by the Nicene (325/381) and Athanasian creeds (circa 500), which attempted to standardize belief in the face of disagreements on the subject."

Neocognitron said...

Do you think there is anything a person living today could possibly say or do to convince you that the Bible could possibly be bogas and a man devised fraud? Just as many non-believers here have committed themselves not to believe, I have committed myself to believe. Both non-believers and believers rationalize their faith (or lack of it) in the way they look at the world. Faith would not be faith if there was empirical evidence to prove or disprove either side. So, we each look at the world and find evidence for our own views. Both believers and non-believers see this as stubbornness and an unwillingness to bend or think on the part of the other. And thus we each find the metal wedge spoken of at the beginning of this newsgroup thread within the others’ minds. Believers seek to understand the reasons for what they see and find many answers in the bible which correspond to events in the world. Non-believers seek reasons for what they see and reduce the faith of Christians such as Darwin to ashes. There is nothing anti-Christian in what Darwin found, nor in science or in the belief of dinosaurs or other truths. We are all forced to live by faith, and a non-believer’s faith is no less based on faith than that a believer’s.

I'm not trying to pinpoint you as a religious fanatic, but I'm afraid I may be wasting my time asking you questions, because I have many more and they may get tougher and may challenge your committed faith. I do not mind the questions nor that you find my faith odd or confusing. And, no, please feel free to ask the questions you have. If they challenge my faith then so be it. If I do not stand on solid principals then I must rethink my arguments.

Jim Arvo, There is a time in any science when the evidence allows you a leap of faith. The existence of Pluto was a mathematical leap of faith for scientists and was later found to be true. In quantum mechanics there are theorists who have verified no less than eleven planes of existence; but recent mathematical evidence points to the existence of at least thirteen of them. In any case they don’t have empirical proof but a bunch of numbers scribbled on paper which may later be found true. Likewise, all of the evidence that supports my faith in the belief of what God did and still does leads me to accept more fully the biblical claim that Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. And, if the bible is to be believed then Christ had to be like us and subject to the same lusts and temptations as the rest of us. Thus I tell you, yes. Jesus was both 100% man and 100% God.

Dano said...

Neo.
The next time you get a difficult question like Jeff's, just apply Occam's razor (lex parsimoniae)

The most logical explanation would be that since there is no written history of the life of Jesus or his death that was taken down at the time, we have to assume that very few people noticed "Just another Roman Crucifixion," and nobody really heard or cared what he said.

He was theoretically killed because he was a rabble rouser, and was making a nuisance of himself on a Roman Holiday.

It was probably made up, along with the rest of the story, in the years between his supposed death, and the first writings that were ascribed to his contemporaries.

There were people back then who describe him as just a Rabbi, a teacher, not divine, but when the Council of Nicaea, canonized the bible in the "Somewhat present form" these people had to go underground or be fed to the lions.

Constantine wanted a religion with teeth, one in line with the many pagan ones, which had a Messiah fathered by God.

He was by the way going to use it to unite Rome into one belief system, so it had to be magical enough to take the place of a whole bunch of other current beliefs.
Dan (What's a Gnostic to do?)

Jim Arvo said...

Neo,

In everything you write, you exemplify the following maxims:

To the dogmatist, all is dogma. To the religionist, all is religion.

That is, you continually attempt to put everybody else in the same leaky boat that you are in, claiming that we all make leaps of faith. That's complete hogwash, as I've explained perhaps a hundred times on this site. Scientists to not make a "leap of faith" by offering a hypothesis, or constructing a theory. EVERYTHING in science is provisional, and is only as good as the supporting evidence. There is absolutely no need or use for "faith" of any kind.

As for scientists having nothing more than "numbers scribbled on paper", that's about as naive a statement as I have ever heard. I could much more legitimately portray your position as being supported by nothing more than "contradictory and repetitive tall stories written in a book". You see, those "numbers" that you allude to represent objective data--observations that can be repeated by dispassionate scientists and verified over and over. They are open to debate and reinterpretation by anybody who can present a compelling argument and make testable claims. In sharp contrast, your worldview rests upon dogmatic assertions that are shielded from scrutiny by issuing threats and insults to all those who may doubt or disagree.

We are NOT in your boat, which is kept afloat by closing one's eyes and wishing, and by elevating one's imagination to the level of verifiable truth. Those of us who are earnestly attempting to discern what is true and what is not are open to new ideas, and we harbor no dogmas, granting them an exemption from critical analysis. TO those of us who understand what takes place on both sides of the fence, there is no comparison. One side is mired in dogma and wishful thinking, while the other is free to seek what is really so.

You concluded by repeating you mantra "Thus I tell you, yes. Jesus was both 100% man and 100% God.", yet you've presented nothing even approaching a cogent argument for what you believe; you merely wish to assert that our reasoning is in as bad shape as your own, which is demonstrably not the case.

Jeff said...

To Neo, If Jesus is God and God and Jesus are one and the same by way of the trinity, then only by faith can this be true.

So we're down to the word faith.
So in the beginning there was the word "create" so the creator did not need faith to create.

But some 4000 years later, humans suddenly vehemently need 'faith' in order to believe, yet the creator did not need faith to create, but to believe that Jesus was God the creator and God was Jesus, suddenly people need an abundant amount of faith.

So in the begining of the Bible, faith was not a required commodity. Faith being an substitute for beleiving in something entirely unbelievable.

The word faith had to be applied
and tacked on to the New Testiment Stories as an elective, in order for the unbelievable to appear to be true.

Would you not think that in the
begining of the Bible there was "Faith"? So we start again with,

The Built Upon Faith Bible, according to Believing Christians

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning the creator God needed Faith, so he invented Faith so that many would believe he was infact the one true creator God.

Genesis 1:2 And God invented Faith so that many who would not believe, would cast aside their born-with logic and common reasoning and neatly assume everything written down by ancient superstitious human beings and assembled at the Council of Nicaea, in order for their wish of a virgin birth savior to some day become true.

Genesis 1:3 And so by Faith did God create everything and God said by Faith, let there be light and so God looked and there was no light, but by Faith he knew it was there.

Genesis 1:4 And God created the Heavens and the Earth by using Faith, and he looked and it was not there, but by Faith he knew that it surely must be there.

Genesis 1:5 So by faith, God knew that everything he created was there, yet it was not visible to him, noneless he knew by faith it must be there somewhere.

Genesis 1:6 So now God knew that by using faith, everything is possible, although he could not prove the existance of anything, yet he never lost his faith.

Genesis 1:7 So God now knows that faith can be used to construct any object or belief, regardless of the veracity or proof of an object or fable.

Genesis 1:8 God now finds that faith is the key to all answers of the universe and to all myths and man made fables.

Genesis 1:9 So God now knows that faith is more powerful than physical reality, although he cannot prove it, he prefers faith over reality.

Get the point kiddo?

Faith is the perquisite to belief..without faith the Bible quickly falls apart. Imaginary Faith is the fabric holding the Bible together.

Faith is the invented psuedo glue one must apply over logic and common sense in order to adhere to unbelievable man-made stories and fables.

If faith were a physical commodity, then a creator God would have built the universe using faith instead of physical material objects.

Thank you for your precious time, Neo.

Dano said...

Jeff wrote:
"To Neo, If Jesus is God and God and Jesus are one and the same by way of the trinity, then only by faith can this be true........."

Dan: Jeff! Welcome to the "Anti Christ" club. So the REAL God of true believers becomes an unassailable stubbornness about keeping their "Faith." The cult has done its job.

Once they have switched on the "Faith" button and it has worked on virtually every attempt to get them to apply common sense to their beliefs, they are ready: for the bomb in the back pack, the Kool Aid, the ride on the comet, to volunteer to turn the crank and disembowel, or light the fire under those who have been tortured enough to make then accept the faith!

It is no accident that proselytizing religions like Islam and Christianity are the most powerful. They have replaced the message with an overpowering command to BELIEVE OR PERISH!

Believe and you will get the goodies, don't believe and you get the fire!

Dan (Grateful for my skepticism. It would have been so easy to be just another statistic to the "Faith" virus.)

Neocognitron said...

Dano,

You write that “there is no written history of the life of Jesus or his death that was taken down at the time.” But there is evidence and plenty of it. If anything, there is too much of it. The four gospels are eye witness accounts of Jesus life recorded by those who lived during it, passed down in the traditional manner of rote memorization and through scribes and learned men. Major parts of these books were written by other people, yes, but to record the eye-witness accounts. It only makes sense that an apostle would spend time telling people of the events while others record them. If you do not accept this evidence because it was not the eye-witnesses who penned the words, what about the existence of four corresponding gospels? Four disparate accounts with four very different viewpoints all telling the same story and matching up very well is very powerful evidence and is why they were canonized (included into the 66 books of the modern bible). It says a lot about the faithfulness of the scribes to record the actual events passed down from the apostles.

Yes, Constantine told the early church to get its story straight. There were many different stories and rumors floating around at the time so it was only right that someone organize them and tell them to go research the truth. So, Constantine told the church to go do this. And there are researchers today still trying to uncover new details and to determine what is true. These researchers have on many occasions found proof that what the bible says is true, and found evidence that books that are not included in the bible should be. What proof do you have that Constantine wanted to create a faith that “had to be magical enough to take the place of a whole bunch of other current beliefs?” After all, he was well known for enriching the temples of heathen gods and his medals were adorned with figures of Jupiter, Apollo, Mars and Hercules. Evidence abounds that he influenced the church hierarchy and practices for his social and political gain, but I have heard of no evidence that Constantine tried to alter Christianity’s beliefs. Instead, it appears to be the Christian apologist Lactantius who convinced Constantine that unity under Christianity would bring all these faiths together.

Jim Arvo,

A theory is exactly that: a leap of faith. It is a set of principals, propositions, practices, examples and reproducible phenomena used to explain something. It is the first step in the scientific process. Once a theory can be proven through further research it becomes a hypothesis, and once the hypothesis withstands the test of time it becomes a scientific fact.

It appears by your reply that you have already accepted that those “numbers” and “dispassionate scientists” are correct even though you have not seen them. There is much evidence of scientists who are very passionate about their work and who misrepresent facts and are motivated by things other than the truth. So there is plenty of evidence that we should be careful when listening to “facts” they present. Take for example statisticians and probability experts. Many of these experts misrepresent facts in surveys and polls for advertisers, so they can legally claim “scientific research shows this…” when it clearly otherwise would not. I used to be a Greenpeace member and was continually astounded when I read numbers they claimed supported their positions. I decided to research some of them and quite easily disproved some of their major assumptions about rain forest deforestation rates and similar science. Scientists are human just as you and I and are thus subject to the same “wishy-washy” thinking or “metal plates” as the rest of us. You attempt to de-lump yourself from the rest of us as though you are somehow not subject to human emotions and influences. Well, good luck with that! It is biblical teachings that remind Christians that they are like everyone else. But the bible also teaches us that we all (both Christians and non-Christians) have the ability to live above the common, petty hatreds and bitterness of the average man. We are reminded that we are not better but that we can live our lives serving rather than arguing or fighting. Are we very good at living according to the faith? Of course not. The temptations that nagged at us before we were believers are still very present in our lives afterward.

Jeff,

When you speak with a person standing next to you, you do not need faith to accept they exist. But if you grow up simply hearing your parents talk about a person you have never met, whom you have no physical evidence even exists, you take it on faith that your parents are not lying to you. If that person then appears at your door, great! You now have incontrovertible proof your parents are trustworthy and you can now evaluate the smaller things they told you about the person. In the case of the bible, if I recall correctly, the stories of Adam and Eve are estimated at around 8,000 years old. How many kids are going to believe their parents when their parents tell them what their parents told them, whose parents told them, etc. At some point you (as the child) simply accept that the stories are reasonably accurate and pass them on to your own children as best you can. And so, faith is a “required commodity” even in the first generation.

As for your revised version of Genesis, this is not proof that supports your argument. If you wish to show evidence that I am incorrect then provide facts or at least strong theories. I don’t mind that you present logical arguments rather than research figures but stand on valid principals and prove your point. You claim I am wrong but provide a blatantly false reading from the Pentateuch. Are you the one wearing the metal plate today? You may freely disagree with my positions but if your evidence is as strong as your opinions then prove it. Tell me how. If I am wrong I will acknowledge it. But if we disagree then I hope we do so amicably. I wish to test my faith and to be certain that my principals are sound, even we disagree.

.:webmaster:. said...

Neo wrote, "The four gospels are eye witness accounts of Jesus life."

That is not true. No one knows who wrote the four approved-by-Constantine gospels. The gospels are anonymously written, long after the death of the man called Jesus, and written just for those who had already converted to Christianity. Nothing was written down for several decades because the first messianic believers knew in their hearts, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with the faith of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus would be returning from the dead to give them all a big wet sloppy kiss, and destroy all the evil unbelievers, in their generation. As many of them started dropping dead without a magical return by Jebus, those believers who could actually write had to re-write things a bit.

You just can't have all those converts wandering off to, well, not worship Jebus!

Now, as to this comment of yours: "A theory is a leap of faith."

OMFGIH! LMFAO!

Please keep posting, Neo. You are a wonderful representative of your cult.

Absolutely wonderful.

The more you post, the more encouraged I am that my mind was rescued from that terrible cult.

Jim Arvo said...

Neo: "A theory is exactly that: a leap of faith..."

No. A theory requires no belief whatsoever, and it most certainly does not require acceptance of something that has no supporting evidence (which is what "faith" implies). But let's see how you argue your case...

Neo: "It is a set of principals, propositions, practices, examples and reproducible phenomena used to explain something."

That's reasonably accurate. Okay, I'll agree with that statement.

Neo: "It is the first step in the scientific process. Once a theory can be proven through further research it becomes a hypothesis, and once the hypothesis withstands the test of time it becomes a scientific fact."

Well, you have some of that right. You have "theory" and "hypothesis" backwards. A hypothesis can be a wild conjecture based on nothing but intuition. The word "theory" is reserved for an explanation that has undergone substantive attempts at falsification, and survived. Also, the word "fact" is often used for the lowest-level data in the process; i.e. the raw observations.

But what do you do with these definitions? You abruptly jump to another topic. Where is your argument that a theory is a "leap of faith"? Did I miss it?

Neo: "It appears by your reply that you have already accepted that those 'numbers' and 'dispassionate scientists' are correct even though you have not seen them."

Now isn't that odd. I said nothing even approximating what you suggest. Can you please quote me, and explain how you arrived at that?

Neo: "There is much evidence of scientists who are very passionate about their work..."

Oh, I get it. Since they are "passionate" they are therefore not "dispassionate". Please look up the word dispassionate. Next you'll probably tell me that someone who is not artful has no artistic ability.

Neo: "...and who misrepresent facts and are motivated by things other than the truth. So there is plenty of evidence that we should be careful when listening to 'facts' they present."

Yes, of course! That's precisely why science is a transparent endeavor. That's why findings are published in peer reviewed venues, with sufficient detail that others can reproduce the work. It's a system that words astonishingly well. Those who "cook" their data, are often found out rather quickly. The institution of science stands in stark contrast with religions in this regard. Religions are almost universally concerned with protecting selected dogma, rather than exposing it to the light of day. That, in a nutshell, is why scientists have infinitely greater credibility than clergy.

Neo: "Take for example statisticians and probability experts. Many of these experts misrepresent facts in surveys and polls for advertisers, so they can legally claim 'scientific research shows this…' when it clearly otherwise would not."

Yes, I've seen quite a bit of that. There is a lot of bogus statistical reasoning out there. However, I know a number of statisticians and mathematicians who see it as their duty to expose such shoddy and unscientific thinking. So the system is still self-correcting. Again, I see no self-correcting mechanisms at all within religious circles.

Neo: "Scientists are human just as you and I and are thus subject to the same “wishy-washy” thinking or “metal plates” as the rest of us."

Yes, but there is a quantitative difference, and an institutional difference. The vast majority of scientists understand and recognize common logical fallacies (although they too can fall prey to them), and the institution of science is very specifically set up to mitigate these personal failings. Yet again, this is the opposite of religious institutions, where personal testimony is welcomed and elevated to the level of truth. Falsehoods and biases thrive in the intellectual darkness of religion.

Neo: "You attempt to de-lump yourself from the rest of us as though you are somehow not subject to human emotions and influences."

That is complete claptrap. Now you are simply engaging in ad hominem attacks. Are you that completely out of ammunition? As someone with a deep appreciation for how real science is done, I must acknowledge first and foremost that I am as fallible as anybody else. I continually seek to recognize errors and biases in my own reasoning. I've acknowledged this and explained it numerous times in other posts at this site. You picked a very poor target for that last smear, Neo.

jeff said...

To Neo, I proved my point to you, but you insist in glossing over what I wrote in your own defense.

I wrote "If faith were a physical commodity, then a creator God would have built the universe using faith instead of physical material objects."

Not only was that a home run, I knocked the ball out of the park.

If faith is the only evidence needed to believe any story or fable or myth, then Santa Claus is alive and well, just as the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, just as Jesus.

Faith based belief can make any imaginative tale become alive in the (mind) of the believer, just as you use faith as fuel to bolster your imaginary image alive in your (mind) concerning a mythical figure, called Jesus.

Faith is the (key) to imaginative beliefs, without the key the character portrayed is locked out of the mind and has no power over the mind.

Faith is the carrot dangling on a rope at the end of a stick to invented lead the donkey (believer) all through the Bible.

Reality in the present requires no faith, no belief nor faith is needed.

You also make the same mistake as all Christians presuming what has been past down through generation through generation could not possibly be untrue, that's just not the case. People have memory lapse, people have amnesia, people get Alzheimer's, people have hearing impairment, people easily misunderstand others.

If by your reasoning, there would have been no need to write anything down because every person would just go around repeating things every person's parent told them and we could just presume everything people told others is completely true.

I'm afraid that you really exposed the problem, especially if a preacher says it, then therefore by the grace of God it bound to be true, and I believe that is the root of the problem of beliefs based on nothing more than a word that was conveniently invented to make people think that their own common sense was not enough to convince them of the fable and myth created to control masses of people and it is still in full effect to this day, because people have been told that by their own accord they are nothing, they just need a little faith, which is nothing more than a pseudo word used to reverse people's logical thinking in order to hypnotize and control and sway a persons mind away from reality and it works very effectively.

Neo, unaware you have indeed proven my point.

Neocognitron said...

.:webmaster:.,

You are correct. We do not know who wrote the original gospels but the fact that other writings corroborate them provides evidence they were passed along mostly in tact. Notice that I say mostly. It would be no surprise that the wording has changed or the stories are told in different ways to relay the same messages. So why do you still doubt their truths? Do you refuse to believe because these stories do not align perfectly with one other? If you find absolute unequivocal proof about the existence of God you would have faith in what you see, which is faith in knowledge rather than faith in God. Instead, the evidence is superficially flawed yet you desperately cling to this miniscule evidence and ignore the stronger truths. Why do you love your faithlessness so much? What freedom does it bring you? What joy does it provide to those around you? Does it encourage others to better themselves? Does it bring you closer to knowing who you are or help you become the person you want to be? Does your faithlessness server others or only yourself? Does it even serve you?

Jim Arvo,

But what do you do with these definitions? You abruptly jump to another topic. Where is your argument that a theory is a "leap of faith"? Did I miss it? Yes, you missed it. You claimed that a theory is not faith in something unknown, so I countered that it does require faith and cited dictionary evidence. I elaborated by explaining that not until a theory becomes a hypothesis is it based on observations and evidence. However, I find that I was mistaken. A theory has stronger evidence than a hypothesis as you said. In this you are correct. But a theory still requires a leap of faith because the observations and reproducible results do not prove the theory right or wrong. Only scientific facts are not contestable. Still, scientists treat both scientific facts and theories as fact until theories can be either proven or disproven. So the claim that theories are based on faith still stands. And by the way, the church and its “theories” have survived countless attacks on its core principals yet survived. I hope that in time you come to realize them as truth.

As for “cooking” the results of statistics and scientific facts, this kind of trickery has been going on since the dawn of time and is not necessarily illegal or even immoral. Scientific journals, peer reviews and publications are attempts to keep scientists accurate and, yes, to provide transparency. But we are all too familiar with misrepresentations and outright lies that have made it through these scientific checks. To reiterate the point, it is that people in all disciplines are prone toward looking at evidence and seeing things differently and are motivated by a wide variety of influences. They are not necessarily looking to obfuscate the truth nor to make the untrue appear true. Some do, most don’t. I would contend that most people actively seek the truth even if they don’t find it. Sadly though, it only takes a few corrupt people to destroy the respect and honor others deserve. And yes, there are many who do a great job at exposing the frauds.

Your comment about the credibility of clergy versus that of scientists is an opinion that appears to be more of fishing for arguments than one of reason. You have your reasons and I accept them but respectfully disagree. I see each person as trying to find truth and to better understand the world in their own way. Scientists seek truth through knowledge and to help society through discovery. They attempt to keep themselves honest by using peer review processes and publications. Clergy seek to understand God and societies through archeology, sociology and psychology, and to better understand our world through their studies. Clergy also seek to promote honesty and virtue and attempt to keep themselves honest through public professions of faith, public recognition of sin and similar methods. They too use publications and peer review processes but I believe those are for the more scientific endeavors undertaken by the church.

Falsehoods and biases thrive in the intellectual darkness of religion. It also cannot be denied that “falsehoods and biases thrive” within religious institutions, as you say, but you cannot deny that it exists everywhere else in life. Sadly, no place is sacred. Is this fact so illogical that you claim it as “ad hominem” evidence? Your claims that somehow the church and clergy are more susceptible to negative influences than any other pursuits are ridiculous. Churches make up a huge portion of our society so one would expect an equivalent level of corruption, but you assume somehow they are more corrupt. That is laughable.

Jeff,

I wrote "If faith were a physical commodity, then a creator God would have built the universe using faith instead of physical material objects." Congratulate yourself all you want, your argument is unsound. The creator DID build the universe using non-physical materials. Ever heard of energy? And now you claim that even Jesus did not exist, well you have a very steep hill to climb on that one. There are quite a few documents and manuscripts that show quite clearly that he did. Besides New Testament writings there are the writings of Josephus, a first century historian, who mentions Jesus on two different occasions and even records the condemnation of James by the Jewish Sanhedrin, clarifying that this James was the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ. We also have writings such as the Book of Judas and others that are claimed by their authors to be authentic but which have been proven false, or at least not enough evidence exists to verify their authenticity or falsehood. In addition there is evidence that both Jewish and Roman leaders ordered the writing of fictional accounts of Jesus life and death so they could destroy the ideas that were spreading. So, yes, there is plenty of evidence confirming that Jesus existed and who Jesus was. If we look beyond the years immediately surrounding Christ’s life we also find that Muslims recognized Jesus at this time and recorded him as a prophet, also known as ‘Isa; as did several other religions. Archeologists have found Emperor Nero blaming Christians for the fire that destroyed Rome in AD64 in documents written by the Roman Historian Tiberius. We also have writings by Tiberius about the sentence of Pontius Pilatus and about Jesus that further confirm the Gospels. Pliny, a Roman governor of Bithynia, wrote to Emperor Trajan about what to do with the Christians and what they were doing. These many texts verify that Jesus lived yet you reject it. What more can God do than to appear?

================================

To those with whom I have been discussing biblical history,


Our discussions have confused me because I did not understand why you do not see the logic in faith or in the evidence I provide, but recently the answer occurred to me. Everyone I have spoken with on this newsgroup seeks to prove whether or not God exists by using knowledge (or they refuse to seek at all). They either do not care about or do not see that knowledge does not tell us that God exists. It is the simple act of looking at the world around you and realizing that it shows you that he exists, and that each person’s experience with this revelation is unique. You will no doubt find this truth illogical but I will provide evidence for it in the hope that one day you also may also believe. Before the introduction of any religion to the Americas Native American Indians recognized a being greater than themselves and gave thanks to animal spirits for giving their bodies as food and their skins as clothing. They gave thanks to trees and rocks and hills and the winds, accepting that all of life was woven together in a tapestry. It is the ultimate in “ad hominem” evidence: evidence that is emotional or indwelling rather than intellectual. In the bible, the father of all Hebrews, Abraham, recognized a divine creator though he had no facts to support it and was blessed for his belief. And most, if not all, societies and civilizations (both ancient and modern) similarly recognize one or more supreme beings. So you who reject the idea of a creator have apparently ignored evidence which surrounds you and is as old as mankind. For me, additional evidence is immediately available here on this website and comes in the form of questions about your faithlessness. For example: If God does not exist then why do you find it so important to tear down the faith of those who believe? If you simply disagreed then why not go about your business and ignore these beliefs and believers? Instead you choose to express your disagreement so vehemently that you have created an entire religion around being anti-religious. Do you see any hint of error in your thinking? I come here to remind you that God loves you and that His son died for you. I come to understand your views but I find people who simply want to denigrate my faith and who ignore both ad-hominem and empirical evidence. There is much which proves that Jesus lived and the life he lived but you reject it and even flaunt this rejection within this newsgroup. You have shown me nothing in your faithlessness that lifts up others as better than yourselves; nothing that shows me you seek to improve yourselves or your neighborhoods; nothing that shows me you seek to do what is right even if it costs you your life or reputation. I challenge you to show me how faithlessness is better than seeking wisdom, self sacrifice, charity, humility, kindness, love, and faithfulness. So far all I see is confusion, confrontation, insults, pride, arrogance, hate, malice and ignorance. A few comments and questions have been kind, thought provoking and appear honest but I am reluctant to give them much credit because of questions which followed them.

I grow tired of debating semantics with you which takes too much of my time away from my family and is far less important. I told you before that I am not a scholar nor a learned man so I am not fit to debate the finer points of Constantine or the origins of the gospels. You can find what is known of these facts in any library and I have seen enough of their evidence to be convinced that the bible is trustworthy. I am a believer and can provide the evidence (ad-hominem) of what faith is about and my own experiences concerning God and how He works in our lives. If you seek to understand God or biblical passages then I will help where I can but I am withdrawing myself from this discussion on topics of historical knowledge.

To those with whom I have been discussing biblical history, I apologize for my abrupt departure from this topic. I willingly walked into this discussion and expected to close historical matters quickly due to the overwhelming evidence that already exists and the enormous number of debates on these topics that have already taken place. You have bested me in our discussion and I lay helpless before you. Also, I have neither the time nor the interest to continue.

All,

I invite anyone who wishes to talk about God, who desires a Christian perspective on a particular topic or who has similar curiosities to submit a post. I will tell you what I know and believe and relate to you as best I can the reasons for my beliefs. But I will no longer delve into questions of whether Jesus existed or whether the bible is trustworthy or its history. I will leave these questions to the experts.

Jim Arvo said...

Neo: "But a theory still requires a leap of faith because the observations and reproducible results do not prove the theory right or wrong. Only scientific facts are not contestable.

Wrong on both counts. You assume that a theory is accepted as "truth"; it most certainly is not. A theory is nothing more than the best explanation available. NO theory is ever "proven" in an absolute sense; it is merely as good as the evidence supporting it, which is always incomplete, and is always subject to being usurped by a better theory. I believe this is precisely the source of your misunderstanding. In practice many theories are treated as truth simply because it becomes tedious to always qualify that which we have extremely high levels of confidence in. As for facts being incontestable, that too is incorrect. Generally speaking, "facts" are low-level observations that are straightforward and uncontroversial. However, if the methodology used in acquiring the facts is found to be faulty (e.g. incorrectly calibrated equipment), then those facts as well as all conclusions drawn from them are viewed as suspect and/or discarded.

As I've said before, everything in science is provisional. Everything. If errors in methodology or reasoning are uncovered, then the data (i.e. facts) is thrown out. If new evidence surfaces that contradicts old theories, the old theories are thrown out. If a new theory fits the available data better, and makes more verifiable predictions, the old one is (eventually) thrown out. There is absolutely no place for faith at any level of this enterprise.

Neo: "Still, scientists treat both scientific facts and theories as fact until theories can be either proven or disproven. So the claim that theories are based on faith still stands."

Your first sentence is true, provided you admit that even "facts" are provisional in science (whether that word is used to describe the ground data or the tested theory). Your next assertion, that theories are based on faith, is a complete non sequitur. I can only imagine that you are using "faith" as a synonym for "best available guess", or "highly probable assumption", both of which would seem to do violence to the usual notion of "faith". So, no, your claim does not stand at all unless you want to use the word "faith" in an extremely unusual manner.

Neo: "And by the way, the church and its “theories” have survived countless attacks on its core principals yet survived. I hope that in time you come to realize them as truth."

I agree with two points: 1) The church has been attacked, virtually since its inception, and 2) it has survived. However, there is a world of difference between that scenario and a scientific theory that survives numerous "attacks" (i.e. tests). The most stark difference is that the church partitions humanity into two factions: believers and non-believers. Science, on the other hand, is essentially universal; it can and must speak to one audience. This is a crucial difference. While the church most definitely has survived numerous sustained attacks, it has done so by successfully insulating its members from the outside world. Tell me honestly, how many Christians are familiar with Mithra, Osiris, and Krishna, and realize that virtually every Christian motif existed within these more ancient religions? How many Christians can define what an atheist is, or can name even one legitimate reason that atheists cite for disbelief in their deity? I have no scientific polls to back this up, but I'm quite confident that the numbers are extraordinarily low; perhaps less than 5%. Nothing even remotely like this happens in science. In science all the cards are on the table for all to see. Anyone can challenge any theory, provided they can demonstrate an understanding of the theory they attack, and can produce sound reasoning and/or testable predictions. If they can do that, then they have a platform from which to state their views. If testing bears them out, then the proponents of the attacked theory are obliged to respond, or be forgotten. There is no sequestering of believers. There is no splitting into factions. There is no vilifying of the "other" side (except, of course, on a small scale, at the level of individuals).

Neo: "...we are all too familiar with misrepresentations and outright lies that have made it through these scientific checks.

Yes, and the reason that you KNOW about them is that they have been found out. The scientific community itself discovered them and sought to expose them, for the sake of eliminating corrupted data.

Neo: "To reiterate the point, it is that people in all disciplines are prone toward looking at evidence and seeing things differently and are motivated by a wide variety of influences..."

Yes, we agree on this point. However, from experience I know that the average person is not very well equipped to consider evidence critically. For example, I find a shocking number of believers who simply have no clue that the information they get from their pastors, church groups, or devotional books may be systematically biased, and may not be presenting the whole picture. In fact, many deliberately stop at the Bible. So, while I am inclined to agree that we all seek "truth" (to the degree that we can discern it), I simply cannot agree that everybody's approach to doing so is equally effective. By far the most common and significant shortcoming is what amounts to special pleading or, in psychological terms, confirmation bias; i.e. hearing only one side of an argument, and rendering a decision based on that alone. While everyone is guilty of this to some degree, it's nothing short of an epidemic within religious communities because they are so insular.

Neo: "Your comment about the credibility of clergy versus that of scientists is an opinion that appears to be more of fishing for arguments than one of reason."

No. I will spell out my reasoning for you. In science one must confront any credible evidence that refutes or casts doubt on your claim (that is, if one wishes to continue doing science). Within religious sects, this is not the case at all. Each sect is concerned with affirming its own dogmas, and often actively seeks to insulate its members from anything that would undermine them. By this criterion alone, a scientist is immeasurably more likely to vigorously test his/her ideas and to confront any weakness discovered by others. Failing to do so is the quickest way to build castles in the sky. One who tests his ideas objectively (or as close to objectively as is possible), is far more likely to produce something of value.

Neo: "Clergy seek to understand God and societies through archeology, sociology and psychology, and to better understand our world through their studies. Clergy also seek to promote honesty and virtue and attempt to keep themselves honest through public professions of faith, public recognition of sin and similar methods."

I will not deny that many members of the clergy have laudable intentions, and many even succeed in making contributions to society. However, if you want me to believe that the church, as an institution, encourages honest appraisal of evidence and progress toward "truth", then please show me a church that encourages its member to understand the positions of other religions and the actual arguments put forth by non-believers. Virtually every document or sermon I have ever seen produced by any church for the edification of its members is appallingly one-sided propaganda. Look to see how any Catholic church describes Luther's position. Look to see how any Protestant church describes the Catholic church. Look to see how any Christian church describes Islam. Look to see how any church describes an atheist. What you will find is trenchant dishonesty.

Neo: "Your claims that somehow the church and clergy are more susceptible to negative influences than any other pursuits are ridiculous."

Your paraphrasing is not quite right: I would not say "more susceptible to negative influences". Rather, I maintain that they are vastly more one-sided in their thinking, and often shockingly ignorant of any position but that of their own church. If you think that's ridiculous, then I have a challenge for you. Find me several web sites of churches or Christian apologists that encourage believers to fully understand opposing beliefs, with links and/or references to original sources so that the members can read the unfiltered opposing positions for themselves and make an informed decision. In turn, I'll show you numerous web sites by scientifically-minded atheists that provide links directly to opposing essays.

Neo: "Churches make up a huge portion of our society so one would expect an equivalent level of corruption, but you assume somehow they are more corrupt. That is laughable."

Not corrupt, just ignorant. And no it's not laughable, it's sad, divisive, and dangerous.

Jim Arvo said...

Neo: "Everyone I have spoken with... seeks to prove whether or not God exists by using knowledge (or they refuse to seek at all). They either do not care about or do not see that knowledge does not tell us that God exists... So you who reject the idea of a creator have apparently ignored evidence which surrounds you and is as old as mankind...."

You first state that god's existence cannot be "proven" with "knowledge", but then you appeal to "evidence which surrounds [us]". Gathering and evaluating evidence is a path to knowledge. If you insist that knowledge has nothing to do with seeing that god exists, then evidence is immaterial. You went on to make many assertions about how people the world over have believed in invisible deities, apparently with the implication that there must be something to it. Well, I agree that there is something to it; it's called the human brain. There is a significant body of evidence suggesting that god-concepts are so common because of relatively mundane cognitive machinery that we all share and owe to a long history of social behavior that helped our species survive. I won't launch into that again here; I've rambled on about that many time before at this site.

Neo: "If God does not exist then why do you find it so important to tear down the faith of those who believe?"

I have no desire to "tear down" anybody's beliefs. For example, I do not go to Christian web sites and challenge the participants there, unless it is to point out blatant factual errors or to encourage them to adopt a more realistic definition of the word "atheist". However, when people like yourself come HERE to express your views, I assume you are ready and willing to discuss them. In that case, I offer my unvarnished opinion. Do you find fault with that policy?

Neo: "If you simply disagreed then why not go about your business and ignore these beliefs and believers?"

If they were merely beliefs, that's exactly what I would do. However, Christians in the US want far more than the right to believe, assemble, and worship. They want teacher-directed prayer, they want to display their religious trappings in public places using tax money, they publicly and unabashedly denigrate non-believers, they want to insert religious ideology into science classes, they cast aspersions at evolutionary scientists, etc. etc. This is all very troubling. Please don't paint Christians as innocent bystanders who are under attack. If anything, it's just the opposite.

Neo: "Instead you choose to express your disagreement so vehemently that you have created an entire religion around being anti-religious. Do you see any hint of error in your thinking?"

To the religionist, all is religion. No, Neo, being a vocal atheist is nothing even remotely like holding a religious view. I advocate understanding every position and letting everybody state their case. I advocate letting reason and evidence lead us, and not adopting any belief through "faith", tradition, or indoctrination. I have no quarrel with those who choose to believe in gods or goddesses, so long as they understand that no one is obliged to share their beliefs if they cannot provide credible evidence to back them. So I assert that the error is in your thinking, not mine. Your error, like that of the vast majority of believers, is in painting an absurd characterization of our position, and in failing to recognize the church's role in denigrating outsiders for the crime of holding a different point of view.

Neo: "I come here to remind you that God loves you and that His son died for you."

We don't believe in you god, Neo. So that objective is completely nonsensical.

.:webmaster:. said...

Neo wrote: "You are correct. We do not know who wrote the original gospels but the fact that other writings corroborate them provides evidence they were passed along mostly in tact."

What other writings corroborate the stories found in the four Gospel accounts? And if there were such writings, how would their existence corroborate anything? Have you seen all the Star Trek and Star Wars books on the shelves of bookstores?

I became a Christian because I believed it contained the ultimate truth for life. I eventually realized I had been deceived by a lie. My life is better now because my mind is more rooted in reality rather than clouded in mysticism and falsehood.

And, the good news is, every Sunday, I save 10%.

jeff said...

Neo: "You have bested me in our discussion and I lay helpless before you. Also, I have neither the time nor the interest to continue."

You have done just exactly what was expected of you to bow-out because we have made you think about how silly the concept of faith is.

Neo: "The creator DID build the universe using non-physical materials. Ever heard of energy?"

Wrong!!! Energy consists of moving atoms and electrons, physical objects, not faith.

Write the word "faith" on a piece of paper amd plug your TV into the piece of paper see how many channels you get..so silly.

Here lies the whole problem including you, your church, and your beliefs,..read slowly and carefully below!

A creator God that is described in a book by fallible human beings, as all knowing, all loving, the creator of all things, also created evil, according to Isaiah, yes I know this is a shock to you, so read Isaiah 45:7 I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the lord do all these things. Now, either the Bible is the truth or it is a lie. It and you, claim it to be universal truth.

So if this God created evil, then this God has control over evil, yet he has allowed evil to exist.

This God already knew and had first hand knowledge of evil, yet he allowed evil to exist in heaven and then kicked out Satan and his angels, and then he allowed evil to exist on Earth knowing full well if this evil angel could corrupt heaven, it could also corrupt earth. Doh!

Adam and Eve had no prior knowledge of evil, they had no reason to, naturally a more cunning and powerful evil enitity could easily overpower innocent unknowing human beings. Your God knew this, and yet conveniently did nothing about it.

Now all of humanity is supposed to suffer for an act that your all loving, all knowing God could have easily prevented in the first place. Doh!

Since your Bible God is in the heart changing business he could have just changed everyone's heart or he could have eliminated all evil, this would have been so easy since he created the whole universe in just six days, but No! he destroys everyone and the animals, except Noah and his family, what sin did the animals commit? huh? Doh!

And then Noah being perfect in the eyes of your God gets drunk after the flood, and Noah and his family was supposed to be a filter of the wicked and then shortly after we have Soddom and Gommorrah and then Lot's daughters get him drunk and have sex with him and get they pregnant. So much for the flood, huh? Doh!

What kind of God are you pretending to worship??

Now some 4000 years later this God sends a angel to inseminate a virgin girl and has a baby that slowly transforms himself into a traveling rabbi savior for all of mankind and this savior son must be killed as a sacrifice to appease this God for sins that this God could have prevented 6000 years ago, but chose not to. Doh!

I mean that story is so idiotic and pathetic and you want us to stoop down to your level and tell you how wonderful you are and your Jesus is, it's just mentally sick.

Do you really believe there exists a God that stupid and ignorant?

Yea you just hang on to your Faith, because without a speck of faith, your imaginary man made bible god completely falls apart, and you know it.

If you can distract people from reality by using the word Faith, you can control them and their money, this is what the people that wrote the Bible knew.

Neo, just keep fooling yourself, we stopped fooling ourselves a long time ago.

Dano said...

Neo.
You seem to be troubled by the fact that we refuse to become believers in supernatural stuff again.

You seem to think everybody should just have "FAITH," like you.

My answer to that is this:
The world cannot afford it. We as a species cannot afford it.

Too much damage has been done, is being done, and is in the process of being done, by people, who believe what ancient men wrote down in their religious books, and are willing to defend those beliefs at all costs.

There is a good chance that the leader of a theocracy will pull the trigger on a weapon of mass destruction, and we have no guarantee that the ensuing conflagration will not wipe out our species completely.

That is a worse case scenario. A less severe one, but still horrific, would be the advent of another "DARK AGE"

I value my ability, indeed cherish it, to call religious bullshit ,"BULLSHIT," and to see the world as it really is.

There is something, strangely, deeply satisfying, about it, even though it doesn't have the warm and fuzzy quality, that believing, totally, in religious dogma has.

Dan
(When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow. (Anais Nin:)

tigg13 said...

Neo said,:

"Before the introduction of any religion to the Americas Native American Indians recognized a being greater than themselves and gave thanks to animal spirits for giving their bodies as food and their skins as clothing. They gave thanks to trees and rocks and hills and the winds, accepting that all of life was woven together in a tapestry"

The Native American word for god is a verb, not a noun. They do not believe in a "being" who is greater than themselves. The Great Spirit is just that, a spirit.

Now, having said that, do you equate naturalist/shamanist perspectives on the divinity of life to be evidence of god's existance? Are Pagans and Witches saved? Goddess worship revolves around the idea that nature is the manifestation of the Goddess - that She (the feminine aspect of creative force) is evident in all that we experience. Would you consider this a valid belief?

Keep in mind that creating life is a female trait, so wouldn't the ultimate creater have to be female.

Please do not respond by quoting from the bible as it has proven itself to be extremely intolerant of any ideology that does not base itself on a belief in jehova. It would also force us to return to the issue of biblical history.

Besides, if god's truth is evident in in the world around us, then we shouldn't need to consult the bible.

Neocognitron said...

Dano,

You seem to be troubled by the fact that we refuse to become believers in supernatural stuff again. No, I kind of knew before I posted that you were unlikely to accept anything I said. I simply could not pinpoint what your faith was in, not whether you had any. Of course I would love to see you become a believer but that decision is between you and God.

Too much damage has been done, is being done, and is in the process of being done, by people, who believe what ancient men wrote down in their religious books, and are willing to defend those beliefs at all costs. Do you really think that if there was no religion that the world would be a better place? If the drug lords in South America claim they follow a particular religion do you believe that their version of that religion is of the correct interpretation and is the reason they deal drugs? What about slave traders and militias in Africa who behead, rape and murder in the name of Allah, are they practicing the correct Muslim teachings? Is it really the religion causing this or might it be, say, their own greed, lust, envy and selfishness that is the cause? If religion did not exist then people would rally around some other idea when committing these acts. It is the person who makes these choices and who is to blame not the ideas.

Tigg13,

If god's truth is evident in the world around us, then we shouldn't need to consult the bible. The bible is God’s way of telling us exactly who He is, not whether or not He exists. So, No. You don’t need to consult the bible to learn about God. To learn specifics, yes, but not to understand his general nature and realize his presence. In Old Testament times anyone who acknowledged a creator was blessed, especially Abraham. But in modern times we are given a single name by which all are saved. But don’t assume because people reject the name of Jesus that they are not saved. God tells us that He has kept shut the eyes of many until the time is right. If God has not allowed people to open their eyes then He will not count their misunderstanding against them. This truth is most apparent for Israel whose eyes will be opened as a precursor to the end times.

Jim Arvo, Dano, Tigg13, webmaster and Jeff,
Until now you all have been more amiable in this discussion than I expected so I thank you for your kindnesses. Your disagreement with my faith has been quite apparent but you generally held your tongues and tried your arguments well. I hope we may continue without further hostilities and unnecessary outbursts.

I pray you find peace and your lives prosper greatly. Blessings to you all!

.:webmaster:. said...

Neo,

Please spare me the patronizing self-righteousness.

It's enough to make a person projectile vomit. And typing in puke is nasty.

Blessings, hugs, big we sloppy kisses and flowers everywhere.

jeff said...

Neo,you remind me of a little boy that covers his ears and says there is a Santa, there is a Santa, don't tell me there's no Santa..!! My mommy say there is, so it must be true...!

We've made more than enough points that would cause anyone with an open mind to see how foolish religions and a belief in a god and his mythical murdered son, but you have also elected not to address any of our points.

So I suggest you take your faith and put it in a thimble and take it to the bank and see how much they will give you get for it.

It would have to be less than a mustard seed because Jesus supposedly said if you had as much faith as a mustard seed, you could move a mountain.

I say if you had as much faith as mustard seed, you could move a mustard seed, I've never seen this done, so faith must totally be imaginary.

So hold on to your faith, because in the end, that is all you'll have, imaginary faith.

Had you never heard of the Bible, you would have nothing to believe in, had the bible not been written by men, you would have nothing to believe, had man not invented ink and the printing press, not many people would have anything foolish
to believe, had man not invented the concept of faith, there would not be any reason to believe.

A God nor Jesus never wrote any part of the Bible, why not? Because neither one could read nor write.

tigg13 said...

Neo said,

"But don’t assume because people reject the name of Jesus that they are not saved. God tells us that He has kept shut the eyes of many until the time is right. If God has not allowed people to open their eyes then He will not count their misunderstanding against them."

Ok then, its pretty clear that your god has "kept shut" my eyes. In fact, its a safe bet that most, if not all, of the ex-christians here have had their eyes shut for them.

But if god isn't going to count our failure to see against us, (as well he shouldn't) then why should we bother trying to have faith in him? Why look for something that you aren't allowed to see?

Perhaps this is why there are so many "false" churches - too many people trying to have faith in a god who hasn't revealed himself to them yet.

So trying to show us the way, the truth and the light before god has decided that we are ready to see it really isn't doing us any favors, is it?

I would also like to comment on the response you gave to Dano about the drug lords and the slave traders and what the world would be like without "religion" (I am going to assume you are using religion as a synonym for christianity).

Has religion put all the drug lords out of business? Has it halted the barbaric practices of African Muslims? Has it irradicated hunger or poverty or war?

It is possible to be virtuous, moral and ethical without being christian or religious.

You asked in a previous responce what we did as far as making our world a better place inspite of our disbelief. I'll tell you the truth, I don't do much, but I do what I can. I support a family on a salary that is below the poverty level. Within the last five years I've been both unemployed and homeless. I have no saving, a whole lot of debt and nearly all of my relatives have disowned me because of my beliefs.

And yet, I donate what time and resourses I have to enriching my community. I gave blood regularly (until I contracted hepititus), I help out with odd jobs down at the civic center (for no pay) and I am currently involved with a community theater production (I helped to build and paint the set).

I know this may not seem like much, but when you ain't got nothing, something is a lot.

On top of all of this, people who know me, know that whenever they need help, I come running. I've fed others while I was starving, I've given up my coat and gloves when I was cold and sick, I invited people into my home and given them a place to sleep while I slept on the floor.

I do seek wisdom and practice self sacrifice, charity, humility, kindness, love, and faithfulness.

And do you know why I do these things? Is it to earn a place in paradise? Is it to convince some mysterious creater that I'm better than the next guy? Is it to avoid being punished for failing to live up to some unreasonablely high expectations?

No!

I do it because that's who I am. Because I can put myself in the other guy's shoes and ask myself, 'how would I want to be treated'. And do you know what? I don't need any books or sermons to tell me what I should or shouldn't do - I decide for myself. And do you know what I expect to get for all of this? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero - except the knowledge that I am the person that I want to be, I like myself and am proud of myself.

And the real amazing thing is, I'm not the only person who thinks like this.

Now, let me turn your question back on you. If incontravertible proof was discovered that there was no jesus, no ressurection, no god of Abraham, would you stop caring about others? Would you become mean and selfish? Would you suddenly stop seeing drug dealing and slavery and rape and murder as bad things?

I've actually asked you this question before in another thread and you really didn't answer it. I hope, this time, you do.

Neocognitron said...

.:webmaster:.,

Are you so full of malice towards kindness that you cringe from it? If you do not appreciate kindness and compassion then do not go out into public. I am afraid to tell you this but there are a lot of kind people in this world and someone might just tell you “thank you” or worse, “God bless you!” Oh, how terrible!

Jeff,

A god nor Jesus never wrote any part of the Bible, why not? Because neither one could read nor write. You are at least partially correct that God did not write the bible, but not for the reasons you think. God gave it to the hearts of men to know Him and to let them speak the words. Is the bible from God? Yes. Did God pen the words himself? No. We are not worthy to write the words of God but He shows us mercy by allowing us to do so. It is another example of His grace. God calls us to do His works not because we are good at it (in fact, we are terrible at it) but because he wants to help us learn; to show us how glorious it is to do things for others; how peaceful it is to walk doing what is right, caring for others, showing others kindness and giving as we can.

Tigg13,

Ok then, its pretty clear that your god has "kept shut" my eyes. If God has kept your eyes shut then you will be absolved of any wrongdoing related to that closure, but if you have closed them then you are rejecting the most fantastic gift mankind has ever known (not to mention the easiest gift to receive). However, I doubt that God has closed your eyes because you would still exhibit signs of His presence in your messages such as tolerance toward His word. The people whose minds are held closed are those who recognize that He exists despite their circumstances; people who have a purpose in the positions they are in, such as the nation of Israel whose minds will be opened as a precursor to the end times. Also, the way a person acts and speaks helps to identify those whose minds may be held closed. Since God’s ways do not conflict with one another we can expect those with closed minds to be accepting of different beliefs, comfortable with those who hold them, and generally agreeable. But the one thing they will not do is angrily reject the word of God when they hear it. They might ask to change the subject, disagree or not wish to continue listening but they will not fight strongly against the message. You do not show these qualities in your writings. Instead you show contempt and disrespect. Since you do not show God’s face in your opinions I must assume you hold your own mind closed. A saving grace for you, however, is that God can close anyone’s mind for any reason which is why we are warned not to judge if others are saved. So, you may be right when you propose that He might have closed your mind. But I doubt it!

What biblical evidence shows that God closes the minds of certain people? If you read about the end times it tells us that the nation of Israel will go through an awakening. There are also stories of Jesus walking with believers after His death whose eyes were opened just before He vanished. Quite a few references to “eyes being opened” refer to people who simply come to understand but in most cases it is the person who had not chosen to see. So be aware of this when looking for further evidence.

I am going to assume you are using religion as a synonym for Christianity). No, I use the generic form of religion here because the good teachings of the Muslim doctrine have also been perverted by those with agendas. Before the terrorists bombings Muslims have lived peacefully in our society for generations. Many of them are as patriotic and American as anyone you can find but the terrorists have latched onto specific passages and use them corruptly just as the Crusaders did in Christianity’s past. Crusaders, like terrorists, had good intentions but their messages were drowned out by their actions. If these people had not latched onto a religious idea they would have latched onto an event such as the Rodney King riots or the Los Angeles riots. People making bad decisions are to blame for the degradation in our society, not the religions which promote unity and peace in their “dogma”.

Has religion put all the drug lords out of business? Has it halted the barbaric practices of African Muslims? Has it eradicated hunger or poverty or war? We will never know exactly how much benefit God has provided through peaceful religions until they are gone, but even while peaceful religions are here we will still have poverty, sickness, hunger and war. We have doctors, but people are still sick and die from illnesses. We have construction workers but people are still homeless. We have wealthy people who possess more money than many nations but we still have poor. We have peaceful ideologies, organizations and philosophies but we still have wars. So you see, it is people who cause these terrible things not the religion or dogma they espouse. People rally around ideals but it is the people who make the decisions and take action, ignoring the good ideals for the bad that are to blame. You blame the religion. I blame the person.

It is possible to be virtuous, moral and ethical without being christian or religious. Yes, of course it is. We all are made in God’s image. We each exhibit God’s presence when we are virtuous, when we show kindness and similar values. You do not have to be Christian or of any other religion to recognize God’s face or show it to others.

You asked in a previous response what we did as far as making our world a better place in spite of our disbelief. I'll tell you the truth, I don't do much, but I do what I can. I support a family on a salary that is below the poverty level. Within the last five years I've been both unemployed and homeless. I have no savings, a whole lot of debt and nearly all of my relatives have disowned me because of my beliefs. You are not alone. About five years ago I was crouched in the snow at the driver’s side of our family’s only car (a donation given to us by a church member). My wife was sitting at the steering wheel crying with the children in the back seat. She was preparing to leave me because of difficulties with my employment, our finances, and our future. She cried for a while but fortunately for me she did not leave and our marriage is stronger because of that trial. Things have changed dramatically since then. I have a good job, a home and a wonderful family. I am still paying off student loans but the principal is retreating.

If you can find it within yourself to suffer through these trying times then your difficulties will not defeat you and you will reign victorious. As a Christian the words of Jesus saying “Lay your burdens on me” gave me and my family hope and aided us in our struggles. Since you do not accept these ideas I have no idea how to share more hope with you than to remind you that you are still not alone and can still overcome. There are many churches and aid organizations willing to help if you only ask. Also, I would like to pray for you if I may but if you would rather I did not then I will not. If I receive no reply to this invitation then I will do so since many on this newsgroup would not respect such a decision. If not, then tell me and I will not do so.

I donate what time and resources I have to enriching my community. I gave blood regularly (until I contracted hepatitis), I help out with odd jobs down at the civic center (for no pay) and I am currently involved with a community theater production (I helped to build and paint the set). I know this may not seem like much, but when you ain't got nothing, something is a lot. Tigg13, your kindness and service to your community is fantastic and I have no doubt that you will receive blessings even though you don’t believe. After all, God gave the sun to shine on all of us and allows all of us to share His image with others. We are all God’s children even when we disobey and he rewards and punishes us as necessary. I wish I could claim so many wonderful things about my life but my service has been far more subdued. I raise my family in God’s ways and love them as best I can. I try to walk with God that I might teach them not to hate and to share what they have. I try to do my job well and to serve others. We tithe but have failed to meet the recommended 10% for months now, and I am still drawn toward sin and stumble on the path. You are right to believe you cannot earn a place in paradise. It is a free gift to those who accept it, and is not bought or sold in a marketplace.

Now, let me turn your question back on you. If incontravertible proof was discovered that there was no jesus, no ressurection, no god of Abraham, would you stop caring about others? Would you become mean and selfish? Would you suddenly stop seeing drug dealing and slavery and rape and murder as bad things? If incontrovertible proof existed then I would, of course, have no choice but to believe it. After all, it would be incontrovertible. And the answer to the question of whether I would become mean and selfish and see the world differently is probably, yes; but not willingly, of course. I would try to follow good principals but would likely be swallowed by the new ideas which swarm in to replace the previously believed myths. Jesus lived so we would have a record of how to live a perfect life of service; as an example to follow. The destruction of this religious imagery would leave people without guidance. Their worlds would darken and they would be lost. The destruction of this faith would take away hope from those who are hopeless, and there are many. They would search for truth where it does not exist and they would find it. It would decimate every church and every religion since core beliefs would be brought low for all faiths. After all, if there is no god then why are we here? God provides hope and a purpose to those willing to take His hand. He provides peace to those who believe and reasons that surpass our faith in the facts we can verify. Without a single honorable unifying theme people would search for ideas they felt comfortable with and would be easily swayed by those claiming to lead noble causes. So, I have no doubt that if your incontrovertible proof were discovered then the binding elements that keep this world from falling into chaos would be destroyed. I would not like to see people who are currently so united disband to rally around their own self-centered ideologies. Those are typically recognized as gangs, riots and cults, and their ideologies are usually destructive and detrimental to society. So the answer to your question is: not willingly, but probably yes. And the reason for this is because the newfound unequivocal truth would destroy the image of the one who shows us how to live.

Jim Arvo said...

Neo,

Unfortunately I've neither the time nor energy to even read all of your comments, let alone respond to them all, although it would be rather fun. So I'll just make a few random remarks.

First, you have kept the vast majority of your comments civil, which I appreciate. You have also attempted to address specific points that people have raised. Again, good. However, your comments to the webmaster in your last post were rather rude. Wouldn't you agree? Vitriolic comments have a tendency to escalate, so please don't deliver personal swipes unless you wish to receive them. That's life.

You said "If God has kept your eyes shut then you will be absolved of any wrongdoing related to that closure,..."

That's an interesting claim. There are many verses in the Bible that speak of god hardening hearts and misleading people, but I do not recall any verse that supports your claim. Perhaps I missed it, or forgot it, or misinterpreted it. Please tell me what you have to support your assertion.

You said "...I doubt that God has closed your eyes because you would still exhibit signs of His presence in your messages such as tolerance toward His word. The people whose minds are held closed are those who recognize that He exists despite their circumstances;..."

Again, I have the feeling that this is Neo's theology, not Christianity. Can you please provide some backing for this?

That's all I have the appetite to cherry-pick from your post at the moment. (That's not an indictment of you; I'm just tired.) But I would like to close with two quick questions for you:

Please suppose, for the sake of argument, that Christianity is a man-made religion on a par with all the others, and that the fundamental tenets of Christianity are therefore false (i.e. that Jesus died for our sins, etc.). If that were the case:

1) Would you want to know?

2) How would you ever discover the truth?

Thanks.

.:webmaster:. said...

Neo,

May your life be filled with fresh rose petals, bear hugs and cute little noogies on the head.

Smoochies.

tigg13 said...

Neo, I can't argue with you that, if christianity were to just go away there would be many people left in a state of crisis. I honestly don't think that could possibly happen, though, if for no other reason there are so many that would still hold on even in the face of absolute proof. Ideas can't be destroyed, only forgotten.

But I think you have missed an important point here. You have extolled the virtues of christianity at length on this website - pointing out all the good that it has done, the lives that it's changed, the people who have been uplifted and encouraged by its message.

So, if it turned out to be just a myth, how would you explain all the good things that have happened because of it? If people have it within themselves to do good, does it matter whether or not they do it in the name of god or just because it's the right thing to do? Are jesus's teachings only meaningful because of who he was?

In other words, if I were to teach someone everything that jesus taught about how to live a good and moral life but not tell them that these were jesus's teachings, would they not benefit from them?

While you're considering this, keep in mind that christianity only makes up a small percentage of humanity as a whole (I'm talking about all of humanity - we've been around now for at least 20,000 years). Yeah sure, you will find corruption and violence in pretty much every culture that's ever existed - but not any more so than what christianity has been responsible for.

The vast majority of humanity has lived, loved, enjoyed life and died in a christian free environment.

So, while adjusting to such a reality would be difficult, I have no doubt we could get used to it.

Asd far who has shut my eyes goes, I think you are splitting some mighty fine hairs. First off, I don't think of myself as hostile to god. Irreverent, yes, but then how could I revere something that I don't believe in?

I do say some very nasty things about god and jesus, but I only do that to tick off christians, some of whom I am very hostile towards. (They did brainwash me when I was a child and forced me to grow up believing in a bunch of lies, so they got it coming)

Before I left the faith, my eyes were wide open. I honestly believed in god and jesus and the bible. I didn't want to stop believing, but how long can you keep looking for something that doesn't seem to be there? Did I stop looking too soon or did god blind me? Either way, I held god liable for this because he could have met me half way. You, of course, will blame me - that's what christians always do.

Oh, one last thing. Don't pray for me. I don't need help. And if I did, I wouldn't turn to your god. He has proven more times than I can count that he is simply unreliable.

Neocognitron said...

Jim Arvo,

I have the feeling that this is Neo's theology, not Christianity. Can you please provide some backing for this? You are right to contest me on this. My evidence is weak and yes, my conjecture from it is my own reasoning which is very poorly explained. I have failed to do the research for you which further undermines my basis so I agree whole heartedly that I have shown little credibility to this point of view. Thank you! This is one reason I came to this website – to find the flaws in my thinking and in the evidence I present. If you would like me to show you the little evidence I know of which poorly supports the conjecture I drew from it then I will; otherwise I will consider this matter closed and that I have lost. I was lazy and could not quickly find the passages I sought so I left the matter to you. This of course is a fatal mistake for any case so I apologize for my failure to defend it.

Please suppose, for the sake of argument, that Christianity is a man-made religion on a par with all the others, and that the fundamental tenets of Christianity are therefore false (i.e. that Jesus died for our sins, etc.). If that were the case:
1) Would you want to know?
2) How would you ever discover the truth?

(1) If Christianity were found false then yes, I would want to know. I would not like it but I would want to know. If this one belief structure were proven man-made this does not destroy the knowledge that God exists which is the foundation of all faiths. (2) So, I would seek the answers which the Christian faith currently provides in other faiths, believing that a creator would have told us about himself long ago and that evidence exists, somewhere.

Peace always!

.:webmaster:.,

Smoochie Boochies! (as Jay from the movie Clerks would say – that is one of my favorite movies)

Jay Arvo chastised me concerning my response to you and I can understand his point. It was not intended to be insulting only to show a bit of sarcasm toward your offense, but obviously it was not taken as such. Your understanding in this matter would be appreciated!

Tigg13,

So, if it turned out to be just a myth, how would you explain all the good things that have happened because of it? If people have it within themselves to do good, does it matter whether or not they do it in the name of god or just because it's the right thing to do? Are jesus's teachings only meaningful because of who he was? If the existence of god had disappeared entirely, as we spoke of earlier then chaos would reign for a very long time. But after generations, certain leaders would be elevated by the people to equivalent status to that of the gods, and would even be claimed to be of them. Over time the weaker ideologies would be destroyed due to war and fading followers, and new ideas would replace the old. We would end up pretty much back where we are now, following people with good ideas and values rather than the image of a god. So in answer to your question, we would end up following religions of ideas rather than religions of gods and find ways to collectively envision these principals so they may be passed along with little misrepresentation. People gather around central ideas and themes so I have no doubt they would gather around new ideas that fit the facts they believe.
If people have it within themselves to do good, does it matter whether or not they do it in the name of god or just because it's the right thing to do? Even if god did not exist then yes, it still matters that they do right for a god or a cause rather than simply because it was the right thing to do. A cause unifies individuals and encourages them to have one voice. If everyone’s version of good was different then what good are they do for that cause? They would be divided and splintered. If the cause defines what is good and what is bad then the people are clear and have a measure to determine their success. For Christians this measure is the image of Christ.

Are jesus's teachings only meaningful because of who he was? No, these teaching are not meaningful because of who he is or was. They are meaningful in and of themselves and are the reason he came to us. He was trying to reinforce the importance of these teachings and to encourage us to follow them. Until the time of Christ civilizations had come and gone and failed to follow these teachings despite their obvious superiority over other ideas. But nation after nation failed to listen. So, God sent a messenger saying “Surely they will listen to my own son.” A few have but still, most have not.

In other words, if I were to teach someone everything that jesus taught about how to live a good and moral life but not tell them that these were jesus's teachings, would they not benefit from them? Yes, they would benefit from them.

Asd far who has shut my eyes goes, I think you are splitting some mighty fine hairs. First off, I don't think of myself as hostile to god. Irreverent, yes, but then how could I revere something that I don't believe in? Point accepted. I can quite easily see how the translation from our thinking into these newsgroup posts are so easily misinterpreted. I have made several comments that after re-reading them sound very different from the way I intended, so your point is understood. As for the closing of the eyes: yes, it is splitting hairs. I have very sparse evidence to support my comments and I apologize if they came across as hurtful. I do believe that God keeps the eyes of a few closed when necessary but I do not believe it is a common thing. And as I said, my evidence is sparse and leads to my own ideas which are unsupported conjecture.

May your heart not be troubled about anything we have written!

Jim Arvo said...

Neo, once again please forgive the cherry-picking. I ramble on long enough when I address one or two points, so I cannot address everything without committing to a book-length treatment.

Neo: "Even if god did not exist then yes, it still matters that they do right for a god or a cause rather than simply because it was the right thing to do. A cause unifies individuals and encourages them to have one voice."

Then what you are arguing for is a universal concept of some sort; I see no reason to conclude that such a unified view must be result of a god-concept, let alone one particular god-concept. In fact, I will argue that we have precisely such a unifying theme behind our morality, and it has nothing whatever to do with a god-concept--at least not directly. In fact, I submit that morality is logically prior to a god-concept. As I have explained many times at this site, our morality is rooted in our biology; specifically, in the intricate mental machinery that we (nearly) all share as a result of our long evolutionary history as a highly social animal. We abhor murder and theft, we are disgusted by incest, we love and protect our children, we are driven by sexual desires, and we are indignant when we or others of our "clan" are treated poorly. We have much tighter bonds with immediate family than with strangers (whom we distrust instinctively), and have in innate ability to keep tallies of who owes what to whom, which is a rudimentary form of logic. All of this has very clear evolutionary explanations; even some of the more perplexing behaviors, such as altruism, admit rather simple explanation in the light of evolution. This is the common ground upon which we all, as humans, build our sense of moral judgment. Of course, laws and social customs further refine these ideas and account for the variety of social norms we see throughout the world.

Therefore, I posit that we do indeed seek to "do the right thing" based on a common "voice", which is our biology; not a literal voice from above. The concept of an all-powerful god is secondary, and it gains much of its appeal from the seemingly universal moral principles that we all possess. Everything I have just laid out has scientific backing from various fields such as anthropology, social psychology, and more recently, evolutionary psychology. These are not just wild conjectures but testable hypotheses. (I'll try to provide a list of references in another post, as I have done in many previous posts.)

Neo: "If everyone’s version of good was different then what good [do] they do for that cause? They would be divided and splintered."

Well, in a sense we are very much divided, in large measure because of the many disparate religious doctrines that seek to explain, codify, and extend our intrinsic natures. This overlay of mythology is perhaps the biggest impediment to gaining a more universal system of ethics (i.e. one that build substantially upon our innate notions of morality, but extends well beyond them in an attempt to address more difficult situations). If you look at institutions such as the International Court of Justice, you will find that its charter and rules are thoroughly secular. They have stripped away the mythological layers imposed by various societies in an attempt to reach broad consensus. In my view, this is precisely the right approach. It's a necessary and important step toward demythologizing morality.

Neo: "If the cause defines what is good and what is bad then the people are clear and have a measure to determine their success. For Christians this measure is the image of Christ."

But I claim that Christianity has a very murky notion of "right" and "wrong" that is only marginally better than common intuition in some regards, and considerably worse in others. For example, the idea of atonement by proxy is completely bizarre: i.e. that god would chose to forgive others based on his actions (i.e. sacrificing himself while in human garb), or that all of humanity would be held responsible for an act that they did not commit (original sin), or that one's descendants are damned as a result of one's one blasphemies. The Decalogue is also a very strange document in that it is ostensibly the foundation of morality, yet it promotes picayune rules (keep the Sabbath holy, using the lord's name in vane, graven images), while completely neglecting very significant matters, such as child abuse, rape, war, slavery, and capital punishment. But even worse than that, the Decalogue purports to be (or is taken by Christians to be) "absolute", which is completely inscrutable as every rule is clearly interpreted according to the situation (which even Christians implicitly admit). Yet the Bible offers no clear acknowledgement of this fact, and certainly no workable system by which to make meaningful tradeoffs when the rules come into conflict. While it is true that one can point to the numerous parables as something akin to case law (i.e. exploring the more subtle issues), this is a distant approximation to a set of clear and "absolute" rules.

I recently replied to another poster regarding these same issues. You can find my other post here, for a slightly different rendering of essentially these same points.

Dano said...

Neo,
If you will click on the "here" in Jim's post ^above^, read it slowly, and then on the same thread, scroll down to what ( .god wrote: posted: 2/14/2007 8:33 AM EST ) and read it carefully, you will get a much needed primer on how morals originate, and why the assumption, so often suggested, by bible believers, that Christianity is some sort of absolute guide for moral behavior, IS PURE RUBBISH.

Dan (Thanks, Jim Arvo, and .god, you both said it much better than i could have)

tigg13 said...

I'm fine, Neo, don't worry. Your posts have been extremely polite and even tempered.

I can't think of anything from your last post that I really feel the need to take issue with. You basically just stated your opinions (which you have a right to have an express).

You've puzzled me for a while but I'm beginning to see that you are still figuring your beliefs out. You want the security of knowing that jesus is looking out for you and that you can trust the bible to help you find the answers you need.

And who knows, maybe this is the path that's right for you - its certainly not for me to say.

I can say that I've been where you are and have known others who have been there too. Some, like you, chose to jump in with both feet, some put it aside to be looked at another day. Me, I torn them apart until there was nothing left.

And I am honestly happy that I did. I have a better life, a better attitude towards others and much more self respect now than I ever did as a christian.

But that's just me.

You do what's right for you.

Neocognitron said...

Jim Arvo,

Then what you are arguing for is a universal concept of some sort; I see no reason to conclude that such a unified view must be result of a god-concept, let alone one particular god-concept. ... I submit that morality is logically prior to a god-concept. ... [that] morality is rooted in our biology; specifically, in the intricate mental machinery that we (nearly) all share as a result of our long evolutionary history as a highly social animal. The idea that we were evolved from other organisms is not an anti-biblical concept. Why should it be? The fact that we find the remains of long dead dinosaurs, fish, plants and various fossil records simply tells us how God did it. It does nothing to take away the mystery of who God is. As for morality being rooted within our biology, I would not be surprised one bit. In fact, I would be surprised if it was not found there.

...We abhor murder and theft, we are disgusted by incest, we love and protect our children, we are driven by sexual desires, and we are indignant when we or others of our "clan" are treated poorly. ... All of this has very clear evolutionary explanations; even some of the more perplexing behaviors, such as altruism, admit rather simple explanation in the light of evolution. This is not evidence either for or against belief in God since the ideas of evolution are not contrary to the bible. They simply explain how God brought about all things. Some day we may even understand how to take non-living chemical components to create living things. The fact that we can explain how it was done does not make it any less of a miracle; it simply takes away the wonder of it.

I posit that we do indeed seek to "do the right thing" based on a common "voice", which is our biology; not a literal voice from above. If we all knew what the right thing to do was, we would not require laws. The state of California may ban parents from spanking their children because one person thinks it is the “right thing to do.” But I guarantee there are a huge number of parents that disagree with that belief. Also, there are parents who have killed their own children and other people claiming “god told me to” or “they were disobeying.” Do you think these people are of a “common voice” with even a tenth of the US population? Other evidence that we are not of one mind can be found in opinion polls which fluctuate daily as people change their minds or are wishy-washy and cannot hold an opinion. If we were so united we would not require ideas to unify us. God provided us with a single purpose, a single mission, saying “follow me.” We have received from God a set of principals (the Ten Commandments) which guide us to identify right from wrong. Without a unified faith or purpose and a clearly defined set of principals we rationalize murder, hate and violence saying things like: “the ends justify the means” or “they deserved it.”

Everything I have just laid out has scientific backing from various fields such as anthropology, social psychology, and more recently, evolutionary psychology. These are not just wild conjectures but testable hypotheses. (I'll try to provide a list of references in another post, as I have done in many previous posts.) Please do not trouble yourself to provide this proof. I am in total agreement that evolution happened, and I strongly enjoy learning about the findings of anthropology and the various psychologies. Any proof you might provide would be un-necessary since evolution and the sciences are not contrary to the bible. The idea we evolved or that we can define how social systems evolved does not disprove the bible. It only explains how it happened. To disprove the bible you would have to prove that Jesus never existed, or to disprove that God exists. To disprove that God exists you would first have to prove that God did not set all of life into motion. I see evolution as simply an answer to how God created mankind; you see it simply as chance. Either way, we are going on faith.

Well, in a sense we are very much divided, in large measure because of the many disparate religious doctrines that seek to explain, codify, and extend our intrinsic natures. This overlay of mythology is perhaps the biggest impediment to gaining a more universal system of ethics (i.e. one that build substantially upon our innate notions of morality, but extends well beyond them in an attempt to address more difficult situations). If you look at institutions such as the International Court of Justice, you will find that its charter and rules are thoroughly secular. They have stripped away the mythological layers imposed by various societies in an attempt to reach broad consensus. In my view, this is precisely the right approach. It's a necessary and important step toward demythologizing morality. Now this line of thinking I like – a lot. And I quite agree that it is entirely right and necessary that the courts should not include religious faiths in their judgments (at least not the courts as we use them). After all, who is to say which religion the justices would be from? And, yes, the many religions are divided as you said. Instead, they are set up to interpret existing laws to determine the authors’ intent when they were written; as it should be. But how does this support your claim that God does not exist? What principals does this International Court hold or support that are superior to those laid down in the bible? What is to keep the court from upholding inferior laws once they are written? Modern courts have checks and balances, yes, but how many unjust sentences must pass through them before these checks and balances are corrected? You argue that this shows we have it within ourselves to be moral, ethical people. I agree that we do but I also believe it is only individuals with very strong moral centers who will live their lives in this way. The masses do not seek to improve their moral and ethical characters without strong leadership, strong ideas to follow or a unified purpose. The masses change their opinions like changing their clothes; just look at how quickly opinion poles change or how many people supported the war in Iraq but are now against it; or how masses of people can be influenced to commit atrocious crimes such as those following Hitler. No, the masses can be influenced toward either good or evil and so are put into check by those with strong moral characters such as those chosen to lead the courts. And because there is diversity in those who may stand before the courts the opinions of the courts must be equally blind to one ideology over another. This does not mean that a single religious ideology would not be more just and fair than the laws that guide the justices (if they were applied as God intended), it simply means we are human and make bad judgments despite our best intentions. Following a religion is not necessarily an “impediment to gaining a more universal system of ethics”. Our nation was founded on religious principals and it is our Christian forefathers (along with non-believing forefathers) who setup the courts to be blind to religion, knowing that there are others who do not believe in the same way and wishing to be fair to all. It is this Christian “mythology” which supports the right of others to believe what they will. It is our American forefathers following this Christian “mythology” who gave us freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and a constitution which was prepared for the day when the slaves would be free. So, no; I do not agree that religious teachings are our “biggest impediment to gaining a more universal system of ethics.” In fact, I see the opposite. I see them as the reason we have moved closer to being moral and ethical. You contend that we came to these moral and ethical decisions of our own accord despite the existence of religious doctrine; I contend that it is people following religious doctrine that have brought us closer to doing what is right and perfect in God’s eyes.

But I claim that Christianity has a very murky notion of "right" and "wrong" that is only marginally better than common intuition in some regards, and considerably worse in others. For example, the idea of atonement by proxy is completely bizarre: i.e. that god would chose to forgive others based on his actions (i.e. sacrificing himself while in human garb), or that all of humanity would be held responsible for an act that they did not commit (original sin), or that one's descendants are damned as a result of one's one blasphemies. Ok! You answered some of the questions I posed in the text above. Still, I really don’t have much to say about this since the idea of atonement by proxy truly is unusual but it is beautiful at the same time; and this is an opinion which I can appreciate (and rather agree with). But you find this to be evidence which discredits the bible whereas I find it the most significant of many similar graces which God has bestowed upon us. As for original sin being passed down, I don’t know if it is meant to be literal or figurative. What I do believe is that we are all found guilty of original sin so that none of us would believe ourselves better than our neighbor; so that we would learn humility and grace and so we would seek to serve rather than to be served. I believe it to be one of the many ways God teaches us to stand above the petty squabbles so we learn to hold our tongues when we are angry and turn the other cheek when we are struck. You view these as unbelievable because they are difficult to understand; I view them as beautiful because they help us learn and teach us to improve.

Tigg13,

Wow! That is the most reasonable and heartfelt response I think have ever heard. I respect your decision and will pray that your life improves greatly. Please do not ask me not to pray for you; after all, you don’t believe He exists anyways. Right?

Peace be with you always!

=================================

To all with whom I have been conversing,


I would like to inform you that I will only answer a few more questions before I cease responding to this thread. I will respond on other threads from time to time but I will move on from this one. These last few posts have given me a sense that you are sincere in your beliefs and I respect that. Of course I must remind you that God is calling you if you are willing.

Jim Arvo, your last post is by far your most powerful argument and I enjoyed thinking about it immensely. You have a gift for debate and have included some compelling arguments which I will take away with me. Thank you! But in providing the diligence your questions and comments deserve I find that I am spending way too much time away from my other duties so I will move on shortly. May you grow in your wisdom!

Tigg13, you show a good heart that you should share more often. It is a kindness this world has too little of. Your questions have been honest and I appreciate having the opportunity to respond to them. Go in peace and may your house grow strong!

.:webmaster:., I have been uncertain about you for quite a while since I didn’t really get a sense of what your point of view is. Nonetheless, I wish you the best in your endeavors!

To Jeff, Dano, eel_shepherd and others, the pleasure is all mine. Thank you!

May God have mercy and give you peace!

Jeff said...

Yea Neo, just keep a-wassailing in your mental delusion, I know it takes a lot of time to continue a debate especially when a person has already made up their mind that the Bible holds absolute truths.

One day if you live long enough, you'll wake up same day and say, I cannot believe I was stupid enough to have believed all that shit.

In fact it has actually happened to a few people that have visited this site, a very few mind you.

But you had no intention of examining anything we had to say to begin with, you was hoping to respond to us by incorporating your proselytizing your silly beliefs in hopes that you might get a brownie point for your imaginary God and man made myth Jesus. It didn't work and so now you're moving on to more gullible lands.

You've been led to believe that you hold some form of spiritual wisdom and just by repeating Biblical nonsense you think you're spreading your goodwill wisdom flakes, only because you've been told that you do, but that nonsense does not work here.

You've been led to believe that you are a walking ambassador for your imaginary god, just what every person that reads the Bible soon perceives themselves to be, a self-righteous brainwashed ambassador for Jesus.

That's the reason I quit responding to you, you're just like so many religious fanatics that think they can come on here and reconvert the whole website back to your silly childhood beliefs, it hasn't happened yet.

I see no reason for you to come back to this website if you do not read any of the testimonies objectively, because you have not added anything objectively to this thread.

May you some day regain the wisdom and knowledge that was stripped away from you, by a belief in a man made myth.

freeman said...

Neocognitron,

Obviously you do not believe that the bible is god's word!

You may believe that god created mankind through evolution, but the bible states very clearly that god molded Adam from clay and made Eve from the rib of Adam.

If the above is not true (god's word), then there is nothing in the bible that belongs to god. The bible and its god are strictly man-made!

If you choose to believe in a different deity, then it cannot be proved either and your belief is just an opinion. We all know that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Jim Arvo said...

Hello Neo,

First of all, thank you for the thorough and civil replies. Individually, those attributes are a rarity from our Christian visitors, but combined they are almost unheard of (at least in my memory). You closed by saying "...I am spending way too much time away from my other duties so I will move on shortly." I appreciate that, and can echo that. It takes considerable time to reply to long and detailed posts, although it is most enjoyable when time permits.

Neo: "The idea that we were evolved from other organisms is not an anti-biblical concept. Why should it be?"

I have no problem with that view, and I did not mean to suggest that evolution disproved the Bible. (Others may argue that, but I see no reason to pursue it.) However, the more we understand ourselves in terms of natural science, the less we are inclined to appeal to mystical ideas (in general). If something can be shown to result from natural laws, why postulate an elaborate guiding force beyond that? If one applies Occam's razor (which, admittedly, is only a heuristic), then just the opposite pertains; seek are obliged to seek the simplest explanation that fits the facts.

Neo: "As for morality being rooted within our biology, I would not be surprised one bit. In fact, I would be surprised if it was not found there."

Okay, then the question is "why" our biology is so constituted. I claim that science has provided a compelling (albeit incomplete) answer that posits nothing supernatural. Religion (at least the variety you are espousing) posits an "explanation" that is far more fantastic than anything we have ever observed directly; an invisible all-powerful being who deliberately set this process in motion. Having seen no evidence of this being, I have no reason to adopt is as a plausible explanation. I have no problem leaving what gaps there are, and simply admitting "I don't know."

Neo: "This is not evidence either for or against belief in God since the ideas of evolution are not contrary to the bible. They simply explain how God brought about all things."

Let me make an analogy. Suppose we observe a pile of broken glass on the floor. Some observers contend that each shard was carefully crafted individually by a creator who had her reasons for creating them (these are the fundamentalists). Some take the time to study the pieces, and show that they can be assembled into a Greek vase. They go on to analyze the distribution of the pieces and conclude that it once sat upon a nearby shelf, and that it fell to the floor as a result of a recent earthquake that was recorded elsewhere. The accumulation of dust on the shards corroborates the timing of the earthquake. These observers find no need to posit individual and purposeful creation of the individual shards (these are the scientists). Still others acknowledge the scientific explanation yet posit that the earthquake was deliberately set in motion by an invisible entity whose purpose was to create the shards we observe (I'll let you guess who this represents). While the latter two positions are in substantial agreement, the last posits something far and away more complex than the evidence warrants. While there is no way to refute the last claim, there is also no reason to adopt it.

Neo: "The fact that we can explain how it was done does not make it any less of a miracle; it simply takes away the wonder of it."

It appears we have vastly different notions of "miracle" and "wonder". To me a "miracle" is something that necessarily transcends naturalistic explanations, and "wonder" in something that is infused through and amplified by science, not something that is squelched by it. Personally, I find the scientific explanation for the structure of the cosmos and the development of living things to be absolutely awe inspiring--far more so than any religious explanation I have ever heard. (As Carl Sagan used to say, "We are made of star stuff.")

Neo: "If we all knew what the right thing to do was, we would not require laws."

You are treading very close to a straw man here, so let me head you off. I never implied that all of our moral judgments are intrinsic in our biology, only that certain "axiomatic" elements are, and these form a substrate upon which we have been able to build many different systems of law. Without a cognitive overlay atop this primitive substrate, we would exhibit very little that is recognizable as "morality". I can make a very close analogy with language acquisition and even vision. Our brains do not come pre-wired with sentence structure or the ability to recognize objects, but rather with the low-level machinery that allows us to acquire a grammar and acquire the notion of objects and notions such as cause-and-effect, etc. through continual exposure to the environment as our brains develop. That is, while phylogeny provides the raw machinery, ontogeny presses it into service and tunes it to what is experienced by the individual. There are a great many examples of this in biology. In other words, the short answer to the "nature vs. nurture" debate is *both*.

Neo: "...there are parents who have killed their own children and other people claiming 'god told me to' or 'they were disobeying.' Do you think these people are of a 'common voice' with even a tenth of the US population?"

On one level, yes, they probably are. On another, no, they definitely are not. The level at which they probably do function like most of us in that they feel a sense of indignation when others impose their will on them or do not share their values. They probably also exhibited fundamental drives toward procreation and child rearing, and probably even protected their children from strangers. Where they inexplicably diverged from the vast majority of the human race was in murdering their own children. This may have been precipitated by a medical condition, or excessive indoctrination, or a genetic mental disorder, or some combination of the above. In any event, tragedies such as those do not negate the points I've been making. If anything, it highlights the danger in believing that invisible beings can communicate their wishes to us.

Neo: "Other evidence that we are not of one mind can be found in opinion polls which fluctuate daily as people change their minds or are wishy-washy and cannot hold an opinion."

Again, this merely reflects the complexity of the cognitive overlay that we all have atop our basic drives. However, some things remain constant. We all feel indignation (a basic emotion) when we are "wronged." We all have a fundamental unease when we encounter people who are very different from us. We all have a more profound sense of duty toward those who share our genes than those who are far removed. As for which sports team or political figure is the best, well, that changes by the minute. No argument there.

Neo: "If we were so united we would not require ideas to unify us."

As I've already explained at length, I disagree with that statement most vehemently.

Neo: "God provided us with a single purpose, a single mission, saying 'follow me.' We have received from God a set of principals (the Ten Commandments) which guide us to identify right from wrong."

First, I have never seen a scrap of credible evidence for any communication from an all-powerful invisible being. Second, I have already explained why I think the Decalogue is a terrible basis for morality. Finally, even if one did accept the Bible as the "absolute" guide to morality, it would leave you in no better standing than the rest of us, as it gives little idea how to address the complexities that arise in real situations. You are left, along with the rest of us, to try to reason out what the best course of action is in real situations. Even juries of Christians must deliberate, agonize, reason, and ultimately go with a gut feel. I see no "absolute" moral code that is even on the table for discussion.

Neo: "To disprove the bible you would have to prove that Jesus never existed, or to disprove that God exists."

No, I disagree. There may well have been an itinerant preacher by the name of Jesus in the first century. However, even if there was (and I strongly suspect there was not), it would not mean that this person was divine, or that he performed miracles, or that there is a grand scheme for "salvation".

Neo: "I see evolution as simply an answer to how God created mankind; you see it simply as chance."

No, I do not see evolution as chance. Evolution by natural selection is the antithesis of chance, as it very directly selects based on feedback from the environment. While it does involve chance at the level of molecular biology, the overarching mechanism is feedback, which is the opposite of undirected chance. Here's an analogy. When you take an aspirin for a headache, does it operate by chance? Well, at one level the answer is yes, it does. At the level of molecules, every interaction (e.g. docking of molecules) happens as a result of random bombardment of (mostly) water molecules. Each binding of one molecule to another is therefore 100% reliant upon purely random processes. However, the entire process is far from random. Do you see the analogy?

Neo: "But how does this support your claim that God does not exist?"

To be clear, I have never once asserted "God does not exist". My claim is "There is no credible evidence for the existence of gods or goddesses, and it is therefore irrational to believe in them." This distinction may seem like quibbling, but it's vitally important. For example, I feel no need to "disprove" the prime mover you claim exists behind evolution; I merely ask what evidence you have for it, and decline to believe it if you have nothing compelling to offer.

Neo: "What principals does this International Court hold or support that are superior to those laid down in the bible?"

To reiterate, the Bible offers very little for dealing with the complexities of real life. The ten commandments may sound plausible as pronouncements from an imaginary being (which is precisely what I think they are), but there is nothing coherent about them, and they are unworkable without an elaborate situational ethics, which is what the Jews have long recognized through their emphasis on rules and argument.

Neo: "What is to keep the court from upholding inferior laws once they are written? Modern courts have checks and balances, yes, but how many unjust sentences must pass through them before these checks and balances are corrected?"

There is nothing to keep ridiculous laws from being passed! In fact, all manner of ridiculous rules have been passed, and remain on the books today. (Did you know that it is illegal to drive through some towns in the US without alerting the mayor at least one week in advance?) Law, ethics, and morality are all malleable, and in a continual stat of flux; they are to a large extent what we make them. However, they are not completely arbitrary either (as I've explained at length above). As with most things, the truth is more complex than either extreme.

Neo: "The masses do not seek to improve their moral and ethical characters without strong leadership, strong ideas to follow or a unified purpose. The masses change their opinions like changing their clothes;..."

I largely agree with this. However, this state of affairs is consistent with both of our positions. Where we differ is in the prescription for improving it. You advocate (I presume) wider adoption of one particular set of religious principles. I advocate the harsh objective analysis, and the eventual abandonment, or religion as a source of morals. I think we can do (and have done) vastly better than to elevate the Decalogue (for example) to the level of absolute truth.

Neo: ":This does not mean that a single religious ideology would not be more just and fair than the laws that guide the justices (if they were applied as God intended), it simply means we are human and make bad judgments despite our best intentions."

Yes, humans routinely make bad judgments; we agree entirely on this. However, you are offering a remedy that I claim is in all likelihood a fiction. If there was a god, and she offered a set of principles to live by that would resolve all moral ambiguities and help us to reason correctly, then I would be all for adopting it! Sure, why not?! However, until there is some reason to think that there is such a being, and that she has in fact offered her advice in the form of a book, I will join with other rationalists and humanists and insist that it is up to us to do that hard work and do it the best we can.

Neo: ":Our nation was founded on religious principals and it is our Christian forefathers (along with non-believing forefathers) who setup the courts to be blind to religion, knowing that there are others who do not believe in the same way and wishing to be fair to all. It is this Christian 'mythology' which supports the right of others to believe what they will."

Our nation owes far more to the ancient Greeks than to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Our nation was in no way "founded on religious principles", although I fully agree that some of the founding fathers were Christians. Among their ranks, however, were a sizeable number of Deists and others who found Christianity to completely misguided, even vile. Thanks to them, there is not a single mention of "god" or "Jesus" in the constitution (contrary to the wishes of the Christians), only a generic reference to a "creator", which can be very broadly construed. As for religion being the foundation for freedom of religion, I could not disagree more. Virtually every religion, by virtue of its being a religion, insists that it is the one and only truth. Religions therefore, by their very nature, militate against free expression of other religious ideas. (Hinduism is the one notable exception.) Can you find me one verse in the Bible in which it is suggested that it is acceptable to believe in anything other than Christianity?

Neo: ":It is our American forefathers following this Christian 'mythology' who gave us freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion..."

Can you support this with anything? One of the most significant driving forces behind our form of government was rebellion against the tyranny of the British system of government, which was firmly anchored in Christianity. Our founding fathers had the great wisdom to sever such ties between religion and state, and thereby created one of the healthiest forms of government ever invented (despite all its flaws).

Neo: ":You contend that we came to these moral and ethical decisions of our own accord despite the existence of religious doctrine; I contend that it is people following religious doctrine that have brought us closer to doing what is right and perfect in God?s eyes."

I think this is completely counter what we observe. Theocracies tend to do very poorly, while the more secular nations seem to thrive. Europe, with its far greater secular bent is becoming a super-power in its own right (i.e. the European Union). I strongly believe that separation of church and state (as tenuous as that seems to be these days) was one of the most brilliant ideas every tried in government, and it is one reason we have not (yet) been torn apart by religion-induced insanity.

Neo: ":What I do believe is that we are all found guilty of original sin so that none of us would believe ourselves better than our neighbor;..."

But do you also agree that, by virtue of this original sin, we all deserve to spend eternity in torment? That's the rest of the equation, isn't it? I actually like your spin on original sin much more than what the typical Christian espouses, but I think you are imposing your own judgment on what is ostensibly an "absolute" moral guide. I think that's a good thing.

Neo: ":You view these [e.g. atonement by proxy and inheritance of guilt] as unbelievable because they are difficult to understand; I view them as beautiful because they help us learn and teach us to improve."

No, I do not pronounce something to be "unbelievable" simply because it is "difficult to understand". If that were the case, I would declare quantum mechanics to be "unbelievable". What I am saying is that the bizarre notions of "justice" contained in the Bible (such as atonement by proxy) are nonsensical. I understand what they assert quite well, and I understand how believers often justify them. They just make no sense, as they conflict with other notions of justice that we can all readily agree with. For instance, we do not allow a parent to serve prison time for a child who has committed a violent crime, although there are many parents who would do so willingly. Why not? Because culpability lies with the perpetrator, and cannot be passed off as we would do with a pecuniary debt; that flies in the face of "culpability". The same is so with inherited guilt. We do no imprison a child for the actions of her father, for example. Again, this would do violence to the notion of culpability.

Okay, that was a very long post. I don't expect you to reply to all my points. If you do wish to reply, I suggest you pick one or two points (as I did previously with your posts), and address those alone. I promise I will draw no inference (other than lack of time) if you do not respond to everything.

Take care.

Neocognitron said...

Jim Arvo,

But do you also agree that, by virtue of this original sin, we all deserve to spend eternity in torment? By receiving the gift of knowledge which our parents passed down to us we also receive the debt carried with it caused by the original sin. But the debt owed is not that we have committed sin, at least I am not convinced it is. After all, we sin enough to be found guilty even without sin passed down from our parents. Rather, the debt owed is that we will be forced to live our lives laboring for our food, pain in child bearing, walking apart from God and eventually death. I do not recall any passages that state that the sin which makes us deserving of separation from God is passed from generation to generation; but I do recall passages that speak of God holding a person’s sins against their children for several generations; likewise, the faith of believers is rewarded for several generations. Despite this lack of evidence, the idea of passing down original sin could easily be accepted as a reminder that none of us is better than any other. I would view it as a gift that helps us become humble and forgiving whereas for non-believers it would be a curse that convinces them God is neither merciful nor fair. God has offered mercy to those willing to openly admit their sins and imperfections. In Old Testament times the honest admission of sin was enough for God but the people clung to their laws and forced those who professed them to perform many odd rituals. In New Testament times these old laws have been destroyed but a single new law was put into their place which I have repeated before: “This is my son, whom I love. Listen to Him.” Because of this new law we can no longer simply be good people in order to be called chosen ones (as allowed in OT times); instead, we must now accept that Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament laws. So the simple answer to your question is that I cannot answer your question since I recall no evidence that sin which keeps us eternally separated from God is passed down from the original sin event. This may be due to my biblical illiteracy but I don’t think so.

You advocate (I presume) wider adoption of one particular set of religious principles. I advocate the harsh objective analysis, and the eventual abandonment, or religion as a source of morals. I think we can do (and have done) vastly better than to elevate the Decalogue (for example) to the level of absolute truth. I advocate that the principals of Christianity are God given; that they are superior to any laws or set of morals man might create and that they are a gift to be freely accepted by those who are willing. And, I do not believe you will find any better defined and concise set of principals as the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments for you lay readers). Your comment sounds like you expect me to support laws which would force people to accept Christian principals, and they sound like you would support laws which force people not to accept them. However, neither of these are my view. I am a Christian and as such I support the right of people to make decisions for their own reasons. I support the right of free speech and fully defend the existence of web sites such as this one since it is a peaceful protest (despite its obvious hostility toward Christians). Lastly, I postulate that if you were able to succeed in causing a society to abandon the influences of religion as a source of morals that society would come to a slow but inevitable demise in its morality.

Virtually every religion, by virtue of its being a religion, insists that it is the one and only truth. Religions therefore, by their very nature, militate against free expression of other religious ideas. (Hinduism is the one notable exception.) I presume you are an ex-Christian since this is an ex-Christian web site but apparently you don’t know much about Christianity. Christianity does not advocate the establishment of one religion through laws or by force of any kind; but rather fully supports the right of all people to choose or refuse god for their own reasons. I have been a member of many churches and all of them fully support the notion that the government should not establish a state-run religion, even a Christian one. And, we are quite united on the idea that the framers of the Constitution had it right in keeping religious practices out of the courts and out of the laws, and to support the rights of individuals to choose their own paths. I don’t know where you ever got the idea that Christians would believe otherwise but there is no foundation to it whatsoever.

Can you find me one verse in the Bible in which it is suggested that it is acceptable to believe in anything other than Christianity? No, but there are plenty of places in the bible where it speaks of being tolerant of others and to allow them to make their own choices. Thus, when our American forefathers established this nation it was with a mind of tolerance and respect toward all.

=================================

In your responses you reminded me that this discussion is not about whether God exists but about people and their ability and willingness to choose to become moral and ethical regardless of religious ideology (or in spite of it, as you say). You claim that we have taken on these morals “despite” the interference of religion and that religion is not helping but is rather “impeding” them. I claim that it is precisely because of religion that we have such strong morality within our nation (specifically, the Judeo-Christian religion). It occurred to me that your recent responses have failed to move us closer to showing one of these opinions as stronger than the other. And I will tell you why and show you why my argument is stronger.

You claim that our biology compels us to be moral and ethical and that we have it within ourselves to freely choose to improve ourselves. I entirely agree with this. But you use this as evidence against having faith in God whereas I simply see it as part of the evolutionary process which God has set into motion. I see it as how we were given the ability to judge right from wrong and to seek that which is moral rather than the immoral. Therefore, since we agree for different reasons neither of us has successfully shown one argument to be the stronger.

You used the International Court as an example which shows that all people have it within themselves to be moral and ethical. You later agreed that it is individuals with strong moral characters who hold positions on these courts and that the masses are prone to be wishy-washy on such opinions without appropriate leadership. You even claimed that their vastly different opinions are a result of the “complexity of the cognitive overlay” within their brains. If you haven’t noticed it yet, your evidence is flawed. The International Court is setup to meter out justice based on existing laws, not to teach the masses how to become moral people. So, as people become more or less moral the laws are changed and the justice system has no choice but to comply, upholding immoral laws just as it upholds moral ones. Right or wrong they must uphold the law, not morality. Also, court systems respond to people’s actions after-the-fact; they deal with what people have done, comparing their actions against acceptable social norms and judging them. Morality is different. Morality and ethics teach us to think about out actions before we act, encouraging us to do what is morally right rather than what might or might not be legal. Morality and ethics teach us behaviors which the courts cannot teach or even judge: love for others, compassion, self denial, selflessness, hope, kindness, humility, etc. Unless you can show better evidence that the courts teach people to become moral and ethical then I must claim my argument to be the stronger.

None of the evidence you provided shows that non-religious groups or organizations (governmental or otherwise) are successful in promoting morality and ethics. But there is overwhelming evidence that religious institutions can and do promote such things. Not all of them, of course; but most do. There are thousands and thousands of churches which you can freely enter whose members welcome you and teach ethical behavior at no cost to you. They don’t even require you to believe in God. The sheer fact that only religious institutions are successful in promoting these values should be a HUGE hint that maybe God really does exist. I agree that we have it within ourselves to choose morality over immorality but we will never attain a nearly perfect walk in morality without acknowledging that God exists. God made us this way; all we have to do is accept it. Therefore, I seek additional evidence that non-religious institutions are at least as good as, if not better at, promoting morality and ethics than religious institutions. Until then I must claim my argument to be the stronger.

How then might we evaluate the influence our biology has in encouraging us to be moral and ethical? If our biology is a significant factor then we would expect to find non-religious organizations as successful as religious ones in promoting morals and ethics; but instead there is an enormous disparity. We can clearly see that non-religious institutions are very poor at teaching morality whereas religious institutions are very good at it. Many have tried but failed. This then is strong evidence that biology alone does little to encourage us to be moral or ethical. If biology had played a greater part then non-religious institutions would be much more successful at teaching such things. Thus, I propose that it is the drive to know our creator that encourages us to become moral, ethical people. And therefore religious institutions are crucial in helping our nation improve its morals and ethics. We previously had agreed about our biology playing a part in our morality, but you claimed it provided evidence against having faith in god, where as I claim it provides evidence for one. Since this evidence upholds the idea that our biology supports the idea of God’s existence I must again claim my argument to be the stronger. If you continue to disagree then provide additional evidence.

Since you look at our biology and use it to explain why God does not exist, perhaps you can answer this: Given that we evolved, why do we so innately come to the conclusion that a god or gods exists? No other evolved animal shows any signs of this phenomenon, so why do we? After all, nearly every tribe and society in history can be shown to have faith in a deity or pantheon. What is your explanation?

In summary,
(1) The inability of non-religious institutions to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that religious institutions are crucial in bringing about morality within a nation.
(2) The inability of non-religious institutions to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that biology is a very poor motivator for people to become moral and ethical.
(3) The fact that only religious institutions have been successful at teaching morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that our biology is telling us that God really does exist (which is also evidence that God is telling us He exists).

Jim Arvo said...

Neo, I hate to put it this way, but you've erected quite a few straw men. You've attributed several nonsensical positions to me. For example,

Neo: "Since you look at our biology and use it to explain why God does not exist,..."

That is your understanding of my lengthy posts above? You think I appeal to biology to expalain why god does not exist? If so, I'm disappointed and a bit taken aback, as I thought I had been quite clear about this. To reiterate, I cannot offer any evidence that god does not exist; moreover, I assert that doing so is impossible, even in principle, as the existence of "god" (in general) is an untestable hypothesis. To be clear, I will state my position again:

Jim's primary position: "I have never seen any credible evidence for the existence of gods or goddesses. Therefore, I harbor no beliefs in such entities, and assert that it would be irrational for me to adopt such beliefs."

I strongly suspect that you have a similar position toward Zeus. You've probably never encountered a single argument or bit of credible evidence supporting his existence; hence, you harbor no belief in Zeus, despite the fact that you have no positive evidence that he does not exist. Indeed, such evidence is a logical impossibility, so we ought not hold out for it. I've also got another, secondary, position:

Jim's secondary position: "Unfounded beliefs offer no obvious net benefit to mankind, and are all too often detrimental. Therefore, I think it is generally to our benefit (as a species) to exercise greater critical thinking, exposing and abandoning unfounded beliefs."

You went on to ask one of the perennial questions posed by believers:

Neo: "...Given that we evolved, why do we so innately come to the conclusion that a god or gods exists? No other evolved animal shows any signs of this phenomenon, so why do we? After all, nearly every tribe and society in history can be shown to have faith in a deity or pantheon. What is your explanation?"

Explanations for this abound; I've written about this at length elsewhere and alluded to such explanations earlier in this thread. In short, god-concepts appear to be nothing more than a side effect other cognitive adaptations that have obvious survival value. Specifically, it is of the utmost importance for any social animal to anticipate the actions and intentions of others, as this is key to both cooperation and defense. It is no accident that much of our brains are devoted to precisely this type of processing--e.g. recognizing faces, discerning emotions, anticipating reactions, etc. In fact, failing to do so could be catastrophic to an individual or clan. Therefore, we see a marked tendency to err toward "false positives" rather than "false negatives"; i.e. we are far more apt to "see" intentionality and agency where none exists than to miss it where it does exist. As a trivial example, few of us have ever failed to recognize a human face for what it is (except for those with brain injuries), but we've all seen faces where none exist; in clouds, rocks, random scribbles, shadows, etc. The same is so with agency; we all get angry at our computer when it behaves in "inappropriate" ways, as if it were a socially-aware agent who should know better. There is a great deal of evidence (from anthropology, social psychology, and evolutionary psychology) to suggest that god-belief is simply a ritualized form of cognitive error similar to those I cited above. It is rooted in an erroneous belief in an (invisible) agent, tripped by our over zealous tendency to attribute agency to events we cannot otherwise explain. This idea has been explored extensively by Pascal Boyer ("Religion Explained"), Elliott Guthrie ("Faces in the Clouds"), and many others. In my opinion, it quite nicely explains the widespread existence of religion among humans. As for why other primates do not worship invisible deities, there is some evidence that they do in very rudimentary ways, but their much lesser ability to process language and communicate hypothetical situations prevents it from developing into a full-blown religion.

I'm now going to now confine my remarks to the concise summary that you most conveniently provided:

Neo: "(1) The inability of non-religious institutions to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that religious institutions are crucial in bringing about morality within a nation."

That's a great summary statement, as it highlights our differences beautifully. However, there is scarcely a syllable in that statement I agree with! First, I take issue with your assertion that non-religious institutions have not been successful in teaching "morality". The most glaring counterexample to your assertion is the family. As a parent I teach my kids, first and foremost, to be mindful of others and to be kind and honest. As a parent, I instill these values in my kids, and I do so without appeal to invisible beings of holy books. And, of course, I am not unique in this regard at all. Next, I will point to secular schools and universities. I will be the first to admit their many shortcomings, but to dismiss them as having no role in teaching ethics and morality is nonsense. Then there is our system of justice. You incorrectly infer that our justice system is strictly reactive; it is not. It codifies the behavior that society expects from its members and thereby educates them as to what is acceptable and what is not. Next, there are role models. Needless to say, there is an over-abundance of negative role models in our society, but there are also glowing positive examples. (As an aside, I just learned of George Washington's steadfast insistence upon ethical treatment of prisoners, despite the appalling behavior of the British toward their captives. What a stark contrast with recent events!) Next, I take issue with your assertion that religion-based instruction is somehow morally superior. Here I will not cite the obvious cases of terrorists who are driven by religious ideology, but rather the run-of-the-mill belief that a given religious text is the ultimate guide to morality. Such a belief has many disadvantages: it promotes divisiveness, it stunts critical thinking, it sanctions behavior that we've outgrown as a society, and it offers simplistic and unworkable solutions to complex problems. Each of these would require a lengthy discussion. Suffice it to say (for about the tenth time), I see no compelling evidence to suggest that religious ideology is a means toward crafting a workable and sustainable system of morality; in fact, I see numerous counterexamples.

As I've already explained numerous times, the Decalogue is a terrible moral guide, with its emphasis on picayune ritualism and its utter blindness to much more significant social issues and to the means of (and even the need for) making difficult tradeoffs in complex situations. Note that only four of the commandments have any analogue in western systems of justice, and those four appear in virtually all societies; it's absurd to suggest that the Decalogue offered anything new or different.

Neo: "(2)...provides evidence that biology is a very poor motivator for people to become moral and ethical."

As I vehemently disagree with your premise (which is the same in all three of your summary points), I'll focus on the second part. It seems we are going around in circles on the matter of biology, and are actually diverging. I thought we had reached agreement early on that there our biology provides the bedrock of morality. I think now you are confusing my earlier comments with the assertion that this bedrock explains everything, or that it is somehow sufficient in itself. I've asserted nothing of the kind. I've continually stressed the importance of what we build on this bedrock, and asserted that it is an intellectual endeavor to extend our basic notions to more complex social situations (an exercise barely acknowledged by Christianity).

Moreover, I sense that you are envisioning an "absolute" morality, and complaining that our biology alone will not get us there. Well, once again, please tell me what "absolute" morality you have in mind. I continue to assert that you are in possession of nothing even remotely resembling an "absolute" morality; I will continue to view it as a complete fiction until someone articulates what that amazing code is and how it can be unambiguously applied.

Neo: "(3)...provides evidence that our biology is telling us that God really does exist (which is also evidence that God is telling us He exists)."

I explained above why I think this is not the case at all. To put it another way, belief does not imply truth. We, as humans, intuitively believe all sorts of things that are not true. In fact, I assert that the more widespread and fundamental a belief is, the more suspect it is, as it likely arises from our common cognitive machinery and not from sound empirical inferences. Examples: everybody "believes" they have a continuous visual field. Everybody "believes" that all effects have a cause. Everybody "believes" that the color of an object is intrinsic to the object. Everybody "believes" that their motivations are available for introspection. Everybody "believes" that vivid memories are an objective record of what was experienced. All of these things are convenient fictions produced by our brains. The fact that we "all believe them" intrinsically (that is, without the benefit of science) does not mean they are true; if anything, it's a dead giveaway that they are convenient fictions. So it is with god-concepts.

To return the favor, I will close with my own summary:

1) I have seen no credible evidence for gods or goddesses, therefore I harbor no belief in them.

2) I have seen no evidence that any holy book offers an "absolute" system of morals, hence I do not view any of them as such.

3) There is ample evidence that god-concepts spring from mundane human psychology rather than external entities.

4) There is ample evidence that our biology gives rise to certain fundamental concepts of morality, and that many different ethical and moral systems can be built on top of these (some "better" than others).

5) It is up to us (humans) to craft workable and maintainable systems of justice and to instill morality in our children; relying on ancient "holy books" for either of these undertakings is unmitigated foolishness.

Dave8 said...

Neo: "(1) The inability of non-religious institutions to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that religious institutions are crucial in bringing about morality within a nation."

The Code of Hammurabi
[1795-1750 BCE]
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/medieval/hammenu.htm

Exodus 20:2-17 (Jewish Decalogue)
[1444 BCE]
For Dating, see "Historicity" @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exodus

There are three selections used to date the Jewish Decalogue according to their Tanakh, more specifically the Torah. Here is one of the options for historical dating as provided per the reference;

"Akhenaton of the 18th Dynasty, around 1340 BC. The link to Akhenaton is that, like Moses, this pharaoh was struggling to convert the people to monotheism. The brother of Akhenaton was named Tuth-Moses, and while it is often assumed that this Tuth-Moses died young Professor Cyril Aldred shows that he was the commander of the king's chariot forces. [2] The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius similarly records that Moses was an Egyptian prince and army commander (Antiquities 2:232, 2:241).

Note that morality law, was codified long before Christianity became a gleam in the eye of history... Exodus does nothing but repeat laws already established by civilizations much more ancient than Christianity can brag about...

On Hammurabi;
"Yet even with this earliest set of laws, as with most things Babylonian, we find ourselves dealing with the end of things rather than the beginnings. Hammurabi's code was not really the earliest. The preceding sets of laws have disappeared, but we have found several traces of them, and Hammurabi's own code clearly implies their existence. He is but reorganizing a legal system long established."
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/medieval/hammint.htm

Perhaps, King Hammurabi was referring to other laws that preceded, such as;

Menes (c. 3100 BCE), as displayed on the U.S Supreme Court South Wall Frieze.

"The first figure in the depiction on the south wall, Menes founded Egypt's first dynasty. As the first king of the earliest nation-state, Menes personifies the idea of a centralized government and political system -- the necessary basis for any coherent set of laws. Menes also was known as Narmer and is credited with founding the first imperial city, Memphis, near modern Cairo."
http://www.dailyrepublican.com/sup_crt_frieze.html

Christianity does not have a "god patent" on morality via codified law... Christianity, borrowed from those who came much earlier, to include the Jews, whom they attempted to kill off and disavow over time. Remember, Exodus was Jewish law, not Christian... Christianity, via Paul, came much later and "adopted" the written Jewish Tanakh/Torah, while modifying the Jewish oral tradition and preaching his own revelation of "their" god's word.

Neo: "(2) The inability of non-religious institutions to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that biology is a very poor motivator for people to become moral and ethical.”

Just like Christianity adopted their law, and religious doctrine from those who came before them, so has other civilizations. The "study" of such information, is called "history". And, surely, you aren't arrogant enough to believe that "religious" institutions are the "only" viable outlet for such knowledge... it's been a few years since my "undergraduate" degree, but I distinctly remember taking "many" history courses. So, your assertion that non-religious institutions are "unable" to teach morality is about as fallacious as your belief that Christianity had the "first" set of codified laws, which framed morality for a people.

Perhaps, you are attempting to suggest that... although, non-religious institutions "teach" morality through historical research; ethics, philosophy, western civilization, U.S. history and the "Bill of Rights"., etc, etc... they tend "not" to "force" the student body to adopt a particular set of axiomatic rules to suggest the "best" of all "ethos"...

It is not the place for an educational institution to profess the "best" of anything... it's the business of educational institutions to tool their students with the ability to reason... from reason, a student can analyze the "information" they are provided by professors who "profess" to the authenticity of the information they are providing. Professors, in essence are the gatekeepers to the validity of information being presented. Through, such training, a student is armed with the capability to reason/analyze future information to derive/distill knowledge that is of value to them in life.

If you hold three pieces of information, you have the ability to create/reason 9 possible combinations of "knowledge", from there, you begin to distill out what doesn't conflict with "other" knowledge you would hold as "truth". See combination number theory, and information theory if interested. Now, obviously if you have more information, there are quite a few more "possibilities" available. Religion isn’t the outlet I would employ if I were looking for a greater “depth” of information, period.

It should be noted here, that "fixation" of an authority figure to "give" you the answers of life, doesn't make you educated... it makes you an ambivalent follower, who is comfortable in not having to think and reason.

The arguments you have posed are older than Christianity, and Christianity has failed to provide a unique answer to the arguments you pose...

As far back as Anaximander, 610-545 BCE, the question of the "invisible" truth was presented. Thales 624-545 BCE suggested that all of reality was composed of four elements which manifested in the position of opposites/strife; earth, air, fire and water. Anaximander suggested that the elements didn't actually exist ontologically in strife, because there was a "fifth" element that held the other four in balance - the apeiron. Anaximander held that although the apeiron was not observable, that the fifth element could be ascertained from an "argument from best explanation". Something, akin to the attempt of argument made by modern day religious leaders, to their "ignorant" followers.

Anaximenes, 580-500 BCE the last of the Milesians, criticized the "argument from best explanation" on the grounds that it was not necessary... in short, all that was necessary, was the observable. Anaximenes seems to have thought through his dialogue that we "ought" to not postulate the existence of anything that is not required to explain the world and its phenomena... "especially", when the postulate is "unobservable".

Two themes run throughout Western Philosophy; the principle of the priority of observation and that of ontological simplicity. In short, the "observable" is more reasonable than the "non observable", and the explanation which requires "fewer" entities is the most preferred... truth is not convoluted by peripheral information.

A little while later, Heraclitus comes along 540-480 BCE, and suggests that the world and ultimately, all of reality is in a state of ever-changing flux. He had his own particular brand of monism and philosophy, which created further debate.

Now, obviously if everything is changing, how does one suggest there could "ever" be an "absolute" truth... of course, I hope you understand, that this statement encompasses all aspects of philosophy; to include deontology (ethics, morality, etc.)

If all is changing, how can a person suggest that there is an "absolute" right moral code? Ah, perhaps... through "education", a person can accept that they are part of the flux and ever changing environment, and with enough "education", they can make the "best" decisions in their life, in an effort to attain a desirable result. Typically, a result that benefits themselves in some aspect. The helping of others, does in fact benefit an individual, in more ways than one... that includes; emotionally, economically, etc.

The response to education and reason, was the continued persecution from religious groups... The religious response to "flux", and an ever-changing environment where people must make decisions based on their current and typically "unique" circumstance, was to rely on an "absolute" set of laws... a set of laws, that doesn't require its followers to be "educated". A religious follower only needs to be trained in the laws, and apply them equally in all circumstance, thus the universal absolute truth known as the holy bible came about.

However, throughout the bible, there are "exceptions" to the laws of the Decalogue... Jesus as a character, didn't obey the Sabbath, obviously the laws of Exodus just wasn't "absolute" enough - he felt a need for "change" and the need to demonstrate the need for "pragmatic" reasoning, based on circumstance.

Your "plea" towards this unique "absolute" morality, scribed in a book a few thousand years old, is not externally valid when comparing it to pre-extant documents to the bible - the bible is "not" unique in law... as well, there is no "absolute" internally, as the many characters of the bible, who are confronted with different circumstances, act in a manner that conflicts with the Decalogue, etc.

For instance, Abraham was willing to "sacrifice" his child on a stone alter (murder) for god... thus, an exception to the Decalogue... Jesus (who was considered "perfect") was murdered... and god (who was considered "perfect") did not prevent the act, thus... an exception to murder by the "perfect" characters of the bible - a perfect conflict between an absolute "law" and absolutely "perfect" beings... and the list could go on for days...

Neo: "(3) The fact that only religious institutions have been successful at teaching morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that our biology is telling us that God really does exist (which is also evidence that God is telling us He exists)."

An argument, based on "your" best explanation (with obviously limited information)... you could be Anaximander. My response - show me, I’ll take the position of Anaximenes. If you are the product of a religious education, you may want to keep that to yourself...

Neocognitron said...

Jim Arvo,

The most glaring counterexample to your assertion is the family. You make this statement as if it is evidence in-and-of itself in support of your claim that morality can be taught outside of religious institutions on a large scale. What is it about the family that supports your claim? What evidence do you have that says family morals are better within the homes of non-believers than they are in their institutions? Wouldn’t you expect to see evidence of non-religious morality within communities if it were as strong a commitment as you espouse? If non-religious people sought morality as sincerely as religious people then there would be a similar number of non-religious institutions teaching it, and I would then expect to find an equivalent number of people taking it home as a part of their lives. So your so called “evidence” about the family is no support at all to your counter argument. The fact that religious institutions teach morality to the masses implies that it is religious families who espouse them and pass them on to their children. This does not imply that all non-religious families fail to teach morality, only that it is a far more common in the households of believers.
Next, I will point to secular schools and universities. I am quite surprised by your recent counter arguments since you are not providing supporting evidence. You appear to have given up on providing proof for these ideas to which you cling so strongly. What is it about schools and universities that you claim as evidence? They are not setup to teach morality nor do they claim to. Instead, they invite religious institutions onto their campuses to teach such things, and most college campuses have a number of them directly on their grounds. Even classes which discuss morality speak of it as a scientific study rather than to promote moral living so where is the evidence which supports your claims? Many middle schools and high schools promote independent issues such as anti-drinking, condoms and anti-drug use but their success rates are rather low even for these single issues. Still, they should be praised for trying. So I ask again, where is your evidence?
You incorrectly infer that our justice system is strictly reactive; it is not. Again, you provide no evidence to support your claim. The justice system has a mandate which restricts it from pre-trying cases. You can ask many lawyers and attorneys to review a topic before you take action but their opinions are not law; but a judge cannot give a verdict or legal opinion until a formal claim is filed. For example, you might want to build your house within 25 feet of a protected water reservoir, but the boundary restrictions are vague so you ask an attorney for advice. You cannot take the matter into court and ask a judge to rule. You must first build your house and wait to be taken to court before receiving a legally binding ruling. If a judge were to rule on a case before the matter were taken to court the judge would have to refuse to sit on the case since the ruling would not be impartial. Therefore, you are wrong in the claim that our justice system is pro-active. It is entirely reactive.
Next, there are role models (George Washington). Since you are trying to show that non-religious people can espouse strong moral qualities it is probably not a good idea to provide only one person as your evidence; especially one who in his 1796 farewell address pointed out that the value of religion benefits society as a whole. And, since this is exactly contrary to your position in this disagreement I find your lack of faith in a deity even more amusing.
I take issue with your assertion that religion-based instruction is somehow morally superior. If you claim something of equal moral caliber then provide your evidence. Until then I claim that God is the ultimate in morality and is therefore morally superior to anything mankind can dream up – past, present or future.
Suffice it to say (for about the tenth time), I see no compelling evidence to suggest that religious ideology is a means toward crafting a workable and sustainable system of morality; in fact, I see numerous counterexamples. Since you cannot see the evidence which you have failed to refute I must wonder if it is non-believers rather than believers who have this “metal wedge driven right down the center of their brains,” as the first author of this thread wrote. I have no doubt that you believe you are correct in your opinion but it appears you have more faith in your opinions than in facts.

Your response to my question about “why we so innately come to the conclusion that a god or gods exist” was the most coherent and well reasoned response in your last post. Though I do not disagree with the evidence you provided I come to no conclusion at all from its “evidence” since it neither supports nor refutes either argument. You see it as evidence which “nicely explains the widespread existence of religion among humans” whereas I see it as a logical extension of the principals of evolution.

There is one thing missing from your response about our biology which I was waiting for...
I previously agreed with you that biology helps us recognize the moral from the immoral but you still have not provided evidence that we pursue morality because of our biology. There are thousands of churches and hundreds of religions which support my belief that God placed it within our biology to seek Him but where is your evidence that our biology encourages us to seek a moral lifestyle? Thus, I ask again that you provide evidence that God’s morality can be successfully taught to the masses without the inclusion of religion. I claim that on any useful scale it cannot be since morality is the image of God. What is your claim? You said before that “we have taken on these morals ‘despite’ the interference of religion” and I am still waiting for your evidence.

You have received evidence that God exists yet you reply with simple statements such as “Next, I will point to secular schools and universities,” and “The most glaring counterexample to your assertion is the family” and count them as facts. Dave8 was kind enough to provide evidence to counter the argument but he had to look all the way back to 1795 BCE. However kind his gesture was it is not a credible counter argument. The Code of Hammurabi evidence fails to show that non-religious institutions can uphold and encourage morality since it is a set of laws rather than a set of moral codes. It established a set of legal standards by which crimes were measured and clearly defined their punishments; it was not a set of principals taught to encourage morality and ethical living. It was established as a warning to those who commit crimes, not as a lifestyle. It was setup as a measure to fairly judge those who committed crimes and to encourage people never to do them by using the threat of punishment rather than using encouragement to influence them to live honorable lifestyles. This is why it is known as Hammurabi’s Code of Laws, not his Code of Ethics.

Since you have failed to provide a credible counter argument I claim that you have your evidence that God exists: The fact that only religious institutions have been successful at teaching morality on any reasonable scale is evidence that our biology is telling us that God really does exist (which is also evidence that God is telling us He exists). It is up to you to accept this as truth from God or to rationalize it as the random chance of pure evolution. Either way your decision is based on faith and not on verifiable facts.

Jim Arvo, I do not wish to cause you anguish or to trouble your mind further. You have done well in reasoning out your arguments and shown wisdom, so let us agree to part company amicably. Please cease your counter arguments and we will agree to depart without further controversy.

Peace!

Dave 8,

Thank you for providing the interesting information about the origin of many of Christianity’s laws and moral teachings. However, I am uncertain what you thought I might say about this since I do not claim they originated in Christianity as you presume. In fact, I fully believe they originated from many different sources outside of it. I would not expect anything different. During Old Testament times any people who professed the existence of god(s) or a divine creator were lifted up by God. This is evident in the many OT stories of God telling prophets to preach to non-Jewish cities, of God giving believers over to their enemies, and of stories of God blessing the enemies of believers. So, of course, God would also provide them moral wisdoms just as He did the Jews. So I tell you, I have no problem believing that morality and principals of it originated outside of Christianity. With that said, you are probably wondering why I still consider Christianity special. The answer is that Christ embodied every single aspect of morality and lived according to them in order to show us how to live. He single handedly unified them and brought them under one faith. Concepts about how to be moral and ethical had been around for many centuries for all to see yet very few made the decision to follow them, and even fewer made it their life’s purpose. So, God being good and perfect made a perfect example of how to live by these principals by sending us Jesus. Now that God has done this He expects us to follow this example and has made this path the only acceptable option. Still, most people do not live their lives with the goal of trying to improve themselves and following perfection. Some do, most don’t; continuing the traditions of self-morality as it has been since humanity began. Little has changed.

So, your assertion that non-religious institutions are "unable" to teach morality is about as fallacious as your belief that Christianity had the "first" set of codified laws, which framed morality for a people. Since I have never made either of these claims it seems a poor argument to counter. But, that’s just me. I never claimed that non-religious institutions could not teach morality. I said they have an “inability ... to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale.” They most certainly do have the ability to teach but only in small ways are they successful at it. There are no large scale successes at teaching morality outside of religious institutions and my belief for this is that God is making His presence known to those who seek Him. After all, it is the aspects of morality which are the image of God that we all share: peace, kindness, love, compassion, humility, grace, etc. As for your second claim: that “I believe Christianity to have had the ‘first’ set of codified laws,” this too is something from your imagination. I said that “I do not believe you will find any better defined and concise set of principals as the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments). ” I made no reference as to where they came from. So, if you wish to counter my arguments in the future then please refrain from making up your own truths; it does a disservice to your argument and further confuses the readers of these posts.

Peace to you!

=================================

Jim Arvo, Dave8 and others,

I will respond to this thread much less frequently since I must return to my other duties. I appreciate the attention you and others have afforded me that I might learn more about the God I serve. You have aided me well and I pray that all of you prosper greatly during your lives!

May God be with you all!

dano said...

Some of us will not have tasted of death before Neo returns!

Dan (But we did strengthen his "Faith" in his father)

.:webmaster:. said...

Neo said: Jim Arvo, I do not wish to cause you anguish or to trouble your mind further. You have done well in reasoning out your arguments and shown wisdom, so let us agree to part company amicably. Please cease your counter arguments and we will agree to depart without further controversy.

When I see comments like this, it tells me that the person making the comment honestly believes he or she is superior or above the person with whom they are exchanging comments.

And the interesting thing is, Neo probably can't see anything condescending in his comments.

Neo, I didn't join this conversation because your posts are too convoluted to be worth much to me. However, one thing that I would like to add is that religion is a fairly recent phenomenon in human society. Let's face it, Mormonism is only about 200 years old, Protestantism only about 500 years old, Islam is only about 1,500 years old, Christianity 2,000. Judaism about 3,500. (And, the Judaism of today doesn't really resemble the Judaism of 3,000 BCE. For that matter, Christianity bears little resemblance to Christianity of 100 CE or 1,200 CE, or even 1,700 CE.)

So, when do you suppose religion began and what was that religion?

Did religion begin in 10,000 BCE, and was it a primitive worshiping of the elements? Did it begin with Cro-Magnon Man in 40,000 BCE? Or does religion date back to the Neanderthal Man?

Maybe Lucy was a proto-Christian?

Neo, I do not wish to cause you anguish or to trouble your mind. You have been quite wordy in reasoning out your arguments and shown religious zeal, so let us agree to part company amicably. Please make no counter arguments and we will agree to depart without controversy.

I wish you big affectionate hugs and kisses from the spirit of love and happiness that wells up within my breast at the thought of your tender heart. I wish you the greatest success in all you endeavor to do as you travel blissfully down the road of flowery life.

My peace I give to you.

dano said...

Neo,
The very fact that the bible implies that we should learn our morals from within its pages is in itself immoral.

We must buy into the "Jesus story," with our logical, rational, minds, as if it were the authentic original word of God, given to folks, two thousand years ago, and who thought the earth was flat, and the center of the universe, before we can go to heaven.

Furthermore if your mother and father don't believe it either, we should hate them.

GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!!!

dano (Who doesn't believe in slavery, inherited sin, or blood sacrifices)

Jim Arvo said...

Neo,

We've long since past the point of diminishing returns in this discussion. If I were to do nothing more than correct your misperceptions it would require a very lengthy post. I'll will offer a few brief comments nonetheless; this discussion is hardly worth the time I have already spent on it.

Regarding to your assertion that only "religious institutions" have been successful in teaching morality, I cited numerous examples that are not religious institutions. The family, for example, is not a "religious institution" for the simple reason that it transcends and predates all religions. If one happens to teach religious principles to one's children, it does not turn the family into a religious institution. Thus, your only recourse is to broaden "religious institutions" to "religious principles". However, "religious principles" vary widely across societies and over time. What they all appear to have in common, however, are the core principles I've been attributing to biology. You made an attempt to attribute this last vestige of a common morality to your particular deity, but proffered nothing but dogmatic assertions in the process. I explained one of the scientifically supported reasons that I reject your explanation as superfluous, and you have offered nothing of substance to counter this.

I cited George Washington (in passing) as a recent and very relevant example of a role model; had my intention been to list positive role models who are non-believers (or those who have overtly rejected the major tenets of Christianity as nonsensical) I could have produced a sizeable list. Moreover, as Washington's behavior was in sharp contrast to others who purport to draw their morality from Christianity, the difference cannot be due to Christianity.

You ignored what I said about our judicial system and instead argued about how rulings are reached, which was irrelevant to my point.

You habitually assume that morality is some absolute ideal to which we, as humans, should aspire. This comes through in many of your assertions. However, you have no evidence for this whatsoever. I've asked numerous times for you to articulate what this fantastic code is, and how you can unambiguously apply, but I have yet to see a response from you. You said

"...you still have not provided evidence that we pursue morality because of our biology."

Your statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding at several levels. First, there is your resumption of an "absolute morality" lurking behind this, which I've asserted repeatedly is a fiction (and you have not countered this). Second, I've asserted that the common drive that we ALL exhibit toward a core morality is rooted in biology, and I've cited some of the work done in proving this (and I could cite much more). I can't help but think that you have never understood a word I said on that topic. Either that, or you are parsing words in a way that I cannot fathom.

As for your central dogma...

"The fact that only religious institutions have been successful at teaching morality on any reasonable scale is evidence that our biology is telling us that God really does exist (which is also evidence that God is telling us He exists).

This remains a stew of unsupported assertions topped with a good helping of fallacious reasoning. Your assertion about "religious institutions" is ridiculous (as I've explained above), your notion of "morality" is hopelessly nebulous (as I've pointed out many times), and your interpretation of what biology tells us is an infinite stretch. Yet this is precisely the kind of reasoning that lay behind much of Christian apologetics, and it's precisely why most of us here have cast it off long ago. It holds no water. It begs the very questions it seeks to answer.

You can continue to assert that our biology, and hence our innate moral code, is the result of a creator, but that is all it is: an assertion. It is not supported by any observable evidence. It is not faslifiable. It explains nothing. Perhaps you failed to grasp my "broken vase" analogy; your creator is a superfluous appendage as she adds absolutely nothing to our knowledge. Nevertheless, you are free to assert her existence. We are free to seek warranted belief instead.

Dave8 said...

Neo: "Thank you for providing the interesting information about the origin of many of Christianity’s laws and moral teachings. However, I am uncertain what you thought I might say about this since I do not claim they originated in Christianity as you presume."

-Then you have a logical hurdle to overcome.

Neo: "In fact, I fully believe they originated from many different sources outside of it.

-To include non-religious sources/institutions.

-The “source” generating moral code via law (outside the assistance of religious institutional help), that is also capable of “enforcing” that moral code/law for the majority of people in a given country is the “large scale” dominance with greater influence over “other” institutions.

Neo: "(1) The inability of non-religious institutions to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale provides evidence that religious institutions are crucial in bringing about morality within a nation."

-The U.S. is a secular form of gov’t; it has no allegiance to a specific “religious” institution.

-The secular non-religious U.S. government regulates moral code, just as King Hammurabi did.

-All citizens “and” religious institutions are legally regulated (to include moral law) under the purview of a secular non-religious U.S. government.

-Therefore, religious institutions are legally required to “teach” according to the mandate of a “secular” gov’t.

-Thus, religious institutions incorporate the (collective conscience of the U.S., to include the conscience of Atheists, Agnostics, Non-Believers, Wiccans, Pagans, etc.) moral conscience of a secular nation – not, vice versa.

-To conclude on the point; Neo’s statement that the non-religious institutions (U.S. gov’t) has the “inability” to “teach” morality on a “reasonable scale”, is patently “false”. As well, the “reasonable scale” is no longer a factor, as anyone with a modicum of intellect has to accept that logically, “all” scales are subservient to the “dominant” scales of moral justice – that includes “all” religious institutions in the U.S. There is no, “better” or “more reasonable scale”, than the one that is in fact in place at this very moment.

-Since, the “institution” is no longer a “factor” in discriminating between religious vs. secular education regarding morality, as “religious institutions” fail to assert their dominance in the U.S., an advocate of the statement must logically move towards the next argument – substance and form – unless the advocate for the statement accepts their belief as irrational and non-reflective of the reality in which we live in the U.S.

-Before proceeding, let me flip this around for you.

"The inability of religious institutions to successfully escape the regulation and oversight of non-religious institutions (gov't) on any reasonable scale provides evidence, that religious institutions are not crucial in bringing about morality within the U.S., since its inception as a country."

Neo: "I never claimed that non-religious institutions could not teach morality. I said they have an “inability ... to successfully teach morality on any reasonable scale.”

As already noted above, a non-secular entity “is” that scale of “reasonability” J The religious institution as much as it would like to believe it has a say in the matter of what is, or what isn’t part of a scale of reasonability, doesn’t get that privilege, except in the form of an opinion. There is only one “scale” for reasonability, all else that fall under it, are subservient and must obey the framework presented, especially in the area of law and morality. Surely, we see many posts on this site that report on the “moral” injustices performed by religious institutions, and they are held accountable by the “true” scale of moral reasonability – federal and state “law”. Those who have the power do, all else have an opinion – religious institutions.

Neo: "They most certainly do have the ability to teach but only in small ways are they successful at it."

Again, what “scale” for “reasonability” and “influence” are you using… “You”, Neo, must conform to the secular moral laws of this nation “first”, and your opinionated religious institution “second”. Again, “all” credit for moral education is owned by the dominant influence, and the one that “regulates” what can and cannot be “taught”, that would be in the U.S., a secular government.

See how this works… All roads lead through the higher influence, all credit you would like to suggest are owned by a “religious institution” must first give homage to the “institution” that gives it that capability and “directs” what they can and can not teach – the “secular” U.S. gov’t.

Neo: "There are no large scale successes at teaching morality outside of religious institutions..."

The U.S. gov't is pretty big, and if you are a U.S. citizen, you were taught according to federal mandate, even in the areas of morality, as you were subject to consequences for your actions.

Here, let me flip this around for you...

"There are and have been large scale failures at teaching morality via religious institutions throughout history..."

Neo: "...and my belief for this is that God is making His presence known to those who seek Him. After all, it is the aspects of morality which are the image of God that we all share: peace, kindness, love, compassion, humility, grace, etc."

This God seems capable of being just like you; peaceful, kind, loving, compassionate, humble, graceful, etc. I wonder if your God will ever measure up to your "ideal" of him/her, since in fact, you have no ability to produce any credible evidence for such a statement. However, like all else up to this point, you have an opinion, no matter how logically unsupportable, it’s yours… and it “defines” you, to a great extent.

Neo: "As for your second claim: that “I believe Christianity to have had the ‘first’ set of codified laws,” this too is something from your imagination."

-I offer my apologies, at times, I forget I am dealing with irrational thinkers, and tend to think logically on their behalf… and provide the next piece of logical argument for them. If the intent of your post is to “plea” based on irrational and opinionated statements, with no foundation, then again, I have likely overstepped my bounds by suggesting you would take the next logical step to support your view.

-Knowing that you had no where to turn regarding “influence” of “education” in a secular nation, because it’s all “regulated” by the secular institution, I thought you’d look to “form and substance”, to suggest… that although the U.S. secular gov’t does in fact regulate “moral education” in “all” endeavor within the U.S., that doesn’t make it “right”, nor of the “best” form or substance. After all, one could easily argue that there are many things that go on in the U.S., that may not be the “best”, but a person must provide the support to make such a statement.

-In regard to the best “form” or “substance” of a moral code or law, one must establish the test so that “moral code” can be judged.

-If one takes away the variable of “change” as a part of the “test” because “all” moral code has in fact changed over the years, and existed much earlier than religious institutions in history (see WM’s comments), then we must move onto the next test.

-No, wait… you assert there is an “anchor” in time that a moral law or code was of the best “form” or “substance”…

Neo: "God provided us with a single purpose, a single mission, saying “follow me.” We have received from God a set of principals (the Ten Commandments) which guide us to identify right from wrong. Without a unified faith or purpose and a clearly defined set of principals we rationalize murder, hate and violence saying things like: “the ends justify the means” or “they deserved it.” "The Thinking Christian" February 16, 2007"

-So, there is a point in time, where you believe moral law and code was “best” (Decalogue), and it’s “this” moral code or law you suggest should be “taught” – follow me, per God.

-To the point, you suggest that you did not present Christianity as having the “first” set of codified laws… but hat is a half-truth, you have presented Christianity via God, as presenting the “first” set of “best” moral codes and laws. Why would anyone with a modicum of intelligence believe you weren’t talking about the “best” set of moral codes and laws… Do you typically pull out the “almost” best set of moral codes (or any other information depending on your particular argument) and laws… However, I am thinking rationally here, and I shouldn’t paint you as someone who is rational nor logical, you’ve quite proven your potential to not be…

-To the point of “change” (Heraclites)… if “change” is a constant, then you have to accept that even “if”, you believed you had the perfect set of “moral code” or “law” by which to “teach” from, as that would give a religious institution a premise for valid argument – you must realize that even “religious” moral code has “changed”. Thus, even the argument from “form” and “substance” dissolves any credibility of a “perfect” set of “unchanging” moral code or laws… as “perfect” or “best” means to be unchanging.

Neo: "So, if you wish to counter my arguments in the future then please refrain from making up your own truths; it does a disservice to your argument and further confuses the readers of these posts."

Anaximander = 0… Anaximenes = 2. You have failed to “show me” anything to support your claim for your first premise. Other, than argument from “best explanation” (and your “best explanation” has a lot to be desired if the intent is to support a logical argument), you have shown that you don’t have the ability to correlate your argument to reality. But, speaking on morality and virtue, the secular U.S. has created laws to protect your “freedom of speech”, “right to assemble”, “right to practice religion”, etc., and so, you must give them credit as well for your comments, because without the secular U.S., and its enforcement of such a political framework, you might be getting your limbs chopped off in an inquisition at the request of a religious zealot who usurps Absolute Law backed by a God that can not be questioned, impeached, or removed from office.

If you choose not to respond; consider it a gift to me.

Neocognitron said...

It is quite apparent that we are at odds on many topics and are no longer making progress toward agreement. You argue that faithlessness somehow possesses the same virtues and worthy messages of Christianity in such a manner that people will seek virtue without the help of religion. I argue that Christianity is the ultimate teacher of virtuous living and that only with God’s help can people become truly perfect. Since you have not convinced me and obviously I have not convinced you, we return to the beginning of our discussion:

If anyone reading this thread has a question about a Christian viewpoint or would like to know more about Christ, feel free to ask (please keep your questions short). I will tell you what I believe and provide as much supporting evidence as I can. Until then, peace be with you!

Jim Arvo said...

Neo: "...Christianity is the ultimate teacher of virtuous living and that only with God’s help can people become truly perfect."

The one point that you've succeeded in making with perfect clarity is that this is what you believe. We all get that. We can all see very clearly what Neo personally believes. So, mission accomplished, right?

Bye bye.

dano said...

Neo,
I am going to define "God" for you, so that the next time you get into an argument with your intellectual superiors, you will have some ammunition.

God is: WHATEVER CAUSED EVERYTHING. That's it Neo. You can't improve on that.

If you say: "God caused everything.".... I say: "What caused God?

Now do you get it Neo?

Dan (We are all equal in the eyes of the cause.)

boomSLANG said...

Hey Dano, similar to a game of "chess", we, as Agnostics/Atheists, can readily predict the Christian fundamentalist's next move.

Regarding your proposed definition/hypothesis---Neo-fundy will merely say something to the effect of, "God doesn't need or require a cause".

If our next logical move is to then ask how this is conceptually possible? Neo-fundy will likely say "well, because God is God...He doesn't need a cause".

If our next logical move is to ask how he knows for certain that this disembodied self-existing "first cause" is "Jesus"? Then, just like a good chess player knows his opponent's next move, we know that Neo-fundy will say, "because it says so right here in my Holy Bible, that's why."

If we then ask the next logical question, that being, how he knows that the Bible is absolute Truth? Surely, we can count on Neo-fundy to say "because the Bible says so".

The thing is, once the fundy starts wielding the three letter word "God", it's like they suddenly become the "MacGyver" of Reason......they can "get out of ANY mess".(or so they think)

Dave8 said...

Neo: "If anyone reading this thread has a question about a Christian viewpoint or would like to know more about Christ, feel free to ask (please keep your questions short)."

Goody, Neo, is going to make an honest attempt to communicate.

Okay, I have a few questions about your statement, so we all know where you are coming from, since you are being open and honest.

Neo: "It is quite apparent that we are at odds on many topics and are no longer making progress toward agreement."

Neo, if you believe that your statement is a Universal Absolute Truth, then why would you move to close a gap with "other" people with vastly different views?

Obviously, if you hold the Truth, then you aren't "closing" a gap, you are attempting to get everyone to "move" to your point of view. Thus, your very statement is "deceptive", you make it appear as if you are trying to really find a mutual ground of understanding. Yet, your statements have consistently through this thread, denoted the message that you have no intention of budging from your "idealistic", and much conflicted, what "is", and what "ought" to be view of reality.

Neo: "You argue that faithlessness somehow possesses the same virtues and worthy messages of Christianity in such a manner that people will seek virtue without the help of religion."

1-Who is 'you'?

2-If faithlessness a word, or a person without faith?

3-Can a word 'possess' or 'inherit' virtues and worthy messages outside of its definitive meaning?

4-What do you mean by "Christianity"?

5-What do you mean that an argument is "in such a manner"?

6-How do you know that the intent of "you" is to argue, in order to bring people to "seek virtue without the help of religion"?

7-Define "religion".

Neo: "I argue that Christianity is the ultimate teacher of virtuous living and that only with God’s help can people become truly perfect. Since you have not convinced me and obviously I have not convinced you, we return to the beginning of our discussion:"

1-Do you argue rationally or irrationally?

2-What does Christianity mean?

3-What does "ultimate teacher" mean?

4-When you say "Christianity", are you speaking of "people", "doctrine", or both?

5-What does virtuous living mean?

6-What does it mean to have "only" God's help?

7-What does a "perfect" person mean to you"

8-What does it mean to "convince" someone?

9-What was the beginning of the discussion?

Well, you do have unbridled energy, that is a virtue, and it compliments your abject communication skills to the point of awe. Hopefully, those who fall below you, in the level of clarity, don't confront us on "any" issue, here... I not sure, many are able to handle such a challenge.

Neocognitron said...

Dave8,

Neo, if you believe that your statement is a Universal Absolute Truth, then why would you move to close a gap with "other" people with vastly different views? I do not believe my statements are the absolute truth; I am flawed in many ways and must constantly renew my understanding of right and wrong; and learn more. One way to learn more is to debate with those who hold opposing views. If my arguments withstand the counter evidence then I can trust them. If not, then I must rethink my positions. God is a god of truth so I do not fear finding that I am mistaken or flawed. It will not disprove God’s existence but it might shed light on the things I do not understand. So, I offer the truths that I have learned that others might know the beauty of God and His creation and that I might test the validity of my ideas by listening to counter arguments. If I agree with the responses then I must also question how this affects my understanding of God or His ways and I learn new truths. If my argument stands then I can trust more fully that my beliefs are the truth (which does not mean that others will agree). You also asked why I “move to close a gap with "other" people with vastly different views.” Aside from my desire to understand God better there is, of course, the hope of finding people willing to look at the world differently; if even for a moment. The hope that perhaps a few will realize the beauty God brings into this world. The hope that others would realize that charity, kindness, compassion, humility and love are not simply terms in our language and nice concepts, but that they are the goal which a magnificent God asks us to pursue with all of our lives. It is a worthy goal which benefits all people, even those who do not acknowledge the God who created them.


...Your statements have consistently through this thread, denoted the message that you have no intention of budging from your "idealistic", and much conflicted, what "is", and what "ought" to be view of reality. As I stated in my declaration, I offer the view of a believer to those who would like to hear it. I did not come here because I am on the fence between belief and non-belief. I have no doubt that God exists. I offer my own understanding of the truth. If you disagree with any part of it then present your evidence for all to consider. I do not expect you to easily change your mind since you have compiled your beliefs over many years just as I have. And we have come to different conclusions. To expect anyone to change simply because of a few sentences on the thread of a newsgroup is a bit presumptuous. A person who would change their opinions so easily might appear wishy washy, as though they do not think through their opinions or have any opinions of their own. So yes, my opinions are strong; they are backed by many years of evidence. But I am willing to consider new ideas and seek them now among those upon this newsgroup. If I find evidence of truths I did not see before then I gladly accept them; if not, then I hope the truths I present will be well received by those who truly seek them.

May you have a long and prosperous life!

dano said...

Neo said above ^^^^
"So yes, my opinions are strong; they are backed by many years of evidence."

To all wannabe witnessers, to us heathen apostates!!

Mr. Neo is very nearly the perfect Christian warrior. He has spent weeks here on ex-Christian telling us about his belief in Christianity.

Some of the best analytical brains on the planet, (for the most part), have taken the time to explain to him that there is zero evidence, none, zilch, for the existence of a Bible God, or the plagiarized, boy savior, born of a virgin, fathered by a deity, Jesus, but OLE Neo just keeps on talking about his faith in the bible, being evidence.

Neo is the poster boy for circular reasoning.

What I'm getting at "Neophyte Christian Witnesser," is this: You could take lessons from OLE Neo. He has stood true to his convictions, and even though his thought processes have become a little Whacky at times, he is still being held closely in the arms of his cult.

Every aspect of the self replicating, escape proof mind virus, is still intact and working within poor OLE Neo!!

Dan (Born again SKEPTIC!)