Conversations With christians - Beth 2 - Down The Rabbit Hole

funny-pictures-your-cat-should-be-doused-in-holy-waterHello everyone. I heard from Beth again today and will share our further exchange with you in a minute. After I posted the first conversation with her, she and I corresponded at least once more that night. So the following exchange is actually a few emails back and forth. I hope I can keep it straight for you so that it all makes sense.

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.

15 comments:

  1. I've always wondered about the whole, god's perfect, but humans are imperfect, so the Bible is tainted, but not completely, and I get to pick which parts where tainted...

    A perfect being wouldn't depend upon an imperfect method to get his word across. A perfect being would use a perfect method, otherwise, he would thusly be imperfect.

    Along that, a perfect being could have just ZAPPED the Bible an all it's entirety in all languages that will ever exist in complete perfection down to Earth.


    But then there's also this. If they are able to determine what is true and what is false from the Bible, what use do they have of the Bible? It amounts to saying, "I know what god really intends" and if you already know what god intends, there is no purpose to the Bible.

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  2. I don't think you were harsh on her Neece, your tone was firm but respectful.

    And I agree with this from your post:
    "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."

    and what GM Nightmare said:
    "If they are able to determine what is true and what is false from the Bible, what use do they have of the Bible? It amounts to saying, “I know what god really intends” and if you already know what god intends, there is no purpose to the Bible."

    and hope that, in addition to recognizing that she IS cherry picking and is just not owning up to it, Beth takes this point. If she doesn't take the Bible literally, if she is after all just viewing the Bible through her own interpretation of right and wrong, then what is the point of identifying herself with the Bible? She may, in spite of his support of slavery and his urging for his followers to abandon their families in favor of following him, find Jesus to be an inspirational figure. But there are other inspirational figures. Why the attachment to this particular Biblical one?

    One of the films they showed at yesterday's Atheist Film Festival (fun!) was Julia Sweeney's very funny monologue "Letting Go of God" (which I have seen several times, love and would highly recommend to anyone, believers and non, who haven't seen/heard it). Julia talks about one of the numerous concepts that she worked through in her progression towards nonbelief, that of the idea that the Bible is "psychologically true". As she points out, the same could be said of the Iliad or the Odyssey, so why are they any less true than the Bible?

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  3. I agree. A perfect being would create a perfect book or pamphlet and make sure every human got it automatically or something. Like you said, they'd use a perfect method to give us their perfect information.

    I also agree, if you only pick out the parts that you deem "good" from the bible, then why do you need it in the first place. Excellent point. Right, you're therefore saying you know what god thinks and wants. I wholeheartedly agree.

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  4. Exactly, Barbara! Why not read true philosophical works? They have more merit, you'd have to do less cherry-picking to get around the slavery, rape, murder and general hate and malice of your god, and you still get your thoughtful morals.

    I've never seen Letting Go of God, but I was just told to see it again so I will have to hunt it down. I've never heard of the bible being "psychologically true" which I contend is just a radical cherry picking technique, if I understand it right.

    My husband always says you'd be better off reading Aesop's Fables or The Lord of the Rings to get your morals and stories. They are much more substantive than the bible.

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  5. Wow. What a Pandora's Box of things to believe... I wonder how Beth keeps it all straight.

    The idea of "knowing" which parts of the bible are true based on what you want to be true has to be the biggest end run around logic I have ever heard (And this isn't the first time I've heard it...). It's a bit like wanting to have a million dollars in your bank, and then being surprised when your statement arrives and you've got what's left of your last paycheck after rent and Netflix fees have been taken out.

    Oh yeah. Watch or listen to Letting Go of God. It's awesomely funny.

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  6. Interesting bit about the cherry picking... and the "some parts are true and some aren't." That's a fundamental problem with biblical literalists vs. non-literalists. If you accept that some parts of the bible are allegories, how do you distinguish between allegory and fact. In some cases, the text has Jesus saying so while he's telling a story, but other than that... who's to say?

    Plus, as you well know, the bible is filled with vile stuff. I forget who said it (probably Hitchens), but if you got rid of all the nasty stuff and kept all the good moral rules and worthwhile parts, you'd be left with a pamphlet.

    Sure there's some good stuff there. You can also find prime rib in some garbage cans, but that doesn't make the garbage can a four-star restaurant. ;-)

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  7. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how people will justify their beliefs simply because they have a need to believe… I talk about this same issue in my book: the cherry picking, putting stuff together that has nothing to do with anything, justifying the impossible… But I guess, people who want to believe something, but believe nothing will believe anything.

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  8. I think you could pluck a random book off the shelf in the self-help section of any bookstore and get more wisdom on a few pages than you would in the Bible. You wouldn't get the poetry - the King James version is a nice piece of fiction in many places - but you'd get more wisdom.

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  9. The cherry-picking demonstrates a good point: if you're choosing, you have some criteria for choice. Those criteria can't come from that from which you're cherry-picking - therefore your decision on what's moral or "god-inspired" and what's not is based on something outside that which you claim to be the word of god. Therefore, your morals aren't based on the Bible, but on your own brain.

    The claim that morals "come from" God is harder to dispel, but it's easy to make the argument that they don't "come from" the book. Another easy point to make: "So you're telling me that if it weren't for that book there you'd be stealing, murdering, lying, pillaging, etc? Stay away from me, nutbag."

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  10. Hi Eric. Well, I don't know. I think most self help books are pretty vapid and downright unhelpful. There are a lot of great books out there that I've gotten wisdom out of, and none of them were religious. So I agree with you.

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  11. Thanks Steve. Yeah. That's a great description.. Pandora's Box. I like that.
    :)

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  12. a pamphlet. HA! LOL! Nice analogy too. :) Thanks Dan

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  13. Thanks for the comment. :)

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  14. Thanks Johnny. :D
    I'll have to ask her more about where she is and where she's come from on her spiritual journey. Although I have a feeling I won't hear from her again since this last exchange.

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