Christianity, the Bible, and even its other monotheistic relatives, Judaism and Islam, have come under fire for being judgmental, narrow-minded, primitive, ignorant of modern scientific knowledge, and even detrimental to life. Many more radical atheistic voices totally trash the "barbaric God" of the "crude Bronze Age texts", as Gore Vidal put it, who said "thou shall not kill", then told the Israelites to kill others, or killed people Himself. One magazine editor or owner more recently mentioned this, saying that were are being "f---ed up" by "monotheism", and would be much better without it. If that is such a double standard, then right away, we can ask, does this person tell any children he may have ever had not to curse like he does? Or stay up late, drink, smoke, have sex or any other adult activity he may have done? Of course, precisely one of the main things people object to, is the parent-child analogy of monotheism, with God as "father", and us as "children" who must obey. People have been taught all their childhood that they had to obey their human parents, and then when they "grew up and moved out on their own", they could "do as they pleased". So to tell them now, "no you still can't do as you please; there is yet this even greater 'Parent' who demands obedience and threatens punishment (much worse than anything our parents could do, in fact); it is a great affront, and seen as controlling or enslaving people, or at least dragging them back to childhood, instead of being responsible mature adults, while the leaders of this religion, are often seemingly the ones doing whatever they please. But we cannot do anything we wish anyway. We want to explore the universe, but there are laws that prevent us from doing it in a human lifetime now. There are ways around this (such as traveling close to the speed of light), but other physical constraints we have not yet resolved constrain us. So let's face it, we are limited beings subject to laws imposed on us from some higher source. The only argument then is who or what is this higher source, and what does "He" or "It" demand of us? A good question to start with is What really is man's problem, and what, if any, is it's solution? So just what is monotheism really doing so detrimental in society, let alone one where it has been relegated to some outmoded irrational relic from the past; where the opposite of just about everything it stands for is popular and celebrated as "freedom", "enlightenment", and even "love"? People talk about "objectivity" over "subjectivity" or "bias" (with the "religious" assumed to be operating from emotions such as fear and guilt, and therefore not "objective"), but it seems like these statements are themselves biased. What does a society that champions freedom of belief have against this particular belief?
One of the things that is hated the most by the world is what is known as "the scandal of particularity", or Christianity's claim to exclusivity, meaning that all other spiritual paths are "wrong". In today's pluralistic world, it's like there's all these "religions", and I'm saying that only mine is "right". This is likened to someone pointing to all the races and cultures of the world, and saying "only mine is good", or is "superior". I grew up under the influence of "religious" people; most of whom were basically my grandparents' generation, including my maternal grandmother. They of course went to church on Sunday, prayed, read the Bible, and had other do's and don'ts in their lives. I, as a young child, learned about God, Jesus, the rebellion and casting out of Satan; Noah, and Heaven and Hell from these people at the same time I was taught about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy from my non-churchgoing parents. All of these beliefs were very similar. An all-seeing, almost omnipresent supernatural being rewards you if you are good, or passes by you if bad. You couldn't see them, but you shouldn't only believe in what you could see; in fact, 'believing is seeing!', as popular platitudes claimed. As I grew up, my father introduced me to the nature shows on TV, which were naturalistic, and operated from an assumption of evolution as fact. It was easy to believe, when they used to hook chimps up to devices to test their intelligence, and I noticed that they did look a lot like us. As I had believed what grown-ups had told me before, so I did again now. These were "educated" intellectual scientists, as opposed to little old church ladies who weren't exactly the most intelligent people, and always brushed aside science and rationality, and pushed "faith" without reason. So it became obvious that there were no supernatural fairies, rabbits or flying reindeer accompanied by fat old men who somehow appeared in your house. But then Jesus and God went right out along with those other characters. "Religion" became then just some myth these old people believed in with no rational cause, out of cultural or psychological comfort, as a "crutch", "to get them through life". It was all "abstract". Many didn't even completely live it. It was shocking later on to learn how many of my parent's generation were born out of wedlock, and that people I thought were full siblings had different fathers. Even my godly grandmother, who "never" cursed, I found, did sometimes, when she thought I wasn't listening. Then there were the other religions; many of which were even worse, with all sorts of strange practices, customs, rituals, special things they wore, and special periods of time. Good for them, but we all knew that all of that was just some personal preference that was really not necessary, or logical. Respect them; don't make fun of them, tolerate them, etc. But if they come and try to tell us how to live, then they are to be dismissed. We don't need any of that. Nature created and sustains itself, it seemed, and it's only instruction to us is "survive!" Anything about some higher intelligence could not be known from the scientific evidence we had. This was the true belief system, but we wouldn't put it that way, because we criticized the "religious" for telling us what is "truth"; and "consistency" (practicing what you preach) is certainly the highest virtue! But in practice, we were right, they were wrong! They didn't know. They had to "prove it", but couldn't. They were "subjective" or biased by some blind "faith" borne of psychological conditions. So there was "reality", and then there was "religion" in contrast.
So "religion" has taken on an almost negative connotation; as some fairy tale that people believe because it makes them feel good somehow, but it isn't really "real". Many Christians in their preaching or teaching now tend to shy away from calling Christianity a "religion", favoring "relationship" instead, and this I tend to go with. The premise is that God is just as real as a friend or loved one we have a relationship with. We don't consider our belief in the reality of these people "religion". But of course, the world won't buy it, because once again, you can't see God, nor really "prove" Him, so this is just a personal "religion". "Reality" is assumed to be only what we can see and touch. Ironically, many people who advocated this philosophy have taken on in recent years an acknowledgement of "spirituality", but this is based on a completely personal self-improvement orientation, which is precisely what they regarded the old Christians' faith as. Many, for instance in pop-culture, frequently refer to "finding God" in magazine interviews. They obviously are not observing the Bible-based Judeo-Christian-Islamic morality or definition of God, but borrow some of the concepts, and basically view God as a benign grandfatherly figure who helps us love ourselves (the main goal in life), and gives us some sort of "strength" to make it in our profession, but expects little else from us. Multiple serious "relationships" or even marriages that always break up after a couple of years? (even if children are produced from them). It's just a "growing experience"; learn from it and try the next partner. It is basically up to each individual to choose his own path, so the exclusive claims of the Bible (taken literally) as the "truth" for all are still rejected as "abstraction". Astrology also figures prominently in pop-cultural religion. How do personality types seem to be shaped by which season one is born in? I will not knock it (I fit the perfect "Capricorn" stereotype of being "stubborn", as do other Capricorns I know). Perhaps there is some kind of radiation coming from the part of the universe in which that constellation lies. Perhaps it has something to do with the seasons on earth. Who knows? But the Bible, while acknowledging the stars as being useful for us to map and determine "signs and seasons and days and years" (Genesis 1:14), still does not place in them the power they seem to be given by astrologers today. God made the stars, and whatever we can discern by them, the glory goes to Him.
One reason Christianity seems so much like just another "religion" because so much has been added to it. Really, the only "rituals" are baptism and communion; both of which have understandable, practical purposes. Baptism was a public confession of conversion. This is discussed at Altar Calls Baptism and Conversion. Communion was basically a common meal for those meeting together. It was instituted by Christ during a Passover seder, and this is where the bread and wine came from. There is evidence that this was only an example of Christians' "love feasts", which was reiterated by Paul. He describes in 1st Corinthians people being gluttonous, and this sounds like a meal (which includes "bread", meaning solid food, and a "cup" of something to drink), not small wafers or crackers and little vials of wine or grape juice. But those elements stuck as the meaning of "communion". Speaking of "communion", "Going to Church" in the first place is to be with fellow brothers in Christ. Why should we not want to be with our fellow believers? But today it has often become something else. In older generations, it was some cultural thing; the "good" go to church, etc. Earlier, it was even a civic duty. It all seemed to be centered around a building with a steeple, and a professional clergy who demanded your money and obedience. People then figure "God is everywhere, isn't He? So why do I need to be in a Church?" But the original Church of the Bible was in many ways different from what we have seen over the centuries. Sunday isn't really even a particularly special day, by Biblical mandate. It was the day that people first discovered the empty tomb. This began in the early morning, and Christ was already risen. As days actually began at sunset in the Bible, the actual timing of the resurrection could have even been on Saturday night. But the Church assumed it was Sunday sunrise, and then made a weekly celebration of it, as the "eighth day" of newness following/superseding the old seventh-day Sabbath of rest. People also deny this miracle, insisting the disciples must have stolen the body. The Bible account of it even anticipated this claim from the unbelieving Jews. The biggest proof this couldn't have happened, is remember how cowardly they were while Christ was being arrested? They expected the Messiah to rise up and thwart the Romans and make Israel the world leader right then. Anything but to die, and then His followers die themselves with Him. So they all fled. Yet after the resurrection, they were suddenly bold, and began to carry the message to the whole area, eventually dying for it with honor! They were timidly hiding right up to the time the first reports of the empty tomb were being made. When they saw for themselves, they were transformed by the power of God. There is no way all of them would suddenly get the idea to fake this, then spend so much time propagating it, and even die for it. If they were human enough to fabricate it, they would have been too human to give their lives for it. After all, what was in it for them? (the basic question humans naturally ask). Of course, people claim it was all a fanciful myth. There probably was a real Jesus, and he possibly did die on a cross. But decades later, people decided to turn this into this great story. The latest claim now that has been passing around now is the "Jesus Myth Hypothesis", where people just copied the Egyptian legend of Horus, with the parallel accounts of virgin mothers and child, death and resurrection, and pasted Jesus onto it. Perhaps for some political reason, like to upseat the Romans or the Jewish Temple system. The Bible, however, points to Jesus as the fulfilling of a divine plan that had been known about from ancient times, but distorted into those older myths. He is the fulfillment of them.
But still, people seek for the "real" Jesus and various groups have proposed him having wives, and of course, going into the far East or Egypt to learn religion. (we could ask the same things they ask of us; "Which one is right? Why can't scholars agree?"). It is also claimed that the Gospels were written decades after the events, not even by the writers they are ascribed to, but by someone who knew someone who knew them. A lot of mainstream Christian scholars have accepted this, but in reality, where did all of this speculation come from? Higher Criticism; a movement that tries to make the Bible more credible according to science. Once again, how objective really is this? The same thing I point out to Muslims who make similar claims; most of the information we have about Jesus comes from these Gospels. He is mentioned in secular histories from the time, but that is very un-detailed, and it does not contradict what the Gospels say. There has even been evidence cited regarding an acknowledgement of the empty tomb, with no time for anyone to get past the guards and steal the body. So if the Gospels are all fabricated myths, then where do we get our knowledge of Jesus from? Why would this otherwise obscure figure who was no greater than anyone else get so much focus in the first place? People, while calling God or "religion" myths, are themselves making up their own myths to try to counter them. Once again, if you distrust "men" so much, why believe one group over the other? (i.e. scholars and others who dismiss or "re-image" Jesus over the men who wrote the Gospels?)
One mythologist who has gained popularity in the debate is Joseph Campbell (1904-1987). his The Power of Myth had become one of the surprise best sellers of the late 1980s, and was made into a series of TV lectures as well.
For Campbell, the "power of myth" is the power of metaphor and poetry to capture the imaginations of individuals and societies. Myth supplies a sense of meaning and direction that transcends mundane existence while giving it significance. It has four functions (p. 31): The mystical function discloses the world of mystery and awe, making the universe "a holy picture." The cosmological function concerns science and the constitution of the universe. The sociological function "supports and validates a certain social order." Everyone must try to relate to the pedagogic function which tells us "how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances."Summing up his teaching, it is hypothetically asked, "How does one get to control a huge amount of people, and with no proof? Just come up with 'God', and they can't challenge it, and you got 'em!" This is a hypothesis that has been true many times. Much control and abuse has been done in the name of religion, Christian and otherwise. But this is now being taken to presume that all religion (which has no "physical proof") necessarily falls into this category, and is therefore proven to be a "literally false" myth. If one then uses the common response of a personal experience; that's just "emotional". This parallels the "proof" of evolution on the other hand, based on finding "intermediate stages" of the hypothesis, and taking that as almost absolute proof. In both cases, a lot of "jumping" to hasty conclusions is done. So one could throw back the hypothesis, and point out how could you control masses as a counter-action towards the control of the "Sky-Godders"? Just go back millions of years and hypothesize on some process that no one was around to have seen, interpret archaeological findings as absolute proof of it, and the average person does not know enough to be able to challenge it, and certainly cannot disprove it; so there, you got 'em!
Campbell defends the benefits of myths as literally false but metaphorically true for the broad range of human experience. But certain myths are (at least in part) to be rejected as "out of date," particularly the personal lawgiver God of Jews and Christians. Biblical cosmology, he thinks, does not "accord with our concept of either the universe or of the dignity of man. It belongs entirely somewhere else" (p. 31). (BOOK REVIEW A SUMMARY CRITIQUE: The Power of Myth; http://www.equip.org/free/DC092.htm
In the rest of the Christian life, prayer is talking with God. Reading the Bible is to learn from Him. Otherwise, a Christian is to just live his life, be a good citizen, love and do good for others —everything a person would want their neighbor to be. The problem with people in going down this path themselves is in some of God's laws, which seem to run counter to things we often feel like doing. So we just dismiss it as being just "another" religion, which is good "for you; but not for me", and hide behind "relativity". But if you understand what this belief system was intended to address, you would see that it is not as "abstract" as it may seem. Even its moral rules make sense.
The proclamation, of all of pop-culture, from education to the media, is that "religion" is "about peace" and "love". This becomes the definition of "true religion", and what
this is leading to is "all religions are essentially the same", therefore "none
have any exclusive claims to truth". All religions are "about peace", and also "love", so there is
no room for "judgment", "morality", and all of these other "subjective" issues. A Christian can be
having an argument with a non-Christian, and if he raises his voice a bit, the other person may
say "Oh, you're supposed to be a Christian! Where's the 'love' at? That's what your religion is
supposed to be about. You're just another 'phony'", or similarly point to some personal flaw that
person has. So the definition of a Christian as one who places his trust in Jesus Christ as
forgiving his sins is thrown out the window, and redefined (and thus manipulated) by an
opponent of Christianity to win an argument. So this whole secular definition of "religion" as
"peace and love", is often used to discredit those who take their scriptures literally when they
discuss morality, judgment, and exclusive claims to truth; in other words, what gives those
religions their distinction! The church has basically been compartmentalized into "its place" in society. We'll call you for our weddings, funerals, or to maintain balance during a crisis by preaching "peace and love". If you want to preach "against" something, why not focus on "hate", "bigotry", "greed" and lack of "giving"? But otherwise, keep out of our lives!
This is all based on "relativity", with "live and let live" being the main creed. But in making such a judgement, the relativist has made in fact such a "judgement" when criticizing a Christian who does not follow this definition of true religion. This type of irony you can see in the cartoon Ed Edd and Eddy, where Eddy convinces all the kids on the block that they do not need to follow rules. "No rules, rules!" was the motto. But when the brainy, orderly kid, Edd ("Double D"), alarmed at all the lawlessness, goes and tells everyone's parents, then all the moral relativism ceases, as everyone is furious. The cool kid, Kevin, who earlier shouted to Edd, "Dork Alert! Rules are for losers!", now shouts "Double Dork! You broke the number one rule! Don’t squeal!" This is one type of double standard I noticed in the world, especially when I would become Christian and debate it with my father. Even many liberal Jewish and Christian leaders are appealed to as defending relativism from more conservative Christians like the Southern Baptists. This is discussed on the Judaism page, regarding the criticism of the Southern Baptist Convention for its evangelism to Jews, and liberal and Catholic church leaders were appealed to as saying that was not true Christianity. So any evangelism of Jews is decried as "anti-Semitic"! Ironically, the Southern Baptists, who have gone further than many other [Bible Believing] groups in repenting of the errors of the past (even coming under fire from other fundamental Baptists for some of the changes), were derided as "intolerant", "bigoted", "narrow minded", etc. This confuses the horrors of the past with the validity of evangelism today. Deal with the claims of Christians as they are presented to you in their own right, not react to what was done in the past, using it to dismiss their claims altogether, without even seeing that the Christians today are doing a different approach.
This actually helps prove the Bible's teaching on the Fall and sin of man, but once again, people, decrying war and violence, but teaching relativity and human goodness, are themselves judging; the very thing they criticize, namely judgment itself. The Jews worried about Christians making their religion "invalid", and non-believers will say the same thing in defense of any belief system, but then if Christianity is wrong for saying those things are wrong, then it must be invalid itself. Then the question becomes, if it's wrong for us to say your belief is invalid, then why is it right for you to say our belief is invalid? Of course, what many do is not right out say Christianity is "invalid", but try to redefine it's central truth to just "peace and love", and claim that all the hell, judgment, and morality was just a distortion added by neurotic leaders along the way. But the Bible is clear on morality and judgement, and if you claim that that was corrupted too, then what you are doing is speculating on an original pure "Christianity", with scriptures that were vastly different from what we have today. But there is no evidence of any such moral-free, "love-only" Christian scriptures, though some claim that there are some secret texts "locked up in the catacombs in the Vatican" that would somehow disprove once and for all Christianity as we know it today. But this too is pure, unfounded speculation. (There are many texts extant, most of which claim to be additional "gospels", "acts" and "epistles", which teach all of the things people would love to see Christianity redefined as, such as mystical concepts of "inner light", spiritualistic ideas of Christ's life, etc. But these are well known to be later spurious Gnostic fabrications. The Gnostics were a sect that syncretized Christianity with pagan ideas).
If the Bible was tampered with, (as even some religions such as Islam claim), then one, you are sort of acknowledging its authority, but dismissing it on the premise of its truth being lost from textual corruption. But if that was true, how much different do you think the original scriptures were? There have been translational errors, and scholars have found these and corrected them, and they still did not change the overall message of the Bible. For instance; there was once what was called "the adulterer's Bible"; a copy that had "not" omitted from the seventh commandment, rendering "Thou shalt commit adultery"! But did this prove that adultery was perhaps allowed in the original "untampered" Bible? No, because all the OTHER passages where it is consistently condemned. So while there may have been some textual discrepancies in the Bible, and even apparent contradictions, we believe God has preserved His truth through the Bible. His truth or existence does not rest on "Matthew and Mark saw only one man or angel at the Tomb, but Luke and John saw two"! The issue is "what think ye of Christ"?
For one thing, even such supposedly irreconcilable "contradictions" as those alleged in the four Gospel accounts (especially concerning the resurrection) do have solutions. I myself recently sat down and looked at those accounts, and found that there were different groups of women and disciples who did different things at different times. There were more than one visit to the tomb by "women", and more than one appearance of Jesus at the tomb. Each Gospel would report parts of the details, and when compared, they seemed to be conflicting accounts of the same things. But sometimes, for instance, Mary Magdalene and a couple of others would be mentioned at a particular time. And then later the same gospel would say "the women", but by that time, it might not be the same three women. One or two of them may have separated, and others joined. This you would see in one of the other gospels. So when you read one of these others, you will see this group called "the women" or "they" referenced, but different acts and time frames ascribed to them. Likewise, I found that groups of disciples were called "the eleven" even when it was only SOME of them. That way, you had more than one group called "the eleven", who did different things at different times in the different accounts. (A detailed synopsis of this is at Harmony of the Resurrection Accounts)
This is one reason you cannot make such judgments against the Bible so hastily. If you look closely enough, things can come together.
Christians are often accused of "preaching hate", and there are many who have, but now any mention of Christ as the only way to salvation (which means Hell for those who do not believe in Christ), is included in this "hate", in the same vein as racism or sexism (which unfortunately had also been mixed with Christian teaching in the past). But if we are going to say that sex with whoever or whatever person, gender, age, (species, perhaps next?) is OK, and should not be "judged", then why, even if Christian teaching is "hate", is that wrong? If you say the Christian is not being true to his Bible, then that is assuming "sincerity" or "consistency" are the good, desired values. (and acknowledging the Bible's truth in those matters!) But if relativity is true, (and the Bible not true) then how can we even say that? It makes sense to have "sincerity" as the highest virtue, and the Bible does place great value on it. Problem is, we are not as sincere as we think. The heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) If you don't think so, then just think about all the "evil" or "wrong" you can so easily point out in others. People don't want to say man is a sinner because they don't want to think they themselves are sinners. They know acknowledging the sin of man, but excluding themselves would be highly arrogant. So out of "sincerity", it is just safer to argue relativity: nobody is a sinner. (Yet we will still condemn people's evil on a case by case basis, or single some individuals out as "cancer"!)
People frequently ask why there has to be a concept of "sin", with all the "moral guilt" connotation it carries. But when you look at the original definitions of the word, as used in the Bible; it should not be so hard to understand:
|LEGAL Definition ("LETTER of the Law")|
"transgression of the Law"
|>||BASE DEFINITION: (practical meaning) |
hamartano αμαρτανω hamartia αμαρτια (v) to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong (n) an offence
(v) to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong (n) an offence
|CONSCIENTIOUS Definition ("SPIRIT of the Law")|
"...him that knows to do good, and does it not..."
Some people will admit at least one exception to relativity and say something like "the only absolute is life and death. So whatever is necessary for us to survive, that determines what is good and evil". In this scenario, killing is wrong, but consensual sex between any consenting partners is not hurting anyone (in fact, it is "love" between people who care for each other) is OK. All forms of "hatred" lead to unrest, so that is bad as well. But then wait, the people who argue this will then claim killing is OK, when you are threatened (And then Christianity is long criticized for telling people to be passive; especially white Christians in the past telling blacks not to retaliate against racism). But when is one really threatened? (Especially given everything being "relative"!!) Someone breaking into your house was used as an example to me, but the way human anger is, there are many other ways people will feel "threatened" and feel justified in killing, or hurting, or other things that can lead to this. So it gets very cloudy. But then the cloudiness of this has been precisely what the relativist has been trying to prove his point by all along, right? So what it comes down to is man decides what is universally "right" or "wrong" on a situation by situation basis. (hence, "situational ethics"). If we absolutely knew there is no God, then fine. But the relativists usually don't claim there is no God, but rather that we can't really know. But with this allowance, should we so certainly claim that Christians are wrong to preach the exclusiveness of Christ? We are often told, "you can have your beliefs, just don't say others are wrong". But if this belief excludes others, then to say not to exclude others, you are saying not to have that belief, and are in fact excluding it, which is precisely what you are telling us not to do! See why relativity cannot be true, even from the relativists' own beliefs?
What I find most ironic, is the same modern Western and especially American pop-culture that preaches "live and let live" is itself the most strict and judgmental philosophy in the world on certain issues. It's all based on what's "in". Look at how women starve themselves to be as skinny as possible, based on the models and other TV and film stars, as one glaring example. This is not just to eliminate harmful amounts of fat, but is more about a "look", and the difficulty in attaining it is certainly apart of the appeal of it. Where's the "relativity" and "tolerance" at? In the streets, it's being tough. In the job market, it's being as "presentable" as you can be, with even a single wrinkle on your clothes being a permanent mark on your character. Once you're in there, it's competitiveness, assertiveness, efficiency, etc. Since I was never a really social person, there were always many other social cues (such as "playing the game") I was chastised for not following. I grew up listening to my parents preach all of this to me with much fervor, much like the old Baptist hellfire preachers they resented so much; even down to "you have to make a choice. It is either life or death; your heading to destruction (in their case, insanity or total ostracization and loneliness); you cannot sit on the fence. You must decide now!", etc. I also heard plenty of complaining about other people, and the system as well, and the way things should be. But then when I myself became Christian and started talking about morality and judgement, all I heard then was all is "relative", except once again, when the argument became whether one should kill or even lie (to get a job); then it was "the only absolute is life and death". All of this was mind blowing, and even though I found it very difficult to "prove" Christianity through all of these intellectual gymnastics, it certainly proved to me that man is a sinner who is too proud or afraid to admit it because he knows it means he should change, and he doesn't want to, plus, we all want to think we are right. There is a saying I've heard from a Christian, that man wants to be "right" without doing right. It all fell into place. Just like the world can ask how can Christians talk about "love" and "morality" when they themselves sin, we can ask how can this world talk so much about "relativism", when they too judge, often harshly, and on ridiculous issues. (And while we're at it, we can turn back on them the question of how they can talk "love" and "peace" as well, since they have co-opted those points, and think themselves to be more consistent than the Christians but are no better, if not worse!)
In fact, I found the world to be more judgmental on issues like sports. In a Christian singles group, volleyball and other activities for fun were just for fun, whether one was good at it or not. People messing up was just something else to laugh and enjoy. But in the secular high school gym, or the streets at home it was treated as if it was so important that you can't have this "loser" on your team. A person who did not do well was often kicked off of teams, and/or teased in a derogatory way. It was almost like they were a professional team, with money riding on winning. Yet, it is Christians who get tagged with being "judgmental" on "abstract" issues! Many people will despise and disrespect someone simply for not being outgoing enough. "What's wrong with them? Are they conceited or something?" (Notice how people in the world seems to have a problem of fearing that others somehow think they are 'better' than they; whether through religion, or otherwise!)
So a person minding his own business can be "judged", and this seems to be so black and white, but when the subject is "religion", only then is it "don't judge", "live and let live", etc. Nobody wants to be "offended" in any way, such as by being preached to, or even seeing certain signs of Christian religion in the public square; but the same nobody doesn't mind doing the offending towards others, including Christians. So basically what it comes down to is, when people preach "tolerance", it means "everyone tolerate me and whatever I do, yet I don't have to tolerate whatever I don't like in anyone else". Why? Who sets all of these standards? Nobody knows, but it is judged often harder than Christians do on morality; (with "hell" being failure in life, or the scarlet "IB" for "ignorant bigot", or whatever) so everyone does it, only people try to "set standards" for themselves and follow nobody else's "law", while setting the "law" for everyone else they can. One person answered "Now THAT'S something where some knowledge of evolution comes in handy. This is 'natural selection' at work". In other words, it was the mandate for "survival of the fittest" that created all of these "rules"; (hence my father's "the only absolutes are life and death"). Regardless; it's still made into some unwritten LAW practically dictated, that people are judged harshly and unfairly (no equal rights) over. Even if nature did tend to orient us that way, we still do not have to carry it on when we profess that things are really relative. (Just like nature was said to have oriented us towards "religion", but we have supposeldy "outgrown" that!)
Even with all the unanswerable questions, and supposed flaws of the Bible, it does seem to address the reality of life better than any other religion or philosophy. Despite all of the talk about relativity, most will admit that there are things wrong in life. Everyone wants to be treated certain ways in life, but not everyone treats people that way. Everyone has expectations, and a concept of "fairness' that they wish to see realized (Christian writer Philip Yancey, in addressing people's rejection of God because of seeming unfairness points to the question of where their concept of fairness comes from in the first place). People think lying or stealing a little is relative, especially if it is not killing anyone, but then if they ever found anyone doing it to them, they would want to hurt the person, regardless of the circumstances (i.e. the same "situational ethics" they justify themselves by). From this, it is fair to say, you can begin to draw up some universal absolutes. For anyone to say "aw, little crimes/offenses don't matter", he is not being honest, because he is not thinking about them being done to him, only justifying himself for past, present, or future instances where he might be the one doing them. We can say that "by his own standards, he is judged". If God is true, and he does stand before him, and his stealing something is brought up, he will not be able to say "but I didn't believe it was wrong", because then some instance of him getting angry at someone stealing from him can be brought up. (This is also touched upon indirectly in Christ's parable of the unforgiving servant). So we all by nature don't like our rights violated by others, but do not mind nearly as much if we might violate someone else's rights. From this comes all of the war, unrest, poverty, crime, corruption. Everything, barring natural calamity, that has made life in the world difficult. We are told "every single person in the world has 'problems'", "nobody's perfect", "life isn't perfect", etc. People are used to thinking "this is the way it is", and most likely, this is from random evolution (lucky everything turned out as relatively good as it did!), or a Watchmaker who set everything in motion, and then walked away, or a variety of gods who themselves are imperfect; so there is no moral judgement to be passed on it. But this treats "problems", as "neutral" rather than negative. But problems clearly are negative; something we strive to eliminate, and if we can't, then we have to adapt (even "grit our teeth") to "live with it". When we say that we, or some other person, has a "problem", isn't there something wrong with this? Hearing all of this explained to me from my parents from childhood, made it so much easier to accept the Christian Gospel in adulthood, because I saw that the much hated doctrines of Fall and sin offered a perfect explanation of it all. So human guilt and evil are real. Precisely because of this, we try to exempt ourselves. But there can be no denying that there are things seriously wrong in this world.
We seem to think the way life is only makes sense in some random chance or unknowable cause scenario, and that if an intelligent God were true, he wouldn't use methods such as sin, sacrifice, redemption, and judgment that appear to be so humanly invented. But it is we who have conditioned ourselves to think that such concepts which have human, earthly parallels, are man-made; and a real Creator would do something totally different; so we still see such a system as "silly". "Why create a world and allow sin, and not just create everything perfect?", is something that many cannot answer, and I often wish would have been the way God had done it. But just as many, even in secular philosophy (especially self-help) will attest, sometimes things being bad makes the final good better. For one thing, it makes us grow, and become stronger. This appears to be heading in the right direction, even though we still don't have the whole answer. A hint of this is "God has concluded all in sin that He may have mercy on all" (Romans 11:32). But in order to receive the benefits of the mercy, you must confess the sin that made it necessary. But people still feel this is just a "game". As Philip Yancey has stated somewhere, God, in creating, just like any human artist or sculptor, had to choose one way, in which all others were of a necessity eliminated. For what ever reason He made the world this way, this is how it is, and if we are willing to accept the way it is as coming from some random process, or something that is way beyond our knowledge, then why do we think it precludes an intelligent Creator who we cannot fully comprehend?
My parents and others claimed "the essence of all religion is the same thing (love)", but the teachings of Christ are so much more than just some misty concept of "love". The love Christianity talks about is tied in with its assessment of the problem of the world, and its solution. The scriptures of other religions, from what I have seen so far, is mainly liturgy (religious ritual), with some laws, and often some sort of creation story. People claim it is all "equal", but one religion taught that the world rested on the backs of turtles! Imagine if Christian "creationists" were trying to get something like that taught as fact in schools today! The literal 6 day recent creation and Flood is a bit more easier to believe than that, as we can only rely but so much on the dating methods scientists believe disprove the Bible (String theory now even posits that the laws of the universe can change instantly under certain conditions, which would render the whole dating evidence void. See appendix). The Creation story may resemble these myths to some extent, seeming to picture a universe consisting of water, with the earth being some sort of island in it, the sun and stars existing only in respect to the earth and being created later. But there are different schools of interpretation. One for instance, says that this was just the revelation of the sky becoming visible from an earth that formed out of the cloudy mass of dust just like the scientific theory says. (And that it is based on the limited viewpoint of the ancient writer and readers of the text. They thought the earth was the center of the universe, so God described it in a way that they would understand.) Another points out that this is a poetic description of Creation. Evidence of this is language such as "God divided the light from the darkness and called the light 'day' and the darkness He called 'night'"; and "saying to" the animals as well as man, "be fruitful and multiply". These are obviously figurative ways of representing physical realities. Even back then, everyone knew darkness was the absence of light, and procreation was a natural instinct. Here, we are simply taught that God was responsible for creating all of this. Books like Understanding Scripture, by A. Berkeley and Alvera M. Mickelson (Peabody, MA, Hendrickson, 1982) point out how the six days of Creation are in pairs, with God "dividing" things on the first three, and then "filling" what He had divided, respectively on the second three. Other Christians reject all of this and insist that it is completely literal. But exactly how the universe was created wasn't really the point. Only who, and man's relation to Him.
From the Bible, we see not just a collection of "religious" practices and beliefs, but a whole theme of human history, it's problem, and the Creator's solution. (Please put aside all the arguments of disbelief for the moment, and try to see the points I am bringing out here). We see that man was created good, (in contradiction to other religions, and even popular perceptions of Christianity, based in a large part on corruptions of it), but chose to sin when God had given him a command, and an evil being tempted the woman. Instantly, shame enters the picture, and it was sex that was hit hardest. The man and woman had been naked and not ashamed, yet now they were ashamed and hid themselves. Popular non-Christian rhetoric often pictures the Bible, the God of the Bible, or "religion" itself as introducing this shame, but here we see man was created without shame, and brought on himself the shame after disobeying God. God had asked them, WHO TOLD YOU that you were naked? As the heterodox Christian writer Herbert Armstrong wittily pointed out, "It was Satan who had been telling them things!". (The Missing Dimension of Sex, p.24) They had acquired the forbidden "knowledge"; not plain knowledge in itself, but knowledge of good and evil. Before we were in a state of total innocence, but now they were exposed to evil, which they did not have the capacity to deal with as God had, so while physically they may have lived on, spiritually, they "died". The evil one told them half-truths (that they would acquire some kind of knowledge), but omitted the rest of the consequences. This was the Fall, and mankind went all downhill afterward. Their firstborn son introduced murder by killing his brother, because God accepted the latter's sacrifice over his, which apparently wasn't done right. Within several generations, mankind was corrupt enough to warrant God's judgement, and this was the Flood, which seems to have parallels in many other religions. This can be taken to say that the Bible just copied Babylonian or other religion, or it can prove that there must have been some kind of flood that was once recorded somewhere in all people's histories. Whether it was local or global, there is no space to get into that argument here. But recall, the possibility admitted in modern scientific theory that changes on the Planck level can change the laws of nature, and perhaps old creationist theories like the water canopy in the sky, or other unrealistic sounding explanations of where all the water came from and went, really become not so impossible after all.
After the eight survivors repopulated the world, all the wickedness grew once again. Through this, God taught that destroying the "bad" people and starting over with the supposed "good" people does no good. It's man's NATURE that is corrupt, so evil will always spring back up. My father, rejecting "sin", would instead regard people who are hopelessly evil as "cancer", and criticize Christianity for teaching turn the other cheek, and "allowing cancer to take over". But trying to eradicate so-called "cancer" presupposes that man is basically good, and only some pollute it with evil. (and "Cancer" in this case is no moral judgment; but just some psychological problem the person couldn't help. Still, we have to "survive" and protect ourselves from this). But then the ones cleaning out the cancer could be mistaken and corrupt themselves. The white racists who tried to destroy blacks thought they were eradicating "cancer", and some still see us as a cancer on their supposedly "Christian American morality". The church did in fact use to try to stamp out all sinners, and that is one of the biggest things people like my father and the anti-monotheists criticize it for, but it seems we're damned if we do; damned if we don't.
So God now chose one man, Abraham, and instead of saving him and destroying the rest of the world again, God rose him up and a line of his descendants, to build a nation of people on earth to use as His missionaries to the rest of the world. He would first have to get them in line, by giving them His Laws; both universal ones, plus a prescribed set of worship and atonement rituals. People see the sacrifice system (common to almost all really ancient religions), as just some primitive human way of easing their fears of the gods, which were really natural forces they didn't understand. But there is a point in this— proving that man is fallen —with the guilt I earlier mentioned. All of men, including those whose tribes had lost knowledge of God, still had a universal guilt complex, and sensed that some form of "payment" or propitiation was necessary, though most did not know to Whom. So God used the sacrificial system to show the grievousness of sin. Sin was a great affront to Him. So the penalty was death. Why should a person who ignores or rejects God's laws continue to live in His universe? So in mercy, instead of demanding the physical death of people for most sins (some more grievous ones did have a death penalty), God set up the sacrificial system, which was universal to early man, but then specially revealed a formal system to Israel, which He gave after appearing in sort of visible manifestations, such as a burning bush or flaming mountain top. So here was God clearly revealing himself to men. Skeptics, agnostics and struggling doubters today think "if only we could see, then we would believe and obey", but here these people saw, but what happens? They continue to disbelieve and disobey! Even as Moses was receiving the Law on the mount, they fashioned an idol and said it was God. It was easier for their guilt-ridden natures to deal with some object they made with their own hands than the real, holy God. I have a close Christian friend who points out that the question for people who claim not to be able to know, is it they don't know, or they don't want to know?! So here God is showing us two very important lessons: For the non-religious, that having absolute sensible proof of God is no guarantee one will believe and obey Him; and what many religious failed to realize: that having God's direct oversight and His laws enforced does not make people or the society they make up righteous. Rightwing.html shows where even many Christians have erred here. In a similar vein, the Israelites would go on to eventually swing to the opposite extreme of rigid legalism, adding more and more stricter applications of the Law, yet there was still corruption and injustice in the land. So the whole lesson the Bible has been teaching us so far, is that man is a fallen sinner, and such physical remedies as laws, God's visible presence and other supernatural signs, or trying to "clean out the 'cancer'" does not help man's condition.
Enter Jesus. God would now raise up a "perfect man" who would keep the whole law and instruct the people. But they, by now, had expected this long awaited leader to simply fulfill their selfish desire to put down other nations and make them the world rulers. So they rejected him, and had him killed, right on their holy day of Passover. Little did they know, that they were helping fulfil God's ultimate plan of saving man. Instead of having a righteous man who would be saved while others perished, or one who would bring forth a new physical nation, or one who would give more laws, this new leader, would become the once and for all sacrifice for sin. Centuries of having people bring animals did not change their hearts, but now God would pour His Spirit on all who received this man, who died to legally pay for sins. Once again, people think this whole "legal" business is silly and manmade, but God uses concepts we can understand to teach us His plan. So God raises the Church, composed not only of Israelites, but any from all of the races in the world, who would receive Jesus. They would not still be perfect, and several scriptures show where they too would sin, plus false leaders would corrupt the church (see below) and turn it into another world religion missing God's plan, and bent on some earthly scheme. But of course, this is not the end. Jesus would return, not being born to a mother again or teaching again, as some in the world assume, but supernaturally, (Acts 1:11, Matthew 24:23-27) and receive all those who have followed him, and resurrect those who died following him. (Hebrews 9:26, 28, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) Leading up to this, the world would be on the verge of self-destruction, as immorality and political tyranny totally threaten the very existence of life. It is easier to see how this can be true now, with the massive weapons of destruction, our dependence on technology, plus the outbreaks of new diseases that can wipe out thousands. All of this, plus the political systems themselves were prophesied in symbolic form, in books like Daniel, and especially Revelation. It is fascinating once you see what the symbols mean (as understood back then) and how it came true in history. (All of this is discussed in detail: Revelation). So then Christ returns, puts down the fighting world rulers, and establishes his kingdom for 1000 years. It will be this old world the way it should have been ruled. Here God gives us His final lesson; as men today continue to blame bad environments and governments for the problems of the world; one last step is to give them that perfect government and environment they wanted, under His direct rule, with the major instigator of sin, Satan, removed for a time. This goes all well, but at the end, when Satan is released, people still follow him and rebel! So our final lesson: Even under perfect rule, the nature of unconverted man, while yielding, still harbors sin, which will erupt when the right conditions are present. This will be why the final separation is necessary. So after this is the judgment of the unsaved, including the Devil. Then begins the New Heavens and New earth. We often speak of "going to Heaven", but the Heaven we will live in is really a restored earth, the first thousand years, then a totally new earth for eternity. If one thinks that replacing this old universe with a new one is a "waste", remember that string theory teaches that it could all change instantly anyway, to what is called the "true vacuum"; a state with less tension. People even resent (often with a passion) the idea that we might be the only life God created. The Bible does not say either way, but unfortunately, many Christians assumed so, and it became another argument with the scientific/education/non-Christian community, who for some reason think it would be so "arrogant" of God to create "this big vast universe" without filling it with life. (I don't quite understand that; what difference does it really make to us that we would be so offended at the idea?) But we do not know the details of His purpose, and we are willing to accept the possibility of a randomly evolved universe that might not have produced any other life, so why put such demands on an intelligent Creator? He has not even revealed either way, so it is futile to argue about it. Deal with the problem at hand for us in this world: how to get right with him, and overcome the sin-and-guilt nature that makes us hostile to Him.
Recently, even our hope for the future has come under fire. As the popular Christian novel series “Left Behind” drew to a close with the return of Christ and destruction of many unbelievers in the world; at least one critic, New York Times editor Nicholas Kristof wrote an article (“Jesus or Jihad” 7-17-04), in which he expressed shock that Christians would look forward to the destruction of non-Christians.
While some Christians on the fringes may "celebrate" such carnage, for most, it is just a stark reality, as taught by the Bible (we didn't make it up), and the Christian mission of leading people to Christ (often accused of being "religious intolerance" as well!) is to try to show people the way to escape this fate, not to celebrate it. Now, in light of the whole theme of the Bible, as outlined above, it should be easier to understand why such judgment is apart of Christian (Bible) doctrine. The premise is, mankind has "fallen" out of God's favor, because of his sins. Once again, you can look at the world, including the religious world, and see that man generally has an idea of how things "should be", but NOBODY lives up to it! If at least some of these moral standards come from God, then right there, the doctrine of "sin" (falling short of God's standard by breaking His Law) is proven.
Once again, the whole idea that any such preaching on sin and judgment is "intolerance" is based on the widespread assumption that there are "no moral absolutes". But do you really think you believe this? Here someone is criticizing Christians for something that he thinks is WRONG. Right there, you acknowledge some sort of absolute! That is a type of judgement! Of course, it is when the tables are turned, and a Christian or other religious person accuses you of sin, THEN there are no "absolutes"; "don't judge", etc. Kristof wrote of "...a stark moral division between decent pious types like onesself — and infidels headed for Hell." While it is Christians who always get tagged with this, aside from the Hell part of it, doesn't everyone really think like that? They (you) are basically "good", "haven't killed anyone, don't rob old ladies, etc. Oh, but look at those 'intolerant' religious 'jihadists' over there! They are so mean and bad". This is basically the same type of attitude Christians are being charged with. Basically, this is apart of HUMAN NATURE (to think of onesself favorably, and look down on others), and that is part of the problem! We have sinned against God, but deny it with ideas of our own goodness, yet can see so clearly others sins.
You also have to understand, that in the context of Revelation, the non-Christian masses are fighting against the returning Christ. This is why they are destroyed. It is in no way any license for Christians to take up arms against Non-Christians now (even though there may be some radical groups, rejected by most evangelicals, who take it that way). God has shown centuries of mercy to the world, but it will not go on forever.
Kristof noted, from a comment by his colleague, about "a shift in American portrayals of Jesus, from a gentle Mister Rogers figure to a martial messiah presiding over a sea of blood". But both pictures of Jesus have been in the Bible all along. Jesus while on earth came to show God's love and die for man. But if man keeps rejecting Him, then, "He will appear a second time, not to put away sin (by the sacrifice of Himself) again, but unto salvation of those who eagerly wait for Him". (Hebrews 9:28, 26) The rest are left to judgment.
I myself do not agree with the Religious Right in many areas. For one, they do tend to glorify their own "culture", think of themselves as the "good guys" (who will be "raptured" out of this before it all happens anyway) and look down on others. Christian novels like this generally do portray conservative Christians as being the force that is "holding the peace", and once they are removed in the Rapture, then the humanists take over and all hell breaks loose. I have never gotten interested in the novels, partly because of my disagreement with what is called a "pre-tribulation rapture", which assumes practically that Christians are too good to suffer the end times crisis (which right there is a problem in their mindset). Then, of course their portrayals of Christians and humanism thinks too highly of themselves and thus ignores the fact that they too are sinful and imperfect, and some of their policies have been wrong, and humanism has said and done things that are right. (Which side, in political policies, has tended to take in consideration the needs of the poor and oppressed, as opposed to an "individualistic" focus on the "rights" of the rich and upper middle-class, for instance?) I have even referenced statements by LaHaye making “humanistic Europe”; in which many of our educators studied, for being the source of all the moral problems here, on the Rightwing page. This is definitely contrary to both Bible teachings on man, as well as actual history. (I also take issue with the Abundant Life Gospel teaching he and many others advocate, which tries to pacify Christians by telling them that God "sends" pain for good, and using this premise to claim that all fear and anger are "sins", and leads to complete coldness in Christian counseling towards suffering people coming for help; —this while, leaders such as LaHaye themselves expressed fear and anger towards political movements and changes in society). But still, all of this does not negate the sin of the rest of the world, and God's right to one day punish it.
In an online discussion of the article, what I find interesting is that one post responded to me: "We are what we are. If you think of us as God's artifacts, then we are as he made us. If we are not what we would like to be, then the remedy is up to us". Yet another post, which this person "amens", casts doubt on man's trustworthiness, saying "nature" is the safest guide in religion, instead of a humanly written Bible. “When I stand beneath the stars and look to the heavens above, I know every human being on earth is reading the same bible and seeing the same God and my faith is absolute”. “What could be more insidious, vulgar or arrogant than men who believe something written by men was more valuable than the earth that God created for his children?”
But, you know what? Man is APART OF nature! And looking at man seems to confirm the Bible's message. (The premise behind the Bible is that it is believed to be inspired by God, and that would eliminate whatever corruption you would think the men would add to it). The Bible itself, in Roman ch. 1 appeals to nature as revealing God. It is all in harmony, if understood correctly. God does not "depend" on man for "survival" as was insinuated (which presumes once again, that God was made up by man anyway), but simply reveals himself in ways man can perceive (whether written word, or nature). But it seems people would rather take nature in opposition to the Bible, because they don't like the rules, while nature, and being the "masters of our own destiny" as one of them said, seems to be more morally "relative" or ambiguous.
Also the second person has further based his appeal to nature on: “Asking us to choose one religion over another had asked us to deny our cultural heritage and the only choice we could find, was to reject religion completely.”
But “religion” is not supposed to be "culture", and the fact that it has become such, is just more proof of man's problem. That shows, that man is not inclined to simply "look heavenward with an open heart", as was claimed. His heart needs to be changed, else, he will only turn it into culture or some other symbol of his own self-oriented existence. The person also began speaking about man’s "inner world" vs. the "outer world", and concluded “My view of the imperfection of man precludes the credulous outer world acceptance of any human writings or other claims as God's word.” But that assumes the "imperfection" is all on the outside. Jesus (who this person respects) showed that it is really from the inside, when the Pharisees questioned him about eating without washing. And once again, we believe God's inspiration overrode man's imperfection in writing the Bible. If man is so untrustworthy on the outside, then how can we think then that he is so trustworthy on the inside?
So once again, we place on man such godlike status, giving him the ability to essentially save himself. Yet, at the same time, we distrust man so much, and doubt his ability to get religion right. Doesn't one cancel out the other? This is just something people should think on.
Meanwhile, LaHaye went on to make an excellent response, similar to what I had said. But in the site's editorial response page, Kristof brushed aside most of it, and chose to focus on that one issue that there is no clear answer to: people enjoying Heaven while others are in Hell.
But what are the alternatives?
1) Should we all go to Hell and suffer with the others?
2) No, they must come to Heaven. Of course! No one can go to Hell, because no one can enjoy while others suffer!
3) Such a question proves the Bible is all bunk anyway, right?
LaHaye explained it just like I explained it. These people reject God. What else should be done with them? It is just like if you had a child who completely rebelled against you to the point where he was a threat to your household. You would probably have him taken away. Does that mean you will never enjoy a game of Scrabble again, knowing your child is off in some horrible foster care place somewhere?
There are some groups like the Seventh Day Adventists who believe that the fire of Hell will annihilate it's inhabitants, so there will be no eternal suffering at all. I find that to be a much more palatable idea, but the teaching of various scriptures, especially regarding differing measures of punishment for the amount of sin/evil done, argues in favor of some form of consciousness.
One theory I have thought of is that Hell will be in a different time dimension. What we call "Heaven" is really a total restoration of this universe ("New Heavens and New Earth"), anyway. String theory says that all the laws of the universe could change instantly, given certain circumstances. So the whole order of existence as we know it, will be changed. So it will not be a matter of "God lobotomiz[ing] the faithful so that they peacefully enjoy their scrabble games without bothering themselves with those being tortured downstairs!" as Kristof put it. That hypothesis is just from our limited understanding of eternity. Yes, Christians like LaHaye often express it in a fashion that may lead one to assume that, for lack of a better way of putting it. But God warns us how to escape this, and if a person chooses not to follow God, then his loved ones will have to honor his decision as well, realizing that he chose what he wanted (though he may not want everything that comes with what he chose). God is not obligated to bring everyone to Heaven just so none will suffer while others enjoy.
Kristof also responded to one reader, who took a “That’s what the Bible says, whether you like it or not” attitude, with the old comparisons of the exclusivity of Christ with racism, and that “One of the central messages of the New Testament is the importance of love and looking after the poor, and in one of the passages that scholars believe is most likely to be genuinely from Jesus’ lips, Jesus is famously quoted as saying that the test for getting into Heaven is feeding and clothing the poor. I know lots of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews who meet that test better than many Christian fundamentalists.”
Once again, this reduces the entire message of the Bible to just feeding the poor, while ignoring everything (much) else. You would think that was the only teaching in the Bible! (But of course, all that "judgment" stuff is probably what the scholars believe is not genuinely from Him; right? Wow! How nice did that turn out!) But just look at the entire set of 66 books; for thousands of pages, and it will become quite clear that is it more than just about giving to the poor. For one thing, it doesn't say that all is well in humanity, except that there are poor who need to be fed, so just do that, and you are saved. The whole theme is that man has fallen in sin; and failing to give to others, or loving, etc. are just a couple of the good works that man often neglects, thus making him a sinner. Meanwhile, what about the rest of our sins? (With this line of reasoning, you could conclude that a person who is poor himself and cannot feed and clothe others is the one who is helplessly damned.) People love to focus on "Jesus was loving and forgiving to the sinners and spoke out against those religious hypocrites, so that's what he is all about". But let's look closer at even these incidents. With the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the accusing Pharisees. They too were not without sin, and fled in guilt. He then tells the woman "neither do I condemn you". What is next? "So go and do as you please. Since no one is without sin, sin is OK; in fact it really is not sin at all, because it proves all is relative". No, it's "Go and sin no more!" (Earlier, (5:14) He had told a person, whose sins had apparently caused him a 38 year infirmity, "sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you"). Then when later chastizing the religious leaders, he said, among other things "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law; judgment[justice to the poor, widows, etc.], mercy and faith: these you ought to have done..." (Matt.23:23) And what? "...forget about the other stuff, because that is not important at all next to these things"? No, "...and not to leave the other undone!". In both cases, all the "sin" and "law" people think are somehow negated by forgiving and mercy, are still important. One being "weightier" doesn't mean that that the other is to be skipped as unneccesary, now. And Jesus warns that if you don't repent, then worse things will happen. This is what the end time judgment, and finally, hell are about. (But perhaps it's those words that were not originally said by Him!() God will not forgive sin forever, because people decide for themselves that it is not important.
And before we move on, it should be noted that The true CONTEXT of Jesus' statement in Matt.25:31ff about "feeding, clothing, taking in" people was in reference to receiving the apostles who brought the message of Christ, which one would do when receiving Christ. The apostles travleled, and needed food and shelter along the way (1 Cor.9). Christ warned them, that like he, they would "have nowhere to lay their head" (Matt.8:20) Note Christ's statement in Matt. 10:40ff "He that receives YOU receives me. He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward". Often, in cases like this, neither the Christians, nor the critics of the Bible have taken the scripture in its context, and that is one reason there are many misunderstandings like this.
Also worthy of note is Christ's nearby statement (Matthew 10:34) "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Some out there use this against Jesus, as well as the "hate you mother and father" in Luke's account of this speech (14:26), (Which actually means to "love them less" than Jesus, as is clarified right here in the the next verse of Matthew; since Jesus is our Lord). But to those who think Christ's teachings are only about "love", and if there is a lack of love wherever a Christian is around, then he is not following Christ; here Christ says that strife will arise because of him. But as we see elsewhere, it is not necessarily the Christians causing the strife (at least it shouldn't be), but it's often the non-Christians who start trouble and discourage (and back then persecute) the profession of Christianity. This is due to their own hostility to it. In these times, when everyone is pleadng "peace and love", and believe that man is basically good, and all is relative, they should think about this fact.
No one will "roast for eternity [just] because they happen to grow up in Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or other traditions”, as Kristof complained.
Everyone does have a chance to call out to the one God and be saved (even if they have not heard of Him), though it can be hard to fully explain how. (I do go into it somewhat on my page on Predestination, where I debate a system of theology called Calvinism, which teaches that only certain individuals are appointed to Heaven, while all else are left to go to Hell. They would affirm, as Kristof said, that a person’s being in those countries and never hearing the Gospel would be a means of leaving them to damnation (as well as those who do hear, but are never given an “ability” to believe), unless God does choose them for salvation. For those who have come across this notably “hard” teaching; realize that not all agree with it, and I have scripturally challenged it on the linked page. Also, noteworthy is one rare interpretation of scripture that addresses this problem by saying that Christ has covered all of men's sins (and thus saved them) whether they believe or not. It is called "Comprehensive Grace", and I weigh it here, and hope it turns out to be true, but this is a theory that I am very unsure of.)
So once again, what we believe is not the same thing as racism. As for that issue, this is a fulfillment of the warnings about false preachers, listed below. People twist the Bible to teach anything they want. But that does not mean that no reading of it can ever be correct. (If so, then perhaps it does not really say we should feed and clothe the poor!) See the unstable ground we are on with this total relativity? Once again, people have redefined the teaching of the Bible to what makes sense to modern sensibility (feeding and clothing the poor are all that are important, and saying someone else is wrong is the worst form of bigotry). But then once again, they are here saying Christians are wrong. You may not say they will roast in Hell, but as Jesus teaches, the words we say, and what we think in our hearts can convey the same thing as what what someone else will do that we would shudder at. There is no escaping right and wrong!
So all of this is the theme of the Bible. Not just "we should love people and try to make peace". Not just "you're going to Hell for not following our rules". But the hope of an ultimate fulfillment of the purpose of life. Though there are many disagreements in Christianity (which people see as proving it is impossible for anyone to understand the Bible), orthodox Christians will agree on this theme.
Other Religions; why not other messiahs?
Most of the religions also address the problems of life and supposed solutions, but many propose many unrealistic ideas, such as evil being an "illusion". Buddhism for one came close to the issue, in its "Four Noble Truths":
•human life is intrinsically unhappy;
•the cause of this unhappiness is human selfishness and desire;
•individual selfishness and desire can be brought to an end (nirvana),
•and a method of escape from selfishness and desire.
That pretty much parallels the evangelical Christian "four spiritual laws" often spelled out on tracts, which, though there are different variations, are summed up by: man is a sinner, the wages of sin is death, God offers us a way of escape, and the method of escape. For the way of escape, Buddhism suggests the "Eightfold Path" of right views, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation. The Christian faith affirms all of these, but includes one important fact that is evident from observation: man's "selfishness" and "desire" are so strong that man is not able to consistently follow the eightfold path. So Christianity's fourth truth is that such righteousness must be imputed to us, we must be empowered directly by God's Spirit, and the source of this, is Jesus Christ, whose death fulfilled the penalty God had set up as the wages of sin, which is basically our desire-based selfishness. We still are not able to perfectly follow the ways of righteousness, but as we trust Christ and grow in him, we do begin to fulfill the eightfold path more. This could be taken to further prove that the religions are the same, except that Christianity addresses the all-important issue of the Fall (the way we got into this mess in the first place), and that God, through Christ, is the one who enables man, not him trying on his own to attain righteousness. (Even that becomes distorted by our selfishness and wrong motives). Buddhism addresses the problem, offers a solution, but omits "sin" and especially "judgement". So "selfishness" then lacks any moral guilt, and its consequence is just "unhappiness", but not judgment. For this reason, Buddhism and other similar Eastern religions have become more respectable in the modern West. It gets rid of that dreaded monotheism as people wish, with its mean cruel God sitting on a throne judging our actions. It teaches the high God is essentially unknowable, and this is precisely the sentiment of many here. Repentance from selfishness and other sins becomes, in practice, optional. If you don't do it, you may be unhappy, but you won't suffer eternal judgment; you will get another chance, and just have to wait longer for Nirvana. But still, I don't see how people figure truth can be determined by whether it's convenient or not. I guess, it's the old saying, "what works for you". But "works" to what end?
Ying and Yang also point to a truth acknowledged by the Bible. All of the "good" in this world has [at least] a spot of evil in it. It is tainted or in some way affected by sin. This is what the world which denies sin needs to realize (as well as certain Christians who look back nostalgically on past culture as a golden age of righteousness). Likewise, every evil has a grain of good (or truth) in it. This is what the Church needs to realize when they condemn certain philosophies they see as being totally false and lacking any points of truth. (Also what the world needs to know when they dismiss Christianity as some totally off the wall nonsense because of the moral or logical failings of Christians).
Still, people will wonder why God chose sin and sacrifice, which they see simply as a primitive human invented system of relieving guilt. The fact that man had all this guilt right there should tell us much. Where did this come from? The common evolutionary theory says that as the hominids finally gained intelligence, those who gained power devised religions as a sort of unchallengeable source of their authority, and invented moral rules to keep order. They developed sexual laws and a strong sense of guilt to protect women, and a sacrifice system to appease the gods of fertility or the sun, whom they saw as providing everything necessary for their survival. So this religion is purely human, and then some decided that it would make sense for there to be only one God.
But according to the Bible, it was basically the other way around. Man had a knowledge of the one true God, but when he fell, then the guilt arose, not only regarding sex and the body, but also man hid from God, and instead set up earthly objects or mythical deities who man could deal with better than this holy universal God whom man was in rebellion against, at the same time as using them to control the masses. A primary example of this is Nimrod, who after the Flood set himself up as a god. He was a "mighty hunter" —of souls, did control people and built many of the ancient kingdoms in the "cradle of civilization". This is what actually founded much of world religion. As we see, people were afraid of that mean "sky God" sending another flood! Man began trying to handle such situations on his own; to become the "master of his own destiny", while he lived as he pleased. So he needed more controllable forces to set up as objects of worship.
We see it even in the very giving of the Ten Commandments, where the Israelites were so afraid of what was happening on the top of the mountain, that they made themselves a golden calf, and said that this was "God". It was much easier for them to handle. This had already happened to all the other nations of men, and after several generations, knowledge of the true God would be almost totally lost. Yet there would remain some speculation about an "unknown god" that was the supreme ruler, as we see in the book of Acts when Paul met the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill. The sacrifices remained, however, because man knew deep down inside that his actions were wrong, and that he should be punished with death, but a substitute would be accepted to remind men that sin is not to be taken lightly; it should have bloody consequences. So it is not that primitive religion is assumed by primitive man, and then some try to evolve it into monotheism because that makes more sense (or they're just trying to control by fear). People were originally given knowledge of one God, but then it devolved into worship of mythical deities or nature. If God hadn't kept on top of Israel, you wouldn't recognize Judaism today. It would be nearly identical to Hinduism. We could look no further then fellow Abrahamites, the Arabs, who stemmed from the same knowledge of one God, but by the time Muhammad came around and attempted to restore the ancient faith, Allah, the Most High God (Hebrew Elohim) in the Arabic language became simply one deity out of hundreds, and who had daughter goddesses, yet. (Leading to the modern charge from many conservative Christians that Allah is a pagan deity, which is really not the case).
So in Israel, we constantly see it going that way in the writing of the prophets, until judgment forced them to fear God again. In light of this, many people now speak of "spirituality", which of course exists outside of Christianity. Especially those into New Age concepts. So just like the "all religion is about peace and love" argument, it is also about things "spiritual", so once again, all are the same. But there is evil spirituality as well. The evil spirituality may appear to do good things for you (improve yourself, etc). but if Jesus Christ is true, and this spirituality leads you to think you don't need him, or he is just the same as every other "avatar", or whatever, then it is leading down the same path Satanists are going. The Bible warns "Brethren, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God (i.e. are good) because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [i.e. was a real and actually died to save] is of God. (1 John 4:1-2)
Some demand that God should have raised prophets or messiahs in all cultures across the globe, not just one from among one people. This of course, makes it look like this one culture is being exalted over the others. So each should have their own, and what these people have done is give each their own, by equating "Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius...", etc. all as "messiahs", "masters" or "avatars". If any one exalts one over the others, it is virtually the same as racism, and of course, which religion has been doing this the most? (Actually, those leaders teachings are very different, but of course, if one on one hand assumes "all religion is about love", then they can all be lumped together, and on the other hand, if all religion is about hatred or ignorance, they can all be dismissed together). But all that was necessary for God to choose was one nation, which would of course fall, proving that man is fallen, and needs something other than visible proof or laws. God rose upo one Messiah out of this nation, whose followers would spread across the globe bringing the good news of salvation. For some reason, He did not see it necessary to give each nation their own directly. As the truth would spread, then leaders would be raised up from evangelized nations, who would continue to bear the light to those cultures.
God apparently had touched the Persians at least, with Zoroastrianism, the other major monotheistic religion outside Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the midst of a typical ancient polytheistic religion, a prophet arose pushing for one God. In fact, many concepts, such as the existence of the devil and the Fatherhood of God are said to have come from Zoroastrianism. This is used to try to say the Bible was purely manmade and not at all divinely inspired, but it is possible that God for some reason revealed those things to the Persians first, and then revealed it to Israel through contact with the Persians. The Persian kings mentioned in the Old Testament were Zoroastrian, as well as likely, the wise men who came to see Jesus. This religion, as well, became distorted, as more and more ritual was added; with fire, which originally represented God, being almost worshipped itself. Still, Persia, like Judea, while technically not "the West" is still apparently too close to the West to convince people that monotheism is not some Western invention.
The division and other problems in the Church: Actually fulfillment of scripture!
The fact that there is so much division in the Church is taken to prove that no one has the answer; no one can agree on "right" interpretation. Also all the things that are definitely false in the church. But when I first became aware of the prophetic scriptures, as a non-believer, I was shocked to see in various scriptures many of the corruptions I saw in the Church foretold as great evils by whom "many would be led astray". This is what tore down all my walls, and reasoning that Christianity was false because of all the hypocrites, false prophets, greedy preachers and control mongers.
Here are the full set of New Testament scriptures foretelling how Christianity would be corrupted:
•Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets...in sheep's clothing, ...[who] inwardly are ravenous wolves"
•Matthew 24:5 "Many will come in my name, saying I am Christ, yet will mislead many" (then he goes on to mention the wars that were later characteristic of the "Christian" world, and so on.) "And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold" (v.11-12). "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (v.24)
•Paul, Acts 20:28: "For I know, after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock".
•2 Cor.11:3, 4 the church was susceptible to those preaching "another Jesus" or giving them "another Spirit"
•v.12-15 "For such are false apostles; deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ..." Satan's ministers appear as ministers of righteousness, just as Satan appears as an angel of light,
•Gal.1:6-10 "another gospel". The Gospel was the good news that Christ saves us from the guilt and condemnation that plague us. Many distort it into a legalistic system of perfectionism, which is precisely what the Gospel was in opposition to.
•Phil.1:15,16 some preach Christ for totally wrong reasons— "envy" and "strife", or "selfish ambition, not sincerely"!
•1 Thess.5:1-10 when people shall say "peace and safety", then shall come sudden destruction. People think that modern technology or political developments are solving all of the word's problems, but it is only making us more blind to the realities of sin.
•2 Thess.2:1-12 Leaders would teach that Christ had already returned. False apostolic writings would even be used. Then would come the falling away, and the wicked end-time leader. This "mystery of iniquity" (v.7) was working right then as Paul wrote, and would begin a slow process that would go through the centuries up to today, and the time that the Antichrist finally does rise. It all happened just as it was here prophesied! The Gnostics flooded the Church with phony epistles, as well as "gospels", "acts" and "apocalypses" which helped bring in dualistic doctrines that corrupted the church. The physical body became "evil" in itself, rather than "the flesh" as spoken of in scripture referring to our fallen nature, and including such non-physical vices as pride. Somber monotone singing then, was believed to be more "spiritual" than the joyous celebration Judaism had used in worship. Spiritual ordinances like baptism and communion became mystical rituals, with some sort of saving power in themselves. Later, when the Church gained power from the Roman Empire, it concluded that Christ had returned in the authority of the Church and its leader, by then an overly exalted office, and that His millennial Kingdom had begun. But it was still a very human and fallen institution, and its stranglehold drove the West into the Dark ages, not any ages of light. The secular world would then challenge the very notions of church and divine revelation, and here we are today!
•1 Tim.4:1-3 lying spirits; doctrines of pagan asceticism, which greatly influenced the later church
•2 Tim.3:1-7 "perilous times", with people having a "form of godliness, but denying the power" and even "of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women laden down with sins (i.e. are impressionable out of guilt), led away by various lusts". This fits certain modern "prosperity" preaching televangelists to a T, with their demands of hundred or thousand dollar "vows" of "faith" to bring blessing to their lives!
•4:1-4 "for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled (be told things they like to hear), they will heap up for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, who will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to fables." This is how charismatic leaders would begin increasing in power among the people.
Here's a really good one:
•2 Peter 2:1-3: "But there were false prophets among the people [in ancient Israel], even as there shall be false teachers among you by reason of whom the way of truth shall be spoken evil of. And...with feigned words shall they make merchandise of you".
Precisely what we've seen going on in the church since the early centuries!
•ch. 3:3-15, 16: Peter warns that the letters of Paul would be misunderstood, and twisted to teach false doctrines.
•1 John 2:18, 19 "antichrists" who went out from the Church; 4:1-3 false prophets, and
•2 John 7-11 false teachings denying Christ's humanity (apart of the gnostic flesh-hating dualism invading the church at the time)
•3 John 9, 10 leaders begin to love "prominence" and expel true followers of Christ from the Church.
•Jude 4-19 certain persons crept in unnoticed, who turn grace into license.
Another big error Christianity has come under fire for is setting dates for Christ's return, which of course, have never come true. People then got tired of all the "false alarms", and concluded it must all be either a myth, or at best, "figurative". But Christ had warned that "But of that day and hour, no one knows; no, not even the angels of Heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36). That men would regardlessly still come in his name claiming to know the day he will return says nothing about Christ’s validity, but further fulfills the scriptures above. Also we see in a couple of places Paul criticizing the sectarianism that was developing. In 1 Corinthians 1 and 3, Paul pleas for unity, and then complains that people say "I am of Paul"; "I am of Apollos"; "I am of [Peter]"; and even "I am of Christ". This is what we see today, with all the different factions, (even down to those claiming that they are the "true church" of "Christ"!). Once again, that men would ignore the apostle's teaching and continue to divide proves his warnings about the future, rather than invalidating him. Thus, the scriptures would also prophesy the non-christian world's reaction to the corrupt Church: "the name of God is blasphemed among the [nations] because of you" (Romans 2:24); leading to "scoffers" who say "Where is the promise of His coming? For...everything continues as it has since creation" (2 Pet.3:3, 4—precisely the viewpoint of naturalism and skepticism!)
Also, many have a problem with the idea of going to church and paying money, and the leaders living well off and pressuring the people to give. This also was a later corruption, as the church originally was a home-oriented fellowship, and was largely communal (Acts 4:33). People took care of each other; money was collected foremost for struggling Christians and congregations elsewhere. (Acts 4:34,5, 6:1-3, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 11:8) Traveling ministers were to be supported (2 Corinthians 9), which meant food and a place to stay, not necessarily money, and not a regular "salary", and elders (the word means, literally, "older") were to receive special "honor" (1 Timothy 5:17), as they were probably too old to work for their own and oversee congregations too. Nothing like the corporate business we see today. Just think of a group of friends meeting at one of their houses. The host is well studied in the Bible, and is teaching others. You have fellowship, food, and sing and worship. What we see today grew more out of what Paul and John warned about leaders who would "make merchandise out of you" and "love prominence", quoted above. James cautioned about "desiring to be teachers", because they "shall receive a stricter judgment" (3:1) Most leaders today are not false as Paul and John's passages are describing, but it is hard after all of these centuries to break the old habit of having paid professional leaders in a non-profit formally organized corporation. It is basically easier to run things that way in the modern world, though the price of this is the amount of money demanded by the leaders and to maintain a building. (You can see a slight parallel of this with Israel's desire to have a king like all the nations, in 1 Samuel 8; particularly note verses 11-20, regarding wall the things a king would demand of them!) There is, however, a growing home church movement, and those leery of "organized Christianity" could perhaps find more of a true Christian experience there. You could start at http://homechurch.com/index.shtml to find information about it.
So the Bible acknowledges all of the corruptions of the Church people witness today. It is a grave mistake to say "oh, those people are so imperfect, so the Bible they carry is nonsense, or the God they believe in is phony. This is another big proof of the Bible, which acknowledges the sin and carnality that would pollute the Church throughout the ages. For more discussion of what true Christianity is not, see Traditional Correctness" Right Wing Counterpart to PC, and the callous response to the 9-11 attacks by some Christians are discussed at WTC Memoirs
We demand perfection (from Christians, from the world/nature, etc) as a condition for believing the reality of God. (e.g. "how could there be a God with all this pain and suffering in the world?") But then ironically at the same time, dismiss it for its supposed "perfection". Life has to "evolve", I used to be told. "We cannot expect instant perfection". This is a straw man cycle. But the Bible does not put much stock in "perfection" as proof of its truth. In fact, that becomes its main proof. It's the future perfection that is what really matters. We are so unused to perfection, but in the Kingdom, all of life will be reoriented. Now, we live to survive and produce the next generation. In the kingdom, everything will be centered around God. Then there's an argument I've heard, that the only perfection is a void (absolute nothingness), and once something is introduced into it, it ceases being "perfect”. While geometrically, this may be true, what does this have to do with real life? (Talk about "abstraction"!) Face it, we all have desires, and ideas of the way life should be, and the real world is not like it. In fact, this world seems to be almost at the end of its rope. People theorize "cycles" of this "evolution" of society, where it swings back and forth from wild to puritanical, as people eventually react to one extreme, and then set the pendulum swinging back the other way. This is true to a large extent, but it has swung so far now with the technology, that eventually it will get to a point where it will not be able to swing back, before destroying itself. If there is a God out there, we need Him now!
Sex is no doubt the biggest source of conflict between the world and Christianity. When we reach adolescence, our hormones start raging for sexual pleasure, yet society has developed such that a teenager is not ready to leave his parents and marry, let alone have children. So most want to have sex without marriage. Even in adulthood, people and society have become so complex that it is hard to find a compatible partner. But who wants to wait so long before they can have sex? Even if you find someone to marry, since we are fallen, the relationship will not be perfect. You will get on each others nerves, perhaps you will find you made a mistake, and this person was not really good for you at all; and in any case, we often become bored with the same partner for so many years, so there is increased temptation to go outside the marriage for sexual excitement. Many have affairs, and many now do not even bother to get married, but just "live together", comparing this to the wisdom of trying out a car before buying it.
But ah, then comes the Church to spoil everyone's fun. Using that old pre-modern "bronze age" text, the Bible, they point out that any sex outside the bounds of matrimony is sin. They have in fact, focused more on this "sin" than anything else. It always bugged me before I became a Christian how that seemed to be the only sin they criticized while racism seemed to be OK, or at least non-existent to them. Capitalistic greed was almost "good" (or at least they blamed the greed part on the "materialism" of the sexually loose 'godless' and the left). I was just as outraged as anyone that people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Jimmy Swaggart would stand there, hundreds of miles away, telling me I couldn't go and have sex with anyone anytime I wanted. "Who are they?!", I asked just like any other agnostic.
But after I became converted, all of this seemed to me one of the biggest proofs of the Bible. Just that fact that it is so important and controversial, proves to me that it must be more than just another animal act, as many claim it is. (Or "like they [mammals] do on the Discovery Channel" as one brash song put it!) First of all, what is the purpose of sex? Its base purpose is for reproduction. That is not to take the historic position of the Catholic Church, that it is only to be used for reproduction. Unlike the animal, it is also to be a bond of love and intimacy. But while you can have love and intimacy without sex, you cannot have reproduction without some form of sexual union (even if just in a test tube), so what we have is love and intimacy tied by God to a reproduction process. In Bible times, having offspring was what life was about; your life was not complete without children to carry your name and bloodline. In today's sex-crazed society; children are often an "accident" that many want to correct by ripping the fetus out of the body before it is developed. We only want that orgasmic thrill. Even "love" we talk about in songs and writings, but it is really technique and self-pleasure that are the most important. We only use sex, and each other, for our own pleasure. If we can't find someone, or get tired of them, then we try other things: doing it ourselves, then the same sex, and among some, it has devolved into children, animals, sadism and masochism, and even getting waste matter involved. Yet, it is the Christians who are chastised for being so "neurotic"!
The whole mindset that sex should be so open and free is related to the argument of nudism, from a few generations ago. The body is "natural"; even "beautiful"! So why hide it? It's shame, and what is often blamed for this is "the old neurotic religion". It is true that Christianity throughout the centuries has taught practically, that sex was evil. This stems from the dark ages Catholic Church, which had adopted many Platonistic and Gnostic ideas, such as dualism— the idea that matter was evil, and only spirit good (So all you people/scholars who think the Gnostic scriptures are the "true" hidden Christianity; this is precisely where the ideas that sex and the body are evil came from!). Church father Augustine, who himself had led a wild life as a pagan before conversion, out of guilt, taught a lot of the concepts that shaped the Catholic Church's view of sex, including it being only for childbirth, which even then was viewed with suspicion. He and others after him inspired the celibate priesthood and monasticism. But none of this was taught by the Bible. One thing I have noticed many non-Christians tend to do is assume Roman Catholicism represents all of Christianity. People I have debated with seemed to think I followed the Pope (i.e. telling me "you don't know [if there is a God or not], the Pope don't know..."etc., as if I looked to him as an all-knowing authority). In popular film, when people turn to "the Church" for any kind of spiritual help (such as "the Exorcist") it is almost always Catholic priests. On my page on Judaism, I show where one Jewish writer accused Southern Baptists of believing in "purgatory", a particularly Catholic doctrine. But Protestants, including Baptists and other fundamentalists, and independent nondenominational churches do not follow the Pope or agree with/condone much of what goes on in Roman Catholic church/church history. So we agree right along with the world when we see Catholic priests, who are supposed to be so pure in their celibacy, molesting boys. They are following an unnatural, unbiblical teaching, based in part on the ancient belief of sex being by nature, dirty, and ironically in turn, then doing what is truly dirty. That is the way such deception often works, further proving to me the spiritual dimension behind morality and both truth and error. But that does not mean that anything goes, though. There is a balance between rigidity and total free-for all hedonism. God did not intend for there to be shame, but it entered when man decided to leave God's way, and tackle good and evil on his own. Little did he know there were spiritual forces of evil out there who would control him once he left God's guidance, so really, he was never free at all. But today we think we are.
More proof of all of this, is just the obsession with sex and "who's doing who" in pop culture, workplaces, groups of people in the neighborhood, etc. Just look at the sense of "ooooo.....! Naughty!" etc. with everyone wanting to know all the dirty business, when it is discovered that one person is having sex with another. There is a sense of shame even though people are enjoying the drama, and do not condemn it. Just look at the whole Clinton-Lewinsky affair! Yet if people suddenly get married, that is not such a naughty revelation, but is seen as more legitimate —except when people in today's culture think of it in light of the likelihood that they must have already been sleeping together. If sex was "just another part of life", and shouldn't have any regulations to it since it is so natural, then why the persistent obsession with it?
So God didn't intend for there to be shame, but He did design privacy. It becomes shame when we disobey the limit of privacy. For what reason is this? This we shall now explore.
As proof that sex is only for a bond with one special other person, I just think back to why there is no nudism, even in very hot climates. (Yes, there may be a few tribes in Africa, whom the documentaries always make a point of showing, but this is the exception in the world). Why when we are children are we so embarrassed about being seen naked, especially by the opposite sex? Is this just that old neurotic religion? No, children do not yet understand that kind of stuff, and what about those who are not even taught it? When I first heard about child molestation, I in my purely intellectual reasoning wondered, what difference does that make? If touching a person on the shoulder is no problem, then how is that different that touching other parts of the body? How come children who are touched certain places become so messed up from it? Why is waste elimination, which is such an embarrassment, and such an amusement or even obsession to a child going through his "anal stage" of development, such a private affair? If putting material into the body is public, than what's the difference with it being put out? Funny, that the waste elimination organs are so close to the sexual organs, and both are always covered up. The exposing of both in print or film is considered "sexually explicit". What about female breasts? Those aren't near the other organs, and consist of a nipple, just like on a man, and differ in appearance only by being on a raised mound of flesh. Why must they be covered on women, and not men? It seems this had something to do with the fact that men are sexually attracted to them, along with those other parts of the body. It was when I became a Christian and accepted God's laws on sex that all of this fell into place. Whether we like it or not, we have been given a private part of our bodies, that is for us only, and to be given to our partners in marriage. Further proving this is the fact that animals have no such taboo, shame or secrecy. They live in completely exposed bodies, covered in fur, but their genitals other organs basically exposed. They eliminate waste and mate out in the open around others, and are secret about it only if for the sake of protection from predators or rivals. As soon as the young develop, they can have sex and have children, even mating with parents, siblings (not the same sex, though!), and different partners (though there are some species that are monogamous, though!) The difference between them and us, is the pleasure and intimacy factor. For animals, sex is 100% for the utilitarian function of reproduction. We are apparently NOT doing [exactly] what they do on the Discovery Channel! There is no shame, "love", or concepts of rape, molestation, repulsiveness of mating with the parent who gave birth to you, or your offspring, or your sibling you grew up with. Because the uniquely human characteristic of love and intimacy was added to us, we have certain restrictions that do not apply to animals. Your parent is to be "loved" intimately by your other parent (or a step-parent who is on the same maturity level, if your natural one has died). They raised you more than an animal's mother, when most baby animals do not need as much care, for nearly as long. So your parent is supposed to be sexually repulsive to you, as is your child. Also siblings and close cousins, and your parents' siblings, parents, your children's children, etc. There is supposed to be an element of mystery in sex (one reason people get tired of their legitimate mates), so right there, your close relatives should not be sexually interesting. Parents see the child naked when they are born, and when they are too young to go to the bathroom or clean themselves, and perhaps corporal punishment (which itself is a form of humiliation; "pride" being hurt more than the flesh, as parents often say, further proving the point about privacy). Then afterwards, only you should see your private area, with the only exception being your doctor when it is necessary to medically treat or check up those areas. The Fall also added shame to the secrecy. So the two get confused, and when someone preaches God's rules of decency, people think they are always just preaching some unnatural shame. But this is how we were programmed.
People can say that mating within the same bloodline produces bad genetic results, but then other animals would instinctively avoid the bloodline as well. And this still does not even address the fact of privacy. We were programmed to be private, I believe, because God, who designed human marriage, made it a reflection of His love of His followers as a body of people (Ephesians 5:32). In fact, Paul uses this to back his argument why men should not go and be sleeping with harlots (1 Cor.6:15-18). The fact that those parts of your body were so secret is what creates a stronger bond when you finally do share them with this special person you have committed yourself to. You become one, and what was always only yours, is now his/hers, and what was only his/hers, now becomes yours. This is why child molestation is so damaging, and being exposed to the public is supposed to be embarrassing, and having sex with everyone we feel like leads down a road of jadedness and perversion. Those parts of our bodies were only intended for one other person (unless that person dies before you do), and God programmed our senses for that, despite our rebellion and misuse of our own or others' bodies. If you don't think so, then why not just go walk down the street totally naked, without being embarrassed? If you're arrested, then argue for your rights to expose your beautiful, natural body. There are many who did push nudism, but it didn't quite catch steam. There are certain beaches and communities scattered here and there, but clothes, while becoming skimpier, still must cover up something.
Why is this? Some old primitive nature borne out of ignorance of science? Still, why hasn't this enlightened society gotten over it, already? Perhaps if we get over monotheism, as some wish. So it's that neurotic religion, right? How can it be when much of society has jettisoned that with force? How much longer can we keep blaming that? Of course, there are many who have "seared their consciences with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2). They think they have finally overcome the influence of "neurotic religion" or "primitive human fear", but all they have done is deaden the senses God gave them, and once one thing gets boring, then try all sorts of other things. Relativists claim all our senses are from "conditioning" and we can simply recondition ourselves, proving it is just some chemical brain process, and not any moral absolute. But once again, it seems we came "factory programmed" with certain conditioning and changing that later on in life does not prevent people from still being born naturally with such conditioning (thus it still hasn't been eradicated from a society that now believes all is relative), so while we may be able to recondition ourselves, it does not mean it is not an absolute. Just look at how obsessed society is with sex, and not just regular sex, but homosexuality, sadomasochism, group sex, and a constant barrage of sex in our TV, movies, books and music. Millions of people daily watch Jerry, Jenny and Maury cover topics of people cheating on their lovers, and duking it out on stage (they usually strip down to their underwear to give all the watchers a thrill). There are paternity tests among various partners who may be the father, and children dressing indecent, having sex with grown men, and totally disrespecting their parents. Recently, we have been seeing a spate of people springing on their lovers that they are really the other sex, and also, people having affairs with their siblings (Are parents, children, and animals next?!), and mothers and daughters physically fighting because one has taken the others' lover! The host comes over on a lofty moral platform, asking don't they see that this is so gross (yet he is making millions feeding this stuff to the jaded masses), the audience jeers "whore", or something else (yet they are there enjoying it all), and the viewers in the homes and workplace lounges of America look at all of this stuff like "eww, look at those lowlifes!" "If that was my child...". "that mother should kick..." (of course they all cheer when the boot camp instructor comes out and breaks the defiant child down into tears, and makes them reform. But there is no such discipline imposed on the adults, including the host peddling this stuff!) But the viewers too, come every day to get their kicks off of this total trash. It's the ultimate pampering of self-righteousness to look at all of these people and then look down at them as so slutty compared to you who don't do things like that. (Once again, where's the relativity at?) And in all of this, it's Christianity or "monotheism" that is rejected as being so "sick" and "destructive". This is the result of life without monotheism, and if all of this sexual perversion is what you think life should be, then yes, monotheism is detrimental.
In this vein, there is homosexuality. It was once generally disrespected in society, and "fag" was the worse thing a man could be called. But unfortunately, there was so much other oppression of different groups, such as women or minorities, that people felt why discriminate against anybody? So as the entire Christianity-based "old order" (right and wrong) was thrown off at the same time as the sexual revolution, homosexuality eventually joined the "civil rights" movement as another minority group persecuted either because of what God made them, or because of their own "preference". The Church, refusing to accept that they were losing their influence, answered "the Bible condemns it", which meant nothing to those rejecting the Bible. There was no appeal to the fact that since sex was at its root connected with reproduction, and the organs necessary to complete the process lied only in the opposite gender, then how could homosexuality be right? It was not natural. Now, with the movement gaining momentum, many have gone beyond that to suggest that nature does allow for homosexuality, as plants and even some obscure animal species, supposedly reproduce homosexually. I have even seen an argument appealing to hermaphroditism, where a person has both or neither organs, as proof that this is really what nature favors. Life is evolving, and rather than mutations, these are quite natural variations of nature. Once again, the same sex was normally repulsive to a person, just as ones' parent or sibling or an animal. But then people began claiming they naturally were attracted to the same sex. Debates raged on with scientific studies conducted as to whether people were born that way, or chose it. Now, even those who admit they chose it demand the right to their "preference". When I suggested the organs were not designed for that, one gay person told me "it works quite fine!". But "works" for what? A pleasurable sensation? But all of this ignores the purpose of sex: reproduction. Now, instead of seeing this point, people are looking to fix that as well, with homosexual couples trying to "have children" by using test tube fertilization. They may eventually even try to have male pregnancy, as I once heard it would be conceivably possible for a man to be made able to carry a fetus, for at least a while. Rather than doing what is natural, we are altering nature itself in order to fit our twisted desires. We are just creatures, and monotheism or no monotheism, we did not create this world, or ourselves so how do we think we can change it like that without disastrous results? And why condemn Christians and others who oppose your behavior so much? The same pop culture and education that pushes for all this "tolerance" has criticized Christianity and other ideologies for trampling on nature, being destructive, not loving or caring for their fellow man or mother earth enough. But what are you advocating here? What is the purpose of total acceptance of homosexuality, as well as trans-gender, unlimited sexual partners, etc. as normal? What is all this doing for nature or the earth? It is purely for personal self-pleasure, and people should admit this, but that doesn't sound "good", and we want above all to think that we are "good" no matter what we do (another proof that all of this "relativity" people talk, deep down inside is a farce). But it's the others who are guilty of "intolerance", "hate", "narrow-mindedness", and “neurosis", for not getting with the program.
Basically, all of this is described by Paul in the first chapter of Romans:
For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, [i.e. "suppress" it] because the thing which may be known of God is clearly revealed within them, for God revealed it to them. For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being realized by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse. Because, knowing God [i.e. original knowledge of God], they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves. For they changed the truth of God into a lie, and they worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause, God gave them up to dishonorable affections. For even their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; males with males working out shamefulness, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do the things not right, being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; being full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, evil habits, becoming whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, insolent, proud, braggarts, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, perfidious, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous order of God, that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but have pleasure in those practicing them . (Romans 1:18-32) Scripture taken from the Modern King James Version of the Holy Bible Copyright © 1962 - 1998 By Jay P. Green, Sr.
Connected with all of this, and perhaps one of the biggest issues those hostile to the Bible argue about is its teachings on menstruation and uncleanness after birth, and especially longer uncleanness after female birth (Leviticus 12, 15). These seem to be one of the ultimate proofs that the Bible was just some neurotic man-made sexist nonsense. After all, so many other ancient religions had similar hang-ups. (and, of course, we are so enlightened now). But "of course", it is obvious from nature that menstruation is not "unclean". It is what keeps the new life being formed inside the mother alive. (Lev. 15. also mentions discharges from men, including semen) So those ancient religious leaders knew nothing about nature, and this shows that they didn't get their revelation from any "God". But perhaps this stems once again from man's guilt from the Fall. As we have seen, that event struck right at man's sexual being, and corrupted what God had created good. So ancient man did have hang-ups with sex and menstruation, not understanding what it was. This was not from God, but from man's fall and being cut off from the Creator; and what God did, for the sake of man's conscience, was declare it "unclean", for man's uptightness about it came from his own guilt, and this was where he was "unclean". Jesus clearly showed that "uncleanness" was really concerned with man's heart, rather than external physical things (Matthew 15:17-20). For an example of this, Paul, in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 speaks of meats offered to idols, and peoples' consciences possibly being "defiled". Idols were a very bad association, so naturally, people would be uptight about meats sacrificed to them. Paul shows that that really doesn't mean anything, since an idol is "nothing" (since there is really only one true God), but still, if it has such a negative association in one's mind, then they should avoid it as "unclean". Likewise, the kosher laws of clean and unclean animals also were the same thing. Moreso than the fact that those animals were dangerous if not cooked right (most people's explanation), they all were scavengers, predators or pests (which traits carry negative connotations in our minds), while the "clean" animals were largely more peaceful or "innocent" grazing creatures (and thus usually carry a more positive connotation). The unclean were also not allowed to be sacrificed in the Temple. While the most common sacrificed animal was the lamb, which would represent Christ. So one group represented moral characteristics man was to avoid, while the other had characteristics man was to strive for. People may think this teaches us to be "weak", but those grazing animals can be very strong when they need to be (even fending off predators; think of a huge elk or moose with his antlers; a bull, etc).
This method of "association" was most likely the same principle with menstruation. As for a woman being unclean, first of all, for child-birth, period; let alone unclean longer if the child is a girl; there is no direct explanation where the law is given, but a clue is in the New Testament, regarding another supposedly sexist restriction: women speaking in Church. Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 discusses men and women in the Church, and in v.14, supports his instruction that women should not speak on the fact that Eve was deceived by the serpent, leading to the Fall, and not Adam, who simply followed her. Right after this Fall occurred, we see Adam blaming "that woman You gave me" (Genesis 3:12) even though he should have known better. This seems to be the real origin of sexism, (along with the fact that the woman was naturally weaker because she has to bear the children). Today, you quite frequently hear groups of men and groups of women grumble about the opposite sex, and you would think that the side you were listening to was innocent, while the other was all bad. But both sides are true, as both are guilty. Both use the other (men using women for sexual conquest, and women using men for image, or support and strength), and then complain when they don't get what they want, and move on to the next person. Much of the ancient religious attitude towards women were not what God had commanded, such as Jews "thanking" Him for not making them a woman (along with a Gentile or slave). Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam seemed to treat women better than in many of the pagan religions. (But since many pagan religions had female deities or worshipped a feminine mother earth goddess, these are what get more respect in today's humanist and feminist influenced society).
Anyway, so having a period of uncleanness after birth was most likely a reminder that man was "born in sin, shapen in iniquity". (Psalms 51:5), and making it longer for girls probably was to remind them that Eve was the one who was deceived and disobeyed first.
In the Christian New Testament, these restrictions do not carry on, as we believe the New Testament is the complete revelation of God. The old law was our "tutor" to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24), that was added because of sin (v.19), so the Old Testament laws are no excuse to try to reject the Bible as being "sexist". Those were temporary restrictions that were not even part of God's ultimate will, being added because of the "hardness of their hearts" as Jesus said, and served a purpose of teaching the people a lesson. The people did not learn the lessons, so once again, God now revealed His ultimate will: regeneration by His Spirit through Christ. The condemnation with its guilt no longer needed to have its power over men when they accepted Christ, so all of these laws were no longer necessary. The reason why the restriction of women speaking in Church carries over into the New Testament is believed to be cultural; as with meats offered to idols; many would be offended, so for conscience sake, Paul commands that. So, many churches today hold this view and have female pastors and other leaders, so this too is no excuse to reject Christianity as sexist.
There are still more conservative churches who take this as a permanent command, but another thing which many people don't realize, is the structure of the New Testament Church. Today, when we think of a "church", we think of a legal non-profit corporation that owns a building where Christians go to meet, or the denominational body that owns many such buildings, or other organized ministerial bodies. These organizations are formed like other §501(c)3 corporations, with officers "hired" by a "board", and in today's culture, it seems like "sex discrimination" for these "employers" to reject women from the "payroll". Especially when we think of all those church leaders throughout the centuries, standing up at the pulpit, receiving all that glory from all the people, and wielding all that power. Why should women be excluded, unless it's obviously a showcase of sexist male dominance, ego and pride? But in the original New Testament Church there was no such organization, and not even as much attention or any such "glory" going to leaders as you may think. And it certainly wasn't a vehicle of ego and pride, which is consistently condemned in the New Testamant, and leaders who were guilty of that denounced, as we saw. The congregation met in people's homes. Rather than new Christians going and "following" someone for the rest of their lives, and paying them to "lead" them, Christians were themselves supposed to grow, and become mature enough to help newer converts grow. A man who was mature (an "elder", especially assuming he would be older than others) who held Christian fellowships in his home would be the "shepherd" (pastor) of these people; their "teacher". (A "bishop" was simply an "overseer" of several such congregations, to insure they are all remaining steady in the faith). Since man was head of the home, this would always be a man. A single woman could of course in theory hold a fellowship in her home with other women. A man being there under her in a fellowship of women would probably have been looked down on as inappropriate, so basically, men could only be under the leadership of men. A large fellowship of people would be a man's job, because in the roles God set up at Creation, and especially after the Fall, man was the breadwinner, women took care of the children. In today's society, this has been jettisoned with women working, having less children, and hiring others to take care of them, but back then in a agrarian society, the roles had to be established. So it was with preaching. Men did most of the work, and women helped out in lesser ways (they could be deaconesses, for example). If you still think this was unfair, remember that the early Church was heavily persecuted, and the men preaching would be the first to be captured, imprisoned, tortured and killed. God spared women from being on the front-line of such conflict. Today's women reject the idea of being the "weaker vessel", and insist they can take care of themselves and do what any man can do. Many try to act like men, by hooting at men they think are sexy, and they can be just as "tough"; fending off a man, getting in a man's face and telling him off (cutting him up with words), etc. Yet, they still want to be "treated like a woman" by men, with chivalry and "protection" and pampering. All of this stemmed from the woman being the weaker vessel, yet women today have thrown off the former, yet keep its rewards. Classic "having your cake and eating it too" (or as it has been correctly rephrased, "eating your cake and [still] having it too". Only hard lined feminists/women's libbers were consistent and rejected all of that as "chauvinism", and you don't see too many of them around anymore).
It is amazing how there are still some curse words that are not allowed on the air. Some are, yet why is it taking so long for us to get over these taboos? That "neurotic old religion" again, is it? It is true that in the past, there were too many taboos. Even "pregnant" was banned from the media, and this is not dirty, but simply God's natural design. This did come from a puritanical paradigm that did think sex was dirty in its own right. This was quite wrong, and society began to revolt against it. Now we're almost at the opposite extreme, where anything goes. But there are still some restraints. Just like with privacy, I always wondered what was the big problem with so-called "curse" words. It's "just a word", isn't it? Parents say them, but tell you not to. They say them because they are "grown", and supposedly there is no higher authority than they; no "God" to tell them what to do that we know of; morality is "relative" anyway. But they seem to acknowledge a moral problem with them in telling their children not to say them, at least around them. So it seems there is some higher moral principle after all, and the grown-ups are taking the license to ignore it. I notice that almost all curse words involve sex, sex organs, or at least the eliminative organs or functions— the same taboo areas I discussed before! "s" is waste, and "a" is where it comes from (and has also become a sexual object, because of its proximity to the organs). "f" comes from a Norse word meaning "thrust", and denotes the sexual act, particularly an illicit one. Then there are several words for the genitals, which after "f", are generally considered the dirtiest, and still have not been allowed on regular broadcast TV. "a" slipped in gradually several years ago, and now "bs" is creeping in on shows like "NYPD Blue". (There is a rumor that "f" will be approved soon, though). "b" was a female dog, and now is used heavily, especially in raps, for women we do not really respect, and only use for sex anyway. Only "damn", which is the true "curse" verb does not have to do with anything sexual. It was the least offensive word, and probably the first to be allowed. After all, it is in the Bible. "Hell" is a similar story. It was probably never a full-fledged "curse", but still did not have a nice connotation, and was discouraged to children by parents. "Bastard" was a child born out of wedlock, which of course, came from an illicit sexual union. Unfortunately, it seemed to heap shame on the child itself, when it was the parents only, who sinned. "Piss" is kind of the companion to "s", but believe it or not, is actually in the King James Bible! I wonder if some fundamentalist Christian who favors the KJV only, ever got offended at another Christian for using the word, when it is right in his KJV! "crap" is the same as "s", basically, but does not have quite the same kick to it. Many Christians use the word the same way, who would never use "s". "Whore" is an illicit woman, and has been shortened in modern street lingo to "ho". The only other non-sexual word I can think of is "n", for black people. But then it was originally used by people who looked down on us as sensual barbarians anyway. It has now actually become an almost positive term used among blacks themselves.
I notice that these words are almost all, terse, abrupt, brusque monosyllabic jabs that have a sharp "punch" or "kick" to them. The words for the female genitalia, black people and illegitimate child are exceptions, with two syllables, but still carry a strong "attack", as is adding "it" to the curse words that are verbs, or conjugating some of them (adding "-ed" or "-ing") or placing "God" before one of the curse words. The same with the four-syllable "mf". My parents taught me to fight back in the streets, but also taught me cursing was wrong. Watching others fight, I wondered how could you fight without cursing? How could you really even stand up for yourself? You would still look or sound "weak". It was all so confusing. Of course, I guess it would have probably been "OK" to curse in that instance. But I didn’t know that. Even today, as most Christians do have the struggle, if something goes wrong, especially if it is in an instance, (hitting you finger with a hammer, accidentally, is a common example given) there seems to be some power in cursing, at least in your mind. You seem to be coming off weak without it. Yet we need to beware. Rather than being "just a word", the Bible reveals that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34, see also 15:18-20)
All of this is proof to me of a spiritual reality. The Bible testifies how great a force "the tongue" is. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. So the tongue is set among our members, spotting all the body and sets on fire the course of nature, and being set on fire by hell. For every kind of animals, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of sea-animals, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But no one can tame the tongue, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. By this we bless God, even the Father. And by this we curse men, who have come into being according to the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so". (James 3:6-10). People should realize this, because they themselves get offended and fighting mad because of just something someone says to them. We tell our children "sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us", but in practice we know it is not true. For this reason Jesus tells us that unjustified anger and calling people names as mellow as "fool", or "empty head" (certainly the modern "dork!" would be a good translation of the Aramaic word he used), are in fact, spiritually the same as murder, before God! (Matthew 5:21-23) People say far worse things than that to others! People try to be tough, as if they are unhurt, but yet they are ready to fight. It could and has, led to physical death in retaliation, (even if unintended) if it gets heated enough! They have been stabbed in the heart, basically, even if they are too proud to admit it. So they fight back with a similar "weapon", even if it becomes a literal weapon. So right here, many who assume "murder" is the only condemnable "sin", and "I've never killed anybody", are in for a rude awakening at the judgment. This is an example of how nobody can say they have not sinned and don't deserve punishment. There are so many things we do that are sin, that we don't even realize are sin.
Denying fleshy pleasure and "Turning the other cheek"
Another area where Christianity is lambasted as both weak, and at the same time, a control tool, is in supposedly being against self-defense. Christ told us to "turn the other cheek", and people think that means we should always just lay down and die when threatened. On the other hand, many Christians have been the most warlike, especially after they had finally gained some power in the world, in Rome, and here in America, as in the Cold War conflicts. Sometimes they would do both at the same time, like pushing for war or unrestricted gun rights to protect themselves or their national interests, while preaching to the powerless not to fight the system. This was especially noted in the race relations of this country, with many blacks revolting and regarding Christianity as a white man's religion that exalted him, and therefore was not for blacks. As Malcolm X and the rest of the Black Muslims complained, they would have us fighting in their wars against their enemies, but then when they themselves sent their sheriffs after us, or came to rape our wives, daughters or mothers, we were supposed to go hide under the table, or pray to God to save us. But the context of which Jesus spoke, was the Roman system, with its fierce persecution of Christians. If the authorities are coming to take you away, what can you do? Black rappers from the last couple of decades and other activists, with their "shoot the police" rhetoric, could learn from this. What has challenging the police head-on ever accomplished? They may look at King's nonviolent demonstrations, in which people were hosed, clubbed, or attacked by dogs as weak and accomplishing nothing, but if that was met with such violence, then how much worse is it to try to outgun police, many of whom already are geared to shoot blacks first; ask questions later? We are only justifying (in their minds) their gunning us down. An unarmed man was essentially blamed for his own death by 41 bullets from a plain clothes squad, because he "didn't move right", meaning that cops are expecting black suspects to be armed and fire back at them, and they, who outnumber the suspects, and have the established law on their side, are going to use their force, even if "accidentally". And all of this has nothing to do with being a doormat and letting average people rob and kill you. It certainly doesn't mean allowing someone to come and attack your family (1 Timothy 5:8 could be used against that whole notion!) Actually, what Christ was talking about was persecution for the faith, not persecution because of race or status or common crimes against people or their families. Dying for the faith actually converted many persecutors and onlookers, because they saw the selflessness that came from the power of God. Compare this with the "selfishness" or "ungiving spirit" people accuse Christians of today. Yet then, you deny we should be selfless, because it is seen as self-destructive and not conducive to survival. Basically, you tell us not to be selfless, because you don’t want to become selfless; as a reason to reject becoming Christian. But then when you expect Christians to behave a certain way; "where's the selfless giving at?" Once again, damned if we do, damned if we don't. So all of this is no excuse to reject Christ. People also claim since the universe is so "violent"; this is another strike against Christianity, which teaches peace (yet they condemn God for being "violent", as well as Christians when they are not "peaceful"). There is specifically a debate over the Bible's claim that all animals were once vegetarian.(Gen.1:30) Yet, many were obviously built to eat meat. But once again, there were changes after the Fall, and somehow they occurred faster than the common evolutionary hypothesis suggests. And since a certain amount of micro-evolution is allowed for, and it is not clear how far-encompassing a "kind" is (is it a species, superfamily, order, etc?) this too we cannot dwell on but so much as positive proof against the Bible. As for the rest of the "violence" of the universe, how do we figure that justifies all of our actions? Once again, not many people today are saying you should never defend yourself when it is necessary, but it seems people are still just using an excuse from an old abuse of the Church in the past.
On the other hand, I really don't see that much "freedom" in this world of "survival". There is so much we have to do to "survive", and much of it is more difficult than any of the rules of Christianity. With all the drastic consequences of mistakes on this world, and the "sacrifices", "discipline" and "risks" necessary to get ahead, I don't see what is the big deal with the rules of religion. Christianity is not holding most people back from anything really good they want to do. Unless, life is just sex, drugs and alcohol (which to many, it seems it is). People living that way, are still "not happy" as everyone knows; it becomes boring, and the people are moving into all sorts of sick stuff. Once again, where premodern man and Christianity were "neurotic", tell me, is modern "free"-living society any better? A part of me wanted to have all the sex I wanted, but then there were many other things I couldn't do in the world, because of "status", not having power, not being old enough, not being popular enough, etc. So what difference, negatively, does Christian rules make? Once again, people who will attest to the "rules" of "life", will then cast out all rules they think are unnecessary, or unenforced.
Who or what is God anyway?
People have a big problem with the anthropomorphic descriptions of God, as a manlike figure sitting on a throne, judging, and putting together Adam with humanlike hands patting together a lump of clay. (This is what made it so hard to accept Creationism over the natural processes of evolution). Feminists and others have a big problem with using the masculine pronouns. I myself, before I was converted had problems with all of these things, especially with all the representations of God as an old white man (and Christ of course, as a younger white man). Here too, much of the Church actually disobeyed its Bible. In the Second commandment, God clearly tells us "You shall not make unto yourself any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or on the earth below..." as an object of worship. Protestants may not have bowed down to the pictures, but by trying to illustrate God that way, it is pretty much the same thing in most people's minds. As to why "He" and "Him", for one thing, it seems no language (at least that I know of) has neutral personal pronouns (Which I would think would be more fitting for God, as well as even angels). Some people suggest, "it", but that is just too impersonal, like a material THING. It just does not fit, and is not reverential or anything. Since God is the ultimate authority, and authority was considered a masculine aspect, God was known as "Father". Christ was God manifest as an actual man, so that man has to be "Son". The Holy Spirit is a more gender-neutral entity, (and "spirit" is actually feminine in the biblical languages). So no, God is not male (even though the Pope and some other leaders not too long ago reaffirmed that He was). Another way to think of it is to think of the male gender as the "neuter". When we see an animal and don't know what gender it is, or even a car on the road, and don't know what gender the person driving, it, we think of it as "he"/"him". While female is genetically represented as one pole, X, and the other pole is Y, male is the compound XY. So then female is a special variation of living existence, rather than some inferior group. (Its true opposite, the pure "hypermale" cannot naturally live, as at least one X chromosome is necessary for certain life functions). But still, male in the strict sense of the word is defined by biological organs. God, of course, does not have these, (not being "biological" at all), so then is not male. Personality wise (e.g. authority, etc) He may have some of the characteristics of a male, but we only associate this with masculinity because they are the characteristics He gave to male humans. Now, to make God female or either/both (including the inclusive "Parent"), as some modern Bible translations have even conceded; is then to attribute a definitely biological or human personal nature to God. We say "he" and "Father" because our language has no better pronouns or titles for God, and the role assigned to males in some respect is a shadow of God's role in the world. "Father" also denotes Him as a Creator separate from His creation, where "mother" implies a creation that emanates from the creator. Sure enough, in some tribal religions, new age, and pantheistic concepts, deity seems to be more associated with femininity. So then the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is seen by the post-modernist mind as pure patriarchy: an attack on femininity as upheld by nature religions. We should not get hung up and reject him for what is really a semantic deficiency. People still object to this association of masculinity with "authority", but this stems from the physical creation, where the women had the childbearing organs, and was therefore vulnerable when a child was growing inside, as well as the child-feeding organs (which are delicate all the time), which made it necessary for her to be the predominant child raiser. The man then, had to be the predominant protector, as well as the breadwinner. With this power as provider and protector, he became the "stronger vessel" and "head" of the household. In some animals, it is the opposite, with the female as the primary hunter, and the male, basically, just laying around with his only purpose to provide the sperm and protect the territory. (and in cases like black widows and mantises, to even be eliminated once that function is complete!) But once again, we were not designed like those animals, and cannot keep looking to them as the model of what we should be. Today, human society has changed from that design, but we can't blame the Bible because it does not reflect modern society. People say this proves we should throw it away or at least "update" it; but how? To make God feminine? (And of course, to allow female church leaders, female heads of household, single parent households, two mommies or two daddies, or whatever else modern society demands). The creator of the universe was what He always was and will be. The very name He reveeled to Moses was "I AM THAT I AM". How can we change Him? This just assumes that He was made up by man anyway, and if man created Him, we can change him. So the agnostic then proceeds to in effect force his beliefs on the biblical monotheist and demands we change what we believe is the ultimate power in the universe.
People criticize the anthropomorphism, saying that whatever created the universe is so far beyond comprehension, that we cannot hope to make any contact with Him/It. The first part is true, and affirmed by the Bible. "No man has seen God at any time" John 1:18 tells us. "No man shall see Me and live", God Himself told Moses in Exodus 33:20. "Heaven, even the Heaven of Heavens [the atmosphere, and the rest of the physical space of the universe] cannot contain you" Solomon praised to Him in 1 Kings 8:27. What Moses and others saw was a manifestation or "theophany", of God. Even after seeing these, we see it is still declared that no man ever really saw God in His natural form, which cannot even be contained in space. What we often call "Heaven" referring to the realm of God is really a totally different realm, not located in this universe, and the latest scientific theories are positing a primal realm that fits this description. "Heavens" then refers to the physical sky and outer space, as primitive man did once believe the real "heaven" was "up there". But it is obvious that it is not, and God Himself tells us this here. "The Kingdom of Heaven" on earth is really the "Heaven" believers look forward to, as was discussed earlier. The Trinity is one of the doctrines that Christianity has come under fire for, not just by skeptics and other Bible-rejecters, but even the religions of Judaism and Islam, and various Christian sects, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Church had formulated a symmetrical view of Father, Son and Spirit as separate "persons" or even "beings", but if you examine the scriptures more, you see that each is distinguished by a particular function for the different realms God works in. The Father is God in His natural, ineffable form. So basically, when the agnostic says "you cannot possibly comprehend, speak to, or hear from God", it is the Father this really applies to, and the Bible affirms this. The Hebrew names for God point to this as well. "Yahweh", or "Jehovah" (translated "LORD") means "the One Who Is", as He revealed to Moses from the burning bush. "God" is usually translated from the general "el", the singular "eloah", or plural "elohim" (akin to the Arabic "allah"), which means, as some Jewish scholars have defined it, "Master of forces", or "Force of forces". This agrees with what people think God 'should' be. But that does not mean that this Creator (or "life force" as one person refers to Him to me), cannot some way reach down and communicate with the creatures He has made. If He couldn't, then how could He be all-powerful and control His own creation? How could He have even created us then? Saying He can't assumes He/It must not be intelligent. So the Father, had with Him, what would be called His "Word", which was the power by which He physically created the universe, as the opening of the Gospel of John tells us. This Word then would also be the entity that did all dealings on earth; who walked with man in the garden, and appeared to the prophets. This Word was the visible representation of God in the universe. It was then shown that this Word took on one last physical manifestation: of a fetus conceived without human sperm, who would then be born as the Son of God, God's Messiah who would fulfill the Law for us, and die to pay the penalty our sins deserve. This is why He was said to be God in the flesh. People try to deny this miraculous birth; if there was a conception, then there MUST have been some physical insemination. They had an illegitimate birth, and tried to cover it up by saying it was supernatural. But even science acknowledges a rare process called "oogenesis" where an egg can fertilize itself. If this can happen at random, then right there, why should it so hard to believe that the Power that created the universe could not cause it to happen? So then, with the Son gone back up to Heaven, God now sent the Spirit to dwell in the hearts of believers. No, they do not always yield to Him, and yes, they sin, get angry, act carnally, hypocritically, unloving, etc. But this was God's way of reaching out to sinful fallen man, and maintaining a presence on earth. The Trinity is discussed in detail at God: In A Box? A Comprehensive look at problems and solutions concerning the Tri-une Nature of God.
The idea of God "creating" us itself may seem anthropomorphic, when one is accustomed to believing that the laws of nature were sufficient in themselves to create the universe. (But still, one must ask, where did even these laws come from?) I myself struggled with evolution, and tried to read it into the Bible, and was perhaps the most offended by the utter contempt many old-line Creationists leveled at the theory. I still believe many of them went too far in bashing a belief system, tried too much to force scientific data into a young-earth position, and relied too much on conspiratorial rhetoric, which focused entirely on man as the cause of evil, when the Bible points to the spiritual world as the origin of falsehood. But then it really became easier to believe in Creation when I went to the American Museum of Natural History looking for a job once, and saw a diagram of the evolutionary tree on a wall, with color codes according to evidence found. On several links, including ape to man, it was a bright orange meaning "only probable, no real evidence found". I had seen many creationist claims of debunking evolution from the evidence, but now here I saw an admission from a secular scientific institution itself. "How could they then teach it as so factual?", I now joined many other Christians in wondering. Add to this the fact that many so-called "ape-men" found were really other things, such as apes or men with deformities. One was constructed from a single tooth, which turned out to be from a pig! It's funny with all the heat on Christians to "practice what they preach", it is always a big scandal when one of them is caught in a lie, and many people won't believe some old book "written by men" or those who preach it millennia later, yet they believe whatever these scientists say, and keep in mind, most of them do not even believe in a God who says it's wrong to lie! When you really think about it, many Christians are right when they say that it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God. Just think of the slim odds scientists have posed regarding the formation of the universe, and the right conditions on earth, and the right chemicals coming together to start life —all from random chance!
What about the "divinely santioned' slaughters in the Bible?
At this time, we must also address the much despised account of God commanding the Israelites to kill various nations of people because of their religion. We today insist that a person's religion is just his or her own personal choice, and as long as it is not hurting anybody, what difference does it make? But these people's religion did hurt people! For one thing, all throughout the Old Testament, we see God warning Israel about pagan practices, including "making the children pass through the fire" to the god Molech, which was one of the deities of the Canaanites. Suppose some religion today was doing that? Many liberal activists would be up in arms. (Ironic that the God of monotheism is trashed as so "barbaric", yet other religions like this are praised as almost good or worth defending —until they are found to be doing something detrimental, especially to women or children!) The mothers were apparently equally as guilty as the men, so they received the judgement as well. People object even to the killing of the adults. This is based on the idea that man is basically good, and all is relative. But in light of what they were actually doing, can you honestly say this is true? The sin spread, and the Israelites were susceptible to adopting the hideous practices. (see Numbers 33:55,6) So these people were under God's judgement for both worshipping a false god, AND even killing their children for it (Deuteronomy 18:12), plus their practices polluted the world. Both their neighbors, and even the land! Just think about Ground Zero. Most do not want to build anything on it, because of all the human remains scattered around, even in the dust, from incineration. We call the land "sacred", because it was our loved ones; and our enemies did it. But from the perspective of the terrorists, they have "defiled" it. Now, imagine a whole countryside similarly poisoned with charred or vaporized human remains from demonic ritual. The land is both physically and spiritually defiled! So God deemed it necessary to remove the people. The land was special, you may remember, because it was the fertile crescent ("land of milk and honey"). God promised it to the people He was dealing with at the time. Not those who were rebelling against Him and defiling it with such abominable practices. You may not believe that He had such a "right", but then, hey, if the random evolution of the universe has positioned a huge asteroid on a collision trajectory with earth, then, we accept that possibility, and say "oh well, that's just apart of life". But if there is an intelligent force behind the Cosmos, how DARE He do such a thing, even to a small number of people! (How many times do we really see this in the Bible? Just a few times!) We really need to think about this logic! Anyway, God did not place man here on this earth to pollute it with such practices (done to other gods, which they themselves have made).
But why the children? What did they do; they are innocent, aren't they? There is strong biblical evidence, especially from Jesus, that even though children are affected by sin, God does not hold them responsible like adults. Some conservative Christians, especially of a more Calvinistic bent, will say "no, they were 'born in sin' and therefore 'guilty'". This is a whole other issue that cannot be discussed here, but is addressed on the Predestination page.
The first time we see this, it is with the Midianites, who had been at constant war with the Israelites who "vex[ed them] with their wiles", and were "beguiling" them, into once again, idolatry. (Numbers 25:18) So in chapter 31, God tells Moses to "avenge" the children of Israel. All of the males (adults, apparently) were slain (v.7). The women and "little ones" were taken captive (v.9). Then, Moses, angry that the women (who were all used to lure Israel into sinning against God) instructs the armies to kill the males among the little ones, as well as all women who were married, while the unmarried would be kept as wives for the Israelites. Obviously, the point of killing the male children and their mothers were so that these people would not grow up within Israel and be taught by their mothers or any other survivors to retaliate, as well as, of course, spread idolatry. So for one thing, that was actually Moses' particular decision, not necessarily God's. God had initially commanded "driving out" those nations. But we see, Israel did not always drive them out thoroughly, and they were far too impressionable, religiously. So Moses often used his own discretion on how the people should be cleaned out. God condoned it, but then as was said before regarding menstruation, this entire era of Biblical history, God allowed many things that were really not His will, and which of course, are forbidden to His people today. (As for the unmarried women, some may try to compare this to the rape that has occured in war in ancient times as well as today, but for one thing, "take for yourselves" means marriage, not forcing oneself on a woman and then leaving (which God always strictly forbade). And remember, back then, women were "given" in marriage, usually apart from their own will, anyway, and while that may not have been God's ultimate will, still with all the other important issues of the day, God was not going to stop and teach them our modern concepts of marriage then). This would later be repeated in Judges 21 with the people of Jabesh-gilead, a city of Israelites that failed to show up for the census, and thus broke an important oath. This however was neither God's instruction, but rather the sons of Jacob (fathers of the 12 tribes) who were in a state of infighting. So a lot of the killing we see recorded in the Bible is not really God's instruction, but just the decisions of men at war. This same mistake occurred in the Noah story, with "Canaan be cursed", which was used to justify the oppression of the black race, supposedly descended from "Ham" the father of Canaan. God Himself never uttered the curse, but rather it was Noah, (who placed himself in the position to be violated by being drunk in the first place). There isn't even any evidence that God ever honored this, or that it extended beyond the literal person Canaan being subject to Shem and Japheth. Like this issue, Christians took verses out of context, and used them to justify their behavior, and now skeptics, assuming they interpreted them right, turn them into arguments against the Bible altogether! So regarding the killing again, in places like Numbers 21:1-3, 34,5, it was actually the entire nation of Israel's "vow" to God to utterly destroy them and "smite all the people, until there was none left alive". God granted the people into their hand to fulfil this, but did not necessarily command them to do it that extensively as to kill the children. Now, entering Deuteronomy, keep in mind that this is the "Second giving of the Law", and is the words of Moses (1:1-3) reiterating the commandments God had given Him. God commanded to drive out the pagan nations, and Moses would direct how these wars were to be carried out. So in chapter 7, he speaks of "utterly destroying" them, but does not specify children. It was the fighting men who would be killed, and the societies, and most importantly the religious items that were the focus. Then, in chapter 20, when instructing the Israelites on cleaning out what would become the Holy Land, the first method would be to "proclaim peace" to the city they arrive at (v.10). If they answer peaceably, then there would be no war. If they fight, then they were to besiege it and smite the males, but keep the women and little ones. However, of the six worst nations, the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, they were to "save nothing that breathes" (v.16,17). Once again, this was because of the utter defilement of those tribes, "that they teach you not to do all of their abominations which they have done unto their gods" (v.18) —including making the sacrifice of children (12:31), which God, in this last passage seemed to have a special hatred for.
So God's allowance of the slaughter as far as the children were concerned may have even been an act of mercy, rather than some hatred or retribution against them! Once again, God did not hold them responsible for the sins of their parents. But, we today, with all the psychological knowledge we have, know about abuse; especially, ritual abuse, and how totally damaging it is to a person. (In fact, many relativists and behaviorists will claim that all evildoers are just grown up abused children). So any children who survived seeing their brothers, sisters, or neighbors' children sacrificed like that, and there may have also been ritual sexual abuse and mutilation (as still occurs in some places today) as well, these people would have been psychologically damaged beyond repair. Also, we must not forget that according to later scriptural revelation, there were also wicked spirits behind this pagan worship. So to try to have the Israelites keep these damaged children alive and raise them as their own, would have resulted in many problems, and Israel already had enough of their own problems. So it was just merciful to kill the children as well. (The nations marked for complete extinction were the ones doing the worse acts of ritual abuse. The ones in which they could keep some or all of the children were not as bad).
Remember, the whole theme behind the Biblical story is that this world is fallen, and therefore a temporary place of suffering anyway. Losing one's physical life is not the worse thing that can happen to a person, —unless you are absolutely sure there is nothing after this. And there is overwhelming evidence that children who have not lived to an age of accountability (when they know the choice between repentance or remaining in sin) will be saved. So it is actually eternally better off for those children to have been killed and removed from out of that horrible environment, than to grow up to adulthood, and live an entire life of ritual sickness and demon possession.
Of course, this does not justify anyone taking such a matter into their own hands today. Once again, this was the Old Testament, and the New Testament, which is God's final will, ushers in an age of grace, where God does not usually punish people with physical death for sin, but instead gives them a lifetime to repent. Jesus gave the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) in which he warns his "servants" not to take it upon themselves to kill off the evil, "lest while you gather up the tares, you also uproot the wheat with them". God is not commanding us to kill the wicked as He sometimes did with Israel, and we do not have the eternal wisdom to do it ourselves. So God says that He Himself will separate the righteous from the wicked at the end of the age. If God thinks someone should die, He causes it Himself (Acts 5, 1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Once again, it is His right to do this. Yes, both Christians and Muslims have in fact, taken it upon themselves to be God's warriors of death on what they see as sinning cultures at times. But recall the list of scriptures cited earlier about the falsehoods that would develop in the Christian era. You cannot call God barbaric because He has the right to take the life that He gave in the first place, and sinful men claim to be His followers and often wrongly appropriate that right to themselves. Of course, this is not to say that the death penalty is always wrong. I'm sure that some are thinking "if we shouldn't ever kill the evil, then Christianity is allowing 'cancer' to thrive", while others are criticizing certain Christian leaders for being almost bloodthirsty in demanding a death penalty along with war. (Perhaps the same people make both criticisms to try to prove that following the Bible is totally impossible, once again). But punishing a violent crime with death is not the same as man trying to weed out all wrong by identifying a group that should be eradicated, so whichever position you take on capital punishment, the Bible is more balanced than most portray it.
I've seen one person online ask why God had to command people to wipe them out, and not do it himself. That too was probably to teach the Israelites the gravity of sin, just like the animal sacrifices. Plus, as a nation in the world, God allowed them to have their wars, just like all others, and that was what was common in war, and still is. But once again, whatever the reason, this is obviously not what God commands or gives the authority to anyone to do now, and such questions cannot be an excuse to conclude that this God is "cruel" and therefore unreal (as if one conclusion even leads to the other!).
He also questions the age of accountability as really undefinable, and says that this would make it better for everyone to die before reaching that age, so they would be assured to go to Heaven (and Calvinists actually make the same claim!) I myself have such questions, and often feel that this present age of suffering should end and Christ's Kingdom begin already, which would solve all of these problems people address. But I don't see a warrant to reject Him because I do not know why He does things the way He does. How do we figure that God's reality is determined by us knowing why He once commanded or at least allowed children to be slaughtered, and allows pain and suffering to go on, and Christians who are as limited as everyone else cannot answer it? I know that in the past, many asked questions in Church and were silenced. The Church, in it's heyday of power, acted like it had all the answers, and when the leaders didn't, they totally deflected the questions, often harshly. But today, many Christians admit that we cannot know all of these things. But this is still then taken as proof that we can't know there is a God and that the Bible is true, then. Agnosticism and relativism are then assumed to be proven by default. Since when does knowing everything become the criterion for knowing certain things? Demanding answers to these questions and then dismissing the whole faith because they are not answerable is not being objective. The faith once again, is addressing the problems of life, and a promised solution. All of these other things are but tangents mentioned in the Bible in passing. But we should admit that no, we cannot always answer such questions as this (beyond God being sovereign), and the truth we are teaching should not be dismissed on it. For then, we are claiming to know the unknowable. (e.g. God certainly does not exist because this stuff doesn't make sense to us). It is really a side question, anyway. We do not have all the answers as to certain realities in nature and the universe (including the same old questions as to why there is death and suffering), but we still believe in their reality. Why accept and respect nature/the cosmos by itself, but then place so many righteous demands on a personal Creator if we are to believe one exists? Remember, this being or "life force" is way above our comprehension, and we could never understand all the why's.
While I myself may feel somewhat embarrassed by all of this for the sake of those who are truly bewildered and scandalized by it, it suddenly dawns on me, that it is truly amazing that such liberal minded people would object so much to children being slaughtered, when they today defend the right for the mother and doctors to do essentially the same thing; the only difference being the child hasn't come out of the womb yet! (And some propose allowing it when the child is starting to be born!). And this not for war, or even a grim sense of mercy, but for pure self-convenience! The person wanted to have sex with someone, but not have a child, then. Of course, they try to reason that "it is not a person yet". Even though the body is completely formed, and the brain functioning. And if the fetus is removed prematurely, but then still grown to maturity, then did it become a person at that early stage? I'm sorry, but this forces one to question, whether the people who argue against God really care about "those poor innocent children" in Canaan at all, or are just heaping up another excuse, that is hard to answer, just to more easily dismiss this God they do not want ruling over them. So the way it comes out is, it is OK for us to kill, but not God. It is OK for us to judge, but not God. People have thus essentially made themselves God, by appropriating rights ascribed to Him to themselves. This is under the premise that He is a manmade myth anyway, but it is their concepts that are manmade, not the reality of a living God over creation.
Monotheism and Human guilt; Law; Judging
All of this explanation may still not be convincing to you. But if you say we can't know, then you must at least acknowledge that it could be true. You may have all sorts of supposed contradictions or other problems stacked up, but this could be our limited understanding. If you dogmatically assert that it is not true, then how can we know this? Because it is not agreeable to what we want?
So once again, we ask, what is monotheism doing so bad to people that it needs to be eradicated? Making them feel guilty! To say that this is always wrong or destructive, you would have to show that guilt is always unfounded. Guilt is a natural emotion. Can you prove that the guilt is not a legitimate warning of moral truth and people reject it simply because their nature ("flesh") does not like it? People seem to think that things must not be true simply because they don't like them, but I may not like gravity, but that does not mean it will not pull me to the ground, if I try to take a shortcut from one high point to another. This illustrates the difference between moral law and physical law. Physical law is immediately enforced (such as gravity), so it is therefore "real" and "provable" to people, "whether we like it or not", as they often say. Many moral laws, however, are not readily enforced; therefore are assumed to be safe to be readily dismissed as "abstract", and "unprovable", often because we don't like them, doesn't make sense, not convenient, etc. Murder is one moral law we see as having sure consequences, so we will often treat that as the only real moral law, and also perhaps stealing and cheating — if we don't get caught! Knocking down old ladies is usually looked down on, because we do not want anyone to do that to us when we get old, or to our elders. But in a world of situation-based, feeling-driven "relativity", the people who do commit those acts often think they are justified as well, somehow. "Life is rough out there". "I have to survive by any means necessary". "That person is emotionally damaged". Who can really draw the line? This here further illustrates our sin nature, because we are bent on getting away with as much as we can. We only follow rules that we see will have inescapable negative consequences. We are "unruly". What parent or boss wants someone to obey them only because they are standing over them enforcing the rules? It is amazing that people can understand and submit to, or themselves be human authority, but then think God's authority is some silly abstraction, or a control tool. But, ah, that's because we can't see Him! But this is how we are. God gives us the freedom of not imposing His fearsome presence on us, like He did with the Israelites, and not observably, readily enforcing His laws, and what do we do, but then dismiss Him as an "abstraction", and conclude we can't know He is real because we can't see Him! People say the purpose of life is "survival", but trying to get away with as much as one can is not conducive to a society that will survive the destruction we are bringing on ourselves— largely with philosophies like this. This is why we need to be "controlled", but it's God through His Spirit that must control, not men. Men are to be guides, but not "lords" as one scripture says.
One person described to me, man having a "reptilian nature". This seems to be based on evolution, which claims that man evolved from other mammals, who in turn ultimately evolved from reptiles. Carl Sagan's Dragons Of Eden also seems to be an inspiration. This reptilian nature seems to be nothing more than the sin nature, with blame shifted from guilt from the Fall to evolutionary nature, which is said to be "incomplete" (this right here acknowledges some sort of deficiency in man as he is, but does so in a way that removes all guilt, of course). People are so concerned about guilt, having a serious problem with the whole concept. So they are not being "objective". They are still reacting to the old Church. Ironically, many people believe what is called "Existentialism", which focuses on human responsibility; that is, of the individual, but not the system (e.g. humanity). So we can relegate the status of humanity to just a reptilian animal, to excuse behavior and remove the guilt, but each individual is elevated to godlike status, to give him the authority to do as he pleases (which animals lack). This is the flipside of what the world often criticizes the Church for —reducing man to a worthless filthy sinner, at the same time as exalting him to be so special and the center of the universe! Reptiles need to be controlled; locked up in a zoo, if they are going to live among people. Which one is it? We can't keep hiding behind animal behavior. People like the one I debated even point out that no other animal is as brutal as humans are. They kill to survive, for food, or for territory, but not to the extent or some of the ridiculous reasons we do. No other animal can wipe life off of this planet, it is admitted. Then there is this recurring argument I hear about hypothetical "life from another planet". "If they are far more advanced than us, then it will prove once and for all whether our beliefs are true, and how dare us, in all our arrogance still say that they are wrong! We are but 'barbarians' who have not completely evolved yet". But such unprovable hypothesis is not what one should stake the truth now on. Besides, if that civilization was also fallen like us, then they could come and tell us anything, and that wouldn't mean it was true. Those who reject Western philosophy, or criticize its slavery and conquest should think of white conquerors landing on the shores of Africa and America and easily conquering the "less advanced" natives. Does that prove that the "more advanced" peoples had the right knowledge about life? While many conservative including Christians argue this, the more liberal minded philosophical people, including some agnostic black activist types, who push such moral relativism, flatly reject it.
So once again, we cannot eliminate right and wrong. If you deny guilt, then what is being assumed? Innocence, which is what else, but a form of "good". That's why I reject, "don't judge", because it is calling all of the evil in the world, essentially, "good" (see Isaiah 5:20), under the premise of it being "neutral" [i.e. neither right nor wrong]. But innocence insinuates goodness, while "neutral" would be akin to not even being on the stand. When Jesus said, "Do not judge" (one of the most common verses hurled at Christians so they won't say anyone is condemned), he was talking about our dealing with other believers ("your brothers", see context), and in a looser context, it is saying not to be a hypocrite. So yes, it is wrong for a Christian to chastise others for fornicating, if he is doing it himself. But elsewhere, The same Jesus says that he who doesn't believe in Him, "...is condemned [judged] already, because He has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God". The reason, continuing, "And this is the condemnation: that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18-19). So when a Christian mentions a person's condemnation for rejecting Christ, he is NOT "judging" him! He is only relaying God's prior judgment of his decision. The Christian does not decide that this person is going to Hell for not following his religion. Unless, of course, you "know" for certain that it is all man-made nonsense! Look at all the senseless killings, financial and political corruption, child abuse (including sexual), and even computer viruses unleashed just to destroy others' belongings, even though it doesn't even yield any tangible benefit to them (other than watching with pride everyone else's misfortune). Yet to many, all of this is neutral; "just the way life is", because the Bible is imaginary, because Christians cannot to a skeptic's satisfaction answer some deep questions about God that He has not revealed, and no one can know otherwise; or supposed discrepancies in the Bible! People really need to think about logic like this.
Many also see religion as a "crutch" for the "weak", in order to "justify himself", and if one "believes in himself" and "loves himself" he would not need that. While there were many in the past; especially the "holy roller" types, and other cultural Christians, who seemed to use it just for some pragmatic reason, still, human guilt is real. The fact that you feel we are only trying to "justify ourselves" is another strike against this total guiltless relativity. Of course, they will claim it's just some unfounded guilt from one's own internal self-conscience, influenced by some old religion, again. But where really does this come from? If centuries of enlightenment have not eradicated all this fear and guilt, then it must be a more natural problem. Plus, the relativist's denial of this is also a de-facto act of self-justification. "I'm not guilty of sin as that religion says; I've overcome my hangups without that 'crutch'". Whether it is even true or not, the person has in fact justified himself! Both sides can accuse the other of not being totally objective. But ultimately, who has the most to lose if they are wrong, and the other side is right?
People often tell us to be "loving" or "giving" instead of preaching to them, but actually, if all this stuff happens to be true (and remember, you allow for the possibility that it is), then the most loving thing we can do is point you to eternal life, the escaping of eternal death.
Many people, such as Vidal and the Mad Magazine executive mentioned in the beginning, have such strong feelings towards this monotheism that they see as so destructive, with its God that they see as so barbaric and hypocritical. But what they all need to think is: If this is all nonsense believed in by ignorant people needing some sort of "crutch", then why feel so strongly about it? Why be so angry? Why are you so threatened? People SPITE it as if it actually was a real authority that they simply didn't like, but couldn't totally honestly deny. (The shock value dominating much of modern entertainment is a latent form of this. You know it's wrong and legitimately offensive, but it is so exciting to see all taboos smashed, yet you wouldn't want anyone else to trample on your feelings or convictions like that). This is what I came to realize. I felt the same way every time I heard Pat Robertson and others pitch their politically charged message and the morality. If we were in ancient Judea, Middle Ages Christian Europe and Puritan America, or the Islamic world, I could see feeling threatened by "monotheism", and wishing it eradicated, because then they had the power to enforce it, and often they did use imprisonment, torture, and even death. But these voices today are mostly in this country and Europe, where Christianity today carries almost no real power. If it is not real, and all is "relative", what difference does it make what silliness these other people believe? However, if it is real, then it makes sense for people to be threatened by it. But then if it is real, your only choice is either to accept this God and all His ways, or reject Him, and face eternal punishment! That is the only reason anyone should be threatened, and their strong reactions are a big proof of their lack of objectivity, and fear that it might be true, despite all of the challenges, inconsistencies, scriptural flaws, hypocrisies, etc. they level at Christians. I came to see the truth of it, and separate it from the errors of its followers, which are themselves addressed in the Bible.
Intelligent Design Controversy
Throughout this page; I have employed an argument of "design" in nature. But lately, the notion of "Intelligent Design", used by more modern Christians in debates over which theory of origins should be taught in classrooms, is coming under heavy fire from the scientific community, as being a "hoax". Some articles, such as The "Intelligent Design Hoax", by William J. Bennetta, further betray the lack of objectivity I just discussed, with its emotionally charged name calling; "woo-woo", "hokum", etc. In fact; it sounds an awful lot like the "old-school" creationists they so despise (Henry Morris/CRI, etc), with all the triumphalistic derogatory belittling language! The defensiveness of the scientists today tops anything seen when the old-line creationists were bashing evolution daily and accusing them of destroying the nation! This suggests that while while the scientific community dismissed the old creationists as so far out there, they could be ignored; the new Christian theories are more of a threat, but of course they will not admit this, and just dismiss it as the same old "religious nonsense" repackaged. Also, a mockery of the idea of God, called "the Flying Spaghetti Monster" began to be tossed around, supposedly illustrating that anyone can make up any ridiculous idea off the top of their heads and hypothesize without proof.
People are calling ID "just the old creationism in disguise". I think it's quite remarkable how the "new-school" creationists, as I call them, have changed the views. Christians have yielded so much ground (which is only turned around into a "proof" that everything we've said all along was 100% false, just like The Flat World, geocentric model of the universe, the trials of Galileo and Bruno, "People used to believe rainbows and lightning were supernatural" etc. which keeps getting thrown up in these discussions). But apparently it STILL isn't enough for these "Scientists". What more do they want? For us to assume that the only acceptable "theory' is that everything just popped out of nowhere randomly and developed itself into the world we see today? What "proof" has been offered for that? We're just supposed to accept that by default as the only possibility until the creationists can come up with some magical solid "proof" that everyone knows is not to be found. (Perhaps a film of God creating the universe would suffice? No, but then those lying creationists would have somehow forged that too). Scientists admit they don't know when they're still trying to figure what happened that first nanosecond after the big bang! So some creationists in the past bent some things to try to force the world into a few thousand years. (Like non-Christian scientists, who do not even believe it is a "sin" to lie would never do such a thing!) That still doesn't mean that agnosticism is proven by default. ("We don't know" is the only right answer, and those who claim to know are 'wrong').
Recall that a baleen whale builds and then resorbs a useless set of teeth. Recall that a woman produces and stores hundreds of thousands of oocytes, though only a few hundred will ever become eggs and enter her fallopian tubes. Recall that a man develops nipples! Recall that the channel which carries air to your lungs intersects the channel which carries food to your stomach -- an arrangement so awkward that it literally can make you choke. Why? Why do organisms so often seem absurd, and why do they do things that, by rational technological standards, seem foolish and wasteful? Biologists offer cogent answers: Nature isn't rational, organisms aren't technological devices, and organisms needn't be ideal or even efficient. They merely need to be workable -- workable enough to survive and leave some descendants. They make do with mediocre mechanisms that they have inherited from their ancestors, and they still carry the relics of structures, systems, developmental programs, and behavioral scripts that once enabled their ancestors to achieve workability. The writers of Pandas offered no answer at all. They didn't even try. They prattled (as creationists always had prattled) about the wonderful traits that some living things display, but they ignored (as creationists always had ignored) the innumerable features that make living things look like bungled contraptions. The FTE writers declined to tell why their "consummate engineer" had done so much third-rate work, or why their "intelligent designer" had designed so many kludges, or why their "intelligent agent" had not invented a more intelligent way to get both of a halibut's eyes onto the same side of its head. They even declined to reveal why the "primeval intellect" had decided that frigate-birds, which never swim, should have webbed feet."Show Me The Science" by Daniel C. Dennett, New York Times Op Ed, 8-28-05 also claims:
Take the development of the eye, which has been one of the favorite challenges of creationists. How on eart, they ask, could that engineering marvel be produced by a series of small, unplanned steps? Only an intelligent designer could have created such a brilliant arrangement of a shape-shifting lens, an aperture-adjusting iris, a light sensitive image surface of exquisite sensitivity, all housed in sphere that can shift its aim in a hundredth of a second and send megabytes of information to the visual cortex every second for years on end.
But as we learn more and more about the history of the genes involved, and how they evolved more than a half-billion years ago — we can begin to tell the story of how photosensitive spots can gradually turned into light-sensitive craters that could detect the rough direction from which light came, and then gradually acquired their lenses, improving their information-gathering capacities all the while.
We can't yet say what all the details of this process were, but real eyes representative of all the intermediate stages can be found, dotted around the animal kingdom, and we have detailed computer models to demonstrate that the creative process works just as the theory says.
All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offpsring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the designof the eye by one mindless step. And since these lucky improvements accumulate — this was Darwin's insight — eyes can automatically get better and better and better, without any intelligent designer.
Brillant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a telltale flaw: the retina is inside out. Th enerve finers that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder, and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the randomness of the historical process.
Here we have, under the goal of proving a relativistic world without God, a judgment of "flaws" compared to the way things "should be", "if there is a God". No, a human electronics designer may not deliberately design a camcorder this way, but they that is because we do not know how to do such things and receive a maximum result. The eye is not simply a machine anyway, but part of a living organism, with a conscious entity receiving and perceiving the signals. We cannot create this, except by using a reproduction process we did not design either. The "blind spot" mentioned can be illustrated by the little exercise at this site: http://www.tedmontgomery.com/the_eye/optcnrve.html. Still, with both eyes filling in for each other, our sight works well enough for us to function as God has designed. We may argue that God "could have" designed it "better", but we do not know why He didn't, and as was mentioned above, the way this universe was set up, it had to have been done one way or another, and if the nerves had gone through some other way, maybe there would be some other limitation. (This site: http://www.catalase.com/retina.htm argues that the retina is better for us the way it is!)
If we keep pressing "why", then we call into question why the entire universe was created as it is, and while scientists may wonder about that, still, we have to deal with the fact that it is here, and it is the way that it is, and there is no logical or scientific proof that it created itself, and such so called "flaws" are no proof that it did. Neither are these so-called "intermediate stages", which do not even necessarily prove that one evolved into the other. People are basically starting with the presupposition of evolution, and saying "this is compatible with it", and then assuming this as solid "proof").
This ignores the whole question of how such "workable" systems could come to be without design in the first place! They use the argument of "malfunction" to try to prove "well it can't be God then", and of course, the idea of some kind of a Fall would be sneered at as just more "fundamentalist woo-woo". Admitting we don't know exactly why all these things are would be triumphally seen as conceding defeat. But where do we even get our concept of "workability" and "efficiency" from? Why are these organisms (random conglomeration of amino acids, etc) trying to "survive and leave descendants" in the first place?
If Christians are to be criticized for sometimes concluding "We cannot know everything about God", then look at Dennett's statement:
If you still find [this] compelling, a sort of cognitive illusion that you can feel even as you discuss it, you are like just about everybody else in the world the idea that natural selection has the power to generate such sophisticated designs is deeply counterintuitive. Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, once jokingly credited his colleague Leslie Orgel with "Orgel's Second Rule": Evolution is cleverer than you are. Evolutionary biologists are often startled by the power of natural selection to "discover" an "ingenious" solution to a design problem posed in the lab.This sounds to me like the scientists' counterpart to the Christians' old line of "God is above our comprehension" used to get around the question when you have no answer for it. It makes it seem to me that evolution is simply "god" with the "intelligence" removed, but it is really still there in practice in a way we do not understand. Basically; it is God without the personality, and that seems to be what people want. Once again, they do not want any being "sitting and judging them", and this once again, removes the objectivity from their side of the argument. Anyway, the "color" and "heat" analogies are not that hard to understand, as both come from the "tuning" of our senses to perceive color and heat; precisely one of those things non-intelligent processes cannot explain! All "color" is is a wavelength of light, and since atoms are too small for whole light rays to bounce off of and individually be seen, they can have no "color", but the objects they make up do reflect enough light rays, which are picked up by conscious creatures who perceive them as what we call "color". Likewise, "heat" is just atoms moving faster with respect to each other, and this causes the objects they make to break down ("burn", "melt", "vaporize", etc.) and is picked up by conscious creatures (as a warning), as what we call "heat".
Intelligent design advocates, however, exploit the ambiguity between process and product that is built into the word "design". For them, the presence of a finished product (a fully evolved eye, for instance) is evidence of an intelligent design process. But this tempting conclusion is just what evolutionary biology has shown to be mistaken.
Yes, eyes are for seeing, but these and all the other purposes in the natural world can be generated by processes that are themselves without purposes and without intelligence. This is hard to understand, but so is the idea that colored objects are composed of atoms that that are themselves not colored, and that heat is not made of tiny hot things.
Likewise, Carl Sagan once asked in his lectures called "Ethos" or “The Search for Who We Are”: "why the God of the Scriptures seems to betray no apparent knowledge of the wider universe that 'He or She or It or whatever the appropriate pronoun is' allegedly created. Why not a commandment, for instance, that thou shalt not exceed the speed of light? Or why not engrave the Ten Commandments on the Moon in such a way that they would not be discovered until now, à la the slab in '2001: A Space Odyssey'"? ("A Familiar and Prescient Voice, Brought to Life" By Dennis Overbye, New York Times February 13, 2007) But these are ridiculous demands to stake the question of the existence of God on. For one thing, why would He be "commanding" not to travel faster than light? The people in Bible times knew nothing about any such idea, and we would learn it on our own centuries later. It is not a crucial "law" necessary for human society to function like the moral laws that were commanded are, but rather a physical limitation just like gravity. We already automatically "obey" the command. As for the Ten Commandments on the moon, again, this raises the question of why anything we look at is the way it is, and not different. Again, why can't we then create the universe any better, then? Richard Dawkins (Author of The God Delusion) said that Sagan "was more than religious, having left behind the priests and mullahs". “He left them behind, because he had so much more to be religious about,” “They have their Bronze Age myths, medieval superstitions and childish wishful thinking. He had the universe.” All because we cannot answer why God did not engrave the Ten Commandments on the moon? The Bible is once again, just some "bronze age superstition" because it does not give a commandment on the speed of light? This seems to be the ultimate straw man argument people make. You basically put the whole idea of God into your own box, and say that if it doesn't meet these criteria (which we have made up), then it can't be true. It's amazing that this type of non-logic is what is passed off as an argument in favor of science and casting reigion into the dustbin of bronze age superstition. Sagan's widow added “People like Carl and Dawkins are more serious about God than people who just go through the motions. They are real seekers”, and Sagan is quoted “I think if we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.” but again, if you are so sure that all of religious people's beliefs are just some wishful childish bronze age superstition, it looks like you think you have practically reached that point! And again, what is this "more than religious" concept? Do you even know what this word you're tossing around like that means? If "religion" is supposedly "good", then is "more than religious" supposed to be better? People speak so much about "just getting their 'religion' or whatever from 'nature'", instead of "picking up 'the Book' to stroke one's ego" (i.e. make themselves important in the universe). While many have used the Bible to stroke their own ego (as I address on the other pages), still aren't the scientists here stroking their own egos? The only "God" they are are serious about is the one who is unintelligent and makes no demands on their lives. Again, this is supposed to be "objective" and "unbiased"? And while we may be very insignificant in the overall scale of the universe, still, we do want to bear control over this little speck that we do live in, and both sides have been equally guilty of using their beliefs to accomplish this! Think of it, if there is no higher authority in the universe, wouldn't that in a way be the same ego boost? Oh, there may be some advanced civilization out there somewhere; but as long as they are not showing up here, we have no knowledge of them, and we are the highest bings in the universe that we know of! That will have a similar effect on the ego, as it really matter not how significant we are int he whole universe, because we have no knowledge of the whole universe. What matters is how significant we are in our own world, which we can see and experience and bear some influence over!
It is amazing how people can so triumphalistically dismiss others' "unscientific" beliefs on the basis of such ridiculous, fabricated claims and demands! It's these types of arguments on what God should be that are more comparable to the notion of a "Flying Spaghetti Monster"!
After a spate of articles like these, I had entered several online debates on the issue, and when I brought up the issue of the origins of the universe and life in the first place, I was told by some that "origins is a whole different branch of science called 'abiogenesis'. This is not a domain evolution claims at this moment". Still, evolution without a designer would be moot apart from abiogenesis. They are here trying to separate "abiogenesis", but when Christians criticize "evolution", they are including the whole system that is taught in school, which assumes abiogenesis, and then random mutations and natural selection of species. It's all taught together, so it is challenged together. The question still remains how "evolution", even giving it more and more time, could transform nonliving matter into "cells" that have a drive to "survive", and from there, eventually become conscious entities that can move about and fight to survive, and now, rationalize about it. At least one person tried to claim that the origin of life was much more fuzzy that we normally think, as it began not with a whole cell.
A single strand of RNA can reproduce in the right conditions, ie the 'primordial soup' we always hear about that we know was present. A whole cell is not required, the RNA can make copies of itself using the ingredients in the soup. The RNA itself could mutate and hence evolve towards cells. It's conceivable that the first RNA was created by the right ingredients smashing together in the right way, although most people think a longer as yet undiscovered process was involved. Maybe starting with a simpler reproducing molecule. Very hard to go back and observe it now. What is 'living' though? A single RNA molecule? A cell? A tree? A worm? A cat? A human? Each is in a more 'advanced' state of living. The living/non-living transition, while seeming crystal-clear today, is actually not. The same way as there is no clear-cut boundary between species, there doesn't have to be a clear-cut boundary between life and non-life. Life is characterized by several basic traits - but these traits didn't have to appear all at once. Primitive RNA molecule is capable of replication, but it can only do so if its building blocks are already present around it - it can't do any active searching. Is it alive?Still, if it is a RNA strain, the same question remains, as to how nonliving matter could just suddenly start "living" like that? How could there be any "state" to begin with? Whether it appears at once by itself, or gradually, the question still remains how it could develop in the first place. Just spreading it out into a slow gradual process does not explain this by itself. The scientists are criticizing ID for not having enough scientific evidence and credentials, but much of their science seems to be generalized. We have evidences of some small "steps" of this theoretical process, and a supposed "long period of time", and then we just jump to the conclusion that everything evolved without evidence for everything else. Often blanks are just filled in (like between man and ape), and just generalized. ("well, it must have happened, because a similar pattern exists elsewhere"). That is understandable, but then it is not enough to try to sweep aside religious beliefs (and it is thus not as "proven" as a round earth, or how lightning and rainbows are made). They claim "No evidence to the contrary", but in this, the criteria changes. For ID, we need some hard proof. For evolution, you just need no proof to the contrary.
Then it was claimed: "The steps are random, but the overall effect is not. If someone said the steps were not random, i.e. they were directed in some way towards some goal, then they are wrong".
If the steps are random, then isn't the overal product of them "random" as well? If the overall effect is not random, then isn't it a sort of "goal"? "If you take a sieve and fill it with sand, and then shake it, what you do are essentially random movements. Yet the result is far from random - the small grains of sand pass through, while large stay on top. On the other hand, 'goal' in my opinion means that it's specified beforehand. It's a loaded word. There are results. And while we can tell some things about these results in advance (that they will result in better-adapted organisms), we can't tell the exact details in advance, as there are many ways to do it and which one is chosen is more or less random". Specified before hand? Where does that come from, too?
So I pointed out that all of this requires just as much "faith in uncertainty" as belief in God. One person responded: "No, not faith. It's like if I can solve a math puzzle and you can't. I can see the answer, through reason and logic, not faith. There is a huge amount of evidence for evolution. There is no evidence for ID". But arguments for ID start with special revelation of course. But with all the demand for "evidence" (a lot of it previously based on "logic"), we have had to come up with logical arguments. People continuously reject the idea that "You believe that your religion just happens to be the true one"; but it's not like I was born a Christian, and I one day decided "of all these other religions out there, mine 'just happens' to be the true one" (like "my race is superior", etc). It is something that when I was searching, I weighed against other ideas (including the naturalism, humanism and agnosticism I was raised up in), and it seemed to explain what I was seeing in life, when I probed beneath all the charlatans, hypocrisy, fearmongering, and money-grubbing. But then, you demand hard physical evidence. However, when we demand hard physical evidence, you then claim that logic used to generalize lesser evidence is sufficient (e.g. "no, we do not have absolute proof, but we see things appear to have been going this way, and it is more 'evidence' than you have given so that must have been true"). That to me is still a kind of "faith". I don't see this "evidence"; I have to take your word for it. We come up with these criteria, like "testability", or claim "There is no research. No labs. No articles describing their findings", and then dismiss people's objections. Who says something has to be "testable" to be taught? Of course, it is good for something to be testable, but there may be some things that are true, but not testable, and to assume otherwise is to take on a bias, and this is understandably opposed.
One person went as far as to tell me that I "seem to sense intuitively that what you're defending is ridiculously unlikely, yet you spend your life turning every sort of intellectual backflip trying to defend it anyway, rather than simply admitting that it's extremely improbable and looking for an explanation that's more in accord with the evidence, including the evidence of your own senses" [i.e. physical/tangible "scientific" evidence! So then I guess my only recourse is to become agnostic, or else I am just another ignoramus, or something, right?] Funny, but "Extemely improbable", is just like what I used to hear from science, that the right combination of environments and chemicals to start life and allow it to evolve like this was extremely improbable, but voila! we're here! "improbable" does not equal impossible. Yes, in a world of matter with set laws, supernatural events seem "improbable", but that was precisely the point of them in the Bible. God does what is improbable in nature alone. So yes, intuitively, it seems unlikely and hard to defend. But it is more than just about physical probability. 20 years ago; I began grappling with all these things (including why I as an agnostic evolutionist got so upset at the creationists in the first place if they were teaching such "nonsense"), and while I never got all my questions answered, or "absolute certainty", many other factors did tip the scale in favor of the Bible, especially when the trappings of institutional Christianity were removed and exposed. There are more senses than just "see, hear, smell, touch and taste", anyway.
And a comparison to how science disproved a flat earth, supernatural rainbows, lightning, etc. is also another great overgeneralization. One person claimed: "All these theories trod on religious belief, and in all cases science won (we're still in the middle of the debate over evolution though)". (Once again, the same pattern, "it seemed to go this way in the past, so now, it must go the same way in the present and future). "We have disproven everything the Church has ever taught God was needed for (rainbows, lightning, etc), and we have a hypothesis on creation without him (because we see some evolution, and think then that it all could have worked by natural processes alone, and why would God do it this way?) so what is he needed for? (Nothing, except as some "crutch" for a bunch of people too afraid to make their own decisions)". and so on. Just because the Church was wrong on one thing doesn't make it wrong on everything. (Note, those who claim to believe in God, yet accept everything science says need to be aware that these theories deduce that while there may be a God, he is "not needed"). That particular rainbow mentioned in Genesis, which some in the church once took as proving all rainbows were a "miracle" and punished someone for denying, for instance, was a specific promise of God. The Bible does not say that all other rainbows would be supernatural tokens of that promise, and it doesn't preclude the natural process involved in it (notice a cloud covers the earth at that time!). The Bible did not teach that God caused every lightning bolt either, nor a flat earth any more than scientists assume one when speaking of the sun "rising" like everyone else. Just like they will point out that some interpret evolution in different ways, so did the Church add all of these interpretations to the Bible. Then, when they are disproven, people think they have finally disproven the Bible, but it has never been so. Still, something dealing with the past (in which none of us were there) is not going to be as sure as everyday events like rainbows, lightning or the rotation of the earth.
One definition of "science" given was: "Evolution makes predictions that say (in general outlines) what should we expect to find in places we didn't look yet. What are predictions of ID?" I cannot answer for all "ID" advocates, but ID would basically be a theory of an intelligent designer. That would be its "prediction", but then, that cannot be absolutely proven by natural means, because the Designer lies beyond the physical realm. It WILL be "tested" and the "prediction" be found true or false by every person at death. Of course, this is just dismissed all the more as making it "untestable", but the only difference between that and this definition of "Science" is that nobody can come ack to tell everyone about it. So the design in nature is the primary evidence. Many creationists will try to debunk evolution as an easy shortcut to strengthen the argument, but hypothetically, ID is really about beginnings. There could be a certain amount of random development, natural selection, etc. but still, there are universal laws and principles that all of this operate on, and this had to be designed.
Then, the issue of "morals" even came up, as one person took offense to my argument that scientists who believe that moral are relative might be more likely to lie. "Even if morality evolved, it would not be any less real, and it wouldn't make those believing such things any less moral". No, if there was no higher authority, then why shouldn't I do something bad if I think I could get away with it? (the "Only 'wrong' if I get caught" syndrome--after all, it was pragmatic self-serving reasons that created "morality" in the first place, right?)
I included that because people are so quick to accuse creationists (including ID) of deliberately twisting things, and here is a case where there are opposing claims, and someone is obviously getting something wrong, and charges of twisting the evidence are being thrown back and forth between both sides, and it is hard to readily see who is telling the truth. But while people will do "wrong" no matter what they profess, still, some beliefs say there is a such thing as right and wrong, while others call that into question with "relativity". Which one would be more likely excuse lying? Which one could say that it is not "wrong", or at least have no clear definition of "wrong"? This is just a point I myself see as being in favor of ID, and not meant to be an attack. He then asked "Does this mean that your morals would evaporate if your belief in God disappeared?"
For many, yes. I would be more likely to lie and cheat, for WHY NOT? (If I think I won't get caught, or "it doesn't matter, as long as I'm not killing anybody"). This is human nature, not only those following rules. "Wouldn't that make atheists more moral than Christians by definition?
One thing is that we get our sense of right and wrong through parents' education, at time our brains are plastic enough to better form basic beliefs.
And once again, morals are probably needed to sustain a complex social structure".
No, they only have some pragmatic reason for whatever "morality" they have (including just inherited "tradition"). But they too do things when they think nobody's looking, and relativity would argue that there's nothing really wrong with it. It's only some old custom, after all. (Remember, I was once non-religious too).
"But I, for example, have long thought not just about my morals, but about reasons for them. By invoking a higher power here, you imply that right and wrong is so convoluted that humans can't figure it out on their own".
No, man is convoluted, and has a sense of right and wrong (inbred conscience), but also a nature that goes against that. This to me is the biggest (logical, as I argued above) proof of all! And the non-religious admit this convolution, though in their own words! (such as "we are barbarians, reptilian, not evolved enough", etc.)
I just found it so funny how such arguments could be made on someone following "someone else's" rules" being "less moral", from a premise that presumes moral relativism.
In connection, with this, is also the claim that the modern ID has an "agenda" (just like the old creationists, of course). "...the religious side has an agenda, whereas the scientific side does not. The religious side WANTS to find an answer that includes God, they presuppose the existence of God, and go looking for evidence that appears to support their arguments, in isolation from all other evidence. I have seen all their arguments answered though. The scientific side does not consider God in their search. Some of them might believe in God, some might not, they don't have an agenda either way as a group. They are by definition, brought together by evidence, not belief. They WANT to see ALL the evidence, not just the part that supports their own argument. Scientists like nothing more than finding evidence that contradicts accepted theories, because it represents a new branch of research". I do believe that Christians often have an agenda. I discuss it all throughout my pages. But they are no "worse", or have no more this tendency than non-Christians, who DO have their own agendas as well. As I have mentioned, nobody wants to follow someone elses "law", so naturally many do not want there to be a God that they would have to submit to. Nobody wants the threat of any hell. This creates an agenda, that people feel just as strongly about as any Christian for their views! This kills total objectivity. It works both ways. (I see more reason to not want there to be a God than to want one). And it seems that people have presupposed there not being a God, and have gone looking for evidence that appears to support their arguments, and set the criteria for what is accepted as evidence. The difference is, that because we are dealing with a supernatural being, you have more physical stuff you can take as "evidence". ID'ers are also criticized for calling their view "science" when it doesn't conform to the standard definition of science, which involves empirical "testability" (falsifiability) in the lab. But ID'ers are accused of having no labs, no research, and having nothing at all, except for criticisms of evolution! I guess the premise of the ID'ers is that any science will be compatible with the theistic view, as apart of their belief that theism is true. But many scientists are interpreting the scientific findings in a way they see as contradicting theism (and their understanding of the Bible), and then insisting, basically, that only their view can be taught in schools, with the criteria for teaching being that it be "science". So naturally, the ID'ers will try to pass their views off as science, so they can be on the playing field. And still; I argue that "science" itself is a manmade concept, and it is amazing to see people who otherwise would argue for no absolutes now treat this category of "science" and its criteria as utter absolutes!
So people try to rule an ID explanation out with "it's not scientific", but it is a possible answer. None of us were around back then, so all we can do is look for clues as to what happened. But what I see happening in this debate, is that this whole "scientific method" criterion is being used to rule out God by definition, and then by default assume that there must be no God, or at least he is "not needed". In other words, God can't be proven or disproven, and "Science" only deals with what can be proven or disproven from physical observation (and of course, if God is above physical nature, and we look only at what we can reproduce with physical nature, we will not see any clear "empirical" evidence for God), so we must leave out God in our "theories", and then, in practice in teaching, we posit a God-less existence as if it were a proven fact, allowing absolutely no other possible alternative. THIS is what the ID and other Creationists are opposing.
People do have a right to not want this forced on their children. (and even if they do home-schooling, hasn't getting vouchers been made difficult by the liberals also?) It does not seem completely objective on this side either. There are many emotional reasons people have against the idea of God, especially the Church's past, and I can well understand this. But then you can't throw in ID's'er faces "The Church persecuted Galileo, Bruno and others in the past, and they scared me with hellifre when I was little", and then claim that only you are objective, while only we have some ulterior emotional sociopolitical motive. The modern ID'ers have come a long way from the old-school "Creationists", with their insistence on a literal young-earth position and the conspiratorial mean-spirited approach to the world, so give them credit for that.
One person in a debate insists that any "logical" deduction we use for God is really an "emotional" response.
“There is a behavior that is invoked in response to some ‘symbolic’ things. The ‘symbolic’ things can be some objects, sounds, words or anything that’s perceptible; and they usually are connected to some ‘ideas’ that are familiar to the person exhibiting the behavior. Such behavior is the ‘emotional response’ to the ‘symbolic’ thing. This means there are great many things that can invoke an emotional response.
For example: during a discussion about the word ‘evil’ some people commented that the atrocities committed by the Nazi were evil, and one suggested there is useful information in recognizing the evil. However, their comments did not explicitly define what is ‘evil,’ and one commented that 'I can’t help myself but think Nazi actions are evil'. In short, they were exhibiting the emotional responses to the word 'Nazi’.
And, the obvious example: the word ‘evolution’ invokes variety of emotional responses from the Christians. The Christians objecting to the theory are not able to simply define the ‘biological evolution,’ but they have very strong conviction about it. In this case, the word ‘evolution’ is not connected to the scientific theory, but it is connected to the Christian idea of the Man as the special creation in the image of God. Some Christians mistakenly connect the Theory of evolution as the ‘proof against’ their religious belief and you can see their emotional responses.
As we have seen, the 'religious faith' exhibits the behavior characteristics of an emotional response. It is 'triggered' by something in the religious person’s life that makes them ‘feel’ the connection to the ‘idea’ of their religion. And such instances when they ‘feel’ the responses are purely emotional.
The important thing about the emotional responses is the recognition of them as the emotional responses. Quite often, as shown in the comments, the person experiencing the emotional response considers his/her conviction as logical deductions.”
The person would go on to ask why some people seem ashamed of "emotion" and want to be seen as "logical" only. But that is obviously understandable, because look at how he is using this "emotional" argument against Christian belief in the first place! In this day and age, logic tends to be looked up to as "scientific" and "objective", and emotion has come to be looked down on, because it is "subjective". (He claimed this itself was just another "emotional" response). But it's true that it is often being used to try to disprove religion! But it is true that emotions are just as much apart of us, and while we must beware of them clouding our better judgment, still, they can be just as worthy as "proof" of something as any "physical" test! (Which is often subject to interpretation and blurred perceptions!)
So anyway, even if you don't think that their response meets "scientific" credentials (as if that's the one infallible thing "God" established!), still, do not say they have not offered an answer, and then try to use that to cast the whole argument as some "dishonest" ploy.
Then, there are claims that Christians are "taking over", and some go as far as to suggest that we will soon be setting up stakes to burn people again. One columnist, commenting on how many people are "falling for" ID, claim "This country truly is going to Hell. But not the way Christians think". Once again, all of this is basically copying the conspiratorial reactions of creationists in the past, and then trying to hurl their claims back at us. People point out how many Christians there are in the country, and because there are some outspoken Christian leaders making their voice heard in politics, and they see so many evangelists in countries like America and Australia, they really think Christians are taking over! Funny, it looks like these countries are moving further and further away from Christianity, and that would be precisely why you see all the Christian evangelism. But evangelistic efforts you are free to reject. What is "officially" taught by public authority figures is something else (You can reject it, but it is harder to do so). People are trying to throw back a charge that it is the religionists who are taking over, but look at the direction of these countries, overall! America is nominally Christian, and popular culture as well as education are generally (in practice) very against God, or at least try to make him totally benign. The whole issue: noone wants anyone "telling them what to do" and "spoiling their fun". This is what culture is being the most shaped by now.
"Ten Questions", including "Why Won't God Heal Amputees"
If the grotesque Flying Speghetti Monster', and the whole [artificial] "sect" of "Pastafarianism" demanding "all the rights of religion" weren't bad enough, the next attack came in the form of a set of ten questions (most of them the issues discussed above) aimed at "intelligent Christians" that ultimately led to a conclusion that not only is God "delusional", but this "matters" very much, because the "delusion" is somehow basically hampering progress. For the longest time, non-christians have been judging christians for "judging", and saying we should all "live and let live", yet now, this site has come up with a reason to not let belief in God live!
On the site, one question that stood out was "who is this guy? Where is he coming from? What is his agenda?" (because it is certain that there must be one, if religion needs so badly to be invalidated and removed).
There is absolutely no clue on the site, and the contact info is an anonymous e-mail address.
It was on the site's blogs that people were also asking this, and then one person pointed out that is was Marshall Brain, who also does the howstuffworks site (which I liked, and even linked to their article on air powered cars on another of my pages). On that site you can find a link to Brain's own site, but on neither do you find anything about WWGHA. It's on the Wikipedia article on Brain that you can find that he is behind both HSW and WWGHA. You right away wonder why he would try to hide behind anonymity like that. Just what is he up to? It also mentions that he is into a science known as "transhumanism", which will aim to learn how to grow body parts, and thus truly "heal amputees". So it starts to become evident that this is his agenda. On the Amputees site, you do see what his ultimate goal is, and that is a "real Heaven On Earth" as opposed to the "imaginary" Heaven of religion he takes such pains to debunk. Science and "new social structures" replacing the "delusion" of religion are what would create this world of peace, where man would evolve to possibly live forever or at least, much longer than he does now.
So NOW it becomes clear what this assault on religion is about. The agenda is a utopian vision! God cannot heal amputees because He is imaginary, but we can, one day! So religion then is impeding progress to this brave new world, such as [supposedly] fostering bigotry and opposing cloning and stem cell research, which are repeated themes of his "questions" that only make sense if God is imaginary.
Unfortunately, religion, especially Christianity, has brought a lot of this on ourselves, for one, by arguing issues like this that the Bible is totally silent on (even in principle. Cloning is nothing but a genetic duplicate of physical flesh. Where does one even get any sense that you're duplicating the soul, which seemed to be the primary fear regarding cloning?)
He also NAILS us on the ridiculous responses we come up with to justify our beliefs, which I have addressed. Most notably "we can't understand what God is doing" or "maybe God is testing the person who does not get healed". It's all the stuff I have been concerned about over the years. All this time, we walk away thinking we have answered the questioners, but all we have done is deflected the questions. And now it's coming back to bite us!
Christian responses were basically predictable. The first one I come across is CalvinDude, which uses the occasion to take repeated swipes at Arminianism. Only Calvinism can answer these questions, because only Calvinism "takes sin seriously". Yet Calvinism is the epitome of what Brain is talking about. With its much prided "hard doctrines about God", which naturally raise more "why" questions, Calvinism more than any other doctrine has as its only recourse, the "we just can't understand God's plan" response. But it should be becoming clear with this that the world is fed up with bold assertions that cannot be backed up, and thus rely exclusively on deflectionary tactics.
The site also appears to take the Lordship approach in judging others by denying that all the divorcing Christians are really Christians. And this, using superficial criteria such as church attendance and Bible reading. But many of the people being referred to as phony Christians do both things.
The other sites I saw used typical clichés such as "all the lives that have been changed", "God heals us by making us cope with the problems instead of removing them" and "everyone knows inside that it's true; that's why they're only picking on Christianity" (which is not true, as Brain is attacking all religion). But all of this was answered on Brain's page, and thus fits right into his caricature of Christians!
While Brain thinks he has finally come with the ultimate refutation of God, his vision faces the same ontological problem as all other utopian schemes. It is predicated on getting people "educated" and changing their views, as well as getting along in peace and harmony, as all utopian visions desire. (And also making religion the main scapegoat, like if we could just get rid of that, then our Heaven On Earth will arrive).
Problem is, how does he plan on accomplishing this? He even gives us a neutralized version of the Ten Commandments, as well as steps to achieve this future paradise. Yet, this after making such an argument that we (our imaginary[!] "souls") are nothing but chemical processes. What he fails to take into consideration is man's natural proclivity to act and act on the premise of "What's In It For Me?" If we just live 80 or so years and then cease to exist, then most people will be more concerned with "getting mine while I'm here" and by any means necessary, after all, "you only have one shot", and not the future. For most people, what good will it do to build some paradise that they won't be around to see? Man's first focus is on his own immediate temporal existence, and not all will have this hope for the future. And how does he plan to get all people out of their religion? Many may be convinced by his reason, but of course, not all. Now, if you heatedly identify it as so "dangerous" and important that the "delusion" be addressed and eliminated, because it's such an impediment to progress, then what should be done about it? Perhaps some sort of "push"; maybe through legislation? Or maybe worse. Brain may not advocate persecution, but he cannot answer for everyone who comes after him, or even those who might join his cause now, with the common goal of eradicating religion. Especially when religion is made the "bad guy" of the world. Then, all sorts of measures will seem justified to people; "for the greater good". This is why utopian schemes have always ended up producing just as much violence, even with their oft cited referrals to slavery and the Crusades, and now, 9-11 as the horrors of religion.
This goes to support the notion that man falls short --even of our own utopian goals. We have high ideals and aspirations that we don't live up to. Where do these come from?
He also assumes to have disproven an afterlife, but has not explained how a "combination of chemicals" creates a conscious entity.That's what he would need to answer to support his conclusion that there can be no more existence as an entity once the chemical proceses of the body cease. All it means at best is that you can no longer receive sensory signals from the physical realm. But 'what' is it that does the "receiving" in the first place? Likewise, naturalism has never explained where the laws of nature that guided the supposed evolution of the universe and life came from. In one debate I had, the anti-ID crowd admitted that, and tried to throw it off onto a whole other theory called abiogenesis.
So with all of the logical argument, we still have an underlying agenda, which generates a lack of objectivity. Brain "needs" for God to be imaginary, for his agenda to work. But this skews the logic, as we see in these assumptions and fallacies.
A noteable similar attack would come through the internet film series Zeitgiest; the first part attacking religion, the second part claming 9-11 was an inside conspiracy, the third part exposing the economic system, and the Addendum reviewing all of this stuff, and then concluding with another utopian vision attained when the current "scarcity-based system" is replaced by a "resource-based system". The economic part of it makes some great points, but unfortunately the involvement of religion in the corrupt US and world systems lead to religion, espcially christianity, getting trashed along with the corrupt politics. Again, we have done this to ourselves by getting mixed up in it (Rev.17-18). The film takes the "Christian story is taken from paganism" approach, but some of the "facts" are clearly wrong. Like December 25th and the "Three Kings". While the former was indeed borrowed from paganism, neither of those myths are in the biblical narrative, but were added centuries later by the church borrowing from paganism in retrospect. A good Christian response to this "Jesus myth hypothesis" is at: Always Be Ready - Zeitgeist: Analysis and Response.
This whole agenda is basically tied to the ultimate principle of survival. Because the desire for comfort and ease is apart of the basic "survival instinct", Christians have often unfortunately made it in itself evil (sin; and while they themselves still practice it in ways, such as demanding money from the flock, and then living comfortably from it).
While this observation of what appears to be an underlying principle of life may lead people to reject the Biblical concept of God; it is still true that we do ASPIRE to more than what we are. Even this may be attempted to be linked to the survival instinct. Yet naturalism has still not satisfactorily explained where this principle of a "survival instinct" would come from in the first place in a universe supposedly coniisting of nothing but material elements. The concept of intimacy I discussed can also be tied to the survival instinct. Yet as we have seen, this is going to circle back around to the question of where the survival instinct comes from, and hence, where consciousness comes from.
So what we end up with is a fundamental principle we cannot measure up to.
Then, there is also Pharyngula: 34 Unconvincing Arguments for God, which answers many arguments I always thought were weak, as well as some I thought were our ultimate proof, and hence used above.
Inasmuch as Christians have often heaped weak or unthoughtout answers, even I have to admit that those 34 answers are mostly good. The weak spot is that they jump to the assumption that the soul is nothing but chemical reactions. But I do not see how chemicals alone can produce a self-conscious entity, which is the normal definition of a soul. Yes, it can be affected by changes in the body chemistry. The way I see it, the soul is made dependent in the physical realm on physical chemistry. We need these bodies to sustain our consciousness in the physical world. That doesn't mean that without the bodies, we don't exist anywhere. And just because we can't see or know "where" this other realm of existence is doesn't mean it can't be real. String theory came close to this by suggesting that between and beneath the size of strings, the notion of space and time break down into some sort of "primeval realm" that is totally different from existence as we know it. (see below)
And arguments such as whether cell division produces one or two souls also don't really say much. If there are two separate self-conscious entities produced by a split of an egg, it was two souls. If two come together to form one person, and it has only one self-consciousness, it is one soul. No one knows exactly when the self-conscious entity begins, but I would think it would be sometime after initial cell division. (Though Christians will insist on fertilization in their arguments against abortion). If a self-counscious soul were just a product of chemical reactions, then we would not be separate, independent souls from our parents. While we often consider children to be "apart of" parents, no one will deny that the child is an independent being with his own personality.
They criticize what they call "God of the gaps" arguments (where unexplained things are taken as the "proofs" of God), pointing back to earlier arguments that have since been explained through science as natural events. But to dismiss all such "gaps" (such as the nature of conscious souls) as simply a lack of scientific knowledge, and conclude that they can automatically, safely be ignored as proofs for god, is to create a sort of "un-God of the gaps" or "science of the gaps".
The best reason I can give for the Bible is that I sense a genuineness in its grand scheme. While people say generally, that the Bible is just another product of ancient people without scientific knowledge, who used God to explain what they couldn't explain, and also scare people into obedience, and in the process distorted the stories of Moses, the prophets and Jesus (or among some hard-nosed skeptics; invented those figures altogether); it just does not seem that way to me. It reads like people genuinely recording what they saw, and even admitting at times that it was hard to believe (like the Resurrection and some of Jesus' other miracles). While it is derided as just a wishful explanation of life and hope for afterlife; it is a purposed explanation. Man does have a sense of guilt for not measuring up to some standard, and the Bible's sole theme is the answer to that problem.
The site claims to debunk "The Argument from Embarrassment" (that the Bible's inclusion of the shortcomings of its people; another sign of this genuineness) by saying "embarrassing moments can be included in a fictional story to heighten dramatic tension and make the eventual triumph of the hero of the story that much greater", but that is just an unfounded supposition (that he even got from someone else). When Christians appeal to that argument, it includes many instances in the Old Testament, even moreso than the New. You have Noah, Moses, the Patriarchs, et. and this written over thousands of years, so it was not a singlehandedly written "story" that would be scripted like that with the end directly in view. We also point out that in other histories, like Egypt's, the defeats and such are left out. The "story" is usually made to make the people look as good as possible all along.
The main problem is mistaking what this theme or framework really is. Many critics of religion base their assessments on the religions they grew up with, or which have become big, influential, or outspoken. So when you think of "Christianity", the main "representative" in pop-culture is generally the Roman Catholic Church. Then, you have the large mainline Protestant demominations; many of who have liberalized down. Yet you also have those pesky fundamentalists or evangelicals (which have basicaly divided into two camps; "old-line" and "neo", though most don't realize this). You also have smaller sects and cults; some of which have bizarre practices and teachings, and can be dangerous to their own members as well as the surrounding community.
So people's view of Christianity and the Bible is shaped largely by an amalgam of opposing extremes: conservative forms and extremes, for whom the Bible is about an angry God tormenting man if he doesn't fall into line; and thus, a control through fear tool by the leaders of the church or sect. On the other end of the spectrum, a message watered down to just a message of "peace and love". Since this is the more appealing of the two, the skeptics will generally take this side and say this is what the Bible (and all religion "is all about"), and then chastize the conservatives for not preaching this instead of hate and fear. But at the same time, they then conclude that since you can have peace and love without the Bible, then it is not really needed then; just a useful sentiment that served its purpose to ancient men without scientific knowledge.
But the Bible's message is more than just peace and love; and the "angry God condemning man", rather than the final answer (as many people have made it out to be) was just the initial condition that set the stage for what is its real message.
So it is my hope that I have made the Gospel more clear, and that you will examine the claims of Christ and the Bible in a new light. I too was once turned off by the thought of Christianity, but Christ can transform anybody, and make him or her see that this is more abundant life. While I may not be able to visibly "prove" it (how does one really expect it to be proved anyway?), there are several facts of life which strongly point to its truth:
Recommended further reading: Paul Copan, That's Just YOUR Interpretation, Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books, 2001
True for You, But Not for Me, Minneapolis, MN, Bethany House, 1998; Chapter 1 can be read here
Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2000
Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World
Addresses many of the points I raise here. See also his other books on pain in the world and God's hiddenness.
Here are some statements from string theory that I found very interesting, which show that this universe might not be the set-in-stone ultimate reality we think it is; that there is an even larger reality, of which the space and time we are familiar with is just a limited creation, and that any instance, it all can change. There is too much stock being put into the laws of physics and evolution in proving what is reality!
What are Space and Time, Really, and Can We Do Without them?
(From The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene, Vintage Books, p.376-78)
...we have freely made use of the concepts of space and of spacetime...envisioning the fabric of
space and space-time as if it were somewhat like a piece of material out of which the universe is
tailored. These images have considerable explanatory power; they are used regularly by
physicists as a visual guide in their own technical work. Although [this] gives us a gradual
impression of meaning, one can still be left asking, What do we really mean by the fabric of the
This is a profound question that has, in one form or another, been the subject of debate for hundreds of years. Newton declared space and time to be eternal and immutable ingredients in the makeup of the cosmos, pristine structures lying beyond the bound of question and explanation. Leibniz and others disagreed, claiming that space and time are merely bookkeeping devices for conveniently summarizing relationships between objects and events within the universe. The location of an object in space and in time has meaning only in comparison with another. Space and time are the vocabulary of these relationships, but nothing more. Although Newton's view held sway for more than 200 years, Leibniz's conception, further developed by Austrian physicist Ernst Mach, is closer to our current picture. As we have seen, Einstein's special and general theory of relativity firmly did away with the concept of an absolute and universal notion of space and time. But we can still ask whether the geometrical model of space-time that plays such a pivotal role in general relativity and in string theory is simply a convenient shorthand for the spatial and temporal relations between various locations, or whether we should view ourselves as truly imbedded in something when we refer to our immersion within the space-time fabric.
Although we are heading into speculative territory, string theory does suggest an answer to this question. The graviton, the smallest bundle of gravitational force, is one particular pattern of string vibration. And just as an electromagnetic field such as visible light is composed of an enormous number of photons, a gravitational field is composed of an enormous number of gravitons—that is, an enormous number of strings executing the graviton vibrational pattern. Gravitational fields, in turn, are encoded in the warping of the space time fabric, and hence we are led to identify the fabric of space-time itself with a colossal number of strings all undergoing the same, orderly, graviton pattern of vibration. In the language of the field, such an enormous, organized array of similarly vibrating strings is know as a coherent state of strings. It's a rather poetic image—the strings of string theory as the threads of the space-time fabric—but we should note that its rigorous meaning has yet to be worked out completely.
Nevertheless, describing the space-time fabric in this string-stitched form does lead us to contemplate the following question. An ordinary piece of fabric is the end product of someone having carefully woven together individual threads, the raw material of common textiles.
Similarly, we can ask ourselves whether there is a raw precursor to the fabric of space-time; a configuration of strings of the cosmic fabric in which they have not yet coalesced into the organized form that we recognize as space-time. Notice that it is somewhat inaccurate to picture this state as a jumbled mass of individual vibrating strings that have yet to stitch themselves together into an ordered whole because, in our usual way of thinking, this presupposes a notion of both space and time; the space in which a string vibrates, and the progression of time —that allows us to follow its change in shape from one moment to the next. But in this raw state, before the strings that make up the cosmic fabric engage in the orderly, coherent vibrational dance we are discussing, there is no realization of space or time. Even our language is too coarse to handle these ideas, for, in fact, there is even no notion of before. In a sense, it's as if individual strings are "shards" of space and time, and only when they appropriately undergo sympathetic vibrations do the conventional notions of space and time emerge.
Imagining such a structureless, primal state of existence, one in which there is no notion of space or time as we know it, pushes most people's comprehension to their limit (it certainly pushes mine).
The hope is that from this blank slate starting point—possibly in an era that existed before the big bang or the pre-big bang (if we can use such temporal terms, for lack of any other linguistic framework)—the theory will describe a universe that evolves to a form in which a background of coherent string vibrations emerges, yielding the conventional notions of space and time. Such a framework, if realized, would show that space, time, and by association, dimension, are not essential defining elements of the universe. Rather they are convenient notions that emerge from a more basic, atavistic, and primary state. ...whereas strings show us that conventional notions of space and time cease to have relevance below the Planck scale [10-35 m], studies show that ordinary geometry is replaced by something known as non-commutative geometry. [such as matrices, as opposed to normal Cartesian coordinates]. In this geometrical framework, the conventional notions of space and of distance melt away, leaving us in a vastly different conceptual landscape.
Nevertheless, as we focus our attentions on scales larger than the Planck length, physicists have shown that our conventional notion of space and time does re-emerge.
Instantaneous New Heavens and New Earth pondered by Physicists
(From Hyperspace, Michio Kaku, Oxford University Press, 1994 p.211-212):
Thus the state of maximum symmetry is often an unstable state and hence corresponds to a false vacuum. The true vacuum state corresponds to the princess falling off the sphere [from an ancient fairy tale where a princess was trapped on the very top of a polished crystal sphere; a perfect symmetrical state, and would fall to her death if she made the slightest move. Another example is the stretching of a bed sheet on all four corners of the bed (the highest energy and most unstable state), and the tendency for the elastic to pop off of one corner or the other, and the sheet curl up. This is called tunneling or symmetry breaking. ]. So a phase transition (falling off the sphere) corresponds to symmetry breaking (selecting [a particular direction to move])
Regarding superstring theory, physicists assume (but cannot yet prove) that the original ten dimensional universe was unstable and tunneled its way to a four [our 3 space and 1 time] and 6 dimensional [curled up to the Planck length, far too small to observe] universe. Thus the original universe was in a state of false vacuum, the state of maximum symmetry [all the forces of nature were united into a grand unifying principle], while today, we are in the broken state of the true vacuum.
This raises a disturbing question: What would happen if our universe were not actually the true vacuum...but the true vacuum lay among the millions of possible orbifolds [as there are four ways a bed sheet can curl up, there are millions of ways ten dimensional space-time can curl up, called "orbifolds"]? This would have disastrous consequences. In many other orbifolds, we find that the Standard Model [the set of laws governing our physics] is not present. Thus, if the true vacuum were actually a state where the Standard Model was not present, all the laws of chemistry and physics, as we know them, would come tumbling down.
If this occurred, a tiny bubble might suddenly appear in our universe. Within this bubble, the Standard Model would no longer hold, so a different set of chemical and physical laws would apply. Matter inside the bubble would disintegrate and perhaps reform in different ways. This bubble would then expand at the speed of light, swallowing up entire star systems, galaxies, and galactic clusters, until it gobbled up the entire universe!
We would never see it coming. Traveling at the speed of light, it could never be observed before-hand. We would never know what hit us.
And of course, in certain orbifolds, the differences might be enough to change some laws, but not completely alter the universe. While this all may be random in the theory, it also can be controlled by an intelligent Creator!
Now, the scientists, in putting together their final "M theory" (the unification of the five different String theories) are going with what they call a "multiverse" which explains away the "big bang" as being a collision of universes floating in a 10 dimensional hyperspace to form a new one. Now they can answer the long standing question of what caused creation in a way that seemingly eliminates God. (sort of like a new type of "steady state" theory in which the universe was eternal!) But still, this simply pushes back the question, of what created the multiverse?
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