Faith and Spirituality discussion


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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 17, 2008 06:43PM) (new)

In my opinion, the Christian god is not real. Fake, unreal. He does not exsist.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

What do you guys think?

message 3: by katie (new)

katie (phunnynygirlwindstreamnet) Well, I sincerely and heartily disagree with you!
There is more proof that God does exist then that He doesn't!

message 4: by Georgia (new)

Georgia (wait4utopia) | 55 comments Marigold...well I think that going so far as to say that the Christian God is fake or unreal or that He does not exist is a bit say that as though you do believe in some sort of higher power...

Personally I believe that God or the Goddess or Allah or whatever one is to call Him or Her or It exists...I believe that it is the belief in some sort of spiritual matter that is more important...I am not Christian..but that does not mean that some sort of Divine entity does not exist, just because I do not call this entity God, and someone else does...

Katie - I disagree that there is 'proof' that a 'Christian God' exists...It is all depending on the perception...I do believe in a Divine energy...but I do not think of that like Christians think of their there is a difference...I believe it for reasons of my own...but there are others who believe differently for reasons of theirs :)

Your thoughts??

message 5: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician here's my thoughts: read posts carefully. kate didn't say that there is 'proof' that God exists, she said there is more proof for Him than against Him. which i believe you would agree with, Georgia. (must say, love your name)

now Marigold, are you launching a crusade against Christianity? why make a point of saying the Christian God? why not say all gods? unless you believe in a divine which case, if you are muslim, jew, or any other monotheistic religion, you contradict yourself, bc most muslims agree that that Allah is the Christian God. but before going any further, i must ask, what are your beliefs?

message 6: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician and also, Marigold, you state that it's your opinion. you aren't stating "God doesn;t exist" you are stating "i personally think that God doesn;t exist." this is great and all, but you're only telling us a little about yourself.

message 7: by Georgia (new)

Georgia (wait4utopia) | 55 comments I am Pagan... :)...and if you are more interested in my beliefs I have spelled them out quite a lot in the topic of 'Spiritual Books' in regards to my response to Katie I was actually referring to her response that there is more proof of Him than not...which, yes, I agree a way...I was referring my disagreement to 'Christian God' versus a Divine energy period...

message 8: by Tommy (new)

Tommy (frodo) | 133 comments And on the whole "most muslims agree that that Allah is the Christian God," lie, you can check out my blog. There are more than enough contradictions between the two to see that they cannot be the same. here's a link:

message 9: by Georgia (new)

Georgia (wait4utopia) | 55 comments The only reason I brought up the 'name' issue, is because no matter what one calls their Divine entity...I was curious as to Katie & Marigolds take on the difference in that...Katie made a statement that there is more proof that He exists (while it is obvious that she is Christian, that does not mean that the proof points to a Christian God)... and with Marigold I am simply asking her opinion as she specified a 'Christian God' and why she is so adamant that someone elses God does NOT exist...Personally I could care less what others call their God...and I also think that quite often we get too caught up in technicalities of what others say and pounce on them...I was not disagreeing with them (as it is not my place to do so - although my beliefs are otherwise) rather I was just asking their opinions on why things were phrased in that way..

I think that when we consider that there is no scientific proof either way..we need as a culture and as humans, to allow others their way unless it is harmfull to is not for me to say that anyone else is incorrect...but I can say that I believe otherwise and substantiate my beliefs with my own personal thoughts and experiences..

I havent had coffee I hope that makes

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I do not believe that there is a Christian god. I believe in the greek gods more than I beleive in the Christian god. There really is no proof he exsists. And I have noticed this: All of the greek myths are very much like the bible. People always say, "The greeks copied." but they didn't. How could they have copied when the greek myths were written and told over 100 years before Jesus was born? And anyway, who said the Christian god was real? Who said the greeks weren't real? I am not going to base my religion on the bible, because it copies the greek myths. Like I said, I believe more in Zeus than I do in Jesus.

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

And by the way, Cordelia is Marigold. I changed my name.

message 12: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician how can you find Zeus more believable? he's the ruler of a a bunch of gods that fight each other all the time; good grief, Zeus has to go out and have sex with human women instead of his wife (who is also his sister, by the way: Hera) and actually the Old Testament was written far before the greeks had their religion. the Christian God is far more believable (He has morals, He knows what's right and wrong) than Zeus.

message 13: by Tommy (new)

Tommy (frodo) | 133 comments Why is it that you don't believe in the Christian God?

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't believe in the Christian god because I just don't. He doesn't seem real to me. And Squiggles, I find Zeus and the greeks more believable because they are like people. They make mistakes, and they get angry. What does Jesus do? He does everything right, he can do no wrong, yata yata. You know how parents always say, nobody's perfect? Well it seems like Jesus was perfect, even though he didn't exsist in my opinion. He is too perfect. I believe in the greeks because they seem human.

message 15: by katie (new)

katie (phunnynygirlwindstreamnet) but why would you want to believe a god that is just like a human; who does the same things we do? then it isn't really a's kind of like a "super human", if you get my meaning. why should we worship something like that? i have always liked the Greek stories but they really aren't believable! i'm sorry but why would anyone want to pray and live life for a god that does the same bad things and more that we do?? they don't really know right from wrong! they were just fighting over power, women, money, and other things..
Jesus is God. He can't do wrong. but He still came down to earth and suffered the temptation to sin and to do wrong things. that is why He is a perfect Savior! b/c He had to suffer the same things that we suffer but He didn't give in. He has the holiness and righteousness that we can only have through Him. now i bet by this point you are rolling your eyes and dismissing me and my "too perfect" God, but please really think about some of the things taught in the greek god stories.
now, i have some questions for you. please answer them and i'll answer some q's from you guys.
what do you believe happens after this life?
what do you think the purpose is in this life?
Do you think that Christianity is wrong b/c our God is too perfect? or what?
i know these are big questions..but they really should be answered.
now i need to go work on other posts! =)

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't want to pray and live life just to worship something! That isn't life! I live my own life and I don't worship anybody or anything. I may be young, but I know what I was meant to do. I was meant to live life and love it. I don't see the point in worshiping someone. What does it do for you? I'll tell you what. Nothing. Does worshipping a god help you to gain a good place in heaven, or the after life? Does it give you things like riches fame, or fortune? Does it give life a purpose? If you answered yes to the last one, get a life. I don't beleive in any god. I don't worship anything. And I am not afraid to say it. Now I will answer Katie's questions.

I think your soul goes and leaves your body, and you are free to travel the universe and whatever else is out there for eternity.

I think the purpose in this life is to live. Just that. To live and love life. To thank your parents for having you, and be happy and joyful.

I do think that Christianity is wrong. And I think your god is too perfect. Christianity is a bunch of people basing a book on your religion. Christianity is a bunch of sheep following the shepard. Well I don't want to be a sheep. I want to be the shepard, to live my own life and not let someone guide me. I live my own life, and nobody tells me what to do. And as I said before, I am young. But I would like to hear your guesses at my age. I will tell you the answer now. I am a full 12 years old.

message 17: by katie (new)

katie (phunnynygirlwindstreamnet) you know what, you do worship something. read your post again and you will see what i mean. you worship yourself! YOU want to be the shepherd. YOU want to, in a figure of speaking, be your own god. YOU want to live your live to glorify and make everything perfect for YOU.
that is what you are saying in that last post.
Do you think that my life is going to school, sitting in dark clothing and going to church? do you thnk that i don't do anything fun? you said that i get nothing from worshipping and glorifying a God so great. you are wrong! i have complete and amazing joy! i have an amazing family in Christ! i have a purpose in life other then making myself feel good. i am passionate about meeting my Creator. He is the one who will be there when i, and everbody, for that matter, die. we will have to answer to Him! and if life is all about happiness and loving life, you are partly right! God created us to enjoy the world He has given us to live in. He gave us feelings and a soul, unlike animals. but the biggest part of His creating us is to glorify Him. when you watch a sunset or a rainbow do you feel something? sure you do. you would prolly feel amazment or peace or some other sense of joy, right? God made the whole world for His own pleasure and exaltation. that may sond awful to you but it's the truth.
please don't shut me out because my God is "too perfect". i have some more questions for you. please answer me and i would LOVE to have some q's from you.
1) what do you believe other then Christianity is wrong?
2) what do you think about the creation of the world and life?
3)do you find complete happiness in simply loving life?
4) how do you "love life"?

step back and think. please. i don't want to make you mad, even though that has prolly already happened. ask me any questions you have. i don't mind! =)

message 18: by Tommy (new)

Tommy (frodo) | 133 comments Chloe:

Can you provide any reasons why you don't believe in God apart from "I just don't"? And I have to say, you seem very angry, very unhappy. May I ask why?

message 19: by Judy (new)

Judy (judy5cents) | 8 comments Chloe:

I am fortunate enough to belong to a church that encourages its members to question their beliefs. It is part of our spirtual growth. My view of God has changed drastically since I was a child. That was the God who was in charge of everything and gave you stuff if you prayed for it.

I now use the word "The Divine" when thinking of the entity that I believe in. It's a divine life force that's greater than me, that's in all of us and around us, evident in the vastness of the universe and wonder of nature. Like the Higher Power of AA or the Force in Star Wars, it provides me solace and strength, it inspires me to care for the people Jesus called "the least of these." I am not motivated by heaven or hell. Lately, I've come to the conclusion that when I die, I'm dead and that's all right.

This is my belief. I feel no need to justify it or compel anyone else to believe it.

I can see why you have a hard time finding "The Christian God" believable. I go to church because I love being around people who are striving to make themselves and the world a better place, not because I must appease The God In Charge Of Everything. And we have lovely potluck suppers.

message 20: by Kristjan (new)

Kristjan (booktroll) Chloe said: I live my own life and I don't worship anybody or anything. I may be young, but I know what I was meant to do. I was meant to live life and love it. [...] I think the purpose in this life is to live. Just that. To live and love life. To thank your parents for having you, and be happy and joyful.

I am curious why you feel the need to thank your parents for having you? What about grandparents? How far back do you need to go with your thanksgiving? How does all this contribute to your life's purpose?

Christianity is a bunch of sheep following the shepard. Well I don't want to be a sheep. I want to be the shepard, to live my own life and not let someone guide me.

"With great power comes great responsibility" ... so you want to be the shepard? How then will you care for your sheep? Or are you not really that interested in job (just the benefits)? Don't you find it lonely to be so independent and unable to ask for help? Have you always had the correct answer so that help is never needed? Sometimes I really enjoy being taken care of ... to be loved in turn to my loving others. I think I would miss that most of all :(

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)


I am not angry and I am not unhappy. I love my life! I get into fights, I do well in school, and I have friends. (And yes, I enjoy being in fights. I usually win.) I don't believe in the Christian god because I don't need to. I don't need him/her to make me happy. And another reason I don't believe is who said god was a boy? Mary had his son supposedly, and usually only women can even have kids! And also I am a total feminist and I don't want to be worshipping a boy. There is no proff the Christian god exists, so I don't believe.


I don't worship myself. I worship nothing. Yes I want to be the shepard. But that is because I don't want to be told what to do, what to beleive in, what to say, what to feel, what to anything! I don't want to live my life to glorify myself or others. I want to live my life to live and just that. Now I will answer your questions.
1) I really think that there is no god, so I believe that every religion where the pastor tells the congragation to worship god is wrong.
2)The creation of the world and life.....I don't know about that one. I know for me it wasn't made by a god, so I will base it on science. The evolution of man has really been seen and proved, which means we didn't start out as people. And that means god didn't make us.
3) Yes, I do. Loving life is fine with me. I don't need to worship someone to make me happy. I don't need someone's affection to make me something. I don't need to do that. I don't worship anything.
4) You can love life in many different ways. I love life in my way, you live life in yours. I can't tell you how to love life.


I will thank my parents for having me because if they didn't I wouldn't be here! Simply that. It helps to contribute to my lifes purpose in a way that if I wasn't born, how could I live my life's purpose. I know that with great power also comes great responsibility. But I never said I wanted to lead anyone else. As far as I'm concerned I have no sheep to care for. And I am not lonely. I have my family and my friends. And besides, if you ask god something he usually won't giv it to ya in a straight answer. I am not that independant.


I really have no questions for you except this:

Why do you beleive?

message 22: by Tommy (new)

Tommy (frodo) | 133 comments Dear Chloe:

"And another reason I don't believe is who said god was a boy?"

Well...Jesus did. In several places. He calls God His Father. Most fathers are men (lol). :)

message 23: by Kristjan (new)

Kristjan (booktroll) Tommy said:


"And another reason I don't believe is who said god was a boy?"

Well...Jesus did. In several places. He calls God His Father. Most fathers are men (lol).

Right and what does God want with a starship?

Gender is only required for sexual reproduction ... why in the world would God need to be either male or female?

The term father by the way is frequently used to imply authority. Just like Father O'Malley down at the local Catholic Church? Unless he is doing something he shouldn't be ... he ain't got kids so he ain't really a father is he?

message 24: by Tommy (new)

Tommy (frodo) | 133 comments Dear Kristjan:

But God does have a son, doesn't He? Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

message 25: by Robert (last edited May 03, 2008 07:50AM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Dear Tommy,

If you refer to your bible, you will see references to many "sons of God" in the early books. If you study what biblical philosophers write about the bible, the advanced ones view God as a sexless non-anthropomorphic being. In the image of God means possessing of reason, not the physical form of God. What, precisely, would be the purpose of nipples on a God? Or a navel? Or a human form at all? Would God have an appendix? Why would God shape mankind with an appendix?

Even Adam and Eve are a myth that is at best interpreted metaphorically (although not by credulous fools like St. Augustine), with Adam originally being sexless until Eve is split off from him, so that only together do they again make one whole.

As long as you persist in taking the bible as literal truth, you will find yourself forever working out impossible conflicts. If you are reading through the website I posted the link to, you may have reached the part that communicates Frederick Douglas's writings on slavery and the experiences of the slave, together with the words of the bible on slavery. Interpret those away, if you can.

Not that I doubt that you, or Daniel, or somebody, will. Until you open your eyes and mind, you will see only a distorted version of the world, one shaped by your fantasies and romantic vision instead of the truth.


message 26: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician this thread is really going nowhere. God has no bodily form; He is a spirit, an intangible being. Thus, He isn't bounded by the rules of this world. He is infinite, we are finite. But, it is rather worth noting that the Bible always speaks of God as He, Him, Himself, etc. The original Hebrew spoke of Him in the masculine sense. Thus the reason for speaking of God as a "He."

message 27: by Kristjan (last edited May 03, 2008 08:37AM) (new)

Kristjan (booktroll) Tommy But God does have a son, doesn't He? Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

So you are suggesting that God had sex with Mary? Doesn't that make her being a virgin problematic?

Squiggles said: The original Hebrew spoke of Him in the masculine sense. Thus the reason for speaking of God as a "He."

Just to be very clear here ... grammatical gender is NOT the same as actual gender. In addition, once upon a time, proper English referred to ANY unknown gender in the masculine.

message 28: by katie (new)

katie (phunnynygirlwindstreamnet) when God calls HIMself the Father, i think that HE means what He says. He doesn't have a physical body. when God says He created in His own image, i think that part of it is His attributes, not the way He looks...but we aren't God. We have a soul, which separates us from animals, who don't. we aren't just spirits like God, without a body.
the Bible says: (even though some of you will discredit it because it was written by a bunch of ignorant peasants hundreds of years ago..)
"For God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." ~John 4:24
another thing, the man is the head of the household. (now i KNOW some ppl are gonna to be mad at THAT one.)
God placed female under the male. we are to be submissive to the leader of the home. now i am not saying that it gives the right to men to beat women or be rude to them..they just have the job of taking care of the 'weaker vessel'. they support the family and take the responsibilities after marriage.
the Bible is very clear on the man's role and the woman's role in the family.

i'm still working on other to go! =)

message 29: by katie (last edited May 03, 2008 04:44PM) (new)

katie (phunnynygirlwindstreamnet) rgb-
will you please give me a definition, (your definition), of "the truth" without a bunch of extra words? not to be rude...but i have a short patience and i speed-read. i prolly missed your def. in another post, sorry! =)

message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Well that just gives me another reason to hate and not believe in god. Who said the women had to be placed under the males? That is sexist just saying that! A man is NOT the leader of a home. Think of those single moms who have their own home with no males? Does that mean the house has no leader? And women are not the 'weaker vessel'! If I was there I would slap you for saying that! And FYI, women used to rule the world. we used to be placed above men. Women not men. Then men, being the idiots that they are, got scared of us. Thats right, they got scared of us! And you know what they did? They took away womens power! They took away our rights because they were scared! Thats whats been happeneing ever since men have ruled America! They rip down their enemies power because in truth they were scared! SCARED! And Tommie, what you said about boys being rougher then girls? Ever heard of the Spartans? Joan of Ark? The Amazons? Athena? All examples of women warriors who could beat any man alive! Show some respect. For in truth, without women, the world would die out. Who would give birth then? Who would bring new life into this world then huh?

message 31: by Robert (last edited May 03, 2008 11:01PM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments The word truth has a specific meaning in logic and mathematics, and a very different meaning in both religion and the real world.

In logic or mathematics, it generally means "consistent". The laws of thought, Boolean algebra, logic, and mathematics are all designed (as it were) to permit presumed true propositions to be consistently developed into theorems that must be "true" (as an abstract symbolic value) if the premises are true.

This meaning in part from what we consider the word "true" to mean in human experience. Unfortunately, the early Greeks who worked out a lot of the original formulations of thought and logic weren't quite skeptical enough, lacked any real understanding of algebra, were just inventing axiomatic reasoning and didn't get it quite right, and consequently they -- and we -- use the word as if we could know things about the real world to be definitely true, correct, in a one-to-one correspondence between the symbolic representation of reality and reality itself. We now know that this correspondence depends on a set of unprovable assumptions (thanks to Hume), and so we cannot really say that we know very many things to be certainly true. In fact, there is really just one: we cannot doubt our own experiencing of -- something. Something non-null.

Everything we infer beyond that can be doubted, and it all depends on our making postulates that cannot be proven and must be assumed to be true. Some of them aren't much of a challenge and we believe them quite strongly -- I believe that the world I seem to perceive is really there, for example, and I believe it so strongly that I'm pretty comfortable stating that it is truly there, even as I fully understand the logical impossibility of proving it.

You will note that this is an essential act of faith. The most ardent of existential atheists must share this faith in order to put their pants on every morning, for without faith there are no pants, only an illusion of pants. To some religions and philosophies, there are indeed no pants, only an illusion of pants, but of course this cannot be proven either. Ultimately we can assume the pants are real or not as a matter of sophistry, but if we don't put them on people will laugh at us just the same.

All of our modern knowledge of the world is derived from a very small, very solid set of fundamental premises, premises that start with the assumption that the world we seem to see is really there, that it has order and structure, that the order and structure is mathematical and logically consistent (what the word "order" means, if you like), and that we can best learn how it works by making up possible explanations, doubting them as hard as we can, and testing them against our empirical experience to build an interconnected network of mutually supporting explanations that we haven't been able to falsify, that we cannot fail on empirical grounds, that are approximately consistent (approximately is OK because of our generally finite experience).

This network becomes what we call "human knowledge", and it is a kind of "provisional truth". That doesn't mean that the "provisional" part is weak -- on the contrary, at this point the network is incredibly strong, consistent, and far reaching. We understand so much, at such a very fundamental level, that there are really not a lot of things that you will encounter in daily life that are not remarkably well understood, if you take the time to learn how it all works. Where our understanding fails us, it is generally because of the complexity of the system, not because we expect any inconsistency with our basic knowledge of how things work.

Finally, there is "religious truth", which is a different beast altogether. This is the thing Kristjan and I have been discussing, at least partly. A religious truth is very similar to the postulates of mathematics or physics -- it is a prior assertion of truth that cannot be proven or falsified (where "proof", it should be noted, is "not falsified or contradicted when we should be able to falsify it if it is in fact false", not proven in the sense of mathematical deduction, which is meaningless in the real world).

The problem with religious truths is that they often overlap with truths we obtain of the other sorts, and when they do they almost invariably a) contradict that knowledge; and b) are hence falsified by logic and all sorts of empirical data. Where they don't overlap, they generally cannot be proven or disproven at all.

If I assert "God exists", no experience can prove or disprove it as God is an infinity, and experience is finite unless one IS God. If I assert "God does not exist", no experience can prove or disprove the statement because one can imagine a Universe without God, and a Universe with God, that behave absolutely identical in all respects to our finite and limited experience.

If I assert "God created the world 6012 years ago", however, that's a different matter. When we construct our empirical knowledge of the world, when we build a physics -- a physics that works as you can witness in detail as these words appear on your computer screen designed on the basis of pure physics -- we discover many clocks. There are clocks inside your computer. There are clocks inside your body. There are clocks inside trees, inside any piece of matter than once lived, inside rocks. There are clocks visible in the sky; the light of the stars themselves forms a clock, one that we have only learned to read accurately over the course of the last fifty years.

All of the clocks we can read -- and there are many of them, some of them completely independent of one another in how they work -- contradict the assertion that the Universe is 6012 years old. By six orders of magnitude. There is the possibility of error, to be sure. Maybe the Universe is only 10 billion years old, not 13. But there is no possible way it is 6012. Or 10,000. Or a million. Or even just one billion. The earth is measurably older than a billion years; we can date life on earth to be just about this old.

So, you have to decide. Are all of those clocks wrong -- something that I think is not very plausible -- or is the statement that God made the world 6012 years ago wrong? If you choose the latter, how are you going to reconcile it with the observation that you could not even reply to this message if the physics of those clocks didn't work precisely (and I do mean precisely) correctly?

By the way, these clocks aren't terribly complex. They work exactly the same way that the broken clocks that reveal the time of the murder work in a murder mystery. When the deed is done (for example, a rock is born or a plant dies) certain chemicals are present in consistent, statistically knowable fractions. Over time, nuclei in those chemicals change to other nuclei -- often ones that do not naturally occur in the chemicals at all-- due to radioactive decay. By measuring how much of these nuclear byproducts there are, we get not just one, but lots of possible clocks corresponding to different molecules and elements.

These clocks all agree; you would have to postulate a horrible conspiracy on the part of God to hide the "true time of the murder" to believe that they could be wrong.


message 32: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Dear Chloe,

You go, girl!

I personally like to think that men and women are pretty much equal, to within some basic and fairly obvious biology. I don't know that women ever used to "rule the world" -- history doesn't quite say that, although there have been plenty of times and places with powerful female rulers (including England at the peak of the British Empire). I'm not sure that there are any particular men that have managed to rule the world either.

In modern democratic times, it seems wise to work on ruling not each other but ourselves. Not men to rule women, or women men, or men to rule men or women to rule women. I wish only to rule myself. That's a remarkably difficult chore all by itself.


message 33: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician uh, Chloe--where'd you get the evidence that women ruled the world and men got scared and took away their rights? if women ruled the world, how did the men have the power to take away women's rights? what civiliztion was this? and men are idiots? so you think, in effect, that the world doesn;t need men? how would women give birth if there were no men?

message 34: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician Robert. Do you not read and understand? Chloe called you an idiot.

"Then men, being the idiots that they are, got scared of us."

I will assume for your sake that you simply missed this statement. I understand being open-minded, but are you so open-minded that you actually encourage someone who called you an idiot? (indirectly, but still, she did)

and Chloe, you are quite off on your historical knowledge. The Spartans warriors were men. The women were highly athletic, but nowhere near as powerful as the men. Joan of Arc was a courageous female soldier. She also wasn't as powerful as the soldiers she commanded. (And, interesting to note, she believed in the very God that you ridicule and blaspheme) The Amazons were fiction. They didn't exist (not in the way you mention them, anyway). They were a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology (to quote from your very precious Wikipedia, Robert.) Athena was a Greek god (or Roman. I don't keep track of them all) True, she was the god of war, but she couldn't control Zeus (or Jupiter, whatever the case may be.) Odd that you use Athena, a god, as an example when you hate and deride gods. So none of the evidence you;ve used actually works for you. Try again, won't you?

message 35: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Squiggles,

Jeepers, lighten up! Chloe is pointing out that Christianity is an intensely patriarchal religion, one that is actively misogynistic in many places. Chloe is dead on right, as I demonstrated with a whole string of "inerrant" quotes straight from the good old bible.

Outside of that, I think gender wars are a bad idea, and I'd advise you not to engage. If you look back at history, you'll note that paganism and various other religions have goddesses and pay much more respect to the female divine than does Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam). The desert cultures were for whatever reason intensely patriarchal, and several of the apostles had open chips on their shoulders concerning women. The Catholic Church still has a problem with this -- a double or triple problem, even. No female priests or bishops or popes. Elevation of the Virgin Mary to a totally bizarre demigoddess status. A lot of the protestant houses don't do a lot better, although most of them at least try, these days. And then there is Islam.

I notice that you didn't respond about Timothy, so I'm guessing that you do indeed think that women shouldn't speak up in church and should obey their husband, father, older brothers, that women are god-given chattel to men (just like it says in Genesis).

If this isn't true, then it would be far more conciliatory and kinder to say so instead of worrying so much about who is calling whom an idiot, or for that matter a blasphemer.

Speaking of blasphemy, have you had a chance to look over Andromeda yet? Four distinct measurements of distance, all of them quite clever, all of them placing the galaxy millions of light years away? And it is one of the closest galaxies; the Hubble reveals order of a billion visible galaxies that are visibly immensely further away than it.

Ultimately the question is: are you interested in truth? If you are, then you cannot in all honesty refuse to even look at evidence that might contradict the bible. Nor can you casually reject it after a glance. You need to actually try to understand it. It isn't that difficult to understand. Even if one just treats Andromeda like a giant light bulb and compute its distance based on the 1/r^2 diminishment of light intensity with distance (counting its stars to obtain the crudest possible baseline estimates of its local brightness) one gets a distance vastly, vastly larger than 6012 light years. And since it is a galaxy that is larger than the Milky Way -- and yet is far enough away that it is a relatively small object, barely visible to the naked eye -- I think that you'd find it difficult indeed to look at it, to look at pictures of it taken through modern telescopes, and conclude "sure, it's just a few thousand light years away".

You will eventually come to understand, if you look, that this -- not "blasphemy" -- is why not even the Catholic church still endorses Genesis as literal truth. And this is just one small piece of evidence. The world's largest religious power structure -- one with a long history of opposing any sort of challenge to its prime tenets in the bible, opposing them with blood and the noose and fire when necessary -- had to choose between reason and dogma, and chose reason.

You are ever free to do the same.


message 36: by Chaotician (new)

Chaotician Robert,
You make me chuckle. You are supporting someone that called you (very "in your face") an idiot. This is amazing! You are actually defending and arguing for a 12 year old girl that called you, Robert G. Brown, a f***ing genius, teacher of college physics, an idiot. This is astounding. I slightly doubt Wikipedia and I say so, and you go and parade around your credentials in my face. A little girl calls you an idiot, and you tell her "You go girl!"

"Outside of that, I think gender wars are a bad idea, and I'd advise you not to engage."

You're talking to me from the point of a woman to a man. You are a man, but you are telling me not to defend your gender. Now, had you simply ignored her calling you an idiot, I would have gladly accepted that. But you have to go encouraging her! This is ridiculous. Fine, I won;t engage; but you are quite the irrational one here.

message 37: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Squiggles, listen to yourself. If she is indeed a 12 year old girl -- recognizing that since her profile is set to private, for all I really know she could be a 45 year old balding FBI agent pretending to be a 12 year old girl and trolling for child molesters -- she can call me an idiot, although I don't think she did. Let's ask.

Chloe, did you call me an idiot?

You can call me an idiot too, OK, Squiggles? Or just think it, if you need to to be happy. I won't even have to forgive you if you do -- that kind of "trespass", especially in rhetorical context, isn't even WORTH forgiving. If anything, I find it a bit funny. So much as I appreciate the help, I don't need defending, my gender very much doesn't need defending (and it is sorry if it ever offended Chloe and begs her forgiveness:-) and I'm guessing that if you are more mature than Chloe (whatever her age) you probably don't need defending either.

To pass on a piece of wisdom from my parents -- "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words (especially words purportedly "spoken" by a 12 year old:-) will never, ever, hurt me unless they are words like `he offered me a piece of candy and then he touched me'."

Now if she really were 12, and if she were my personal responsibility (I already have one 12 year old male upstairs at this very moment and have lived through two already that were) I might be inclined to counsel her to be polite to adults, mostly, unless they are being rude to her or saying outrageously bigoted things and being rude to everybody.

Looking back at the context and content of her remarks:

Well that just gives me another reason to hate and not believe in god. Who said the women had to be placed under the males?

Timothy did. Corinthians does. The bible is openly and notoriously sexist, both old testament and new. I posted a half dozen or so links to specific lines that are unambiguously sexist, although the greatest damage is done by Jesus just ignoring women in the non-Gnostic versions of the Gospels, with rare exceptions. After all, he could have selected (say) six female apostles and six male apostles, right?

That is sexist just saying that! A man is NOT the leader of a home. Think of those single moms who have their own home with no males? Does that mean the house has no leader?

Again, I agree. It is sexist to just say that. A man is not the leader of a home if that man is married, or shouldn't be, although he can lead all he wants if he lives alone. Ideally one shares the leadership along with all the other burdens and rewards. Women who are single moms are quite capable of running their own lives (fortunately). Generalizations are dangerous, of course -- households range from dad does everything while mom is an alcoholic child abuser to dad is an abusive butt-head and beats mom and the kids both.

The ideal, though, is absolute equality, shared responsibility, and mutualistic and reciprocative love. Oh, and sex, too. Lots of good, equal, happy sex. Almost forgot.

And women are not the 'weaker vessel'! If I was there I would slap you for saying that!

Here is where IF Chloe were 12 I'd counsel her not to engage in physical violence even against people who are sexist enough to call a woman a "weaker vessel". If she were 18, well, I dunno. Zen has a place for a "clearing blow". But (sigh) no, no, no. I suppose it would be wrong.

Chloe, please don't go around hitting people you disagree with. Make fun of them instead. Or if they do it publicly enough in a work environment, sue their asses. If I were to call any female working at Duke or in any of my classes a "weaker vessel", I'd find myself fired, sued, and/or in mandatory counseling sessions. In situations of differential power or professional relationships, sexism is against the law.

And FYI, women used to rule the world. we used to be placed above men. Women not men. Then men, being the idiots that they are, got scared of us. Thats right, they got scared of us! And you know what they did? They took away womens power! They took away our rights because they were scared! Thats whats been happeneing ever since men have ruled America! They rip down their enemies power because in truth they were scared! SCARED!

Now here, as I did note, Chloe is indulging in a certain amount of rhetorical exaggeration and we all know it. There have been matriarchal tribal cultures, true, but as I noted nobody male or female has ever "ruled the world". Sometimes women are "on top". Sometimes (more often) men are. Why is that, one wonders?

Well, perhaps it is because the religions of the world (and the associated societies) are derived from patriarchal tribal feudal societies, where men were usually in charge and were fighting perpetual wars in which they either a) slaughtered; or b) raped and took as slaves all the women outside of their own culture.

This sort of behavior is all over the old testament. Moses not only endorsed it, he commanded it in plain, well, Hebrew I suppose. So yeah, I can see how women (at least women with any sense) would take issue with at certain parts of the bible. They don't sound like perfect wisdom, justice, goodness to me. They don't even sound like bad wisdom. They sound like sin.


message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Sure, when they felt like it. Or, more likely, since women have NEVER been particularly submissive -- that's just a little fantasy men have that is turned into dogma in various places in the bible, where no doubt it must be true because the bible says so -- there have been strong women who did great things in SPITE of the fact that religious law prohibited it.

But no matter; you can always reread, re-interpret, change, and get the bible to sort-of say whatever you want, and you can just sort of "forget" all the verses that show the exact opposite. Such as the ones laying down the rape law I quoted earlier, the verses where no less than Moses himself commands the slaughter and rape of women (not an isolated occurrence; the OT is full of war stories), David's shenanigans.

I'm just pointing out that Chloe -- who seems less inclined to "interpret" this sort of thing away and instead reads what she reads, as do I -- has ample reason to consider the bible's overall treatment of women to be baseline pretty horrible. Second class citizens from the very first silly story in Genesis on, immortalized in about eight million pieces of art and stories and poems and transformed into a cultural icon in sermon after sermon -- woman is weak, easily tempted, not to be trusted, led into sin, a temptress that leads man into sin, virginity is a virtue in women (but not in men), women get just one husband but men get many wives. Quite a list, really, but it's what you get in primitive patriarchal cultures, after all.



message 39: by katie (new)

katie (phunnynygirlwindstreamnet) Ok. Let me defend myself..and others.
I think that men and women are equal. We are all human beings created by God to
give Him glory, even though some of you don't agree with that because, in your
opinion, He doesn't exist. But, He clearly says that women are supposed to be
submissive to their husbands. But men are supposed to respect their wives as
well. They don't have the right to beat them or completely control their actions or lives. That's taking things too far. As I said, we are equal because we are all humans.
Ok, I am a woman. So why would I put down my sex? I just don't see the point of
putting down men. Why? What will come from it? And as for the "women used ot
rule the world" thing, that's just hilariously wrong. I would kind of like to know where you got that, Chloe, even if it was a bit over the top. (if you get
my meaning).
The only reason that women want to be in control of things is because they are
in rebellion against God's Word. It's the bare truth. God placed men as the
head, not tyrant, of the house. That means that they have the job of supporting the family, correcting the children, etc. The husband and wife relationship is a whole different discussion, but they (husband and wife) keep each other accountable and help each other. Why is that so hard to understand? The image of a marriage relationship is that of Christ and the Bride(the Church). Christ will come one day to claim His "bride", which is the church, (those who have remained faithful). My mother supports my family, shops and cooks for us and pays the bills. My father works two jobs and supports the family. he corrects his children and helps his wife to overcome things. She, in turn, helps my dad through hard things. My parents love each
other and are equal but my mother recognizes my dad as the leader of his home.
I never said and never will say that men have the right to beat women or force them to do anything. I can't really get all of the words to come out properly. That's the way God designed the family to be. People don't want to obey Him
and so they rebel in any way possible. Everyone does, me included. I go through the urge to disobey and fight with my family members. But through being submissive to my parents, I am in submission to God. That's the way it has to
be. Not the way I, as a sinful being, want it to be, although I know and try to keep it that way. It is that way because it was designed by God.
"although the greatest damage is done by Jesus just ignoring women in the non-
Gnostic versions of the Gospels, with rare exceptions."
Jesus held women in the greatest respect. I don't know where you got that,
Robert. He didn't put them down or beat them or whatever...
One example would be the Woman at the Well. Jesus, a Jew, talked with the woman, who was a Samaritan. He put aside the "social beariers" and talked with her and showed her the sin in her life. Another example would be Martha and Mary. Jesus sat and talked with them, ate with them, and taught them. He healed women, and treated them with respect. I don't know where you got the argument that Moses commanded people to rape women. there were punishments, yes, but not rapes.
i have to run, so more will come later.

message 40: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Dearest Katie,

Since it is in the bible, then, I take it that you agree with 1 Timothy chapter 2:

Also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.

I'm just trying to understand why you feel compelled to teach me (a man) when you should instead learn in all silence and submissiveness.

Understand, I don't think you should remain silent, and of course I have had many woman teachers, but then, I don't think that Timothy or the bible are beyond question or reproach. I actually think that there are plenty of places where it is pretty obviously reproachful, this being one of them. I also do not see how you can disagree with me, at least without giving the lie to your own words.

But as I said, nobody really believes in the complete or perfect truth of the bible because they can't -- it isn't complete, it isn't perfect, it is self-contradictory, and it contradicts what we know to be true for reasons altogether outside of the bible, and a great deal of what we strongly feel are good ethics. For example, we all believe quite strongly (I hope) that slavery is an abomination, but according to God as the bible would have it, slavery is just peachy-keen although one should be moderately careful not to beat one's slaves quite to death.

But before I get lost working through a bunch of these examples, let's return to Moses, since that one is really easy.

Numbers 31:

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.

3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian.

4 Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war.

5 So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.

6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.

10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.

12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.

13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.

14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.

15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.


My, my. What perfect morality! Let's kill all the babies! Let's kill all the women who've ever had sex or are old and ugly! BUT, you soldier boys can keep all the young virgins for yourselves! What a treat!

And no, he didn't JUST mean for his captains to keep them as slaves -- although there was that too. He meant (to be crude) "take those young babes off an have yourself a gang bang, but only after you kill all rest of the women you don't want and all the boys".

Holy Moses! Sure am glad I'm not a Midianite!

As history goes, this is par for the course. They were bloodthirsty times. War was for keeps. Brutal. Barbaric. Israel was a punk tribe among punk tribes. As I said, there are plenty of places where the Israelites slaughtered tribes to the last little baby in the bible. However, it is worth noting that we feel awfully bad about this being done to the Jews by Hitler and Christians without number over centuries of pogroms, because we don't, actually, think that it is morally acceptable to kill babies or commit acts of genocide on a captive population.

Now, here's the point. This passage and many others like it that illustrate the supposedly divinely inspired, good patriarchs of the bible doing horrible things are readily understandable in historical context. They simply cannot be understood at all in terms of a universally correct morality. Count the wicked acts in this one story. And these were wicked acts commanded -- we are to suppose -- by God!

Well, listen up. I deny that God ever commanded any human being on this planet, in person or via "divine inspiration", to kill an infant, let alone wipe out an entire population. God never commanded anyone to enslave people. God never commanded a gang rape of virgins by drunken, post-victory soldiers. And these deaths weren't even carried out with a feeling of remorse -- it was just "Hey, we won, kill the human baggage, pick up the loot and the usable women and let's get home."

Keep that in mind when you read the Gospel passages that show Jesus up on the mountain being Moses' best pal. Also, don't forget John 20:

17 Jesus saith unto her (Mary), Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

followed shortly by

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

So Mary, being a woman, is unclean and doesn't get to touch him as he is not yet ascended, but when he goes to his brethren he let's Thomas not only touch but poke around inside of him.

And hey, it's nice that he let Mary and Martha tag along, but of the twelve disciples, none were women. Perfectly understandable in historical context -- Jesus was in fact progressive and even daring with regard to women, but wanted to be taken seriously in a patriarchal culture. A simple, practical moral compromise, not the purity and passion of perfect truth.

Finally, do you know what you're saying when you say:

The only reason that women want to be in control of things is because they are in rebellion against God's Word. It's the bare truth. God placed men as the head, not tyrant, of the house.

You make me actually despair of our civilization. The only reason women want to be in control of "things" is because they are human beings and want the same control over their own destiny that men do. But I'm absolutely certain that you will exercise your hard-won vote in "rebellion against God's word", just as I very much doubt that you're preparing to remain silent and not presume to teach men. Hypocrisy is still easier for you than to accept that the bible is rife with error.


message 41: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Goodness, I'm feeling it tonight!

As I work my way through Timothy and Corinthians, it seems to me that there is little doubt that Paul was an out and out woman-hater, or perhaps better put -- a traditionalist in a primitive patriarchal culture. There's a little gem at the end I missed. Let me put the whole 1 Timothy 2 quote in context.

1 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

I missed the latter part before. Y'all ladies need to be quiet and hush up in church and home because Adam was formed first, then Eve. Not equal, sorry. According to Timothy (and Paul) speaking in divinely inspired truth, you are number two, never number one. Because it was Eve's fault, way back there in Eden. Adam was not deceived.

It's all your fault! It's all coming clear to me now! I'm not an apostate because I'm a bad guy, I'm an apostate because of Eve! It was probably Mrs. Murphy's fault -- she was my first grade teacher, although Mrs. Nathaniels, Mrs. Flint, Miss Chaudury, Mrs. Aswath -- they probably contributed as well in grades 2-5.

And don't miss the final verse! Now seriously Katie, read this one carefully. If you (as a woman) continue in faith, and charity, and holiness and sobriety, and keep your mouth shut, don't presume to instruct men, defer to your husband in all things (even if he turns out to be an idiot -- see numerous quotes prohibiting divorce elsewhere) then you have a divinely promised benefit! You will be saved not by Jesus, but in childbearing!

Well, that's certainly good news.

Or would be, except for the leeeetle problem that I don't believe that there is a strong differential rate in childbearing death rates for Good Christian Girls who Keep Their Mouth Shut and Never Wear Pearls compared to the other kind. Or am I confused again? Is "childbearing" code for "being elevated almost all the way to heaven right behind their husbands"?

But no, you and Squiggles and Tommy are convincing me! The more I read the bible, the more I'm certain it must be true! Y'all will have to excuse me, I've got to go upstairs and empty out my wife's jewelry case and duct tape her mouth shut, for her own good. Wouldn't want her to die in childbirth.

I can hardly wait to get to 1 Timothy 3 -- this is great stuff!

Does anybody actually ever read the bible? Or is the secret of its success that nobody hears anything but, say, selected passages carefully extracted from maybe a tenth of it, because if anybody actually read the whole thing they'd either doubt their own sanity or run laughing hysterically from the room long before they finished?

Hmmm, I'm trying to decide. I've got thirty shekels of silver somewhere, and there are some really cute young modest virgins living in Durham (from what I've been told, anyway). I might have to go rape me one so I can have a second wife (permitted by the bible, after all). But I dunno -- if I heard God command me to go invade (say) Mexico or Canada and smite all the men and bring home all the spoils I could carry, I could probably enslave at double-handful of young virgin captives and save my shekels.

It's times like this that try men's souls -- which part of this wonderful book should I listen to first?

Just to be clear -- my issue with the bible isn't that it is all evil, or all immoral, or all foolish. It's just that it is evil, immoral, and foolish to claim that it contains no evil, immorality, foolishness, to claim that it is inerrant or perfect truth.

This does, I freely admit, create a slippery slope. Since the Universe is considerably older than 6000 years, since the story of Creation is both incorrect in detail and rather irrational, since there was no garden of eden, no adam, no eve, no serpent and no flood, it becomes clear that all the verses that refer to these things as if they really happened become themselves corrupted. So when Peter speaks of the flood, of the serpent tempting Eve, Peter's words no longer appear to be divinely inspired, they appear to be mortally mistaken.

Where then, should we draw the line? Some of what Peter says is beautiful, has the ring of wisdom in our ears. Other words appear irrelevant, some even foolish or ill spoken.

Once you recognize that the bible is not all true, you must start to listen to your inner voice, the voice of reason. You must learn to judge truth based on evidence. You must learn to listen not to your heart first, and then your head -- this is one of the things the bible says that is wicked indeed -- but your head and your heart all at once, for there is no difference, both are you. Without your head, without reason, without evidence, without knowledge, you are truly willfully blind. Without a heart, without love, charity, faith, hope, without a desire for knowledge and truth no matter paths the search takes you on, knowledge becomes empty and the world bleak.

All worldly authority resides between your ears. You (man and woman alike) must use reason to discern truth, not authority. You must use your own eyes and ears and common sense, not words in any single book. You must pursue truth like the starving man pursues food, like the thirsty pursue water. Every day you must ask: Is my understanding correct? What does the evidence say? Every day you must learn a new thing.

Such as all about Andromeda. The Galaxy, not the mythical goddess. She has truths she wishes to bear witness to, from her position perched 2.5 million miles away, truths that can be revealed to anyone willing to actually look for themselves without prejudice.


message 42: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 25 comments Robert,
You said
"Hmmm, I'm trying to decide. I've got thirty shekels of silver somewhere, and there are some really cute young modest virgins living in Durham (from what I've been told, anyway). I might have to go rape me one so I can have a second wife (permitted by the bible, after all). But I dunno -- if I heard God command me to go invade (say) Mexico or Canada and smite all the men and bring home all the spoils I could carry, I could probably enslave at double-handful of young virgin captives and save my shekels."

Do you really want to rape young virgins in Durham? You're evil! You're wicked! How could you ever say such a thing???? I've never heard of someone boasting that he wants to committ these atrocities! Most wicked people just do them, they don't boast about them too! How incredulous! And you don't stop with that, you actually told us what you are going to do to your wife:

"Y'all will have to excuse me, I've got to go upstairs and empty out my wife's jewelry case and duct tape her mouth shut, for her own good. "

I can't believe that you would do such a thing. I can't believe that you would be telling us this online!

You see what I've done Robert? It's the same thing you are doing with Scripture. I know that you don't want to hear us "explain it all away" and "interpret" it. But, as we've just seen, context and proper interpretation is necessary. So, before any of us proceed with the explanation of these passages, would you kindly agree to actually listening; to actually ask (as you just admonished us)
"Is my understanding correct? What does the evidence say? Every day you must learn a new thing."
Would you listen to someone else? Have an open mind? A simple "yes, I will agree to question my own understanding of the Bible and listen to your understanding" is all I'm asking for. Can we proceed?

message 43: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Daniel, so glad you have returned to the discussion!

Now, if you're going to tell me that Moses commanding his troops to murder the older captive women, slaughter the babies, and rape and enslave the young girls is satire or sarcasm, I'm all ears.

Wait, I know! It's a metaphor! Numbers isn't really describing a historical event of genocide and rape brutality orchestrated by the supposed direct command of God after all! The Midianites aren't actually people, they are symbols for the wickedness in the human heart, and Moses is exhorting his commanders to embrace only virginal truth, not nubile young captives made slaves! It all makes sense now!

At least if you don't keep reading, if you haven't read the chapters preceding or following.

Daniel, your reasoning process is perfectly backwards, as was Augustine's and Aquinas's before you. You begin with the absolute, unquestionable truth of the bible, as you will openly admit to yourself and others if you are honest. You do see, don't you, that this renders you absolutely incapable of rational thought, as your belief will never let a little thing like evidence or common sense intrude.

You then attempt to reconcile this prior truth with your experience of the world and with reason. This is, of course, quite difficult. So difficult that you are forced to explain things to me constantly, and I'm actually neither ignorant nor stupid. Things never mean what they say, because if they did they would be repugnant examples of unreason and immorality. However, morality is the easy part as there is at least some moral good mixed into the bible. The hard part is the science.

When defending biblical "science", you perforce must take refuge time and again in what you perceive to be the unknowability of the past outside of the bible, and refuse to accept even the possibility that we have incredibly consistent ways of knowing the past without prior knowledge or prejudice, ways that are independent of the bible and that contradict it in ways that cannot be reconciled on a one-to-one basis wherever they come into contact at all. The truth is that there is almost no valid science described anywhere in the bible. Its science sucks, I'm sorry. It's just plain wrong, and is taught in schools as being wrong, is shown on TV as being wrong, is portrayed in movies as being wrong, is proven in a myriad of contemporary books and articles and learned papers (all of which I'm certain that you refuse to read like the faith-challenging plague you consider them to be) because it is wrong!

Throughout, you never ask yourself the essential question: Why is this so difficult? Why does even rationalizing the morality (let alone the science) make learning calculus seem simple by comparison, because calculus is at heart entirely rational and non-contradictory, where contradiction lurks everywhere in the pages of the bible, each book requiring a thousand explanations by the learned, one for each apparent flaw. The bible contradicts calculus itself. After all, calculus was invented to do physics, and physics proves categorically that the bible is wrong using centuries of physical observations, marvelous instruments, and pure mathematical reason.

Your process of "reason" creates a bible like unto a mass of bandaids; each one placed to cover a wound, to hide the fact that far from being a seamless whole it is a ragged graven idol left over from a dark age, not without parts that are fair and appealing, but with a rotten foundation that would long ago have collapsed without the duct tape and chewing gum holding it up.

Why is it so difficult for you to simply say: "The events described in Numbers that you quote make sense as a historical account if Moses was a primitive leader of a savage people competing with other equally savage peoples to propagate their genes and their memes, but they make no sense at all as an example of moral perfection or as commandments of a loving God." Why must you desperately seek to read in these words something other than what they say? Do they not even weaken your conviction that the bible is all "perfect moral truth"?

Is your faith in the bible's a priori truth like unto a block of concrete wrapped around your head that repels information, even as your mind is forced to manipulate language itself and change the actual meaning of symbols to construct the semantic bandages with which you patch up the mistakes? Once you've twisted the words so that they no longer mean what they so clearly say, what is left? Up is down, black is white, and slaughtering infants is groovy as long as God commands it.

If you want to read an interesting simple deconstruction of a much less convoluted approach to God, glance over the Upanishad's thread, now well begun. I'm pretty merciless with it as well -- there are clearly parts of the text that are, as it were, bait or window dressing and not message, but the message is really pretty simple and easy to extract even when translated from Sanskrit to English. And it is conveyed in metaphor, unless you think you really are a chariot and your senses really are reins.

However, in answer to your question, I most definitely have an open mind. That's what critical thinking and skepticism are all about. "Believe" that which you can disbelief the least, that which is not openly contradicted by evidence, that's what it's all about, that's what an open mind is.

So if you wish to appeal to it, then by all means, lay it on me. To shorten the discussion and reduce the opportunity for "words" and "interpretations" to introduce error in our debate, please begin with the fundamentals: radiometric dating, the distance to Andromeda, the age of the Universe.

We can even agree to leave evolution and the flood out of it for the moment; once you realize that the universe is not 6000 years old so that Genesis is not literal truth the entire discussion is really over, as once you accept this one simple fact you are forced to re-evaluate the whole bible, this time using critical thinking instead of reason-blinding faith, and you can then freely accept the fact that Moses was in absolutely no sense of the word a particularly admirable person, that when Peter and Paul reference the order of creation and Eve's "weakness", they are demonstrating only that their words are not divinely inspired since they are arguing from false initial data.

This is also a much simpler starting point than picking on Moses, however morally pure and repugnant this particular example presents. After all, almost any human story or political agenda can be recast as metaphor or "interpreted" in some desired way; we spend years in school learning to write papers to please teachers that deconstruct human stories in just this way. In order to do the same with Genesis, however, you have to begin by accepting that it is myth, a story, and not scientific truth and the game is over.

We can therefore avoid hermeneutics altogether, for once, if we stay focused on a single question: Is the universe, or is the universe not, 6000 years old. Or if you'd prefer, does the evidence show the universe to be 6000 years old specifically when one utterly ignores the bible so as not to be prejudiced in one's outcome result, as is proper in double blind experiments. I realize that in order to address this, you'll have to actually study the proofs. And I will check -- it will not suffice for you to just look up some lame rebuttal on a Christian website, as there are multiple methods that are used and they are based on completely distinct physical principles and experimental observations.

Eagerly awaiting your rationally formulated response concerning nuclear decay and 1/r^2 diminishment of intensity,


message 44: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 25 comments I really don't know anything about nuclear decay or 1/r^2 diminishment of intensity. Nor do I know much about radiometric dating, the distance to Andromeda, or the age of the Universe. I really can't contribute much to that discussion.(The question over whether the earth is 6,000 years old is really not that essential of a debate. There are Christians who hold to the authority of Scripture and hold different perspectives on that issue. Even if it's not 6,000 years old, which I don't think anyone on this site has ever claimed, we don't throw the rest of the Bible away; that's not the way it works.) That's not what I asked, however. I asked if you're interested in hearing a different interpretation of the Biblical passages you mentioned. I asked you to use the same principle you're asking us to use "Every day you must ask: Is my understanding correct? What does the evidence say?" I'd be willing to talk to you about the challenges you've made to the Bible one by one. I'll not call Numbers a metaphor, I'll not say it's sarcasm; it's really not all that difficult to understand if you genuinely want to know how it's supposed to be understood (which, since nobody who reads the stories in Numbers, Joshua, Judges etc. is raping and taking virgins in the name of Christianity, I think you might be the one misinterpreting. No Christian is confused about this fact; we AREN'T supposed to do those things). So once again, before I launch ino a discussion about how the Bible is to be understood (it's not all the same, you know), are you willing to listen?

message 45: by Robert (last edited May 07, 2008 06:40AM) (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Of course I'm willing to listen. Metaphorically, at least (since I'm "listening" in my head to words I'm reading on a screen:-). It will be great fun. But consider, you've already laid out the essential elements before, and I was listening then too. For the first time up above that I can recall in our conversations you acknowledge that Genesis may not be literal truth, which is actually great progress! If only Squiggles, Tommy, Katie, Alison et. al. would agree!

If Genesis doesn't contain literal truth, of course, this deals a very, very serious blow to the rest of the bible, in particular the New Testament in many places. An immediate conclusion is that the bible is not divinely inspired truth; it is the work of men doing the best that they could at the time, which just happened to be a primitive, barbaric time and they were therefore primitive, barbaric men who were reaching for a higher understanding to be sure, even as they were participating in evolution -- the memetic evolution of their religion.

After all, a hallmark of all social religions in the barbaric world was and still is "God is on our side". There is us, and there is them. We are the elect, the chosen ones of God. Because we worship the right God and make the right sacrifices the rite (sp) way, we win our battles and defeat our enemies, except when we don't. When we don't, it is because we failed in our rites, we were baaaad and God turned His face from us, or else it is because he wishes to test our faith.

SO, Rama defeats Ravana, because God was not only on his side, he was in fact God. The Pandavas defeat the Kauravas because God (in the person of Krishna) is Arjuna's Charioteer, even though Krishna's earthly armies (he is also a prince in his own right) are fighting on the other side. Moses kicked Midianite butt because Yahweh was right in there with them (reprised through nearly every story of Hebrew victory in old testament). God always fights on the side of the ultimately victorious; that's the way evolution works...;-)

This is dead serious, by the way. I'm certain you are familiar with the history/legend associated with how Constantine came to endorse Christianity in Rome. Cross on shield, win mighty victory. I'm not as certain that you are aware of just how precarious Christianity still was a little over 100 years later when the first in a series of invaders sacked Rome, giving the Pagans ample room to allege that this was all because Rome gave up its ancient Gods. A big part of what Augustine wrote -- his entire City of God -- was apologia for this, transforming an expectation for earthly victories into an expectation for a heavenly reward later.

If I had to pick a single reason for Christianity's success as a memetic system, it is that it was the first religion to really perfect a system of belief with nothing but deferred rewards and got people to buy into it. So if you win, it is God's will and God is on our side. If you lose (on anything, on any prayer, on any "need" you think you might have) it is God's will and if you endure patiently and faithfully you'll be rewarded tenfold in another life, in "heaven". Suddenly, it isn't falsifiable!

Not only that, it preys upon a side effect of evolution so that if you pray and you get what you pray for, the reinforcement of the one success overwhelms the ten failures; variable reinforcement leads to the strongest learning even in laboratory rats. So we learn in "testimony" from other posts that God doesn't give you what you want (all prayers are not answered) but you get what you need! Except, of course, when you don't, unless what you need is to die young in freakish agony. But the losers are soon forgotten (or form part of the "what you need" of the winners/survivors, so we can be inspired by their faith, endurance etc) while that one laying on of hands that appears to work, that one time people pray "and a miracle occurs", that is always God. God is on our side, we are the elect.

So sure, I fully understand your earlier posts -- possibly better than you do, as I seem to be able to put them into a historical context and compare them with identical assertions made by competing faiths. You believe that if you devote your thoughts to Jesus, fully accepting Him into your heart, meditating on His perfections day and night, that through the gift of His grace you will be saved in the great sifting of resurrection and will ascend to heaven to praise his name for eternity.

You believe that all humans are born into sin and death because God created an actual, singular first man named Adam out of clay and magic, created a singular first woman named Eve out of Adam, placed Adam and Eve in a perfect garden where there was no death and all the animals lived in harmony together presumably eating plants. God put a magic tree into this paradise and told them not to eat it, but Eve was beguiled by a talking snake with legs or a flying snake or something like that (leading us to wonder if all the animals could talk or if it was just the snake) into eating its fruit anyway, whereupon:

22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

You believe that this is literal truth, that man was cursed with death and that because of this incident every child is born tainted with this original sin. We are (as a species) created originally perfect and have fallen from grace rather than being a "work in progress" that has never, ever been "perfect" either physically or morally that is evolving in both senses not towards "perfection" as that is not what evolution does, but towards a higher state nevertheless. I don't know precisely how you reconcile the paradox of Augustine, that the soul doesn't enter a fetus through the semen (did I mention that the bible is clueless about conception, sperm and eggs and all:-) but is infused directly by God and yet is tainted with sin even in the womb but I presume that you do, if you've ever even thought about it.

As a consequence of these fell deeds of our not so terribly remote ancestors, we cannot ever of our own accord be reconciled with God. But in an act of bizarre schizophrenia, he put himself on earth as a man, taught us that while we can't help sinning no matter what we do we should try not to sin, but because we will fail we only have to accept that he really was God sent to earth and he'll reconcile with us after all, only not as God but as God, and will elevate God within us to sit with God and God at God's non-metaphorical table in heaven, in actual human bodies, where we'll spend an infinite amount of time doing nothing but glorifying God. (Where God is Father, Son and HG all at the same time and have to be believed in as such just right or the deal's off you heretic you).

See? I listen. I listened in MYF, in church, I "listen" when I read the bible even today. It isn't terribly difficult. It's just wrong. Wrong in numerous matters of fact. Spiritually wrong. Morally wrong. But since it requires its believers to turn away from reason in its books, you will never see that.

Here's a tip, seriously. If anybody ever tells you "I have here perfect truth and will teach it to you if you will only put aside reason and believe" put your hand on your wallet and back away slowly, grasping for a blunt instrument to defend yourself with your other hand.


message 46: by Kristjan (last edited May 07, 2008 07:24AM) (new)

Kristjan (booktroll) rgb said: If Genesis doesn't contain literal truth, of course, this deals a very, very serious blow to the rest of the bible, in particular the New Testament in many places.

Actually this would be a serious fallacy ... the Bible is actually a library with many books written by different authors for different reasons. The fact that Genesis may not be a literal truth only impacts Genesis and any external profession that the entire Bible must be literal truth. So far I have not seen anybody advance that notion ... in fact, they have specifically stated that the Psalter is artistic or figurative in nature and must not be interpreted literally.

It is especially problematic in comparing elements of the OT (aka Old Covenant/Law) with elements of the NT (aka New Covenant/Gospel) within Christian theology as the majority of the OT is seen as applying to Jews and not Christian Gentiles; how else could we ignore so much of the law as prescribed in the OT. The OT is mostly seen in an historical context as a series of acts predicting and then facilitating the coming messiah (aka supercessionism) and is primarily relevant where the NT references the OT. IMHO the reason many Christians have rejected a more symbolic reading of the OT comes from the near complete rejection of the vast body of Jewish commentary that is used by the Jews to interpret what is arguably their Bible.

message 47: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 25 comments right. I'll make a couple of responses to your statements (for the sake of the other readers, primarily)rgb and then begin explaining why we do not raid, pilliage, and rape.

First, I did not "acknowledge that Genesis may not be literal truth." You would be hard-pressed to find a statement in Genesis which claims that the earth is 6,000 years old. If Genesis said this you might have a case, but it doesn't, so your polemic has no weight. I quite honestly don't know how old the earth is. I have to abandon my faith? Not at all. The age of the earth is really non-essential.

Second, if you'll look at the rest of the bible you'll see that the winners didn't always write the history. You said, "Moses kicked Midianite butt because Yahweh was right in there with them (reprised through nearly every story of Hebrew victory in old testament). God always fights on the side of the ultimately victorious; that's the way evolution works...;-)" But if you read the prophets, God actually abandons his own people and sends them into exile. He threatens his own people with the same punishment that was delivered to the Canaanites. In several places, God DOES deliver the same punishment to disobedient Israel.
Now think about this for a second, if the Bible is as you say a perfect example of the winners writing the history and boasting about God always being on their side, why would ancient Israel record in nearly half of their holy book that God was AGAINST them??? That they LOST??? I think this is the only example in ancient Near-Eastern literature where this happens.

Now that I've cleared that misunderstanding up for our readers I must make one point of a rather personal nature. While we are sitting here writing these posts, the Christians you so arently oppose and denounce as being foolish and unreasonable are providing food, clothing, and shelter for the hurting people of Myanmar. It must be noted that Christians are persecuted heavily by the government and locals in Myanmar (who only make up 4% of the population), yet they are the very ones sacrificing their time, money, and energy to help those who are in need. We're still waiting to see the scientists, agnostics, atheists, and new agers join the Christians in helping. So the witch-burning, flood-believing, 6,000-year-old-earth-propogating, rape-advocating, unreasonable fools that you have opposed are the ones responding to the pain and suffering of others. Something is a bit off in you're understanding of Christians, I think.

Ok, on to your Scripture quotations. You have quoted from Numbers 31 and asserted that this is our present-day Biblical mandate. Scripture is not read in that way. There are different genres within the whole Bible. This section of numbers is recounting an historical event, NOT delivering ethical imperatives. Does anyone read history that way? No. Nobody reads an historical account and says, "Gosh, I guess I'm supposed to do the same." Also, as has been already mentioned (and ignored), the laws of the Old Testament have been fulfilled in Christ and we are no longer under them. They served their purpose in God's plan. Since Christ has come and fulfilled the law, which none of us could do, we can now be accepted by God instead of opposed by Him. Make sense? So you can scavenge throughout the Old Testment and find indictments all you want, but they must be read appropriately (like not reading history as imperatival). I know I've said a lot, but please read and consider what I've said with a mind willing to be corrected. And please respond to what I've said rather than using it as a springboard to launch into your many polemics.

message 48: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Dear Kristjan,

If you look back on our many parallel threads, you will see that Squiggles in particular, but Tommy and Katie (and several others as well) have openly asserted that they are bible literalists. They do indeed believe (or assert that they believe) in the literal truth of Genesis, in Adam, Eve, the Flood, etc. As well they should! Without original sin, the entire rationale for Christianity breaks down on the spot. As I have asserted fairly consistently in my own rhetoric, there is a deep and powerful difference between a doctrine of perfection, fall, and salvation and observational reality of evolution from a state that was never perfect.

In the former case the entire argument for salvation is that sin is "our fault" and so we need to be saved from it. In the latter case, the responsibility devolves back to God, as we are a work in progress and know that all we can do is our best. In one case salvation is "special", an act of grace extended only to the elect (and there is a wealth of Christian writing on all of this, by the way, dating back to Augustine and especially Aquinas but including Jerome etc.) No surprise, that's exactly what the bible says. In the latter case, the entire idea of "salvation" is fallacious. There is only a quest for improvement. Jesus isn't our savior, he is our teacher, and not the teacher but a teacher in a revelation of truth through reason that continues to this very day as we work to perfect our selves, to complete the unfinished work of God.

In your case, (since you do ascribe to reason) I don't quite know how to respond. I was referring to the specific, multiple instances where e.g. Paul or Peter reference the Garden of Eden as an actual, not metaphorical event, and directly and unambiguously blame Eve for it and thereby explicitly command women to shut up and obey, it's All Your Fault. Clearly you believe that you can and should choose what to believe, and since you don't accept the bible as inerrant truth you of necessity use a prior moral sense to decide what you're going to leave in and what you're going to interpret as metaphor or mistake. This on the one hand frees you to interpret this as crabbiness and misogyny on Paul's part and not take it seriously. On the other hand, it leaves you with the very serious problem of figuring out what -- if anything e.g. Paul says -- should be believed. If he lies or is mistaken about something as important as the equality of women in the eyes of God as he works to establish an authoritarian hierarchy, where does the authority stop and judgment kick in? What and where or if do you draw the lines of blasphemy, of heresy?

And sure, Paul does reject Jewish commentary. He's fairly radically anti-semitic and his preoccupation with circumcision and his antipathy towards women make me wonder about his sexual orientation altogether. I think that the new testament would be far better without some 80 or 90% of Paul's contributions, and they'd be much improved by editing.

The end stage of this process, this winnowing, is a glimpse at Jesus as you would like him to be, a Jesus that has the perfections that you understand as being perfections now, in our far more evolved society, rather than the perfections recorded then by a bunch of crabby old men who by and large didn't ever marry and have sex and have children and live "normal" lives by the standards of that age, or to whom their wives and sexual encounters were so unimportant that they didn't even rate a mention by name in their writings. So Jesus was unusually courteous to at least a few women, "shockingly so" by the standards of that patriarchal age, and this gets into the bible past the censors and redactors. So does the crap about original sin (and I'm talking crap in the New Testament, not Old) and Eve's Guilt, not to mention the elevation of Mary and her virginity to the female divine, as continence and abstinence are an absolute fetish to the apostles.

Paul, of course, doesn't want to be edited out. People were being edited in and edited out -- he writes about it. Paul isn't even an apostle -- his encounters with Jesus are all miraculous and postmortem (leading us to wonder why Jesus was willing to visit him in person but not us, but that's another story.) Yet we have two short books of Peter, only one of a few of the rest, Thomas gets left out altogether, and they (presumably) walked with Jesus. Politics matters, verbosity matters, luck matters.

Is it any wonder that Paul warns us time and again to eschew reason? Reason is the enemy of faith, and the enemy of Christianity. The Greeks were clever with words, but their word games could not compare with the truth beyond proof of the bible. Reason is not the gift of God, faith is. Reason, in fact, is the fruit of the tree.

Perhaps the Genesis is a metaphor for evolution (or rather, I can certainly make it one, since words are what you make of them:-). As we evolved, our ancestors were for ages "dumb animals". As animals, they were "innocent"; incapable of sin, sure, but as boring and meaningless in their own way as are the animal planet shows on "villages" of small furry creatures who live in various "societies" now. Then one day, they reach the "critical point", and it comes with the Word -- with language. Language is memory and symbolic reason, reason provides judgment and discernment, these in turn permit actions for the first time to be sortable into "good" and "bad" according to a criterion of how they help or hurt, without the need of each individual to learn the hard way, one at a time.


message 49: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Dear LW,

There IS evidence for God and creation, but I always have a rather hard time understanding it because I am not a very...well, let's just say I hate science because a lot of it is confusing for me and I'm glad I don't have to take it anymore.

Translation: "I have no idea what the word evidence means, I'm not very good at reasoning and am easily confused, I don't like being confused and no longer even try to assess evidence outside of what I see with my own eyes, badly." Instead of reasoning, which you find difficult, you take the easy path of just believing an authoritarian work that gives you the same feeling of knowledge that you know reason was supposed to give you but that you could never manage on your own. Evidence and contradiction are not allowed to influence your beliefs; you rely on what others who believe as you do tell you, and most of that is just made up to help you avoid the conflict and reinforced prior beliefs.

I hate feeling like I'm screaming and getting in your face. It's like I'm holding up this

(Don't let it bother you. Seriously. In my face is fine. I may be right, I may be wrong, but I'm not petty or insecure.:-)

gigantic, bright neon sign and you're completely oblivious (I'm sure you would say 'ditto'). The reason none of your reasoning and facts and proof means a thing to me is because I know He's real. Yes, because of the Bible and other things. But mainly because I KNOW He exists. If He did not, I would not hear Him. I would not be able to talk to Him. I would not be healed. I would not exist.

Actually, for the first time, you're saying SOME things I agree with. If you've actually read your way through all of the threads (a daunting task, I know, I'm sorry, because I do write fast and a lot:-) you'll know that I believe in God too. Not because of "the Bible" -- it doesn't stand up. Because of a mix of experience and reason. Not from evidence (drawn from the outside world) as it can be shown that evidence can never prove or disprove God.

Not because I can hear Him or talk to Him -- sure, I try, but it is very difficult to know where "I" end and "God" begins inside my head. Am I talking to myself? Am I talking to God? Is there a difference? Not because of "healing" -- that kind of smoke-and-mirrors miracle is too suspect. Healing happens with and without God in mind, and truly terrible things happen to believers and unbelievers alike. I know evidence doesn't matter to you, but evidence shows no real difference in "luck" between believers and nonbelievers. Your grabbing on to your personal experiences and "knowing" that your personal experience of healing happened because of your belief in God in your case is a perfect example of "correlation is causality" in a one-shot experiment.

In other words, as evidence goes it sucks, however important the outcome is to you personally. As I said in another thread, this is how a penny you find on the ground is converted into a "lucky penny" because right after you pick it up, you win the lottery, or you are cured of cancer. After either one, nobody is going to tell you it isn't a magic penny; even if you suspect that it might not be, believing that it is is easy, and the benefit if it is is great. Why risk it? We even believe that if we look too closely, it will STOP being a lucky penny; "don't look a gift horse in the mouth". "Clap so Tinkerbell won't die".

Deny Christ and MAYBE your dizziness will return, or you'll get cancer, or even if absolutely nothing happens and you live a happy and uneventful life and die in peace and love in the bosom of your family, leaving behind nothing but good works, you'll end up going to hell and suffering eternal torment.

But he does. Because I can hear Him. I can talk to Him. I am healed of my dizziness. I exist. Being able to actually hear a person and talk to a person who 'does not exist' IS the ULTIMATE proof.

Well, actually it isn't. If it were, we wouldn't shy away when we see ragged people walking down the street with crazed eyes, mumbling to themselves. Our brains are complex instruments, and have a unique and powerful feedback loop, an ability to "be two people at once". We can talk to ourselves. We can imagine whole conversations, taking in turn both parts. Since verbal reason is verbal, we often think by means of an interior monologue, and I, at least, have a well developed interior dialogue as well. If I'm alone, I even talk out loud (when I do this in the presence of my kids, it "bothers" them:-). In a situation where one doesn't really know what to do, or where one is conflicted, it is quite natural to debate the issue with yourself.

This is behavior that occurs across a whole spectrum, however. I don't know if you've ever had a close encounter with a schizophrenic, but I have. Schizophrenics very definitely hear and talk to people who aren't there; I've been there when they are doing so. They lose the ability to differentiate and identify the inner voices, lose the ability to volitionally control them. And there is a whole spectrum in between; in a sense we can create an inner voice and give it the force of reality, since our minds are, after all, the ultimate arbiter of what is or isn't to be considered "real".

We have evidence of hypnosis (self and otherwise), drugs, hallucinations, and certain classes of religious experience as examples of things people see, and hear, that a) nobody else can see but the seer or hearer; b) that cannot be distinguished from the "real" by the seer or hearer. I build a castle in the clouds in my thoughts and imagination, but there are people that move right in and live there.

I am not sugggesting, by the way, that you are nuts to believe that your own experience of inner voices is or isn't "real". You have to decide, and to some extent I agree that romantic inclinations can and should have some bearing on your choice. I like to think that when I myself chat with God that I'm not just talking with myself. For me, however, my personal experiencing of God is ongoing and nonverbal, and I mistrust my own interior logues, mono or dia or multi as the case may be.

It's a shame, really -- religious experience is direct and personal, as you describe, but we divorce it from reason, refuse to consider the context of its occurrence in a world we can objectively study and learn to know by means of evidence, and turn instead to myth, to scripture. All of those myths considered the relationship of humans to the world to be key to the relationship of humans to God, but they lacked the tools (both physical and mental) to correctly deduce that relationship. Is it really so surprising that, starting out with errors in their very foundation, they don't work terribly well now?

IMO, studying physics and science is directly studying the works of God, not according to any scriptural mythology but according to their essential reality, as best as we can tell in a very literal, very precise meaning of the world "best". It is when this knowledge is integrated with "religious experience", with the mystery of not the mechanics of self-awareness (as electrochemistry, or even information theory) but rather the miracle of "I am", that I think we awaken compassion and a right path within ourselves, using reason. Not blind faith, but faith based on using our eyes and other senses, our memory, on evidence, on analysis and thought.

That's why I'm so disappointed when instead of following this path (which requires actual work, sorry, nobody said it would be easy to reason, to know) people instead grab hold of a primitive mythology with both hands, a mythology that actually tells one not to reason (as one would naturally do if one knew perfectly well that it wouldn't stand up to close examination).


message 50: by Robert (new)

Robert (rgbatduke) | 253 comments Dear Daniel,

Please do not engage in sophistry.

First, I did not "acknowledge that Genesis may not be literal truth." You would be hard-pressed to find a statement in Genesis which claims that the earth is 6,000 years old. If Genesis said this you might have a case, but it doesn't, so your polemic has no weight. I quite honestly don't know how old the earth is. I have to abandon my faith? Not at all. The age of the earth is really non-essential.

Fine, instead of telling me what you have or haven't done, tell me what you do? Do you claim that it is literal truth or don't you? Do you claim that the story of creation it tells is truth or not? If not, is it all just metaphor? Or legend? Or just -- as I have been asserting -- a plain old myth?

You cannot escape the point I'm making so easily. Genesis says certain very specific things, things that are the foundation for many, many things that follow. If it is myth, then you are acknowledging that my original point that you pick and choose what to believe not on the basis of divinely inspired truth, but on the basis of a moral sense that is supported, at least in part, outside of the bible because if it contains myth, you have to choose what is myth and what is not. It says it is not myth. In Isaiah 40:8, God says, "The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever." That word is all of the bible. If Genesis is myth, Isaiah is wrong in this statement. If Isaiah is wrong, well, that's a problem isn't it?

The point is that Genesis says very explicitly that God created the world in six days, starting from a state where he was moving over a deep sea of water. He created things in a certain order. On day six he was done, and at least two humans existed. The bible quite literally counts the generations from Adam on. It asserts that humans coexisted with all animal species from the beginning. It is a history of order 10,000 years, tops. Archbishop Usher counted generations and concluded an age of 6012 years this October (IIRC). You don't like this, so you pick a number to use as an upper bound of age that is specific, and hence falsifiable. It's pretty obvious that it isn't as long as millions of years, and that's still four orders of magnitude short of the mark.

Second, as always, you identify "Christians" on a variable and differential scale. Are Catholics Christians? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Catholics these days have rejected Genesis and embraced reason. When they are killed in Africa, they are Christians. When they do good works, they are Christians. When they have popes and believe in evolution, they aren't Christians.

You'll also recall my posting links to John Hagee. Here's a great "Christian" -- believes in the literal truth of the bible like nobody else. To him, Katrina was just a work of God wiping out homosexuals and perverts. I'm sure the latest natural disaster is just another example of God wiping out infidels.

Finally, why do you think that Christians are the only people in the world who cares about helping those in Myanmar? Are you nuts? Remember, "scientists" as you put it, are the folks that invented things like weather satellites, earthquake detectors, a Tsunami warning system (still inadequate), penicillin, electricity, and the germ theory of disease. You're going to really irritate me if you assert that only Christians are capable of good actions, especially as you simultaneously bounce around just who is and isn't a Christian and assert that "grace and salvation" have nothing to do with being a good person so that even if someone single handedly rescued an entire population of people from pain and suffering, they still "go to hell" unless they say the magic words.

I don't think Christians are evil. I think they are human. I don't think that they live in a state of sin. I think that sometimes they sin, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they do great works and have truly generous souls. Sometimes they are blind, narrow minded, intolerant, self-righteous prigs. Sometimes the same person, different times. I think the same can be said of (say) Buddhists, Muslims, Jews.

If you plan on asserting that Genesis is literal truth in spite of all evidence, that's fine, but then what is there to discuss? About anything? Just don't assert that your belief is reasonable if you do, and don't bother making up new myths to "explain" things like the origin and diversity of species.

I realize that this is a tough decision for you. You wish that the world were an open book that agreed with your book. Unfortunately, it is an open book that does not.

Finally (my polemic over:-) I do wish that you'd make up your mind. Christ bound us to the law of the Old Testament, if I recall correctly. I am extremely -- and I do mean extremely -- uncomfortable with a variable God-mandated morality. I am extremely -- and I do mean extremely -- uncomfortable with choosing to take Isaiah (cited above) as being a reliable witness and prophet when a line from the middle of one chapter is interpreted as a prophecy of Christ, yet the line I cite above is, as I understand you, not true. Isaiah should have said something like "The word of God is not forever -- it will last only until Jesus arrives and then it will be something different."

So, which is it? Do we accept Isaiah as being truth, refuting your assertion that the meaning of The Good changed with Jesus, accepting that Genesis must be literal truth, and accepting that slavery and young-virgin banging are good things, (how can you possibly assert that they were ever good things)
or do we reject Isaiah's statement that the Bible as it stood in his time was true? If the latter, where do we draw the line?

Reason does embody a certain duality -- the inconsistency of A and not A. Every Christian I've ever spoken to deplores moral relativism, the idea that The Good could change, at the same time that they nominally embrace a document where it clearly changes, and where our understanding of The Good has changed further still from the time that the document was "frozen" in a state of presumed complete perfection.

As you refuse to actually address matters of fact that refute the literal truth of the bible and give the lie to Isaiah's words anyway, teach me of this. Not as a mystery -- I don't believe in "mysteries", only muddy thinking. Teach me how the Good can change, how it was ever right to own slaves, compel sexual intercourse with young women, kill prisoners of war out of hand, stone people to death for trivial offenses or for being something that does not exist, e.g. "a witch" or that they cannot really help.

So, Isaiah 40:8, true or false or "sometimes" or "maybe"?


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