First of all, thank you to those who replied for your words. As you clearly understood, I don't feel that my beliefs instantly qualify me for insult any more than yours do. Thanks again.
Also, to Pete. Did not mean to say you were close minded. I was directing my comments toward those who chose insult rather than argument. I would love to discuss the books and other materials that you have been reading claiming the erosion of biblical reliability. I of course, have been reading the opposite, demonstrating that we gravitate, to some extent, toward what we're looking for.
To Nietsche, can't make any promises about scripture. You'll just have to skip the quotes. I'm sure you can see that, as I believe in them, the words and ideas represented therein are as important to me as they are irrelevant to you. I assure you beforehand that they are included not as the entire substance of my argument but as what you might refer to as "background information".
OK. First, I absolutely refute that Christianity (as a faith based religion) produces in me or in any other believer (outside of a mental institution) a propensity toward violence any greater than the beliefs of yourselves, your neighbors, or for that matter Mickey Mouse. My religion teaches me to value all life.
"Do not envy violent people; don't copy their ways. Such people are an abomination to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly." (Proverbs 3:31-32)
I oppose war. I oppose the death penalty. I oppose abortion not only because I believe it to be murder but also because it has become a symbol to me of what happens when we throw responsibility, character and discipline out of the window in favor of the "values" of our self-centered, self-serving, morally bankrupt, drive-through convenient society. Violence or harm in the name of God is an abomination and it demonstrates to me, among other things, the differences between Christianity and other faiths found in the world.
Yes. The church has been wrong, very wrong, in the past. It's very likely that it is wrong about one or many things now. This proves only the fallibility of men and their institutions not, in my view, the basic truths of the Bible and Jesus Christ. Jesus stated that the most important commandments were to first, love the Lord your God with all your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength. And second, to love your neighbor as yourself. If you live these commandments rather than following a personal agenda it becomes rather difficult for a Christian to harm anyone without harming the part of himself that he most cherishes, namely his immortal soul.
The other thing that really bugs me about this book and about unbelief in general is the world view one is left with absent God. I honestly don't know how you get through a day, let alone a year or years, without God. To me unbelief makes everything pointless to the point of absurdity. As I see it, the atheist believes that we are maggots(I don't mean to insult here, I am simply using the lowest biological life form I can think of to illiustrate my point.), inhabiting a sphere of rock, floating in space ruled by natural laws of which many are known but some are not. Can anyone enlighten me as to the point of an existence such as this? Given that our natural lives are less than a split second in the vast scope of time and that we ourselves amount to less than dust in the vastness of space, what is the point of living even one more day? Why choose to be a moral person? Why choose to do right? Why choose ANYTHING? Why not kick back and adopt the colloquialism of "shit happens"?! Why CARE about anything at all?
If our lives are reduced to a virtually instantaneous, remarkable accident of the natural world, a void is created that we cannot account for. All of us search for the meaning of life. From where does this question arise? Why would we ever begin to seek that which we were destined never to find? We wouldn't. Our (humankind's) experiences over the millenia have taught us to seek that which is outside of ourselves - that part of us that we instinctively know is there, yet we are unable to define. I and many other believers conclude that this desire arises from God. First thoughts - those seemingly without natural origination - must arise from another first. The first or prime mover.
Another of Mr. Harris' assertions is that contradiction and untruths can be found in the Bible. So I would like to challenge anyone, Mr. Harris included to:
1. Name any historical event, person etc. for which there is only one record or interpretation.
2. Name an event, person etc. that has been that has been proven to be non-existent, false, or otherwise negated solely because there exists more than one record or interpretation.
I'm betting no one can. The Bible, taken as nothing more than an historical work, has had its facts authenticated by every test and measure of reliability that any ancient text currently in existence has been subjected to. Again, as a purely historical work, separated from its divine inspiration, it is as accurate as any ancient text in existence and has been proven to be so. In fact, nothing in the Bible has been proven false. Yes. A leap of faith is required to make the Bible what it was intended to be. The preponderance of the evidence in regard to its historical content however, lends great credibility to believer's assertions of truth in those things which cannot be proven.
My beliefs require faith. Given the void created by the absence of an eternal soul however and at least the historical reliability of the Bible for unbelievers, I ask you, who's beliefs require more faith in that which cannot be proven, yours or the believers?
Aside from the conclusions of your mind what proof do you have that God does not exist? What proof do you have that you are on the right path? You see, both of our paths require faith in some measure. Yours in man and man alone - a gob of spit in the vastness of time and space. Mine in the order of God and His design, eternal and filled with purpose. Why choose to believe in nothing when you can simply choose to believe? Personally, I think you have a lot more faith than I do.
"I have come to judge the world. I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind." (John 9:39)
I apologize for the length but you folks and this book have had my noodle churning for a week. I've got to get this out.
(WARNING: SOME FAITH STATEMENTS CAN BE FOUND IN THE FOLLOWING! MY INTENT IS NOT TO EVANGELIZE BUT TO EXPLAIN MY BELIEF.)
Anyway and finally, so why Jesus as my God and no other? Because Jesus is the only Son of the Living God. The first. The original. The only God ever to lay claim to ALL creation. The only God ever to declare Himself the alpha and the omega, continuous and eternal, without beginning and without end. The only God ever to speak directly to mankind. The only God ever to express love for all of His creation, specifically His finest creation - mankind.
Because Jesus Christ rose from death on the third day. The documentation for which can be found in the Gospel accounts which, in the case of Mark, can be dated to as early as 30-40 years after the event, much too early for corruption by "legendary" accounts.
Because Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father is through Him.
Because (perhaps most importantly as related to our discourse) God and Jesus are one. Despite Mr. Harris' assertion that Jesus never claimed to be divine, or to be God, I give you the best and most clear assertion in the Bible that refutes Mr. Harris' claim. "The Father and I are one." (John 10:30) There are many, many other references by Jesus in regard to himself as the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, the Messiah etc. etc.
Well, I'm very glad to have gotten this out to you. I genuinely look forward to your responses. Might be a couple of days before I get back. I will try to respond individually. JF
Thanks for taking the time to construct an eloquent response. Unfortunately, from my perspective, you have broken all of the rhetorical rules I suggested, so I feel unable to engage with you in any meaningful way. I just can’t see the point of debating this with you if you are going to use the bible as self-supporting evidence.
There is one issue that might be worth discussing. It seems to me that many religious people have faith because they need a reason ‘why’. They need to understand the point of existence. There is an underlying assumption that there must be a ‘greater purpose’ for our existence. While I applaud the search for reason, I think it naive and egotistical to assume that there must be a purpose. It seems much more likely to me that there is no big reason: we just exist becasue we have evolved, and that’s it. Someday we will die and someday our species will become extinct - shhit happens.
The religious need for some greater purpose is the fuel that drives the imagination of man to invent all manner of fantastic stories. Remove the necessity for a greater purpose and you can free your mind of all the internal inconsistencies that religious belief requires. It’s a liberating experience, trust me.
One last point - your assetion that christianity is somehow less guilty of crimes against humanity is a very insular and brainwashed perspective. OK, it wasn’t a christian who blew up the twin towers, but guess what - there have been atrocities before and after 9/11. The obsession with 9/11 seems to mask the history of christian intolerance - its only a few hundred years since the spanish inquisition, a blink of the eye in historical terms. The US is bombing the crap out of a few middle-eastern countries, on flimsy, religious-inspired grounds. As a christian, you have to take responsibility for this. And please don’t use the cop-out argument that its the humans that cause the problems and god is innocent - humans do it in the service of their god, so the cause they serve must take responsibility. Hearing voices in your head is not good grounds for commiting a crime.
I tried to skip the scripture quotes, but they just made me sigh at the pointlessness of the whole discussion.
I’m glad we are on a first-name basis, you and I, makes conversation easier.
Also, to Pete. Did not mean to say you were close minded. I was directing my comments toward those who chose insult rather than argument. I would love to discuss the books and other materials that you have been reading claiming the erosion of biblical reliability. I of course, have been reading the opposite, demonstrating that we gravitate, to some extent, toward what we’re looking for.
I am sure you feel the above paragraph is totally in keeping with a state of “open mindedness.” I call your attention to the last sentence, where you say that you have been “reading the opposite.” There are many, many books written by Christian and non-christian authors alike that question not only the historical accuracy, but also the traditional beliefs of the origins of sections of the bible. Of course you are not reading them, you do not seek them out. Two I can suggest to you as a place to start are: “Who Wrote the Bible,” and “The Jesus Puzzle.” Both are available on Amazon, both are written by respected biblical scholars, and both question traditional beliefs. There are hundreds more, these are just two that come to mind. Seek and ye shall find, and there is only one principle that guarantees to leave a man in total ignorance, and that is contempt prior to investigation. I have read everything I can find, representing all views, and have drawn my OWN conclusions.
In spite of what you said, there is absolutely no historical or archaeological confirmation of anything in the bible prior to the early Jewish kingdoms in Israel. For instance, there is no record (and there should have been) of the sojourn in Egypt. I don’t want to nitpick, and I am not going to debate anything with you until you do some of your own research., but there are a couple of things I would like to say.
Where did the water come from? This was a question I asked of my minister many years ago, as he was trying to explain the flood. Where DID the water come from? If it came from “above,” how did it get through the atmosphere?
How does on reconcile the nativity stories in matt and luke? They are completely different, and the story about the murdering of babies is preposterous! Herod never would have gotten away with it, and it certainly would have been recorded. The other story never mentions it, so I guess it never happened.
Several times in your post, you tossed out portions of the Christian myth as though they were facts like..oh….the time it takes one radioisotope to decay into another.
Because Jesus Christ rose from death on the third day. The documentation for which can be found in the Gospel accounts which, in the case of Mark, can be dated to as early as 30-40 years after the event, much too early for corruption by “legendary” accounts.
That is the earliest possible dating of mark, but it could also have been written as late as 80. It certainly wasn’t written by anyone familiar with Palestine, there are too many wrong names of towns and even lakes. And I might point out that there are many death and resurrection myths in history, and the Jesus myth is only the best-known. In fact, most of the Jesus myth also appears in other cultures prior to the gospels.
I don’t wish to throw stones at you, you are certainly well-intentioned, and I am positive that you really believe that you know what is best for us. I have one more suggested book for you: the Science of Good and Evil.” It discusses the ethics question you raised, and suggests we are better off without organized religion. I agree, this discussion is pointless.
The other thing that really bugs me about this book and about unbelief in general is the world view one is left with absent God. I honestly don’t know how you get through a day, let alone a year or years, without God. To me unbelief makes everything pointless to the point of absurdity.
I would respond to you that if you look at the world and find everything absurb, you have not looked hard enough.
God is the easy answer, the egotistical answer. God answers the question for you, personally, and therein lies the problem. Everyone thinks “their” God is answering “them”. What explains the mental attitude of the Crusades, if not a belief in God? The ages old “war” between the Muslims and Christians…both devout believers, but their faiths allow them to see the others as “less” than human. Slavery was justified by “Godly” people.
Repression of women is justified by “Godly” people. Anyone can say anything and claim their “faith” or their “God” tells them this. Surely you can see this point.
While there indeed are many people of faith that don’t abuse their faith to repress, subjugate, or dehumanize people that don’t believe or profess belief as they do, the problem is the potential for abuse is there. And because religion is a self-encapsulated system, it has always defeated logic and reason by using an unfair escape system, ie..it has begged the questions by mere ascertation of being a higher power and immune.
Now, to feelings.
In my journey through life, I found several concepts that were mind-boggling. I would like to show them to you.
1. First off lets look at the existance of life. There are so many finite variables to have life as we know it on a universal scale. Our solar system’s existance depended on the nova of a super-star to form. Earth’s existance depended on a Jupiter to form to protect from bombardment, liquid water depends on distance formed from the sun, atmosphere depends on a magnetic field. There are a handful of others we have identified. However, as there are billions of galaxies and stars, the odds are that these same variables could be repeated elsewhere. Therefore although we are probably not the only life in the universe, we are statistically special.
2. Evolution of sentient life, takes ages. Our evolution to sentience depended on the wipe out of the repitilian species, although we probably would have made it anyway, their demise increased the odds for mamilian based life. Even with that, the enviromental pressures that led us to stand up and go walkabout, and respond to pressures by developing a complex brain were also important. More than one kind of sentient life developed too, humans were not the only species produced, but we were the one that made it all the way. The others fell to extinction, possibly partly from direct competition with us. So, once again we are statistically special.
3. The history of the development of humans. From the time we started speaking we have been progressing. The capacity for abstract thought, for language, for writing, have propelled us rapidly and we adapt fast to the changes we ourselves have made. That is the key, our capacity to adapt. We continue to push for knowledge of the unknown, and this is not a bad thing, in fact it is our salvation. Every life that has gone before us has led us where we are now.
So here we are, alive, technologically capable, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge, and this is a glorious thing isn’t it?
Meanwhile, out in the universe, challenges to our existance are waiting.
Comets, asteroids, the loss of earths magnetic field. Isn’t it in the interests of life to push our knowledge even farther so that we may find ways to adapt to universal changes? Isn’t that our job? Is it possible that finding the code to genes to make us able to to quickly adapt to and survive without waiting for the slow pace of evolution a probable necessity?
Religion, with its emphasis on a creator saving our asses, removes responsiblity for our own survival from us. Some religions teach “oh give it up, you can’t do it, just lay down and die”. Some religions actively impede the science we may need to survive the future. And the promise of an afterlife makes some dogmatic thinkers feel that they are justified in not worrying about our survival as a stastical anomaly.
So, to summarize, religion is bad. It offers us ways to bury our head in the sand and call on a fictious Daddy to save us. It gives justification to dehumanization. It makes the afterlife of which there is no proof, the goal of life, of which there is ample proof. It removes the responsiblity of the condition of our existance from us, and hands it over to a higher power, which TBH we havent seen a single sign from since we lost our superstition.
Now, close your eyes, and see the majesty and the greatness of the species you are a part of. Forget about heaven, and hell. Contemplate the meaning of eternity and infinity. It is quite far from absurb.
Of course this means that YOU as a person are insignificant. It’s not about you. It’s about US. It’s about life and the meaning of life, to begat more life, to continue to evolve, to change, to adapt.
Now you could say there was a force directing all this, and that I admit is possible, not likely but possible. But does he care about YOU? Does this force even have a human based personality? Is it even a HE? Can we call it a Diety? Is gravity a diety? Is electricity? Do they have personalities?
Is this force in Hinduism, Buddahism, Christianity, Islam? Is it in the Catholic church or the Protestants? Will science one day find and identify this force?
I have faith in US, because I have seen what WE can do. Anything that impedes US, is a bad thing.
Christianityis an anti-biotic for a disease known as God.
God comes along with the good news that he isn’t going to burn everyone for eternity. Thanks, big guy.
Occam’s Razor: where there has not been a perceptive cognition there cannot be an abstract cognition i.e. if you haven’t tasted it, smelt it, seen it, touched it or heard it you cannot make any kind of statement about it. The L.A. Times printed a letter of mine recently wherein in I addressed a religious man’s assertions (written in a previous article i.e. the author told us that god was a male, that he loved us, that he got out of the flood game after Noah, etc.)—here are two sentences from that letter: “Assertions without proof belie the asserter. Faith isn’t meant to be duct tape, after all.” Are we to use this thing called “faith” to keep shoddy workmanship from falling apart?
If the only thing that gives your life meaning and comfort is a series of fables and myths written by denizens of the Middle East three and two thousand years ago, I suggest it is not faith that guides you but laziness. You found a god who fit into your schedule and your spiritual limitations, and now you build forts to protect the flimsy contents. If you truly love God, let go—you’ve put the whole mystery of the Universe in a rhetorical prison and yet you call it love. Pah!
To destroy or subvert the honesty or integrity of.
Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved.
To draw aside from the path of rectitude and duty.
Make illegal payments to in exchange for favors or influence.
Containing errors or alterations, as a text: a corrupt translation.
Changed from a sound to a putrid state; spoiled; tainted; vitiated; unsound.
To change from a sound to a putrid or putrescent state; to make putrid; to putrefy.
To change from good to bad; to vitiate; to deprave; to pervert; to debase; to defile.
Changed from a state of uprightness, correctness, truth, etc., to a worse state; vitiated; depraved; debased; perverted; as, corrupt language; corrupt judges;corrupt text.
“To know ourselves diseased is half our cure.” - Alexander Pope
Mr. Freak how can you believe in ‘sin’ and not corruption? How can you believe that any text handed down over 2000 thousand years has never been altered from its original meaning? How can you believe that words, symbols for concepts, meanings do not evolve? Are we still speaking Latin? Where does it say in the bible that God’s hand, (a mammalian appendage) wrote the Bible?
I knew a Jesus Freak who said the devil made dinosaur bones to fool mankind. If the devil can physically manufacture evidence how can we be sure of anything? since anything or everything could be manufactured by the devil. Perhaps you will be the arbiter of what is made by God and what is made by the devil. While staunch American soldiers are in league with God, Iraqi insurgents (terrorists) are in league with the devil?
In California two days ago an American soldier ambushed 2 law officers killing one, injuring another and being killed himself. To him death was better than having to return to Iraq. Their have been at least a half a dozen soldiers returning from Iraq that have committed murder upon their return and a half dozen that have been killed in altercations. These soldiers have been taught to kill. When they all come back you better hope that you or your righteous brothers do not become civilian casualties. And I do not think God is going to forgive George Bush no matter what he thinks.
lawrence said, “Any religion that promises ‘life’ after death is a religion that worships death as more important that life.”
How true. Christianity and Islam are both religions of death. Not only that they are also promotors of the things that go along with death: torture, suffering, bleeding, etc. (just ask Mel Gibson - he’s a great advocate of all these religious graces).
For a second ponder the symbol of Christianity - why it’s the cross. A device designed to maximize the torture and the suffering of those who unwillingly participate in its rituals. How sweet, to see this brutalizing, horrifying, grotesque artifact dangling from the necks of christians around the world. It really gives you a sense of awe. If Jesus had appeared in the 18th Century, why we’d have little guillotines strung from our throats, it just chokes one up!
Paul Henri Thiry Holbach (1750?) “The cross was the banner under which madmen assembled to glut the earth with blood.” Oh, we should give little crosses to every school girl and boy, to remind them of what stands for Christianity.
It really makes one shudder to even consider for a second the pure madness invloved.
The Cross is also a unifying symbol, and hardly abstruse. The Crossroads, the center of the Cardinal points, the Metaphorical Still Point in a universe that does not stand still, this symbol holds more mystery than most religious adherents have ever imagined. The Sun Door, the Christ Heart, the orienting principle, the at-one-ment between Life and Death—it’s all there, along with Roman crudity. Did Math leave the Poets or did the Poets leave the Math?
Raitionalists have to know more than fabulists partly because knowledge only adds to reason. A rationalist also must know that there is nothing to “prove” to someone who uses reason inconsistently. The foundation of any argument can start to move like a teeter-totter, and belief starts to think its a rodeo star.
“Jesus Freak”: I certainly respect your feelings and opinions. I don’t agree with you, but I admire your willingness to express your thoughts.
I have my owh theory as to the God myth, which I wont bore you with, but the idea of the necessity of a creator is an interesting one to ponder.
Assuming the need for a creator, then to me it’s only logical to ask, well then, what created the creator. If you then respond well it is, was and always will be, is there any reason that the totality (which we have called the universe) couldn’t have the same conditions?