It’s Said You Should Never Talk About Religion or Politics…

…in mixed company.  So here goes.  If you value your faith, please do not read any of this.  Say Uncle mentions some atheist ceremony (ehem).

Some say that atheism is a religion because, like any other religion it requires faith in something that cannot be proven– the non-existence of god.  I don’t know if I have that much faith.

Then there are those who have faith in something that has been proven wrong over and over– socialism.

In my observation, most organized religions are control cults.  Many are death cults, socialism included.  It seems that humans have a built-in want or need for religion.

Homo Sapiens is an interesting species, to be sure.  Our innate creativity and our tendency to form paranoia cults would appear to go hand-in-hand.  Darwin wrote about such things in his famous book that no one ever read before condemning it, and that only a handful of people have ever read.  They don’t have to read it, I guess, because they’ve already been told what’s in it.  By people who never read it.  He called it something like “correlation”, but I forget the actual term.  It refers to features that come in seemingly inseparable pairs.  Black skin and a higher incidence of sickle cell anemia in humans for example.  He points to many others in different species.  I make the correlation between creativity and paranoia through my own observations.

If God gave his only son to save us from our sins, and yet we’re all the children of God and we all die from this Earth…  What?

If God gave his only son in the ultimate sacrifice, and they’re now together in heaven forever, where’s the sacrifice?  If the crucifixion of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, and yet we are to regard our life on Earth as a petty thing compared to eternity, how is the crucifixion any sacrifice at all?

Why didn’t Jesus ask Mary, or one of his diciples, to nail him to the cross?  Hey; it’s for the good of Mankind.  Why wait for a trial and all the hoopla?

If Jesus gave his life for us, then Pontius Pilot and the others did a service to all of Mankind, no?

Many other people suffered, and do suffer, as much or more than Jesus did, but they have the added disadvantage of not knowing for sure their place in the afterlife, or even whether there is an afterlife.  What about them?  Seems to me, practically speaking, that Jesus had it easier than a whole lot of other people.

If God created everything, including Satan, then God created hell, and he surely must still love his son– Satan.  I wonder of Satan ever writes, or if this father/son relationship has any hope for reconciliation. (I dreamed I met Satan and his chief minion a couple months ago.  They looked a little silly and seemed a but surprised.  I told them; “I was just checking in to see how you were getting along.”)

If God and Satan ever make up, who will be charged with torturing us for all of eternity for not embracing Jesus as our savior?

If everyone who accepts Jesus as their savior will go to heaven, no matter what, and even the best people who don’t, won’t, that seems rather unfair, doesn’t it?

If the reason we believe that Jesus is the son of God (and again; aren’t we all?) is that he performed magic tricks, and if faith is everything, why did Jesus have to perform magic tricks to prove himself?  I mean, couldn’t his message have stood on its own merits?  And if the magic tricks are our proof, why not give us one that would last through the millennia, like, say, hand over the periodic table of the elements, or the universal law of gravity, or something equally awesome?  As it is, all we have is the second and third hand hearsay of a few individuals, who ostensibly got their proof and yet demand pure faith from us.  Seems rather unfair, no?

If Jesus had the Most Important Message Of All Time, the message that alone could lead us to eternal life, then why does he seem to have never put any of it into writing in his own hand?  Seems a cruel trick to send your one and only son (but aren’t we all the sons and daughters of God?) to deliver The Most Important Message Ever and never teach the kid to write, or have him travel the world, or set up a radio station or something.

I think these are all perfectly reasonable, fair questions and observations.  Anyone trying to sell me religion (and there have been many) will have to answer them.  I’ve asked them before and gotten the response; “This proves the folly of casting pearls before swine”  which, I must say, just happens to be the same sort of response (though in more eloquent form) that I get when I ask socialists to demonstrate the validity of their assertions.  I add that in both cases I am being asked to deny that one that makes us human– the thinking, reasoning ability of our brains.  Some people really, really hate that, believing that we should live much more like the other animals.  ‘Cause we deserve to suffer.  Because we suck.

I’m all for freedom of religion, certainly.  As I said; I believe it is inherent in the species, but since the Constitution proscribes the formation of a religious government, or much more accurately, a government religion, how is it that we have anything resembling socialism in our government?

Update: The science fiction (Arthur C. Clarke being a good example) dealing with alien races who either placed humans on Earth or gave us our intelligence, seems to be an alternate form of religion.  While it doesn’t directly assert the existence of a God, it does the same thing.  It asserts a Higher Power far beyond our ability to understand, it denies, discredits or downplays the Long March of the development of our species, and shows disbelief (a lack of faith?) that something as complex as a human (or do we merely flatter ourselves?) could arise all on its own with nothing but the seemingly mundane forces of nature.  One thing the alien super race genesis theory does that religions typically don’t do is; it leaves open the possibility that we may, millions of years down the road, at some point reach that intergalactic traveling, intelligence giving, god-like state ourselves.

20 thoughts on “It’s Said You Should Never Talk About Religion or Politics…

  1. Thank you!

    As an atheist and libertarian, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read a firearms related blog that doesn’t revolve around guns *and* the Bible. For some reason, it seems as though enjoying one almost necessitates believing in the other.

    I have asked many of the same questions that you pose to religious friends and acquaintances and they have nary an answer. Much like socialism, I have no problem with someone thinking that Christianity/Judaism/Catholicism/etc. is the One True Way, just as long as they don’t force those beliefs upon me (especially not using the power of The State to do it).

    Personally, I believe that most thinking men will find:
    1) Firearms are tools – neither good nor evil, and unable to perform any action without the intervention of a user.
    2) Socialism doesn’t work, and even if it did, that doesn’t justify taking money from your fellow man against his will.
    3) Religion makes no sense, does not teach good morals, and offers virtually no supporting evidence for its claims.

    Thanks again for hosting such a well written blog and for having the backbone to say something that likely directly opposes the views of many of your readers.

    -Grant

  2. Lyle, in order to adequately critique something, it’s important to know exactly what it is you’re discussing.

    A good number of your questions are straw men – they don’t accurately reflect the beliefs of most believers in Jesus (though there are plenty of odd beliefs off the mainstream). That’s why you’re getting the “pearls before swine” comment. You’re approaching our beliefs the same way that many Muslims claim that Christians believe in a trinity of Gods consisting of God the Father, Jesus and Mary or that Jews flavor the Matzoh at Passover with the blood of Christian babies.

    If you think that we must defend a caricature of our faith in order to satisfy your “intellectual” questions, it’s no wonder that the pearls stop getting cast. You’re not engaging in the discussion honestly and anyone that recognizes that is unlikely to waste their time trying to educate you.

  3. Thanks Grant. I did say that if people value their faith (and I can understand that – really) then they shouldn’t read it. Everyone was warned, therefore any discomfort one may experience as a result of my words is due to the reader not following my clear and concise instruction.

    As the old saying goes; Some of my best friends are religious, and I don’t try to dissuade. I know from personal experience the feeling of being “touched by the Lord” during a gathering of the faithful, and it’s a very real and powerful thing. My explanation however involves natural selection and the obvious benefit, in our tribal past, of group bonding and does not involve unseen, omnipotent beings ever watchful of our every thought and move, ready, like gangster bosses, to torture us if we step out of line. I assert that other species experience much the same sort of bonding force. Prove me wrong (heh). On the other hand, a lot of people have gotten in my face with their religion, uninvited and unprovoked. This is for them.

    You got answers? I got questions. And the questions come first. To deny them is to deny the essence of Man.

    Anyway; it’s part of human existence that if you believe something with a passion you should be able to support it and defend it in a manner that the non believer will find at least plausible. If it holds up to scrutiny then so much the better. If not, well…you were warned.

    As for the God, Guts and Guns thing; yes it exists in our culture, but I have to wonder whether it’s more of a loud minority. Anyway, The Middle East and North Africa have plenty of all three, and look where it’s got them.

    We can’t deny that a lot of what is good about America has come out of the Judeo/Christian beliefs. I will point out, however, that no such thing as a Bill of Rights, the exclusive ownership of one’s life and body, or government for the people by the people, was asserted by the early Christians, as they were a product of a culture based on brute force. The closest they got was “Thou Shalt Not Steal” which is pretty close, though a lot of Christians I know are all in favor of having the government steal and redistribute for them. That situation in which one American lives at the expense of another, under threat of violence, has been redefined as “compassion” by too many Christians, Jews, and others of faith. “God will provide” and “God helps those who help themselves” has morphed into “Government will provide, by way of threats” and “God helps those who help themselves to other people’s property”.

    I’m rambling I know.

    It was Walter E. Williams from whom I heard the retort; “If though shalt not steal, what would Jesus or the Bible say about being the willing recipient of stolen property”? Yet all too many Christians, including the Vatican, are strongly in favor of that very thing.

  4. Grant: >>Personally, I believe that most thinking men will think the same things I do and believe the same things I do.<< There. Fixed it for you. Because, obviously, most "thinking men" will never arrive at a different conclusion than you. When all the atheists are in agreement in their politics, social beliefs, fashion sense and ideas of morality, get back to us, mmm'kay? Because all of you "thinking men" should obviously arrive at the same conclusion, right? The rest of us will just keep doing whatever it is we do besides thinking in the meantime and shake our heads at your superior attitude and condescending tone. Sheesh.

  5. JR; I’ve heard over and over and over (I went to a Catholic summer school too) including within the last 48 hours, from Christians, that God gave the ultimate sacrifice– his only son, or that Jesus sacrificed himself (depends on who’s talking). Your response addresses none of my questions. If there were truly a “sacrifice” surely Jesus would have offered to go to hell, and thereby maybe help out Satan or some of the poor, condemned souls there. But instead he’s hanging out with God the Father for all eternity. I just want to know. Where’s the sacrifice then, especially considering that we’re being told our mere Earthly, fleshy existence is a relatively trivial matter. It looks on its face to be a contradiction. But then I do not want to challenge anyone’s faith if that faith os something they value. If all I get is “It’s a dumb question, it’s a straw man” then nothing’s changed. That’s all I ever get, which tells me that faith is, in and of itself, the goal. I’m fine with that, actuially, but don’t tell me I’m wrong for not understanding the basic stories that I’ve been taught all my early life, seeing in them some very large holes.

  6. Lyle, you may have been taught lots in your early life, but what seems to have sunk in is, as I stated, a caricature of Christian faith rather than what most Christians believe. It’s the equivalent of a guy taking a semester Introduction to Philosophy class and telling everyone he meets that he knows all about philosophy when there are people who have spent their entire adult lives studying the same thing and realize that they’ve only scratched the surface.

    I am NOT saying your questions are dumb questions. There are no dumb questions if there is a true intent to understand. Most of your questions, however, have been asked before and answered (and the unanswered ones could be answered, “Christians don’t believe what you’re saying they do, so it’s not really an issue.”). You’re putting this out there as a “I’ve asked alllll these people these questions and no one has the answers!” when the answers have been given, examined, clarified, questioned again and rehashed over and over again over the last two thousand years. A library could be filled with the books written on answering the whys, hows and wherefores of Christian belief.

    If you’re asking these questions, there are a few possibilities:

    a.) You don’t know if there’s a God and they’re really, really important to you and you’re willing to exert a lot of effort to find the truth about them.

    b.) You don’t know if there’s a God but they’re not really that important to you and therefore not worth putting any time or effort into.

    c.) You’ve already decided that there is no God (or that the question of whether there is is unknowable) and this is just a fun game called “Look How Stupid All the Christians Are.”

    I think it’s c, whether you’re aware of it or not. Because by asking “questions,” you get to show how intellectual and open minded you are and you get to play the “seeker of truth” card. But by having already arrived at your intended destination, your questions are really just thinly-disguised pats on the back for your belief system and a self-congratulatory way of showing how frail and stupid these ignorant Christians are.

    If I’m wrong (and I may be) and you fit into one of the other categories, why not try this instead:

    For a.), do the hard work yourself and quit relying on people you run into at the park who are satisfied with less intellectual rigor than yourself for your answers to some of the biggest questions in life. Visit your local library and get a few books on Christian apologetics that will address your questions and educate you beyond a Sunday School understanding of Christian theology. I can recommend a few, if you like.

    If it’s b.) and it’s not important enough for you to really educate yourself, then do us a favor and prove it by not discussing it – just say no! When those over-zealous Christians ask, “Do you know Jeeeezzzzuussss?” Just smile politely and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t discuss my religious beliefs with strangers,” or maybe, “Not interested, thanks.” I’m sure a free-thinking individual like yourself can figure our a way to dissuade those pesky evangelists.

    But whichever it is, please have the intellectual honesty to admit it. Posting these types of questions when you’re not willing to do the work of even understanding your subject makes you appear less than honest and only interested in god-bashing.

  7. I used to be a non-believer. Then I received proof that God is there. I won’t bore you with the details. But he is there. I don’t know much about Him, nor do I have any idea what He would have us do. But he does exist.

    On the other hand, I too believe that most, if not all,organized religions are nothing more than control colonies to exact maximum obedience from followers. Oh, and profit, also.

  8. You are gunna need some of these: http://www.goohf.com/

    I had to removes a line from my sig that said:” God huh? My imaginary friend is named Bobo”.
    When you are SURE you know what happens when you die it makes it easy to strap on that vest or bomb that clinic.

  9. Being a gun nut and a quiet Christian (I don’t particularly feel the need to “go therefore and make disciples”) I did want to address one theological issue about the nature of the sacrifice of Christ.

    It’s not that he died that makes it a sacrifice, but rather the seperation from God that made it a sacrifice. Essentially, imagine you had been tied in to the Fount of All Things Rad for literally an enternity, and then by taking the weight of the world’s evil on your shoulders, during that moment you were split from that connection. That’s a lousy way to explain the sacrifice nature of the thing, but it’s not a simple concept. Basically, when Jesus took our sins, he was cut off from God both at that moment and simultaneously for all of time, because his sacrifice exists outside of our linear timeline.

    I’ve always liked it because it involved non-linear time and some pretty sweet diagrams.

    That’s really all, I just want to address one of the more bitchin’ sci-fi aspects of Christianity.

  10. My dad has a masters in theology. He agrees with evolution. He agrees with the Big Bang theory. He doesn’t agree that God “poofs” things into existence. That’s BS. The problem with religion is that it’s Man Made. It boils down to interpretation. And alot of people interpret incorrectly.

    The way we look at it is difficult to explain to belivers, and non belivers, because it’s basically in the middle. The Universe has laws, does it not? Physics, so on and so forth. What happens when something doesn’t want to bode with those laws? Evolution either weeds it out or modifies it. Religiously, Jesus was the one who took the fall. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.. Sin is an action which needs an equal and opposite reaction to satisfy the laws..That’s where Jesus came in. “I put my word above myself”.. A quote from the bible which means God puts his laws above himself. God cannot break his own laws. So how do you get rid of the law breaking without messing with free will or breaking your own laws? Jesus was the answer.

    I did a terrible job explaining… in a hurry.. sorry.

  11. Being something of a deist myself, I enjoyed this post. It seems to me that a Marine willing to jump on a grenade to save his fireteam has made a greater sacrifice than Jesus sacrificing himself KNOWING the end result in order to save all of humanity. Who here would be unwilling to sacrifice themself in order to save everyone’s soul?

    That said there’s still valor in Jesus’s sacrifice. I’ve also no animosity toward believers in tradional Christianity.

    I find the arguments of most athiests just as silly as most traditional Christians. I particularly love the “How could there be a God with so much suffering in the world?” I never quite understood how the kindness of God was related to his existence. I don’t go around telling everyone Hitler was made up because he was an asshole.

    Either way, keep up the good work…

    mike

  12. Thanks. Those are some thoughtful responses. I don’t quite buy the “go become a religious scholar for yourself if you want to know, otherwise it proves you’re not serious”. I figure someone with more invested in it would already have a response. That has certainly been my experience in dealing with people in other disciplines– one who embraces X is always more than willing to talk about X in detail, and most especially to help correct common misconceptions.

    I’m into guns. If anyone asks me; “don’t you think guns just lead to more violence” I have an answer prepared already. Having worked on musical instruments for 30+ years, you want to talk about it? I’ll take up more time than you’re likely to have, even answering dumb questions, because I like the subject. Enthusiasts are typically like that. If there’s something they don’t know, they can usually direct you to someone more likely to have the answer for you, ’cause they tend to network with other enthusiasts in the same field.

    Now I talked with a guy yesterday who wanted a quote from UltiMAK for several thousand pieces, custom made. I’d have though it would have been an easy conversation– two people with similar interests in the same industry, with the only conflict coming later and regarding the final price. Not so. He had to have the quote without having supplied plans or specs. Still not a problem– all I have to do is explain to him how it works. You need specific plans for a specific quote and here’s why…

    Not good enough. He calls me “not serious” for not spitting out a quote over the phone, on a cold call, with no drawings, no alloy specified, no finish specified, etc.

    I had in fact given him the answer; “Anyone you call for a quote is going to need detailed plans with tolerances, etc.” which was THE correct answer. Not the one he wanted, but the correct one. It actually goes farther– each party signs off on the plans and tolerances, but we never got to that bit. I didn’t get tired of this until he insisted, after several go ’rounds, that I was merely toying with him. Then I just hung up, not wanting to waste another minute on something already proved futile.

    How is this relevant? You patiently explain the answer to someone the first time. Then the second time, and the third time, each with more detail. Dumbass question?– several attempts to answer it thoughtfully. Don’t know the answer? Nothing’s wrong with saying; “Sorry. I just don’t know. Try asking Bob over there. In fact, I’ll ask Bob and have him answer it for both of us.”

    If I’m asking dumb questions then explain to me exactly how, without redirecting the discussion toward my motives. Caleb and others, thank you. That’s exactly what you did.

  13. Still; if Jesus’ sacrifice was being separated from God, and I agree that that would be a sacrifice along with the pain he’d have endured, I submit that it’s minor compared to what some regular folks endure. What’s a few decades among a certain eternity after all?

    JR; if you want to talk about motives I’ll tell you. I notice a disturbing number of parallels between socialism and most organized religions (stress “organized”). Spirituallity is a natural part of being human and that is what it is, for good or bad. A very focused emphasis on sacrifice (for the common good) is but one of those parallels. Strenously fighting against the scientific process out of fear of losing authority is another one, but it is not always so. I forget the name of the Pope, but there was one who heartily advocated science. Some of the ancient Arab Muslims did so too, for a while. There was a time when the Arab world represented the epicenter of culture, art and science, but planet-wide these little fits and starts of learning and progress are mere blips among the long ages of oppression, stagnation and decline.

    Another motive is pure curiousoty. I’ve never heard these questions addressed head-on, though I find them (in my ignorance maybe) to be obvious. I’m not quite so curious as to want to spend time in the archives to find out, but I assume others have talked about it and have come up with something in the way of a response other than some variation of “you’re going to hell, Man.” Nor am I confident that these question are addressed at all in the old literature. More likely they’re not, else the responses would be widely known.

    The third motive is I enjoy a lively debate among interested parties. It’s what I do, like going to the gym to work out, only this requires cooperation from others.

    “…the only way to be a comfortable atheist is to really, really believe in coincidence.”
    Maybe, or else you believe that the universe being as vast as we only now have some idea that it is, and that the laws of nature being what they are, and that the universe being as old as it is, even the extremely unlikely can, and will/does, happen. Silly little example; I once dropped a razor blade on a hard, asbestos tile floor, and it stuck there, upright, one corner in the tile. I’d dropped these blades hundreds (maybe thousands) of times over the decades and only one ever stuck. I thought it pretty odd, and tried to reproduce the result by any and all means I could think of, with no success. No matter what I tried, from any distance or angle, I couldn’t make the blade stick. The sticking of the blade did not violate any physical laws of course– it only required some very, very, very narrow ranges of strike angle, rotation and velocity to come together all at once in the same place. Yes; coincidence happens. People get struck by lightening and live through it too, some people more than once. I figure you either believe it or not. I don’t see variations in the level of belief. The feelings or the level of investment one may have in thinking about it is another subject, apart from what is thought real or unreal.

  14. What the hey, I’ll bite. This is going to be a long one.

    >>If God gave his only son to save us from our sins, and yet we’re all the children of God and we all die from this Earth… What?< < Jesus' "sonship" has nothing to do with being born in a human body with the male gender. Mainstream Christian belief holds that Jesus is eternal, the second person of the Trinity (the "Godhead"), he existed throughout eternity and, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was part of the creative process that created the universe. When the Bible speaks of Jesus being God's son, it's referring to a state of RELATIONSHIP. The Son, though equal with the Father and Holy Spirit, submits himself to God the Father, as an earthly son might do to an earthly Father. If Jesus had never taken on human form, he would still be a son. The Bible, while it does talk about other humans being "children of God," it's in a different sense - we are God's children because he created us. However, the Bible also clearly states that through the existence of sin, we have become ENEMIES of God (we have turned against his will and have pursued a path that leads to destruction). But because of his loving nature, he devised a plan to get as many off that path as possible (more on that later). But even then, the Scriptures state that we are ADOPTED into God's family- we "become" his children through the way he devised. So, to answer your question, Jesus is a different sort of son than we are - the older way of saying it is "only begotten son," (meaning the only one that came directly from the Father) but modern translations usually go for something like "one and only son." We are children through creation and adoption, he is a son through his very nature. >>If God gave his only son in the ultimate sacrifice, and they’re now together in heaven forever, where’s the sacrifice? If the crucifixion of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, and yet we are to regard our life on Earth as a petty thing compared to eternity, how is the crucifixion any sacrifice at all?< < Caleb did a pretty good job with this one above - the sacrifice of Jesus was not the crucifixion itself. After all, two thieves were crucified alongside him. The sacrifice of Jesus was in taking on the punishment of all the sins of the every person who ever lived and ever will live - the Scriptures talk about God's wrath being "poured out" on him on the cross. That's why Christians are agog at Jesus' sacrifice - why it's so stunning to us. God took the punishment for his creations. He didn't have to, but he loves us so much. The "ultimate sacrifice" of Jesus involves far more than a couple of nails and a few hours of pain. >>Why didn’t Jesus ask Mary, or one of his diciples, to nail him to the cross? Hey; it’s for the good of Mankind. Why wait for a trial and all the hoopla?< < While Christians put a lot of focus on the cross, it's just because that's what the Romans used at that time and place. There's nothing really special about death on a cross over any other type of death. If it happened today it might be a firing squad or lethal injection. However, we don't discount the humiliation of crucifiction - stripped naked and hung in excruciating pain for hours. Perhaps the suffering and humiliation was something that emphasized what God was doing behind the scenes? As well, the issue of the trial - the Old Testament is filled with prophetic pronouncements about the Messiah ("deliverer") God would send. These prophetic announcements were designed to help people identify who he was. That he would be innocent of any crime, yet condemned to die and hung on a tree were among those. The life of Jesus was not accidental. >>If Jesus gave his life for us, then Pontius Pilot and the others did a service to all of Mankind, no?< < The death of Candy Lightner's daughter led to the foundation of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which dramatically changed the way our society dealt with drunks on the road and has probably saved lots of lives. So that drunk did a service to all Americans by killing that little girl, no? Though good may come from a tragedy, the tragedy is still a tragedy. Pontius Pilate (the Roman procounsel in Judea at the time) knowingly condemned an innocent man. God made good out of it, but Pilate is still guilty of his role in it. >>Many other people suffered, and do suffer, as much or more than Jesus did, but they have the added disadvantage of not knowing for sure their place in the afterlife, or even whether there is an afterlife. What about them? Seems to me, practically speaking, that Jesus had it easier than a whole lot of other people.< < Refer to the whole "wrath of God" thing discussed above. Suffering for one's own sins is bad enough; suffering for the sins of billions is a little bit of a higher level. >>If God created everything, including Satan, then God created hell, and he surely must still love his son– Satan. I wonder of Satan ever writes, or if this father/son relationship has any hope for reconciliation.< < Humans are unique in creation - they bear the image of God. Angelic creatures, such as Satan, do not, though they have intelligence and free will. Humans are children of God, angels are not. Satan is a creation of God (created good, turned malevolent) but not his son. (Unless you're talking theology with a Mormon. They've got a rather unique spin on things.) Satan will not (cannot?) be redeemed. >>If God and Satan ever make up, who will be charged with torturing us for all of eternity for not embracing Jesus as our savior?< < The idea of Satan "torturing" people for all eternity is not in the Bible. Makes a nice appearance in Dante's "Inferno," however. While there is a verse in the Scriptures that talks about torture, it's in a parable not a literal description of the afterlife. Hell is not a place created for humans - it was created for the rebellious angelic beings. Humans just end up there if they will not take the escape route offered by God. But Satan will not be standing around with a pitchfork poking at sinners. There is no ruler in hell and an argument could be made that the true torture of hell is the knowledge that it all could have been different. >>If everyone who accepts Jesus as their savior will go to heaven, no matter what, and even the best people who don’t, won’t, that seems rather unfair, doesn’t it?< < Y'know, my kids do that "It's not fair!" thing to me all the time. But you're missing a crucial understanding - the best of the best of humans is worthy of hell. Mother Theresa, nursing all those orphans and lepers? Hell. Ghandi, preaching peace and forgiveness? Hell. Me? Hell. You? Hell. "Unfair" only works if heaven is something that was deserved by anyone. Let's say you're an animal lover. You find a couple of stray dogs on the street that are emaciated and covered in sores and aggressive and there's nothing to like about those dogs at all. But one of those dogs (the most messed up one) follows you home and you nurse it back to health. Does the dog deserve it? No. Do you owe the dog anything? No. Do you gain anything from helping the dog? No, in fact the vet bill might be substantial. But it's your NATURE to want to help poor emaciated dogs who have no other hope, so you do it. Then someone comes along and says, "Hey! That's not fair! That other dog was in better condition! It's not fair that you nursed that one back to health and not the other one too! You're not a good person at all!" Would you not shrug your shoulders and say, "The other dog wouldn't follow me home." Sure, they might argue that you could have forced the other dog to come. But I haven't met a "free-thinker" yet who would say that God forcing everyone to follow him would be a plan they would endorse. We WANT our freedom (at least I do)! But if that freedom leads us to a place apart from God, suddenly it's "unfair" for those of us who use our freedom to pursue God to do so? >>If the reason we believe that Jesus is the son of God (and again; aren’t we all?) is that he performed magic tricks, and if faith is everything, why did Jesus have to perform magic tricks to prove himself? I mean, couldn’t his message have stood on its own merits? And if the magic tricks are our proof, why not give us one that would last through the millennia, like, say, hand over the periodic table of the elements, or the universal law of gravity, or something equally awesome? As it is, all we have is the second and third hand hearsay of a few individuals, who ostensibly got their proof and yet demand pure faith from us. Seems rather unfair, no?< < Sure, because the Periodic Table would have awed the locals so much that they would have built it a shrine and made copies of it to pass down to future generations to one day discover the meaning behind it. Yup, that's the way to build a faith that will endure for thousands of years! Don't you think that a few raisings of the dead, making people born blind see again and making lepers clean with a touch has a little more "oomph!" than a pretty piece of paper with colored squares on it? Plus, there's that whole loaves and fishes thing - nothing like a full stomach to get someone's attention! But this is where your bias shows - because you discount these miracles as "magic tricks," because that's what they must have been, because miracles aren't real, doncha' know. If the God of the Bible is true, these are no trouble for him to perform - creating matter out of nothing, knitting bone and muscle together, bring life where life has gone. No effort for him at all! But for a normal human, they are impossible. They make a fine indicator that God is real and that God's seal of approval is on that person. But since you've already discounted the possibility of God in the first place, Jesus just must have been running a fine scam on those country folks. Trust me, those who seek God don't end up relying on that "second- and third-hand hearsay," to carry them through. God has promised to reveal himself to those who seek him. I've experienced things that totally confirm God's existence in my mind, even though I sometimes want to NOT believe in him. "But," you might respond, "Why doesn't God just reveal himself to everyone and confirm it once and for all!" Well, you remember those people in Jesus' time who saw him doing all those miracles? A good number of them said, "He heals through Satan's power!" and were yelling, "Crucify him!" a little while later. Seems it takes a heart open to God's truth, even if the miracles are staring you right in the face. Then there are those who say stuff like, "I know from personal experience the feeling of being "touched by the Lord" during a gathering of the faithful, and it's a very real and powerful thing. My explanation however involves natural selection and the obvious benefit, in our tribal past, of group bonding..." Oh I see! You've felt something, but - nah! I couldn't be God, because God doesn't exist. Must be a rational explanation for it... "Oh! The doctors signed that guy's death certificate after he flatlined and they detected no brain activity but he recovered when that old guy went and prayed for him. The self-healing power of the human body is amazing, isn't it? And there's so much medical science doesn't know about situations like this... but there MUST be a rational explanation. No God, no miracles, only naturalistic explanations for everything. If God existed, surely he'd reveal himself!" Sometimes it's not a matter of people who CANNOT see, but of those who WILL NOT see. >>If Jesus had the Most Important Message Of All Time, the message that alone could lead us to eternal life, then why does he seem to have never put any of it into writing in his own hand? Seems a cruel trick to send your one and only son (but aren’t we all the sons and daughters of God?) to deliver The Most Important Message Ever and never teach the kid to write, or have him travel the world, or set up a radio station or something.< < Because if Jesus wrote something in his own hand, everyone would accept it as authentic and that would just solve all the problems, wouldn't it? If you won't accept the testimony of the folks who hung out with the guy and wrote, "Hey! He's God! We saw him do all this amazing stuff!" do you honestly think that a book in Jesus' own words saying, "Hey! I'm God! I did all this amazing stuff!" would be the deal-closer for you? >>I think these are all perfectly reasonable, fair questions and observations. Anyone trying to sell me religion (and there have been many) will have to answer them. I’ve asked them before and gotten the response; “This proves the folly of casting pearls before swine” which, I must say, just happens to be the same sort of response (though in more eloquent form) that I get when I ask socialists to demonstrate the validity of their assertions. I add that in both cases I am being asked to deny that one that makes us human– the thinking, reasoning ability of our brains. Some people really, really hate that, believing that we should live much more like the other animals. ‘Cause we deserve to suffer. Because we suck.<< First off, I'm not sure if the "we deserve to suffer. Because we suck." comment is about the socialists or the religious folks. If it's about the religious folks, it's not true in every case (though I don't doubt that there are some who think that way.) In my mind, the message of Jesus is: "I suffered so you don't have to. You don't suck, I love you!" So, I'm not trying to sell you religion, but I answered your questions. Not expecting you to fall on your knees in repentance though, because, as I stated before, I don't really think the answers really matter to you that much. However, before I close off this (too) long missive, I would like to touch on your comment, "I am being asked to deny that one that makes us human-- the thinking, reasoning ability of our brains." I am touched by this, as I frequently struggle with that very thing - not that I find that God asks me to believe things that are unbelievable, but rather that there is so much that I simply cannot understand. I've loved science since I was a little kid watching the moon landings on TV with my dad and the farther we get along the scientific path (and the older I get!) the less I seem to know. Every new discovery and understanding seems to present more and more questions. And even the scientists who talk about advanced subjects I can only taste preface every statement with, "As far as we know..." and "According to current understanding...", yet still find new mysteries after they felt they had things nailed down. Even the smartest and most talented among us disagree about the very subjects that they make their expertise. When I consider the limitations of my own brain and understanding, I'm fairly confident that there are limits to what all those smart guys can ascertain and comprehend as well. That's where this whole thing about talking about God breaks down. If God is as the Bible describes him, he is beyond our understanding or comprehension. You really can't wrap your head around him - an intelligent, non-human being who exists outside of time, who can create matter and energy out of nothing, has no body and is not subject to the fundamental laws of the universe. But what if this being wants to communicate with us about himself? How does he do that? The answer is, he communicates with us using symbols and concepts we can relate to in our own space - he speaks as himself as a father, because we all had fathers and we can grasp that. He speaks of himself as a judge, and we get that too. He talks about gathering us to himself as a mother chicken gathers her chicks and we nod our heads because we know that image. He uses terms like "my anger" and "my mercy" and we have experienced anger and mercy, so we understand. But ultimately, although he uses all of these pictures to help us understand aspects of himself, these pictures and symbols and concepts are only a shadow of what he really is, a useful pantomime that helps, but can never help enough. And that is the problem for the thinking man - we want to KNOW. But we read the Bible and find these shadowy outlines and they do not satisfy, and can never satisfy. It's like reading an exhaustive treatise about apples and knowing everything there is to know about apples, yet never having had the opportunity to actually taste one. The satisfaction will only come when God's promise will be fulfilled and we pass into eternity ourselves. I've tried to avoid quoting Bible verses here, but this very idea was touched on by Paul, one of the early followers of Jesus, when he wrote: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror (mirrors in those days SUCKED!); then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." That's the day that I'm looking forward to - when these shadows that I'm at the outskirts of become solid and real and I can quit reading about apples and actually bite into one. Your comment about being asked to deny the thinking and reasoning ability of your brain is not accurate. Some might, but I wouldn't. However, I would say that you do have to acknowledge that there might be something beyond what your brain is able to comprehend or reason out. It's only when you get to that point that faith is possible. Wow, look at the time! Good night.

  15. Arguing about the existence or non-existence of God is akin to arguing about the flavor of salt. If you have never experienced it, you cannot possibly define its savor. When you have, you cannot deny its uniqueness, but you still cannot explain its flavor to someone who has not tasted it!

    Lyle, your approach is scientific, but to something that cannot be defined scientifically.

    I will address one of your questions though, because your premise is wrong:

    “If God gave his only son to save us from our sins, and yet we’re all the children of God and we all die from this Earth… What?”

    God gave his only “begotten” son, not his only son. I’ll let you figure out the difference! 🙂

    Bill

  16. Joe, I understand how you feel.

    The above wall of comments is merely an inkling of the true storm over belief / disbelief, one not even half as clear cut as the ‘debate’ over right to bear arms.

    In the end, only you can decide what you believe in.

    Keep up the good work.

  17. HeavenlySword, neither the post or any of the comments above were mine. The post was by Lyle.

    I avoid religion (for the most part) here because I fear it will detract from the primary message I wish to get out (gun control is evil). I put no such restrictions on my guest bloggers.

  18. As far as the “ultimate sacrifice” goes, it has been my understanding over the years that the sacrifice wasn’t that God was giving something up for us per se. There is a good reason Jesus Christ was referred to as the “Lamb of God”. In the Old Testament, there were a substantial number of rules of things that must be done to atone for sinful things to make one pure before God. For many things, that required the sacrifice of a lamb. When Christ died for our sins, he was effectively being the perfect, final lamb. With his death, it was no longer necessary to sacrifice all of these various things to God to make ourselves clean of sin. Instead, we could do the same by accepting him into our lives.

    As for the part about only getting to heaven by accepting that Christ died for your sins, that one gets very complicated. First, Christ made it clear that good deeds don’t earn you a spot in Heaven. It’s a bistable: either you have accepted him into your life or you haven’t. If you have, you’ll want to do good things to help others to want him in their lives as well. If you don’t want to do those things, you probably never truly accepted Christ into your life. On the other hand, if you do those things, but hold them over people (the “holier-than-thou” types) that you feel haven’t done as much, you probably still don’t really have him in your heart.

    I actually spent a great deal of my life being very anti-Christianity because of people like those. There’s nothing like seeing some grossly obese pastor ranting about people fouling their bodies with cigarettes and alcohol. Later on, I started to see that there are two basic categories of churches: courtrooms and hospitals. The hospital churches are focused on helping other people. They understand that no one is perfect. The courtroom churches have congregations that don’t care about God nearly as much as they care about having another way to feel superior to other people. They’ll ignore their own flaws, and delight in pointing out all of yours.

    I will say that one of the big reasons I became a Christian is the fact that I’m alive right now. Nine times, I have faced situations that should have killed me. Not only am I alive, but all I have to show from all of them is a couple of tiny scars. I just have a hard time believing that I’m just that lucky.

  19. I’ve asked them before and gotten the response; “This proves the folly of casting pearls before swine”

    On a side note, did someone actually use that exact phrase with you, or is that more of a general description of the type of attitude you’ve gotten from some. If it’s the former, talk about a losing sales pitch.

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