Ignorance of Christianity no virtue

Q: Is there widespread media bias against Christianity? Against evangelicals such as Brit Hume and Sarah Palin? Against public figures … Continued

Q: Is there widespread media bias against Christianity? Against evangelicals such as Brit Hume and Sarah Palin? Against public figures who speak openly and directly about their faith? Against people who believe as you do?

Ignorance allows certainty, but punishes with narrowness. Ignorance grants ease of mind, but produces costly errors. No place is this more evident in American culture than in those ignorant of Christianity. They think they know what Christians believe, but do not. They cheerfully dismiss with almost no thought serious truth claims made by religious thinkers. They revel in the writings of religious know-nothings who reinforce a smug and complacent set of stereotypes.

Like racists in the Old South, they look for confirmation of their opinions and avoid anyone who would challenge them. They know the names of fallen or foolish television evangelists, but not the works of serious thinkers like USC philosopher Dallas Willard.

I have met college educated Americans who could not recognize the Biblical language or Christian arguments in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. They knew so little about the Faith of the vast majority of Americans who have ever lived, that when Abraham Lincoln spoke of a “house divided” in yet another speech, they did not recognize the Biblical reference.

I know students who are given copies of John Locke’s political writings that have most of the Biblical arguments or religious language carefully removed. They don’t know he was a Christian apologist. He was one of the chief intellectual sources used to defend the American Revolution and form our new government and so he must be secular. It is as if we hope that John Locke were really David Hume!

The recent tempest over Sarah Palin saying she felt God had called her to run for office and Britt Hume having the temerity to say that Christianity could help Tiger Woods is a great example. Most Americans are not disturbed, but more insular worlds such as education or mainstream media, are consumed with horror.

Like segregationists shocked to discover that not all their neighbors of color are happy being bearers of wood and carriers of water, the religiously ignorant man cries, “Who are these people?

They are millions of your neighbors, some saints and some cads, some smart and some ignorant. They are Christians.

Sarah Palin and Britt Hume think Christianity is true, not just a cheerful private opinion. This may be wrong, quite wrong, but it is not obviously wrong. Alvin Plantinga, Notre Dame philosopher, agrees, along with Arizona Cardinal’s quarterback Kurt Warner, and a billion other people on the Earth.

The vast numbers don’t prove Christianity is right, but it shouldn’t strike us as odd when one member of the billion strong cohort believers happens to express their belief in public. It might be a good idea if more of non-Christians knew why philosophers, quarterbacks, plumbers, and priests all think that Jesus should run your life.

We separate church and state–not church and life. Christians think their belief system is correct and it would be weird if they didn’t make this obvious by their behavior and talk.

There are so many millions of believers in the United States that it is a sign of their manners that religion does not saturate even more of American life.

Religious education for those outside of a religion in this nation is a joke. Where it exists, it consists of dry descriptions and believers are treated as exotic objects of study. This is despite the fact the majority of Americans and human beings in the world have these beliefs.

Students aren’t taught why people (in fact as much as one out of every six living human beings), would choose to be Christian. They don’t even know most Christians are in the “third world,” and that the faith is booming in China.

This education should not be limited to Christianity, of course. I don’t think Islam is generally right, but at least I should know why some of my smart friends think it is. Any educated person should read the best advocates for the world’s great faiths. All of us should take a hard look at the writings of those who think we can live without faith.

When it comes to religion, I fear that a good-hearted ignorance prevails in many newsrooms. Reporters don’t know what they don’t know and so repeat errors.

Mistakes or stereotypes about Evangelical Christianity actually benefit a small group of Evangelicals. There are a few “house” Evangelicals who are known to the media who are interviewed often, partly because they fit the stereotypes. A small group of “post-Evangelicals” also find that the media stereotypes reinforce their personal decision to leave the subculture.

Every Evangelical intellectual knows many non-Evangelical intellectuals, but few non-Evangelicals in media know an Evangelical. It might be better to say that they don’t know they know any Evangelicals. Given their numbers in the population, they almost certainly do, but these devout Christians have learned to hide their views in order to blend into the background.

It is no fun to be in a room where everyone assumes a particular view and you do not hold it. Only the very brave, the very wise, or fools rush to expose their minority opinions. Few of us are brave or wise and fools simply confirm the stereotypes. The rest of the very religious keep quiet and so nobody learns.

This is particularly true when it comes to language. Every region and community has their own dialectic in the United States, but reporters who rightly would feel ashamed to make linguistic errors in a foreign land have no problem with not learning the “home language” of minority groups, especially religious minority groups in America. This is less true of groups that are thought “exotic” like the Amish or the Greek Orthodox, but Evangelicals look like regular Americans. Too often their way of speaking is thought of as just like everybody else, but with some religious jargon added.

This is quite wrong. Evangelicals are the product of a unique and interesting (though not perfect!) sub-culture that shapes the way they use words and phrases. They are steeped in particular books, music, art, and films and this sub-culture cannot rapidly be mastered. Nor are the minority who leave the sub-culture the best interpreters of it . . . anymore than the best way to know another land is to talk to the people who wanted to leave it.

Imagine trusting a travel book written by someone who said, “I really hated China and loath Chinese folk ways and here are what they are all about!”

The uproar over Palin recently is a good example.

Sarah Palin has said unfortunate things, but saying she thinks God wanted her to run for vice-president likely isn’t one. In the context of her culture, it is most likely an expression of humility and not of weird pride.

Palin might possibly have meant that she knew God wanted her to be vice-president. If so, then she was not only factually wrong (she lost), but also theologically wrong. As Saint Augustine points out in his City of God, we cannot know such things for sure and people who say so are fools.

Instead, Palin was probably using Evangelical shorthand for having spiritual peace about her decision. She did not think it wrong to run and felt God’s hand on her life. It is an expression of humility (“vice-presidential candidate only by the grace of God”) and not of pride. How do I know this is probably what she meant? I know because I have hundreds of Evangelical friends and this is how they talk and what they mean.

To give another example, I know in certain parts of the country that if an older woman begins a sentence, “Bless his heart, but . . . ” she is about to personally criticize this man’s behavior, but wants to be charitable about it. She thinks he may mean well, but has done something that makes him a jerk.

Americans should know about all the world’s faiths, but should focus great care on Christianity. Why should Americans know more about Christianity than any faith?

First, Christianity is the dominant religious idea in America. It would be shame if we didn’t understand it.

Second, Christianity has always been the dominant religious idea in America. You cannot understand historical documents, art, or culture without it. Good luck reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin with comprehension if you don’t understand Christian forms of abolitionism.

Third, Christianity is the largest religion in the world and one of the fastest growing. Modern South Korea is impossible to understand without reference to Christianity. South Africa, for good and bad, makes no sense without reference to the faith either in the past or in the future.

No person now alive will see a time where ignorance of Christianity will be desirable or possible.

Finally, as a Christian myself I must be honest and say what I have found.

People should know about Christianity because it is true. Only Christianity can unite a thoughtful, but popular culture. Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously. Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.

Ignorance of the truth may make a man happy for a bit, but will lead to cultural stagnation and personal damnation. Many of us can testify that we have failed Jesus, but that He has never failed us.

If we are wrong, we hope to see it, but Christians, after centuries of thought, still think Jesus should rule our lives. To deny this knowledge or to hide it would be intellectually dishonest, cowardly, and wrong.

John Mark Reynolds
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  • justillthennow

    John Mark, cont.,Which does bring up the question of what was Brit Hume thinking? He offered his belief that Buddhism did not offer the forgiveness and redemption that his Christian faith did, and Tiger ought to convert to his superior path. Mr. Hume presents HIS ignorance of Buddhism here, and publicly, and then whines that it is him and Christianity that in misunderstood and biased against. Yet it is his ignorance that led this foray into inter-religious insults! Not to mention his assumption that Tiger’s ‘inferior’ spiritual way has failed him, since his infidelities became known and public and his rapid fall from grace, as opposed to the possibility that it was TIGER that strayed and it had nothing to do with his religious choice. Does Brit not remember his own infidelities WHILE he was a practicing Christian? Perhaps, by his own logic, it is he that should convert to Buddhism. Brit Hume becomes another symbol that it is Christians that are at least as ignorant of other religions, not the other way around. And I believe that is closer to the truth than that Buddhists or Muslims or Jews are ignorant of Christianity. As you have said John Mark, it is Christians that have had the major visible and audible, (and written!), influence in America, as well as the western world. It is only logical, (and true!), that their is a more known ‘face’.So as I said, I am sorry but I disagree with this perception. I find it intellectually dishonest and a psychological sidestep and redirection that avoids the tougher questions.That said, I love reading your postings and look forward to your next opinion. Peace.

  • justillthennow

    Hello John Mark,I am sorry, but I do not see that the majority are ignorant of Christianity. I find this to be a common complaint, but for me it is a deflection of the truth. Christians fall back to a ‘sense’ of persecution if they or their representatives are rejected or criticized. But it is a misperception, in my opinion, and is a common reaction as a people that have been in a position of power find that power slipping through their fingers.Christians in America, as you suggest, have been very influential in the cultural tapestry, nearly dictating what an American tapestry ought to look like and the materials and textiles that should, and shouldn’t, be included in acceptable and politically and culturally correct tapestry works.Christians no longer have that overriding influence. They know it and feel it. They fight against it. They have, as reaction to their ‘loss of influence’, redoubled and tripled their efforts at influencing political, legislative and social programs and movements.They are out in public and are active and vocal. They are seen and their presence is made known. They are hardly the persecuted and misunderstood minority that you and other Christians suggest. Now, it may well be your Evangelicals that are the more politically and socially active ‘subculture’, and so should be more viewed, interacted with and understood by the non-Christians that you say are ignorant of Christianity. And I still hear that Christians, practicing or otherwise, are the majority in American. Are you suggesting that the majority that we are misunderstand…..ourselves?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Better than usual.Your comment has readable flow of sense to it, up to a point. It looks like you are pushing a single thought along with each new paragraph, instead of just rambling along in all directions at once, like you often do. This time, you seem to be projecting a more authentic conviction rather than pushing some hidden agenda.Up to a point. You started to get off track with Sarah Palin. There really is nothing good that can be said about her, in the context of a political or religious leader.

  • greenstheman

    Justillthennow.I am curious, where or how does the Buhddist world view present how forgiveness for ones sin or redemption are attained? I am not aware of it in what I have learned about Buhddism. I thought the objective was to reach Nirvana.

  • GMartin-Royle

    “People should know about Christianity because it is true. Only Christianity can unite a thoughtful, but popular culture. Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously. Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.”While you may believe this to be true, that does not make it true.

  • justillthennow

    I find Buddhism to be supremely, (not that I am saying better than all others!, but potentially the best!), and sublimely capable of fostering and building complete forgiveness, as well as redemption, of the individual soul. It is, loosely speaking, a practice and form of practices and techniques that the practitioner can systematically transform themselves, their perspective, thoughts, emotions, physiology and spirituality to a more realized and perfected state. It offers no illusionary promises of an immediate and complete purging and cleansing of the ‘sins’ of the soul. Indeed, it does not even see sins in that way, just choices. Good and bad deeds earn beneficial and detrimental ‘karma’. There is no divine purification just by calling Buddha your Lord. No free ‘out of incarnate jail’ card as promised, errantly, by Christianity. Therefore it does not foster spiritual lethargy. The promise is that if you work at it and are dedicated to the practices, you will improve yourself and your consciousness will uplift. Not only will you find forgiveness for all that requires it in life, but you will be redeemed, to the point of realization of self as a literal “child of God”. One may be as I Am. As we Are at our essence, and are intended to be.I say this not to preach of the benefits of Buddhism per se, but to suggest that the benefits are deep. Certainly far deeper than Brit Hume, and other such Christians who are themselves ignorant of Buddhism, would imagine. That and to illustrate that, like anything else in the Created World, to be effective and even great at anything work and practice and disciple are required, or movement stagnates. It is my belief that Christianity, though great in it’s potential, has as an obstacle the entrenched mythology that the work is done for us by Jesus. Once we accept Jesus as Savior we are Saved, and the hard work is done. Though practice of Christian disciplines are encouraged and assumed, they are not required. Just acceptance of Jesus as personal Savior.That can make a load of adherents and members in the Exclusive Club of Christianity, but does not do much for evolution of the self and soul further into the heart of the Divine! That takes work. Buddhism is one of numbers of spiritual traditions, Christianity clearly included, that offers a real pathway that can dramatically better human life, by the practices and techniques that if follows.In Peace

  • coloradodog

    Ignorance allows certainty, but punishes with narrowness. Ignorance grants ease of mind, but produces costly errors. No place is this more evident in American culture than in the ignorant Huckabee Christian sect in lock-step with intolerant right-wing extremists. They think they know what others don’t believe, but do not. They cheerfully dismiss with almost no thought serious truth claims made by those who they arrogantly brand “non=believers. They revel in the writings of their religious know-nothings like Reynolds who reinforce a smug and complacent set of stereotypes.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Among the younger unchurched generations, Conservative Christianity is mainly known for its homophobia, or as you may not like that word, for its hostility toward gay people. That is their reputation, which they have earned. There is alot of talk about love the sinner hate the sin, and love your neighbor, but talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words. A reputation, as well as respect, is earned. Conservative Christians have earned their reputation, and have squandered any respect that they may have had.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    I believe this is probably true (as Just puts it):Brit Hume becomes another symbol that it is Christians that are at least as ignorant of other religions, not the other way around.I don’t disagree. I wasn’t asked about that (but about Christianity), but it is a point I am happy to make.Many other of our usual group of interlocutors might want to pause and ask, “Do I read a Dallas Willard and wrestle with his ideas? Or do I take my view of Evangelicals from the weakest examples?”I certainly want to read the very best from any great religious or philosophical tradition. Let’s all agree to try to do that this year! Make me some suggestions of things I should read!John Mark John Mark

  • babsnjer

    NIce try, but these are feeble excuses, at best, for the narrow-minded, bigoted, arrogant, and exclusionary practices and beliefs of many evangelicals. Perhaps if they could only be satisfied with their smug belief in their own salvation and could stay out of politics, we’d all be a lot better off.

  • coloradodog

    MTV Networks is working with George Clooney to stage a telethon for Haitian earthquake relief. This is what true Christians do instead of the sneering and squawking of Reynolds’ hateful Huckabee sect.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    John Mark ReynoldsNo person now alive will see a time where ignorance of Christianity will be desirable or possible.Finally, as a Christian myself I must be honest and say what I have found.People should know about Christianity because it is true. Only Christianity can unite a thoughtful, but popular culture. Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously. Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.Ignorance of the truth may make a man happy for a bit, but will lead to cultural stagnation and personal damnation. Many of us can testify that we have failed Jesus, but that He has never failed us.If we are wrong, we hope to see it, but Christians, after centuries of thought, still think Jesus should rule our lives. To deny this knowledge or to hide it would be intellectually dishonest, cowardly, and wrong.The argument that Christians but not Christianity much of the horror to blame is absurd, an instance of No True Scotsman’s Fallacy. By such reasoning, neither John Winthrop nor William Bradford were “true Christians.”

  • coloradodog

    Farnaz,My “Christian philanthropic organizations” ?You have me mistaken for someone else.As for you who also flits from blog to blog judging and condemning others, any comment about Judaism or Israel you don’t agree with is simple-mindedly and conveniently dismissed as anti-Semitic.Why do you hate Christians so? I have my reason to hate their radical extremist Huckabee sect as I have my reasons to hate radical extremists Donahue Catholics. What are yours?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    From Rhea Yablon Kennedy’s blogColoradodog:Although Judaism, like the other Abrahamic religions, does many good things in the world to save the poor and downcast, their non-compromising my-way-or-the-highway idea of world salvation is generally limited to their own and their American Christian colonists of Israel who give them $1.5 billion per year but can’t afford a health care system similar to that offered Israelis. Palestinians also need not apply.Unlike his Christian religion, Judaism holds that the deity has a covenant with all peoples and it is one that Jews are not to question.Further, unlike the organizations of his Christian co-religionists, Jewish philanthropic organizations are nonsectarian, giving to peoples of all faiths and of no faith. It is also worth noting the number of such philanthropic Jewish organizations compared to their Christian counterparts, in light of how much, much more the Christians have. Moreover, Jewish philantropic organizations help without trying to “convert” needy recipients.So, for example, during the Yugoslavian horror, Israeli JEWISH doctors went en masse to help the desperate Muslims in Kosovo. Funny, how there suddenly seemed to be no Christian doctors on the planet.As for what the United States “gives” Israel, in return for its “gift,” a fraction of the Israeli GNP, Israeli Jews, primarily, but also Christians and Muslims, thousands, have died and been maimed.This “gift” pays for intelligence that keeps Colordodog’s arse safe in Mexico, as well as the US. Intelligence that could and should be gathered by the US.This “gift” also strengthens our economy since much of it is spent in this country.ON the other hand, EGYPT, the second largest beneficiary of US aid, has taken what we give them for other purposes. First and foremost, our money lines the pockets of the dictator Mubarek who deposits huge sums in his Swiss bank accounts.Mubarek also donates our money to the ruling Egyptian families, co-corrupt politicians, generals, and terrorists.Hence, Mubarek used our money to steal the property of Egyptian Jews, brutalize them, and exile them. He uses the money to foment racism against the Christian Egyptians as we have just seen. He uses the money to persecute Palestinian Egyptians, who may not attend public schools in Egypt.NOne of this is of interest to the bigot Coloradodog, whose psychotic Jew hatred grows more and more evident.The very sad thing is that this poisonous racism eats away at him. For the rest of us, he is just another bigot.Posted by: Farnaz1Mansouri1 | January 14, 2010 7:45 PM

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Coloradodog:The paste below is addressed to you. If you read the blog last week, or the newspapers, for that matter, you know that an Appellate Court ruled against the surviving Jewish, Orthodox Christian, and Roma victims of 200 Nazi priests. These men, whose names I’ve posted from time to time cut fetuses out of women’s bellies, impaled people in the water and watched them drown, etc.They took the loot they’d stolen, these Priest Nazis, and deposited it in Vatican Bank, where it resides to this day. The Vatican has refused for sixty years to settle with the survivors and heirs.The ruling last week again affirmed the status of the Vatican as a foreign nation that could not be sued by Americans.If the Vatican is a foreign nation, wonder some, how then is it entitled to tax exempt status?These are just a few things that trouble me.This is irrelevant to the current discussion, but you raised the issue and question.

  • coloradodog

    Farnaz,”This Christian blogger”?You don’t know me at all and never will. Wallow in your ignorance and bigoted hatred of Egypt all you want. Sticks and stones may break my bones but your religious pomposity will never hurt me.ribbit, ribbit

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Coloradodog:Farnaz,”This Christian blogger”?You don’t know me at all and never will. Wallow in your ignorance and bigoted hatred of Egypt all you want. Sticks and stones may break my bones but your religious pomposity will never hurt me.ribbit, ribbitBecause they are starving, starving to death, while their corrupt government steals the money we give it. Muslims all over the world loathe Mubarek.How can you “love” him?OH, and you are Christian, make no mistake about that. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re an atheist.But, again, why this hatred for Egyptians?

  • justillthennow

    Hello Greenstheman,I have just posted regarding your question to some extent, so suggest that you read that if it is of interest.On a very elementary level, Buddhism offers a way to elevate out of the ignorance of consciousness and awareness that we are immersed in as humans and emerge into “the Light” of Divine Consciousness. The concept being, as with most religions in a basic way, that we are ‘children of God or a Divine Intelligence and we have lost our awareness of that. Left alone and without guidance we are nearly certain to stay in the ignorance of that Divine Source that is our birthright as children of God. Buddhism, in it’s way, offers specific techniques that allow the reconnection with Spirit, or Source, or Self-as-Divine. Soul.These techniques and concepts are very diverse as Buddhism, like Christianity, is diverse. But they all have as intention the elevation of consciousness that it may come into alignment with Transcendent Awareness. Consciousness that is Unlimited and Aware, and as well Eternal. These techniques span from various meditation ways to chanting to harnessing and focusing thought to training emotional awareness, and more, all intended to facilitate the dissolution of the egotistical ‘persona’ and ‘personalized thought’ of the ignorant human, and help one focus on a higher transcendent reality.That is my neophyte quick definition, and will have to do for the moment.Thank you for the opportunity to pontificate for a bit, Greenstheman! Peace to you.

  • justillthennow

    Hello John Mark, Concerning the misunderstanding that the populace has of Christianity:I do not doubt that Christianity is misunderstood if Pat Robertson is not indicative of Christian thought, and if he is the symbol of Christian thought. Of course, there are many other essentially Evangelical preachers out there that could be symbols, and some of them have related PR issues as Mr. Robertson does. But many have, as well, deeply related beliefs, even if moderated by ‘tongues’. Point should be clear. If you believe that Christianity is misunderstood, (which I have disagreed with), then why not have more actualized and valid Christians make their positions known? For Pat Robertson is doing no favors to a more moderate and mainstream, (and Christlike!), Christianity!As before, Pace!

  • justillthennow

    Thank you for the link to your view on Mr. Robertson, as well as the other articles that were available there. I enjoyed it.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    For those tempted by Schaum’s quaintly Victorian take on “myth” and Christianity . . . I would suggest:1. actually reading the original source documents for the myths he describes and then reading the gospels. See if they have the same literary texture.Of course Christianity is “mythic” . . . just as “Avatar” is mythic . . . but that only leads us to the question:Is this particular myth (Christianity) also true?

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Read the following:Ask yourself what kind of person speaks this way?Go read Dallas Willard. Go read Alvin Plantinga. Go read Richard Swinburne. Are they just followers of “christer myths?”This is not so much offensive as sad. When I chat with my Muslim friends, I make it clear I think they are wrong, but I don’t feel the need to describe their views as “fill in your favorite insult here.”Same goes with my atheist colleagues. Extreme secularists (people who don’t do their homework and respect the best of religious thought) and extreme fundamentalists (people who don’t respect the best of secular thought) are a great deal alike. They have their one shot argument, launch it, and then stand in wonder that anyone disagrees with them. Sadly for both, the cosmos is more complex than they wish it was.If Christianity could be “exploded” by talking about this sort of thing on blogs . . .it would have died long ago. The Romans could have killed it! I am not saying this is a good reason (by itself) to say it is true, but that one should always assume that NO blog post (certainly including anything I have written) is a substitute for reading books that contain sustained arguments about the topic. And one should read the best of the other side . . . and not only the worst.The good thing about my (non-Christian) education in philosophy is that it did require me to read the best of many different points of view. I am thankful to my teachers for that gift. Let’s try to keep in mind that while extremism is obviously wrong, most movements are most interesting at their “centers” and that it is those folk we should be talking to and about.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Let me be clear as I know how:1. I respect thoughtful secularism (whether agnostic or atheist). I owe it a great deal, even though I think it wrong.2. I don’t respect Internet/new secularism of that dismisses religion with facile books. I would say the same thing about different mainstream religions, including the one I think right. Serious Islam is worth considering . . . though I don’t agree with it. Fringe Islam is not.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Much to my amusement, I was reading one of my comments and discovered it sounds as if I thought Romans had blogs . . . now Cicero would have made a great blogger (Virgil was far too obsequious), but I know Romans were not blogging!I meant to say “if the level of arguments that we can make on blogs could kill off Christianity then certainly non-Christian Roman critics of Christianity could have done so . . . “

  • ThishowIseeit

    Cristians believe that there is a just omnipotent superior being referred as God.

  • Schaum

    Johnmarkreynolds:”Go read Dallas Willard. Go read Alvin Plantinga. Go read Richard Swinburne.”Go read the history of earlier religions, and see fromwhere christers stole their religion. It is just another pagan religion. Facts are facts, sorry you have difficulty dealing with that.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    CounterwwYes, there I go again, and I am going to keep going. I made the observation that the unchurched younger generations know little of Christianity, except that it is anti-gay. I further made comments on the reputation of Conservative Christianity. What about that do you disagree with?I would think that there is more that you would want people to know of your faith than that you are anti-gay.The anti-gay bias of Conservative Christians is obviously based in personal bigotry and the necessity of scapegoating people who are in a position of disadvantage. I do not care from what authority you seek to justify a personal bias, it is wrong. This is obvious and clear. The basis of your belief about gay people is wrong.You do not cling to this belief because it it is right; you cling to it because you cannot admit error in your system of belief, because it is a system, a system that demands mental conformity of thought, and if there is doubt in even a tiny part of it, then you cannot accept what that my imply about all else that you believe.That would take courage, to admit that a core value that you cling to and hold to for your mental peace of mind, might be wrong. You do not have that courage, YET.But I expect it of you, and I will keep prodding people like you to summon this necessary courage if you can.And by the way, I do not really hold it against you for being afraid to admit you are wrong about something as important as this; it is human nature.Whatever hostility I may have towards Conservative Christians is a reaction, to a sentiment that I would hardly recognize as love.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    John Mark ReynoldsSerious religion is the religion of theological scholars telling people what they ought to believe?And unserious religion is what the common folk really believe?Who is elitist now?

  • Carstonio

    “Palin might possibly have meant that she knew God wanted her to be vice-president. If so, then she was not only factually wrong (she lost), but also theologically wrong…Instead, Palin was probably using Evangelical shorthand for having spiritual peace about her decision…How do I know this is probably what she meant? I know because I have hundreds of Evangelical friends and this is how they talk and what they mean.”While I disagree that that anyone can know another’s intentions through experience and inference alone, Reynolds’ conclusions about Palin are defensible as educated guesses. If he’s right, the larger problem is that Palin is using Evangelical shorthand in a political context, which is against the principle of nonsectarian government. What Reynolds doesn’t understand is that it’s VERY reasonable for people outside Palin’s religion to assume from her language that she sees herself as having a holy mission in politics. If Palin was referring to spiritual peace about her decision, as Reynolds argues, then she has a responsibility as a political figure to translate that into nonsectarian terms.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    So Schaum I did doctoral work in philosophy of religion at a secular school, but maybe I missed reading something you think I should have read. What?You say: “Go read the history of earlier religions, and see fromwhere christers stole their religion. It is just another pagan religion. Facts are facts, sorry you have difficulty dealing with that.”O.K.I have translated Greek religious texts . . . read Middle East texts (in translation) and taught many of them (from the Epic of Gilgamesh on). What do you want me to read?John Mark

  • Carstonio

    “Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously. Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.”That’s nothing less that bigoted religious jingoism. The first one in particular is refuted by the history of ancient Greece and of the Arabs during Europe’s Dark Ages.

  • Carstonio

    To clarify, my statement about bigotry was targeted not at Reynolds himself but at his statements about only Christianity being compatible with individual freedom. That’s equivalent to saying that all non-Christians hate freedom and democracy, that Buddhists and Shintoists and all other believers slaver to keep people in tyranny and slavery.

  • Schaum

    JohnMarkReynolds:So…you’ve done doctoral work in philosophy of religion. Congratulations. Gee whiz, I’m impressed. Inasmuch as you think it is necessary to shake your academic tree, I’ll do the same. I have a BS in Computer Science (2 years at University of Tennessee and 2 years at Holy Cross), a Masters in Education and a doctorate in Adult Technological Education, both from University of Illinois at Chicago. I don’t see what your academic megalomania has to do with the fact that most of the christers “theology” and ritual was stolen from older religions. And Mithraism, possibly the largest “contributor” to the christer’s made-up pagan religion, predates the christers by 1400 years.If you want to learn something about the pagan roots of the christer’s made up religion, you can start with these links — they will point you to more sites, and books.the pagan roots of Christianity?

  • Schaum

    3.Osiris-Dionysus Krshna, an incarnation of the hindu deity Vishnu

  • Schaum

    5.Buddha, the ‘Enlightened One’ who spurred a new form of spirituality which is a tangent of Hindusim:walked on water:”He (Buddha) walks upon the water without parting it, as if it were solid ground.”calmed a storm:”Now at that time a great rain fell, and a great flood resulted. Then the Lord (Buddha) made the water recede all around, and he paced up and down in the middle on dust-covered ground.” walked through walls:”He (Buddha) goes unhindered through a wall.” performed miracles:”As soon as the Bodhisattva (Buddha)was born, the sick were cured, the hungry and thirsty were no longer oppressed by hunger and thirst. Those maddened by drink lost their obsession. The mad recovered their senses, the blind regained their sight, and the deaf once more could hear. The lame obtained perfect limbs, the poor gained riches, and prisoners were delivered of their own bonds.”

  • Schaum

    6.Other ‘mythologies’ that compare in one form or another include Hercules, Mithra, Hermes, Prometheus, Perseus and others compare to the Christian myth. According to Patrick Campbell of The Mythical Jesus, all are pre-Christian sun gods, yet all allegedly had gods for fathers, virgins for mothers; had their births announced by stars; were born on the solstice around December 25th; had tyrants who tried to kill them in their infancy; met violent deaths; rose from the dead; and nearly all were worshiped by “wise men” and were alleged to have fasted for forty days. [McKinsey, Chapter 5]The pre-Christian cult of Mithra had a deity of light and truth, son of the Most High, fought against evil, presented the idea of the Logos (the ‘Word’). Pagan Mithraism mysteries had the burial in a rock tomb, resurrection, sacrament of bread & water (Eucharist), the marking on the forehead with a mystic mark, the symbol of the Rock, the Seven Spirits and seven stars, all before the advent of Christianity.Even Justin Martyr recognized the analogies between Christianity and Paganism. To the Pagans, he wrote: “When we say that the Word, who is first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus).” [First Apology, ch. xxi]Virtually all of the accounts of the savior Jesus Christ can be accounted for by past pagan mythologies which existed long before Christianity and from the Jewish scriptures that we now call the Old Testament. The accounts of these myths say nothing about historical reality, but they do say a lot about believers, how they believed, and how their beliefs spread.”In saying that the Word was born for us without sexual union as Jesus Christ our teacher, we introduce nothing beyond what is said of those called the Sons of Zeus.” Justin Martyr, Apology, 3″The mystic child at Eleusis was born of a maiden; these ancients made for themselves the sacred dogma ‘A virgin shall conceive and bear a son,’ by night there was declared ‘Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Ibid, 48The Christian Christmas song, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” was adapted from the Egyptian poem to Osiris:”He is born! He is born! O come and adore Him!

  • Schaum

    7.References for these are as follows:Egyptian Religion by Wallis Budge (1899), The Bacchae by Euripedes lines 5, 723, 836, The Hermetica, The Ibid, F Cumont, 48 (1903), Cleanthes, from CH Kahn (1979), Concerning the Gods and the Universe 4 by S Angus (1925)Hercules….Who was this guy?If a person accepts hearsay and accounts from believers as historical evidence for Jesus, then should they not act consistently to other accounts based solely on hearsay and belief?Take this one example for instance. Examine the evidence for the Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the historicity of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus, making it hypocritical. Note how Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. Hercules was born from a God (Zeus) and a mortal virgin mother (Alcmene). Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds. Like Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Hercules was perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him. Likewise the ‘evidence’ of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mentions Hercules. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have mention of Jesus in Josephus’ Antiquities, so Josephus mentions Hercules in his ‘Antiquities’ (see 1.15, 8.5.3, 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Crestus, he also mentions Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him?

  • Schaum

    8.People consider Hercules a myth because people no longer believe in the Greek and Roman stories. Christianity and its churches, on the other hand, still hold a powerful influence on governments, institutions, and colleges. Anyone doing research on Jesus, even skeptics, had better allude to his existence or else risk future funding and damage to their reputations. Christianity depends on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend, at all costs, even the most unreliable sources. People want to believe in Jesus, and belief alone can create intellectual barriers that leak even into atheist and secular thought. We have so many Christian professors, theologians and historical ‘experts’ around the world that tell us we should accept a historical Jesus that if repeated often enough, it tends to convince even the most ardent skeptic. The establishment of history should never reside with the ‘experts’ words alone or simply because a scholar has a reputation as a historian. If a scholar makes a historical claim, his assertion should depend almost solely on the evidence itself and not just because he/she says so. Facts do not require belief. And whereas beliefs can live comfortably without evidence at all, facts depend on evidence. This being said, we have no solid evidence to call this…a fact. It will remain…a belief. Quickie similarities:Krshna, Mithra of Persia, Quexalcote of Mexico, the Chinese savior Xaca, Ya, the Chinese monarch, Plato, Pythagoras, Tamerlane, Gengis Khan, Apollonius of Tyana and Augustus Caesar, were all supposed to have been the product of immaculate conceptions.Krshna, Mithra of Persia, Quexalcote of Mexico, Chris of Chaldea, Quirinus of Rome, Prometheus, Osiris of Egypt, Atys of Phrygia, all rose from the dead after three days.At the birth of Confucius, five wise men from a distance came to the house, celestial music filled the air, and angels attended the scene.The Sacrament or Eucharist was practiced by the Brahmins of India, and was introduced into the mysteries of Mithras, as well as among the Mexicans.The concept of the ‘Trinity’ is Hindu. The Sanskrit term is ‘Trimurti’, meaning ‘three bodies in one godhead’. In the Hindu trinity, it was Siva; the other members of the trinity being Brahma and Vishnu. [sidebar: In the Mexican trinity, Y Zona was the Father, Bascal the Word, and Echvah the Holy Ghost, by the last of whom Chimalman conceived and brought forth Quexalcote.]

  • Schaum

    9.”The sign of the fish is widely used today as a symbol of Christianity, but originated in Pagan sacred geometry. Two circles, symbolic of spirit and matter, are brought together in a sacred marriage. When the circumference of one touches the center of the other they combine to produce the fish shape known as the vesica piscis. The ratio of height to length of the shape is 153:265, a formula known to Archimedes in the third century BCE as the ‘measure of the fish.’ It is a powerful mathematical tool, being the nearest whole number approximation of the square root of three and the controlling ratio of the equilateral triangle.” Every minute you spend in one of the christer’s churches is a minute you spend in a pagan religion.

  • Schaum

    2.When Mithra is born on the 25th of December, of a virgin, and promised to bring salvation and eternal life to his followers, died and was resurrected and ascended into the sky, we understand that as a myth.When Alexander the Great is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth. When Dionysus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we call that a myth. When Scipio Africanus (Scipio Africanus, for Christ’s sake) is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we call that a myth. And how is it, in a culture with all those Sons of God, where miracles were science, where Heaven and Hell and God and eternal life and salvation were in the temples, in the philosophies, in the books, were dancing and howling in street festivals, how come we imagine Jesus and the stories about him developed all on their own, all by themselves, without stealing up any of their stuff from the culture they sprang from, the culture full of the same sort of stuff? Ancient Pagans believed in various levels of divinity, with miraculous powers, coming down and going up to its home in the sky. Divine beings cared about people, listened to and answered their prayers, giving them the power to prophesy, and offering them a better deal in the eternal life that comes after death. Christianity is a product of it’s time and place. Christianity is an ancient Pagan religion

  • Schaum

    1.By what criteria can we decide which ancient godman stories were new and original, and which ancient godman stories were myths built up from the religious ideas of their day? When Osiris is said to bring his believers eternal life in Egyptian Heaven, contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, we call that a myth.When the sacred rites of Demeter at Eleusis are described as bringing believers happiness in their eternal life, we call that as a myth. When ancient writers tell us that in general ancient people believed in eternal life, with the good going to the Elysian Fields and the not so good going to Hades, we call these writings myth. When Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from death, we call that a myth. >> When Dionysus turned water into wine, we call that a myth. When Dionysus’s believers are filled with the Spirit of God, we call that a myth.

  • Schaum

    COUNTERWW:”There are not options outside of that.”There you go again! There are plenty of options for those who do not subscribe to the christer myths.

  • coloradodog

    Typical of religious zealots everywhere, the all-knowing Farnaz (not a “my-way-or-the-highway” bone in her sweet little body), has cherry-picked my posts and has diagnosed me as a terminal “Christian” She should also quote my other posts. As our beloved ccnl1 would say “to wit:”From a Robertson apologist columnist here:”Robertson simply gives voice to a tendency all believers experience when grappling with the big question of why evil exists in a world made by a loving, powerful God.”Do “all” of your “believers” experience the same lame and shallow apology for a charlatan and Pharisee? What’s your motive, Lindsay?”Is your Personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, complicit in this revenge of death, pain and destruction? If so, maybe his followers deserve a jail cell in the Hague with your international war criminal, Lord Cheney.”Does this sound like someone she has simple-mindedly dismissed as another awful Christian?

  • Bios

    …only christianity…what? …has fed intolerance through hundreds of years…has preached one thing and done another…has covered for pedophile priests (armies of)…has killed brothers in the name of god…has falsehood engrained in its roots…Well, not only christianity. In the end, christianity is just another way to manipulate the masses. Maybe the most familiar to us. Maybe this is why Americans should focus more on christianity.

  • mammyyel

    With your many words you are promoting knowledge of the boucoup facets of a stumbling block, the larger face of Christianity, in the dearth of which knowledge any soul can happily come to a knowledge of, acquaintance with the Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    An excellent prospect looms above (beyond?): A heady discussion. Looking forward to it.

  • justillthennow

    Greenstheman, cont.,”It is our acceptance of Jesus Christ that makes us justified in God the Fathers eyes.”Utter Christian Propaganda, as far as I am concerned. GOD LOVES US. PERIOD. We are not in need of being justified “in God the Fathers Eyes!” We Are! No justification necessary. He Created Us!”It takes alot of studing to understand the meaning of His death and resurrection.”Study away. Show validation in proofs, and in reasoned supports. God gave us reason and logic, as well as much more. Belief and faith are great, but do you really think that is the extent of the realm that He offered us to Know Him? Greenstheman, this created world is not made willy-nilly! There is an intelligent cause to it, and in it, and it’s essence is not flighty “faith” but is foundational and fundamental and concrete as well.Show me the money!”Buddhism at it’s foundation is really both atheistic and nihilistic, ultimately there is no God and nothing really exists so I fail to understand this statement you made.”You fail to understand because, like Brit Hume, you do not understand either Buddhism or the functional basics of this created universe. Your above statement is both ignorant, (sorry, but true!), and biased. And regarding “there is no God”, it would depend on your definition of God. I believe I get what yours is. Buddhism does not have a Personalized God, as in Personality and Specified. GOD IS ALL. God Is I AM. I AM….IS!!!As You Are!You cannot perceive that we can be great and realized without the White Bearded Omnipotent and Specific Entity on a Cloud in Heaven, Dictating The Rules and Commandments. We cannot! But then, it does not require a White Bearded Entity. It requires our relationship and connection to the Divine Source! Call that God if you like, but do not make me bow to white beards. Allow me to bow to All that Is! While I love that you love White Beards!Peace, Greenstheman!

  • coloradodog

    Farnaz wrote:”As for what the United States “gives” Israel, in return for its “gift,” a fraction of the Israeli GNP, Israeli Jews, primarily, but also Christians and Muslims, thousands, have died and been maimed.This “gift” pays for intelligence that keeps Colordodog’s arse safe in Mexico, as well as the US. Intelligence that could and should be gathered by the US.This “gift” also strengthens our economy since much of it is spent in this country.”If Farnaz and her attitude is representative of the “intelligence” we receive from our “gift”, we would be better off spending the annual $1.5 billion here at home providing health care for our poor and sick children.

  • justillthennow

    Hello again Greenstheman, to respond to your earlier post:”In another post you said if I’m not mistaken that it offered redemption and forgiveness, by the above statement it leaves me wondering how that can be.”Your concept of redemption it seems, as well as forgiveness, is seeped thoroughly through with Christian conditioning and is unable to easily see that both redemption and forgiveness are easily generated and inspired by US, by our choice, as opposed to the concept that JESUS is required for me to forgive and be forgiven. Hear me Greenstheman. I grew up with Jesus, was Baptized in Jesus name, was Reborn in Christ. I am not foreign to Christianity. Further, I STILL LOVE JESUS! I just do not think much of institutionalized christianity. I believe that institutionalized christianity has failed in it’s leadership and direction of the flock. I believe they have fleeced the flock. I am, however, a friend to TRULY fundamental Christianity.I return to some of your quotes:”You have a distorted view of Christ, The reason He died for our sins is that there is no amount of good works, no amount of rituals that can make us perfectly free of sin.”Conditioned belief. Prove that to me! It is BELIEF and assumption that He died for our sins. What sins? The apple is mythological and without substantive fact. You BELIEVE it to be true, and then wrap your mind, and certitude, around that story. WHY DO WE NEED THE DEATH OF THAT WHICH CANNOT DIE TO APPEASE GOD, WHO KNOWS WE ARE IGNORANT AND HUNGRY FOR KNOWLEDGE???”God the father sent his son to die for our sins because there is no other way to the Father exept through the Son.”Did you memorize that, or is it something you know as true, for yourself?

  • Counterww

    DILD-As one of my favorite Presidents once said- “There you go again”Christians do point out the sins of others not specific people but of the decline of society- adultery, abortion, sexual addictions, drug use, and your favorite topic to defend, homosexuality. It has nothing to do with fear when Christians make those points. it is detailed in the scriptures that all of these things are wrong. It is also detailed what the plan of God for man is- and it is monogamy, within a one man, one woman relationship within marriage. There are not options outside of that.Also, there is plenty good to say about Palin. She is someone that represents the non elite of America. I don’t know if she is the right person for President or not, but the rancor of hatred and venom people have for her is indicative of the lack of knowledge many in society have or don’t have about Christians I think you are one of those people. You clearly don’t understand or even try to understand evangelicals. In fact, you are hostile and even hateful towards us.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    CounterwwYou did not really answer anything that I said. Once again, you wandered off into the logistics of sex positions.I do not deny that the sex organs or man and woman are designed to be complimentary tools of baby-making. I do not think that heterosexual people need any encouragement in using their body parts on each other to make babies. And I do not think that, in this overpopulated world, you need to worry about a shortage of babies, because a small minority of men and women are unable to routinely engage in sexual intercourse. Trust me, please, there is baby-making enough to compensate for gay people who are not making babies.Race easily defines most people, in general, but there are people who do not easily fall into racial group. Even though most people prefer to engage in baby-making sex, some few people do not. I can assure you that a gay man’s penis does not match up well to a woman’s vagina. If you would care, somehow, to manually match them up and make them work, then you are welcome to try, but I would not reccomend it.My apologies if I have taken your interest in the logistics of sexual too far, but it is you who keep bringing it up, not I.My comment was that most unchurched people of the younger generation know nothing of Christianity except that it is anti-gay. Most of the message of Christ is being missed, but the message that gay people are bad is getting accross loud and clear. Evidently, you do not care.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    First, “myth” as I am using it (and as it is used in writers like Plato) means “likely story” (see Plato’s Timaeus) for an example. It is a story containing archetypes . . . and that even if not historically true (think Cinderella) contains ethical or some other kinds of truths. When Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, it was not something that he thought had happened in fact in the particular case (it was a story), but was the sort of thing that did happen all the time stripped to its basics. Myths can be true or false. Now if you are the kind of person who gets your word definitions from on-line dictionaries (useful to a point) this technical definition in philosophy of religion might have been missed . . . no harm done!Just realize that “myth” does not always mean “a false story from olden times” or something like that.Second, to know if A was influenced by B we need evidence that A knew of B and that B existed before A or at the same time as A.The problem with many of the arguments about Christian “borrowing” is that they don’t do the hard work that in my field (Plato) is required to show “borrowing.” They often cite texts that only exist in manuscripts after Christian contact (so the influence could go the other way). . . Finally, all truth if God’s truth. Most of the great religions dimly saw/see the Big Truths. That is why they survive. They look at the world and make sense of it. The fact that there is common ideas or themes does not show falsity.All this is very, very old hat and was dealt with in the nineteenth century. If it bothers you (or if you are interested), go read primary sources. Read the Gospels and compare them (say) to the stories in Ovid. Do they read the same way literally to you? Try the Gospel of Mark and Ovid for example.Don’t take my word for it. Read for yourself.

  • cornbread_r2

    “It is intuitive for most of us to believe in a higher power, and the deficient ones are the people that can’t see that.” — Counterww————–Science has proven time and time again that human intuition is an extremely poor tool in predicting truth claims about the material world. The sun does not revolve around the Earth; the stars do not revolve around the Earth; the Earth isn’t flat; blow flies do not spontaneously generate from rotting flesh; whales are not fish; disease is not caused by bad juujuu; etc. etc. etc.. Given such a poor record in the material realm, why are you so confident that your intuition is so unflaggingly correct when conjuring up a supernatural one?

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Persiflage,I am not arguing that there are no real deities in other religions only that the “god of the philosophers” is not one of those deities and that He is best found in Judaism and Christianity (in the ancient world). What powers did other groups connect with? I don’t know. Justin Martyr wrestled with that question in the second century. He still makes good reading.This tiny little comment box will not allow me to comment on the historicity of the Gospels, but I would recommend F.F. Bruce on the topic if anyone wants to read a book. One thing I have learned is that anyone who says: “All Muslims are obviously stupid.” or “Atheists are all delusional.” is not living in the real world. Big ideas are much, much harder to refute than Internet atheists seem to think. One meets the kind of teenage mentality on line of those who think it knowing to call God the “sky-god” or Jesus a “zombie” or Christians “christers, and really can only shake one’s head in sorrow.I wish the world were that easy. I wish philosophy of religion were that simple. It would be so nice if I could just go to one Christian blog and be sure that I was right beyond any doubt. I cannot.Maybe Christianity isn’t true, but it seems so to me after years of investigation. I will read anything you give me, but pardon us if repeating Victorian atheist platitudes (we have all read our Huxley!) is no more impressive than if I repeated Gladstone’s arguments from the same era in favor of Christianity!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Persiflage,I did not think you are one of those who make the “christer” error. I was just thinking out loud about the hard work we all must do to answer these questions.John Mark

  • johnmarkreynolds

    One final comment before I go watch football (go Arizona!) . . . It was said: “As Schaum has so admirably pointed out with myriad examples,”But the problem is that his examples are not tied to primary sources. The reason they cannot be is that this would expose that the manuscripts for those sources are (often) dated after contact with Christianity . . . or that our knowledge of Bacchic religion (to give one example) is very disputed and based on good guesses, but on few texts. This is sad, but the problem in my field. It is easy enough to make general claims about “Bacchic religion,” but let’s discuss a particular passage . . . Why does this matter? Because so much about the ancients on the web is nonsense. Poor Sarah Palin quotes Plato and Aristotle drawing her citations from the Web. Both quotations are spurious. Without a textual citation (Republic Book II line . . . ) such citations are useless. There is no way to know if they are just general Internet blah or interesting.We would have to hear that Ovid says x in y on line z and then we could have a discussion. Talking about “religions” that are mostly reconstructed from fragments and a liberal dose of imagination (as is the case with many) is useless.Christians can do this too. Much of what is written on “ancient Celtic spirituality” may be helpful,but is totally untied to any texts or actual hard evidence. People take a few clues or text fragments and build up what they WISH Celtic spirituality was (priesting women! loving nature!). It is an occupational hazard in philosophy of religion or ancient philosophy to meet people who will take a Heraclitean fragment and go mad!

  • Schaum

    Johnmarkreynolds:myth [mith] Show IPA Origin: Synonyms:

  • Schaum

    The fact remains that, despite all his pettifoggery and “doing doctoral work” in philosophy of religion, John Mark Reynolds has been, and remains, unable to disprove anything I have said. He evidently needs for his three-headed god to exist, and thats fine, if it gives him comfort. The best he can do to support his delusions is to make comments about ‘teenage internet atheists’. He need not, however, expect that others are particularly interested in joining him in his delusions.I have the strangest craving for carrot cake. I think I’ll go make one.

  • Schaum

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: As I’m sure John Mark Reynolds learned while “doing doctoral work”, the idea of a trinitarian god did not originate with the christer pagan religion. Another of the christers thefts from fellow pagan religions.

  • sparrow4

    Well, and here I thought nothing more re religion could surprise me, but I have to admit Mr. Reynolds’ chutzpah is astounding. And perfectly illustrates what is so offensive about his Christianity- it’s arrogance. It’s oh-so-confident belief that only Christians are right, the only ones able to accomplish anything, the only religion worth focusing on. If a religion can be said to suffer from egomania, Mr. Reynolds is its spokesperson.May I point out how many Christian slaveowners there were? Shall I remind you of all the good Christians who attended church every Sunday and turned in their Jewish neighbors to the SS? All your kind of Christianity has done is allowed you to practice the most obscene hypocrisy while your religion allows you to think you can justify it. While decrying the ignorance of people regarding Christianity, you have displayed the most shocking ignorance of history and civilization. Why? Because you are locked into your own narrow world view and in your own overweening pride. How odd- for a man who claims to follow Christ, you are nothing like him.

  • Counterww

    Schaum, Now I know I have your goat.When all Atheists start spouting about us poor old religionist’s “mental stability” I know what position you are in – and it ain’t in the numero uno spot. Others have made this comment in the atheist realm on the Net , and it is an indication of real frustration and “superiority” complex on your part. Just reveals your true nature.Angry? Nothing of the sort. I find your posts rather amusing, but the amusement ends very quickly when I think about how sad an elitist “intellectual” can be. So sad not to be able to realize how much God loves you through Christ our Lord.

  • Counterww

    DILD-Unchurched people in the young crowd don’t even follow current events. They don’t even know much about the so called gay movement or even have basic current event knowledge. All I care is that people come to Christ and know Him in all his love for them.

  • cornbread_r2

    “Read the Gospels and compare them (say) to the stories in Ovid. Do they read the same way literally to you? Try the Gospel of Mark and Ovid for example.” — John Mark Reynolds——–Further suggested reading: “The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark”, by Dennis MacDonald, Yale University, 2000

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Cornbread points to a very interesting book on Mark . . . wish I could say that it was the dominant theory on Mark’s construction (I love Homer!), but it is not. Check out the reviews of the book in the literature.As for “refuting” comments made on this thread that follow the nineteenth century view (long abandoned outside of Internet atheism) that Christianity came from paganism, there are no points to refute. The only thing like an argument we got in favor of this idea was a list of pagan gods or heroes and their putative similarity to Christian doctrines and ideas. These were not tied to any primary texts, because if they were we would see that these text either exist in forms younger than Christianity or in forms less Christian than he claims. Let’s deal with one case with a specific citation and maybe we can make progress. What is one . . . cite the text and let’s see how you fare.Anybody can claim: Bacchus did x, because we know so little about what the Greeks actually believed in the Bacchic cults. The texts that survive are often post-Christian and show Christian influences.A good example is the weird notion that the doctrine of the Trinity gives us a “three headed god” or is borrowed from paganism. Which pagans? Where? The subtle doctrine of the Trinity which has one God (one essential nature) in three persons is like . . . who exactly . . . who that lived before the first century? Can we cite a passage please that comes from a text where we have a copy before the coming of the Christians?Only then can we begin to compare. Anything else is just an academic bluff. Myth and Its DefinitionAs I pointed out using “dictionary” definitions is good in general discussions, but no in specialized speech. What is myth in philosophy or philosophy of religion?Well let me follow my own advice and give a citation (word definitions are after all formed from use and not created from dictionaries!). See this passage in Plato’s Timaeus:”Enough, if we adduce probabilities as likely as any others; for we must remember that I who am the speaker, and you who are the judges, are only mortal men, and we ought to accept the tale which is probable and enquire no further.”There the word translated for tale is the Greek word “muthos” . . . and so we have an early use of the term that would become “myth” for a “likely story” or one that may be false but may also be true. Its importance is that it attempts to convey what is likely about man or the soul of a man. I dealt with this at some length in my book on Plato’s psychology if anyone is interested.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Having followed up some of the links to “proof” that Christianity is based on paganism, I can say that very clearly: “They would be impossible to refute.” Why? Is it because they are right? No, because they mostly don’t cite primary texts. For example, when someone says that “Hercules” (the Greek Heracles”) is so much like Christ that it is amazing . . . I want to know the source for their story. What legend? What document? How can anyone refute a claim with no source about ancient legends? What is the textual basis for the “story of Heraycles” that is so much like Jesus that it is shocking. Where is the one stop shop for the Heracles legend that is like the gospel of Mark?Where?As for the gnostic “gospels. . .” before we do anything else let’s note that the oldest gospel manuscript fragment (canonical) is from John. There is general agreement that it is from 125 AD. This is not a guess. This is a document.Of course, this means John (the last gospel written by all accounts) is older that 125. If Jesus died in @33 AD, we have actual manuscript evidence of the opinions of his follower from within one hundred years of his life. In the ancient world, that is simply astounding.After all, this means we must date the first gospel (likely Mark) even earlier. On the other hand, with the Gnostic gospels, scholarship is pretty much in agreement that they are later than the gospels. They are also MORE legendary, more philosophical (in the ancient sense), more hostile to women, and “elitist” as opposed to “popular.”This does not, of course, prove that they are false or that the canonical Gospels are true, but does account for the difference in their treatment. People were almost certainly still alive who knew Jesus when Mark was written on even a “liberal” accounting of the date of Mark is mostly viewed as having been written around 70-80 AD. In any case, let me repeat: go read Ovid (a primary source for pagan myths) and then read Mark. See how much alike they seem to you. Go read a “gnostic gospel” and then read Mark. See if you can spot the differences.The primary text if the friend of the traditional Christian!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Summary post:If Heracles is like Jesus, what is the “gospel of Heracles” where we find this amazing story? Where is the primary text being cited? What is the date of that text? What is the evidence Christians knew it?Anything else (mere assertions that it exists) proves nothing.John Mark

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Well, our West Coast Cards lost. When will LA get a team?The best argument for the evil of the universe is the existence of Al Davis and the lack of a team in LA.

  • Schaum

    Counterww:”As for Shaum, you can kick, scream, and voice all the lies you want about us awful Christians. You are obviously not mature enough to realize that truth is to be found in a spiritual sense, and that not all truth can be proven through the five senses to be fact. Love, hope, and faith are real things, and they can’t be proven in that way. It is intuitive for most of us to believe in a higher power, and the deficient ones are the people that can’t see that.”Wow. I had not previously realized how frightened and frustrated you are! I can understand why you prefer fantasy to reality — it eases your anguish. Go for it.

  • Schaum

    Peter Huff is unable to accept the fact that christers have made up their “religion” by stealing components from earlier religions. If he faced this fact, he would be compelled to acknowledge that he is, ultimately, alone in the universe — no god to rely on for “salvation” or, what he wants most of all: eternal existence. His “logic” about religion consists of a multitude of unprovable presuppositions which, ultimately, fail. He is the classic delusional christer.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Counterww”Unchurched people in the young crowd don’t even follow current events.”That is my point; now you have got it!You have made my point even more emphatically than I did. What little they know of current events and of Christianity, they do know, or at least believe, that Christianity is “that” religion that is always against the gays.I am merely pointing out that the noise that Christians make about gay people is pretty loud, loud enough even for people to hear it, who have ZERO interest in it.Why is that? Why don’t you think about that? It doesn’t strike you as odd at all? You cannot see why gay people have such a negative reaction to Conservative Christianity?You would expect people to accept constant attack and persecution without reaction? That is not a realistic or plausible expectation.I am not tired of arguing this, and I never will be. If you are getting tired, just say so, or don’t respond; either way is ok.

  • Schaum

    Counterww:”I have met in this internet world many a angry atheist.”So, anyone who doesn’t allow himself to be sucked into your delusions and fantasies is angry? OK. Whatever you say.As for me, when I see a train, I call it a train. When I see a duck, I call it a duck. When I see a delusional idiot, I call him a delusional idiot. Anger? Reality! And thats what makes you angry, isn’t it. You just can’t prove that your delusions are different from, more factual than, or superior to anyone else’s delusions. Life’s a b*tch. Live with it.

  • Schaum

    DanielITLD:”That is not a realistic or plausible expectation.”And with this simple statement of fact, you have explained the paradox of the pagan christer religion: it is not based in reality or plausibility.Congratulations. You have, with eight words, reduced the problem to its simplest elements. My compliments.

  • persiflage

    JohnMarkReynolds sums up the essence of the discussion thusly:’Of course Christianity is “mythic” . . . just as “Avatar” is mythic . . . but that only leads us to the question:Is this particular myth (Christianity) also true?’As Schaum has so admirably pointed out with myriad examples, the answer must be an unequivical NO! This particular mythic variation is not literally true – because every myth is representational and symbolic without being factual, by definition. Christianity is no different – and how could it be? If there are no real divinities and/or avatars in these other more ancient religions, how is it that Christianity is ‘miraculously’ different in kind? The myth of Christianity obviously has great persuasive powers and appeals to millions – that does not make the theological arsenal of Christian dogma ranging from the bodily resurrection, redemption and salvation, and futuristic prjections of a Final Judgement Day any less fictitious in the real world. Instead, viewed unemotionally and with an academic eye for the inevitable and historical religious redundancy, Christianity seems to take it’s substance and meaning directly from much older but highly similar mythologies.Disputing the clearly evident fundamental connections between these various mythologies (both past and present) only makes the case for historical dependency all the more obvious, not to say ironclad……

  • Counterww

    DILD-Same theme, same story from you. Get this. I believe God created men and women. He created them for each other(complementary body parts, very obvious, and complementary psyches, not so obvious, but true. Different brain structures, different thought processes in many ways. Ability to procreate together. Nuclear family. I also believe that this should be encouraged above all things in society from a family perspective. This does not preclude civil unions or any legal arrangement outside of marriage. It is just the way things are- men and women are meant to be together in a monogamous relationship. It is how we are designed, and it leads to a more stable society in the long run. I don’t care what people want to do behind closed doors- and I do care that gays get civil unions. This is a truth and not something I “cling” to. It is what God has said about men and women , period. If people want to be happy and get rights, give them rights. But keep marriage special – minorities in Ca in prop 8 know that there is no equivocation to compare lack of marriage “rights’ for gays compared to interracial marriage or racial inequalities from the slave era throughout and up to this point in history for the african americans. This should tell you something.As for Shaum, you can kick, scream, and voice all the lies you want about us awful Christians. You are obviously not mature enough to realize that truth is to be found in a spiritual sense, and that not all truth can be proven through the five senses to be fact. Love, hope, and faith are real things, and they can’t be proven in that way. It is intuitive for most of us to believe in a higher power, and the deficient ones are the people that can’t see that. I suspect that you have so convinced yourself of the lack of proof in the sense world of God that you can’t fathom of truth that can’t come any other way. That is just too bad, but you have no excuse, and in the end , your knee will bow to the Christ that loves you more than any human can fathom.

  • Schaum

    Counterww:”I suspect that you have so convinced yourself of the lack of proof in the sense world of God that you can’t fathom of truth that can’t come any other way.”You seem to be so frustrated and angry that, at the end of the day, you cannot deny that you are obsessed with unprovable fantasies. If they are necessary for you to protect yourself from the fear of things that go bump in the night, I say go for it. If unproven gods do it for you, great. You have my blessing.But I wouldn’t trust your judgment as far as I could throw you. Nor your mental stability.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Counterww,I don’t think you are going to convince Schaum that he is the angry one, not you. Just take a moment to piece together some of his angry words throughout this and other posts and you will find that his words reflect his anger.That last statement to you is one of many examples of his anger,”But I wouldn’t trust your judgment as far as I could throw you. Nor your mental stability.”He has taken a lot of what I said personally too. There is always hope that the Lord will be gracious to him and give him eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to believe the truth of His word. Stranger things have happened.

  • Schaum

    “As this thread comes to its natural end (as all threads do), outside readers (the vast majority who don’t comment and look with amusement at those of us who do!) will note that critics of Christianity have conceded that their speculative theories are based not on primary texts but on speculative theories”Once again, John Mark Reynolds shakes his little fist — and fails to offer any proof of god or “christ”. His “bible” is a far-more outdated book than any listed here!

  • sparrow4

    Actually, Mr. Reynolds, the majority of commenters here are more concerned with your attitudes regarding Christianity, which you have completely avoided responding to. By choosing to argue speculation vs primary texts (mostly as defined by you), you’ve sidestepped the real issue- the error-ridden and egocentric idea that only Christianity has ever accomplished anything of worth. I can’t blame you for sidestepping the facts- they so undercut your arguments about your religious superiority.

  • sparrow4

    In other words- Ignorance of history and civilization is no virtue.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    All religious belief is speculative in nature. By definition, it is so. Theology is not scientific. For one thing, there are many, many theologies, all saying very differnt things, each for some specific good reason. Moreover, theology is when men tell us what we ought to believe about the nature of God and what God wants, thinks, believes, and feels. Mainly theology is mapped out and written by men. And it is usually not what a single inspired man may say, but it is what a committe or group of men say under some sort of political or military pressure, either to force belief, or to comply with enforced belief, or to unify differnces in belief.All the many differing religious points of view that claim primacy of truth over all the others cannot all be true. If each religion acknowleges this problem and if each religion therefore solves this dilemma by saying that I am right and all the others are wrong, then the problem actually persists, without solution.That is what John Mark Reynolds and Conservative Christians do.Acknowledging the speculative nature of religon would be a start in solveing the problem. Otherwise, there is only one outcome: unending conflict between the many claimants of primary truth, which often leads to violence. We each acquire our religous belief as a cultural inheritance. How could anyone suppose that God even notices the differences of culture from one spot on the earth to another? Claimants to primary truth in religious matters seek a clarity of certainty which is simply beyond the capacity of man to acquire. They seek the knowledge of God, which they cannot have, by the very nature of existence and the world in which we dwell.Providence is a mystery; life is a mystery.

  • timmy2

    Saying that critics of Christianity are ignorant of Christianity is like saying that critics of the theories of Charles Manson are ignorant of the “real” theories of Charles Manson. One does not have to get intimately familiar with the finer details Charlie Manson’s theories to criticize them. When the fundamental premiss is baseless and delusional, one need not delve further to criticize, unless some evidence supporting the fundamental premiss comes to light. Spare me the details. You had me at “son of God”. Nuff said. You are delusional, and an anchor around the neck of progress.

  • Schaum

    2.After Alexander (in the 300s BC) conquered the Middle East, the Greek Gods were equated with the Middle Eastern Gods — not just in name, but in myth and ritual. The Greeks borrowed from the Middle East, and built a new religion from old parts. The Romans conquered the Greeks and — you know this — adopted and adapted the Greek religion as their own. The Romans borrowed from the Greeks, and built a new religion from old parts.Borrowing and rebuilding happened on a local level too. For example Cybele and Attis are famous for having priests, called Galli, who cut off their own testicles as an act of religious devotion – the ultimate celibacy. But the Goddess Atargatis also had castrated priests, and so did the God Ma. Ancient religion was fluid and adaptive. Over and over, ritual and myth and theology passed between Gods, between local cultures, between faiths. Over and over, new religions were built from old parts.Another example: these days we associate frenzied, wine-drunk ecstasies with the God Dionysus (“Bacchus” in Rome) — and we’re right. But other Gods were worshiped with similar rituals, including the Thracian Sabazius (beer, instead of wine), and the eastern Corybas (associated with the Goddess Cybele), whose sacred possession is called “Corybantism.” Even Isis and Cybele were worshiped with wild dancing. Ancient religion was fluid and adaptive. Over and over, ritual and myth and theology passed between Gods, between local cultures, between faiths. Over and over, new religions were built from old parts.

  • Schaum

    3.And so was Christianity – a pagan religion.So theThe next time you’re in Church ask yourself: “What about what I’m hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were taken from old religions?” And when they come to the part about one god, in heaven, whose son, born of a virgin, came to earth as a man, was baptized, performed miracles, established a holy meal for his followers, died, rose again on the third day for the salvation of mankind, remember the Pagan origin or each of these myths and rituals. You’ll know you’re hearing about stuff that predated the christers pagan religion by hundreds of years, John Mark Reynolds, St. Peter Huff, and other internet christers notwithstanding.

  • Schaum

    1.That joke wouldn’t make sense to an “ancient”, because ancient western culture didn’t have a notion of “the true and right doctrine.” In a sense they had many Gods, but one religion — a fluid polytheistic pantheism. At the Temple of Jupiter in the center of Rome, believers honored not just Jupiter, but Serapis, and Dionysus, and Mithras – Mithras was, in fact, extremely popular with the military –and no one complained. Initiates in the mysteries of Dionysus could and did simultaneously belong to the mysteries of Isis — and the mysteries of Mithras, and the mysteries of Attis. Visitors wrote about being told two contradictory versions of God’s myth and rites — at the same temple, on the same visit! Ancient cultures didn’t really know there was such a thing as unique doctrine, so they didn’t teach people to get bent out of whapewhen others disagreed. There were no religious wars, there were no forced conversions. Those atrocities were invented by christers in subsequent generations. (If you are about to become sentimental about how nice the ancients were for being tolerant and diverse about religion, don’t They don’t deserve it. They were mean as hell about plenty of other stuff. The only reason they didn’t have religious intolerance was nobody invented it up yet. And when the ancient christers did think it up, the ancient pagan christers were mean as hell about that too.)The city of Rome outlawed and restricted some sects (Bacchants 186 BC, Galli from 204 BC onward) because — dirty foreigners! — they offended the city’s conservative social values, and because their “atheism”, according to the pagan christers, threatened the public order. They persecuted for cultural reasons; they didn’t persecute for religious reasons.

  • Schaum

    “Augustus came from a miraculous conception by the divine and human conjunction of [the God] Apollo and [his mother] Atia. How does the historian respond to that story? Are there any who take it literally?… That divergence raises an ethical problem for me. Either all such divine conceptions, from Alexander to Augusts and from the Christ to the Buddha, should be accepted literally and miraculously or all of them should be accepted metaphorically and theologically. It is not morally acceptable to say…our story is truth but yours is myth; ours is history but yours is a lie. It is even less morally acceptable to say that indirectly and covertly by manufacturing defensive or protective strategies that apply only to one’s own story.” [John Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 1998, pg 28 – 29.]

  • peterhuff

    Hi Timmy,Is this the same Timmy (the comedian) that I conversed with for over two thousand posts on the Sam Harris forum a couple of years ago? If so, I recall at that time you stated that you could not know anything with 100% certainty. Is this the same Timmy?TIMMY: “Saying that critics of Christianity are ignorant of Christianity…One does not have to get intimately familiar with the finer details…the fundamental premiss is baseless and delusional, one need not delve further to criticize, unless some evidence supporting the fundamental premiss comes to light.”The evidence is there. How you look at it depends on your world view. You, even though you were not there, as your ultimate authority funnel everything through yourself as the highest, most wise authority and judge on what you will and will not accept. It is not evidence until you accept it as evidence, regardless of its truth or how flimsy it is. You have too much to lose to accept Christianity for what it is, for then your foundation crumbles, yet you accept lesser documents from antiquity as true that have nothing of the factual base that Christianity has. By lesser, I mean that they do not have the wealth of copies that the Christian Scriptures have for comparison, they don’t predate the Christian Scriptures as a whole, their language suggests the writings of a later period, later than the Christian gospels, and many of the early Christian church fathers refuted some of these early beliefs in their writings. As Schaum says, the documentary evidence was destroyed by these early Christians, so what does he base his evidence on? May I suggest wishful thinking and the influence of liberal 19th century German philosophy.He has nothing to offer of worth. He can’t base anything before the Christian message that is similar to the Christian message. These dying and rising gods, it is contended by him and his liberal research, did not borrowed from Christianity, but the opposite. Where is the proof documents? John Mark and others have challenged him to reveal his sources. TIMMY: “Spare me the details. You had me at “son of God”. Nuff said. You are delusional, and an anchor around the neck of progress.”Progress to where? To belief that ultimately nothing is meaningful, purposeful; that each makes his own meaning, some choosing the Hitler or Columbine approach, others the Mother Teresa approach. Your hope is hopeless for it doesn’t lead to true life. Only faith in the Son of God leads to that life. All the rest is meaninglessness. Ultimately, it does not matter. It doesn’t last. It is superficial.

  • Schaum

    Ah, St. Peter Huff, the tyrant, is with us again….and again he can offer no proof, no “primary texts” to prove the existence of god or of jesus. Just his tired excuses, offered over and over, with no provable truth to support them.What a sad little megalomaniac.

  • coloradodog

    They say ignorance is bliss so I wish I were more ignorant of Christianity instead of having it jammed down my throat, reading it’s disciple, like Hume and Roberson, arrogance, hateful and outrageous pronouncements. I know nothing of Janes, for example, and, therefore, am not outraged by whatever is their brand of intolerant of others, if any.Familiarity breeds contempt and the Huckabee and Donohue Catholic sects make themselves all to familiar with their arrogance and agressiveness.

  • Schaum

    “He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you believe of Perseus.” [Justin Martyr, First Apology, 22]”We [Christians] are not the only persons who have recourse to miraculous narratives of this kind.” [Origin, Against Celsus 1, 37]”The devils…craftily feigned that Minerva was the daughter of Jupiter not by “[Non-christers] ascribe to their idols the imbuing of waters with the self-same efficacy [of purification]. … For washing is the channel through which they are initiated into some sacred rites–of some notorious Isis or Mithras… Church Father Justin Martyr (he lived in the 100s AD) was also worried to explain why the Christian rite was preceded for generations by the Pagan sacrament. The answer, says Justin, was diabolical imitation. Here’s how diabolic imitation works. Generations before Jesus, the devils knew not just that Jesus was coming, but also that Christians would have baptism. The devils knew this by reading the Old Testament prophecy. So, anyway, the devils “caused” the Pagans to have baptism too — generations before Jesus.”These mysteries usually began with the selection of initiandi, their preliminary “baptism”, fasting, and (Samothrace) confession.” [Paganism, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI.] “Baptism” in quotation marks because the Catholic Encyclopedia denies it was true baptism — of course! “We know of an ablution in the ritual of Eleusis; the laurel-wreath oration of Demosthenes speaks of purificatory ablutions in the mystery of Sabazius; the cult of Attis had its taurobolium, and the mystery of Isis knew a sanctifying baptismal bath, as did the mysteries of Dionysus and of Mithras. Upon mature consideration modern scholarship has rejected the ideas that such rites exerted an influence on the baptismal doctrine of the New Testament,” [Hugo Rahner, The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries, section 3, in The Mysteries; Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell]In other words, back when christers were inventing their religion, where it started, among the people who were it’s earliest converts, you couldn’t walk down the street without tripping over a Pagan baptism; but our christer baptism, that’s completely different an unrelated to all the other baptisms. This is the kind of stuff believing academics write down and pass around. You need to understand that as you sift through the christer “ scholarship.”

  • Schaum

    Sorry…incomplete quote in the last posting. Should read:”The devils…craftily feigned that Minerva was the daughter of Jupiter not by sexual union.” [Justin Martyr, First Apology, 64]

  • Schaum

    Here’s how the Catholic Encyclopedia describes the Pagan Eucharists of the Mystery Religions:”There was usually the meal of mystic foods — grains of all sorts at Eleusis,Christers share a sacred meal with their God – but Pagans did it first!throughout the ancient world hundreds of years before Jesus. In Rome the rite even had it’s own name, “lectisternia.” A lectisternia was a sacred meal in which an icon of the God was actually brought to the table with the celebrants. In Rome the whole Senate celebrated a sacred meal, with a statue of Jupiter lying on a cushion, and the two goddess Juno and Minerva in chairs beside him. Yes, it does sound ridiculous. But is wasn’t to the ancients, and in fact the rite was common to many ancient Gods. The Christian apologist Arnobius describes the process: Aelius Aristides wrote about a Pagan Eucharist in which the faithful of Serapis summoned the God to a sacred meal, where they “set him at their head as guest and diner.” [Aelius Aristides, Oration 8.54, 2d century AD].The next time you’re in Church ask yourself:”What about what I’m hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built on older religions?” When they get to the part about the bread and wine of Holy Communion, remember the sacred meals of the ancient Mystery Religions. You’ll know you’re celebrating an ancient Pagan sacrament that predated christers by hundreds of years — in a culture where over and over people built new religions from old ones.The Roman ritual, copied from the earlier Greek theoxenia, was first described in Rome by the Sibylline Books in B.C. 399. From the start of the third century B.C. the banquet was regularly given to the three Capitoline divinities, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva on November 13th. During the Empire, the date changed to September13th. Which Gods?

  • Schaum

    Osiris’ followers knew their fate after death depended on the morality of the life they lead before death. The ancient Book of the Dead, 1250 BC, pictures the Ka — the soul — of dead believers standing the presence of Osiris as their judge. If they could recite a list of their good deeds in life, Osiris rewarded them with eternal life. The Book of the Dead survives, so your can read the details yourself– look for Chapter 125. For the Persians, who worshiped the great Lord of the Universe, the God of Light, Ahura Mazda, the soul of the dead comes to a bride of Chinvat and was judged according to it’s deeds, words and thoughts in life. The good passed over the bridge safely and into paradise. The bad were dragged down to hell. christers believe in eternal life – but pagans believed in it first.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    For some reason my “last” comment on this thread is being held . . . but readers will note that I am not arguing that no ancient faith had similarities to Christianity. I was arguing their was no figure like Jesus in detail (as Schaum claimed). There certainly were religious figures with SOME similarities. The fact that you can find Christian belief x in one ancient document, run to another (totally different faith in a different part of the world) to find y, then go to another WITHOUT ESTABLISHING ANY CONNECTION to ancient Judaism is pseudo-scholarship.One could argue Plato or almost any other great thinker said nothing much new by running from previous thinker to previous thinker and finding fragments of their thought. The trick is that Plato put it together!Of course, none of this provides us a non-Christian messianic account like the gospels or a figure that contains all the elements of Jesus from a primary text.Let’s all agree that many religions baptized. Who doubted that? Let’s all agree that sacred meals were common. Who doubted that? Food. Water. Fire. Birth. Growth. Springtime. Harvest.Common human experiences lead to common rituals. After you have done with that, go read the story of Jesus birth in Luke 2 and then read the story of gods “birthing” people in pagan myths.Compare. Then remind yourself, that Jews birthed Christianity, not ancient pagans. The ancient books of the Jews were the sources of the first ideas . . . and the experience of the man Jesus. I hope my last post shows up, but even if not, I will have to call it a day, stop commenting on this thread, and get ready for a trip.

  • Schaum

    The Mysteries keep popping up. One of the appeals of the mysteries was the hope they gave of a better life after death. You don’t have to believe me; listen to the words of the ancients themselves:It looks as if those also who established rites of initiation for us were no fools, but that there is a hidden meaning in their teaching when it says that whoever arrives uninitiated in Hades will lie in mud, but the purified and initiated when he arrives there will dwell with gods. [Plato, ‘Phaedo, 69 c] Quoting Socrates, “[T]he soul of man is immortal. At one time it comes to an end-that which is called death-and at another is born again, but is never finally exterminated. On these grounds a man must live all his days as righteously as possible.” [Plato, Meno 81 b] And Cicero: For it appears to me that among the many exceptional and divine things your Athens has produced and contributed to human life, nothing is better than those mysteries. For by means of them we have been civilized. The basis not only for living with joy but also for dying with a better hope. [Cicero, On the Laws, 2.14.36] “Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these [Eleusinian] mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.” [Hymn to Demeter, 480-2] Happy is he who, having seen these [Eleusinian] rites, goes below the hollow earth; for he knows the end of life and he knows its god-sent beginning. [Pindar, Fragment 102] Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing. [Inscription found at Eleusis]

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Schaum notes ancient rites in the mystery religions. We know those rites existed, but know almost nothing about them.As for belief in eternal life (often more “deathlessness” than life eternal), who ever doubted non-Christians shared that belief.If x believes the same as y, that does not show that y got his belief from x . . . it seems more likely that Jesus and the first Christians got their views of life after death from Judaism than from “mystery cults.”Why? They were Jews and the “mystery cult” practices were so “mysterious” that even contemporary pagans did not know them. They were secret societies.All of this (of course) is a shift from the claim that there were pagan messiahs just like Jesus. (Heracles!) It shifts to something nobody denies: many religions share similarities. I know no traditional Christian who denies this or is bothered by it. Go read some C.S. Lewis.

  • timmy2

    Hello Peter,So sad that you feel the need to subscribe to a cult that depends on an imaginary creator to give meaning to your lives. My life is so full of meaning it is almost inexpressible. And yet I have no faith in any creator being. I am walking talking living proof that life without god has plenty of meaning. No empty holes in my life. No lack of moral guidance. Everything is cool over here on the atheist side of the fence. But thanks for your concern.And yes, Peter, it’s me, the Timmy2 you know and love.

  • Schaum

    We know that before Jesus, people believed in Gods. We know those pre- christer Gods did supernatural things — that’s sort of what made them Gods. The supernatural things those other Gods did — those were miracles. In fact now you think about it, it’s hard to imagine a God who doesn’t do miracles. Miracles are one of the things that make a God a God.When Orpheus’ head got cut off but continued to speak — even kept making accurate prophecies — that was a miracle. Pagan “mythology” (really Pagan religion) recorded thousands of miracles. Ancient people believed Orpheus’ chopped-off head really did keep talking, or might have. The ancients believed in their miracles. And when we’re talking about the Pagan origins of christer ideas, the point isn’t what our ideas are now, the point is, what ideas did people believe when the pagan christer started. One idea people believed in a thousand years before christers appeared was that Gods did miracles.Was the pagan christer religion new and unique? Hardly. Jesus did miracles — but Pagan Gods did them first.The pagan christers began with the Jews’ Great God (and demons and devil), added the Pagan idea of a mother of God and the Pagan idea of a Son of God, and added the Pagan philosophers’ idea of the Logos (Holy Spirit).The christer Trinity of the three different Gods conflated as one God, that’s the christer idea ofmonotheism. Well, they can say that, and we can still be friends, but to me it’s a kludge. And anyway the christers didn’t get this theory down straight until the fifth century AD. And of course besides the Trinity, there are the other christer demi-Gods — angels, demons, cherubim, saints, satan. And that my friend, is as Pagan as it gets.The christers have, they say, one Great God, in the model of Zeus or Isis, and lesser Gods, in the model of Apollo or Osiris. The pagan christer religion has angels, and demons, and devils — all supernatural beings. That’s Paganism, pure and simple.

  • peterhuff

    SCHAUM: “”There was usually the meal of mystic foods — grains of all sorts at Eleusis,SCHAUM: “Christers share a sacred meal with their God – but Pagans did it first!”Christianity is based on Judaism, which foreshadowed what would come later (See the Letter to the Hebrews). How do you know that these religions did not borrow from Judaism or that their texts were not written after the Christian Scriptures? You need to establish this fact first. Please do.And compare the writing and see just how similar they are, especially the ones that came before the Christian Scriptures. What is the earliest date these documents can be traced back to?

  • Schaum

    Three examples of ancient monotheistic philosophies / religions: It started with Plato (he died in 348 BC), but it developed into a philosophy that lasted to the end of the Roman Empire. Associate professors even talk about early, middle and late Platonism. Plato believed the word was created by a single supreme being, a Demiurge. His dialogues (Timaeus is a good place to start, if you’re of a mind) often have Socrates chatting with someone or other over the nature of the Demiurge. For non-christers, the point is Plato believed in ONE creator. Middle Platonism developed about 100 BC. Christer apologist Ronald Nash writes: “Middle Platonism was primarily not an abstract philosophical system, but a system of theology and religion. ‘The religion of a Middle Platonist consisted of a remote intellectual devotion to the remote Supreme, to the vision of whom he hoped to attain in the next life.’ ” Did christers steal from Platonism? “We shall seem to utter the doctrine of Plato,” according to christer apologist Justin Martyr [Justin Martyr, First Apology, 20, second century AD] — but, he says, through the intervention of malignant demons, this borrowing really happened in reverse! The point for everyone: the idea of a single supreme being — of one God — was a familiar part of ancient culture.The next time you’re in Church, ask yourself: “What about what I’m hearing was new with the pagan christer religion, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were stolen from older religions?” When they get to the part about one God, maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible, remember Plato. You’ll know you’re hearing about stuff that predated the christer religion by hundreds of years.

  • Schaum

    The stoics (the system began in the fourth century BC) thought God and the world were related like soul and body. God is the soul of the world. The world is the body of God. Here’s how the Roman Emperor (and stoic) Marcus Aurelius put it: [The stoics believed a lot of other interesting stuff, much of it explained clearly and concisely in Nash.] The point: the idea of a single supreme being — of one God — was a familiar part of ancient culture predating the christers.The next time you’re in Church, ask yourself: “What about what I’m hearing was new with the pagan christer religion, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?” When they get to the part about one God, maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible, remember Zeno and Marcus Aurelius and the great philosophy/religion Stoicism. You’ll know you’re hearing about stuff that predated christers by hundreds of years.

  • peterhuff

    SCHAUM: “The christers have, they say, one Great God, in the model of Zeus or Isis, and lesser Gods, in the model of Apollo or Osiris. The pagan christer religion has angels, and demons, and devils — all supernatural beings. That’s Paganism, pure and simple.Not in the model of Zeus or Isis. The God of Christianity was revealing Himself to the Jews long before Zeus. He is the model that all other gods were graven from, for all other gods are false. They are a corruption of the One true and living God, made in mans mind and image with a little borrowed truth here and there, to avoid accountability and to justify some wrongful practice, and yet these gods had to be powerful enough to keep their adherents in line.””Hear , O Israel: The LORD our God is one.” (Deut. 6:4)Before all these pagan religions polluted the message from God He had already revealed Himself, as a matter of fact, right from the beginning.”Then God said, ‘Let US make man in our image and likeness…” (Genesis 1:26a)That is long before Isis or Zeus or any other man made myth or fiction.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Hey, Schaum! I just wrote a book arguing that Platonism was quite compatible with Christianity. However, Plato’s god was not omnipotent (to give one difference).As a Platonist, I am happy to acknowledge similarities (as were better writers such as A.E. Taylor, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis).None of that does a thing to prove that Plato influenced the NT writers directly. In fact, I would be happy if I could prove it, but cannot. Hebrews is the closest case of a Bible book that appears to borrow Platonic images, but sadly they can be accounted for without such a recourse.Imagine: you go to a house in India and they have a dining room table JUST LIKE YOUR OWN! Does that mean that your table, purchased YEARS EARLIER influenced the nice Indian family. Not likely.Sadly, there is no evidence (or very little evidence) of direct Platonic influence on the Judaism of Palestine (as opposed to Alexandria).None of this has the slightest thing to do with the truth of Christianity or the claim that Jesus is just a composite of ancient messiah stories (the earlier claim).Since my last post has vanished into the Wa-Po ether, I will stop here.

  • peterhuff

    SCHAUM: “[The stoics believed a lot of other interesting stuff, much of it explained clearly and concisely in Nash.]”Are you talking Ronald Nash?

  • Schaum

    Even the mythologies developed into monotheisms, particularly in Asia Minor where people understood there to be one God, usually associated with the sun, under which there were other lesser anthropomorphic Gods. The Egyptians, for example, worshiped the physical sun as the symbol of the one transcendent God — of which the other Gods were attributes: Solar Monotheism. The ancients understood the universe — physical and spiritual — in terms of hierarchy (see Celestial Spheres, right below). Between the High God and man they placed the lesser Gods, who they sometimes understood not as individual, independent beings but as attributes of the High God. The middle Gods were anthropomorphized, the High God was more often abstract, ideal, perfect. The point: the idea of a single supreme being — of one God — was a familiar part of ancient culture long before the christers.The next time you’re in Church, ask yourself: “What about what I’m hearing was new with the pagan christer religion, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?” When they get to the part about one God, maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible, remember Solar Monotheism. You’ll know you’re hearing about stuff that predated christers by hundreds of years.

  • Schaum

    Clearly the christers, who can prove neither god nor jesus, stole all their ideas from equally unprovable earlier religions.I’m weary of this.I think I’ll go and have some bread and wine.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    I could not let this pass.It has been claimed that the Stoics were like the Jews (one god). One commentator says:”The point: the idea of a single supreme being — of one God — was a familiar part of ancient culture predating the christers.”The problem (as is often when cites from texts one has not studied) is that the Stoics were panentheists not monotheists. The god of the Stoics was material and impersonal, nothing like Plato’s god let alone the Jewish god. This is so basic one can find it on the Internet (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy):”In accord with this ontology, the Stoics, like the Epicureans, make God material. But while the Epicureans think the gods are too busy being blessed and happy to be bothered with the governance of the universe (Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus 123–4), the Stoic God is immanent throughout the whole of creation and directs its development down to the smallest detail. God is identical with one of the two ungenerated and indestructible first principles (archai) of the universe. One principle is matter which they regard as utterly unqualified and inert. It is that which is acted upon. God is identified with an eternal reason (logos, Diog. Laert. 44B ) or intelligent designing fire (Aetius, 46A) which structures matter in accordance with Its plan. This plan is enacted time and time again, beginning from a state in which all is fire, through the generation of the elements, to the creation of the world we are familiar with, and eventually back to fire in a cycle of endless recurrence. The designing fire of the conflagration is likened to a sperm which contains the principles or stories of all the things which will subsequently develop (Aristocles in Eusebius, 46G). Under this guise, God is also called ‘fate.’ It is important to realise that the Stoic God does not craft its world in accordance with its plan from the outside, as the demiurge in Plato’s Timaeus is described as doing. Rather, the history of the universe is determined by God’s activity internal to it, shaping it with its differentiated characteristics. The biological conception of God as a kind of living heat or seed from which things grow seems to be fully intended. The further identification of God with pneuma or breath may have its origins in medical theories of the Hellenistic period. See Baltzly (2003).”Look I don’t blame the commenter on this thread. Ancient philosophy is a difficult field, takes years to master, but this basic error is a good example of what happens when you quote mine things you don’t really understand to support a preconceived conclusion.

  • peterhuff

    SCHAUM: “The point for everyone: the idea of a single supreme being — of one God — was a familiar part of ancient culture.”The question is why was it similar? And the part you fail to consider is it is similar because they borrowed from the One and only true God’s revelation of Himself and constructed from that their own god or gods.It all had to start somewhere. You will not consider that the idea people had of God started from God Himself and then through word of mouth it was distorted. Have you ever thought that maybe that is one of the reasons God chose to reveal Himself to a particular people in order that they would write down the truth about God. No, your starting presuppositions will not go there.That is why I have asked you to account for how life originated or for that matter, the universe. Let’s see how sensible you can answer such questions outside of God before you try in futility to tear down the Christian belief structure. It is easy to criticize, but try giving a plausible answer.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Our favorite commentator says:”Clearly the christers, who can prove neither god nor jesus, stole all their ideas from equally unprovable earlier religions.”What does it mean to “prove” a person? If we mean arguments for the existence of Jesus, then only fringe Internet atheists deny it. If you mean God or that Jesus was God, then “proving” God’s existence is best done is a book length take. I would start with Richard Swinburne’s books. If you mean proving Jesus was God, I would start with J.P. Moreland (try “Scaling the Secular City”). For those interested in living an intellectually fulfilled life and being a Christian, I would recommend anything by Dallas Willard.As I leave to go eat pizza (similar to lunch feasts of ancient Greece in that both contain olives!), I will remind folks that fields like ancient philosophy are hard . . . and that it is easy for Internet atheists to make wild claims that they then cannot back up by primary texts or where they make basic confusions about what texts taken out of context are saying. The example of the Stoics earlier in this thread is a perfect one.To someone who is just looking for quotes s few Stoics sound like monotheists. To a scholar, they end up being very, very different from Jewish monotheism. Again: no Christian (with sense) claims we are the only people who are right. Other people are right too about many things . . .but Christians claim we are right about the necessary things (all of them) and that this “whole package” is available no place else.Your mileage may vary, of course. I am just sorry to see language like “christer” appear here . . . just as I am sorry when I see Christians call responsible secularists names.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Bottom line:Schaum shows why we need better education in religion, comparative religion, and ancient philosophy in our schools.The idea that the Stoics were monotheists like the Jews is just so wrong that it is like saying that football as a game is just like poker. Well, no.

  • cornbread_r2

    “God is necessary to know anything objectively, or authoritatively, or absolutely, or universally.” — peterhuff———-According to the OT, God commanded his people to kill every man, woman, child, ox, goat and chicken of their Canaanite neighbors. Do you think that was a good thing? If so commanded by God to do so now, would you?

  • Pamsm

    JMR says:Are you implying that Christianity has primary texts? Because it certainly does not. And no one makes wilder claims…

  • Schaum

    DITLD:”Your world view wreaks of difficulty. It seems that you have adopted a liberal approach to theology and religion.”St Peter Huff, gods OTHER son, knows whats best for you.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    It is not necessry to argue over the meaning of the old texts, to try and figure just what did this word mean in “this” language and how it may vary in meaning when translated to “that” language, and which old text meets whatever criteria of authenticity to show which truth is really true and which truth is not. None of this is necessary to know that all religious opinion and belief is speculative. There can be no certainty of knowldege, at least not in a standard scientific sense. It is fruitless to try and prove religious belief or speculation, for that would involve scientifically patterned explanations. If you believe that your religious speculations are true, then it must be by reasons other than ordinary proof, and therefore, fairly difficult to explain to others in a rational and understandable way. Perhaps, for example, there is some sort of unusual psychic or mystical experience from which one might derive ones assurance in relgious speculation.If a person feels secure in his own beliefs, then why not just live them, in humility? Why insult other people with the assetion that you know you are right and that therefore they are wrong? That is merely being inflammatory, and does not move religious belief or discussion along at all.For John Mark Reynolds, I ask, why not just live your beliefs and let others judge you by your actions, and not your words? If you want to explain your beliefs to others, why not start off by saying, “this is what I believe … ” rather by saying, “I know my beliefs are right and yours are wrong.” Being tolerant does not mean that you have any obligation to believe that the beliefs of others are more true than your beliefs. And being tolerant does not mean, as is oftern suggested, that you are obligated to believe that “many paths lead to the summit of the mountain.”Being tolerant of others is really not a part of religious belief; it really falls more under the category of “Miss Manners;” it is really more a matter of proper conduct, that would be expected of any child in a kindergarten.For me, an intolerant attitude at the beginning of any relgious discussion is a DEAL BREAKER; even if I continue to be polite and listen, I tune all the rest out.

  • coloradodog

    Oh, please pardon the rest of us for living. You “Christians” brought none of this unto yourselves. Especially not your Donohue Catholic sect whose theocratic Bishops rant and rave about homosexuality and gay marriages while hiding pedophiles from US Justice and allowing Notre Dame’s school paper to run a cartoon saying, “The best way to make a fruit a vegetable is with a baseball bat”If I were Jesus, I would change my name because of you.

  • Schaum

    1.In Alexandria, Egypt, 415 AD, enraged over a point of doctrine about the true nature of christ, Cyril, christer patriarch of Alexandria, incites a pogrom against people who deny his own theory. Cyril’s co-religionists assert their faith by burning the homes of doctrinal opponents and driving entire communities from the city. On a fateful day Hypatia — the non-christer scholar, philosopher, and teacher renown throughout the Mediterranean world for her devotion to learning and enlightenment — steps onto her chariot to ride through town to the great Library of Alexandria. A mob gathers, chanting slogans against her. The rioters close in, jamming Hypatia’s chariot to a stop, grabbing her, jerking her down and out into the street where eager hands strip the young woman naked. Jeering they drag her to a church where christer officials promptly butcher her.Gibbon describes: “her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames.” [Decline and Fall Ch XLVII]So why mention the murder of Hypatia? Because her story helps answer the question: “If christianity had Pagan origins, how come I never heard about it?”History is written by the winners. You’ve never heard about the Pagan origins of christianity because as christers institutionalized the church starting in the 300s AD, their reaction to Pagan competition was to deny and suppress Pagan teaching. To burn Pagan writings. To drive dissident communities into the desert. To murder Pagan scholars.It worked well. So well that the word Pagan has become a pejorative –even though the christer religion is, itself, Pagan in origin. It worked so well that much of our modern understanding of these faiths is available only because scholars have reconstructed Pagan theology by reading between the lines of anti-Pagan christer propaganda — the original Pagan literature having been lost in the bonfires of suppression. You know the christer version of the history of religion because the Pagan version was violently suppressed.

  • Schaum

    2.”Pagus” was an old Roman word meaning “the inhabitants of a village.” A Paganos was a countryman or villager, the nuance suggesting hick. Christers were first successful in the cities. Emperor Constantine’s conversion in 312 AD gave the church unlimited power to tax, outlaw, regulate and otherwise suppress competing religions — a power strongest in the cities. In the countryside, away from coercion, the old religions hung on, in In the villages, among the Pagani. City-dwelling christers used the term to deride the old faiths, essentially calling them ‘hick’ religions. “Pagan” comes down to us a pejorative, meaning uncivilized, un-christer, or heathen.Nowadays “Pagan” usually describes Mother-Earth venerating religions aimed at setting life in harmony with the rhythms of the seasons.”Pagan” is also used to describe Ancient religion or civilization in general.The simple fact is, that while John Mark Reynolds calls for citations from the very “primary texts” that the christers so carefully destroyed, he can provide no “primary text” that can prove the existence of god, the existence of Jesus, nor any other of the christers claims – except the bible. Using biblical scripture to prove biblical scripture? I don’t think so.The first “gospel” to be written was that of Mark – who never saw or heard christ and was in fact one of Peter’s disciples. He wrote from oral tradition only – a highly unreliable method for communicating fact! The gospel of John, the only one of the four gospels written by anyone who even looked a christ, says NOTHING about the “second coming” so slobbered over by the other three gospelers who never saw jesus! Thus the many myths of the christers!

  • arensb

    People should know about Christianity because it is true.Only Christianity can unite a thoughtful, but popular culture. Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously. Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.Why is it that western Europe fares better than the US on every measure of social health, despite having drastically lower levels of religiosity?As for what Christians believe, we know because they’re not shy about telling us: they think that gays are second-class citizens; that prayer heals disease and brings rain; that the universe was created by magic less than 10,000 years ago and dinosaurs coexisted with humans; that AIDS, hurricanes, tsunamis etc. are punishment for sin; that the creator of time and space, ruler of the universe, cares who wins the Superbowl.

  • cornbread_r2

    “If we mean arguments for the existence of Jesus, then only fringe Internet atheists deny it.” — JMR———-The fact that some mythicists are atheists is no more relevant in the case of Jesus’s historicity than it would be for the examination of the existence of Elmer Fudd. That you think it *is* relevant — because you also think Jesus is God — perhaps proves that the question of that historicity is probably best left up to those without confessional interests. When you want an unbiased opinion on the existence of anything who are you more likely to trust — someone who dispassionately and scientifically examines the evidence, or someone whose livelihood, reputation, pride and eternal happiness depend on not denying the existence of that thing?At one time, virtually all Christians thought the Bible was the inerrant word of God and that all of those stories, the creation, the great flood, the talking ass, Jonah’s trip in the whale, were all *literally* true. Today, those stories and more have been moved into the metaphor column. At one time, virtually all Christian Bible scholars unquestionably accepted all the biographical details of Jesus’s life as historically true. Today, more and more are recognizing that the origin of many of those details come from OT scripture and not history. At one time, virtually all Christians thought the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. Today, the majority of Bible scholars acknowledge that they weren’t. Given the obvious momentum, I wouldn’t take too much comfort in the fact that the mythicists’ position exists today only on the so-called “fringe”.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Cornbread,CORNBREAD: “When you want an unbiased opinion on the existence of anything who are you more likely to trust — someone who dispassionately and scientifically examines the evidence, or someone whose livelihood, reputation, pride and eternal happiness depend on not denying the existence of that thing?”You are under the mistaken notion that thoughts and ideas do not have underlying foundations in which to feed off of. The scientific world is not unbiased on these kind of evidences. They interpret the facts just like everyone else, by building on a starting premise, on core values, on basic suppositions. The facts do not come already interpreted.

  • Schaum

    Persiflage:”It does seem likely that the early Church began to rely heavily on the conversion of pagans to populate this new and fledging religion.”Precisely. What other population was there to draw from?

  • peterhuff

    Hi Arensb,ARENSB: “Would that that were true. I’ve visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky and attended a talk by Kent Hovind. These people really do believe that there was a worldwide flood and that Jonah lived inside a fish.”ARENSB: “If you meant to say that intelligent, educated Christians think these stories are metaphors, then you’re right. But this knowledge hasn’t percolated down into the pews. The last time I saw a survey, over 40% of Americans were creationists.”And I suppose the only intelligent Christians are the ones that you deem intelligent, never mind that some of the greatest thinkers of all time where young earth, Bible believing Christians, men like Sir Isaac Newton.Posted by: | January 17, 2010 11:27 PM

  • arminius3142

    “The best argument for the evil of the universe is the existence of Al Davis and the lack of a team in LA.”And one of the best arguments for good in the world came about in October, 2004, when the Boston Sox humiliated the Evil Empire (aka NY Yankees) in the ALCS!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    As this thread comes to its natural end (as all threads do), outside readers (the vast majority who don’t comment and look with amusement at those of us who do!) will note that critics of Christianity have conceded that their speculative theories are based not on primary texts but on speculative theories.Schaum has given you a pretty standard list of books on his theories, even if many are decades out of date. By all means go read them . . . but it is a pretty narrow world of scholarship he is advocating. Then remember that all of it is based on speculation . . . because the same group that saved the ancient documents we have (chisters!) burned the rest. Then go read a book like “Sailing from Byzantium” and realize how narrow a view this is . . . based on the well-written but out of date speculations of an eighteenth century critic of Christianity Gibbon . . . who knew nothing of forms of Christianity outside of his narrow experience. His chapters on Byzantium are actually laugh out loud funny, if it were not for the fact that in English words like “byzantine” he created a prejudice that still exists.So read the Schaum list and then please, please turn to contemporary works that list the pre-Socratic fragments. . . (the updated Kirk and Raven Pre-Socratics is my favorite). . . read Ovid (somehow not burned by Christians!) . . . read Plato (we have every dialogue he wrote) . . . and then read the gospels. For those interested in a defense of theism, I would recommend Richard Swinburne, Edward Weirenga, or Alvin Plantinga. They are all contemporary philosophers of religion.For those interested in a more “apologetic” approach, I recommend Bill Craig or my colleague J.P. Moreland. For older books (1950’s), you might try ancient philosopher A.E. Taylor. Primary texts trump speculation every time, but for those curious I have written a book on this topic that came out this year.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    One point: one paganism and Christianity, there is a tendency to overlook Judaism. One way of knowing “older” texts (see the Gospels) is how Jewish they are. Anti-semites in earlier times tended to overlook Jewish roots of Christianity. Note: Judaism was the cradle of Christianity not paganism.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Timmy,I am glad you enjoy rational argument, but let’s check the arguments.Earlier in the thread it was claimed that the life of Jesus was just copied from pagan sources. When asked for primary sources, critics came up with Justin Martyr and pretty much nothing else. Go read Justin Martyr, he still makes his case for Christianity pretty well in a Roman context. You can learn that Jesus’ life was similar in a few ways to other pagan heroes, but nobody ever denied that! Critics presented nothing like a “pagan” Gospel or any evidence that Paul or the gospel writers read such a thing and “copied” it. In this thread critics have mostly ignore the Jewish heritage of Christianity in order to make their case.Finally, check out easily verifiable and basic mistakes like thinking the Stoics were monotheists just like the Jews and Christians. However, let’s have some fun. Let’s assume that every single thing Jesus did had a parallel in some other pagan hero. Does that mean he was not original or new (as a witness)?No.It would be amazing, because Jesus (or at least the Jesus-story!) captured all these elements in ONE MAN/STORY! Let’s use an easy example. Suppose somebody wanted to run down Brett Favre or some other NFL qb. He might argue that Favre had done nothing that some other qb had not done better. Starr was better in the playoffs (over all). Montana passed for fewer interceptions in his career . . . you could even put together stats from several mediocre qbs this year and show that Favre had done nothing that several other qbs had not done. X did this, Y did that, but the problem is that you cannot accumulate the stats from five mediocre qbs and get one good one!Many rosters have may have a qb who is a good game manager, another who is a gun slinger, or another who has a cannon arm, but few people put it all together. Same with “heroes.” Suppose you had a hero with a Jesus’ wisdom (read the Sermon on the Mount). Did he work miracles? Suppose you had a hero who came back from the dead. Did he teach like Jesus? There is no example of someone who was the “whole package” for which we have evidence before the existence of this man, Jesus. No wonder extremists want to dismiss His existence. He was amazing.

  • kert1

    Timmy,

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Let’s turn to the original point I was trying to make. Both Christians and non-Christians know too little about religion, even their own. We know too little about ancient philosophy and history. We need to read the best of the “other side” and not just works that agree with our point of view.Maybe we can all agree on this. I for one happily consume vast amounts of atheistic literature (as part of my job) and hope that my friends who are atheists do the same. Of course, we need to consume the best of the other side. Nothing increases my confidence more than reading Internet atheists, just as I am sure that whack-a-doodle tv preachers help the confirm the beliefs of my secular friends.However, good Christians should focus on non-religious folks like Hume or mainstream secular philosophers. Good secularists should focus their reading on religious thinkers such as Plato and mainstream religious philosophers of today.I am sure we can all agree on this!

  • timmy2

    Kert1,”Do you really think Christians (and basically all other major religions) don’t have a real argument for their faith.”Not a rational one, no. I’m all ears if you have one.

  • cornbread_r2

    Peter Huff:The scientific method is designed to minimize or eliminate confirmational bias through the use of such things as double blind studies, peer review, corroboration and predictability. Science doesn’t “build on a premise” without regard to contravening facts. If the facts don’t support the premise, the premise gets tossed. As much, if not more, time and effort is spent on trying to disprove theories as is spent trying to prove them. One of the main criticisms of science that I frequently hear is that it changes all the time; it’s too provisional. That’s the result of the application of the scientific method. Such is not the case with religion. To wit (and at the risk of asking another question of you that will go unanswered): Is there any evidence you would accept that would lead you to not believe in a god?

  • timmy2

    John Mark Reynolds,”Earlier in the thread it was claimed that the life of Jesus was just copied from pagan sources”Certainly it seems that way. If it wasn’t, what an unbelievable coincidence that all of the Jesus myths are virtually identical to god and hero myths from earlier cultures. And John, as Pamsm pointed out, the Jesus story has no primary sources itself. It is all hearsay from an age when people claimed all sorts of crazy beliefs in Gods and magic dragons and evil spirits and demons. And When you couple that with the unbelievable coincidence that earlier cultures invented virtually identical myths, and the fact that science conflicts with your non primary scriptures, it seems to be clear enough that this stuff was all made up by primitive minds. A rational mind would require extraordinary proof of the truth claims in the bible to be taken seriously and there is no such extraordinary proof. There isn’t even circumstantial proof. There’s nothing but myths that sound virtually identical to earlier myths tracing all the way back to a simple primitive and understandable worship of the sun which eventually worked it’s way around to being the worship of the son. The historical lineage to this process is quite clear to any mind not clouded by faith. Nothing could be more obvious to the rational mind. Only blind faith could make one ignore the obvious signs that this stuff was all made up by people who didn’t know what thunder was. I have read several books on the history of Christianity including the bible itself of course. I watch every documentary on the history of humanity and religion and the history of Jesus and Christianity from both sides of the argument. I have attended church and I was myself a Christian until about age 14. I assure you nothing I believe about Christianity comes from ignorance. I know far more about Christianity than most Christians I have ever met. Far more. My beliefs on the matter are well educated and open minded beliefs. I am alway open to new evidence and new arguments. But they all have fallen flat. Keep trying though. You’ve never met anyone more open minded than I.

  • timmy2

    Johm Mark,I have no time to follow links to other people making your argument for you. If you have arguments you’d like to present, present them here and I will read them and respond.

  • Pamsm

    JMR: Interesting. Many of your ilk don’t. Have you read I found it to be a very rational look at the origins of Christianity – would be interested to hear your take.Timmy2 – where have you been?

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Timmy,Maybe it is my bad vision or keyboard skills or just limitations of the medium. You cannot put a complex argument in this space. We can discuss what we don’t like about a complex argument found elsewhere.Swinburne is an Oxford professor (emeritus) and he deserves respect.His general “cumulative case” argument for theism is very strong. What don’t you like about this argument?Or don’t you know the best theistic arguments in order to respond to them?JMNR

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Someone asked:No.I will try to get to it this year. I know Ehrman’s more scholarly work better than his popular work, but everything he writes and says is of interest. Good call for a book I should read and a good shout out to a responsible scholar that everybody on this thread should follow. I enjoyed Ehrman’s debate on the topic with my friend, Bill Craig btw if anyone is interested in a popular level exposition of both sides of Ehrman’s thesis.

  • kert1

    Timmy,Well, I certainly have some although a blog isn’t a very good place to create a complex argument as we’ve already heard. I’d personally recommend “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, since I could never top that if you want an really complete one.I can certainly give you an brief argument. If can give me an idea of what type of arguement you would like, I will tell you what reasons I have for believing Christianity.To me if someone asks me to show them an argument for Christianity, it is like asking me to show them water. You can them a vast ocean or a tiny spring. Both are valid and either may be more meaningful to someone. Of course, it would be best to view all sources of water at once, but it is generally impossible to see them all or fathom them completely. It is best to look at each one independently.So what do you think?

  • cornbread_r2

    John Mark Reynolds:I read your blog comments and the others there regarding Pat Robertson’s statement. Never have I been more grateful for having a more parsimonious worldview. Regarding your comments:You seemed to think that his statement was bad philosophy. You didn’t know how one man could commit an entire nation, including Christians, to a pact with the Devil. Isn’t that what the entire concept of Original Sin about? If Adam could commit all of subsequent humanity (and maybe even all the other animals, plants and the Earth itself, as some believe) to pain, suffering and death by one disobedient act, why couldn’t one Haitian leader commit the inhabitants of one, small country ? You seemed to think that his statement was bad theology and you questioned his credentials as a prophet. Since Pat Robertson never predicts catastrophe, he merely interprets such events after the fact, how was your Bible quote regarding Amos applicable?Your ultimate judgment on his statement was that it was poorly timed and that even if he was correct philosophically and theologically, such a public statement at this time subjected his views to mockery and “cast his pearls before swine.” First of all, he didn’t say anything that non-believers didn’t already know (and expect to hear) about certain Christians’ worldviews. Secondly, is there ever a good time to tell people that their loved ones were made to suffer and die horrible deaths by a god that loves them infinitely and unconditionally just so others could have an opportunity to act charitably (as Schwinburne might argue)? It seems what you really regretted about his statement is that it exposed, once again, the fact that there are about as many interpretations of the Bible as there are interpreters.Perhaps Christians need to coin new words for the kind of love and mercy your god displays. I know of no human parent, who really and truly loves their children, who would crush their legs to pulp in order to teach them or someone else a lesson and who wouldn’t do everything in their power to keep that from happening. It’s a stumbling block to ignorant swine such as myself and one reason some people just don’t understand Christianity. You needn’t respond to any of this. I’ve seen poorly squared circles before and I’m unlikely to be convinced of their beauty and majesty the thousandth time around.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Cornbread wrote: “You needn’t respond to any of this. I’ve seen poorly squared circles before and I’m unlikely to be convinced of their beauty and majesty the thousandth time around.”I reply. This isn’t really on the topic of the original post, but it is a serious and important point.The best reason not to believe in the God of Christianity is the pain and suffering in the world. The best reason to believe in the God of Christianity (and the philosophers) is goodness, truth, and beauty in the world.What of evil? I believe that “natural evils” are best explained as a misuse of human free will (we insist on living in places full of danger and not preparing for it) and the brokenness of nature.When evil entered the cosmos, all of nature suffered. Could God change things? If He did, then skeptics would accuse Him of being a tyrant! Such a devil might claim: “Let’s see how things would go without You moving in to fix things . . . we could run things just fine without you, but every time we were going to see the real wages of ‘sin’ you shut us down!”In the light of evil, every Christian bows and thinks hard. It is hard to understand . . . and I don’t think this brief reply answers the question totally! My favorite books on the topic are (at a popular level) The Problem of Pain, on a personal level A Severe Mercy, and on a philosophic level “Evil and the Existence of God” by my colleague Doug Geivett. I hope that gives a start to this conversation . . . though I am pretty much done with this particular thread.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Timmy says: “You’ve never met anyone more open minded than I.”This is really excellent. As someone who teaches Socratically, I cannot say how thrilling I find this! I wish more people would care to be open minded.Let me suggest (as you have described your “testimony”) that one thing that happens to some smart people is that their questions outgrow easy answers. They ask hard questions. These are not the kind of questions that can be answered in television documentaries (however well intentioned) or in blog posts. Hard questions demand hard answers.Sadly, however, hard questions are easier to generate than good answers. This is true on all sides of this issue. Your questions are good ones, but they will require reading very tough books by folks like Dallas Willard and Richard Swinburne.Of course, not everyone who reads such books is “converted.” There are very good books on the other side. At that point, you will have to look at your experience, your desires, and your hopes and make the best intellectual call you can.You may be wrong. I may be wrong, but we gain nothing by the false “humility” that refuses to adopt a position and see how it plays out.That is how I have come to feel.I hope to all the gods, God, or just human integrity that I remain eager to follow the argument wherever it leads.So far it has led me closer and closer to Jesus. He has given me hope, changed me deeply, and brought me into an imperfect but good community. If there is something better out there, however, I want it, but for now my thirsty mind finds sweet drink at the fountain of Christianity. It is so picking reasonable and I lack the faith to doubt it. John Mark

  • Schaum

    I have observed that the writing on some of the posts here, for instance that of Kert1, suggests a lack of maturity in style that would be commensurate with what one would expect from undergraduate students. Biola is, after all, a christer University. One wonders if some posters are JMR students, and write here…for whatever reasons they may have.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Schaum,If you think University students read (let alone comment) on Washington Post blogs, you are more optimistic about the state of the newspaper biz than I.I wish I could be so cheerful. John Mark

  • johnmarkreynolds

    It would be great if we could get more college students to read and post on newspaper blogs. Perhaps sections like On Faith will begin to help do this . . . as it brings up topics not often covered and gives points of view not found elsewhere. You can get a good survey of different points of view (and not just the usual media voices) reading the columnists here. Secular thought is well represented as are some less well knows (but thoughtful) religious figures.I am honored to be one of them. I do promise, however, that all my students know the difference between Stoicism and Judaism!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    I should add that some of the Torrey Honors (at Biola University) students do blog at Evangelical Outpost. Check them out!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    I should add that I certainly don’t feel worthy to be on the same blog (On Faith) as some of the folk who write here . . . but I am glad to be here!

  • justillthennow

    “The best argument for the evil of the universe is the existence of Al Davis and the lack of a team in LA.”Ah, now we can truly get to a personification of the Devil! Unfortunate that there are many, (cannot say if it is an actual majority of a symbolic one!), that would disagree on this interpretation of the Evil One.:-)My, but we have been busy on this board! The esteemed John Mark has a handful of internet atheists all pounding at his door, Schaum the lionhearted is in full flight and the annals of history, (so to speak), are being plumbed! Primary Source material! My Kingdom for Primary source material! And yet that cry will go unrewarded, for either encampment of the Spiritual Truth Abyss.It does look a bit like a food fight around here though. I am right, we know better, my daddy can been your daddy up.The answer to which, if any, worldview is correct will not be answered here, or leastwise not now with what we have. Christianity has not yet found validation of it’s beliefs, (myths?) in evidence, and none of the religious ways that predate it or postdate it have either. And science still has no universal theory. I am convinced that it all does wrap up together in the end, as is the case with life. And I am equally certain that no one has the correct and ultimately valid system, much as they may preach that they do! None of the many encampments that peer into the Void of the Unknown and then sing their pomposities heavenward, (why would it be ‘up’?), and sling them at the disbelieving enemy combatants.One of the greatest ‘Evils’, I would forward, (stepping up ever so slightly and lightly upon my soapbox), is the presumption of Knowledge and Ownership of Truth, with it’s alter ego being the Ignorance and Worthlessness of all others of divergent belief. Exclusivity is egotistical arrogance. Both and all sides are guilty.When we are able to believe what we do, (for surely there is good reason in each of us that we choose our beliefs!), while at the same time applaud and support what is foreign and different in the multifaceted jewel of Life, then we will have a chance at moving forward peacefully and constructively.War sucks. All manifestations of it. It is almost always avoidable, at least up to a point and usually up to the verge of battle. And why go to conflict over ideas, particularly when none of those ideas have the star quality of Certain Truth? There is no argument with Certain Truth!

  • arminius3142

    John Mark,I hope you can read this before the subject changes. I want to tell you that even though I do not agree with you too often, I respect you for being honest, polite, with malice toward none, and for having the guts to wade in here and reply to your critics firsthand.Thank you.Arminius, a very progressive Christian

  • justillthennow

    JMR writes:”So far it has led me closer and closer to Jesus. He has given me hope, changed me deeply, and brought me into an imperfect but good community.””If there is something better out there, however, I want it, but for now my thirsty mind finds sweet drink at the fountain of Christianity.”Who does not look for such in life as this? Hope, transformation, good family and community, not to mention “sweet drink” that nourishes? I think we all look for it, and when lucky and blessed, depending on your perspective, we may find it. For all of us we have reasons that we align to what we do, and move away from what was that did not work and towards that which we are drawn to. Who is it that can say there is only one way or belief that nourishes all? In this manifest world, I hardly think so. I look forward to when we can be at peace at the table. It will make it far easier to hear the truth that another experiences, and to find heart with it.As is, for me, these above statements by John Mark Reynolds. More power to him, and to everyone that seeks and finds what fulfills their lives!

  • timmy2

    Hi John Mark,”It is so picking reasonable and I lack the faith to doubt it.”What exactly is reasonable about hell?

  • cornbread_r2

    “When evil entered the cosmos, all of nature suffered. ” — JMR———– Man, you certainly know how to provoke an old skeptic!How does anything enter into God’s cosmos of its own volition? If everything that exists in the cosmos is here by God’s will, how could that not include evil?I know you’re grown tired of this thread; maybe you’ll have the opportunity to address those questions some other time. But anyway, thanks for interacting!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Cornbread,I hope you know that every time I write “cornbread” I think of the real article, cooked by my grandmother in a cast iron skillet on the stove top. Thanks for the pleasant memories.You wrote:How does anything enter into God’s cosmos of its own volition? If everything that exists in the cosmos is here by God’s will, how could that not include evil?I reply:Suppose there is a God.Suppose He wants to create beings that are truly free.If created such beings, then they could themselves create states of affairs, that He did not will. He would, of course, be responsible for them in the secondary sense that He created them, but not for them.We might think: Why then does He allow those beings to do evil?We might reply that such freedom comes with cost to us and to the Creator Himself.He loves freedom.As for hell, brought up by a different person (Timmy?), that too is a cost of freedom. I believe (with the Church) that nobody will be in Hell that does not wish to be there, but there must be some place in the cosmos for those who wish to say “no” to God.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Just,I certainly agree that evidence (by itself!) will never satisfy. We also need experience and love. Things are not quite equal, however. Christianity does attempt reason, not all beliefs do, and it also attempts to love. That is quite a combination.Peace on anyone who tries another road, but I can only testify to the errors I have found in those other roads and to the good traveling I have found pursuing Christianity.Your mileage may, of course, vary,John Mark

  • Schaum

    Ignorance of Christianity is no virtue? Agreed.Nowhere have I said the christer myths are untrue. I have said they cannot be proven. That is the nature of myths; the christer myths are essentially the same as the earlier Pagan myths. The point is there is no consistent, reasoned analysis of the evidence that can pick out the christer religion as fundamentally different from other ancient Pagan religions. The christer religion is an ancient Pagan religion. It cannot be proven to be more than that. John Mark Reynolds is unable to give a rational, cause and effect, actually-possible explanation of the facts that preserves the truth of the christer myths. His solution: explain the “facts” with god-magic. I have no idea whether JMR is correct or not. Magical solutions like his can not be analyzed rationally. “God is omnipotent.” God can do anything. God’s magic can overcome any set of contrary facts.Justin Martyr, in the second century AD. saw the deep similarities between christers and other pagans, and he clearly saw that rational analysis demanded the conclusion that the christer religion borrowed from others. Justin and other early fathers found their way around that inevitable conclusion by dreaming up a magical solution, in their case “demonic imitation.”christers cling to the assertions that the gospels are history, and the magic stories in them are true. Yet none can offer any evidence, or facts, or analysis in support of that claim. If you read “Life Of Jesus Critically Examined” (Strauss, 1835) you will see that any possible rational defense of the gospels as history has been demolished. Conservative believers are unable to refute Strauss’ analysis (even though they love to say it is “outdated” – though certainly not as outdated as the bible! – and shriek about “primary sources” which NOBODY has), but they are able to ignore it. And they do. Conservative scholarship begins with the claim that the bible stories are true, and “reasons” from there. The result is:These are not good things. This is why science and the Scientific Method work, and religion doesn’t. I’ll stick with science.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    JMRI was one of the first posters here, and I believe that I said that your essay seemed more coherent than usual. See what happens when you get your thoughts together? Also, I posted about tolerance and toleration. Peter Huff replied, line by line, to show that he had no respect for tolerance or toleration, to show, in fact that he did not really entertain or even comprehend any concept of tolerance, and then to insult me. There is no argument that someone like him, NONE, could ever make that would sway me to his direction. “Save your breath to cool your coffee … ” as my Grandmother used to say.Also, I made some comments saying that all religion is speculative in nature. In many of your arguments on this thread, in all of the back and forth with critics, you are openly and demonstrably speculating on this scenerio, or that one; this is obvioiusly the nature of religion.And lastly, I have a problem with the idea of theology as the scholarly study of men, in contrast to what people believe, folk religion. Theologians seek to make it so complicated that no one but a fellow scholar could ever really be in on it. For example, you sure do recommend alot of books to read. But I am not likely to read most of them, or even any of them, because I do not intend to spend my life acquiring the credentials of a “scholarly” theologian.Many, if not all, of your critics here are either Christians now, or were raised as Christians, in Christian homes, under the supervision of Christian parents and care-givers. So it does not seem right to say they are ignorant of Christianity, just beause they are not “scholars” on the fine points of formally elaborated Christian theology.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Daniel,I know you are no fan of my writing in general, but then outside of my mother nobody much is! Being incomprehensible is an occupational hazard.I don’t really disagree much with your last. None of us are sure we are right, we do our best (or we should) to think things through and be intellectually honest.However, if someone wants to say: “I cannot be a Christian for intellectual reason a, b, c.” then she must do due diligence to study best Christian reasons for believing a, b, c or just admit that she doesn’t really have intellectual reasons.When I give a book list, I am assuming everyone wants to do that. I am not sure I am right. Who is dumb enough to be sure of things like this? I am sure that:a. clearest thinking I can do led me to traditional Christianity. I have given the books helpful to me.There are things about Christianity that bother me. I find High Platonism very appealing and one need not be a Christian to embrace it. (I once called this High Paganism, but this caused confusion.) This is an important issue to get right and I have done my best. In any case, this is a wonderful place to chat and learning is fun. I have gotten at least one book to read from this discussion.John Mark

  • timmy2

    John Mark on Hell: “but there must be some place in the cosmos for those who wish to say “no” to God”Well I’m safe. I’ve never said no to God. Atheists are people who say no to PEOPLE making outrageous truth claims about a god they supposedly know exists because they have something called faith. But unless God has spoken to them specifically, they can not have faith in God. They can only have faith, in the PEOPLE who the hearsay about this fantastical being comes from. And those people have been dead for thousands of years. And the only accounts we have of them are through the stories of people who did not even know them but lived decades and centuries after them. And all of these people lived in a time of scientific ignorance and were prone to attributing everything to Gods as was their heritage and evolved nature from their more chimp like ancestors who worshiped the sun because it truly was the giver of life to them. There is no reason to believe those people knew anything about God and every reason to believe they were primitive minds who made these kinds of things up to try to explain the unknown. And yet we can still, learn immense amounts of wisdom from their texts so long as we separate the true wisdom from the imaginary fantasies.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Somebody should tell Oxford University Press and their other mainstream academic publishers that scholars like Swinburne, Plantinga, Taylor, Moreland don’t do real scholarship and are unaware of arguments written in the early nineteenth century!Go read their works for yourself.

  • kert1

    Is anyone else taking Schaum seriously? Does he really believe there are no arguements for Christianity and we are just a bunch ignorant tag-alongs? It odd that his only argument is we have no arguements, yet I don’t see any proof of that. I just really wish people understood what Christians believe and why. Obviously you can argue but you need to know the facts first.

  • timmy2

    It seems to me that most Christians are as ignorant about Christianity as non Christians. In fact I know far more about Christianity than most people I’ve met who claim to be Christian. And I swear I’ve never met two Christians who believe the same thing. 30,000 different Christian sects, and we’re supposed to know what the hell they believe?It goes to show you the kind of confusion and mess that’s created when people pretend to know things they do not know.

  • timmy2

    For the record, Kert1, I take Shaum seriously. He/She seems to speak thoughtfully with rational argument.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    JMRPeople do not choose their beliefs for intellectual reasons. Perhaps you do, but that is not generally the way belief works.Belief is another way of saying “what seems true.” And what causes you to think something seems true? It is the working of an inner will, which none of us have contol over.It is funny how religious people seek to control and manipulate the will of other people, but none of us, not even proselytizers know how their inner will works and none of us can steer it or control it. In this sense, the concept of “free will” as generally regarded is an illusion. How can you can condemn a person who does not believe what you believe, who does not believe in God, who does not believe in the Divinity of Christ? How can you imagine a Lake of Fire is the destination for unbelievers? For all of belief in all people is what seems true to them. How can a person be guilty of something bad, simply by believing what seems true to him? If there is anyone to be punished for unbelief, it is all of the believers who have been unable to convince unbelievers of what seems true.People like Peter Huff are unconvincing, in every respect, from top to bottom, from beginning to end. His inability to change what seems true to unbelievers should therefore destine him for the Lake of Fire, not all of the unbelivers, who after all, are only going by what seems true.In determining truth, what else can any of us go by except what seems true? And no matter how much that may bother you, there is no way for you to reach inside of another person’s head and tinker with their inner will so that what seems true to you also seems true to them.All you can do is live your life according to your beliefs, teach them to willing students, answer questions of the curious, and let everyone be as they are.I do not think this should make me a left-wing lefty atheist new age relativeist who believes all paths lead to the summit of the mountian, because none of those things are true about me.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    JMRIf you can choose your beliefs by the force of your free will, then there is an easy way to prove it:Choose a different belief, for a day. Be an atheist for a day. But to prove that you can freely choose one belief over another, this atheistic belief which you choose must be sincere and heartfelt, truely believed; otherwise you fail the test.I do not necessarily believe that there is no such thing as free will on many aspects of life; when you come to a street corner, you have the free will to turn left, or to turn right, or to keep going straight; but you have no control over what you may encounter as you go along; and the experiences of life flow over you as you go, unchosen, and unforseen, and all of these experiences are what cause your inner will to operate as it does according to a process which no one understands.I neither believe in free will, nor in predestination. This is a conflict which I attribute to the mystery of life and to the mystery of existence. I do not feel deprived because I cannot assume the clarity of belief that no human being can legitimately claim. If I do not know the mind of God, and if I do not know what God knows, I do not think that that diminishes me; I am a man, not a god.I am prepared for and I do accept that the greatest part of life for all people, by the very nature of existence, is and will forever and always be, a mystery.If you have the answer, I cannot imagine that it would be buried in the depths of some unread or seldom read book; rather it is more likely to be proclaimed on the headlines of all the newspapers of the world.

  • justillthennow

    Hello there Timmy!Been a long time. Welcome back. Nice comments that you have made on this thread. Now then, how is it that you are clarifying my statements? Feel free to make your own comments and opinions, as you have, but it is a bit presumptuous and neigh on arrogant to assume the role of clarifying what I said, don’t you think?Generally speaking, atheists have more in common that a ‘belief in no Gods’. There is a common ground that is wider than that point, at least in my experience to date. You stated: “Atheists do not claim that gods do not exist. They are people who do not believe that gods exist. There is a big big difference.”Do you really think it is vastly different to have a non-belief in the existence of God(s) as compared to a belief in the not-existence of God(s)?Both are grounded in a negative. Perhaps it is better to say a belief that all that ‘exists’ is only that which can be proven to exist, and that anything outside of that ‘manifest’ realm is moot. Or some such. Affirm the positive, man!I am sure that I could be wrong, (and often am), but atheism is a negative itself and suggests non-theistically minded. No spiritual/supernatural/transcendent/occultish beliefs. Contra God. No?

  • timmy2

    JMR,”but Christians, after centuries of thought, still think Jesus should rule our lives”Common fallacy. Not centuries of thought, but centuries of brainwashing children before their minds are fully developed and indoctrination by the most trusted authority figure in any child’s life. Centuries of children have been born into the Christian religion/cult with little chance of escape. It is not deep thought that made them Christian it is infantile indoctrination followed by life long shelter from deep thought.

  • Carstonio

    Daniel,”People do not believe in God because of any proof. And people are not Christians because of any proof. Therefore, I cannot understand why Christians seek to prove the existence of God or why they seek to proof that Christianity is true.”I can’t answer for those Christians since I don’t belong to any religion. My point is that if there’s no proof for any proposed answer for a question of fact about the universe, then there’s no reason to have a belief in any answer to such a question.”So why don’t Christians just say that, say their beliefs, say how they live their lives according to their beliefs, and let it go? There is nothing more thay can do than that.”I would ask that of anyone of any religion. The issue is that religions do make claims of fact about the universe. Labeling such claims as mere belief has the effect of excusing the religions from having to prove the claims. That’s like saying that the height of a mountain is merely a matter of opinion.Timmy,I tend to limit the term “atheist” to people who believe that gods don’t exist. I’m very reluctant to use the term for people who don’t believe that gods exist, partly because such people also don’t believe that gods don’t exist. But my main interested there is in enforcing the distinction between the two positions. My larger point is that belief that gods don’t exist has almost all of the same intellectual faults as belief that gods do exist.So what word would you use to denote a lack of belief either way? “Agnosticism” seems to mean that gods exist but that humans cannot know them.

  • Carstonio

    “Do you really think it is vastly different to have a non-belief in the existence of God(s) as compared to a belief in the not-existence of God(s)?”Yes, because the former also implies a non-belief in the non-existence of gods. “Perhaps it is better to say a belief that all that ‘exists’ is only that which can be proven to exist, and that anything outside of that ‘manifest’ realm is moot.”That’s not quite it, because it presumes the existence of separate realms. The goal is to avoid belief as much as possible – “belief” is the holding of a proposition exclusive of evidence, even supporting evidence.

  • timmy2

    DITLD”I am prepared for and I do accept that the greatest part of life for all people, by the very nature of existence, is and will forever and always be, a mystery.If you have the answer, I cannot imagine that it would be buried in the depths of some unread or seldom read book; rather it is more likely to be proclaimed on the headlines of all the newspapers of the world.”Hear hear. I propose a new religion where the one and only doctrine is that we must all believe with absolute faith that no one currently has the answer to the mystery of our existence. Our faith is that if someone truly had the answer, we’d all know it. So we can take comfort and peace that it remains a wonderful mystery until further notice. Notice that is likely never to come, in our lifetime anyway.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    JMR,”No person now alive will see a time where ignorance of Christianity will be desirable or possible.Finally, as a Christian myself I must be honest and say what I have found.People should know about Christianity because it is true. Only Christianity can unite a thoughtful, but popular culture. Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously. Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.Ignorance of the truth may make a man happy for a bit, but will lead to cultural stagnation and personal damnation. Many of us can testify that we have failed Jesus, but that He has never failed us.If we are wrong, we hope to see it, but Christians, after centuries of thought, still think Jesus should rule our lives. To deny this knowledge or to hide it would be intellectually dishonest, cowardly, and wrong.”To argue that it is Faux Christians, not “true” Christians that are responsible for much of the horror is absurd, an instance of the No True Scotsman’s Fallacy. By such reasoning, neither John Winthrop nor William Bradford were “true Christians.”

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    justillthennowI think it is simpler than that: atheists do not hold to a belief that there is a god. The only reason that this is so earth-shaking is because there is a gigantic crowd of people breathing down their necks, saying that they are wrong, that there is a god. If aatheism is a religion, or if it is like a religion, then it should come last after a long list of religions, to be denoted as “none of the above.”

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio, “Yes, because the former also implies a non-belief in the non-existence of gods.”Huh? Then your same mirror would work on the second statement as well.”That’s not quite it, because it presumes the existence of separate realms.”Not necessarily. One could say that the physical realm includes the ’emotional’ realm, or the mental or conscious arenas, yes? We could be in agreement these are aspects of physical existence, and are ‘validate’ to some extent by the senses. It is not outside of reasonable that what gets defined as spiritual or soul also exists superimposed upon the physical realm, (or vice versa!). The fact that these assumptions have yet to be measurable or verifiable by science does not mean they do not exist!”The goal is to avoid belief as much as possible – “belief” is the holding of a proposition exclusive of evidence, even supporting evidence.”That goal is neither attainable or desirable. We go through the day believing many things that we do not have ‘proofs’ for. How do we prove our spouse actually loves us, or our parents do? Or that our children have the tools they need to survive well in life? Prove love is real. Or one set of ethics are better than another. These are all beliefs, along with many, many more.To NEED proofs in order to accept something as real or valid is not only incredibly limiting on life, it is really unworkable. And it makes for a very cold and unremarkable outlook. There is far too much that comes from the unknown.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    This will indeed be my last post on this thread.I have tried other points of view, many for far more than a day! I lacked the faith to be an atheist, but I have tried to answer every question from many different angles . . . including atheism to see how they would play out.I keep reading about the “no Scotsman” fallacy, but I will point out that being a Christian is not quite like being a Scotsman. One is born a Scotsman, while one chooses to live as a Christian. If someone says they are a Christian, but then denies what he says in practice, it is no remarkable thing to say he is a liar about his self-description.That does not mean that all of us fail the faith in one way or the other. I certainly have. The price of high ideals is such failure. I for one am not giving up on the ideas, but on the selfishness and vice that caused me to fail them! For anyone brave enough (or looking for enough amusement!) to read all this thread, I would ask you to see which view represents hope, love, and thoughtfulness combined. Which way (and there are many ways you can go) has endured . . . and will endure? I have found love, peace, and reason in serving Jesus. The Bible is a rich and ancient document that has survived centuries of critics and will survive centuries more. Come home if you have left and come and see if you have never visited.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    JMRWhy did Winthrop and Bradford fence the Indians in and burn them to death? God wanted the Christians to dominate the fur trade, you see.Not true Christians? Where is there one? When was there one? And, numbers-wise, how do they line up against the Faux Christians?I’m not a Christian, John Mark, and I shall never be. (I will also not smash menorahs to bits. There are a lot of things I won’t do.)But I have hope for humanity, do not believe that human is born in sin, believe that all people are entitled to Justice, will fight for it until the end of my life. And that, JMR, gives me peace.

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio,”Do you really think it is vastly different to have a non-belief in the existence of God(s) as compared to a belief in the not-existence of God(s)?”Yes, because the former also implies a non-belief in the non-existence of gods. If non-belief in the existence of God(s) “implies” non-belief in the non-existence of God(s), then that logic allows that belief in the not-existence of God(s) “implies” belief in the existence of God(s). Two sides of a coin, day and night, duality almost certainly allows for the equal yet opposite to be as true, or at least implies that if one exists the other does as well.”That’s not quite it, because it presumes the existence of separate realms. The goal is to avoid belief as much as possible – …””I’ve long acknowledged the possibility of a “supernatural” realm. However, we cannot presume that such a realm exists. Even the term implies the existence of a realm separate from the “natural.””First, my input was that separate ‘realms’ may not in fact be necessary, as life seems to overlay on itself. If there is indeed a ‘spiritual’ realm that could have undiscovered spiritual beingness alive in it, as thought is alive or emotional experiences are alive in the physical body, then it need not be “separate”. No more intellectually sloppy than how to fit personified consciousness and awareness into a human body.” The concept is intellectually sloppy because such a realm can be anything that anyone wants it to be.”An interesting concept. Perhaps that is the key to manifestation of dreams, the appearance of needs and tools and opportunities when we need them, or conversely the reason that everything (for some) ALWAYS goes wrong.”My point about belief was limited to claims of objective fact about the universe.”For me it does not matter. If I believe something that I have verification for I am apt to say that I KNOW that thing, but I also believe it to be true. Yet whatever I do believe functions as an internal truth, something that I hold to be true even if not proven as true, and I operate with that certain knowledge, (here comes that “know” word again, but now without the collective validation!). I act as if it is true.You want to define belief as not known, which is reasonable. However it is common and normal for people to view their beliefs as true! We all do. You do as well as me and JMR and Schaum and any of the other players in the latest scrimmage.No?

  • justillthennow

    Hello John Mark, Thank you for your reply.Although I believe that most religions, (at least the worthwhile ones!), include love in the their practices, Christianity certainly has a deep connection with it as a foundation of Christ’s teaching.No spiritual tradition has the benefit of evidence for it’s beliefs, as we have yet to prove the existence of “Soul” or spirit. It is sad, and leaves open the gates for conflict. This may change as we gain in knowledge and wisdom. Yet a high premium is on proofs, and that is appropriate. Belief is an individual experience.Atheism, and proponents of it, can easily be as self righteous and exclusively minded as some of the most rigid Christians or Muslims, which was a point of my last post. The intention to make wrong another as a form of self validation is an old illness, not evidence of compassionate or virtuous spiritual beliefs in action. It is this form of spiritual negation that causes much pain. And again, atheists and ‘non-traditionalists’ can be as guilty as fundamentalist elitism.I have appreciated this weeks discussion! And it did not lack for action.Peace

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    JMRTo choose a belief is not the same as trying to see from a different point of view. To choose a different faith means to choose to believe something different from your past belief with all of the assurance and confidence that you had for your previous belief.People do not choose belief like choosing the color of a sweater, or what to have for lunch. People do not control their own beliefs and people do not turn belief on like turning on the water fawcett or turning it off.Belief is determined by personality as much as personality determines belief. To seek to radically alter another person’s fundamental belief is to seek to alter their personality, to affirm that their is something wrong with their very nature. No wonder this constant Christian proselytizing is so, very off-putting and even obnoxious. No matter what a good story you have, and no matter how beautiful all of the many individualized verses of the Bible may be, when presented from a fundamental view of disrespect, they are offensive. Christians often approach, people that they categorize as “unbelievers” in a preditory way, to seize them, and to do a fundamental change of their very being. Christians often conclude any discussion with this phrase, “I will pray for you.”But this is not really a well-intended thing to say; it is charged with political hostility.

  • Schaum

    JMR:”People should know about Christianity because it is true.”Unprovable assertion.”Only Christianity can unite a thoughtful, but popular culture.”Unprovable assertion.”Only Christianity can provide a basis for high art, science, and philosophy simultaneously.Unprovable assertion, magical thinking, and an easily refuted lie.”Only Christianity can produce liberty for the individual and an ordered society.”Unprovable assertion and presupposition failure.The christer religion is just another pagan religion. Its “founder” cannot even be proven to have existed.

  • Carstonio

    Reynolds’ final reply shows that he doesn’t understand what the issue is about. He still frames it as Christianity versus atheism. That’s a mistake that many atheists also make. If we assume for argument’s sake that Christianity represents hope, love and thoughtfulness, that doesn’t constitute evidence that the Christian god exists or that Jesus rose from the dead. Nor does the endurance of any particular idea automatically connote merit or factual accuracy.The only real question on this subject is this one, in various forms…can Christians prove thatJesus rose from the dead? Can atheists prove that there are no gods? Can Muslims prove that Gabriel spoke to Muhammed? Can Hindus prove that the atman is eternal? Can Shintos prove that the kami exists? I could go on, but all those claims represent claims about the universe. They’re not assertions of value or of philosophical opinion. If those claims cannot be proven, then the only responsible course is to acknowledge that we don’t know the answers to any of those questions.I include atheism in there not to argue that it’s a religion, but to argue that the claim that gods don’t exist is no more provable than the claim that they do exist. (But I agree with atheists that the latter claim is much more extraordinary and thus requires extraordinary evidence.)

  • Carstonio

    Daniel, my objection to belief as a concept involves its application to matters of objective fact. Gods either exist or they don’t. With such questions, we should strive to be as accurate as possible. The effect of holding a belief about the answer amounts to treating accuracy as irrelevant, as if reality was a matter of opinion. Being imperfect humans, we do sometimes hold beliefs about such questions without verifying the belief. But the goal is still accuracy. Belief should be reserved for questions that don’t involve objective fact, such as the best way for humans to live.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Cornbread (January 18, 2010 1:41 AM),CORBREAD: “The scientific method is designed to minimize or eliminate confirmational bias through the use of such things as double blind studies, peer review, corroboration and predictability. Science doesn’t “build on a premise” without regard to contravening facts. If the facts don’t support the premise, the premise gets tossed. As much, if not more, time and effort is spent on trying to disprove theories as is spent trying to prove them. One of the main criticisms of science that I frequently hear is that it changes all the time; it’s too provisional. That’s the result of the application of the scientific method.”Even so, the mindset is built on basic foundational starting points and then studied through the lens of these basic beliefs. Sorry I don’t have time to get into it tonight. I start work at 7am.Religion perhaps, but in relationship with God we worship in mind, body, spirit and soul. God is a God of reason and logic as well as love and justice. You on the other hand, if I may be so presumptuous, probably look at everything from a natural, not supernatural viewpoint.It is quite possibly where your belief system rests on, but since we have not shared many posts that is only my presumption at the moment, based on your angle of inquiry.CORNBREAD: “To wit (and at the risk of asking another question of you that will go unanswered): Is there any evidence you would accept that would lead you to not believe in a god?Another question? What was the first? And where are your answers to my questions?By His grace I am what I am. To deny Him would leave nothing that makes sense of truth, reason, logic, knowledge, love, justice, life, meaning, purpose, hope, an objective, absolute, universal source and measure of truth and what is right. How are you going to beat that? First, any world view that wants to make sense of life must ask basic questions, ultimate questions, honest questions, like what is real, what is out there, how do I know and what difference does it make (metaphysics, epistemology and axiology)? Is there anything beyond death? What gives life meaning and purpose? Try and answer those things from a naturalistic, humanistic background first and see how you do. It is futile. This is where that atheistic or naturalistic mindset breaks apart. They do not have the answers.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Carstonio People do not believe in God because of any proof. And people are not Christians because of any proof. Therefore, I cannot understand why Christians seek to prove the existence of God or why they seek to proof that Christianity is true. To prove something requires a scientifically modelled argument, but there is no such arguemnt to prove that God exists or to prove that Christianity is true.I am in agreement with you then, that belief in God comes from something other than proof. So why don’t Christians just say that, say their beliefs, say how they live their lives according to their beliefs, and let it go? There is nothing more thay can do than that.JMR cites many books, too numerous to read. He goes at his argument from many specualtive points of view. But none of this is proof. In fact, he merely emphasizes my comment that religion is speculative. All of the many speculative arguments would not be necessary if the fundamental thing of the argument were not also speculative.Feeling good, having great art, citing a long history, showing good manners, likewise, all, do not prove anything, but just add more speculation on top of speculation.I guess what bothers me most of all about JMR is how his entire world view is skewed towards fancifulness, and away from what modern, twenty-first century man knows about the nature of existence. This fanciful unreality leads to many conclusions that are wrong and even destructive to individuals and to families, and he is in a position to command respect and pass this along to upcoming generations.

  • timmy2

    I need to clarify a couple of statements by Carstonio and Justilthen.Justilthen said: “Atheism, and proponents of it, can easily be as self righteous and exclusively minded as some of the most rigid Christians or Muslims”Carstonio said: “I include atheism in there not to argue that it’s a religion, but to argue that the claim that gods don’t exist is no more provable than the claim that they do exist”1. Atheists do not claim that gods do not exist. They are people who do not believe that gods exist. There is a big big difference. Not believing that gods exist is a reaction to the absence of evidence for a particularly outlandish posit, not a statement of opposite fact. “I do not believe that God or gods exist” is not a statement of fact or even a belief. It is a disbelief. A belief means that you think a certain fact is true. “Disbelief” is not belief that something does not exist, it is disbelief due to lack of evidence.2. There is no such thing as “atheism”. Yes there is such a thing as atheists, but not every “ist” comes with an “ism” This so called “atheism” has no content. There is no common thing that atheists believe. There is only a common thing that they don’t believe. There is nothing to learn about being an atheist. It’s kind of bizarre that the word atheist even exists. It’s like “non stamp collector”. There is no word for the non stamp collector. That’s because we really don’t need one. But if 2 thirds of the world’s population were stamp collectors, we would certainly come up with a word for the “non stamp collector”. Perhaps we’d call them the “nostampies”. But there would not be a “nostampie” club because they have nothing else in common but the fact that they don’t collect stamps. There would be no such thing as “nostampieism”, just as there is no such thing as atheism. True that some atheists come off as though they believe with certainty that there are no gods. But in reality they are just 99.9% certain (with good reason). It’s the same with magic dragons. I can not prove that magic dragons do not exist. But I can show much evidence that all stories that we have ever heard about magic dragons have been made up by man, and that there is no reason whatsoever to believe that magic dragons exist, and every reason to believe that they do not exist. No need for proof to assume they do not exist. The burden of proof is clearly on person proposing that they do exist. Anyway, the word “atheism” is an invention of the religious side of the argument to make lack of belief look like an actual belief, which it is not.

  • peterhuff

    Hi John Mark,I find that three of the biggest areas of contention posed against Christianity by unbelievers are, 1) we have no proof for God’s existence, 2) Christianity borrows from pagan religions that came first, especially in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, 3) in the area of creation verses evolution, of evolving from simple organisms of life into more complex ones verses of being created special and distinct from animals. This third category usually leads to debates on whether the Bible can be taken literally or figuratively when addressing the Fall, the Flood, Jonah and the whale, the crossing of the Red Sea, miracles, and almost everything else. All three of these areas are lies that are not easy to dislodge.Although evidential proofs are good to dispel some of these false notions that act as a barrier to our faith, I feel that unless the unbeliever’s core beliefs are not first addressed, everything will still be filtered through his mindset, everything will be oriented and funneled through his core beliefs. That is why I favor the presuppositional approach as our first defense, and also as our most effective offense. It is only when the unbeliever sees that his world view cannot make sense of the important issues in life, that what he believes is contradictory to what is real, that the reason for his reasoning cannot be sufficiently explained, that the evidential arguments will be more readily accepted. In saying this, I speak in general terms for I know that every person is different and the proofs that appeal to one may be ineffectual for another, and unless the Holy Spirit is actively working in a persons life there is no amount of proof, no matter how good, that the unbeliever would accept. You made a comment about challenging some of your students to take part in these forums. I hope they do. Usually the Christian is lacking on the On Faith forums, or he/she is ganged up against so that he becomes inundated with replies and attacks. But it is a great way to learn more about our particular faith – Christianity – for any weakness in what you believe is usually exposed quickly and makes you search for the answers.Blessing in Christ Jesus!

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio, “No, because belief involves taking a position on the question. Non-belief is about taking no position.”I disagree. ‘Disinterested’ or ‘No Comment’ or ‘Pass’ all would qualify as taking no position. Non-belief is a negation of the belief in question. It is a refuting of it in the least. It is a position.”But my point about intellectual sloppiness still stands – the concept of “spiritual” existence is unfalsifiable, whether this existence is defined as separate or integrated. It’s unfalsifiable in the sense that any evidence that may appear is compatible with the hypothesis.”You will have to elaborate. If ‘thought’ can be married to the physical form of the body, or ’emotion’ suffuse that body with sense, yet only while that body is animate and living, then a “spiritual” existence, (yet to be verified and measured, given), could be theoretically quantified upon gaining that ability. “You want to define belief as not known, which is reasonable. However it is common and normal for people to view their beliefs as true! We all do.””You seem to be using “belief” to mean the holding of a proposition for any reason.”Essentially yes. We hold beliefs that are provable as well as ones that are not. I believe I am breathing. I believe I love you. I believe in my spiritual nature. I believe exercise in the sun is the best way for me to stay healthy.”It may be natural to hold some beliefs and not care whether they are factual, but it’s still irresponsible to do so. The goal is to pursue accuracy in one’s propositions to the best of one’s ability, to examine them and discard ones that aren’t supported by evidence.”Now that may well be the extent of your interests, and certainly is a statement of your ‘belief’ of what our “goal” should be, but I am sure that you hold beliefs, (like this one!), that are not demonstrably provable but you maintain all the same, perhaps for lack of a better assumption. All the same. We live as a compilation of what is ‘known’ and what is ‘believed to be true’. All of us. Even the agnostics and the infidels and the Christians! 🙂

  • Carstonio

    “If non-belief in the existence of God(s) “implies” non-belief in the non-existence of God(s), then that logic allows that belief in the not-existence of God(s) “implies” belief in the existence of God(s).”No, because belief involves taking a position on the question. Non-belief is about taking no position. “If there is indeed a ‘spiritual’ realm that could have undiscovered spiritual beingness alive in it, as thought is alive or emotional experiences are alive in the physical body, then it need not be “separate”.”That’s a valid point, and one that I’ve brought up before. But my point about intellectual sloppiness still stands – the concept of “spiritual” existence is unfalsifiable, whether this existence is defined as separate or integrated. It’s unfalsifiable in the sense that any evidence that may appear is compatible with the hypothesis.”You want to define belief as not known, which is reasonable. However it is common and normal for people to view their beliefs as true! We all do.”Not quite. You seem to be using “belief” to mean the holding of a proposition for any reason. I’m using “belief” to mean the holding of a proposition for reasons other than evidence, even when evidence exists that supports the proposition. I don’t know of a good word that specifically designates the latter type.

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio, Thank you for your reply.”That falsely implies that non-belief in a position is really a belief that the position is false or incorrect. It should be possible for a person to not believe in either of the two possible answers to the gods question (do they exist or do they not exist).”You may indeed not belief either side of an argument, (but that usually suggests leaving room for a third possibility!). That is more difficult in a polarized issue, (either ‘God’ does exist, or ‘God’ does not could be one of these). Non-belief, however, suggests enough knowledge on the issue to choose to not believe it. So, it is implicitly refuted. I maintain my position that non-belief is a position.”The existence of thought and emotion do not automatically grant plausibility to the idea of a supernatural realm. It’s an interesting bit of speculation, but it has no merit as a hypothesis because it’s an assumptive leap.”To this point spirit and matters spiritual are an assumptive leap, as we can clearly see in these arguments. That is the reason for my argument. It may indeed be valid yet without verification. It could be a ‘super-imposed’ level of reality, as thought appears to be in the physical vehicle, and awaits scientific ability to recognize and qualify it. All may be a functioning congruent whole, no need for separate universes or divorced levels of reality. Spirit and even ‘God’ could exist right here and now. Without the ability to define and communicate that language we could be deaf dumb and blind to what is in fact actual.

  • justillthennow

    Part two, two you.Yes, I am aware of the differences of the different examples. My point, again, is that we all hold beliefs that are not provable and objective fact as well as those that are. Both held in thought a beliefs. You may disagree that they should be beliefs if not provable, but regardless that is not the case. To the exercise in the sun issue, that is also subjective. One could have a horrible time out in the sun and do far better in the gym. “My issue is with beliefs on questions of fact and not questions of value.”It may be a fact for the gym lover that they exercise better indoors. Yet, that ‘belief’ they are invested in. It is true for them. So, as belief is personally validated in them it become fact. And often undiscernable from collectively verifiable truths. So, the gym lover is invested in exercising indoors, only, and the Christian is invested on the value of only practicing Christianity. Belief becomes truth.As to “spiritual nature”, it is my ‘belief’ that ‘life’ is spiritual in nature, the anima of psychology, soul, eternal consciousness or awareness. What we are when persona is stripped away. Corporal life is transient, and the draw of ‘spirit’ through human history is because it is real, and more valid that the transitory nature of physicality and the senses.”I probably hold some beliefs about matters of objective fact that could be proven false or cannot be proven true. But that’s only because I have the same human imperfections as everyone else. The goal is not to have such beliefs.”Spoken like a statistician or scientific purist. That is all fine and good, but unworkable in human nature. We are a bit more complex than believing in and doing only that which is ‘objectively true’, whatever that means. Example of the gym lover or anything else you want. Buddhism may work well for some, (it does good by me), but may be toxic to another. We are individuals and to each their own. Even if alcohol is know as a toxin, look at how many drink it for it’s toxic effects!

  • Carstonio

    Part One…”You may indeed not belief either side of an argument, (but that usually suggests leaving room for a third possibility!). That is more difficult in a polarized issue, (either ‘God’ does exist, or ‘God’ does not could be one of these). Non-belief, however, suggests enough knowledge on the issue to choose to not believe it. So, it is implicitly refuted. I maintain my position that non-belief is a position.”By “non-belief” I mean the conclusion that one doesn’t have enough knowledge to hold any sort of belief about an issue. What that means is that one doesn’t believe in any of the sides or possibilities because one doesn’t know which one may be correct. “To this point spirit and matters spiritual are an assumptive leap, as we can clearly see in these arguments. That is the reason for my argument. It may indeed be valid yet without verification.”Obviously it’s possible that there may be spiritual existence. My question is, if we cannot verify it, then why regard it as anything more than a possibility? Why make the assumptive leap in the first place?”Spirit and even ‘God’ could exist right here and now. Without the ability to define and communicate that language we could be deaf dumb and blind to what is in fact actual.”Would you explain? What language are you talking about? The goal of hypothesizing is to develop explanations for observable phenomena and then test the explanations against new observations, which can lead to new or revised explanations. The flaw in the “spiritual” or “supernatural” concept is that it’s not a proposed explanation for observation. It’s speculation driven by subjective value positions about human existence, and the speculation could be accurate or it could be inaccurate. Since people define those concepts as forever beyond human detection, there are no observations that would drive any proposed explanations. So we don’t know the accuracy of the speculation.

  • Carstonio

    Part Two…”So, the gym lover is invested in exercising indoors, only, and the Christian is invested on the value of only practicing Christianity. Belief becomes truth.”My point about objective fact is that it exists independent of human belief. A rock or a mountain exists whether or not one believes they exist. A person’s investment in a particular belief is separate from its factual accuracy. It’s possible for the gym lover to believe that he exercises more effectively indoors only because he hasn’t tried exercising outdoors, and if he tried it he might find that his belief is incorrect. Or he might find that his belief is correct.”Spoken like a statistician or scientific purist. That is all fine and good, but unworkable in human nature. We are a bit more complex than believing in and doing only that which is ‘objectively true’, whatever that means.”You’re talking about actions predicated on beliefs. Often we do act on propositions that are either unverified or unverifiable. But my point is about pursuing knowledge about the objective universe for its own sake, trying to determine what is factual about the universe beneath all the layers of human emotion and meaning. What we think and feel about the universe is irrelevant to what is factual about the universe, although it may be relevant to us.

  • Carstonio

    I’ll have to do this in two parts…”Non-belief is a negation of the belief in question. It is a refuting of it in the least. It is a position.”That falsely implies that non-belief in a position is really a belief that the position is false or incorrect. It should be possible for a person to not believe in either of the two possible answers to the gods question (do they exist or do they not exist).”If ‘thought’ can be married to the physical form of the body, or ’emotion’ suffuse that body with sense, yet only while that body is animate and living, then a ‘spiritual’ existence, (yet to be verified and measured, given), could be theoretically quantified upon gaining that ability.”What exactly do you mean by “spiritual” existence, and what ability would be gained? The existence of thought and emotion do not automatically grant plausibility to the idea of a supernatural realm. It’s an interesting bit of speculation, but it has no merit as a hypothesis because it’s an assumptive leap.

  • Carstonio

    Part two…”Essentially yes. We hold beliefs that are provable as well as ones that are not. I believe I am breathing. I believe I love you. I believe in my spiritual nature. I believe exercise in the sun is the best way for me to stay healthy.”The first belief is provable. The second is provable only to one’s self, and question of trust for others since no one can empirically verify that another person is experiencing an emotion. For the third, what exactly does “spiritual nature” mean? And the fourth encapsulates my whole point. One can empirically show that exercise in the sun has benefits for health. But “best” is a subjective value judgment based on the empirical results, as opposed to an assertion of objective fact. My issue is with beliefs on questions of fact and not questions of value. As an example, I went through some old podcasts last week and found one that had a couple of Christmas songs. The songs sounded different to me. This had nothing to do with the recording itself, since that doesn’t change. The difference was me, the emotions I feel before Christmas versus after Christmas. If I asserted that the songs themselves were different, that would amount to disguising a belief in subjective value as an assertion of objective fact.”I am sure that you hold beliefs, (like this one!), that are not demonstrably provable but you maintain all the same, perhaps for lack of a better assumption. All the same. We live as a compilation of what is ‘known’ and what is ‘believed to be true’. All of us.”I probably hold some beliefs about matters of objective fact that could be proven false or cannot be proven true. But that’s only because I have the same human imperfections as everyone else. The goal is not to have such beliefs. The goal is to accept only those propositions about objective fact that are proven true, and to take no positions on the ones that cannot be proven either true or false. With some of the latter type, often one can act as if these are true or false, but that’s different from actually believing that they are true or false. Would you trust an encyclopedia that declared an answer to a question of objective fact to be true if no answers to that question could be proven true or false?

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio, Regarding the belief and non-belief dialogue I think we need go no further. I understand how you are defining non-belief and though I do not see you as having used it in that context it is fine. I have gotten the distinct and clear impression from you that you in fact disbelieve in many aspects of religious belief and the question of the existence of God. If you would like to frame that in an uncommitted ‘no position’ then I will leave it.”Obviously it’s possible that there may be spiritual existence. My question is, if we cannot verify it, then why regard it as anything more than a possibility?”The greatest percentage of humanity believes in a spiritual nature or essence in life. Most of them probably feel more inclined to believe in it even if they cannot validate it empirically. It is still real for them, a belief, and one that they hold as true, even unsupported by evidence. Why? We could go on about that, but it still is a commonly held, even deeply held, human belief. Maybe there is something to it. They do not let go of it just because it doesn’t fit your goal of holding only objectively supported truths.”Would you explain? What language are you talking about?”We can see and measure brain waves, quantify electrical currents, perceive activity in the brain that is attributed to thought, read emotional responses, judge tell tale signs showing emotional responsiveness. Psychologists and psychiatrists, hypnotherapists, NLP practitioners, ad men and salesmen of all kinds, have all found ways to speak to our emotional selves, and to great effect. Politicians have found ways to discredit their impeccably qualified counterparts, and know how to cause a whole country to willingly go to war even if it is against common sense. Everything that exists has a quality and a languaging.”Since people define those concepts as forever beyond human detection, there are no observations that would drive any proposed explanations.”I am not a believer that the spiritual realm is forever beyond detection. I do not know who does believe that, but most religions hold that the spiritual realm is ‘detectable’ and experiencable, though elusive.

  • justillthennow

    Carstonio, pt 2″You’re talking about actions predicated on beliefs. Often we do act on propositions that are either unverified or unverifiable. But my point is about pursuing knowledge about the objective universe for its own sake, trying to determine what is factual about the universe beneath all the layers of human emotion and meaning. What we think and feel about the universe is irrelevant to what is factual about the universe, although it may be relevant to us.”Again, you are fixated on the supreme relevancy of ‘objective reality’, and I can understand that stance. However it is not necessarily supreme. What a human holds to be true even without empirical verification is a determinant of his experience in life. It IS real, for the individual. Thought does appear to affect individual reality, as well as collective reality. And dreams, well, what goes with that? Those that dismiss the dreamworld of the human psyche without more deeply understanding the dynamics is jumping to conclusions, I believe. I do not believe that we can strip our thoughts and beliefs of unverifiable concepts, and if we could I think it would be deeply destructive to society and human kind.

  • Carstonio

    “Yet they believe. Delusion of the masses, or something real that is intuited and real but elusive…?”Intuition alone cannot tell us anything about the world outside our heads, and I emphasize the “alone” part. Intuition can often point us in a direction for fruitful investigation, but it can also point us in directions that are pointless. Without investigation, intuition is indistinguishable from speculation, since we can come up with almost any ideas in our heads. The ideas may be correct, but without evaluating them against observation, one cannot know whether they are correct. One cannot know what the weather is like by locking one’s self in a climate-controlled room that is soundproofed and windowless – one has to leave the room to find out the weather.”Now it is you that allow only two possibilities. What is your default answer, then?”Simple – “I don’t know the answer since I have no evidence either way.” I stated only two possibilities since that is how the assertion is defined. All such binary questions have three choices where the third is taking no position.”‘Objective reality’ suggests both a collective truth and experience, something inferring inclusiveness of all participants, regardless of their subjective reality.”I define “objective reality” as those objects and facts that would exist if humans ceased to exist. Emotions and concepts would cease to exist if there weren’t humans to feel the emotions or conceive of the concepts. I suppose one could dub those things as belonging to an individual’s “subjective reality” that is distinct from the universal objective one.Here’s another example – a rainy day may be sad for a child who wanted to play outside, but happy for a farmer who depends on the water for his livelihood. Both of those are subjective emotions that are part of the interior mental reality of the person experiencing them. But neither emotion is an inherent quality of the rain itself. From an objective standpoint, all we can say is that rain produces different emotions for different people. “I think that it is unnatural and unfeasable to hold only the beliefs that are provable. Love is not provable…”I must stress that I’m talking about provability only for objective facts about the universe. Love is only that type of fact for such statements as, “On this date in 1973, Person X experienced the emotion of love.” (That statement is hypothetically provable, although we may not possess the technological means right now to measure whether a person is feeling love.) Love wouldn’t exist if humans didn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in the same way as a rock or a tree or a mountain. It has subjective existence only in the human mind (or heart, if one wants to express it more poetically), so there’s no provability involved. Similarly, there’s no objectivity involved with evaluating the merits of different pieces of music, since the merits exist only in individuals’ minds. Without humans, music would be merely sounds.

  • Carstonio

    Part one…”I have gotten the distinct and clear impression from you that you in fact disbelieve in many aspects of religious belief and the question of the existence of God. If you would like to frame that in an uncommitted ‘no position’ then I will leave it.”First, using the proper name “God” presumes that either there is one god or no god at all. That’s part of the problem – it’s possible that there are many gods.Second, you seem to be framing religious assertions as though the only two choices are belief or disbelief. I’m saying that such assertions have three choices – acceptance, rejection, or no position. With religious assertions, I have believers on one side of me insisting that they’re factually accurate, and atheists on the other side insisting that they’re factually inaccurate. I don’t have the information or evidence to say which side is accurate, so I take no position. Your framing seems to assume that the default position is belief that the religious assertions are true.”The greatest percentage of humanity believes in a spiritual nature or essence in life. Most of them probably feel more inclined to believe in it even if they cannot validate it empirically. It is still real for them, a belief, and one that they hold as true, even unsupported by evidence. Why? We could go on about that, but it still is a commonly held, even deeply held, human belief. Maybe there is something to it. They do not let go of it just because it doesn’t fit your goal of holding only objectively supported truths.”To clarify, what do you mean by “spiritual”? I don’t want to assume a strict literal sense, which would be the assertion of an entity that one would call a “spirit” or a “soul.” The question here is not whether people believe in a spiritual realm, but whether it exists as objective fact. No one will give me a straight answer on that question. Either the realm exists or it doesn’t, and it’s almost like many people don’t even care whether it actually exists or not. Simply believing that it exists, or simply believing that it doesn’t exist – both of those amount to reality being whatever someone wants or doesn’t want it to be, which is deliberate solipsism.”I am not a believer that the spiritual realm is forever beyond detection.”I wasn’t saying that such a realm would be undetectable, or that it would be detectable. I was saying that people define the realm as undetectable, and I was questioning the assumption. When one questions an assumption, that doesn’t mean that one automatically assumes the opposite.”I do not know who does believe that, but most religions hold that the spiritual realm is ‘detectable’ and experiencable, though elusive.”How so? What observations or experiences do they insist are evidence of such a realm?

  • Carstonio

    Part Two…”Again, you are fixated on the supreme relevancy of ‘objective reality’, and I can understand that stance. However it is not necessarily supreme. What a human holds to be true even without empirical verification is a determinant of his experience in life. It IS real, for the individual.”My point has nothing to do with the supremacy of one over the other, but simply about preserving the distinction between the two, and determining the nature of objective reality. Two people can hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or Danny Gatton’s “Harlem Nocturne” and have different emotional experiences of the music. Those experiences are obviously “real” and valid for those individuals. The issue is those experiences are confined to the minds of those people – they don’t exist outside the mind. Even if they write about those experiences, the words are merely representations of the experiences. The key here is that the experiences don’t change the nature of the music itself. They don’t change what notes the songwriters chose, nor do they change the motivation or the feelings of the songwriters or the performers. Treating the experiences of the listeners as part of objective reality amounts to blurring the distinction between subjective value and objective reality, as if the person’s experiences are inherent in the music.”Thought does appear to affect individual reality, as well as collective reality.”Without disputing that for the moment, would you offer examples?”And dreams, well, what goes with that? Those that dismiss the dreamworld of the human psyche without more deeply understanding the dynamics is jumping to conclusions, I believe.”While I’m not an expert in the brain, I have read one theory that dreams are the subconscious brain’s way of addressing issues or conflicts in the conscious brain. What I would question is the assumptive leap that objects or events in dreams have any corporeal existence.”I do not believe that we can strip our thoughts and beliefs of unverifiable concepts, and if we could I think it would be deeply destructive to society and human kind.”And without disputing that for the moment either, would you offer examples of that as well?

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio, Me: “I think that it is unnatural and unfeasable to hold only the beliefs that are provable. Love is not provable…”You: “I must stress that I’m talking about provability only for objective facts about the universe.”I understand what you are saying. What I am saying in simple terms is that it is neither functional or possible for one to believe only in valid and proven objective facts, even when leaving the subjective out of the equation. One is that there is just far too much that is subjectively believed, that is colored by subjective judgment and thought, even if it is regarding what could be considered objective fact. The other is that much of what is generally considered clearly objective can become embroiled in subjectivity. Further we make untold numbers of assumption around ou role in the ‘real world’ and these beliefs are deep seated. It seems to me that if we were only to believe in the ‘truth’ of the objective we still would not have a pure consensus and we would be left struggling with perception.

  • Carstonio

    Justillthennow, you have a valid point that we cannot completely eliminate subjectivity. My point is that we should endeavor to be as factually accurate and objective to the best of our ability, and even when we fall short it’s still an important goal. The pursuit of objectivity is vital to a number of professions, such as scientist, journalist, judge and sports referee. It’s important when one is editing an encyclopedia or almanac.

  • justillthennow

    Hey Carstonio, Agreed. And my point is that unsubstantiated beliefs play a very fundamental role in individual perceptions, even of people that choose to focus on fact, rationality, logic and substantiated deduction of reality. It is impossible to get away from it, as much is not verifiable, as we have discussed. Further, what place then for the dreamer, conceptualizer, imagineer, mythmaker, creative artist? These types live and work more outside the bounds dictated by deductive reason of the corporal world. Yet their work is valuable and essential. It presses the borders of ‘reality’ and, perhaps, makes room for the unconsidered possibility. Perhaps it is clear by now, but though I love and find great reward in rationality and logic, I find without the temperance of creative intuitive emotion and thought that the world of the logical becomes far too constrained and limited. Even though, at the end of the rainbow, ( :-), couldn’t help the metaphor), I think that all will fit neatly together and will make sense.Peace to you.

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio,Good questions. “I’m not sure what you mean by “unconsidered possibility,” unless you’re saying that scientists can be inspired by art to pursue different avenues of investigation”A couple of things. My thought tends to align with the concept that what we call reality is not simply the collectively verifiable “hard” definition, but includes far more that is not contained in the physically manifest. Indeed there is a hard reality that we all live in, but that does not exclude subjective experience from valid, at least on the individual level. So thought, dreams, ‘imagination’, can have effect on self as well as on others. Magickal thinking, concepts of the ‘supernatural’ and spiritual beliefs may hold that thought can affect the hard reality, and I find myself in alignment with that.I am clear that you maintain that ‘reality’ is what it is, and I assume that you do not hold that any subjective or individual input can change ‘reality’ one iota. That is fine. The rational speaks for and is the human voice for reality as immalleable.Scientists certainly can be inspired by art to pursue different avenues of investigation. Yet the scientific brain and the artistic brain are usually operating with quite different assumptions and so, I believe, (may well be wrong), scientists are not usually also artists. And vice versa.”One shouldn’t treat intuition and emotion as though they amount to extrasensory perception.”I don’t. But I do not treat them as delusion or errant because they are not logic based on rationality. Emotion is real, and in it’s language is speaking of and to what is real subjectively, as well as in reflection with the collective. Intuition, if it lives to it’s definition, (my assumption here), is likewise real and should be heeded, in my experience.

  • justillthennow

    Hello Carstonio, Yes I am aware that you are talking of empiricism. That is fine and good. I am not arguing against it in any way, just saying that I do not believe that the parameters of ‘reality’ are necessarily defined by what is empirically qualified. That would be true for the empirical sphere, sensually ascertained. Yet the senses are tools of the body, the vehicle we inhabit while living our temporary physical, corporal lives. It only makes sense (!) that the senses are developments of the corporal vehicle to live effectively where it lives.For the most part, this is the only clear and verifiable observation that we can have collective agreement on: that we are alive in this physical universe. Most have no memory of prior experiences before ‘birth’ and we have not heard in an ’empirically verifiable’ way what comes after ‘death’. A common atheistic position is there is not afterlife, and science withholds judgment for lack of Personally I have no question of the continuity of my life after death, the continuation of what I am, for the number of experiences that I have had that have erased my uncertainty. But there is no proving of my certainty to others. For consciousness is not qualifiable, and it is consciousness, or ‘awareness’, that is the continuing thread. It is what we are. The rest is temporal, from what I see. That may sound all metaphysical madness to you, I do not know, but it is from this stance that I speak of ‘reality’, not solely the empirical.Peace.