Out-of-body experiences

Michael Shermer travels to Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada, to strap on the "God Helmet" in neuroscientist Michael Persinger's lab that duplicates out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, alien abductions, and other paranormal phenomena.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

A Change Will Do You Good

By DagoodS

The idea that I would ever be convinced Christianity was false was…well…preposterous. My parents taught it and lived it as a reality. So, too, my friends, their families, and all the people I associated with.

There was never a question of whether the God of Christianity existed. Laughable. I could understand, and even sympathize with theists who didn’t quite get it. They were close, but off the mark by a bit. Maybe they had the Abrahamic God, but took a slightly wrong turn into Judaism. Or Catholicism. We even felt that many were so close it was possible they were saved!

I could understand the heathens, too. Hey, I was just as human as the next person. At times it would have been fun to suppress the knowledge of God and engage in some hedonistic pleasure. But I knew the eventual guilt I would feel (and they must be as well) and that their conscience was being seared.

It did seem a little odd that they would be so gung-ho on avoiding God. I liked God. I appreciated what God had done for me. And living the Christian morality was not that bad. Plus there was that awful prospect of hell. Eternal torture? Why flirt with THAT danger?! I like the thrill of excitement as much as anybody, but that seemed a bit like bungee-jumping with dental floss. Sure, you could survive—but why take the risk?

I watched Christians sacrifice, due to their belief in the truth of Christianity. I sacrificed due to the depth of my belief. (Virgin until the age of 24. ‘Nuff said.) To Christians who claim that we were never saved in the first place—that is like telling me as I jump out of a third-story window how I don’t really believe there is a fire raging in the building. You can argue and debate with me all you want how I didn’t believe in the fire. But in the end, the crushing point in favor of my premise is that I jumped. All your philosophical and logical counter-points notwithstanding—I lived as if the God of Christianity was true and acted upon it.

However, if there was one thing that I was certain about this God, was that I did not know everything about Him. He was an infinite, awesome creature—whereas I was merely a human. Heck, I barely passed Calculus 101—I knew there was math I didn’t know about that other humans did. Not so difficult to imagine there was a vast pool of knowledge in mathematics that a God would know, and I did not.

Since there were things I did not know about God, it seemed quite certain that there were things I did know that were wrong. The chances that I happened to get it 100% right with the few positive assertions I believed…that was pretty far-fetched. I figured, as did Christians I associated with, once we got to heaven we would learn of all the things that we got right, the things we got close, and the things we would smack ourselves on the forehead ‘cause we got it so wrong.

Knowing that, the idea was to make sure, as best we can, that we get it as right as possible, and be willing to change, based upon new knowledge. That was why we would have classes, and discussions, and Bible studies, and books and study materials—to learn and grow and mature in our understanding of God. We even recognized this by looking at the history of Christianity.

Right out of the gate, there was confusion as to whether God wanted circumcision continued. Some people were wrong, and had to change their view of God to the “correct” one. The Catholics started off pretty good, but got sidetracked. Hence the need for the Reformation to get Christianity back on track. To re-align the belief to the “correct” view of God.

And we fractioned off as various Christians debated with other Christians as to who was right, who was wrong, and who was closer in the “correct” view of God. Yet over the course of time, people have been willing to change in their belief. To modify upon learning of new material.

Thanks to geology, we began to have Old Earth Creationists. Who say the “correct” view of God is one that created the universe, but not just 6000 years ago. We began to have theistic evolutionists. Who say that God didn’t create exactly as laid out in Genesis 1. In fact, if you pick up a Bible of today, as compared to one printed 60 or 70 years ago, you will see a notable change. Footnotes.

Over the last century, people have started to recognize that parts of the Bible were added later. The ending of the Gospel of Mark has a footnote. The story of the Adulterous Woman has a footnote. The Johannine Comma has a footnote. People’s view of God has been “corrected” by calling into question the inspiration of certain passages, that not too long ago, the “correct” view was that the very same passages were inspired by God.

Most Christians would agree that they could be wrong about God. O.K. So what do we do to determine what is “right”? How can you learn to be more correct about God? Using the footnoted Bible as an example, we realize that there are words in our current edition that are not inspired—how do we go about determining what words we know are inspired, what ones we are not certain and what ones are not?

“Well,” (I can hear Christians say,) “I may be wrong about God, but that does not mean He doesn’t exist.” Yep. I said the same thing.

See, I knew I was wrong. I knew that I could be better; more “correct” about God. While I looked forward to heaven, and learning more about God, I also partly dreaded learning just how wrong I was. I could imagine Jesus saying to me:

“Inerrancy? Oh, my—NO! I had no intention of such a ridiculous notion. In fact, I need humans to see their differences, not to smash those differences into some silly notion of sameness. You will see that in 100 years of so, inerrancy (like animal sacrifices) will drop off the map to be quickly forgotten. Had you researched a little more (rather than watch all that football…ahem!) you would have recognized that.”

What was I wrong about? Was I completely off-base by holding to Calvinism? To not subscribing to Baby Baptism? For those reasons I studied, and learned and read. My error was that I studied and learned and read from people with beliefs too similar to my own.

Eventually I encountered people who did not hold to inerrancy. Who pointed out the need for a methodology to determine contradictions. Who pointed out the human errors in other works, and the similarity within the Bible. Who pointed out that what I would never accept in another religious work, I was defending with passion in my own. A double standard.

And I had to face a decision—what is the correct view of God when it comes to inerrancy? If could be wrong about God, and really believed I could be wrong—what was I willing to give up in order to be “right”? To be correct? To NOT have one more thing God tell me in the after-life, “Nope. Wrong on that one, too.”

That was the first, unknown but significant step to my deconversion—willing to change my belief about God. Willing to admit I was wrong, and try to determine the best way to be right. Did I think it would lead to atheism? Of course not! I would have still claimed that as ridiculous. In fact—far from it. I would have said I was closer to God, because I was trying to discover who He really was, not just what I wanted him to be, or based upon my own upbringing.

It was only after I kept changing my view of God (based upon my methodology) to the “correct” view that eventually I realized how little was correct!

So here is the question to theists:

Do you think you are wrong about God? If so, what system or method are you putting in place in order to modify your belief to be closer to the truth? Or do you think this is a hopeless endeavor, and it is every person for themselves?

I’ll warn ya—being willing to change can be a terrifying aspect. We don’t like change. Change is uncomfortable and scary. What if you change to something that is equally as wrong? What if willingness to change is seen as a lack of faith?

For me, the fear of being wrong about God by refusal to change outweighed the uncertain prospect of allowing the change. Thus my first step on a journey I am glad I took…

The Simpsons & evolution

Quicktime Video 11.7 MB 12'59
Quicktime 7 required

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Richard Harries on Christopher Hitchens

Something a little different, sent in by Philosopher D. R. Khashaba

Yet another adverse review of Christopher Hitchens' apparently provocative book, "God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion," but this time the attack from the Christian camp is staid and soberly reasoned, as befits a former Bishop of Oxford and honorary professor of Theology at King's College, London. LINK

I'll set down my thoughts and reactions as I jotted them down while reading the review without much editing or refinement.

First I must say that I am not defending Dennett or Dawkins or Hitchens whose "diatribes against religion" Professor Richard Harries is concerned to counter. In my view the onslaughts of recent advocates of atheism while satisfying confirmed atheists fail to win over any believers.

Professor Harries admits that the evils perpetrated in the name of religion are real enough. He also admits that the intellectual crudities of some of religion's defenders are obvious enough. I would say that the theological subtleties of some other defenders of religion while the reverse of crude are still as absurd as the crudities of the first group.

Then Professor Harries poses a good question: "But how is it that the majority of the world's great philosophers, composers, scholars, artists and poets have been believers, often of a very devout kind?" This is a very good question and I think that the major fault of the advocates of atheism is that they direct their energies to the easier task of showing the crudities and absurdities of common religion instead of addressing the harder question posed by Harries.

My answer in brief to the question –- the brief answer I give here can be no more than a rough sketch; all my writings can be seen as an attempt to give a fuller answer -– is that the religion of an Einstein, a Whitehead, a Schleiermacher, a Shelley (to throw in some names at random) has nothing to do with the religion of even the best of 'ordinary' Christians, Jews, or Muslims. Shelley’s poetry reveals a deep devotion to the all-pervading, all-encompassing spirit of Nature, yet he was expelled from Oxford for defending atheism. Whitehead defined religion as what one does with one’s solitude. Schleiermacher said: "Religion's essence is neither thinking nor acting, but intuition and feeling ... religion is the sensibility and taste for the infinite … to accept everything individual as a part of the whole and everything limited as a representation of the infinite is religion. But whatever would go beyond that and penetrate deeper into the nature and substance of the whole is no longer religion, and will, if it still wants to be regarded as such, inevitably sink back into empty mythology."

These are specimens of 'religion' with which no observing Jew, Christian, or Muslim can identify. Let us remember that many a profoundly 'religious' mystic was murdered by his co-religionists. I need only mention Giordano Bruno among Christians and Al-Hallaj among Muslims. Personally, I wish Schleiermacher, Whitehead, Einstein, had not spoken of religion or of God; that only makes for confusion, for what these words meant for them was utterly different from what they mean for the followers of established religions.

Professor Harries writes: "Religion is rooted in our capacity to recognize and appreciate value; in our search for truth; in our recognition that some things are good in themselves." I am all for that, except for my reservation as to the use of the word 'religion.' Harries goes on to say that "it is in this capacity to recognize, appreciate and respond to what is of worth that religion has its origin."

The roots in their natural soil and without external manipulation flower in Kant’s "ever new and increasing admiration and awe" that fill the mind when we reflect on "the starry heavens above and the moral law within." but no further. They certainly do not bear the fruit of "submission and surrender" which Hitchens rightly rejects and Harries tries to justify. But how does that support belief in a personal creator? The weakest link in Kant's majestic critical system is his jump from the Ideas (in Kant's sense) or ideals of reason to a justification of belief in God and the immortality of the soul.

Harries says: "If 'submission and surrender' have a place, it is only in the final insight that, if there is an ultimate goodness, it will by definition make a total difference to the way we view life." I believe in "an ultimate goodness," and this is a point where I part company with some of my atheist or anti-religion friends. (Incidentally, this is also what makes my position so unpopular, angering both the theists and the atheists equally.) But then my position differs from that of Professor Harries in two ways: (1) Mt idea of "an ultimate goodness" in no way leads to belief in a personal creator over and above and beyond Nature (which includes human beings and human minds). (2) My idea of "an ultimate goodness" is my idea, is a vision that lends intelligibility to the dumb appearances thrust by the world on my apprehension but that in no way justifies me or anyone else in making an objectively valid judgment of the world.

I also agree implicitly with Professor Harries's penultimate paragraph. I agree that secular ideologies can be as pernicious as religious ones. Materialism, consumerism, cut-throat competitiveness are such ideologies. A humanity where abundance exists side by side with poverty, a humanity where scientific and technological miracles rub shoulders with deprivation, disease, and starvation, is a very sick humanity. But the cure is not in the unreason of established religions; the cure of reason gone astray is in yet more reason.

Professor Harries is certainly right in maintaining that the real problem of humanity resides in human beings being "organized in groups of various kinds, still beset by … lack of self-knowledge, viciousness and moral weakness." He is right in saying that "all people of wisdom need to cooperate, whatever the springs of their moral outlook." But are the followers of established religions prepared for such cooperation? The politicizing of religion not only by fundamentalist Muslims but also by fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Jews is ominous.

Besides, supposing we could have a world where all the major religions, not only the monotheisms but also Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., agreed to a policy of peaceful co-existence, would it really be a good thing for humans to live under x different dogmatic belief-systems where x-1 systems are necessarily false and no one can decide which is the one that is the exception? That would be the final surrender to unreason.

Harries concludes that "Hitchens has written a book that is seriously harmful." I beg to disagree. I would say that Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett and others have written books that fall short of the mark. They do not do enough to free people from the bondage of dogmatism and superstition. Kant wrote a book entitled “Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone". What recent advocates of atheism failed to do was to address the need for "Spirituality Within the Bounds of Reason Alone."

D. R. Khashaba



To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

It's not quite “We are the world”

Posted by Atheist Dad

God Hates the World
A new music video from the Westboro Baptist Church. Have a barf bag handy. The best (worst) part is at the end.

Although pretty much everyone considers the Westboro Baptists to be a fringe group, there "gospel" is really no different from any Christian denomination's "gospel."

Some say God loves you. These guys say God hates you. They all say "Believe or Burn!"

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Robin Ince on Creationism

UK Comedian Robin Ince talks about Creationism and Intelligent Design.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Christian Apologists in Bed with Hitler - by FoulHeretic

A short, revealing study of a certain point in Christian apologetics.

An appeal to human decency, and a challenge to abandon faulty dogmas.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Lewis Black - The Devil's Handiwork

Lewis Black shares his views on science and creationism.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

If you want something done right...

By Stronger Now

This is a rant that I have been thinking about for a little while now.

If God wanted humans to truly understand His will, why did He use fallible humans to write His book? It doesn't make sense to me. The Bible clearly states that God knew how to write; He supposedly wrote the original ten commandments on stone.

  • Was it His own laziness that resulted in His homemade idiots writing it for Him?
  • If He is "all knowing" then wouldn't He have known that the guys He had doing His work would screw it up (did screw it up), which would cause people to doubt His message, which would result in millions ending up in His hell?
  • Are we so expendable to God that He can risk losing a few million souls, just to avoid writing and spreading His message Himself?

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

As for the Bible being infallible, rabbits do not chew their cud. Therefore, rabbits must be "clean" and not "unclean," even though the Bible says they are unclean. (Deuteronomy 14:7) Right? Even if rabbits did chew their cud, SO WHAT?! Why does that make them "unclean" or, in other words, bad?

If God actually intended to leave a clear message to the world, He could not have done a worse job of it.

"GOD BREATHED"... my ass.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Praying Mantids of Christianity

This short collection is not intended to be comprehensive, and unfortunately this particular breed is no endangered list. So, please feel free to add more examples in the comments section.

Televangelist Jim Bakker founded The PTL ("Praise The Lord") Club and preached on television with his wife, Tammy Faye. A sex scandal forced his resignation. Later, he was convicted of fraud and conspiring to commit fraud charges for crimes committed while leading PTL. He served about five years of his 18-year federal prison sentence before being released on parole.

Darlene Bishop is co-pastor of the Solid Rock Church in Ohio. She also hosts the inspirational TV program "Sisters," which she says is broadcast in 200 countries. In 2006, the grown children of her late brother sued Bishop, claiming she convinced him not to seek medical treatment for throat cancer. He died, and the suit alleged she, as executrix, mishandled his estate. Bishop has called the allegations "lies." She did admit in a deposition, however, that she had never been diagnosed by a doctor with breast cancer, despite her claims that God cured her of the disease.

Paul Crouch, left, is chairman and president of TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which broadcasts religious programming to an estimated 100 million people around the world. He is pictured here with television faith healer Benny Hinn. In 2004, published reports said that in 1998 TBN had paid a $425 thousand settlement to a male former employee to resolve a sexual harassment allegation against Crouch. The network called the accuser a "liar" and said it paid the money to avoid a lengthy lawsuit.

Richard Dortch was right at Jim Bakker's side throughout the heyday of The PTL Club. He often hosted its daily television program. Later, he pleaded guilty to charges related to fraud that occurred while Bakker ran the PTL Club ministry in the 1980s. Dortch now advises people how to avoid the behavior that got him into trouble. He also hosts a nightly TV program, "You And Me -- America's Prayer Meeting."

He was once proclaimed one of the most influential evangelicals in America. But in November 2006, after a former male prostitute alleged Pastor Ted Haggard had regularly engaged in sex with him, Haggard was removed from his position as pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also lost his leadership position in the powerful National Association of Evangelicals. At first Haggard denied the allegations but later admitted to "sexual immorality." He entered a three-month period of intense religious counseling, after which one of the pastors involved declared Haggard to be "completely heterosexual."

Billy James Hargis (1925-2004) is regarded as one of the original members of the Christian Right movement that emerged in the late 20th Century. He preached against communism, liberals and segregation, among other things, on his Christian Crusade's radio and TV programs. Hargis fell from the national spotlight in the early 1970s when he was accused of sexual impropriety with students at a college he had founded. He denied the allegations, but left the school and moved to southwest Missouri to continue his ministry, albeit to much smaller audiences.

Kent Hovind, founder of the Creation Science Evangelism Ministry, became well known for his advocacy on radio, television and the Internet of "Young Earth" creationism. It teaches, among other things, that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth simultaneously. In 2004, Hovind was interviewed by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen on his HBO "Da Ali G Show." Hovind was convicted of a number of federal tax offenses and was sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) was, arguably, America's first evangelist superstar. She was also the first evangelist superstar to get caught up in controversy. She traveled the country preaching the gospel before huge audiences, generating widespread newspaper coverage. She founded the "International Church of the Foursquare Gospel," which had public service as a main principle. She had a radio program in the late 1920s and '30s. In 1926, however, McPherson disappeared for several weeks, at the same time a man with whom she was rumored to be having an affair vanished. McPherson later claimed she had been kidnapped, although that could never be proven. Then, in 1944, she died of an accidental overdose of prescription barbiturates.

Arnold Murray, pastor of Shepherd's Chapel in Gravette, Ark., denies he is racist. But he has generated controversy for his view that Jews are children of Satan. He appears on a daily television program that he broadcasts via satellite. His detractors have widely distributed a videotape which purports to show Murray pulling a gun on someone who yelled "blasphemy!" during a sermon. The picture, however, goes dark before any gun is seen.

Televangelist Peter Popoff uses infomercials to sell his "Magic Spring Water," which he claims can cure physical and monetary ills. He was a wildly successful faith healer until 1987, when skeptic James Randi produced evidence suggesting Popoff was a fraud during an appearance on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson."

Randall Radic wasn't really a "televangelist" until after he was arrested and charged with selling his church in Ripon, Calif., along with a house the church owned, and then keeping the money. Then he was on TV quite a lot. Radic got a plea bargain and accompanying light sentence when he agreed to testify against a cellmate who confessed to murder. Radic later signed a book deal to write his life story.

Don Stewart uses infomercials to instruct people how to cope with their health and financial problems. His answer is "Prosperity Prayer Handkerchiefs." Stewart distributes them for free, but the accompanying instructions tell people to send money to Stewart to ensure the handkerchiefs work. For this, Stewart has become the subject of criticism from those who do not believe in the healing powers of his handkerchief.

Pentecostal preacher Jimmy Swaggart was a wildly popular televangelist in the 1970s and '80s, until he was photographed with a prostitute in 1988. His resulting "I Have Sinned..." sermon was quite powerful, but did not prevent his being defrocked by the Assemblies of God Church. The last time Swaggart made headlines was 2004, when he criticized same-sex marriage by saying, "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain. If one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died." Swaggart is the cousin of singers Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley.

Jim Whittington, who presently hosts "The World Deliverance Telecast," formerly headed an organization called Fountain of Life Ministries. He spent ten years in prison after being convicted of defrauding a woman, Valeria Lust, out of nearly $850 thousand while he appeared on television for Fountain of Life. At sentencing, the judge told Whittington: "You've picked the last flake of flesh from the carcass of the widow you defrauded."

Original article link
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Heart of the Beholder

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

The Atheist's Nightmare

Six proofs that God created everything.


This video finished second in the Chicago Bagel Authority 5-Minute Film Festival.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Questions Your Pastor Will Hate -- Part2

By Dennis Diehl

Thanks for letting me ask my questions Pastor. I know I'm just a kid but these are just a few things I have noticed in the Bible about the Birth Narratives of Jesus in Matthew and Luke...you know, the Christmas story.

Question. Pastor...What difference does it make for Matthew and Luke to show us Jesus family connections from Mary and Joseph back to King David and Adam, when God was his real Father? Aren't genealogies meaningless since Joseph was a stop father, and all coming before him would be step ancestors to Jesus. So Jesus can't be connected back to King David as the line breaks between Jesus and Joseph. Right?

Question. Pastor... If the Holy Spirit, which I think you said was a person in the Trinity, begot Mary, isn't the Holy Spirit really Jesus literal father?” Would this not then make God Jesus uncle of sorts, or Jesus his own Father, since they are three in one, coequal and co...oh you understand. This is a mystery isn't it?

Question. Father... Why do I have to call you Father, when Jesus said to call no man “Father” except his?

Question. Pastor... Matthew 1: 17 says that Jacob was Joseph's father, but Luke 3:23 says that Heli was Joseph's father. Was Joseph's father Jacob Heli Rubinstein or something?

Question. Pastor...Why does it always seem that women in the Bible who give birth to important men, like Elizabeth being John the Baptist's mom, are always barren and really old. (Luke 1:7). But then, women who give birth to gods are never barren but always pure virgin, and really young like her relative Mary.

Question. Pastor... Why in Luke 1:18-20 does the Angel make the old husband of Elizabeth unable to speak for not believing that he would have a son? Seems like a normal thing not to believe at his age. And yet, in Luke 1: 34 Mary tells the Angel she can't believe that she will have Jesus the King because she doesn't even have a husband. At least Zechariah had an old wife. Yet, the angel doesn't make her mute for not believing him. Do you think the Angel had a quota on how many people a day he could make blind and mute?

Question. Pastor... In the same story, in verse 41, old Elizabeth praises Mary for being the mother of her Lord. How did she find out that Mary was going to give birth to a god? Is that the kind of story you think the family passed on to her prior to Mary coming for a visit? And pastor, do you think it is strange that an old woman who is just now in life having her first son would instinctively praise a young virgin for being pregnant? Just a thought.

Question. Pastor... In that same account in Luke 1:46, “and Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden,'” sound more like something that Elizabeth would say since she was doing all the talking up to that point? And don't you think it amazing that this bursting into song of Mary is so much the same as the story of Hannah, an old barren woman in I Samuel 1, who gave birth to Samuel? And isn't it interesting that a razor was not to come on Samuel just like Elizabeth's baby John? And how about that part where Hanna can't speak either, just like Elizabeth's husband Zechariah? Oh and how about when Elizabeth said in verse 18, “Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes.” Wow, sounds a lot like what Mary just said about herself in Luke. Could it be that Luke is using the Hannah story to tell the Mary and Elizabeth story. And could it be that it was really Elizabeth, the old barren woman, still speaking in Luke and not Mary at all about her joy like the old barren Hannah, but someone attributed what Elizabeth was more like to say to Mary? Know what I'm sayin?

Questions. Pastor... See in Luke 1:56 where it says that “and Mary stayed with her about three months,” and then Elizabeth had John in vs. 57? Since the whole chapter is really about Elizabeth and Zechariah, doesn't it sound like that when it says “Mary stayed with HER” that the “her” is the one who just got done speaking what Mary is said to have said? You know, Elizabeth really and not Mary...really? Editors did stuff like that right?

Question. Pastor... Why do you think that no other Gospel or really anyone in the New Testament ever mentions this story again? Do you think it is here to be sure that everyone understood John was second to Jesus no matter what anyone else might think?

Question. Ok, these birth stories are great, but I have a lot of questions about them. Are you up for this? Great!

Question. Pastor... Since Matthew and Luke read just as well without the birth stories of Jesus, do you think they might have been added much later to the books? I mean really we don't go to the hospital to see a famous person born and the exciting special birth stories aren't usually written until after the baby grows up and becomes famous right? Like Yassir Arafat always saying he was born in Jerusalem, because that's the great place to be born, but in fact he was born in Cairo. Or like politicians who are born somewhere else, but need to be from a certain place to run for office. Just a thought.

Question. Pastor... Why doesn't Mark know anything about Jesus birth stories?

Question. Pastor... Why , in the Gospel of John , in chapters 7 and 8 is there this big argument of how Jesus is a born of fornication (8:41) and Jesus tells a story about a woman taken in adultery and forgiven (8:1) which lies right between a big argument over knowing that Jesus is from Galilee and not Bethlehem as the scripture says? (7:41) and Jesus exploding and telling them they are all sons of the devil. Wow, seems not everyone knew anything about what Matthew and Luke had to say about Jesus birth!

Question. Pastor... Why does Matthew say that Isaiah 7:14 predicts the Virgin birth of Jesus when the story of Isaiah has absolutely nothing to do with a virgin giving birth to a son that was really God? “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 'Behold a virgin shall be with child and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.'” ( Matthew 1:22-23). Isn't Isaiah talking about a baby born as a sign to Ahab, king of Israel, that some northern invasion back then would not be the end of them? And what's with that same story in Isaiah saying, that the boy baby would eat butter and honey and BEFORE he knew to refuse the evil and choose the good, the bad guy would be beaten? (Isaiah 7:15-16) Does this mean that Jesus did evil too before he was prophesied to do good? What parts of this are prophecy and what parts are just history that has nothing to do with Jesus? And no one ever called him Emmanuel. They called him Jesus. I can see where the Israelites might call him “God with us,” meaning “God was with us in the defeat of our enemy,” but I can't see it meant the baby of Isaiah was God in the flesh. Any comments?

Question. Pastor... In Matthew 1:1-4 it says that the Wisemen came asking about where Jesus was because they had seen his star in the East. First of all, if they came from Persia, which is East of Jerusalem, how do you see a literal star in the East and then follow it West where it turns south and stops over a house in Bethlehem? I mean if they saw his star in the East, why go West, why not East? Maybe it's just me.

Question. Pastor... In the same place it says Herod seems not to know anything about this Jesus or his star. Could he not see it and if he could, could he not follow it himself? Then it says Herod got together all the helpers on such topics and I wonder, could they not see it either?

Question. Pastor... In reading the story of this star, it also says that it reappeared to the Wise men to continue to show them the way. Was this a star that only they could see and could stop and go until the Wise men were reading to keep moving?

Question. Pastor...How does a moving star, stop over a specific house?

Question. Pastor...While we are at it, how come Matthew tells us Jesus was born in a house that Mary and Joseph seemed to already own in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:11). I thought they lived in Nazareth and came had to have Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem? You know, no room at the Inn and all. Well, at least that is what Luke 2 says where he doesn't mention the home in Bethlehem, just as Matthew doesn't mention the worldwide tax that brings Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to begin with from their home in Nazareth. So which is it...home in Bethlehem as Matthew says, or in Nazareth as Luke says and moving from manger to home won't cut it.

Question. Pastor...Matthew 1:12-16 says that an Angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt from Herod who was going to kill all the babies under two years old to get at Jesus. Wow, lots of questions here! Does this mean that in order for Jesus to die for us, the babies in Bethlehem had to die for Jesus?

Question. Pastor...Do you think Mary, being a typical mother left town in a hurry telling her friends, “I know something you don't know. I wish you and your babies a good Sabbath?” I don't think mothers really think that way.

Question. Pastor...Matthew 1:17-18 fulfills Rachel weeping for her children in Rama, but from what I can tell, again Matthew is making this up. That story in Jeremiah 31:15 has nothing to do with the women weeping for their dead babies. I believe the Jeremiah story took place during the trek into captivity as they passed through Rama, not Bethlehem. Kinda stretching the point isn't it?

Question. Pastor...After Herod dies, the family comes back from Egypt and Matthew says this fulfills Hosea 11:1. But I looked at that, and “Out of Egypt I have called my son,” is talking about the exodus story, not Jesus. Is it just me again misunderstanding? How comes Matthew gets to make things mean in the Old Testament what they never meant?

Question. Pastor...In Matthew 1:19-22 an Angel gives the all clear to go back home, to Bethlehem and the house, I assume. But then Joseph finds an even more evil bastard lives there so has another dream to head to Nazareth where it was evidently safer. Did the Angel screw up and send them into harms way and God had to give Joseph a dream to save them from the Angel not knowing what was going on in Judea? Don't they have briefings for Angels for stuff like this?

Question. Pastor...In Matthew 1:23 we see that Matthew says since they went to Nazareth, there is some place that says this fulfills “He shall be called a Nazarene.” But no one seems to know where the Bible says that. I know it means “branch” such as in Isaiah 11:1, but again, those are not stories or prophecies about Jesus. So isn't Matthew reaching again? Did Matthew think a Nazarite, was the same as a Nazarene maybe? You know, no razor, no haircuts, no wine. Kinda like Hippie Baptists. But then Jesus wasn't that way either. Oh well. Any thoughts?

Question. Pastor...How come only Matthew mentions Wisemen, wandering stars, killing the babies and fleeing to Egypt when Luke, in his account, mentions none of this. In fact, Luke just says that after eight days Jesus was calmly, well i don't know about calmly, circumcised and then Mary did the 40 days of purification after the birth while meeting Simeon and Anna who blessed Jesus in the Temple, and then calmly walked back home to Nazareth. No run for your life from Herod story here, and right where you 'd expect it. Did Luke never hear about Matthew's “thus it was fulfilleds,” and simply have the family go back home to Nazareth? Can't both be true, right?

Question. Pastor...As long as I am at it, can you tell me why the Apostle Paul only knows that Jesus was born of a woman in Galatians 4:4. Nothing special really. Did Paul not know that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had all these wonderful birth adventures? Maybe he didn't care.

Question. Pastor...I guess what I am asking here is how come history knows of no tax and certainly no tax where all had to leave home and move around the empire to be taxed in that way for Luke to get Mary and Joseph down to Bethlehem? I won't even ask if you knew Cyrenius, depending on how you spell it, was not Governor of Syria until ten years later than the events of Herod in Matthew. Seems like Luke may have not gotten the history right here.

Question. Pastor...Do you think it was responsible and necessary for Joseph, who I suppose had the property in Bethlehem, hey the house!, to take a very pregnant Mary on a hundred mile donkey ride through the wilderness of Judea? Was that necessary. And if he had a house there, why did they not live there to begin with. Well actually Matthew said they did, but in Luke it says no. I'm confused.

Question. Pastor...Why would all the Angels and Heavenly hosts go out and sing this “glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, goodwill to men,” to a few shepherds in the field. How about a bigger audience, like Jerusalem or at least the whole town of Bethlehem?

Question. Pastor...How come Luke says Mary kept all these wonderful things and pondered them in her heart, and yet in Mark, she and Jesus brothers come down to Jerusalem to take Jesus home as an adult because they thought he was insane? (Mark 3:21). Did Mary forget all the things that the Angels had said and all the miracles of Matthew and Luke at Jesus birth? And why was this one lone account in Mark edited out of Matthew and Luke. Was it embarrassing? It seems Mary knew Jesus was special at least to age 12 (Luke 2:51) when he wandered and was found debating in the temple. Hey, and what's with that? It even says his parents “sought him sorrowing,” so they were pretty afraid for him. Did Jesus not think to honor his parents with telling them he was at the temple and not to worry? Or did he just think they'd say “no you can't go,” and he'd have to not obey them and break another commandment? END PART TWO

Questions Your Pastor Will Hate -- Part 1

Authors Bio:

Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years, who outgrew the Literalism of Fundamentalism. He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive religion or pastors.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Jesus Got It Wrong

By R. S. Martin

What does the Bible really mean? Jesus got it wrong, too. It is an open question whether Jesus ever existed. This goes for other biblical figures, too. For this article, I will work with the premise that Jesus and the other biblical figures existed.

Is there a chance that today’s Christians know what the Bible actually means? Not one. Why? First of all, even Jesus got it wrong. How do I know? In Jesus’ time, there were many different ways on how to understand Jewish Scripture. Some said you had to take it literally. Some said you had to take it spiritually. Some said both those ways were wrong.

Also, they did not agree which was the right "Bible." Which was most important: the law? the prophets? the "writings?" Which writings were what God meant: psalms? proverbs? Judith? Sirach? other?

Into this confusion Jesus was born. With this confused background, the early Christians made up their own ways or methods on how to understand what Jesus said. None of those methods are used today by any Christians anywhere. The literalists did not take it literally like Christians do today; today’s Christians invented their own literalist methods.

This article is based on the book "Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church," by Karlfried Froelich, published in Philadelphia by Fortress Press, 1984. Not until several centuries after Jesus supposedly lived did the Christians come up with a method resembling what is used today. And today’s Christians think they know what God wanted?

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Human Life - Evolution To Self-Evolution

The story of humankind's evolution and possible future evolution.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Evolution Primer

1: Learn the difference between the scientific and everyday use of key vocabulary words.

2: Discover how Darwin's curiosity, his passion for natural history, his voyage on the Beagle, and his use of the scientific process led to the publication of his groundbreaking book.

3: See how different lines of evidence contribute to our picture of evolution. Learn about the fossil evidence for whales' land-dwelling ancestors.



4: Travel to Ecuador to see how the process of natural selection operates in populations of rain forest hummingbirds.


5: Examine the fossil and molecular evidence that supports the evolution of humans from earlier primate ancestors.

6: Learn how tuberculosis is transmitted and why the evolution of multi-drug resistant strains of TB in Russia affects us all. (more)

7: Consider different points of view, as scientists, religious leaders, and college students share their opinions about evolution, science, and religious faith.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Religion vs. Science, parts 1 and 2

This is a short clip from Stephen Hawking's Universe. It shows the same thing that we see happening today with fundamentalist and their denial of Evolution and other scientific discoveries. This was a period in time when the Catholic Church was as fundamentalist as some of todays Christian denominations. They learned their lesson and accepted Evolution about 40 years ago. Isn't it about time you did the same?

Bible passages that relate to Geocentrism:

Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and Chronicles 16:30 state that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." Psalm 104:5 says, "[the LORD] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises."

Bible passaged that relate to Human Evolution:

Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image"
Genesis 2:7 "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .


Sent in by Jim E

"The Truth Shall Set You Free" ... as long as the truth conforms to the principles adhered to at Conservapedia.com .

That's right, the right-wing believes that Wikipedia is riddled with non-truth. What Wikipedia strives for–a doggedly open debate about facts–results in what conservatives feel is a liberal bias. How very interesting. And so, Conservapedia was born.

The Los Angeles Times covered an article in today’s paper about this.

It fascinates me for several reasons.

First, this new wiki is frought with outright lies mixed with a good deal of status quo truth. This will cause it to appear as a viable resource to some, and result in the spread of misinformation. This is exactly the type of thing people fear from the original Wikipedia, but which hasn’t manifested itself to any great extent. Until now.

Second, it appears as if the Religious Right (truly the term "conservatives" would be too broadly applied here) have so thoroughly gone off the deep end that they require a parallell set of resource tools to corroborate their story. I can see it now: radical right-wing Senators will be quoting Conservapedia as a credible source on the floor of Congress. The resulting uproar would appear as hair-splitting.

Third, this causes me grave concern. It is appearing more and more as if America has two distinct cultural groups. I may sound like an alarmist here, but the last time the country was so polarized that the two groups could not agree on how words are to be defined, the outcome was not pretty. A nation needs a single culture and zeitgeist to be unified. It doesn’t appear that we currently have that.

Fourth, I encourage everyone to contribute facts to Conservapedia, as in their case, the Truth truly Shall Set Them Free.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

How to choose a god in 5 easy steps

By Bob A

Choosing a god is a very important and difficult task as there are so many to choose from. Picking the wrong god could result in eternal damnation and fire. Can you take that chance? I thought not... Let's get started...

1. Assemble a complete list of all the gods ever worshipped. Many of these are well documented, so the task shouldn't be too difficult. Google GOD. I'd estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 gods, not counting all those minor ones. This should be easily achieved in a few days or weeks. If any of those pesky JW's knock on the door, just ignore them. Ask the boss for some time off , if necessary, and tell him what you're doing. I'm sure he/she will understand.

2: List all the attributes associated with these gods. Some are maniacal punishing thugs, gods of hate, fire and all manor of brutality and damnation, eliminate these types, we'll just stick with loving and rewarding gods. This may be somewhat more difficult than step one, but remember, the reward will be worth it. Don't be influenced by the god your parents chose, they could be wrong, too. Lets keep it fair and honest. It may be necessary to hire a few unemployed scribes to help for a few months, but what the hell, er heck.

3. Having once assembled all the good gods, the list may still be unmanageably long, so eliminate those whose names you cannot pronounce or spellings that seem weird and unreasonable. A real god should be easy to pronounce. I'm suspicious of gods whose heads and bodies are from differing species too, but who knows? This should bring the list to a few hundred or perhaps a thousand.

4. To be fair, put the list in alphabetical order.(This will put Athena towards the top, she's my favorite, anyway).

5. Pray to the first god for 10 minutes, If he/she's listening this should be enough time and then wait for 24 hours. If nothing good happens, move on to the next god and repeat the process. In a year or two, you should have narrowed the field to a mere handful at which time you again repeat the process keeping only those deities who seemed to show promise. The real god should show repeatability. Scratch all the others. By now you should have determined which god to keep and which to eliminate. I'm confident the real god will appreciate all your effort and determination, at least, he should. Having successfully determined the real god, ask him for the winning lotto numbers just to make life a little easier.

If none of this seems to work, you can give up and become a heathen atheist, at least forgoing all that guilt and fear and with the 10% tithing money you save, you can buy a good book or one of those new electronic gadgets. I assume all the gods have the same 10% service charge..?

By the way, if you think this seems silly, perhaps you'd do well to step back and review your god. Can any god look less silly than any other god? I think not.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Questions Your Pastor Will Hate

By Dennis Diehl

When I was kid, I loved to ask my minister questions about things that, to my young mind, made no sense when I read them in the Bible or more likely heard them in Sunday school. His answers were always rather bland and not a little aloof since, after all, he was the pastor and I was just a kid.

I remember asking about how humans and dinosaurs could coexist. After all, they had to be a part of the creation story, even though not mentioned specifically. Or why would dinosaurs be taken on the ark, only to go extinct such a short time after? And how do you cage a T-Rex or fit a Brontosaurus on such a boat, much less a pair of all sorts?

I got a lot of looks but very few answers. As the years went by, I concluded that none of it was either possible or even addressed in the Bible. I realized humans and dinosaurs had nothing in common (unless you live in the SE USA) and the pastor was either ignorant, deliberately deceptive or hung up somewhere in between himself, not knowing what to say to a kid. I honestly think I would have appreciated knowing what I suspect he knew, that being the story of Noah was fiction and I didn't have to worry about dinosaurs or polar bears for tha matter on the ark. It never happened.

I remember asking why the Bible, a book which had to know better since it was written by God himself, said Joshua raised his hands and the "sun stopped for the space of about a day," when clearly it would be the earth that stopped rotating? I asked him how oceans would not slop out of their basins in such a scenario and drown the whole world? I asked him if humans would not be cast into space by such a sudden stop of the entire planet? I even asked if this really happened, why did no one else on the whole planet notice it, or write about it? I got that dumb look again.

I asked what about all those in history and even now who have never heard of Jesus. He said they all are saved in their ignorance, though another minister I asked said they all go to hell of some sort. So depending on who you ask, the ignorant either get an automatic free pass for their trouble or go to hell, having no awareness of what they did to deserve that! Hmmmm. Something ain't right here!

I did respond by asking him why then we should send missionaries and put the ignorant at risk, when if we just leave them alone, they can make it in their ignorance of never having heard the only name under heaven by which a man can be saved. I got the look again.

I went to a Christian college to study these things. Boy if you think I had questions as a kid!

"Why did God not like Cain's vegetable sacrifice but loved Abel's cooked meat?" Answer...Vegetarians are weak Christians.

"Who was Cain afraid would kill him when God put him out of the Garden for killing Abel? There were mom, dad, bro and himself on the whole planet at the time." Answer...He must have known his sisters were going to have kids with dad, no not that. He was speculating. Cain wasn't thinking very clearly that day.

"Why would God stop the whole earth for a day so Israelites could finish a genocide against the enemy?" I mean, I can see stopping it so there is more time to hug, or feed the hungry, or plant the crops, but more time to kill? Dumb story. Answer...God hates sin and had to kill the bastards, he just needed more time than he planned on."

"How come the horses in the Exodus die twice in the Ten Plagues and still survive for Pharoah to mount a final attack against the Israelites, and then die again." Answer...Where do you get this stuff?

"Why, no matter what, is it always the human's fault and God never gets any blame for not making good on his promises?" Answer...It's a mystery. Have faith. God's ways are not your ways.

"Why does the Apostle Paul, who writes most of the New Testament, NEVER quote Jesus, tell a story of his life or death, discuss a miracle or teaching?" Answer...Where do you get this stuff?

"Why does neither Mark nor John know anything about Jesus birth, while Matthew and Luke do but tell contradictory stories?" Answer...Because the Gospels are like four people who see a car wreck...

"Why does Paul only say Jesus was born of a woman like everyone else?" Answer...Paul was concerned about the risen Jesus, not the earthly one. He was too busy to check up on the details.

"Did Paul ever spend five minutes with the real human Jesus?" Answer..well no, but Paul's Jesus is the risen Jesus, it doesn't matter.

"Isn't it strange the man who writes most of the New Testament and tells us all how to live, think and believe about Jesus, never met him, while the Twelve who did, vanish into thin air and write nothing/" Answer...You ain't from around these parts are you boy.

"How come Jesus never wrote anything himself while alive, but then writes perfect Greek after he is dead in the form of the Book of Revelation?" Answer....He finished his PHD in Heaven.

"If Herod killed all the little children under two to get at Jesus, who escaped, can we not say the little children had to die for Jesus before he died for them?" Answer...No we can't, sheesh.

"How come Herod couldn't follow the Star of Bethlehem himself to find Jesus, but sent others to report back when they found him?" Answer...He was busy.

"How could Mary leave town after being warned of Herod's intentions and never tell the women in the town, their kids were about to be butchered?" Answer...she was under oath not to tell the Angel story.

"Do you think Mary thought, 'I know something you don't know,' as she left town?" Answer...you're sick.

"How could Jesus family flee to Egypt sometime during the first two years in one story but go home to Nazareth quietly after 40 days in the other?" Answer...It's a miracle.

"How come in Mark 3 Mary and his brothers came to get Jesus and take him home because they thought he was "mad" which I assume means insane. Did Mary forget who he was and how he got here?" Answer...shut up.

"How come Matthew uses the Old Testament to weave a story of Jesus, where every quote he uses has absolutely nothing to do with the point he is making about Jesus birth?" Answer...While we might flunk you for such methods, we give Matthew an A, because, well, he's Matthew. Bible guys get to do and say things you're not allowed to.

"If Jesus was asked 'who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?', would that not imply the man had sinned before his birth, perhaps in a previous life, if his blindness at birth was some kind of punishment? I mean, the blindness was from birth, so the sin had to be before that." Answer...Ummm.., no. Whatever the answer, it's definitely not that one.

"So is it just me, or are these good questions to ask about the text and theology of the Bible?" Answer...It's just you. While we might be marginally informed ourselves, we are very piously convicted of our answers. The wisdom of man, and this would be you in this case, is foolishness with God. You're fired and have a nice day.

And so it goes. If you want to make a pastor, elder or deacon turn white with fear or red with anger, just ask a Bible question based on the actual text or what today we would simple know as common sense. Depending on his denomination, education, candor and personal spiritual confidence, he will react accordingly. Most pastors I know are sincere, but ill informed or duplistic and well informed, not willing to risk all for what they clearly also see is a problem with the "inerrant" text of the Bible. Kinda sad actually, but when it comes to matters of the spirit, it is important to keep asking those questions about a book that purports to have the key to everything and the only right way for a human to think. It's important to ask questions of all such books and ideas. Let's face it, take away the zealots and fundamentalists from Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and the planet might actually find some peace. Killing the messenger for bringing the message some don't want to hear, is however, still the preferred way to handle such things all too often.

Dennis is a former Pastor of 26 years and still has lots of questions left :)

Authors Bio:

Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years, who outgrew the literalism of Fundamentalism. He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive religion or pastors.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Paradoxic Christian ideas about free will

By Dave, the WM

Though by no means the only understanding of soteriological free will, the overwhelmingly popular view expressed by Christians visiting this site is that all humans are free to choose or reject God's offer of salvation. If people freely and sincerely choose God's generous offer to save them, then HE will. If people freely reject God's loving gesture, then they will suffer everlasting horror.

On the flip side of this interesting "truth" is the belief that once a person accepts God's offer of unconditional love and acceptance, there is no way the person can ever change his or her mind about it. In other words, once a "True Christian™," always a "True Christian™." This is expressed in the frequently repeated mantra, "There is no such thing as an ex-Christian."

In a nutshell, what these Christians believe is that people have free will before salvation and are robbed of free will after acquiring salvation. Salvation is a free choice, but once chosen, it can never be unchosen. If these Christians are correct, most of us here have absolutely nothing to worry about. If our salvation experience was sincere, if we followed the correct formula, if our lives were centered on Jesus, if we demonstrated the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, then we were genuinely saved. If we have permitted doubts and discouragements to overwhelm our faith, if we have elevated reason above emotion, then although we proclaim from the housetops our current apostasy, it matters not one bit. We are saddled with salvation, bereft of free will, and destined to an eternity of blissful fellowship with the saints of old in God's magnificent ever after.

Free will is heralded by these particular Christians as inviolate by even God. "God will not violate your free will." "God doesn't want robots, so HE has given everyone free will, and he will not overrule your free will." These and similar statements choke this site and message boards all over the Internet. We've all heard some variation of this concept hundreds, or perhaps thousands of times.

But how did Christians come by these ideas about free will in regards to salvation?

Pelagius was a contemporary of St. Augustine in the late Fourth Century. Pelagius held that people were free moral agents and therefore possessed the ability to choose to do good or evil. Augustine, however, maintained that people were morally corrupt from original sin and incapable of doing any moral good. Since choosing God's salvation is by far the highest and best good, Augustine, vehemently denounced Pelagian teachings, maintained that Baptism was necessary for salvation, that infants who die without baptism go to hell. Pelagius preached what most Christians today believe: people are free to choose or reject salvation. Augustine eventually succeeded in having all traces of Pelagius and his teachings expunged from Christian thought. Those who dared to adopt Pelagian doctrine were dubbed heretics and persecuted out of existence.

Most Christians are completely ignorant of this tidbit from Christian history. Most Christians have no idea that it was around this same time period that a majority vote decided which writings would constitute scripture, that the doctrine of the Trinity was made a mandatory belief, that the dual human/divine nature of Jesus further evolved, and a host of other ideas were grafted into the list of required foundational Christian tenets. In fact, those who denied the concept of the Trinity were persecuted as viciously as those who promoted free will. But that's another subject.

Flash forward 1,000 years

By now, the Catholic Church had softened it's stance on free will, swinging quite close to Pelagian thinking. Original sin was still a cardinal doctrine, but all but a few Augustinian Catholics now believed people could freely choose salvation. They also believed one could freely loose salvation as well. In this they were at least consistent. If salvation depends on human choice, then human choice is certainly required to maintain salvation, right?

The Protestant Reformation rose up in stark opposition to the perceived apostasy of established church. One of the basic and most foundational teachings of all the early reformers was that human beings are hopelessly dead in sin, and the dead cannot choose salvation. Those who become Christians are "Elect before the foundation of the world." In short, all the reformers believed people could neither choose to be saved, nor could they choose to be unsaved. All of salvation was completely dependent on the grace of God. Those whom God chose to salvation were regenerated, after which they would respond to that regeneration by repenting of sin, confessing faith in Christ, and living a Christian life.

Catholics by now had abandoned their roots, believing that salvation depends on the person. Salvation was viewed as a cooperative effort between man and God. Man moves toward God and God moves toward man. The reformers rejected this notion. Salvation was by grace alone, they shouted. There is nothing a person could do to earn or acquire salvation, they insisted. If God didn't move on a person and unconditionally regenerate the person, there would be no way for that person to "choose God" and be saved.

Reformation doctrine coalesced into the Five Points of Calvinism:
  • Total depravity (or total inability): As a consequence of the fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. According to the view, people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.)
  • Unconditional election: God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy.
  • Limited atonement (or particular redemption or definite atonement): The death of Christ actually takes away the penalty of sins of those on whom God has chosen to have mercy. It is "limited" to taking away the sins of the elect, not of all humanity, and it is "definite" and "particular" because atonement is certain for those particular persons.
  • Irresistible grace (or efficacious grace): The saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith in Christ.
  • Perseverance of the saints (or preservation of the saints): Any person who has once been truly saved from damnation must necessarily persevere and cannot later be condemned. The word saints is used in the sense in which it is used in the Bible to refer to all who are set apart by God, not in the technical sense of one who is exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven.
—From Wikipedia

In short, the Reformers were preaching that there is no free will in regards to salvation.

Jacobus Arminius, born toward the end of Calvin's life, saw things differently. He held to these beliefs:
  • Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
  • Salvation is possible by grace alone
  • Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to salvation
  • God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
  • Jesus' atonement was for all people
  • God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
  • Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith
— From Wikipedia

Arminian doctrine was considered by Protestant Christianity as a return to the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church. Those who supported Arminian thought were persecuted mercilessly, and for the most part, driven to extinction. Calvin had Michael Servetus burned at the stake for disagreeing with Calvinistic doctrine.

Most Evangelical Christians today are Arminian believers, though they probably don't know it. The only point of contention most would have would be with the "Salvation can be lost" idea. Methodists and nearly all Pentecostal denominations are fully Arminian in doctrine and belief. They teach people can freely choose to lose salvation after being saved. Those from a more Baptist heritage are Arminian except for the losing the salvation idea. Only here do they cling to old John Calvin's idea of perseverance of the saints, now watered down to "Once saved, always saved."

Verses supporting and contradicting all of these ideas can be gleaned out of the Bible. And some Christians today are still arguing regarding the "free will question." There is no real agreement on this topic, just a general ignorance and malaise in the majority of the Christian population. Most believers just blindly accept what they hear from the pulpit, and if and when they do read the Bible, the ideas in their book are filtered through what they've been repeatedly taught. Some see free will. Others see no free will.

But those who see free will before salvation and no free will after salvation are the most interesting of all, to me. And what most Christians don't realize is that nearly no Christians before the mid 1800s believed this way. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield and Charles Spurgeon were full Five Point Calvinists. John Wesley was a full Arminian believer. Not until Dwight Moody arbitrarily synchronized the two ideas did Christians believe what nearly all Evangelicals now believe about being able to freely choose salvation, and yet losing free will once salvation is granted.

When I began to comprehend the confused complexity of the history behind the development of my "beliefs," and how I had been programed to "see" certain beliefs supported in highlighted select Bible verses, and trained to bypass other conflicting verses, that's when I realized something about free will: I do have free will when it comes to accepting or rejecting screwy religious notions about reality. And, I soon found out that there is such a thing as an ex-Christian.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Equating atheism with morality

By Butch

It seems many theists are certain that because they claim their own morality comes from their faith alone, then those without faith must inevitably be immoral. The facts, however, show faith is not required for humans to lead moral lives, and sometimes hinder it entirely.

If you examine Americans for the "fruit" of their morality, what you see is striking. As an example, Christians make up about 75 percent of the overall U.S. population and, as expected, about 75 percent of the prison population. Atheists make up between 5 - 12 percent of the population, but only 0.2 percent of the prison population.

If the measure of morality is based on so-called "traditional family values," the facts are equally damning to those trying to promulgate the falsehood that atheism necessarily equals immorality. For instance, 25 percent of Americans have been divorced, but for "born again Christians" it is 27 percent, making it higher than the overall U.S. population. Atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all groups at 21 percent.

The answer to the question, "Where do atheists get their moral code?" is the same place believers get their own: From our own innate consciences. We increase our own fitness, and thereby our offspring's, by creating stable relationships and civil societies. These things are a product of empathy, not faith. How else can one explain the commonality of moral values across almost all societies regardless of religion?

If atheism led to a less moral lifestyle, then surely there would be some evidence of it in our country with some 30 million atheists. Or perhaps in the least religious nations in the world, which happen to have the lowest crime rates and happiest citizens.

One of the verses in the Bible that holds real wisdom is Mathew 7:16. If you examine the fruits of atheists' lives you find them to be exemplary. It is a sad indictment of the person who claims the only reason to lead a moral life is belief in God.

How much more courageous is the atheist who does so without the bribe of heaven or threat of hell? Because we don't spend our too brief lives in preparation for eternal reward, because we don't get a second chance or an appeal to an almighty arbiter, we must strive to do everything we can while we are here to make the world a better place today. In other words, to live as generously moral a life as we can.

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .

Pageviews this week: