I have to say, talking to christians is no easy task. I'm sure you understand that in your own experience. It's almost crazy-making to try to reason with someone who believes that Jesus raised the dead and walked on water. I don't know how people who debate such things don't lose their tempers and start smashing things. I guess I understand why some atheists are considered angry. They're probably just frustrated, like I am.
Anyway, here we go. We'll start with Beth. My comments will follow hers.
I apologize because I failed to inform you that even though I am Christian, I do not think the Bible is without flaws. It was written and edited by man, who is imperfect by nature, and therefore I leave room for error in it. When I stated I agree with Jesus's teachings, it was not my intention to come across as the type to "cherry pick", but to establish, given my ideals, that I view Jesus as a figure who represents righteousness. For example, it is like reading a fictional story. You see it is not true, but you can pick up on the lessons and agree with them. Now arguably, that is not sufficient enough a comparison since the foundation of my faith is the Holy Book, but I am not religious. I am spiritual. Organized religion, from my stance, is corrupt to a degree. Mind you, it does not take away from what Jesus advocated. People tend to misinterpret what he said and judge others based on their standards. My definition of what it constitutes to be a Christian appears to be different from yours. I do not fault you for that. I cannot explain myself well on that point, but trust me, I can still give myself that title even if there seems to be contradictions with how the church labels it and how I do. (if you insist on me elaborating on that then I will do my best)
I think I understand. You are a christian, a follower of christ. Spiritual but not religious. I get it. I wonder what being a christian means to you, but don’t feel pressured to explain it to me unless you want to. I already know what the church says. But how you see yourself and how you see christ is interesting to me.
Now, to address the "Is Jesus real?" question. Yes, I do think he lived. I see the parallels between him and other Gods invented (if you prefer that term) before him, but it does not change the fact he was there. Now I'm quite certain you could pull out a list of documents that show otherwise and I would not deny they demonstrate how he possibly couldn't have existed. However, I can also see evidence of him existing being destroyed as a result of how not many agreed with Christianity at the time and would not want a record of him around. I do believe him to be the Savior so yes, I believe he performed those miracles, even if science cannot completely fathom how such was possible. That goes into my belief that God is omnipotent and what that entails.
So you believe Jesus died, went to hell and rose three days later. And while he walked the earth he healed and performed miracles. Ok. Good to know. It’s not about science not being able to fathom how such was possible, it’s that the laws of the universe itself won’t allow such things to happen. But we don’t need to go into it. If you believe in miracles, we’ll leave it at that.
Now, from what I gather, you decided if there is a God they must follow the laws of the universe. I believe if there is one that they were responsible for said laws and created the universe. That is where we clearly differ. Therefore, Jesus, from my standpoint, could accomplish what he was claimed to have accomplished.
So you feel that god created the universe and he can break his own rules? Well, if jesus was the son of god, then why didn’t he do anything truly remarkable with his miracles? Why did he have to put demons into pigs, or raise one man from the dead? Why didn’t he cure cancer or blindness for all mankind? Why did he waste his miracles on changing water into wine for a wedding when he could have done great things that really helped all of mankind? They are simply stories stolen from other myths, completely unremarkable.
Religion was created by men, yes, I do concur, but how does that debunk the fact a God could exist separate of that? I wondered if you had yet dealt with that possibility and how. You told me you came to the conclusion deities were just a figment of men's imagination, but did not explain why this being could not exist. Only that men invented a concept of it or them based on the fact they could not understand how things worked in the world.
While gods were created by man and then religions were created around the gods that were created. What evidence is there for a real god separate of religion? There is no evidence for any god of any type. So you’re saying that the god of the bible is the real god, and Jesus was his real son and did the gospel stuff, but the rest can be thrown away as religion? But that’s not cherry picking? Did I miss something?
Ok, looking at religion and the concept of a supreme being separately. Let’s say religion is just a way for man to have rituals. This is confusing. But it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. It’s just man’s thing, totally made up.
Separate from that is a god who.. let’s see, created the world, but keeps to himself/herself/itself? It has never contacted humans and doesn’t think about being worshiped, and basically leaves his/her/its creation alone? Is that right?
Well, that is what is called Deism. Ben Franklin and Einstein were Deists, if I’m correct. But you are a bit different than the classical definition:
- Deism: a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme god created the universe, and that this and other religious truth can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for faith. Deists generally reject the notion of divine interventions in human affairs - such as by miracles and revelations.
- Deists typically reject most supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and tend to assert that god (or the supreme architect) has a plan for the universe that is not altered either by god intervening in the affairs of human life or by suspending the natural laws of the universe. What organized religions see as divine revelation and holy books, most deists see as interpretations made by other humans, rather than as authoritative sources.
So, you have mixed deism with christianity to come up with your own thing, I guess.
I go back to my original answer on all of this. There is zero evidence for any kind of supernatural, or a supreme being of any sort by any name. There is no evidence for gods or demons, an afterlife, angels, miracles, etc. So I side with science and evidence. There’s no evidence in all these years that we’ve been conscious on this planet. There are no gods.
That’s not to say that I couldn’t be shown extraordinary evidence to prove the existence of a god. But the evidence would have to be pretty convincing. So far, there is none. That makes things rather simple from my perspective.
1.) I cannot view the Bible as free of flaws. My example of reading a fictional book was faulty now that I think about it because I do believe Jesus existed and he was the Messiah, meaning that I do believe part of is true. This is not cherry picking, as I am able to distinguish what is fact from what is not. I also take on the literary/allegorical perspective of the creation story, meaning the evolution theory and God could co-exist. I do not see science as a direct enemy to my spirituality.
2.) I understand the conflict with my saying I'm a Christian and not being religious. However, there is only this problem if I follow their doctrine completely, which provided what I told you, I do not. Their definition of Christianity is not mine. I am spiritual because I seek to separate the deity from how man markets them. In other words, I try understand them through questioning. Through challenging. I am not one to blindly follow.
1. Just one thing. How do you know what is fiction and what is true? What do you do to decide? This is fascinating to me. How are you able to see the truth amongst the fiction? Why isn’t anyone else able to do that? So the creation myth is a story told to simple people back then. I see. But please answer how you pick the bible apart from fiction and truth.
2. No, I totally get saying you’re a christian without being religious. You follow christ, not the church. But where do you get your definition of christianity? And how do you know you’re right and they are wrong? What do you mean by questioning and challenging. Who do you question and challenge?
Also, I do understand what cherry picking is. You seem to equate it with only using certain verses of the Bible to back what you are saying, but excluding the rest. When you think the Bible is completely true. That's cool. I think you are missing my point though - I do not believe the Bible is entirely true. However, given the evidence that shows Jesus was a real person who actually lived then I wouldn't doubt the New Testament. Now, as far as his miracles go, that's strictly a matter of faith. The creation story, in light of recent theories, has been examined in a figurative way to work with the evolution one. I agree that could be valid regarding the debates over the two beliefs. Why can't it be they co-exist? That's what bothers me. People always have to separate them.
What you’re saying about the bible is classic cherry picking. You pick out the parts of the bible that suit what your preconceived conclusions are and you discard the rest as irrelevant. That’s cherry picking. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
I recommend this well written article about the jesus mythos: The Other Easters
You’ll see that there is ample evidence that jesus was simply an amalgamation of many different pagan religious concepts of the time. I contend that there is very little evidence, if any, that such a man walked the earth. I just had this discussion and wrote about it here: Oh Jesus.
As I mentioned in that article, if Jesus existed why are there zero contemporary references to him? And why didn’t jesus write anything down himself? It would suggest he was illiterate, but why would a god-man be illiterate? It makes no sense. The evidence is shaky at best, but honestly I don’t see it. It just isn’t there.
Also, no matter how hard people try to reconcile the idea of the creation myth with evolution, it doesn’t mesh. Why do people need to do that? It’s a story told and written by people who had no concept or understanding of science. Of course it doesn’t make any sense. Whatever you can shoehorn into the theory of evolution is simply luck on the part of the iron age storytellers.
Science and religion don’t mix. They are like oil and water. One is based on faith, indoctrination and belief. The other is based on observation, experimentation and evidence.
I can see why you might come to the conclusion I am a deist. It does deviate from the standard definition, but you have to understand beliefs are not always able to be accurately labeled. If there is any example of this then it is me. I have spoken to many who get frustrated with the fact I call myself a Christian yet stray from that norm. I call myself that not because of the religion, but because the God that I see existing matches the one described in the Bible. Omnipotent. Just. Loving. I'm sure you can point out, using the Bible, all the things that contradict what I just stated. However, the Bible was written by man. It is therefore logical to believe it is not "divinely inspired" as claimed by many of my faith. If God is as he declares himself to be, then none of what you would refer to would matter.
I agree, beliefs are quite individual. But when you call the biblical god omnipotent, just and loving I really have to wonder if you’ve read the bible at all. That god is none of those things. In fact he is anything but. Of course you don’t want me to quote the bible because you will say that each of my quotes of his jealous rages, his lack of omnipotence, his lack of justice, and his general hateful, extremely human personality is the part of the bible that man made up.
Outside of the bible which we agree was written by flawed men, where does god claim to be just, omnipotent and loving? You can’t have it both ways. I refer back to classic cherry picking.
You asked me once again, how I distinguish fact from fiction. Simple, I use evidence, like yourself. There is evidence Jesus lived. As I stated previously, it is a matter of faith to believe he is the son of God and not just a person.
What evidence are you using? The bible, which you claimed was written by man? Where is the evidence that jesus lived? There is none. Not a single contemporary reference to him, even though the Romans of the time were meticulous record keepers. The gospels were written decades after the supposed death of jesus, which conveniently went unrecorded. All “evidence” of an historical jesus is hearsay. Not fact.
When I question or challenge, it generally has to do with the Bible. For instance in the Old Testament it basically says to be homosexual is a sin. Now, I do not understand why someone who is born with that sexuality should be condemned to hell by their own creator, now do you? Of course not. It is unjust. So how can that verse be "divinely inspired"?
Jesus himself said he came to fulfill the law, not make a new one. He stood by the old testament laws. He never once said a word about homosexuality. So if you take all of that together you have to think he never refuted the Leviticus laws because he agreed with them and didn’t think anything of them. Your rationale is based on your own feelings and morals. It doesn’t have anything to do with what was believed when Leviticus or the gospels were written.
No, I think if god makes someone gay, then the least he can do is not call it a sin. Animals show signs of homosexuality too, which says it’s simply a part of nature. But since I think the whole concept of a god is unfounded, I don’t know how you’d expect me to answer it. But to pick out the Leviticus verses as man-made is, once again, cherry picking, when you will go to jesus’s words in the gospels and quite easily call them true and accurate.
So that's that. A lot of the comments I wrote above were just sent to Beth so she hasn't had a chance to respond yet. When she does I'll be sure to share them with you. I tried not to be harsh, but some of this just seems downright illogical and wrong to me. I tried to be nice but let me know if you think I was too harsh on her. Honestly I don't know how I could have been nicer though.