What Started My Questioning

I only alluded to this in my first post. (The quotes below are from the same.)

Background

Not too long after graduating [from a conservative evangelical Christian university], I became pretty frustrated with what the Christian life was for me – especially with my “overactive conscience”. So I just kind of “set my faith aside”. I regret that now.

That cognitively dissonant phase – from my early 20s to my early 30s – was not the questioning. They were quite separate, overall. During that time, I generally didn’t really doubt the (supposed) truth of Christianity. I “just couldn’t do it anymore”.

The Wedge

Some events came to pass recently which forced me to face that cognitive dissonance that I had lived with for several years.

Basically, in my attempt to “come back to the faith” – in part, as I considered what kind of church I might try to get involved with, and “what kind of Christian I was going to be” – I thought it was important to determine what I believed about several doctrinal issues. One of those issues was the “eternal fate of man”[1].

I was “out of practice”, but previously, I had been a conservative evangelical Christian. As far as I knew and had been taught, the majority of humanity was not going to be “saved”, and so they would be going to Hell. This proposition is consistent with the fact that the majority of the people in the world do not identify as Christians.

Even though the largest (arguably) single religious population of people in the world is of those who identify as Christians, that still makes for a minority (about a third) of the world’s population. Then subtract from that those who aren’t “true Christians” – who aren’t “really saved” – and you’re left with an even smaller group that gets into heaven. (Narrow gate / wide road – Matt 7:13-14; Luke 13:22-30. The sheep and the goats, Matt 25:31-46. etc.)

Wait… What?!?

wedge splitting a tree stump

The majority of people who are living, and have ever lived, after they die, will be condemned to suffer eternal torture by fire, for finite crimes, against an invisible god? They may have never heard of this god, or the solution to the problem (Jesus). They may be good and caring people otherwise.

Can this be right?

Research, Phase 1

So I did some research on various Christian doctrines on the matter, and I attempted to see which one lined up best with the Scriptures. From what I recall, for the most part, the big three options are (1) an eternal fiery, torturous hell; (2) Annihilationism (or the more PC term, “conditional immortality”); and (3) universal reconciliation. There’s some variance on the questions of what portion of humanity gets the shitty fates (on 1 and 2), and for what reasons.

fiery question mark

Naturally, as a person with some compassion for my fellow human, I was rooting for #3. But try as I might, I just couldn’t align that proposition with most of the bible verses I was reading. And the writings I read supporting that view just seemed like incoherent nonsense.

As it turns out, it seemed to me that the view most closely aligned with the scriptures was #2, Annihilationism. And yet:

  • This doesn’t solve the problem of how a benevolent deity can justly condemn the majority.
  • There were still several bible passages that I couldn’t reconcile with it.

I had believed the core of the Christian proposition for basically all my life, in one form or another. I was Catholic as a child; then born-again fundagelical as a teen and 20-something; then disillusioned as a 20- and 30-something – but still, I believed that God was our creator, Jesus was his son, he died for me, and after I die, I’d go to heaven.

And so, finally, after decades as a Christian, I asked: is this really true?

Thus began Research, Phase 2.

Notes

1. I’d rather say “of people”, but using the religious phrasing seems appropriate, and since I don’t buy any of it anymore, I don’t know that it really matters.

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145 thoughts on “What Started My Questioning

  1. jasonjshaw

    The one question I have of Heaven and Hell is how could either really be much better than the other? Free will is lost, and you’re stuck in either place for eternity. Doesn’t sound all that enticing to me.

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      When I was a Christian, the idea of continually praising grovelling to anyone, even a perfect deity, all the time seemed…not fun. But the notions of heaven were vague and varied enough that we just trusted that somehow it would be awesome.

      For me, there honestly still is some enticement in the notion of an afterlife. This life is the only one that I know that I have. So far, I find it challenging to be content with that.

      And yet, you make good points. Not all “afterlives” are created equal, and I don’t know if there are any that I’d truly want to last “forever”. It’s hard to fathom, really.

      Beyond that, even with free will, even in a joyous afterlife, would we want to live forever? 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years in Heaven.

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Happy to have you along for the ride.

      I don’t believe God sends people to hell. We make that choice.

      Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that idea. Probably said it myself. With that said: what do you mean by it? And how do you know? Or what makes you think it’s true?

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Julie Garro

        God gave us free will. I think God’s a gentleman. He won’t force himself on us. But there are only 2 choices for eternity, heaven or hell. We are the ones that decide.

        Thanks for the conversation.

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        1. ratamacue0 Post author

          Welcome. 🙂

          You’re telling me what you believe, but not why. You’re making claims, but not giving any evidence.

          I don’t doubt your sincerity. But why should I believe your claims over those of every other religion and non-religious belief that contradicts it?

          Like

        2. Julie Garro

          I understand what you are saying. But for me, that’s where faith comes in. I believe the historical and archaeological evidence that points to the fact the Bible is true. But more than that, it is the miracle God performed in my life and also how my life has changed for the better once I began to trust him.

          I’m not a Bible Scholar so I can’t give you the evidence from my memory, but a lot of valid evidence is in “The Case For Christ.” It’s a compelling read.

          Blessings to you.

          Like

        3. ratamacue0 Post author

          I’ll be talking a bit about faith in an upcoming post. But for now I’ll ask, what makes your faith any more a source a truth than a Mormon’s, a Muslim’s, a Hindu’s, or a Buddhist’s?

          I did spend some time investigating the historical and archaeological evidence. It seems that there is some history in the Bible, interwoven with the stories and legends. About the archeology, for the parts that do align with the bible, they show ordinary things; they don’t prove the miraculous. They are no more proof of the Bible’s miraculous claims than the existence of New York is for the existence of Spider-Man.

          Also, some aspects of archeology actually work against the Bible’s truth claims. For example, “The archeological evidence does not support the story told in the Book of Exodus and most archaeologists have abandoned the investigation of Moses and the Exodus as ‘a fruitless pursuit’.” (From The Exodus at Wikipedia. Citations included there.) For another example, Nate over at Finding Truth did a series on how the prophecy of the fall of Tyre fails. See his about page. (Interestingly, Nate started his blog years before his own deconversion was even a twinkle in his eye.)

          Since we’re just meeting, I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable postulating a reinterpretation for the “miracle” in your life, which you’ve not presented anyway. For now, I’ll just point out that (1) some people claim “miracle” for events which are completely ordinary (like a baby being born); and (2) I suspect there are many others’ miracle or amazing claims which you wouldn’t believe happened as claimed, or for which you’d find an ordinary explanation. (e.g. Alien abductions, Elvis sightings, transubstantiation, or the virgin Mary on your toast.)

          I Pet 3:15 notwithstanding, I do understand if you don’t have all your reasons ready at a moment’s notice.

          I didn’t read The Case for Christ, though I did spend quite a bit of time looking at other sources on the “pro” side of the resurrection. I attempted to be reasonably efficient, so I tried to focus on those scholars who are considered to put forth the best arguments. Those included Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, and William Lane Craig, in particular. I also watched a lot of debates. (Yay Youtube!)

          Do you think “The Case for Christ” would have been as compelling to you if you didn’t already believe?

          If you’re interested in reading / watching some challenges to it, here are a couple:

          An Atheist Reads The Case for Christ (Steve Shives, video series)

          The Rest of the Story (Jeffery Jay Lowder)

          I’ve not read/watched them, so I can’t vouch. However, I like some of what I’ve seen from Steve, and at infidels.org.

          Cheers.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          If I may add:

          “The period of the patriarchs, exodus, conquest, or judges as devised by the writers of Scriptures never existed,” ~Robert Coote, Senior Research Professor of Hebrew Exegesis at San Francisco’s Theological Seminary

          “The Genesis and Exodus accounts are a fiction,” ~Niels Peter Lemche, biblical scholar, University of Copenhagen

          “The actual evidence concerning the Exodus resembles the evidence for the unicorn,” ~Baruch Halpern, Professor of Jewish Studies of Pennsylvania State University

          “Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently,” ~Professor William Dever, University of Arizona (one of America’s preeminent archaeologist)

          “The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories. The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells.” ~Proffessor. Ze’ev Herzog – (the world’s leading biblical archaeologist)

          “I think there is no serious scholar in Israel or in the world who does not accept this position. Herzog represents a large group of Israeli scholars, and he stands squarely within the consensus. Twenty years ago even I wrote of the same matters and I was not an innovator. Archaeologists simply do not take the trouble of bringing their discoveries to public attention.” ~Professor Magen Broshi, head Archaeologist at the Israel Museum

          “The rejection of the Bible as literally true is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis.” ~Rabbi David Wolpe

          I could go on and on. I’m not real fond of being duped. 😉

          Liked by 2 people

        5. Nate

          Hi Julie,

          I don’t want to jump in the middle of your conversation with ratamacue, but I just wanted to offer some encouragement in looking into some of the issues that ratamacue brings up. I was a devout Christian for many years; I taught Bible classes and also preached on occasion. I enjoyed my life as a Christian, but the most important thing to me was the desire to make sure that what I believed was true. Like you, I’m a parent, and I knew I couldn’t risk teaching my children false doctrines.

          So even though I didn’t doubt Christianity, when I was presented with claims that history, archaeology, and even prophecy didn’t actually support the Bible after all, I immediately began researching these claims for myself. I firmly believed that if Christianity were true, further study into its details (internal consistency, prophecy fulfillment, its historical and scientific claims, and its manuscript evidence) would only make me a stronger Christian. Or if it weren’t true, then further study would help me see that — and I didn’t want to waste my time (and life) on something that wasn’t true.

          Anyway, either way you cut it, you really have nothing to lose by digging into the details. And make sure you read from all kinds of sources, both Christian and skeptical. It’s the only way to get a full picture. If any of us can help in any way, just say the word!

          Good luck 🙂

          Liked by 3 people

        6. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Ratamacue, I think that often believers (especially if they are loving parents) would never expect of their children what their god (say Yahweh) expects of them. In other words, a parent who tells his/her children that they have two choices — submit to me or I’ve created a place for you to burn for eternity — is an abusive parent. The thing is — most never see how abusive it is until they start questioning, and then bam, it become so obvious and you wonder how in the world you ever fell for it and saw this as love. Fear of suffering and death anxiety are mighty motivators for belief.

          Liked by 3 people

        7. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Educate, just like you are doing here. Some will be open to it, others won’t, primarily because to question is to express doubt and to express doubt means your faith is waiving and that, in their mind, could be a one-way ticket to the hell their god made. Those who developed the belief system of Christianity, the final product, were clever.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. william

          is it gentlemanly for a guy to have his pal send you a “yes or no” note, and then torture you if you choose no?

          now say that gentleman was count dracula… you’d think it was a joke, because you dont believe in dracula. Perhaps, had you known he was real, you’d have said yes out of fear or some deep down suppressed perversion, or at the very least purchased some garlic and boarded your windows and doors in crosses… but since dracula seems to be fiction, you dont see it as a rejection, but as good sense.

          is that what you mean by gentleman?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. unkleE

    Hi, I’m a christian whose view would be similar to what you described as “conditional immortality” (though I don’t like either of the usual terms). I see it this way. I think it is what was taught by Jesus and I think it offers most of us something good. Everyone gets life now, and for most of us that is good, and we all get the opportunity to choose life in the next world too – yes I think we all get that opportunity but I don’t think we all choose it.

    Atheists often say they are happy with having only this life and then it’s all over, and I guess that is what most of them get, so they can’t really complain. Others of us get life in the age to come, and that’s even better. The only ones who can feel dudded are those that die in childbirth or early in life, and those whose life is a total misery – I don’t know how God addresses the apparent injustice done to them, but I have to believe he is fair.

    That seems to me to be a reasonable view and one supported by the Bible.

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Hi unkleE,

      Thanks for throwing into the ring. (Like throwing your hat in. Not like boxing.) 😉

      “conditional immortality” (though I don’t like either of the usual terms).

      Why don’t you like the usual terms? What term(s) do you prefer, and why?

      Everyone gets life now, and for most of us that is good

      Well, to be pedantic, not “everyone” gets life now. (Infant mortality, etc.) Beyond that, I know there is quite a bit of suffering and poverty in the world, so I’m not convinced that “for most of us [it] is good”. Maybe so, but I don’t know by what margin.

      Atheists often say they are happy with having only this life and then it’s all over, and I guess that is what most of them get, so they can’t really complain.

      Interesting angle.

      Do you believe that all non-Christians will be annihilated? “Atheists” as a category isn’t that broad, so I don’t think your proposed justification even tries to cover all the people that you’d want it to.

      Even so, I’m inclined to think that many atheists (and other non-believers) who may say that they are happy with this life, would be happier to have more life. If I’m right, then their contentment with life on earth is a reaction, not a death wish.

      Speaking for myself, contentment with the life I have is something I aspire toward, but I’m nowhere near it. I would prefer to have more (life after death), but to think that I do (or could) without good reason, or in spite of reasons to the contrary, seems like a losing proposition to me. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed (or not conscious to even experience the disappointment).

      those that die in childbirth or early in life, and those whose life is a total misery – I don’t know how God addresses the apparent injustice done to them, but I have to believe he is fair.

      Well, you don’t “have to”. I think this observation provides at least good reason to doubt.

      That seems to me to be a reasonable view and one supported by the Bible.

      Of course, I disagree on the “reasonable” part, but at least it’s less heinous than eternal torment.

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      1. unkleE

        “BTW, you learned me a new word, “dudded“. Aussie slang?”

        I thought it was more general than that. Dud = a fake or something that doesn’t work or doesn’t live up to its advertising. So “dudded” means being conned or not given what you deserve.

        “Why don’t you like the usual terms? What term(s) do you prefer, and why?”

        I think they sound nasty and/or inaccurate. I’d prefer to say missing out on life in the age to come, and not give it a name.

        “I’m not convinced that “for most of us [it] is good”

        Surveys show that 75% of people think life is good, which is a majority, but still leaves quite a few with either mixed feelings or unhappy. See below for my thoughts on them.

        “Do you believe that all non-Christians will be annihilated? “

        No, clearly this isn’t the case – even very conservative christians believe that some Jews will be “saved”, and they are non-christians. I think the Bible hints that people will be judged by the light they are given, and some non-christians will receive a favourable judgment (but I don’t know how many).

        “Well, you don’t “have to”. I think this observation provides at least good reason to doubt.”

        I didn’t mean the necessity of determinism, but of logic. I recognise that the suffering in the world makes it harder to believe God exists, but I also think that a number of other facts make it harder to disbelieve God exists. So the “pros” outweigh the “cons” (for me), so I conclude that God really is there. But the suffering really is there too. Since I think both are facts, logic compels me to conclude that God will be fair even though I cannot see how. That includes the people who have an unhappy life as briefly mentioned earlier.

        So that in summary is how I see things. Thanks.

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        1. ratamacue0 Post author

          I thought [“dudded”] was more general than that.

          Eh, maybe. IDK. I at least knew of “dud” as bad ammo.

          I think [the usual terms] sound nasty and/or inaccurate. I’d prefer to say missing out on life in the age to come, and not give it a name.

          With all due respect, I think your opinion of the terms reflects on the ideas themselves.

          Surveys show that 75% of people think life is good

          Maybe so. I’m still not convinced that “most” is enough for the theist’s argument, though.

          Do you believe that all non-Christians will be annihilated?

          No, clearly this isn’t the case – even very conservative christians believe that some Jews will be “saved”, and they are non-christians. I think the Bible hints that people will be judged by the light they are given, and some non-christians will receive a favourable judgment (but I don’t know how many).

          I don’t find it so clear myself, but I guess if I had to pick your belief, I’d prefer that.

          I didn’t mean the necessity of determinism, but of logic.

          As did I.

          I recognise that the suffering in the world makes it harder to believe God exists

          Props for honesty.

          but I also think that a number of other facts make it harder to disbelieve God exists.

          Obviously I disagree about the Christian god hypothesis in particular, but I think I’ll save discussion of the particulars for later posts.

          Thanks.

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        2. unkleE

          I recognise that the suffering in the world makes it harder to believe God exists
          “Props for honesty.”

          but I also think that a number of other facts make it harder to disbelieve God exists.
          “Obviously I disagree about the Christian god hypothesis in particular, but I think I’ll save discussion of the particulars for later posts.”

          Do you think it is possible that, just as I think the overall evidence points to God, but I recognise that some arguments point the other way, you might see the overall evidence pointing away from God, but some argument(s) might still point to God?

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        3. ratamacue0 Post author

          Do you think it is possible that…you might see the overall evidence pointing away from God, but some argument(s) might still point to God?

          Toward a deistic first cause / creator god? Sure. In fact, I make no claim about the likelihood of that.

          Toward Yahweh / the Christian conception / the Bible’s representation of “God”? I can’t think of any such evidence.

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    2. Howie

      Yeah, I agree unkleE. I’ve always thought the way you describe – that your view is a fair enough resolution to the “problem of Hell” as people call it. A couple of bible passages might confuse me on whether it’s what the writers believed, but they could be seen as one-offs (or 2 offs), or maybe the Greek resolves that. I’m not sure.

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      1. Think Always

        The Bible pretty much teaches annihilation. I never found a single verse that actually held up to annihilationist’s arguments. Although I think the concept of Hell was being formed when it was written, it hadn’t developed into the explicit doctrine we have now in Christianity. I wrote a small book’s worth about this subject on a blog before I left the faith. I plan on posting a link on my blog soon.

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        1. Nate

          Just wanted to say that I’m reading the article you posted about Hell. I’m only about halfway through right now, but I’m really enjoying it. You did an excellent job with your research, and I’ll definitely check out your new blog as well. I’m interested to learn more about how / why you ended up leaving Christianity.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Think Always

          Thanks Nate! I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it. I felt at the time, and still felt like that article was my most important one to write (believe it or not, the writing of it was done in about 3 days; but took a month or two of heavy research prior). It came out of a lot of personal searching and reflected the dissatisfaction with Hell and Christian theology that ultimately led to my deconversion. I need to write about that process. I haven’t done that specifically, but have focused more on the issues that caused me to change my mind. Pretty much, it’s that humbling moment when you realize you are on the wrong side of the truth.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Howie

    Ratamacue0 – I can relate. All of the churches I attended believed in Hell – not any fire/brimstone one, but an eternal place of consciousness where there was no love at all. That concept always caused a great deal of cognitive dissonance for me. It probably was one of the biggest issues for me, but after leaving those churches I attended a Unitarian Universalist church where other ideas were believed, and while I thought the ideas were very kind and would match up with a God that would be omni-benevolent, I think the whole idea of the supernatural and the things that appeared like mythology in the bible were other factors which just kept me from embracing it. I fully embrace fellowship with people like that however, and see no need to convince them otherwise, unless they have other beliefs that might be unhealthy in which case if I knew them well enough I might offer a nudge in a different direction.

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  4. ratamacue0 Post author

    I fully embrace fellowship with people like that however, and see no need to convince them otherwise, unless they have other beliefs that might be unhealthy in which case if I knew them well enough I might offer a nudge in a different direction.

    Good call.

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  5. unkleE

    It seems to me that we can helpfully distinguish between the existence of God and the character or characteristics of God. Your comment suggests to me that you see some evidence for the existence of God and would be agnostic on the question overall, but don’t think the evidence points to that God having the characteristics of the God described in the Bible.

    If that’s the case, then the next question would be whether your summary of the christian God is reasonable. I can only guess, but most non-believers seem not to recognise that there isn’t one consistent portrait of God in the Bible – it changes through both Testaments – and then to choose the worst picture (which is often the earliest one) to critique. But if the claimed revelation of God is progressive, it would surely be fairer to choose a later picture.

    What do you think about that?

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      It seems to me that we can helpfully distinguish between the existence of God and the character or characteristics of God. Your comment suggests to me that you see some evidence for the existence of God and would be agnostic on the question overall, but don’t think the evidence points to that God having the characteristics of the God described in the Bible.

      Sort of. First, I consider them (deism and various iterations of Christianity) as separate god hypotheses. So the phrase “existence of God” seems rather presumptuous to me. So then the characteristics of some alleged god must be defined before the question of its existence can be addressed.

      Second, I’d say that “evidence for the existence of God” is too strongly phrased to describe my view. At this point, provisionally, I’m not convinced that I can rule it out with any degree of confidence, but I don’t believe in the existence of any gods either, so I guess you could call me agnostic on that question. And correct on your assessment in my disbelief of “the God described in the Bible”.

      If that’s the case, then the next question would be whether your summary of the christian God is reasonable. I can only guess, but most non-believers seem not to recognise that there isn’t one consistent portrait of God in the Bible – it changes through both Testaments – and then to choose the worst picture (which is often the earliest one) to critique. But if the claimed revelation of God is progressive, it would surely be fairer to choose a later picture.

      Nate made some good points in his post replying to these statements of yours. (Pingback below.)

      I’m not claiming that the bible does paint a consistent portait of “God” – even within either testament. In fact, such inconsistencies strike me as more reason to consider the possibility that the bible is neither inspired, nor divine revelation.

      The Old Testament may be worse, but the New Testament is no picnic. Allegedly:

      • Jesus raises havoc in a place of business (money changers).
      • Jesus kills some guy’s pigs (sending the demons into them).
      • God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying. (I’m not saying lying is cool, but that is disproportionate punishment.)
      • Heavenly-sanctioned genocide continues in the book of Revelation. In fact, God is much more hands-on in this one than several other times, like when he sent the Israelites to do his dirty work in the OT.

      Those are just a few examples that come to mind.

      Moreover, we don’t see this god apologizing, or admitting that he screwed up, or that he’s learning as he goes. Supposedly he’s good (the best!), and wants us to know about him, and even to have a (rather one-sided) relationship with him. I don’t see any way to square those ideas.

      So while it’s surely more favorable to your position to choose only the later, nicer parts of the picture, I disagree that it’s fairer.

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  6. Pingback: Does God Change from the Old Testament to the New? | Finding Truth

  7. unkleE

    Hi ratamacue0

    “The Old Testament may be worse, but the New Testament is no picnic”

    I feel a little sad about your reply, for I don’t think any of your 4 examples are compelling. A few overturned tables and a bunch of pigs are hardly devastating, nowhere does the text hold God responsible for the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, and the book of Revelation is in the genre of Apocalypse, and quite obviously not to be taken literally. Worse, you ignore all the wonderfully good parts.

    Just to go back to a previous point, you gave me “props” for responding fairly to the problem of evil, but it seems to me that you have not responded fairly to what is good (Jesus) and true (Jesus and the universe).

    But I appreciate the opportunity to share a different viewpoint. Thanks.

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      nowhere does the text hold God responsible for the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira

      Acts 5:1-11. The implication of the text seems pretty clear to me.

      I’ve got lots of other thoughts in response to your other points, but I don’t want to let all the good stuff spill out in the comments, as I’d rather put at least some of it in posts. But before even that, I want to continue telling my story…

      So, at risk of looking like I’m copping out (if you don’t believe me), I think I will set this aside for now.

      But I appreciate the opportunity to share a different viewpoint. Thanks.

      While I do disagree with your viewpoint, I don’t want to live in an echo chamber, so thank you for your contribution.

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  8. Peter

    Hi this is a fascinating debate. I still call myself a Christian, but have found myself questioning my faith more and more. I have a theological degree and what really started my questioning was studying Christian History in detail. If God was active directing the church it is not obvious from history, human sociological factors seem to be a far better explanation of the actual history.

    I started to review my own Christian experience and realized that what I have attributed to God also could also be explained as a co-incidence and physiological. I have started to see that as a Christian one desperately wants to believe so we find ways to explain away inconvenient contrary evidence. Humans tend to underestimate the probability of coincidence and we fail to appreciate how much our world view so influences how we interpret evidence.

    What has really struck me is the number of obviously sincere and caring people I have encountered on these forums who have been Christians and left. I find their gentle and caring attitude a contrast to the Christians who come on these forums seeking to convert them back to Christianity.

    It has been said that if an argument is weak people shout loudly to stifle debate. I see that in some of the Christian arguments on these websites.

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    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Hi Peter,

      Welcome, and thanks for chiming in. 🙂

      Hi this is a fascinating debate. I still call myself a Christian, but have found myself questioning my faith more and more. I have a theological degree and what really started my questioning was studying Christian History in detail. If God was active directing the church it is not obvious from history, human sociological factors seem to be a far better explanation of the actual history.

      Good on you for considering all possibilities.

      You’re not the only one with such a degree that has dared to ask such questions. Matt Dillahunty (of The Atheist Experience) comes to mind pretty quickly. Besides several pastors / preachers who deconverted from Christianity once they found they no longer believed it. (e.g. Jerry DeWitt, Dan Barker, etc.)

      Which is not to say that you’ll necessarily wind up doing the same. But how can we expect to know with any confidence that any particular proposition is really true if we never consider the possibility that it isn’t?

      I started to review my own Christian experience and realized that what I have attributed to God also could also be explained as a co-incidence and physiological. I have started to see that as a Christian one desperately wants to believe so we find ways to explain away inconvenient contrary evidence. Humans tend to underestimate the probability of coincidence and we fail to appreciate how much our world view so influences how we interpret evidence.

      I agree with what you’re saying here, for the most part.

      However, maybe my own experience was a bit different, in that I don’t recall “desperately wanting to believe”. There were parts I liked about being a Christian, and parts I didn’t. (If you read my first post, you’ll see a little of how the frustrating parts drove me away for a while, though I didn’t disbelieve then.)

      So far, I do still miss the feelings of certainty and purpose, and the expectation that something better comes after death. But I was a Christian because I thought it was true. Now I don’t think it is, so I’m not. So now I’m working on finding contentment with what I know I have, and finding or creating my own meaning and purpose. TBH, it doesn’t come easily for me.

      What has really struck me is the number of obviously sincere and caring people I have encountered on these forums who have been Christians and left. I find their gentle and caring attitude a contrast to the Christians who come on these forums seeking to convert them back to Christianity.

      Ditto.

      To be fair, there are liberal / progressive Christians around, even hanging around on blogs of ex-believers like me (e.g. unkleE, in the comments on this very post). They generally don’t have the same toxic approach as the type I think you’re referring to. But, I still find the theology objectionable, and once one moves so very very far away from inerrancy, with the nasty parts that do exist, I don’t even see any reason left to think that the Bible is divinely inspired.

      It has been said that if an argument is weak people shout loudly to stifle debate. I see that in some of the Christian arguments on these websites.

      Reminds me of the “old legal aphorism that goes, ‘If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.'” (source)

      I think in a lot of cases they probably don’t do it on purpose, or they’re not consciously aware of the disingenuity of the ways they try to shut down conversation. But nonetheless, they do.

      Best wishes in your search for truth. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Peter

        I have recently been appointed as an assistant pastor.

        In the last couple of weeks it is as though a veil has been removed from my eyes and issues that had troubled me, which I had suppressed, I have been looking at from a more objective perspective. I will list just some of them:
        – the Archaeological evidence casts extreme doubt on the Exodus;
        – the reformed doctrine of an eternal hell combined with God’s election troubled me for years, if it is God who chooses people for salvation it implies God then elects some for eternal punishment. I could accept temporary punishment, but not eternal punishment. Many Christians argue that young children who die go to heaven regardless of faith. My logic said in that case it would be better for everyone to die as a child, so Christians should support abortion;
        – the spread of Christianity is best explained by social factors (an example in South Korea the Bible became a way of keeping the Korean language alive in Japanese occupation – it then became part of their renewed national identity);
        – Stories like the flood do not stand up to logical consideration [but I had previously excused that using Calvin’s argument that the first 11 chapters of the Bible are God’s baby talk, not to be treated as literally true;
        – the Christians I know seem no happier or better adjusted than the non-Christians – this experience flies in the face of what we should expect based on epistles like Philippians;
        – I have seen people healed, but it seems to me it more likely psychological (like a placebo effect). A friend of mine seemed to be healed but over a period of months all the symptoms returned;
        – I have come across prophetic words in churches that have proved to be wrong with the passage of time;
        – church communities seemed to be filled with so many personal tensions and issues, hard to see much impact of new life there, but human failings are very obvious;
        – the sheer amount of unanswered prayer in church’s;
        – In the West we tend not to focus on the loss of whole Christian communities in church history. Just one example the killing of all the Japanese Christians by the Samurai, why did God permit a whole Christian community to be eradicated?;
        – The sheer amount of argument over Christian doctrine and the unsavory manner in which those debates occurred, The political intrigue in the period from the council of Nicene in 325 to Chalcedon in 451 is quite distasteful);
        – the lethal persecution of the more radical reformers (anabpatists) by the major reformers like Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth century is disturbing;
        – the use of music and other techniques in church services to create a physiological feeling that people interpret as the Spirit of God;
        – the sheer amount of hucksters who have used religion to enrich themselves;
        – the pastors who push people to the ground to imply they fell under the power of the Spirit;
        – the amount of Christians who seem to want to vilify other Christians. As an example, I am appalled by the number of people who have turned on Billy Graham.
        – the amount of people who are hurt by churches and a critical judgmental spirit;
        – the contorted logic necessary to explain away some of the difficulties in the Bible;
        – the lack of supernatural insight in Christians I meet, they clearly don’t see what is going on in my head;

        What really struck me was when I started to read on the web stories people who had been really committed to Christ but walked away. They were not fly by night people, they had what seemed real conversion experiences. But over time started to question. As I read their story it was like I was reading what was going on in my own head. I could match their experience almost exactly. The story of Charles Templeton is especially interesting, his experience was way beyond mine, he had been a great evangelist, he had healed people, yet in the end he walked away from his faith.

        There are many more issues, but that will give you a flavor of some of the issues I have been considering.

        Some of the revivals in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early 20th century seem harder to explain by sociological factors. It is the 5% I can’t explain away that is currently keeping me open on the matter.

        I don’t want to be a hypocrite so I just pray that God if you are really there make it clear to me.

        Liked by 7 people

        Reply
        1. unkleE

          Hi Peter, thanks for that information. Are you the assistant pastor of a Reformed Church? It must be a difficult time for you having that job and those questions and doubts.

          That is really an impressive list of questions and doubts – 19 in all if I counted correctly. I have tried to group them in my mind, and I feel that many of them result from a particular way of reading the Bible (and aren’t problems to other ways of reading the Bible) and many, probably most, are based on the way christian behave (badly). A few are based on the observation, or your experience, that God doesn’t seem to respond to us the way we might expect.

          I think all of those are “problems” but it seems to me none of them go to the heart of the truth of christianity, but rather to a particular way of approaching christian faith and the Bible. I think there are many other reasons to believe as well as the revivals in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early 20th century.

          I would be very happy to discuss all 19 of these issues with you if you were interested. I have thought about most of those issues, I am a reasonable friendly person and I wouldn’t browbeat you, or be nasty, or offer some of the unsatisfactory answers that some christians give. You can see what I am like by checking out my two websites – Is there a God? and the Way?. If you are interested, please email me at unklee@gmail.com.

          Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best. You are right to confront these issues rather than try to bury them. CS Lewis once wrote that if we think God and truth are pointing in different directions, follow truth – and you’ll find that was where God was all along. I hope that proves to be true for you. Eric

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        2. Peter

          Eric thanks for the offer to discuss. I appreciate the offer.

          The points you make are quite valid. I would always argue to skeptics, not to judge God by imperfect Christians and that groups, such as the six day creationists were misunderstanding how to interpret the Bible.

          I have always been impressed by C.S. Lewis and have a number of his books. I am reading one of his books at present.

          My theological bent would be akin to reformed/pentecostal. My personal theology would be very close to that espoused by a person such as Corrie Ten Boon. I have always been impressed by her story, especially ‘Tramp for the Lord’.

          Last night I listened to a number of talks by N.T. Wright and found his approach very refreshing.

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        3. ratamacue0 Post author

          Peter,

          I don’t know if this is the “right” thing to say, but considering how central Christianity has most likely become in your life and work, I actually feel honored to be a part of your conversation as you ask these hard questions.

          If someday you do find yourself at a point where you no longer believe, you may find The Clergy Project helpful. I’ve heard good things about them, but I have no personal connection, nor have I ever contacted them. (See also Clergy Project on RationalWiki.)

          As to stories of former believers, you might also find Ken Daniels’ Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary to be an interesting read. I certainly did. (The whole thing is available to read for free at that link.)

          …As I read the explanations that Christians give for why we should believe their propositions are true, one big thought I have is: I expect more from a god – to evidently demonstrate his own existence to humanity. At least, that’s what I’d expect from one who’s interested in us knowing about him, and having a relationship with him.

          If you ever start a blog or writings of your own, please let me know.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Peter

          Thanks for the feedback. I am still on a journey and I don’t know where it will end. My world view has been very much Christian based. I am interested in the views of others who have been on this journey. What started me thinking about this was coming across some stories of former Christians who told their story. What they had assumed was God talking to them they eventually concluded was just their own mind. The way they described what they had thought was God resonated exactly with me experience.I have had many cases where I believed God has spoken to me, but I am now wondering whether I was mistaken. Is all just like a child’s imaginary friend? I suppose what I have concluded is that there is no situation where ‘God has spoken to me’ where I have been imparted with supernatural insight I could not have otherwise known.

          But there still remain some remarkable coincidences, of course they may just be that coincidences.

          Liked by 2 people

        5. ratamacue0 Post author

          Is all just like a child’s imaginary friend?

          That is a hard realization, but it is now a part of my perspective of my own experience.

          But there still remain some remarkable coincidences, of course they may just be that coincidences.

          It’s a big world (and universe). Unlikely events are likely to happen at times. Also, confirmation bias can play a role in our perceptions.

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        6. Peter

          Years ago I raised the matter of remarkable coincidences with a non-Christian friend. They observed that humans are very attune at detecting coincidences and under-estimate how likely such occurrences are to occur in the normal course of life.This thought has stayed with me. We have built in confirmation biases in how we interpret outcomes and human nature is to give around a six time greater weighting to evidence that supports our view compared to contrary evidence.

          Some people take the view that the Bible might be historically inaccurate but still inspired. I struggle with that perspective. There is an interesting discussion here from Biblical Scholar Peter Enns on a new Exodus movie. Enns provides a good summary of the general views of scholars in regards to the Exodus and conquest of Canaan.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/02/first-of-all-there-is-no-conspiracy-a-review-of-patterns-of-evidence-exodus-1/

          A couple of years ago I wrote an essay on the evidence to support the Exodus. I concluded that outside of the Bible the evidence was at best circumstantial (a generous term). However I found ways of explaining it away. But why would God make it so hard to verify what he said had happened? At the very least I have to re-evaluate me view of the Bible.

          Liked by 2 people

        7. unkleE

          Hi Peter, did you know that the well-known christian writer and academic CS Lewis thought some 60 years ago that the early parts of the Bible were legendary? You can read some of his understanding in this set of quotes. So while it may be a new and troubling idea to you, one of the most influential and respected christians of the past century took this view.

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        8. Peter

          Thanks Eric. I am trying to keep an open mind. It is hard to put aside presuppositions that have underpinned ones understanding of the Bible, without faith also collapsing. But there remain experiences I can’t explain other than there being a supernatural realm.

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        9. Arkenaten

          @unklee
          The fact that the Exodus and the entire Pentateuch is now regarded as Historical Fiction doesn’t seem to you in the least bit disconcerting regarding your own ‘faith’?
          Most odd. Most odd indeed.
          It seems religious indoctrination really works.

          Peter strikes me as an honest individual and from reading this thread I would venture that he will have ditched Christianity completely with the year.

          You could learn a lot from him, unklee.

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        10. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Hi Peter, it’s very nice to meet you. I’ve been reading your comments here and I’d also like to extend a welcome. The things you listed were nearly identical to my own questions and eventually I found my answers. I wanted to share this blog site with you.

          He had a “radical” conversion when he was a teen, and remained a devout Christian for twenty years until last November when he renounced his faith. He said he did not plan on becoming an unbeliever, and that his deconversion came about as a result of his serious study of the Bible.

          https://surprisedbydoubt.wordpress.com/about/

          Lynn holds an undergraduate degree in religion (magna cum laude) from Liberty University, a Master of Divinity (magna cum laude, Phi Alpha Chi Theological Honor Society) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Master of Theology in New Testament and Early Christianity from Harvard University and, until recently, was pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament from University of St. Andrews where he was awarded a full-ride scholarship.

          From the link, he’s posted two links where he writes about his deconversion journey.

          Liked by 3 people

        11. Peter

          Hi Lynn

          Thanks for the link. I am still at the point of questioning. I suppose the big change that has occurred in me is that I am now open to the possibility that it might be false. This means that difficulties I explained away before I am now taking seriously.I am finding that the skeptical interpretation tends to be a plausible explanation

          If Christianity is true, then the majority of the adherents are living at a level which is far below what the Bible tells us is possible. It is the exceptions, people like Heidi Baker, that make the strongest case for the reality of Christianity. Unfortunately there seem to be so few people like that in comparison to the vast number of people who claim to be Christian.

          I will leave the last word to C.K Chesterton:
          “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”

          Like

        12. ratamacue0 Post author

          Hi Peter,

          I see that you addressed your comment to “Lynn”, but it was actually a reply to Victoria’s comment. Did you mean to address Victoria, or did you mean to post it elsewhere?

          Like

    2. Think Always

      Hi Peter. If you feel like it, I’ve written some in-depth articles on my blog about the reasons I left which you may find interested. I was heavily into theology, a Christian blogger, worship team member, etc. Hard core believer. And it was in depth study of the Bible that changed my mind.

      Wish you all the best regardless of what conclusion you come to!

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      Reply
      1. Peter

        Hi, I was browsing through your blog. I was especially interested in your post about the book of Enoch and its link with 2 Peter and Jude. Those two epistles seem quite problematic, they certainly trouble many Biblical scholars, especially that 2 Peter seems to have used Jude as source material.

        The other point I noted of interest was the New Testament writers use of the LXX rather than the Hebrew Bible and the issues this raises. When I studied Acts I struggled with James’ use of Amos in Chapter 15 where the LXX version he uses is quite different from the Hebrew. Given Acts 15 is the critical chapter on the whole future direction of Christianity (i.e. would it be a Jewish sect or break away from Judaism) this always troubled me.

        Last year I studied Biblical Interpretation and noticed that the rules we were taught on how to interpret the OT where clearly not those adopted by the NT authors, another matter that troubled me. The NT authors would have failed their biblical interpretation courses if they were in a modern seminary.

        Liked by 2 people

        Reply
        1. unkleE

          “Last year I studied Biblical Interpretation and noticed that the rules we were taught on how to interpret the OT where clearly not those adopted by the NT authors, another matter that troubled me. The NT authors would have failed their biblical interpretation courses if they were in a modern seminary.”

          Hi Peter, I hope I don’t sound like a worn out record, but this too is a well known phenomenon. I can remember “discovering” this many years ago and documenting it by looking up every OT reference in the first 6 books of the NT (I stopped there because the pattern was clear) – about half the time the authors quoted the OT accurately and in context, and about half the time they modified it or adapted it in some way.

          I finally found a book that explained it all. (Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation addresses the same issue.)

          I feel sad that people can go to Bible College and not be told this. But once we understand that they saw inspiration and exegesis differently to us, it isn’t a problem. At least I don’t find a problem with it.

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        2. Arkenaten

          @ unklee
          You feel just sad about bible college?

          Crikey, if I was a god-believer and someone was passing off shoddy work claimed to be inspired by Yahweh I’d be seriously pissed off, never mind sad!
          But, please explain, why on earth would an omnipotent god require puny humans to interpret his god breathed/inspired work?
          Surely he would have nailed it the first time?
          Or did he finishing whispering in the ear of redactors like Eusebius and think, ”Oops, that was a bit of cock-up with Acts. Oh, to hell with it, they’ll figure it out.”

          Amazing how much slack you afford this god of yours. Do you email each other on weekends by chance?

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        3. Nate

          Yeah, I second unkleE’s suggestion of Inspiration and Incarnation. It’s a great book, though the takeaways for me were very different. It’s true that the NT writers often changed the OT passages they were quoting, but to me, this just indicates there was never any real inspiration happening at all. Like Ark said, couldn’t God have gotten right the first time?

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Peter

          It seems the conclusion people reach in studying the Bible (and for that matter many other unrelated issues) is based more on one’s world view than the actual evidence.

          I am currently re-evaluating some of my conclusions of the Bible by asking does an alternative world view better explain the text? Theologians have spent many years coming up with very clever explanations of apparent contradictions. Some of these use quite strained logic.

          I think the biggest battle for Christians is being prepared to accept the possibility that the Bible might be in error. This is not an option for most Christians and as a result convoluted logic is adopted to explain difficulties and where that does not work the term ‘holy mystery’ is used as a fall back.

          The question is how much evidence of error is required to accept that there are issues with the Bible. Even the most conservative scholar admits there are errors in the Books of Samuel. Some of the ages and numbers just could not be correct. So the conservative scholars argue that inerrancy relates to God giving us the message but does not apply to the subsequent transmission of the text. However they argue that God has ensured that errors do not relate to any matters critical for salvation.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Nate

          However they argue that God has ensured that errors do not relate to any matters critical for salvation.

          Yeah, that’s always seemed like a big cop-out to me. I mean, how would they know? The requirements of salvation aren’t things that can be figured out or examined independently. They require divine revelation. I mean, the Bible could claim that one must be able to juggle 3 coconuts to receive salvation — how could anyone dispute that? Any claim about “what God wants” or “what Heaven will be like” is completely unfalsifiable — there’s just no way for us to verify those kinds of claims. So when religious people finally resort to that position, it should be a red flag to them that their religious text has some major problems.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. Peter

          I have just been reading an earnest argument on the ‘Just and Sinner’ blog regarding whether or not the 21 Coptic Christians killed by Isis were real Christians. It is debates such as that which cause me to despair regarding the Christian community. There are so many different Christian groups and so often if you scratch below the surface you find each group thinks they are the ‘real Christians’ and others are in error.

          Jesus had said that a house divided against himself cannot stand, this sounds so much a description of the Church, though that is not what was implied by the original context. Likewise the Bible records only one prayer of Jesus for the Church, that it may be one as a witness to the world (John 17:20-23). The external evidence makes it hard to argue that this prayer has been answered. What conclusion should we reach?

          At the time of the American Civil War President Lincoln observed that there were two sides fighting both of whom thought God was on their side. They could not both be correct, but it was possible they could both be wrong.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. Think Always

          Yes, Lynn also has mentioned the LX problems. I am not familiar enough with those issues to know, but I’m have noticed the sloppy OT interpretation in the NT,

          Thanks for browsing the blog btw!

          Like

  9. Professor Taboo

    Well, apologies. I’m back here because your Phase 2 probably goes beyond MY personal upheaval in 1991 that I mentioned in an earlier comment. It wouldn’t correlate as well there. Therefore, I’m thinking it might be best shared here: “What Started My Questioning.” I will try my HARDEST to keep it brief without sacrificing significance! HAH! 😉

    I was raised and taught in a kind, responsible, loving home as secular and agnostic. It was fun and wonderful, no doubt! In a few words, I was taught HOW to think, not what to think. My biggest dream during high school was to become a professional soccer player, maybe even play for the U.S. National Team. This passion took me to an elite high-level collegiate soccer coach in Mississippi, who played MY position in Brazil! Where to spend my 4 collegiate playing years? Duh! The college turned out to be a small NAIA Christian liberal arts institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America —the conservative branch of American Presbyterianism. I had a target immediately painted on my (soul) heart & forehead when I arrived there in 1981. LOL As my father had guided me in my teens, I used all of my kind respectful powers of intellect in the face of a non-stop onslaught of challenges and “the Good News.” I adequately diverted 90% of the heart-soul arrows shot at me, with YOUR profound doctrine: the burden of proof lies with the proclaimer. Nothing ever totally convinced me. Finally, perhaps out of attrition and exhaustion, I threw up my hands and embraced the theology (or challenge?) that if you truly knock, this God will indeed answer. Answer all your questions, all your needs, all your fears…because I come surrendered, fully open-hearted and FULLY open-minded.

    Between 1983 and 1990, a select number of significant life-events happened, several of them in the sport of NAIA soccer’s recognition of my performances. My tenured believing peers explained it was God’s providence, glory, and reward for my sacrfice. Okay, fine. Other more significant events were my acceptance into graduate school (seminary) and hiring at the local Psych/A&D hospital while I studied. Huge! Again, “God’s providence and reward.”

    Then came the wrecking-ball. Three of them to be exact, pretty much all at once.

    Wrecking-ball #1—my father’s suicide because of my Mom moving out for a temporary separation. Utterly unexpected.

    Wrecking-ball #2—Upon my return to Mississippi from Texas, and all the funeral arrangements while being a ‘stable’ support for my Mom and sister not ending up in a mental institution, my Xian fiance completely disappears: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from my life…intentionally. She’s in love with another man & can no longer bear my tragedy with me in any genuine compassion or sympathy.

    Wrecking-ball #3—And this is the kicker, the coup d’état: weeks before #’s 1 and 2, a dear close soccer friend from India who I had been evangelizing for our Single’s ministry at our church (I was also a new deacon), promised he would attend our informal home bible-studies IF I would answer one simple question for HIS curiousity and subsequent attendance. His question: “Please tell me where Jesus was—the only Son of God/Man—between the ages of 13 and 30?

    #3—Naturally, with all my apologetic training and education I soon went to my seminary professors, many of them reknown experts & scholars in the faith, asking begging for an answer! It certainly could not be found in the “infallible God-breathed” Scriptures! Nothing. The responses I kept getting were all the same: ‘it isn’t important’. Utterly astonished I could NOT disagree more!!! Why? Simple.

    If Jesus is truly the one and only Son of God, confirmed by all the many phenomenally fulfilled Messianic prophecies, the one boy completely baffling high-priests in the temples and fellow Jews with his “divine” teachings and prodigy-wisdom, the one baby that “history confirms” thousands of male babies were slaughtered by King Herod (Matt 2:16) to hunt his threat-to-the-thrown down, and that EVEN three kings/Magi came from the far east (Arabian) to pay homage for such a global event… then HOW on God’s green Earth is it possible for NO ONE, not one single person ANYWHERE who might have been amazed by this ‘miraculous’ one and only Son of God talked about, seen, and even had a celestial star/Supernova hanging over him…allude millions of people everywhere for SEVENTEEN YEARS! Not even a whisper! How is that “not important”???

    That’s because it is. He didn’t “disappear”, and his whereabouts and what he was ACTUALLY doing (not in Galilee necessarily or at all) did not sit well with the centuries-later Bible-compilers, editors, interpolators at and of Emperor Constantine’s ordained Counsel of Nicaea in 325 CE in the northern reaches of Pauline theology & popularity (favored by Rome/Vatican) of the vast Roman Empire that Constantine in the West was DESPERATE to unite as one with the Eastern Empire. There was a feces-loaded, civil time-bomb-ticking, extreme heated controversy from many pockets of early Christianity, especially between those of Paul and Peter’s followers (patriarchal Gentile leanings) and those in Jerusalem (Judeo-Christians) following James, the brother of Jesus & who knew him intimately, and their neo-movement of revised Judaism (with increased gender-equality and Mary of Magdala). Naturally, whoever wielded the power, Roman Legions power, would win out. “History is written by the victors.” The rest is burned, destroyed, and exteriminated in the finest of Roman tradition. 🙂

    And so began the inevitable collapse of my Christian indoctrinations, teachings (brain-washing?), and foundational purpose to be among the minority of the pious, and NOT a hypocrite and lost. Why? Because the ONE cornerstone all true on-fire Christians can depend upon—outside General Revelation and the paranormal-miraculous Holy Spirit amongst us; which is TOUGH to prove—is the Holy Bible, the infallible Word, that stands the test of all times, is at the very least amputated! At the very most it is simply a complilation by errant Roman bishops tweaking (hijacking?) a remarkably social-welfare-system story to benefit their’s and the Empire’s interests, NO dire need for, a crumbling, further fragmenting, last-ditch effort to regain power and glory of ages past. Constantine (Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus) is really the Catalyst/Christ of Christianity, not the popular, temporary but remarkable story/legend of a Jewish social reformer/rebel who certainly would’ve faded into obscurity.

    There! That’s my brief story of upheaval. 😉 LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Peter

      An interesting and sad story, thanks for sharing.

      The missing years between 13 and 30 are not an issue in my case. Rather I find challenging:
      – the lack of real difference between Christians and non-Christians in regard to empathy and apparent inward peace and joy; and
      – Issues in regard to the trustworthiness of the Biblical account, (which is closer to your issue).

      This morning I was reading from chapter 2 in the Book Of Daniel (I am now reading the Bible with the possibility in my mind that it might be in error – not something most Christians are able to bring themselves to do). In Daniel 2 four kingdoms are foretold. The last is a kingdom of iron which will not remain united. After this God’s will set up a kingdom that will last forever. Conservative scholars argue Daniels account is from the 6th century BC and the four kingdoms are:
      – Babylon;
      – Medes/Persia;
      – Greece;
      – Rome.

      Crictical scholars argue:
      – Babylon;
      – Medes;
      – Persia;
      – Greece.

      In essence the conservative scholars have tried to marry their interpretation with Jesus arising during the time of the Romans. The critical scholars argue that Daniel was actually written around 200 BC at the time of the Greek rule. The third kingdom was said to cover the whole earth. This is a good description of the Persian empire which was truly vast ranging from India to Greece. The fourth kingdom is strong but broken into parts, an exact representation of the Greek empire which broke into three parts after the death of Alexander the Great.

      Which interpretation is more plausible?

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      Reply
      1. Professor Taboo

        Hello Peter, and thanks for the reply.

        I have found it near impossible, if not like traversing Mt. Everest, to include all critical and relevant processes, explanations, connections, and resources with regard to my initial questioning and subsequent digression of my fundy faith, especially in WordPress comment sections. 🙂 Admittedly, I did a poor job here for the sake of quick and brief. If I may, allow me to further elaborate on The Missing Years and their impact on me, and as you put it, those perpetually growing “issues in regard to the trustworthiness of the Biblical account.” because of those missing years. And I would say for here and now, the issues are with the New Testament Biblical account, specifically the four canonical gospels with relevant epistles…not any Old Testament accounts at this point and time. Sorry.

        As Ratamacue0 has mentioned in his posts, one major premise for the foundation of Christianity is the validity of the Resurrection of Jesus. I agree with him. But for my story here, it is perhaps the fifth or one well after the first premise of The True Messiah as apparently foretold in ancient Hebrew scriptures then fulfilled by Yeshua’s, Isa’s, or Jesus’ life. This is suppose to be the very first pillar upholding the foundational basis for Christianity. Second and third might likely be his miracles and controversial teachings, and probably the fourth is his Crucifixion, and fifth the Resurrection. But what happens to this chronological progression, if the very FIRST pillar is completely or mostly bogus!? That is why for me it was unacceptable for my seminary professors to keep telling me, “it isn’t important or it doesn’t matter!” No! So I launched into my own investigation and found many, many other sources—most all non-Christian sources because why would Christians reveal history that undermines over 2,000 years of dominance and tradition?—that took me into a much broader, deeper understanding of 2nd and 1st century BCE to 1st century CE Messianism. What then became abundantly clear was the stark difference between Maccabean-Hasmonean Messianism (with Arabian flavors naturally)…and that of Hellenistic, Paulian-Peter Messianism for the Greco-Roman Gentiles. They’re almost night and day. That explained why there was so much fighting and controversy over Jesus the Man/King and Jesus the Son of God in his last days, and which later continued with Paul, Peter, and James the brother of Jesus in c. 30-40 CE, then to the Counsel of Nicaea in 325 CE, and in several ways up to today with over 30-40,000 different denominations! LOL

        Under that much broader light, it became clear to me that our traditional “earliest Early Church Fathers” did NOT represent those in and surrounding Jerusalem—mainly because Roman Legions sacked it in 70 CE and finished off remaining Jews and Judeo-Christians in 73-74 CE at Masada—nor did they represent those in Egypt, Arabia, and parts of north Africa, less Roman provinces. On top of this vast diversity of followers, Antiquity scholars believe there were at least 45 or more “other testimonies” of Jesus’ teachings circulating throughout the Empire, that the Nicaean bishops/Fathers did not include in the canonical bible. So….

        If the commonly accepted testaments of Yeshua/Isa/Jesus are incomplete, amputated, as clearly evident in 17 missing years, and originally HIGHLY controversial, then it isn’t a stretch to doubt whether he was ever the True Messiah as interpolated by the Greco-Roman Fathers/bishops and handed to us today?

        I hope this helped clarify a little better.
        Best regards to you Peter!

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        1. Peter

          That is a very helpful comment. Even a cursory study of Christian history reveals that there were major doctrinal arguments pretty much from day one. It has been said that history is written by the winners. So in the case of Christianity we have the version from the Apostle Paul and his followers. By his own admission there were many at this early time of the church who were preaching a different version of the Christian Gospel.

          Going forward 300 years if not for the determined personality of Athanasius it seems that Arianism would have become the dominant form of Christianity.

          How one interprets these outcomes is determined by one’s world view. The committed person of faith explains it as God’s providence. Others might see it as chance.

          The major issue I have is that the ‘proof’ for the Bible accounts is essentially internal to the Bible. What proof is there for the Resurrection outside of the Bible? Are we to believe that the Bible is true, because it say it is true.

          Jesus had said we could tell if his words are true or not by putting them into practice. However even then the interpretation is based on one’s world view. When things don’t seem to work out the two arguments are that, ‘present suffering is nothing compared to the eternal glory’ or ‘our prayers must not have been in accord with God’s will’, or ‘we had insufficient faith’ or ‘God works in mysterious ways’ or ‘God will answer in his time’. That is when God fails to come through, so to speak there is always an argument that can be used to explain it away.

          When Britain was only part Christian around 700 A.D. there was a situation when a non Christian force attacked the Christian lands. A group of 300 monks prayed near the battle for God’s help, all 300 monks plus the Christian army were destroyed. A Christian world view will explain away these outcomes yet still expect God to help with my small personal problem at home.

          You can’t argue with people who are not prepared to accept as a matter of principle the contrary view.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. unkleE

          Hi Peter, I don’t believe it is true that the “‘proof’ for the Bible accounts is essentially internal to the Bible.” We have literally thousands of secular scholars (historians, archaeologists, etc) who have examined the New Testament in the light of known history, culture and literature, and their almost unanimous verdict is this (in the words of EP Sanders):

          “I shall first offer a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life, and especially of his public career. (A list of everything that we know about Jesus would be appreciably longer.)

          •Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
          •he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
          •he was baptised by John the Baptist;
          •he called disciples;
          •he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
          •he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
          •about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
          •he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
          •he had a final meal with the disciples;
          •he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
          •he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”

          Sanders also says:

          “Historical reconstruction is never absolutely certain, and in the case of Jesus it is sometimes highly uncertain. Despite this, we have a good idea of the main lines of his ministry and his message. We know who he was, what he did, what he taught, and why he died. ….. the dominant view [among scholars] today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first-century Judaism.”

          When the overwhelming majority of experts tell me about the big bang, evolution, plate tectonics, quantum physics or the dangers of smoking, I have no trouble accepting that what they say is true. So it makes sense to do the same here.

          Of course, the consensus of historians will only take you so far, and won’t answer whether Jesus was the son of God. But the consensus of historians seems to be that (1) Jesus was known as a miracle worker and (2) after Jesus was executed and buried, his tomb was found empty later and/or his disciples saw visions of him (that’s what studies of the views of historians have shown). So even the miracles and the resurrection satisfy historical requirements, the difficulty with them is metaphysical.

          I find all that more than enough information on which to make a decision about whether I believe Jesus was the son of God, but I understand others don’t conclude the same.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Peter

          I accept the historical nature of Jesus. However if one looks at contemporary accounts of Jesus from the first century outside the Bible, they are in essence reports from a generation and a half after Jesus died .

          The Gospel accounts from a linguistic perspective read like eye witness accounts and not constructed fables. This becomes clear when compared to the more fanciful accounts that were written later and were rejected by the Church. The use of peoples names and lace names mark them as authentic documents from first century Palestinian Jews. So this implies that the followers of Jesus who wrote the Gospels really did believe what they wrote and were not making it up. The issue then comes down to a simple matter of were they correct in what they believed or were they mistaken. That is the big question, I don’t think we can accuse them of insincerity.

          Many years ago my mother told me that she had a vision of Jesus. What I found odd was that as she got older and died, she did not mention this again. It made me wonder whether she started to question in her heart whether it may have been a figment of her imagination. i don’t know, but this occurred to me some time ago, because I thought such a drammatic event might have figured more significantly in her discussions with me, especially when she was unwell and near death.

          I am still involved in Christian ministry, but am struggling with the feeling of being a fraud. Last Saturday I spoke at a retreat and the people there said they found my talk very encouraging to their faith, I did not raise any doubts. After the talk a person came up to me saying that they saw some things in the Spirit as I spoke. I thought, at last God will she me that he knows what is going on in my heart, my doubts, God will assure me about my doubts. But alas, the person just talked about the ministry God had planned for me and showed no insight into what I was really thinking.

          I keep coming back to the inerrancy matter of the Bible, once one accepts not all the Bible is perfect and inspired then your foundation becomes one of sand, not rock, because you do not know what parts you should believe.

          Liked by 3 people

        4. unkleE

          Hi Peter, I think some of my recent response to Nate (further down these comments – Feb 28, 10:55 pm) addresses some of what you say here. Essentially, I say two things:

          1 The reasons to believe in Jesus (for me) are all in the NT, so whatever the OT contains it doesn’t have any real bearing on my belief in Jesus.

          2. Starting from our expectation (which is without much basis) that the Bible be inerrant is the wrong place to start. The only logical way to approach this is to assess what the Bible is actually like, and then consider whether God could have done it that way. THis slow evolution of truth seems in accordance with the creation of the universe from the big bang, the evolution of life on earth and the growth of each human being from conception, so it seems God has done it differently than we might expect, but there’s no reason why he shouldn’t.

          I hope that brief summary makes sense.

          Like

        5. ratamacue0 Post author

          Peter,

          Even a cursory study of Christian history reveals that there were major doctrinal arguments pretty much from day one. It has been said that history is written by the winners. So in the case of Christianity we have the version from the Apostle Paul and his followers. By his own admission there were many at this early time of the church who were preaching a different version of the Christian Gospel.

          Insightful.

          The major issue I have is that the ‘proof’ for the Bible accounts is essentially internal to the Bible. What proof is there for the Resurrection outside of the Bible? Are we to believe that the Bible is true, because it say it is true.

          This.

          That is when God fails to come through, so to speak there is always an argument that can be used to explain it away.

          Wrigley fish.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. ratamacue0 Post author

        Peter,

        (I am now reading the Bible with the possibility in my mind that it might be in error – not something most Christians are able to bring themselves to do).

        For me, I think I might’ve been “able”, but unfortunately it never dawned on me to do it. I was so sure, and it all seemed to make so much sense. (*smh*)

        Good on you for considering all possibilities.

        FYI, Nate did a “Skeptical Bible Study” series on Daniel, which starts here.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Peter

          Thanks for the link to the Daniel information. I read through the whole series and found it fascinating. It brought back memories of my studies in Daniel a few years back and the inventive ways that Biblical scholars explained the inconsistencies in the story, like the non existence of Darius the Mede. I had suppressed my uneasiness with those explanations. Psychologically we have to suppress these concerns or they send us mad.

          I found quite compelling the explanation that the last few chapters of Daniel,rather than referring to a yet to occur future, refer to the period leading up to the mid second century B.C. That interpretation for the whole book all just makes a lot more sense.

          As an aside having been a keen student of Christian history, I had observed that throughout history people always argued that they were in the end times. They expected Jesus to come back in the current generation. This has been believed by the most devout saints and continues to this day.

          I am starting to see that psychological factors are a good explanation for this phenomena.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. ratamacue0 Post author

      Prof T,

      Sorry to hear about the traumatic loss of your father; that’s some shit.

      I’m sure the breakup was no picnic, either.

      Thanks for sharing your story and “extimony”. 😉 Interesting angle on what got you questioning. I’m not a strong history student, so many of my angles were necessarily different, as you can see.

      Brain-washing? I’ll venture a “yes”, though perhaps not in a clinical sense.

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      1. Professor Taboo

        Ratamacue0,

        No surprise, those months were a MAJOR fork-n-the-road for me and the rest of my life! I left out some other details that may have been as significant, but alas, there are only 24 hours in a busy day no matter how you beautifully slice and dice it up Benihana chef-style. LOL

        As you may have surmised, I am a fanatic for history; extremely detailed history within as much context I can get my hands, eyes, & ears on! This “extimony” road — as you correctly & eloquently put it — took over 12 years to complete from 1990-91. Brain-washing?

        Granted I perhaps over-indulged that description a bit 😉 , but when I gathered as many relevant historical records and engaged relevant fields of science outside of literature, the viewing lens seminaries provide their students, and they to their congregations is unethically SMALL and very Greco-Roman! Again, as you so appropriately stated…

        “Truth should withstand scrutiny”… always. Today, I’ve discovered and further realized that truth is perception much of the time. It requires a LOT of discipline to simply analyze ALL the available data and let the DATA tell the story. Many “seekers” are too lazy to see the process all the way out, or leave a topic/issue undetermined until further data becomes available.

        A final note, of course our 21st century forensics & examinations cannot be compared to those of the 4th century CE Syria-Palestina-Arabia, much less 1st century. But that’s evolution, isn’t it? 😀

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  10. Professor Taboo

    For Peter (and perhaps unkleE),

    I really do and always do appreciate civil respectful discussion! Kind thanks Peter and unkleE! 🙂

    I don’t feel the pressure to or the extensive defense of my current lifestyles or world-view here. Thank you! That would take up entirely too much of Ratamacue’s blog-comments! LOL

    Therefore, NOT in spite or aggravation in the least, or to be short with your fine comments/replies Peter, I will skip well forward through my own personal journey of Xian deconversion and deprogramming. As I approached the final legs of my retreat from fundy Xianity and the Bible’s reliability in light of what I’ve shared here above, all of my examinations, questions, even painfully leaving (in spirit) my church and seminary families—literally almost hundreds!—I found myself cornered by one single New Testament passage I could not escape. In my opinion, NO active believing Xian can escape the cornering either without at least hinting of “unpardonable sin” (Mark 3:22-30, Matt 12:22-32). Fundamental Christianity knows ONLY a binary black or white. Period. No fudging. The parameters are extremely rigid because the Holy Scriptures—as we have them today from Constantine’s 325 CE Council of Nicaea—do NOT allow for anymore heretical teachings, theology, or doctrine. You’re either 100% in, or 100% out!

    With so many growing doubts and unanswered (unanswerable?) questions, especially from my seminary professors(!), I could not intellectually escape John 14:6 or accept its validity. As much as I had learned about our World, Nature (especially in the animal kingdoms!), physics, metaphysics or the paranormal, growing understanding and laws of Quantum Physics, intersexed births among a large swath of humans, DNA and geneticism and the compiling evidence of genetic structural diversities in human anterior hypothalamuses(sp?) attributing to sexual-orientation, how over thousands and millions of years cells morph to adapt to surrounding conditions, and I’ve probably left off 2-3 more compelling discoveries about us and our existence in the Universe/Multiverse… there was absolutely NO WAY I could say to myself, let alone to others, that inside these correlating subatomic to macro planetary and cosmic systems that there is stricly ONE WAY to God and eternal salvation! It isn’t epistemologically POSSIBLE!!! And Ratamacue put it perfectly in one of his posts: “Truth should withstand scrutiny“…always! The New Testament does not. The Old Testament doesn’t either, but that’s another post & comments for another time. 🙂

    So Peter, I share this personal journey for you so that if you choose to perhaps not waste unnecessary energy within and from the “Holy Bible”—a subject I am 99.99% done with—then I would consider you a wise man. 😀 However, if you WOULD like to get into and dialogue about non-Biblical sources and evidence of a Supreme Designer, or not, or an after-life, or not, or say the paranormal-metaphysics and Quantum Physics…then I’m certainly interested! I am much less interested in Xian biblical debates because put simply, those parameters aren’t just inflexible, but they’re hermutically impervious—per the Council of Nicaea and all subsequent Christian offshoots from the Rome-Vatican—to ANY sort of rigorous examination and subsequent modification. With regard to fundy biblicalism am I wrong? And if one opens up the Bible to extensive scrutiny, then the bible itself becomes part of this evolving, mutating, morphing existence that every natural and human system in life goes through! That then becomes contradictory to Isaiah 40:8…”The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever“…no, actually His Word does not. :/

    And there’s another SHORT brief comment reply from my discombobulated head! LOL
    Warm wishes Peter!

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. unkleE

    “I really do and always do appreciate civil respectful discussion! Kind thanks Peter and unkleE! “

    G’day Professor! I prefer it that way too. Thanks for your encouragement.

    “no, actually His Word does not”

    I wonder whether you, or anyone else, could show me any verse that quite clearly teaches that the Bible can be equated with the word of God? If you can’t, then this whole criticism of the Bible doesn’t actually carry any weight.

    Any takers?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Professor Taboo

      unkleE,

      Great question! Thank you. Your critique of the God-breathed, God-inspired premise would be valid as well if nothing precise can be located.

      …show me any verse that quite clearly teaches that the Bible can be equated with the word of God?

      Ahhhh, THERE’S the operative words: “quite clearly”. LOL Well, here are four passages that were typically referenced amongst my churches, ministers, and seminary professors… from the BibleHub.com which has over 10 bible versions/translations:

      “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” — 2 Tim 3:16 (NIV)

      “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” — 1 Thess 2:13 (NIV)

      “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways” — Heb 1:1 (NIV)

      “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” — 2 Peter 1:21 (NIV)

      1 Corinthians 2:12-13 is often used as well.

      But unkleE, you point out the grey well. I couldn’t remember any passage/verse that was EXPLICITLY stating ‘these scriptures are straight from the mouth of God.’ Hence, the passages above are the theological extrapolations or inferences of men, as well as a ‘Holy Spirit’ they allude to.

      What are your further thoughts?

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      1. unkleE

        Hi Prof, yes, I agree with what you say – the passages that people use to say Bible = word of God don’t actually say it. I have two “further thoughts”;

        1. In the Bible, “word of God” means either actual verbal communication from God (mostly in the OT) and the message about Jesus (mostly in the NT). In one place Jesus is called the word of God.

        2. That means christians who use the term to mean the Bible are not being accurate to the Bible and are likely drawing inferences they shouldn’t draw. Likewise, sceptics who criticise the Bible for not being perfect are basing their criticism on something that isn’t there.

        Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Professor Taboo

          Likewise, sceptics who criticise the Bible for not being perfect are basing their criticism on something that isn’t there.

          …not being perfect with regard to the explicit Word of God, correct? Not necessarily about other biblical contradictions, incorrect character portrayals, incorrect time-lines, etc?

          Like

        2. Nate

          Hi unkleE,

          I feel like your 2 statements here are maybe a little more conclusive than you can satisfactorily demonstrate. Professor Taboo acknowledged that there’s a gray area here, so could you explain how your view of it is unquestionably the right one?

          At a minimum, I’d say based on the passages that Professor Taboo referenced, any prophecy in the Bible is supposed to be understood as the word of God (Heb 1:1; 2 Pet 1:21). And Paul’s statement in 1 Thess 2:13 indicates that “the gospel” he had given the Thessalonians was to be thought of as God’s word. How much of what Paul said should be considered part of the gospel? Just the story of Jesus, or does it also include the doctrinal teachings that Paul gave? And in 2 Pet 3:15-16, the author considers Paul’s writings to be “Scripture.”

          If Scripture isn’t supposed to be considered the word of God, how should we think of it? Which parts of it are reliable? How does one tell the difference?

          Like

        3. unkleE

          G’day Nate, they are good questions and ones I am happy to discuss with you.

          “so could you explain how your view of it is unquestionably the right one?”

          I have based those two comments on a word search of the Bible using a concordance. There may be an exception somewhere, but I feel I can say fairly definitely that I know of nowhere that a book of the Bible says explicitly that the Bible is “God’s word”, and that the most common ways the phrase is used is as I’ve given. That isn’t an opinion, it is a claimed fact about the occurrences of the phrase, and could be verified or refuted by anyone with a concordance and lots of time.

          I agree that prophecy claims to be the words of God, though even there I’d want to be a little careful – Ps 19:1-4 says creation speaks out, so that would be included in the Hebrews 1:1 statement, and the wording of 2 Peter 1:21 is ambiguous about how the prophet receives his message, but let’s put those qualifications aside. The difficulty with the OT prophets is knowing how much is claimed to be the actual words of God to the prophet and how much is the prophet’s own observations. But I don’t see where you are going with that?

          But the NT case is much clearer – the NT writers often use “word of God” to mean the message they preached – as in “the word of God spread …” (e.g. Acts 12:24). You seem to be equating “gospel” with “word of God”, which I think is reasonable, but then you have to decide what “gospel” means. In the NT it is an announcement about Jesus being king. I don’t think it includes much doctrinal and ethical teaching, though they obviously follow. Again, I’m not sure where you are going with that.

          “If Scripture isn’t supposed to be considered the word of God, how should we think of it? Which parts of it are reliable? How does one tell the difference?”

          I believe the Bible is the scriptures (sacred writings) left by prophets, apostles, etc who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, but not dictated to. It has authority because of their status as recipients of revelation about God, but that authority doesn’t mean inerrancy and doesn’t extend to a particular interpretation. We are not given certainty about all this any more than we are given certainty about anything in this life (though by faith we might have “certainty”), but the Holy Spirit transforms our minds (Rom 12:1-2) and leads us into truth (John 16:13) if we allow him. We never get it perfectly because we are human, but we get enough. That’s what all of life is like.

          I honestly think this is the hardest thing for ex-christians like you and many other we both know to grasp. I think conservative christians crave certainty (how’s that for alliteration?) and if they quit the faith they can’t help still thinking that way. But the evidence actually points to that view not being true.

          I also think that the inerrancy view, while helping some fearful people stay in the faith, does far more harm by giving thoughtful christians an impossible ideal which the Bible and life never lives up to. I think many ex-christians might still be christians if they had been taught that the Bible doesn’t claim to be inerrant, but is still inspired and used by God – just as people can be imperfect but inspired and used by God.

          I’m not sure if I answered your questions there, but I tried! 🙂

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        4. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          “but is still inspired and used by God – just as people can be imperfect but inspired and used by God.”

          Hi UncleE — would you agree that your assertion is based on faith? I’m always curious, though, how believers discern who was inspired by God and who actually has/had mental illness or a neurological disorder, especially since they are common and certainly had to have been during biblical times.

          For example, hyper-religiosity is a major feature of mania, obsessive compulsive disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy, schizophrenia and other mental disorders. These people swear up and down that they hear from God; that they were chosen by God; that God speaks to them, inspires them, just as the prophets of old claimed. In The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, it states that as many as 60% of those with schizophrenia have religious grandiose delusions consisting of believing they are a saint, a prophet, a messenger of god, or some other important person. It also states:

          The authors have analyzed the religious figures Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul from a behavioral, neurologic, and neuropsychiatric perspective to determine whether new insights can be achieved about the nature of their revelations. Analysis reveals that these individuals had experiences that resemble those now defined as psychotic symptoms, suggesting that their experiences may have been manifestations of primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic disorders."

          Another example:

          “If an epileptic seizure is focused in a particular sweet spot in the temporal lobe, a person won´t have motor seizures, but instead something more subtle. The effect is something like a cognitive seizure, marked by changes of personality, hyperreligiosity (an obsession with religion and feelings of religious certainity), hypergraphia (extensive writing on a subject, usually about religion), the false sense of an external presence, and, often, the hearing voices that are attributed to a god. Some fraction of history´s prophets, martyrs, and leaders appear to have had temporal lobe epilepsy.

          When the brain activity is kindled in the right spot, people hear voices. If a physician prescribes an anti-epileptic medication, the seizures go away and the voices disappear. Our reality depends on what our biology is up to.” Dr. David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

          So, with all due respect, how do you discern?

          Liked by 3 people

        5. unkleE

          G’day NN, do I detect from your nom-de-plume that you have an interest in neuroscience? If so, do you mind explaining what that is please (just out of interest)?

          “would you agree that your assertion is based on faith?”

          The discussion we were having was about beliefs we each have about the Bible, so of course it had an element of faith. But my beliefs about the Bible are also based firmly on the best facts available.

          “I’m always curious, though, how believers discern who was inspired by God and who actually has/had mental illness or a neurological disorder, especially since they are common and certainly had to have been during biblical times.”

          I wonder do you go around “discerning” who of your friends or family are suffering from a neurological disorder, or who among the people you meet on the internet? Or even yourself? I certainly don’t. But I have had many friends with mental illnesses, and I could generally tell when their medication had got out of balance. And my limited reading suggests that there is generally a pretty clear difference between religious experience and mental illness, and the experts can tell us what those differences are. Finally, do you have evidence of high levels of mental illness in biblical times as you claim, rather than the vague assertions of your article?

          If you want to make an argument along these lines, I’d be interested to see your evidence, not just some brief assertions. For instance, how would the authors of that study determine whether a person was psychotic or actually heard from God? What test can they (or you) offer to distinguish those two options? Or do they just assume that hearing from God is impossible?

          I think if you are serious, and not just taking the piss, I think you need to offer something substantial, not some vague innuendo. Thanks.

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        6. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          UnkieE, thank you for your feedback. Did you read the analysis from the link?

          A messenger of god (now deceased) — a co-founder of the 7th Day Adventist denomination was hit in the head with a rock causing non-convulsive temporal lobe epilepsy in the form of religious experiences. The result? 17 million baptized members and 25 million attending church every week believing that these religious experiences were from the Christian god. It is endorsed by two American presidents and is one of the fastest growing protestant denominations in the world. It has the 2nd largest private school system in the world. One person with a neurological disorder who became hyper-religious — 25 million followers.

          Again, how do you discern? Do you use the Bible, or does the holy spirit speak to you and tell you that this person is hearing voices from god and that person isn’t?

          Do you know that those experiences that people claim are from god, such as a sensed presence and other hallucinations can be replicated via neurotechnology, meditation techniques, an interhemispheric intrusion, or sleep deprivation, extreme hunger, extreme fatigue, extreme stress, isolation, oxygen deprivation, baron landscapes, space weather such as cosmic rays or coronal mass ejections that affect the geomagnetic field, causing abnormal electrical activity in the form of seizures, microseisures and hallucinations.

          While I do believe you are diligent in your studies, and I do respect you for that, you have, IMO, left a lot of stones unturned. It is only through faith and intense indoctrination that your cultural god is alive and well in your life. Had you been born in another part of the world, like Saudi Arabia, you’d most likely be worshiping Allah. There have been thousands of gods throughout history, and you just happened to be born during a time (and in a culture) where the Judeo-Christian god is one of many gods that is worshiped today.

          My other question to you is not whether a Creator exists but why you claim that your god is the God. There are more believers in the world far outnumbering Christians who would tell you that their god(s) is the God.

          Please show me your facts that your god, Yahweh, is the god. Please do that without the Bible.

          Liked by 2 people

        7. unkleE

          Hi NN, thanks for that. While I consider what you have said and my response, I wonder if you could answer the questions I asked you please, specifically:

          1. Do you mind explaining your interest and background in neuroscience please?
          2. Do you go around “discerning” who of your friends or family are suffering from a neurological disorder, or who among the people you meet on the internet? Or even yourself?
          3. Do you have evidence of high levels of mental illness in biblical times as you claim?
          4. How would the authors of that study determine whether a person was psychotic or actually heard from God? What test can they (or you) offer to distinguish those two options? Or do they just assume that hearing from God is impossible?

          Thanks.

          Like

        8. Nate

          I appreciate the reply, unkleE.

          The difficulty with the OT prophets is knowing how much is claimed to be the actual words of God to the prophet and how much is the prophet’s own observations. But I don’t see where you are going with that?

          I was driving at the statement that you just made: how do you tell the difference? How do you know which parts are from God and which aren’t? Beyond that, how do we know we can even trust these guys when they claim to speak for God?

          I believe the Bible is the scriptures (sacred writings) left by prophets, apostles, etc who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, but not dictated to. It has authority because of their status as recipients of revelation about God, but that authority doesn’t mean inerrancy and doesn’t extend to a particular interpretation.

          But how does one apply this? Too often, it seems to me that Christians base which teachings were inspired and which were just from the writers’ own minds solely on how that particular teaching makes them feel. Many Christians that I know swear up and down that drinking any amount of alcohol is a sin — yet the Bible never says that. In fact, it rather clearly makes the case that the abuse of alcohol is the real problem. But these Christians already have an aversion to drinking, so the Bible conveniently says what they need it to.

          Or what about homosexuality? Many Christians are quick to agree with the Bible’s prohibitions of homosexuality, while others make various excuses for those passages to make them say anything different than what they appear to say.

          The same goes for the New Testament’s teachings on divorce and remarriage. Most churches simply overlook them.

          Should women really keep silent in the church, or was that just something that Paul believed? Or was he only speaking to the church in Corinth? Or was he just addressing something for a particular culture that shouldn’t apply today? I guess the answer depends on how you feel about women’s equality.

          And that’s the real thing. No two Christians are really worshiping the same god. Each molds God into what they think he should be. “Of course the OT commands of genocide weren’t really from God — God wouldn’t command such a thing!” How do you know? How do you know those stories weren’t actually inspired?

          Liked by 1 person

        9. unkleE

          “I was driving at the statement that you just made: how do you tell the difference? How do you know which parts are from God and which aren’t? Beyond that, how do we know we can even trust these guys when they claim to speak for God?”

          Hi Nate. The quick answer is, I think, that if we are talking about the OT, it doesn’t matter – at least not to the degree that you express. I am a christian, I believe in Jesus (for reasons we could discuss, but probably don’t need to now) and he taught we were now in a new covenant, hence the name New Testament. He corrected, fulfilled, put aside the old covenant – a lot of christians don’t understand this, but it is a clear NT teaching in my opinion.

          My reasons for believing in him all come from the NT. Therefore, if the OT wasn’t there, or it was radically different, it wouldn’t make any difference to my belief in him.

          It is critical that you understand this (even if you don’t agree with it).

          So the OT has a purpose, but it isn’t crucial to following Jesus. And once I have chosen to follow Jesus there are ways to help understand and apply the OT and answer your questions. I can discuss them if you like. But for where you are at, I think these are unimportant questions.

          “But how does one apply this? Too often, it seems to me that Christians base which teachings were inspired and which were just from the writers’ own minds solely on how that particular teaching makes them feel.”

          I agree with you, and the several examples you give, almost fully. Christians are inconsistent about this. I think most christians in the US, and many in Australia, live in a christian bubble and rarely come out of it, except to go to work, when they leave their “christian minds” behind in the bubble.

          It is frustrating to you to see this inconsistency, and it is doubly frustrating for me. But it is slowly changing.

          My view is that the Holy Spirit is our guide to interpreting the Bible (John 16:13). There are some historical things in the Bible (e.g. Jesus was crucified) that are simply facts, but ethical teachings are not like that. The only unchanging ethical statement in the Bible is Jesus’ command to love God and love neighbour – everything else is an application of that, and may be varied in some situations, particularly if one teaching conflicts with another in some case.

          So we don’t live by rules, but in relationship with God via the Holy Spirit, and that relationship guides us in our choices.

          I feel sure all this is frustrating to you, and difficult to grasp because your christian upbringing was very different. But it is the way I see things and I think an increasing number of christians are seeing things. I actually think people asking questions like you are is helping christians get a more correct understanding of these things, so that is good for both of us I hope. 🙂

          Like

        10. Nate

          Thanks for answering these so honestly, unkleE. I think many Christians wouldn’t want to admit to the difficulties (especially in the OT). It’s a credit to your integrity and your drive to find truth.

          I actually do understand what you’re saying. Yes, it’s different than the way I grew up, but toward the end of my time as a Christian, I was at least a little closer to what you’re describing. I definitely shared this part of your outlook:

          The only unchanging ethical statement in the Bible is Jesus’ command to love God and love neighbour – everything else is an application of that, and may be varied in some situations, particularly if one teaching conflicts with another in some case.

          I don’t think I have any further comments / questions. Thanks again! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Professor Taboo

      OH! And regarding my quote “no, actually His Word does not was meant more toward how even all the holy Scriptures about mankind’s relationship to God and what needs to be done about it, don’t all agree in their message & commands, leaving MORE to man to extrapolate! In my fundy years, that is where ‘experts, scholars, apologist’ usher in the highly fluid Holy Spirit for individual believers. Now, try to standardize THAT! 😉

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      Reply
  12. unkleE

    “…not being perfect with regard to the explicit Word of God, correct? Not necessarily about other biblical contradictions, incorrect character portrayals, incorrect time-lines, etc?”

    No, I meant not being “perfect” in the sense of being inerrant.

    But I could add not always being historical. Anyone reading Genesis 1 with an open mind could hardly fail to see that it reads more like a folk tale than history, Job reads more like a poem than history, the Good Samaritan reads more like a story than history, etc. And the experts confirm this – the early parts of the OT contain legendary material as well as history, and the exact mix is arguable. It doesn’t really matter to a christian, though it may matter to a Jew (I don’t know).

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  13. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    Hello UnkleE,

    In answering your questions:
    1) My interests are not limited to neuroscience. They are vast — primatology, neurology, psychology, anthropology, geophysiology, cosmology, sociology, etc. For personal reasons, I am interested in understanding how the environment (including culture and religion) Impacts the brain and behavior — not the pat (uneducated and inhumane) answers provided in the Bible. My studies have shown me that the traditions/culture, as exhibited in the Bible, for example, would cause the very conditions that would lead to brain injuries, attachment disorders (pons dysfunction) and other mental disorders, i.e. warring, slavery, subjugation of women, corporal punishment, etc.

    My background? A devout Christian for 40 years.

    2) My late husband sustained a traumatic brain injury. He then started having non-convulsive seizures which manifested as hyper-religiosity. He had never been religious in his life until after the head injury. My uncle had a stroke. Had always been a cultural Christian, but became hyper-religious after his stroke and tried to evangelize to everyone in the family, including extended family. My late husband tried to do the same with me and was obsessed with God and the Bible. Both had delusions they were convinced were from God. Both had brain damage. I get emails on a regular basis, and have for several years, from people who’ve read the research I’ve posted and have shared their own experiences with family members who got very religious (saw the light and heard from God) after succumbing to a TBI and/or mental disorder.

    Were you aware that many psychiatric delusions are associated with mild traumatic brain injuries (concussion)? Approximately every 15 seconds someone in America experiences a traumatic brain injury. According to the Brain Injury Association, traumatic brain injuries are the most frequent cause of disability and death among children and adolescents in the United States. Each year, more than a million children sustain brain injuries, ranging from mild to severe trauma. It is not uncommon for behavioral problems to manifest years, even decades after the injury, depending on where the injury is.

    Studies show that children who experience early damage in the prefrontal cortex never completely develop social or moral reasoning. (You won’t find that in the Bible) As adults, even on an intellectual level, they cannot refer to such behavior because they have little concept of it. (You won’t find that in the Bible) In contrast, individuals with adult-acquired damage are usually aware of proper social and moral conduct, but are unable to apply such behaviors due to brain damage. (You won’t find that in the Bible) Researchers at the University of Sweden have found the prefrontal cortex to be precisely the area of the brain that is impaired in murderers, and other violent criminals who repeatedly re-offend. (You won’t find that in the Bible).

    These injuries to the brain may sometimes be beyond repair, and require intense medical rehabilitation. No amount of religion will “cure” them. (You won’t find that in the Bible). http://learn.fi.edu/learn/brain/head.html

    Studies also show that In psychopaths, the brain’s lower frontal lobe–the orbital cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex is damaged causing. Aggressive impulses originating in the amygdala are inhibited and moral and ethical choices are made through interactions with the orbital and ventromedial cortex. People with low activity in this area are particularly predisposed to impulsive or psychopathic behavior. (You won’t find that in the Bible.)

    3) Would you please show me where I claimed “high levels” of mental illness and disorders during biblical times? I said it was probably as common back then as it is now and I’m basing that on the research I’ve read over the last 15 years. Given the fact that there was a lot of tribalism and warring during the Iron/Bronze age, head injuries leading to delusions and mental disorders were most likely common. Over 60% of our combat soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had sustain a traumatic brain injury according the the U.S. Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense.

    “There is also a rise expected in the incidence of epilepsy among the veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who have sustained traumatic head injuries.”
    http://www.newsweek.com/epilepsy-overlooked-and-underfunded-77467

    4) See links below. I pointed out to you that one person, just one with a neurological disorder claiming to be a messenger of God, managed to get a following of 25+ million people and continues to be one of the fastest growing protestant denominations in the world.

    Neither Gods, Nor Demons, But Misfiring Brains
    “As far back in history as we know, people with seizure disorders have been viewed with fear. In many civilizations, they have been shunned; in others, they have been thought to have a special ability and be in communication with higher powers—good gods – See more at: http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2004/Neither_Gods_nor_Demons_But_Mis%EF%AC%81ring_Brains/

    I’m just sharing one stone I turned over among many. I concur with what Nate and Peter have said.

    Nate: “No two Christians are really worshiping the same god. Each molds God into what they think he should be”

    Peter: “I keep coming back to the inerrancy matter of the Bible, once one accepts not all the Bible is perfect and inspired then your foundation becomes one of sand, not rock, because you do not know what parts you should believe.”

    ——————————————————————–
    http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/283/the-history-of-mental-illness-from-skull-drills-to-happy-pills
    http://www.brill.com/mental-disorders-classical-world
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mental_disorders
    http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/sacred.html
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16439158
    ——————————————————————–

    Apologies for the length of this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. unkleE

      No worries. I asked questions, I appreciate answers. Thanks. Just a few comments here before I go back to your questions of me.

      “Were you aware that many psychiatric delusions are associated with mild traumatic brain injuries (concussion)?”

      Yes I was, though doubtless not as aware as you are. But I am also aware that “armchair diagnosis” is not favoured. Before diagnosing mental illness or psychosis, we need to verify the symptoms, etc.

      But you didn’t entirely answer my question. You asked how I discerned the behaviour of some religious figures, so I asked you how you discerned your own behaviour and that of friends and relatives, and you told me about some particular cases where a known injury caused a psychosis. You didn’t mention one case where you discerned a psychosis other than where there was a known injury. In a sense you demonstrated my point. We don’t discern and diagnose without some reason. I’ll come back to this point.

      “Would you please show me where I claimed “high levels” of mental illness and disorders during biblical times?”

      You said: “… mental illness or a neurological disorder, especially since they are common and certainly had to have been during biblical times.” I took common to mean happening often, and hence at high levels. I wasn’t intending to say any more than you said.

      “4) See links below. I pointed out to you that one person, just one with a neurological disorder claiming to be a messenger of God ….”

      Again, this doesn’t answer the question. The study you referenced made the assumption that the only cause of the religious behaviour under question was psychosis, and didn’t consider the option that visions etc might really have been from God. I asked you how they tested for that option and eliminated it, and you didn’t answer that. I think we both know they didn’t, and so they made an unjustified assumption and the conclusions you draw are therefore of little value. But I am open to being shown otherwise.

      I will leave that there now and go back (down the bottom of the comments) to your other questions of me. Thanks.

      Like

      Reply
      1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

        Hi UnkleE,
        Before I continue I want to reiterate that I see nothing wrong with people holding a belief in a god so long as that belief does impact the rights and well being of others. Religion is adaptive because it’s rewarding, neurochemically and socially, plus it offers an alleviation of death anxiety and for the vast majority that’s beneficial.

        You said: “The study you referenced made the assumption that the only cause of the religious behaviour under question was psychosis, and didn’t consider the option that visions etc might really have been from God.”

        Which God? Your god, Yahweh, Jesus daddy? Allah? The Monkey God? Krishna? What the comprehensive study did was analyze the personality/behavioral traits of these biblical characters who claimed or were purported to have claimed that they were either God, or a messenger of God.

        “Before diagnosing mental illness or psychosis, we need to verify the symptoms, etc.”

        I agree, which is what the mental health professionals did in the analysis. The same evaluation they would give a patient. The Bible is rather descriptive regarding the behaviors of these people who were purported to have exhibited the exact type of symptoms/behaviors listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, these deities are also representative of super-heroes in fiction.

        “Again, this doesn’t answer the question.”

        It should. It only takes one person, claiming to be God or a messenger of God to gain a following of millions, even billions. Do you think Allah is also “the” God and Mohamed his messenger? Like I mentioned, UnkelE, had you been born in another culture that worships another deity, that would be the deity you’d most likely be worshiping if you had been indoctrinated to be a believer in said religion.

        You wrote: “But you didn’t entirely answer my question. You asked how I discerned the behaviour of some religious figures, so I asked you how you discerned your own behaviour and that of friends and relatives, and you told me about some particular cases where a known injury caused a psychosis.”

        It’s not relevant and I think you may have missed the point of my question. I don’t believe in your god. You are the one who claims that Yahweh/Jesus is the true God. I made a determination about your god based on a lifetime of study in several disciplines bringing to light the lack of knowledge your god and it’s messengers exhibited in scripture and the fact that many of their claims are common in fictional characters, among people with mental disorders or have experienced environmental conditions that would affect their perception of reality. None of them understood the causes of anti-social behavior. None of them understood and/or educated about neurotransmitters and hormones or how the environment impacts gene expression and brain development (even in utero).

        None of them seem to know that if the brain became diseased, malfunctioned, atrophied, sustained damage, had a tumor(s) or was poorly wired, that it could impact behavior depending on the region of the brain. They didn’t know or try to education about and prevent attachment disorders which affect behavior, or the implications of adverse childhood experiences and brain atrophy. Instead, they implemented crude, ineffective methodologies, i.e., bloody human sacrifices, common practices all throughout primitive history.

        It’s taken us hundreds of thousands of years to understand the causes that can negatively impact humanity, and this knowledge has allowed for us to become more humane, less judgemental and work towards continuing to implement effective preventative measures that will curtail anti-social behavior and benefit our species and the planet.

        The gods have never known more than the men who created them. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Hope you had a nice weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. unkleE

          “Before I continue I want to reiterate that I see nothing wrong with people holding a belief in a god”

          Hi Victoria, thanks for saying this. I don’t think it affects the matters of truth we are discussing, but I appreciate it.

          “What the comprehensive study did was analyze the personality/behavioral traits of these biblical characters who claimed or were purported to have claimed that they were either God, or a messenger of God.”

          I’m saying that you used the study to illustrate points which were not established by the study and which the authors didn’t conclude.

          “The same evaluation they would give a patient.”

          I can’t believe that. If psychiatrists made diagnosis on such poor information, they wouldn’t be professional or serving the needs of their patients.

          “It should.”

          How? Can you point to anything in the study that tests or rules out the possibility that these were genuine experiences? If you can’t (and although I asked twice you haven’t done so) then it is totally inaccurate to ignore that possibility.

          “Like I mentioned, UnkelE, had you been born in another culture that worships another deity, that would be the deity you’d most likely be worshiping if you had been indoctrinated to be a believer in said religion.”

          Perhaps. Perhaps not. Have you actually worked this out? Do you know that christianity is growing fastest in traditionally non-christian countries and declining in “christian” ones? According to a model I set up, and using the best data I could find, somewhere between a third and a half of christians today were born into non christian cultures. It isn’t nearly as clear as your statement implies.

          My weekend was more busy than nice, but that’s better than being bored! Hope you have had a good weekend too.

          Like

        2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          “I’m saying that you used the study to illustrate points which were not established by the study and which the authors didn’t conclude.”

          With all due respect, no, I didn’t. I’ll reiterate. People, all throughout history, have claimed to be a god and/or messengers of god, and Jesus, Moses, Paul and others exhibited behaviors, as described in scripture, that are listed in the DMS.

          It is only through faith that you believe Moses saw/heard god speak to him in a burning bush. It is only through faith that you believe Paul had a conversation with Jesus (in a vision) after his supposed resurrection. It is only thought faith that you believe Jesus heard his father, Yahweh, speak to him in his head. It is only through faith that you believe all this is divine and not confabulation or delusions of grandeur.

          Grandiose delusions:

          “The delusions are generally fantastic and typically have a supernatural, science-fictional, or religious theme. Patients suffering from grandiose delusions wrongly hold themselves at an extraordinary high status in their mind.”

          ————————–

          “Have you actually worked this out? Do you know that christianity is growing fastest in traditionally non-christian countries and declining in “christian” ones? According to a model I set up, and using the best data I could find, somewhere between a third and a half of christians today were born into non christian cultures. It isn’t nearly as clear as your statement implies.”

          UnkelE, I’m sure you are aware why Christianity is spreading. Christian missionaries in nearly every country and 24/7 telecommunication which have influenced and changed whole cultures and countries. For example, the 7th Day Adventists (whose so-called prophet believed she was a messenger of god after sustaining a traumatic brain injury) have missionaries in over 200 countries and territories. They operate 7,598 schools, colleges and universities. They utilize AM, FM, Shortwave, satellite, podcasting, and the Internet — broadcasting in 77 major language groups of the world with a potential coverage of 80% of the world’s population.

          That’s just one Christian denomination, so yeah, I can see why Christianity is spreading in typically non-Christian countries. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

        3. unkleE

          Hi Victoria, you have changed the topic several times here, and I want to point out where before I close:

          “People, all throughout history, have claimed to be a god and/or messengers of god, and Jesus, Moses, Paul and others exhibited behaviors, as described in scripture, that are listed in the DMS.”

          I am not contesting that there are such similarities. What I am saying is (1) similarities don’t prove diagnosis, (2) the authors of the paper don’t draw the conclusions you do, and (3) you haven’t been able to show any way that this “study” could separate out pathology from genuine experience of God.

          “It is only through faith that you believe Moses saw/heard god speak to him in a burning bush. “

          How do you know I believe that? I never said I did, I said I believe early parts of the OT are legend I have no idea whether this is real or legendary. You seem unable or unwilling to think that my reasons for believing in Jesus are evidence-based, and my beliefs about Moses are almost irrelevant to that.

          “UnkelE, I’m sure you are aware why Christianity is spreading.”

          This response too is changing the subject. You suggested I would believe something different if I grew up somewhere else. I pointed out that almost half the christians in the world grew up in a non-christian culture, so that suggestion of yours was not as sure as you seemed to think. But instead of either admitting that your statement was too strong given the facts, or arguing for a different set of facts, you changed the subject to why christianity is growing.

          I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you, but I find it ironic that you attribute all sorts of often unconscious or subconscious psychological motivations to me, and you don’t notice how your own arguments are often based on assumptions about me, and not addressing the matters I actually raise.

          Is it possible that there is approximately the same amounts of wishful thinking on both sides of this discussion?

          Like

        4. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          “the authors of the paper don’t draw the conclusions you do, and (3) you haven’t been able to show any way that this “study” could separate out pathology from genuine experience of God.”

          Yes, I did draw the same conclusions as the authors did in the study, but you did miss the point. Also, they cannot show any way that their study or analysis could separate out pathology from “your” personal experience because it’s your personal experience — what’s inside your head. Again, I’ll repeat what Nate said “No two Christians worship the same god”.

          “You suggested I would believe something different if I grew up somewhere else. I pointed out that almost half the christians in the world grew up in a non-christian culture, so that suggestion of yours was not as sure as you seemed to think. But instead of either admitting that your statement was too strong given the facts, or arguing for a different set of facts, you changed the subject to why christianity is growing.”

          LOL — OK — let me clarify for you. What part of mass evangelizing from missionaries and telecommunications did you not understand? 😀

          Liked by 1 person

        5. unkleE

          Hi Victoria,

          “Also, they cannot show any way that their study or analysis could separate out pathology from “your” personal experience because it’s your personal experience — what’s inside your head.”

          You see, you also make assumptions! You have assumed that God is only an experience inside someone’s head. That is your opinion, and it may be true, but it may be false (and that’s my opinion). But all the psychological inferences you draw are based on this assumption, and therefore your argument is circular – God is in my mind because you assume God is in my mind and offer no way to determine whether that assumption is true! Surely you can see this?

          “LOL — OK — let me clarify for you. What part of mass evangelizing from missionaries and telecommunications did you not understand? “

          I think I understand it quite well enough. The question is, why did you choose to ignore the point you originally made, and to which I offered evidence against? If your original point was worth making, isn’t it worth conforming to the evidence?

          Like

        6. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          Wait — what? 😀

          UnkieE, let me put it this way — if you were living here in the Bible Belt, you’d be considered lukewarm by most fundamentalists. A cherry picker if ever I saw one. Either Jesus’ daddy was Yahweh or he wasn’t. Which is it? Jesus becomes striking like his daddy in Revelations 19 when a bloodbath pursues with those who didn’t submit to Jesus’ daddy.

          Also, I believe I made it very clear to you, and the study does to that the authors compared the behaviors of Jesus, Paul, Moses and Abraham to the symptoms listed in the DMS and came up with an analysis. Now, which god do you think they have not given the benefit of the doubt? Your god or the other thousands?

          With regard to the non-Christians becoming Christians, I did not change the subject. I have to ask again — what part of mass evangelizing and telecommunications did you not understand? I do not mean to come across as terse, but are you of the opinion that these non-Christians become Christians without the help of missionaries, Bible campaigns and mass telecommunications?

          Liked by 1 person

        7. unkleE

          Hi Victoria, I don’t think I will press any more for answers. I think it is time to draw this to a close. Best wishes to you.

          Like

        8. ratamacue0 Post author

          I haven’t had time the last few days to dig in to the conversation that you’ve all been having, but it has been interesting.

          This caught my eye:

          Do you know that christianity is growing fastest in traditionally non-christian countries and declining in “christian” ones?

          I skimmed your linked post, and saw this, also:

          3. Christianity is in decline in most of the traditionally christian countries of the west (mainly Europe and North America), but is growing fast in generally non-christian countries in Asia and Africa. This suggests christianity finds it easier to make converts than to retain those born into a christian heritage.

          It sounds like Christianity is a stepping stone to bigger and better (and presumably more truthful) things.

          How many of the prior religions of christian converts included multiple deities? If many or most, perhaps these trends taken together could even indicate a trend downwards in the number of god beliefs of humanity as a whole.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. ratamacue0 Post author

    Hey everyone,

    When you are replying to a particular comment, I think it’s best to use the reply button on that comment, as opposed to the reply button on the post. That way the person to whom you’re replying is most likely to see it – especially if they didn’t subscribe to the thread via email.

    I’ve seen this happen a few times, so I’m not meaning to single anyone out. Just trying to facilitate communication. 🙂

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  15. unkleE

    Hi NN, this is a reply to your questions of 12:38 am, Feb 28. You ask a few interesting questions, and it is difficult to give short answers. In trying to be brief, I think I sound curt, but please be assured I am not offended by your questions – just giving direct answers.

    “Did you read the analysis from the link?”

    Yes I did, and I think it doesn’t say what you suggest, for several reasons.

    (1) The experts say that ‘armchair diagnosis” should be avoided. This is the ultimate in distant diagnosis. The symptoms are not known or measured, they have to be invented from the very little recorded. (I notice, unlike most historians, and probably unlike them when they have a different purpose, the authors assumed every detail recorded was factual! Would you do that?)

    (2) The experts say what we call psychosis isn’t necessarily a sign of mental illness, but may be a sign of something else. ““spiritual experiences, whether welcome or unwelcome, and whether or not they are psychotic in form, have nothing (directly) to do with medicine. … In spiritual psychotic phenomena action is enhanced, whereas in pathological states there is a radical failure of action” (Jackson and Fulford, 1997). Jesus and Paul were both accused of being demon possessed or mad, but Jackson & Fulford would appear to diagnose them more positively.

    (3) In fact, the authors of the study also diagnose them more positively than you do. Their aim is to show that mental conditions need not be debilitating and can be viewed positively, which is quite contrary to the conclusion you were drawing.

    (4) The authors don’t consider the possibility that the religious figures really did have visions, etc. They just assumed these were evidence of psychoses. That unjustified assumption might be reasonable for their purposes, but they make your conclusions quite unjustified.

    So I think the study is useless for the purposes you have used it, and your conclusions are not based on good psychiatric practice as I have read about it.

    “Again, how do you discern? Do you use the Bible, or does the holy spirit speak to you and tell you that this person is hearing voices from god and that person isn’t?”

    I don’t have to discern. People suffer injuries or diseases or lose faculties and do strange things as a consequence. Where there is evidence of impairment, we should discern accordingly. Where there is not, I think it is gratuitous to discern as you seem to be suggesting.

    Jesus and Paul were high functioning people. If you wanted to pick out someone like Ezekiel, you might have a case for some sort of diagnosis, but my faith can cope with God using someone strange!

    “Do you know that those experiences that people claim are from god, such as a sensed presence and other hallucinations can be replicated”

    Yes, so can many other genuine experiences like colour, happiness, movement, etc. You are not suggesting that Jesus was manipulated by a psychiatrist, and they were high functioning. So I can’t see any case. As I said in my first comment to you, vague suggestions prove very little – if you want to make your case, you need to state your hypothesis and demonstrate you have decent evidence, have considered all the options, etc.

    “My other question to you is not whether a Creator exists but why you claim that your god is the God … Please show me your facts that your god, Yahweh, is the god. Please do that without the Bible.”

    I am a monotheist, so for me there is only one God – just many descriptions of him/her/it that are more or less right. Few descriptions are totally wrong, for they often agree on many things. I think the evidence points to the christian description (i.e. that of Jesus) being more right than any others. It would take too long to say why here, but you might like to read (for a start) Why believe?” and Choosing my religion. And I did most of that without the Bible! 🙂

    So that is my response. I think claiming psychosis to explain away christianity is a long bow, and could equally be used I suppose to explain away a lot more. But I appreciate you asking the questions, for it encourages me to look at all this a little more. Thanks.

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    1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

      “So that is my response. I think claiming psychosis to explain away christianity is a long bow, and could equally be used I suppose to explain away a lot more.”

      Please keep in mind, UnkleE that I turned just over one stone in this discourse with you. This is a complex subject, but the bottom line is that it is through faith that you believe that Yahweh/Jesus is “the” God because the Bible is a mess, and I think you know it. It is through faith that you believe you are filled with the holy spirit. It is through faith that you believe it guides your life. It is through faith that you believe you will have eternal life.

      It’s 1AM, and I’m off the bed. Thank you for the discourse.

      Victoria

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  16. unkleE

    “the bottom line is that it is through faith that you believe that Yahweh/Jesus is “the” God”

    Hi Victoria, we haven’t discussed before now I think, so I think you don’t know me very well. This statement is not true. I know myself so I am a reasonable authority on what I think! 🙂

    I believe the evidence points to Jesus being the son of the true God, that has very little to do with faith. It requires faith to live according to that conclusion and to try to follow Jesus in my life, so that’s where faith comes in. You presumably disagree with me about the evidence, ut that is another matter.

    Hope you have a good sleep – up to 1 am discussing on the web is a bit more than I could do. My compliments to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

      “Hi Victoria, we haven’t discussed before now I think, so I think you don’t know me very well. This statement is not true. I know myself so I am a reasonable authority on what I think!”

      I established earlier in our conversation that I respected you for being diligent in your studies, but for me,Yahweh (the one Jesus tells us we must submit to and worship) is a god I would not want to spend eternity with. I personally have more morals, more compassion and empathy than Yahweh, Jesus daddy. This god did not earn my respect.

      From a neurological perspective, I understand why people who are devout, deeply in love and bonded with the Judeo-Christian god can’t see how unethical this god is, or justifies the behavior because (as the fMRI studies show) they tend to have deactivated neural circuity associated with critical social assessment and negative emotions (towards the one they are deeply in love with). They get a neurochemical reward to turn a blind eye.

      I once was blind but now I see. 😉

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      1. Professor Taboo

        Victoria and unkleE,

        If one values the empirical and growing scientific data/evidence of Nature, our planet, the species that inhabit this planet, THEN over the last century (especially during the 1930’s and late 40’s) with atomic, subatomic discoveries and subsequent laws, and eventually with the revelations from Firmilab and CERN research in Quantum Physics, it is highly compelling now — all things considered — that monism is a myth created by mankind to cope with too much fearful paralyzing unknowns, especially after death. In fact, it could be decisively argued that Quantum Superposition and Quantum Entanglement — to name two fields of study — completely demolish the philosophy of monism. They have for me.

        Just a thought as I read the comments. Best wishes! 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          “it is highly compelling now — all things considered — that monism is a myth created by mankind to cope with too much fearful paralyzing unknowns, especially after death. “

          It is certainly understandable considering the fact that information from our senses reache our amygdala (fear) almost twice as fast as it takes to get our frontal lobes. Critical assessment. Other primates have similar behaviors.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Professor Taboo

          Are you implying that we were once chimps!!!???? 😮

          I should be offended by that but I’m not, now that I understand Nature, science, and Quantum Physics as I mentioned. In fact, I feel right at home actually! LOL 😉

          Liked by 1 person

        3. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          “I feel right at home actually! LOL”

          No kidding. As an aside, a study published in Current Biology [S.V Shepherd, R.O. Deaner and M.L. Platt, 2006] describes how primates will “pay” — give up a cherry juice reward in order to view images of dominant specie members. While the cherry juice would give them a hit of dopamine, viewing the dominate members gave them a bigger buzz. This study helps us to understand humans’ propensity to worship celebrities like religious figures. Added to this is our psychological drive to be acknowledged which also rewards us neurochemically. I’d say we are a bunch of dope-heads. 😀

          Psst — the study also showed that male primates will “pay” — give up a cherry juice reward in order to view female specie members’ behinds (primate pornography). *giggles*

          Liked by 1 person

      2. unkleE

        Hi Victoria, I’m afraid your comment here almost totally misses where I am at.

        1. I welcome your respect but it is irrelevant to the truth or otherwise of what each of us think.
        2. I have agreed many times here that some of the actions ascribed to God in the OT are not moral, so I have not turned any blind eye to that. I just offer a different explanation of it.
        3. If you focus on what I as a christian don’t believe (that the portrayal of God in the early OT is a full and true picture) you will never understand what I think and why, you’ll only think you do. And, more unfortunately, you’ll never see God as he really is.

        I think there is a little too much of unkleE on this thread now, and I’ll ease out. But I appreciate your friendliness, but unfortunately find that most of your comments to me are driven by theory and misunderstanding. We each have our blindnesses, it seems, or so we each like to think about the other! 🙂 As you said before, thanks for the civilised discourse.

        Liked by 2 people

        Reply
        1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

          ” And, more unfortunately, you’ll never see God as he really is.”

          I agree — I will never see your god as he really is because I don’t know you and as Nate said — no two Christians are really worshiping the same god.

          All the best to you on your journey. 🙂

          Victoria

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: WINC: More Question Triggers | aspiretofindtruth

  18. TheCovertAtheist

    You have an interesting blog and I will be following you in the future!
    For me, the numerous problems with Hell were a big factor in my de-conversion, alongside the Book of Genesis which just doesn’t stand up to modern scientific scrutiny at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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