Apparently I am an Atheist…?

Posted: October 14, 2012 in Arguments, Logic Related
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

While watching a public debate between some theists and atheists, one of the atheists turned to the crowd and said, “Raise your hand if you’re an atheist.” After some hands went up he responded with, “Well, all your hands should be up because we’re all atheists. We don’t believe in any of the Greek mythology gods and demigods right? So we’re all atheists.” Wow, this whole time I was an atheist and I didn’t even know it!

Well, not exactly. The argument he makes is hardly airtight, considering it is guilty of two logical fallacies. The first fallacy is that of equivocation. The fallacy of equivocation is when the arguer uses a term in two or more different senses, which logically must be the same every time for an argument to work. The word in question is atheist. Atheism is defined as a rejection, denial or disbelief in deities, that there are no supreme beings. When the atheist first asks the crowd to raise their hands if they’re an atheist, the crowd responds based off the true definition of atheism. We have to assume this is expected by the atheist to prove his point. He then redefines atheism to mean rejection of any deities. Changing the definition from an absolute rejection of all, to a partial rejection of any, to prove we’re all atheists. His argument uses atheism in two different senses, hence the fallacy of equivocation. Ultimately, his later definition of atheism is incorrect. As said before, atheism is a denial of all supernatural beings. You can’t believe in one god, rejecting any other gods, and be considered an atheist. To believe in one deity at all renders you a deist, or non-atheist. The argument the atheist is making is really one between polytheism and monotheism, not deism and atheism.

The second fallacy raised here is one that always follows atheist’s attempts to compare Greek mythology to Christianity. That fallacy is weak analogy or false analogy; comparing two things that are not comparable. A typical argument made is that the Greek gods are obviously myth, so why do we believe in Christianity? How is Christianity any different? The fallacy is that the only thing Christianity and Greek mythology have in common is the supernatural, whereas every other detail is completely different. In other words, one cannot compare a polytheistic religion in which events and characters can’t be confirmed as historical that no longer has a following, to a monotheistic religion in which events and characters can be historically confirmed and has the largest following in the world. And that of course is a very broad description of both. The more one goes into detail regarding the two religions the more separate they become. At the end of the day, it is perfectly rational to analyze the two and determine that one is rational and the other not, and therefore, believe in one and not the other. Such, does not make one an atheist.

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Comments
  1. atheistslut says:

    The Greeks didn’t believe their gods were a myth. They believed they were real and used stories to explain the natural mysteries around them. Primitive? Yes. But completely in earnest. What that person was probably trying to say is we are all atheists to these gods who were formerly worshipped in sincerity (not just the Greek variety), but he (or she) just believes in one less god than you. Hence atheism. That is all it means after all; a lack of belief.

    • matthew2262 says:

      Thank you for your comment atheistslut. I agree, the Greeks didn’t believe their gods were a myth. I also agree in the statement that atheists do just disbelieve in one less god than a Christian. However, I disagree that that is an acceptable definition of atheism. Atheism being a rejection or lack of belief of all deities or supreme beings. Moving from polytheism to monotheism cannot be considered any form of atheism because both polytheism and monotheism believe in deities of one form or another, a belief in the supernatural. Whether it is one or hundred, there is still a belief in a supreme being of some sort, and thus it is not any form atheism.

      Another point to make is one of motivation. The reason atheists do not believe in all gods is not the same reason Christians do not believe in Greek mythology. So, I don’t believe it would be correct to say that we’re all atheists to Greek mythology since Christians believe in the supernatural, and thus must have another reason for not believing in Greek mythology separate from atheism which is in opposition to the supernatural. By definition, isn’t atheism is an absolute rejection of ALL supreme beings? To use it in a sense to reject some but not all, or a lack of believe in any but not all, would be a redefinition of atheism correct?

      Again, I thank you for your comment. Take care 🙂

  2. Noel says:

    Mathew2262, you are right. Atheists would reject any supernatural being. Christians believe in one God, therefore we are Theists, not Atheists.

  3. I think you’re dancing around his central point to without actually addressing it, by deconstructing the letter, rather than the spirit of his line that “we are all atheists.” You don’t want to be called an atheist? Okay, I won’t do that.

    However, I think you and I can both agree that the stories of the Greek gods are false. They are improbable, baseless and quaint. You offer a difference that Christianity offers stories that are verifiable, at least in that some of the people in the existed. I’ll give you that as well.

    What about Islam? We know Muhammed existed. Many of the people in the Christian stories are also in the Islamic stories, including Jesus. I’m guessing that since you identify as a Christian, you don’t believe in the God of Islam. Since many of the arguments you give for Christianity are also valid for Islam, that doesn’t seem like a basis for belief there either. The fact that you haven’t converted to Islam would indicate this argument won’t work for you. You have chosen Christianity.

    It comes down to this. The reasons you have to reject any other gods, ancient or modern, are not all that different than the arguments we apply to reject Christianity. That is the spirit that I think you did not address.

    And while it os correct to say that some atheists reject any idea of a supernatural deity, there are others of us that simply say the evidence that has been presented for one is not credible. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • matthew2262 says:

      Thank you for your comment Stan. It is not that I don’t like being called an atheist for the sake of being called an atheist. I don’t like being called an atheist because the only grounds to do so involve a redefining of what atheism is. Since I followed the actual definition of atheism directly, I don’t believe I’ve danced around the point at all.

      Additionally, my contrast of Christianity to Greek mythology was, as I said, very broad. There is much more to contrast the two than just verifiable places and people, if one wishes to go into further detail. Regarding Islam, my rejection of that faith is simply grounded in history. That is that Mohammed lived in the 6th and 7th centuries, if my memory serves me correct. This is of course hundreds of years after the contents of the Holy Bible were well established and circulated. It is therefore easy to establish that Mohammed borrowed and duplicated much of the Bible’s detailed contents into the Quran. Therefore, why would I trust in a prophet that borrows older text and contradicts the older text (that being that the New Testament ends with no need for further prophecy, prophecy which denies/downplays the significance of Jesus). Thus, the Quran is a modified copy of a parent text, which to me proves that the parent text has higher authority, which is Judeo-Christian.

      Arguments to defend the existence of a single God can of course transcend both Christianity and Islam, however there is a completely different set of arguments to determine which of these religions is more viable. Since the prior arguments I raised in this article and comment chain were focused on the differences of atheism, polytheism and monotheism (which Islam and Christianity both fall under) it would be unfair for you to say that my arguments don’t support my choosing of Christianity of Islam. In context, it is only until this comment in particular that I have raised an argument to distinguish between Islam and Christianity.

      I agree with you that there are many similar reasons why Christians may reject another religion that atheists may share. However, since atheists do not believe in supreme beings and theists do, theists must have alternative reasons outside of deity rejection, which the fundamental tenant of atheism. With that, the spirit of the atheist’s argument could have been better communicated than resorting to logical fallacies and a redefining of what atheism is.

      Regarding your statement that some atheists reject the idea of a supernatural deity, but others (like yourself) are holding out for credible evidence; I don’t see how that changes your stance on atheism. Since you’re waiting for credible evidence, doesn’t that mean that until proper evidence emerges you in fact reject the idea of a supernatural deity? Perhaps you could better explain that to me because, to me, the motivation for why someone rejects God doesn’t change the fact that they reject God and are subsequently an atheist.

      I appreciate your polite and respectful comment Stan. I’m also pleased to hear you’re open minded enough to accept opposing evidences and possibly change your mind if such happens. It is my hope and prayer that this possibility eventually becomes reality. Thank you for your comment. Take care.

      • Many of the arguments you attribute to Islam also apply to Christianity. Virgin birth, visited at birth by wise men, celestial events at birth like the star over Bethlehem, miracles including water into wine, healing the sick, casting out demons, were betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, cruicified, resurrected after 3 days and later ascending to Heaven to act as a judge for people’s souls are all found in earlier religions, most notably Dionysis, Mithras and Osiris. We know the four Gospels were all written decades after Christ’s death. There is some dispute as to which was written first, but general agreement that whichever gospels came later drew on the first. It becomes easy to make the case that the author of the first gospel drew elements from other religions found in the region to bolster the idea that Jesus was divine.

        I’ll even grant you that the person we call Jesus probably existed as a relatively famous teacher/philosopher. I think the question lands as to whether the Biblical accounts are to be trusted in any way. Given the trouble we have ascertaining what happens in modern events from eyewitness accounts, I can only imagine the way in which the stories of Jesus’ life drifted from the truth of actual events to become what his followers wanted them to be. There simply was no stenographer at the sermon on the mount. In my own understanding of the Gospels, I tend to think Jesus would be horrified at what they became and what they have been used to justify.

        Ah, but the authors of the Bible were divinely guided you say. If that is the case, why did so much editing occur in the Old Testament? Bible scholars have done careful analysis and attribute the early books to just five authors spread over time, and they’ve also identified places where the later writers went back to the early books and inserted text that was not there before. They can tell because of changes in language and dialect, and they can pretty much tell you verse by verse which author wrote what. And the editing was extensive. No, the divinely guided argument must come down to faith. The book claims it and you must choose to believe the book, or not. In my reading the choice is easy: the book just isn’t credible.

        In the end, I see two completely separate questions. There is the question of God’s existence, and the question of Biblical accuracy. If you believe the Bible, you almost certainly believe in God’s existence (unless you are Thomas Jefferson). Buf if you disbelieve the Bible as I do, that doesn’t automatically make any statement as to the existence of God. In the end, I think that the question of God’s existence is irrelevant. To me, if God was interested in whether we believed and worshipped him, he would have given some real clue as to what to think about him, and he would continue to do so over time. You wouldn’t have hundreds or thousands of religions, you would have one clear choice. It would be unambiguous and not open to interpretation.

        I also find it unlikely that God would create a system so prone to failure. If we start with the proposition that either Islam or Christianity are correct, then by default vast numbers of people will be barred from the promised paradise. That seems like an inestimable waste of something that would be as precious as an immortal soul. Which is more likely, that God simply doesn’t care that the majority of souls will be lost, or that one’s religious beliefs simply don’t matter? That perhaps if the soul exists, it benefits from experiences gained whether or not the person is religious.

  4. matthew2262 says:

    Hello again Stan Thank you for your comment. After reading it here are my thoughts: The comparison of Christianity to other pagan religions to try and somehow prove Christianity ripped them off, is a poor argument, and at that, not comparable to Islam’s borrowing from Christianity. The reasons are numerous: First, all the events you described as being “found” in other religions is an incredible stretch of the actual histories of Dionysis, Mithras, and Osiris, which is why the vast majority of highly educated scholars and historians don’t prescribe to this claim. For example; Osiris wasn’t crucified and later resurrected 3 days later, he was chopped into tiny pieces, then put back together to become lord of the underworld. Dionysis wasn’t born from a virgin conception but was the result of a sexual encounter between Zeus (in the form of a serpent) and Persephone. Mithras was likewise not born of a virgin, but instead born out of solid rock. Stories of Mithras resurrecting from the dead didn’t appear until after the time of Christ. Ect. Ect. For sake of space I will not refute every claim you mentioned here. Especially considering that it has already been done here: http://www.tektonics.org/copycathub.html

    The second issue to consider is this: Most of these older pagan myths are not recorded in written form, but instead as pictoral artifacts. Meaning that the contents of the religion are left up to interpretation, and of course, historical scholars and archaeologists often disagree on interpretations of the artifacts. Additionally, many of these myths vary region to region, and were constantly revised and changed over long periods of time. Meaning there was no genuine consensus between the followers of the religions. But ultimately the claims made are completely different from Christianity, and can only be seen as evidence of “copying” if one doesn’t actually know the historical details of Christianity and these other pagan religions to begin with. Which again, is why it is difficult to find serious well educated historians propagating this conspiracy.

    Moving onto to your comment that the gospels were written decades after Christ’s death: This is to be expected in an oral culture, which Judah was in the first century. Oral communication was more utilized than written communication. Decades after Christ died as those who were orally communicating the gospel were nearing the tail end of their lives, they logically had their stories written down since they would obviously not be able to verbally communicate them if they were jailed, killed, ect. In fact, compared to other recorded historical events from that era, many scholars consider the gospel accounts to be a “news flash.” In other words, it is only in today’s modern culture of instant communication that the decades later of being written down is an issue. In that past culture, at that time, the decades between the events and the gospels is actually expected.

    Furthermore, the gospel of John in no way bears resemblance to the other three, and of those three, there is concise agreement. So to say that there is “general agreement that whichever gospels came later drew on the first,” is false, sense John came later but did not pull from the others at all. At most you could argue that two (Luke and Matt) borrowed from the original (Mark). You might find it troubling that a gospel author would refer or borrow information from another gospel, but there really is no issue considering Luke opens up in the first chapter in his book by claiming that his account is a collection of accounts from eye witnesses and others who have already taken it upon themselves to write an account of Jesus. He wrote, “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you…” Luke 1:1-3 (NLT). I wrote an earlier article related to this you can read here: https://matthew2262.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/how-can-we-know-who-really-wrote-the-gospels/

    Another logical argument to make is one of persecution and torture. One might be willing to be tortured and killed for something they believe is true, but no one willingly allows themselves to be tortured and killed for something they knew was false, which would be the case if they borrowed from existing religions. Considering the authors of the gospels were heavily persecuted, tortured and killed is testimony that they did not “borrow” from other religions. Ultimately, when one considers that the earlier pagan myths do not bare any similar resemblance to Christianity, that the gospels that did borrower from each other were honest and open from the very beginning about it, and that the authors would not endure torture and death for something they knew was false, it becomes clear that your argument of copying falls apart. And thus, to compare this to Islam’s copying from Judeo-Christianity would be the logical fallacy of poor comparison.

    On the other hand, thank you for admitting, at least, that Jesus was a real person. You’d be surprised how many people I still come across that believe He never existed physically. However, the issues you raise about substantiating events in modern times applies to ALL historical events. So if you’re a skeptic of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus (which by the way far outnumber all other ancient texts of historical people from the ancient world) then you would have to be a skeptic of ALL pre- 19th century historical accounts. George Washington? Julius Cesar? Alexander the Great? Cleopatra? How do you know these people existed and did the things that historical texts tell us they did? You have to rely on recorded eyewitness accounts for past events, just like with Jesus.

    I am slightly confused on your logic that, “I tend to think Jesus would be horrified at what they became and what they have been used to justify.” Maybe you’ll have to better explain your point to me. But it doesn’t seem to make sense that you would think Jesus would be shocked as to what was written of Him in the Gospels if the central historical evidence of Jesus is from the Gospels… In other words, the only insight we have into Jesus’ character and nature comes from the gospels. The only way to speculate Jesus would be “shocked” about anything would have to come after analyzing His character as written in the Gospels. So on what grounds do you believe Jesus wouldn’t approve of the Gospels? To claim such would be speculation not founded in any historical fact, but instead subjective opinion.

    Not sure where you pulled, “Ah, but the authors of the Bible were divinely guided you say.” Because… well, I never said that. It seems like you’re trying to set up a straw man argument on my behalf that you can easily knock down. Considering I have never utilized a “divinely guided argument,” it seems rather out of place here. I would like to ask where you’re getting your facts about the Old Testament being revised and edited? As far as I know, the Dead Sea scrolls erased any doubts that the OT manuscripts were changed over time.

    I do agree with your assessment that there are two separate questions, one of God’s existence and the Bible’s accuracy. The problem with your assessment of what God would and wouldn’t do is that you’re projecting your own opinions as a limited and fallible human, onto an omniscient sovereign God. It could very well possibly be that God in His infinite knowledge has a plan that makes no logical sense to us, since we are limited. Regardless there are some things to consider. Like, in your opinion, what would a “real clue” be? And why would God need to keep repeating it? God’s real clue was the once and for all life, death and resurrection of Christ. Which has been successfully preached through out the world based off historical eyewitness accounts. He can’t keep repeating that gesture since it would devalue the significance of Christ’s salvation. From a Christian perspective, the Christian expansion since the first century is nothing more than a pure success. Lastly, humans have free will. If God doesn’t interfere with our freewill and can’t force us to believe in Him, He can’t change the fact that there are thousands of other religions. To do so would be to corrupt our freewill. What is noteworthy is the overwhelming tendency for people of other religions to convert to Christianity and not visa-versa. That in itself is also testimony of the often clear choice of Christianity. If anything, the fact that there are thousands of different religions can be interpreted as the unanimous longing for God that all men possess. Likewise, Christianity’s rapid growth and success over these other religions can be interpreted of God providing a clear choice for everyone, which they are choosing.

    Regarding your comments that God would create a system prone to failure is overlooking the freewill nature of man. God created us with freewill and thus, the capability to fail. If He created us with no capability to do wrong or reject Him there would be no value to our relationship with God since we have no choice in the issue. This would corrupt our freewill. Here is a short video that I think does a good job in explaining it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv85tvudi7Y&feature=related&fb_source=message

    Additionally, here is something to consider regarding the notion that the vast majority will not make it to heaven. Who goes to heaven? Naturally, those that give their lives to Christ go to heaven. As of 2009 it was reported that over 2 billion people in the world were Christian, constituting one-third of the world population. Granted those numbers haven’t always been that high and being labeled a Christian doesn’t guarantee salvation and admittance to heaven. Additionally, those that have never been exposed to the redemption of Christ will be admitted to heaven via God’s just judgment concerning how they lived their lives. Such a number is unknowable, especially over the course of history. Moreover, all infant deaths would be candidates for heaven as well. Naturally, infant mortality through out the history of mankind has always been drastically higher then more modern times. For example, in ancient Rome it has been calculated that 28% of all infants born did not survive to their first birthday. Lastly, if life begins at conception (as scripture would support) then all miscarriages result in human life that is candidate for heaven. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 10-25% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage.

    Therefore, when we consider the population of genuine Christians historically, the potential admittance of some peoples never exposed to the gospel of Christ, infant mortality, and miscarriages, it is acceptable to argue that the population in heaven will be incredibly vast. Scripture detailing the road and doorway being small and rarely taken doesn’t pertain to miscarriages or deceased infants, but instead to the living mature. So, whether the minority or the majority, the population in heaven should be considered very sizeable. And thus, the goodness of God should not be questioned considering that the only people who go to hell will be those that actively reject His word.
    Lastly, I should ask you to clarify on the possibility that the whole point of the soul is to benefit from experience gained. What is the point? What are your thoughts on the purpose of an afterlife relative to gained experiences? And what is God’s role in this? Assuming there is a god in our hypothetic situation.
    Again, I thank you for your respectful and interesting comments Stan, this has been a great discussion. If you have further questions or opinions you’d like to share, please continue to do so. Take care.

  5. My point was not that Osiris, Mithras and Dionysis were point for point copies of the Christ story or vice versa, but that all of the major elements of the Christ story have precedent. As to why the authors might have adopted some of these elements, there’s a strong argument to be made that it was done to attract Romans who expected such elements in their theology.

    The fact that it was an oral culture does not give additional credence to the Biblical accounts. A span of decades are simply too long a time for such a story to go without modification or embellishment. As for Luke, the opening you cite simply acknowledges his stories are not firsthand, which to me detracts from their credence. It also explains certain differences between Luke and the others. For that matter, I’ve also read several of the Gospels that are not now considered canon, but were at one point the guiding doctrine for one Christian group or another. The Gospels of Mary, Thomas and Judas for example are interesting and contain many features common with the other Gospels. But what this tells me is the oral tradition spread the story rapidly and twisted it just as rapidly.

    It is with Paul (the apostle, not the Beatle) that I see Jesus’ teachings go astray. To me, there’s such dichotomy between the teachings of the two, that I tend to think that Paul didn’t have much of a clue about what Jesus actually said or did.

    The torture/willingness to die argument is a poor one at best. It is quite easy to name other cases of people who were willing to die for their beliefs, Christian or otherwise: the martyrs or radical Islam, the Jonestown suicides and Heaven’s Gate. And just tonight I read an interesting article about the martyrdom aspect of the early Christian church. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/10/christian_martyrdom_when_did_christians_stop_trying_to_die_for_god.html I found especially interesting the bit about thousands of Christians requesting en masse execution. That these people were affected by a common belief is clear, that it was in any way a valid belief is not. It also shows that leaders will often say whatever it takes to keep their followers coming back, and it is generally not the leaders but the followers that suffered torture and death. Paul carried on for more than thirty years before they caught him.

    Sorry, I assumed your assertion in either Biblical inerrancy, divine guidance or something similar, as this is generally common in this space. You would in fact be the first I’ve talked to that didn’t assert something along these lines. In any case, I was referring to the Torah and the “documentary hypothesis”. I first read about this in Richard Elliot Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible” in the 80’s and I’ve since seen further refinements on it, including computer analysis of the early texts which confirms previous analysis by human scholars. In any case, the edits referred to precede the Dead Sea Scrolls and to my knowledge are not contradicted by them. In any case, if the texts themselves aren’t divine in some way, then you just have stories, morality tales, and a bit of fiction.

    Your fairly liberal admission policy to paradise contradicts much of what I’ve read in the Bible as well as the teachings I had growing up. “I am the way, the truth and the light. Nobody comes to the Father except through me.” (Typed that from memory, almost got it exactly right.) Further, it makes little sense to me. If people can get into heaven just by being moral, and the biggest danger comes from rejecting the teachings of Christ, then you endanger people by exposing them, on the chance they will reject the teaching. It completely invalidates the reason to do missionary work. It almost seems that the moral thing to do would be to burn every Bible you can lay your hands on. As far as that goes, would the average Aztec make it? Human sacrifice and cannibalism was moral for them. Nope, by my reading of the Bible, those people are screwed.

    As for life beginning at conception, I believe this is also a misreading of the Bible. The two best sources in the Bible that offer a glimpse into the definition of life and the value of a fetus say the opposite. Exodus 21:22 says the penalty for causing a woman to miscarry is a simple fine akin to property damage, but if you actually hurt the mother (a living being) it is “an eye for an eye…a life for a life”. In Ezekiel and the story of the valley of dry bones, the bones did not live until breath came into them. That, to me, is birth and not conception.

    When I left Christianity, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what life might mean if God were real or not, if the soul were real, etcetera. In the end the only thing that made sense was that life is a school and death is the graduation.

    • matthew2262 says:

      Hi Stan, thank you again for your comment. I’m trying to better understand your argument; are you saying that the authors didn’t necessarily borrow from other religions detail by detail, but borrowed general concepts to attract Romans with similar concepts in their mythology. I think that is what you’re trying to say (if not, please correct me) and if that is the case, I would counter argue that the generalized concepts are too vague to be able to be properly labeled as borrowing from one or the other. The general concept of resurrection or miracles, for example, is something we would of course expect to see in all forms of religions because of the supremacy of a deity to have authority over death, or the natural world. If a deity didn’t have the power to conquer death or do miracles for example, then they wouldn’t be a deity at all. So such vague similarities, in my opinion, would be expected across the gamut. I would like to also point out that the first 300 years of Christianity in Rome was one of heavy persecution. Christians were imprisoned, tortured, and executed in mass, because they didn’t prescribe to the Roman gods/mythology. The persecution didn’t end until Constantine allowed freedom of religion in Rome. Clearly to the Romans, there was no confusion or attraction between their mythology and Christianity. They found it profoundly different enough to kill a lot of Christians over it. Additionally, we must not overlook that Jesus’ teachings were heavily directed towards the Jews and Jesus’ actions a reflection of the OT scripture (for example Jesus’ death and resurrection after three days being likened to Jonah in the whale [Matt 12:40] the connection between ancient Jewish theology, not any pagan theology). It is really only later after the gospels that we read of applications expanding to the Roman gentiles. For me, these facts, in combination with my earlier comment, render the hypothesis of “borrowing” null and void.
      Regarding your stance on the oral culture, span of time, and gnostic gospels, I would encourage you to read other articles I wrote in the past which dispelled these problems as well: https://matthew2262.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/is-the-story-of-jesus-a-legend/
      https://matthew2262.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/the-lost-gospels/
      https://matthew2262.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-corrupt-early-curch/
      It is easy to distinguish which gospels are authoritative and which are not, simply by their date of origin, dispersal and content. In this case, the gnostic gospels are found much later after the synoptic gospels, in smaller numbers, with content that contradicts the earlier and more dispersed synoptic gospels.
      I would like to hear more about your thoughts on Paul. Which particular teachings of Paul do you find in contradictions with the teachings of Christ?
      Regarding the willingness to die; I don’t think you properly understood my original argument. As I said, “One might be willing to be tortured and killed for something they believe is true, but no one willingly allows themselves to be tortured and killed for something they knew was false.” In context, I am referring to the claim that someone “borrowed” or “copied” from another religion, and thus, were fully aware of their fabrication. Thus, such a person is under no disillusionment about their religion since they know it was falsely constructed. I was not talking about the followers of a religion, but the originators you claim were borrowing from other religions. My argument stands: A person aware of their fabrication (not under belief) would not be willing to die and be tortured for something they know they falsely constructed.
      Since I am not aware of the “documentary hypothesis” and the supposed editing of OT manuscripts, I’ll have to do my own research before I could give any valid feedback about it. It sounds intriguing…
      Regarding the admittance to heaven for those not knowing Christ, I am of course not prescribing to moral relativism. To clarify my stance, those never exposed to the Gospel would have to be judged by God on a case by case scenario, with the standards of virtuousness being determined by God, not by man’s ever changing standards. Our standards for morality are not God’s, hence why we have the Bible to divulge this information to us. With this taken into account it would not be best for all Bible’s to be burned because then there would be less opportunity for people to study and understand what God expects of them. God ultimately wants to have eternal union with us, and thus has made his teachings widely known (as much as humans are capable of spreading it) to ensure this. Yes, the only road to heaven is through Christ, but not everyone has heard of Christ. Therefore, it would be fair to assume an all just God would judge these people fairly, but by His standards, not our own.

      As for life beginning at conception; Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah 1:4-5 say that God knew us each individually before we even existed in our mother’s wombs. Galatians 1:15 and Luke 1:41-44 speak of life being present in the womb prior to birth. By your interpretation if we’re not alive until we breath after birth, it would contradict these passages, no? I think the point of Exodus is simply punishment for causing a miscarriage, and the proper interpretation for Ezekiel is the breath of God as the breath of life, same used in Genesis 2:7 when God breathed life into Adam. If we really want to get technical, breathing is just getting oxygen into our bodies, which our umbilical cords do for us while we’re in the womb… lastly, Jeremiah 20:17 says that “God did not kill me in the womb.” How could God kill something that is not alive?

      Your belief that life is a school and death the graduation is ironic. Believe it or not, I actually shared this same belief in my teens! I’ve only been a Christian a short time and was agnost. Borderline atheist almost my entire life. The questions that troubled me about it though, were ones of purpose. Why do we need to live on earth to be educated? What is this education for in the afterlife? What is the point? Who or what established this existence and set it into motion? These were the questions that troubled me enough to abandon the belief, so I am curious as to what your thoughts are about this.

      As always, thank you for your comments Stan.

  6. This is ranging considerably, so I’ll try to reign in my responses a bit to focus on the last part of your response.

    Your treatise on the lost gospels was informative, but I think the extensive list of gospels and their variation is indicative of what happened to the earlist gospels as well. If we focus on the first of the gospels written, we cannot know what effect mistakes or value judgements were applied to the first text. If you wish to focus on the fact that Luke and Mark are effectively separately sourced, you can easily identify multiple differences between them that let you know neither can fully be trusted. Were Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem or Nazareth? When the women arrived at the tomb, was there just some guy inside (Mark), or was there a pair of shining angels (Luke)? I think Luke’s embellishment of the angels is telling of a tendancy to give events a more divine gloss than they deserved.

    When I first read the complete Bible, I noted discrepancies between the Gospels, Acts, and everything after, as well as a marked difference in tone. For example, is speaking in tounges where every listener understands the speaker regardless of his language (Acts) or is it simple gibberish requiring an interpreter (Paul’s version). This is not a minor difference; one is a miracle, the other snake oil. In message, I found that Jesus espoused an all encompassing, welcoming message, which I found to be “be as I am, do as I do.” He offered a real blueprint for living. Paul’s version was simultaneously easier and more restrictive, and I would sum it as “just believe.” Jesus’ indication is that belief will be reflected in a person’s life, and rejects people who cry “Lord, Lord” but didn’t live it. Paul brings us salvation by faith alone (Ephesians 2 and others), and so from him comes the idea of deathbed conversions for wicked men. I really felt that Paul’s conversion story, the fact he never met Christ, the limited number of times he actually refers to the events of Christ’s life compared to his excessive, and ongoing moralizing to me made him more like the Rev. Jim Jones of his day. By the time I finished the Bible, I felt that only the actual words of Christ had any value, and that they had been largely misinterpreted by Christianity, and in fact by the people who directly knew him. It was this reading that lead directly to my deconversion.

    I should note that what I referred to as your liberal heaven admission policy is more in keeping with Christ’s teachings than Paul’s. But this is the teaching I was steeped in growing up.

    Regarding birth vs. conception. The Psalms reference I read as a poetic description of gestation and not an indication about the state of a person. The rest of your references I either read as birth references or late pregnancy, because a fertilized egg is unable to leap in the womb. And going back to my earlier refernce, if someone had cause any of the mothers of these prophets to miscarry, they would have been subject to only a fine at best. It never seemed that the Bible espoused protection for even born children given how easily they could be dispatched. (Psalm 137:9, 2 Kings 2:23 for example.)

    Setting the Biblical analysis aside…

    I consider myself an agnostic atheist. I was raised Lutheran but left the faith while I was still in high school. I spent some years looking for a replacement, and so investigated other religions, mysticism before finally settling on the perspective that even if some of it could be real, it didn’t matter for the following reasons:

    If the soul exists it is by nature immortal. If it survives death it must pre-exist conception or birth, and physical life is just a temporary state. Following this logic, there must be something to be gained by becoming a person. The vast variety of lives that could be lived have no bearing on belief systems they might be exposed to within that life, because you have to consider all lives across all time, and in fact lives as animals as well. In any case, it puts value on the life lived, no matter what. By this thinking, a reincarnation cycle seems the most likely.

    If the soul doesn’t exist, then the ONLY value to be found is in the life lived, and this puts greater inportance on the idea that it needs to be the best experience possible for all involved. If you’re mean or cruel, you are damaging something else’s one and only chance at life. People accuse atheists of being without morals, but on this basis it’s trivial to generate a moral system with specific imperitives.

    So in the end, the life lived outweighs what may or may not come after. And while I don’t believe in pushing my beliefs on others, my values compel me to want a quality life for myself and others. And to me, religions that are driven by guilt, by a central theme that people are unworthy scum squeaking their way into paradise through the undeserved grace of a jealous God (my summation of things I’ve heard from other Christians)…it runs counter to that, and in fact counter, I believe, to Jesus’ own teachings.

    • matthew2262 says:

      Thank you again for your comment Stan. After reading your last you comment, here are my thoughts:
      Couldn’t your argument of “mistakes or value judgements” made to the earliest gospel texts be applied to all historical texts in the ancient world? I revert to my previous argument, that if you’re skeptical of the authenticity of the gospel narratives, then you must be even more so skeptical of all other historical texts, religious or otherwise. Regardless, the multiple differences you write of between the gospels are not that earth shattering in my opinion. The difference between Mary and Joseph’s origions is easily explainable in that Luke 2:4 says that Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, because Joseph’s family lineage to the House of David, which was in Bethlehem. In Luke 2:39, after Jesus is born, they headed back to Nazareth. This explains the supposed contradiction in that they’re from both. You can say they’re from both without being wrong. I grew up in a town called El Segundo, and then later in life lived in Burbank for seven years. Afterwhich I moved up north, and today when people ask me where I am from, I can say I’m from Burbank or El Segundo, either one won’t be wrong.

      The discrepanciy between the angels is likewise explainable in that Mark doesn’t say that there was ONLY one angel, he just describes one of the angels inside (16:5) whereas Luke says there were two angels inside (24:4). Just as if I were to say that an airplane flew into the world trade on 9-11, I would not be contradicting historical records that record two airplanes flew into the world trade. Technically both accounts are right. Claiming that Luke embellished is nothing more than speculation. I could just as easily speculate that Mark downplayed his description of describing the angel as just wearing white. The intensity of the white is hardly an issue. One 9-11 eyewitness account may have said the planes that hit the world trade were silver, wheras another account may describe the planes as intensily bright in the shimmering sunlight. Both are correct. The overall point to be made is that the multiple descriptions between the gospels do not contradict eachother, but merely reveal the truth that the information came from eyewitness accounts which will slightly vary in description from person to person. But this is what we would expect from eyewitness testimony. If everything were completely ideticle between the gospels then we would have a problem of colusion.

      On the otherhand, the gnostic gospels, which again appear much later in smaller numbers, don’t just have little discrepancies in detail, they have fundamental discrepnacies, like Jesus never being a alive physically. Whereas the exact number of angels present at the tomb is hardly a concern between the synoptic gospels, because the fundamental point is that angels were at the tomb. So I don’t think the gospels that emerged many decades AFTER the originals were being widely circulated, copied and known to the authors of the lost gospels, with significant discrepancies, can be used to discredit the cohesion between the original gospels. To this day religions still do this. The Church of LDS and the Church of Self Realization have all hijakced scripture to twist it into their own theology, so it is no surprise that people were doing it decades after the original gospels were being circulated in the second, third and fourth centuries.

      I find your other supposed contradictions can also be easily explained. Paul didn’t discount speaking in tongues. If he did, then why would he consider tongues one of the many gifts of the spirit as written in 1 Corinthians 12:9-11? In 1 Corinthians 14:5 he says he would like everyone to speak in tongues. I think the verses you may be misunderstanding is what follows verse 5, from 6 to 19, where Paul writes that if you’re going to speak in tongues make sure it is being interpreted to those that don’t understand, because if it is not being interpeted and no one understands it then it just sounds like gibberish. In proper context, you can see that there is no discrepancy between Paul’s writings and Acts (Luke’s).

      The discrepancy between doing as Christ does and Paul’s “by faith alone” is easily explainable on one simple premise: If someone has a true genuine faith in Jesus would they not do as Christ did? If someone didn’t do as Jesus did, then clearly they have no faith in Him. You see, it is not simply works or faith, one or the other. It is that if you have true faith in Christ, good works will naturally come forth. As James 2:16-18 says, “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” That pretty much sums it up right there. If you don’t do the good deeds of Christ, then clearly your faith is dead. Paul is correct when he says that all you need is faith, because true genuine faith in Christ means you would follow Christ and do as he does. Thus, there is no contradiction between Paul’s writings and the teachings of Jesus.

      Additionally, Paul did meet Christ (Acts 9) and we should not expect Paul to write constantly about Christ’s life because Paul is not writing a historical text, he is writing letters to church members around the world to inspire and teach them. Why would Paul write the histories of Jesus when there were already gospel accounts circulating and churches springing up everywhere? In context, Paul’s writings were to churches around the world (hence Ephesians written to the Christians in Ephasis, Corinthians written to Christians in Corinth, ect) which is why his writings are “ongoing moralizing.” He is instructing the new churches, not writing historical narratives.

      If these are the things that led to you deconversion Stan, I hope and pray that you would strongly reconsider. As you can see, there are no discrepancies between Christ’s teachings and Paul’s, nor between the gospel narratives. Everything in the New Testament is exactly what we would expect if we understand context, history, and the nature teachings themselves.

      Perhaps you could also clarify the difference between Christ’s teachings on heaven and Paul’s. I am not aware of a conflict between the two regarding admission to heaven.

      Regarding birth vs. conception, are you now changing your stance on the subject? It seemed before you thought the Bible was saying that only the born and breathing childeren were alive, but now you’re saying only late pregnancies are childeren that are alive. Such a distinction seems rather arbitrary. Where is the line drawn? From a biblical standpoint, at which point is the child considered alive? To my understanding, the Bible does not make a distinction of when a child becomes alive in the womb, but instead says that we are alive in the womb, and thus, with no arbitrary distinction made, we must assume we are alive from the time of conception which is the first point at which we as individuals exist within the womb.

      Psalm 137, is neither historical narrative, nor a command of any sorts, but instead a song or poem. Furthermore, I think your referencing of 2 Kings 2:23 as evidence of childeren being easily dispatched is not accurate. The term “boy” should be better understood. During this time, a male from twelve to thirty was referred to as neurim qetannim, which is translated to boys or young men. Isaac was referred to as a boy in Genesis 22:12, when he was in his early twenties. Kings 20:14-15 refers to their Army men in similar fashion. So these “boys” are more adequately young men between the age of 12 and 30. Not little children.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your beliefs with me, I found it very interesting. I do agree that there is value on the life lived no matter what. Even if I am wrong about Christianity, our lives are valuable, and the ways we conduct ourselves while alive very important. I do however have a question about the reincarnation cycle. Due to the law of increasing entropy, one day the physical universe will be incapable of support life as it settles into a heat death. Won’t this bring an end to the reincarnation cycle? I am under the impression that the reincarnation cycle depends on an infinite physical universe, but I could be wrong about that.

      Also, it seems you believe in the supernatural (spirits and souls) but no God, correct? Perhaps you could explain to me your reasoning for why you believe there is no God, outside of religion that is. I could understand your problems with Christianity leading you away from Christianity, but was there any particular reasoning behind why you do not believe in any God?

      The last thing I would like to discuss is your assessment of Christianity teaching that “people are unworthy scum squeaking their way into paradise through the undeserved grace of a jealous God.” I used to think these same things! I apologize (on behalf of Christians everywhere) if that is what you have been taught and exposed to in your life (as it was with me), but I can assure you that is not the proper teachings of Christ and the Bible. The Bible teaches us that though we do sin, we are incredibly valuable to God, not unworthy. If we were not valuable to God then He wouldn’t have sent His son to die for us (John 3:16). He values even the least of us (Matthew 25:44-46). His love for even the least of us shows that He values us immensily. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says we were purchased by the Lord, we have value! Redemption through Christ is not guilt, but absolute freedom from guilt (Ephesians 3:12, Galations 5:1, 2 Corinthians 3:17). If anyone feels guilty from the teachings of the Bible they’re not understanding the teachings are to free and liberate us from sin and guilt. Additionally, our salvation through undeserved grace testifies to the value God places in our lives, that nothing we could ever do would earn it, yet we are freely given it. I can’t think of a more liberating teaching than that. Such grace frees me up from ever feeling I am too unworthy for God’s love.

      With that, I would really encourage you to explore the teachings of the Bible again Stan. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. I took a chance six years ago and it changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. Thank you, as always, for your kind and respectful cooments. Take care.

      • I gave you only a few examples. By my reading, the book is absolutely riddled with internal conflicts. I’m not going to go verse by verse on this, we’d be here forever. One point I will make, Acts 2 was quite clear that no interpreter was required for the speaking in tongues. “they were bewildered, because each one hearad them speaking in his own language.” It goes into great detail about the different nationalities present and languages presented. But I digress. To me, the amount of effort you have to make explaining the various discrepancies highlights rather than ameliorates them. But this didn’t actually have much to do with my deconversion.

        The Bible is presented as the voice of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Now you can account for all kinds of discrepancies due to translation errors and it doesn’t necessarily discount the book. But when you listen, really listen to what it is saying, you don’t hear the voice of God. You hear the voice of Man. It is not that I don’t understand what it is trying to tell me. Rather, I understand it too well; it is all too familiar. The God of the Bible is fearful, jealous, angry and spiteful. I don’t know how to attribute such things to a deity, but I can easily attribute them to people, parents who want to control their kids, husbands their wives, and especially religious and political leaders who want to keep their followers in line by any means necessary. No, the Bible is very, very human, and the more I read it, the more I am certain of this. This was the basis of my deconversion. I have read the Bible much in the 30 years since my deconversion and have not the slightest doubt.

        I find some value in Jesus’ words. Some of the poetry is pleasant, especially in the language of the KJV which would have to be my favorite translation. But the Bible is a fiction to me. I would feel no loss to rip out most of the OT, all of the books by Paul and the deranged writing of John in Revelation. These writings have been the source of much pain and death for two thousand years. When I consider the world we might have had if the Muslims had not given prohibitions against mathematics, if Galileo and Copernicus had been supported rather than quashed…it makes me weep. What kind of art would we have if people had commissioned something other than “Madonna with Child”? And these things continue in some form today, widely in the US. Christians are going out of their way to gut the science textbooks that may offer us the best hope for surviving the problems of overpopulation. Christians cry persecution while they persecute homosexuals. There is nothing moral in this.

        As I said, I’m an agnostic atheist. I don’t say there is no God, nor that souls can’t exist, because I have no way to know that with certainty. I think the world would be far more interesting if the soul did exist. But of all the religious and spiritual texts I’ve read, I’ve gotten one common theme. They are all written by men who have no more superior source of information about the afterlife than I do. I only mention reincarnation because it is the only spiritual thing I have read that has any logical consistency to it, not because I am a believer. I find humorous irony that you took a scientific approach to critique the idea, but no, an eternal universe is not a prerequisite for reincarnation. After all, Vishnu does wake up every few billion years, and the universe is destroyed.

      • matthew2262 says:

        Thank you for your comment Stan. Regarding Acts 2, people understanding tongues vs. Paul’s writing where he suggests having an interpreter present, I’m not sure I see the problem… Paul is suggesting having an interpreter present in the event that the speaking isn’t understood. In Acts 2 you have all the different languages being spoken with men from different nationalities recognizing their own, but surely we can assume that every single one of them did not understand every single speaker, hence others joking that they were drunk… because they didn’t understand. Wouldn’t an interpreter have been valid at that moment?

        Regarding the amount of effort I put into explaining discrepancies, how does this devalue the argument? I could have easily explained each discrepancy more bluntly, but I chose a more thorough approach. I can teach someone the 2nd law of thermodynamics quickly, or go into much more detail to make sure they understand it more thoroughly , but that does not in any way devalue the truth behind the 2nd law of thermodynamics. If I would have known my defense of the supposed contradictions would be scrutinized on the length of my arguments I would have presented my case differently. But there is no logic in suggesting that truth is subject to the effort needed to persuade.

        I feel quite differently about the Bible being the voice of man and not God. The Bible teaches self-denial, not to live for wealth, to care for others, elevating those that are below you to being above you, to put more thought and action into God’s kingdom than the world. As Jesus said, He came to serve, not be served. TO leave your possessions behind and follow Him. These teachings do not benefit any authority, in fact every time you look at religious authorities abusing power it is always in actions contradicting Biblical teaching. There is a reason Christians were heavily persecuted originally in Rome, and throughout the centuries, to this day, all over the world. Additionally, the consistency of the scripture in the Bible is also noteworthy, as it is written by people from different nations, occupations and social status over a span of thousands of years and yet there is a coherent consistency among the teachings, testimony to central source of inspiration. When we historically analyze other topics, like medicine for example, across the gamut of different nations and social status across the same amount of time there is hardly any such consistency. Lastly, what did the men who wrote the Bible have to gain by what they wrote? Giving your wealth to the poor, helping the lame, mute, weak that everyone else in society rejects. Preaching the word despite being tortured, imprisoned and executed. What authority is gaining power by these teachings? In the end, the Bible condemns much of what men aspire to do or have, yet commends what men despise.

        It is also very dangerous to suggest the world might be a better place without the Bible. We can thank Christianity for the western culture we live in today. The roots of western economy, law, politics, and morals are highly influenced by Christianity. Here are some good quotes I once read about this: Philosopher Jurgen Habermas wrote; “Christianity and nothing else is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source.” J. M. Roberts wrote in Triumph of the West, “We could none of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had they not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, dead, buried, then rise again.” And as Dinesh D’Souza wrote in What’s So Great About Christianity?, “Believer and non-believer alike should respect Christianity as the movement that created our civilization.” Another great article to read is from an atheist agnostic like yourself about this issue: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/the-godless-delusion-20120414-1x0ee.html#ixzz1sPCPrGtQ

        When we look at historical examples of “bad” Christianity, and we study them thoroughly, we see they’re rooted in motivations and ideologies not in any way taught in the Bible. Galileo and Copernicus, both Christians, both with revolutionary ideas that did not contradict Biblical teaching, both somewhat persecuted by Church authority maintaining a pre-Christian Aristotelian model for the universe. All the examples you reference are not from the Bible themselves, but the corrupt abuse of power from man under the guise of religion.

        And what is this about gutting science textbooks that offer hope of surviving the problems of over-population? I am not sure what you’re talking about, so you may need to clarify more there. And I cannot speak on behalf of persecuting homosexuals because nothing in the Bible teaches persecuting homosexuals.

        Thank you for clarifying that an eternal universe is not a pre-req for reincarnation. If that is the case than it is not subject to increasing entropy I suppose. It seems every hindu (or believer in reincarnation) I run into has a different perspective on the exact logistics of reincarnation. Thank you for your comment Stan. Take Care.

  7. But every single listener hearing every speaker in his own language is exactly how I read Acts 2. In any place where many languages are spoken, nobody would assume someone was drunk just because they used a language you didn’t understand. To me the meaning of the passage was quite clear. The Spirit gave them the ability to be understood by anyone who listened, regardless of language. And in any case, this is quite different from the glossalalia that is passed as speaking in tongues today, where nobody is understandable and the languages are completely made up.

    In regards to Biblical errors and contradictions, I have read and heard many explanations for them, most of which I have never found to be satisfactory. People ascribe meanings which aren’t supported by the text, excuse without explaining on generally unsubstantiated grounds, or just contradict history and/or common sense. Was Jesus born under Herod or during the census? Herod died ten years before, both can’t be true. Why would they need to travel for the census? A census counts where you are at, not where you came from. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is actually an excellent example to make my point. You can spend a lot of time explaining it, but in the end you can return to the original statement, “entropy increases” and it stands completely on its own. It is provable and has withstood the claims against it. Increasingly convoluted arguments to justify it are not required as they are with much of the Bible.

    The peace-and-love version of the teachings you represent come from a selective reading of the Bible, and ignores the majority of the Old Testament. The OT gave us the priest (rabbi) class and elevated them above the normal people. Only rabbis were allowed in the holy of holies. Uzza was killed by God for daring to try to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling when the oxen stumbled. And Jesus, knowingly or unwittingly perpetuated this when he declared Peter would be the rock upon which the church was built. As long as you have people who are presented in the role of speaking for God, those people have power. And history has shown us, over and over again, that men are more than willing to lie, kill and die for that power. And while you’re correct, the original suggestion was to give your money to the poor, it rapidly became “give your money to the church and we’ll take care of the poor,” of which the poor frequently receive little.

    I only get the happy version of the Bible you describe if I cut it down to just the teachings of Jesus. A church just based on his teachings would welcome homosexuals. It would be a force for good indeed, on many other points. Too bad that church doesn’t seem to exist. And given your excellent knowledge of the New Testament, not knowing the Biblical basis against homosexuality seems odd. But you can refer to Leviticus 18 for where it is declared an abomination, and Jude 1 for attributing Sodom and Gomorrah to sexual immorality and perversion. The Jude reference is contradicted by other parts of the Bible (Ezekiel 16) but it was still sufficient to make the story the basis for the word “sodomy.” It’s certainly been sufficient to bring us several Christian campaigns against homosexuality including the Westboro Baptist “God hates fags” people. There remain many U.S. laws on the books that allow descrimination against homosexuals and most of those can be traced to the influence of churches, church leaders and Christian members of government.

    You, like others, attribute more to Christianity than is deserved. Athens was a democracy in the 6th century B.C. And while it’s accurate that Christianity has had an enormous influence on the world, but it can’t be claimed to be all positive. Christians had much to do with the founding of America, but why did they need to seek religious freedom? Because they were fleeing governments that had aligned with…Christianity. Or at least other versions of Christianity they disagreed with. And if you look at the seminal documents in the history of democracies, specifically the Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution, both were generated out of the desire to balance the powerful against the powerful. In the case of the Magna Carta it was the king against his feudal lords, and in the case of the constitution it was bankers and land-owners against the unruly mob. Christians were present in both cases, but hardly the defining influence. In the case of our constitution, it was written with a healthy distrust of the church.

    And let’s see, science and textbooks. Did you miss the event a few years ago where the Kansas board of education attempted to discredit evolution through their curriculum? Did you know that since Texas is the largest purchaser of school textbooks, most K-12 textbooks for the rest of the US must meet the standards of the Texas Board of Education? And did you know that there has been an ongoing campaign for decades to elect conservative Christians to this board in an attempt to rewrite those same textbooks? They’re practicing revisionism at its worst, rewriting history and diluting science in favor of their religion. Did you know that evolution and global warming are both scientific theories roughly on par with the theory of gravity? And yet the modern Christians in the U.S. would have you believe that these are both weak and highly under dispute, because they’re seen to contradict the Bible. We desperately need the science from both of these fields to put the world on a sustainable path. Not all of us believe things can be solved through prayer.

    • matthew2262 says:

      As always Stan, thank you for your comment. Sorry for the delayed response, but I had family in town visiting. I see now where your argument is heading regarding speaking in tongues. The situation in Acts 2 doesn’t dictate that ALL situations of speaking in tongues that will occur in identical fashion. In context, Acts 2 presents an evangelical situation in which, at that particular moment, the Holy Spirit gives everyone the ability to understand. However, who is to say that that is how it will it be every single time thereafter. Paul teaches that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that some people get and some others may not, hence some may not understand without an interpreter. The fact that there were people around in Acts 2 that thought the others drunk, testifies that not everyone understood. To me, it sounds reasonable to suggest the Holy Spirit determines who speaks tongues. Is the speaking in tongues we see today in some churches authentic? I personally do not know. I personally have never spoken in tongues nor been around someone doing so. I’ve always understood tongues to be a method by which believers can speak to unbelivers of a different nation, in that different nation’s language, via the Holy Spirit. So if someone claiming to be speaking in tongues is speaking a language that does not exist, then I think it is accurate to dismiss it as nothing more than glossalalia as you said.

      Yes, arguments about the 2nd law of thermodynamics can be explained just as easily as “entropy increases.” However, if someone has doubts, or argues that an open system vs. a closed system proves that entropy doesn’t always increase, for example, then naturally there is need for further detailed explanation. Simply saying “entropy increase” does not persuade the skeptic, even if it is itself the truth. Sometimes in order to persuade others of truth a more careful argument or explanation is required. I could respond to your comments by saying, “the Bible is accurate in every way,” and nothing more. But this would not persuade you, even if it is truth. Therefore, it is necessary at times to go into detailed explanation.

      For example, the contradiction between Herod and the census: Censuses were not quick affairs as we’re used to these days. They took multiple years to be completed. If Herod died in 4 BC, and there was a census ordered in 8-7BC it should be no surprise that Joseph and Mary gave birth to Jesus in between this time, and thus during a census and during the reign of Herod. Your reference of Herod dying ten years before the census I’m assuming is referencing Luke 2:2 in which it is written that the census took place “while” Quirinius was governing (which was in 6-7AD). The word used by Luke is “protos” which can also be translated to “before,” as many Bible translations indicate. Thus, Joseph and Mary responded to a census that took place before Quirinius was governing. I recommend reading this article on the subject: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/11/01/once-more-quiriniuss-census.aspx#Article

      As for traveling for the census: Roman censuses did at times require people to return to their hometowns. Papyrus 904 discovered in Egypt records a Roman census in Egypt in which the Prefect Gaius Vibius Maximus ordered all those in his area to return to their own homes for the purpose of a census. The census decreed for Mary and Joseph probably required the same.

      I think your commentary of priests being elevated above normal people (via the Bible) is a matter of opinion. Priests were established for leadership positions as all institutions (not just religions) need forms of structured leadership. But we should not say Bible values such things when the Messiah Himself comes from the most humble powerless origins of little Bethlehem, son of a carpenter. We should not forget that the works of Jesus, Paul and the disciples was one that challenged corrupt and legalistic religious figures like the Pharisees. And that the death of Jesus tore the veil to the holiest of holies being the atonement for all of man’s sins, reconciling man with God. Even in the OT we see teachings that show concern for equality among any social rankings; Leviticus 19:15, Deut. 15:7, Psalm 15:1-5, Proverbs 14:31, etc.

      I’m not sure how Uzza being struck down by God is an example of power and authority seized among men in the church… you might have to explain that one to me.

      Additionally, Jesus declaring Peter being the rock from which the church was built was a foreshadowing of the evangelical work Peter would do to spread Christianity, becoming an important foundation of which the church grew. Considering Peter’s life after this was difficult, most certainly not one prized by men, being arrested numerous times and eventually martyred, I again am not seeing how Peter is an example of struggles for power and authority.

      Regarding giving money to the poor, you’re taking the argument away from Biblical teaching and directing it towards church action, which is irrelevant. If the Bible teaches to give money to the poor, and the church instead says give money only to us and we will give to the poor, then shame on them. But we cannot fault the Bible if churches do what is not commanded of them, can we? That is the fault of the church. Additionally, you’re making a hasty generalization of the role of the church and giving to the poor. Sure there are churches like that, but the churches role in helping the poor is one independent of a Christian’s personal responsibility for helping the poor. In other words, it is both the churches role in mass as well as the individual to help those in need. And we of course should not overlook the significant contributions to food, fresh water, medical aid, public education and job training that churches and missions provide worldwide. In my church alone, we have multiple food ministries in which we offer free food to those in need in our city, I also participate with Children’s Hunger Fund (a Christian non-profit) which alone sent $35+ million in aid to domestic and foreign countries in 2011 alone, with only 5%- of all donations going to admin and advertising and 95%+ going to direct aid. Considering this is just one of hundreds of Christian non-profits testifies to the mission of Christians to help the poverty stricken. My experiences with churches has been one of incredible generosity to those in need. So it is not accurate to make a generalization that churches just want your money so that they can determine how much the poor gets.

      The problem with cutting down the Bible to just the teachings of Jesus, is that Jesus was Himself a devout Jew. Consider how many times He referenced the OT. Consider how Jesus’ role as the Messiah only works within the framework established by the OT. Without the OT, Jesus doesn’t make sense.

      And yes, a church based on His teachings should welcome homosexuals. In fact, all churches should welcome homosexuals, because churches should welcome ALL people. Church is not supposed to be a place of virtuous saints, but a place for people that need Jesus. That “church,” you speak of does exist, it is the church I first started in, it is the other church I went to after that, and it is the church I go to now, among countless other similar churches worldwide.

      Additionally, your statement that I am not aware of the Biblical opinion on homosexuality is not accurate. I chose my words carefully, and if you look back at what I said, I said that I’m not aware of Biblical teachings that teach us to “persecute” homosexuals. There is a significant difference between being opposing something and persecution. Homosexuality is viewed as sexual immorality, and essentially a sin. Just as gossip is a sin, lying is a sin, cheating a sin, ect. Thus, we are ALL sinners, myself most definitely included. In fact, the Bible states more sins that I myself have committed more so than it talks about homosexuality. But I don’t go to church because I think I’m perfect, I go to church because I need Jesus in my life.

      Sure you can bring up several Christian campaigns against homosexuality, but that again would just be a generalization. Just because churches do this, does not mean ALL churches do that. Again, it is not commanded in the Bible to persecute homosexuals. And it is most certainly not commanded to mock or intimidate either (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:23-25, Titus 3:2, 1 Peter 3:15-16). Additionally, those people holding up those signs might as well hold up even larger signs saying “God hates (insert all their own sins)” with an arrow pointing down at themselves.

      The democracy in Athens was just that, a pure democracy, to which there was some influence to our own government. However, our government, and most others worldwide that copied from it, is a republic. My argument is that Christianity as it is reads in the Bible has contributed greatly to the world and western civilization. The references of bad things Christians have done in the world is nothing more than records of self-proclaimed Christians doing un-biblical things. For example, Christians having to flee Europe from other Christians. Does the Bible instruct us to commit to the atrocities that lead to the need to flee? The answer is of course, no. And again, a case of self-proclaimed Christians doing unbiblical things. Thus, we can only fault the people committing these atrocities, not the Bible or Christianity in general. The Constitution and our government were always intended to be secular even by the Christians that helped put them into motion. Just as Jesus laid out in Matthew 22:20-22, government and church should be separate. So we should not expect a Constitution or Bill of Rights with religious legalities and verbage even from Christians. But what we do see in these documents is equality, human rights, and elevation of the common man, which are very Biblical concepts.

      Regarding the claim to discredit evolution, are you referring to the attempt to critique evolution theory? Why is it so scary to subject evolution theory to scientific critique? Is it not in academia’s best interest to think critically about all facets of science and analyze them? To never critique or challenge the current status quo is to endorse dogmatic ideologies. Isn’t that what the church so wrongly did to Galileo and Copernicus? Instead of welcoming and listening to their critiques they maintained that the Aristotelian system for the universe was correct. Yet, we can all agree that it was a good thing that a few bright thinkers challenged the status quo. So then why are we so afraid of mainstream evolution coming under scrutiny? Surely if evolution is true, then there is nothing to fear. [Note, that all my references towards “evolution” are references of macro-evolution or “molecules to man” evolution].

      As for global warming; I believe we are experiencing climate change, in fact, I just had to conduct an ecology presentation on global warming last week. If you’re suggesting that Christians do not believe in global warming, then you’re making another hasty generalization. It is also a generalization to suggests Christians are conservative, considering the large number of liberal Christians.

      I do however have an issue with evolution theory being considered roughly on par with the law of gravity. Namely, that one is a physical law, and the other a biological theory. Not to mention that the law of gravity is directly observable and testable, whereas macroevolution is not directly observable or testable. This places the law of gravity in the realm of observational science, and evolution theory in the realm of historical science. Additionally, there is unanimous and absolute consensus among the scientific community regarding gravity (hence why it is a law), yet there is opposition from many well educated and respected scientists (like. Ben Carson, or Dr. James Tour for example), that macroevolution is a flawed theory. Most importantly, one is proven beyond all doubt, the other is not. With these things considered I do not believe it is accurate to suggest that evolution theory is on par with the law of gravity, even “roughly.” Furthermore, nothing about global warming contradicts the Bible, and though macroevolution theory does contradict the Bible, it is not accurate to say that only Christians challenge it. Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel comes to mind, as he just recently released a book called “Mind and Cosmos” in which he challenges and critiques neo-darwinian evolution theory.

      Since my own field deals directly with sustainability, ecology and land management I am well aware of the importance of proper education regarding climate change and the need to move towards more sustainable practices to ensure a healthier world. But what you may have to explain to me, however, is evolution’s role in this sustainable future. How does evolutionary science help put the world on a sustainable path?

      At that, I thank you for your comments Stan. Take care.

  8. Jason W. says:

    Is it not also a hasty generalization to credit Christians with something that is common for most religions and most people? Just because some people are Christian who wrote the constitution, or laws or rules that are similar to Christian teachings, is it not just as hasty a generalization to attribute them to the teachings of Christ, Christianity, or the Bible? Many moral, ethical, and reasonable stances coincide with biblical teachings, but that does not necessarily make them Christian products. Let’s keep in mind that most people who wrote the decaration of independence and the constitution, and most of our laws, were in fact, Deists, not Christians, who fled from religious persecution. This is not just a Christian nation, and most of the influence was a moral and ethical filled influence, and not just because of the Bible. Many people, and cultures believe in the same thing long before the Bible, and without influence from the Bible.

    • matthew2262 says:

      Hi Jason, thank you for your comment. I don’t believe I ever made an absolute claim that Christianity was the only influence of western civilization, but instead a significant source of inspiration, and thus shouldn’t be construed as a hasty generalization.

      Please feel free to expand on what components of Christianity our common in most religions and most people as you claim.

      My argument is not that all the founders of our country and government were Christian, I am very aware that many of the founding fathers were not Christian. My argument is that Christianity was a great influential factor that has contributed greatly to western civilization. Many deists of the time, though not Christian, were still submersed in a Christian culture to which there values were influenced, though they may not adhere to the religion as devout followers. We cannot assume they lived in a vacuum devoid of any Biblical influence. We cannot also assume that they were influenced by other religious cultures. Sure, there are other religions that have existed prior to Christianity that may have similar ethics as you claim (and may expand upon), but can we connect these other religious influences to the founding fathers of America? We can with Christianity because these men came from cultures rooted in centuries of Christian doctrine. This is something which many founding fathers, whether Christian or deists, have admitted to. I’m also not making an absolute declaration that Christianity is the absolute source of inspiration for the foundation of our country either. As a previous commenter and I agreed, Greek culture was an influential factor as well. I am merely stating that Christianity was a significant source of influence that many people inappropriately neglect. All and all my comment was in context, a response to a previous commenter’s claim that the world would be better off without Christianity. With this in mind I do not believe it is appropriate to label my argument as a hasty generalization.

      I do feel it necessary to question your claim that most of the “most people who wrote the declaration of independence and constitution, and most of our laws, were in fact, deists, not Christians, who fled from religious persecution. “ Perhaps my history is rusty and you’ll have to enlighten me, but I don’t believe deists had to “flee” to America. Deists were common in both America and Europe during the 18th century, if not more so in Europe. The only religious persecution I am aware of is that of Christians against other Christians in Europe. Which by definition wouldn’t apply to deists.

      Thank you again for your comment Jason.

  9. Jason W. says:

    “The references of bad things Christians have done in the world is nothing more than records of self-proclaimed Christians doing un-biblical things…” “But what we do see in these documents is equality, human rights, and elevation of the common man, which are very Biblical concepts.”

    They are also very general constructs that almost all religions use in their teachings. These are not just Christian, or Biblical beliefs. these are moral and ethical constructs that have existed in every facet of good teaching.

    From this I gather that Christians doing bad things aren’t Christians, but anything done that agrees with the Bible, is a biblical teaching. This is in itself a fallacy. Anyone could say the same of their own religion.

    • matthew2262 says:

      Hello Jason, and thank you for your comment. I’m curious as to which religions you are referring to in which equality, human rights, and elevation of the common man are highlighted. We most certainly don’t see this with Hinduism, Islam, etc. Perhaps you could share with me which other religions stress these tenants. Additionally, you’re misrepresenting me when you say “Christians doing bad things aren’t Christians, but anything done that agrees with the Bible, is a biblical teaching,” because, in context, I was referring to Christians. Thus, Christians doing what they’re not supposed to aren’t Christian, and those doing what they are supposed to, are following Biblical teaching. That is not fallacious in any sense. I never said that if anyone does something that parallels Biblical teaching it is because they are following the Bible. Perhaps I misunderstood your comment though, so feel free to elaborate.

      Thank you for your comment Jason.

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