Saturday, September 12, 2009

The various steps to believing

I've been having a lot of good conversations regarding faith lately. (Some of them right here on this blog! Well, the blogspot version of my blog, anyway.) I like that, because it keeps me thinking. Hopefully I'm not simply chasing my tail here, as I'm sure I've covered some of this stuff before, but I've had this particular post brewing in my head for several weeks now.

I've had a few people express to me that they hope that Jesus would eventually reveal himself to me. Honestly, I hope that if Jesus is indeed real, he'd get to it and start with the revealing already. I also hope that it can happen without me undergoing some sort of horribly traumatic incident. Honestly, if it were to happen that way, then I'd be less likely to believe. I wrote about this before, but stressful situations only tend to make people less rational, and I trust my own judgment much less when I'm in such a state. I hope that if such a thing happens that it occurs when I'm doing something really intellectual like reading The Canterbury Tales or something like that.

But what exactly would me converting to Christianity even entail? It would be a rather huge leap going from where I am now to something like that. Here's the breakdown, along with a ranking on a scale of 1 to 10 how big of a leap it would be for me:

#1. I'd have to start accepting supernatural causes. In one of my conversations, a friend said that she didn't like using the word "supernatural" to describe Jesus. After all, it probably sounds dismissive and condescending. However, that's the word I have to use unless somebody thinks of a better one. The bottom line is that I believe that we live in a natural world with natural causes. Any sort of spirit, whether it directly involves itself with the daily affairs of human beings or not, constitutes as supernatural. This has a Leap Factor of 8.

#2. I'd have to accept the notion of a "creator". Even if we take it from the deistic sense, where the creator made everything and then stepped away, this is still a huge problem for me. After all, it complicates the issue. Sure, wondering how we got here is baffling and confounding, but when you introduce a creator, all you've done is make something that demands even MORE questions - like who created the creator. And if the creator doesn't need a creator, then why can't the universe not need a creator? Leap Factor of 8.

#3. I'd have to believe that the creator has meddled in the affairs of human beings. This is essentially the same problem as #1. Stories this, whether from the past or the present, tend to fall apart under close scrutiny. The only ones that haven't are the ones that haven't been subjected to close scrutiny. Leap Factor of 8.

#4. Of all the creators out there, I have to believe in the Christian version. Not only that, but according to Christian doctrine, I have to believe in that one and ONLY that one. This is the thing that I think a lot of Christians don't get. Even if I get past the first three, and I do start believing in an active God, Christianity doesn't instantly become the default choice for me. As of right now, I give Jesus the exact same probability that I give any other god that people either once believed in or currently believe in. I suppose he gets more credibility than The Flying Spaghetti Monster, where the inventor of that admits that it's a joke (in fact, that's the point of the FSM). Maybe I'll even give him a little bit more credence than the tenets of Scientology as well, as the evidence is really strong that Hubbard is nothing more than a huckster. With Jesus, I don't believe he was that, but he does come from an era of myth making.

I could elaborate on and on, and I know that there are all sorts of Christian apologetic arguments where they try their darndest to make the Jesus story gel with the historical record. In fact, I satirized this recently in my "Star Wars apologetic". One of the best arguments is the "five hundred eye witnesses" to Jesus' resurrection. Who are these 500 eye witnesses? We don't know, but there's a line in the Bible that says that there are 500 eyewitnesses! Funny how NOT A SINGLE ONE left any sort of a written record outside The Bible, isn't it? It's also funny that the Romans, who kept pretty good records, failed to mention the zombies that rose from the grave after Jesus' crucifixion. Strange how that seemed to escape the notice of everybody except for the writer of the Matthew Gospel. (Who wasn't an eyewitness - sorry, apologists.)

My leap factor has been a pretty consistent 8 on everything so far. I don't believe that one should have absolute certainty about certain things - especially when we're dealing with issues as big and near-incomprehensible as this. Still, accepting Jesus and only Jesus? That's a 9.8 on the Leap Factor.

What exactly would Jesus need to do in order for me to accept him? Well, it's going to require something so huge that I can make all of those leaps at once. I've heard that he can do anything though, so I reckon that shouldn't be a problem.

20 comments:

Ingrid said...

Lance....... Jesus doesn't need to do anything for you to accept him, and he is not going to. If you don't believe in him it is your decision.
My aunt accepted Jesus when she was in her 50s, and someone had told her that Jesus would come back in her lifetime. She died at age 91, very disappointed that she didn't get to see his second coming.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Well, I'm responding to what others, not you, have said to me. You should realize that much of your faith is pretty different from what mainstream Christians believe.

In that case, I don't believe in him for the exact same reason that you don't believe in Thor.

April D Findley said...

Lance, Lance, Lance... I'm chuckling because reading your posts are kinda like watching Family Guy for me. It's funny and wrong at the same time. I probably shouldn't laugh, but I kinda can't help myself.

I understand why the leap factor is so great for you. I think that your first encounter with Christianity just didn't deliver the goods you were sold on. Therefore, it doesn't seem rational to you to put yourself through a bunch of "faith-hoops" that seem sorta silly and full of holes.

Seriously, you've brought up SO MANY valid points that are often used to argue proof of Christianity. I find myself chuckling because you say you wish Jesus would get busy revealing himself if he's gonna, but hope that He doesn't do so through some tramatic event. Is that some fear of God in you??? ;-)

The other reason I chuckle is because there was a period where Christ was like, "C'mon April, you know I'm trying to make some changes in you and you're resisting me every inch of the way." I kept saying, "Later, maybe next year, maybe when I loose 20 pounds, maybe when I get married..."
The next thing i knew was I was laid up on the couch with a busted leg for three months. Just warning you...

In all seriousness though, Christ is coming back and there will be many signs to alert people that the time is getting close. I'm not an expert of end-time prophesy, but I've read several books on the subject and of course, Revelation, and have had numerous conversations with my Christian homies, etc. I'm curious, if you woke up one morning to learn that all the waters on the earth had turned to blood, would that be proof enough?

Ultimately, I still think that you were sold the "Christian Bill of Goods," then left as a young guy to try and figure things out on your own. I dunno. You'll probably come back and say that you had 500 good Christian friends with faith like crazy... I don't know. I'm gonna to keep praying for you, though, cuz if Jesus is all I think he's cracked up to be, how could I not want you to live in that Truth?

Again, great post, talk to you more in cyber-space.

~ADF

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Oceans turning to blood? That would certainly get my attention. I'm sure I could smell it all the way in Martinez even.

Regarding Jesus coming back...hmmm...well...

Here's the thing. I'm enough of a student of history to know that people have been thinking that Jesus was on his way back ever since Christianity took over as the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. He was supposed to come back during the Crusades, during the British Civil War, during both World Wars, etc.

The point is, the Book of Revelation is such a mish-mash of vague symbols that you can apply to anything and anytime you want. (And from what I understand, it makes the most sense when applied to what was going on in the time it was written.) Shoot, seems to me like the beaches of Normandy in WWII would have made for a convincing blood-filled ocean, but that was in 1944 and still no Jesus.

And another thing, according to the big JC himself, he would return in the lifetime of his disciples, and I'm pretty sure they're all dead. (Matthew 16:28). Yeah, I know that there are all sorts of convoluted ways to make sense of this - the only one that makes sense to me is the fact that the Bible writers never meant anybody to take all of this stuff literally anyway.

The bottom line for me is this - it's been 2000 years. How long are you guys going to give him anyway? Let's say that you could live another 10,000 years. If he didn't come back in another 1000, would you give up on it then? How about 5000?

Yeah, people point out all kinds of bad things that are going on as supposed "signs". Seems to me like the world was a worse place during WWII, the Black Plague, etc.

I give Jesus' return equal probability as the return of Zarathustra.

Honestly, the reason why I left is pretty simple - it just doesn't make any sense. When it starts to make sense, then I'll believe it - otherwise, I'm putting the cart before the horse.

Nolan said...

The oceans turning to blood would be something supernatural. At least, if it happened overnight, and it wasn't some sort of massive fish extinction. So that would probably get me wondering about a higher power.

But the oceans haven't turned to blood. As Lance has pointed out, there's nothing that's ever happened that can't be explained by natural science.

You could play the "What if this happened?" game all day, but until something obviously supernatural happens, it's all conjecture just like everything else about religion. As Lance also pointed out, people of faith keep saying, "You just wait! It's coming!"

Wake me up when it does.

April D Findley said...

Lance, you make some good arguments and it's obvious to me that you've been thinking about this stuff longer than I have. However, I'm convinced and I will commit myself to researching some of your points. I know I've had conversations on many of these topics and it's too bad (on me) that i am not currently prepared to pull this stuff from the top of my head.
I think this says a lot about your abilities as a teacher! Will you allow me a chance to come back and continue the discussion once I've studied up a bit?

~ADF

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Absolutely, April. I'd rather be corrected than be wrong! : )

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Oh, and just to add a little bit more - I thank you for realizing that this obviously wasn't some spur-of-the-moment decision for me. As I've mentioned before, I agonized over this for a long time. I really WANTED to believe in God, but I found that I just wasn't being honest with myself. This is something that a lot of atheists go through - some much worse than my situation, as they get shunned by their families and friends as a result.

April D Findley said...

(BE PREPARED, THIS POST IS LONG)
So hey, I didn't get the time to study these things like I wanted to this past weekend. (Husband, kids, baby's b-day party, my small biz, LIFE, etc.)

Honestly, to truly address your points with the fullness they deserve, it could take me months.

I am committed to thinking carefully about all these things, again, beyond the boundaries of my own personal faith. At some point, I think this discussion will boil down to exactly that - Faith.

If I can present some evidence you haven't already dismissed, will you even be willing to consider it without the delivery of a gold-plated telegram from the Heavenly Realms embossed with blazing letters reading "From the Desk of THE ALMIGHTY"? ;-) I ask this because while these points of reason and evidence are of extreme importance to more analytical minds like yourself, could you be missing the forest for the trees?

I realize that many many many many many many people over the years have convoluted the true point ot the whole Christian theology. I think we have to approach the topic with a metaphor.

(Stop me if you've heard this one before and I'm sure you have.)

Let's say we have a glass vase and some river rock. We pour river rock into the vase until they reach the top. Is the vase full? It appears to be so, but then we come back with some gravel and start to pour that in. It fills the gaps between the river rocks. Is it full now? Maybe...until I try to pour this sand in. When I think the vase is finally full, someone shows up with a pitcher of water...etc. OK, I think I've painted the picture enough here.

There are some things that a person has to be willing to admit to be possible when it comes to Christianity. These are the river rocks. If you don’t have these in your vase to begin with, then it’s pointless to even discuss all the other points you brought up (the gravel and sand) because without this foundation, you are spiritually incapable of grasping the other stuff, even when the evidence is right in front of you. I DO NOT SAY THIS TO BE CONDESCENDING. The Bible actually says that people are blind to certain spiritual things without the Holy Spirit. We can argue the irony of that in another post, if you wish. :-P

RIVER ROCKS:
1. There is only one God and He created the universe and everything in it. He created people because he wanted to have a relationship with them (as a good, loving earthly father desires relationships with his children). God created his children with free will because he wanted THEM to want to love Him back.

2. When Adam & Eve chose of their own free will to not trust God and go against his one commandment, the door to sin was opened on mankind, the penalty of which was death. Not because God wanted to kill them, but because their actions created a separation (sin) between God (holy) and themselves.

3. God provided the ultimate Atonement for sin when he sent his Son to Earth as a sacrifice.

4. When Christ was crucified, he submitted to God's plan which was to become the object of God's wrath, mankind’s replacement for all the sins that were ever committed by any person who ever existed. He did this because he wanted to show us once and for all that His love for mankind was REAL and wanted to show us just how much he was willing sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences (death and eternal separation from God) of our sin.

(continued in the next comment)

April D Findley said...

Now I ask you, if there was ANY possibility that ANY of this could be true, ask yourself, what would anyone gain from making this stuff up?

I'm not saying that there aren't stupid rotten people that will try and twist what Christ did on the Cross for the purpose of manipulating and controlling other people. The biggest flaw of the church is that it's entirely made up 100% of sinners! Yet the world has this expectation that just because you bear the name of Christ, you're supposed to have it all figured out! It's silly when you think about it and even more silly for any Christian to act like they're the one whose figured it all out!

The world is FILLED with people motivated by their own selfish nature and many of them say they are Christians. But if you go back to the life of Christ, he not only talked the talk, he gave the ultimate example of what TRUE LOVE looks like. If more people tried even an iota (myself included) to ACT more like Christ than blathering about what they see everyone else doing wrong, then LIVES WOULD BE CHANGED.

I believe that's why Christ hasn't come back yet, because there are too many people, like yourself, Lance, who have not been shown the true identity of Christ. You said you wished Christ would start revealing Himself to you? He's trying through the people in your life that claim to have a personal relationship with Him, but if those people aren't willing to go through the very things that bring them into spiritual maturity (repenting of their selfishness, obeying God's commands, studying the word, praying constantly about everything, making personal sacrifices daily, serving others, etc., etc., etc.) then HOW in the WORLD can they expect to express the compassion of the Almighty Loving God???????

God is waiting for the church to get their act together and start being the true example of Christ, because if Christ came back now, too many people that want to know Christ would not have had the opportunity to do so!

My advice to you is to stop hanging around all these people (even if they are family) that claim to be Christians but seem interested only in judging YOU.

I promise you, Lance, there are real disciples of Jesus in this world who are PASSIONATE about loving others as Christ loved. They are not motivated by popularity, worldly-attention, or personal gain. They are motivated by the Joy of the Lord that comes as a result of loving God and loving others. The difference between Christ and all those other “gods” is that he DIED FOR US and PROVED he was the Son of God by coming back to life.

If you can’t look at Christianity from the perspective that all of this could be true, then it really doesn’t matter what I have to say about all the other stuff in your reply; it still won't change your heart or mind. Regardless, I will be praying and studying because I believe that if my God is who I think he is, then evidence is there and it’s my responsibility to know this stuff for when I run come across people like yourself who are searching for Truth. God Bless you, Lance and THANK YOU for inspiring me to become more knowledgeable about my faith. You are awesome.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Good gravy! Don't sweat the long response - I'm the master of those. I'm not going to be able to get to everything right now, as I'm simply waiting for the traffic to die down before I head for home, but I'll get back to this later and continue.

With that said, I do want to say that I've heard and considered much of this before. However, if I left it at that, I would be dismissive. I'll try and take it point-for-point - please let me know if I miss something big so I can get back to it.

The Bible actually says that people are blind to certain spiritual things without the Holy Spirit.

If this is the case, then it pretty much destroys the "free will" thing, doesn't it? You very well could be right, but the only thing that it would convince me of is that your God is arbitrary and unfair.

Rock #1: There is only one god, etcetera, etcetera...

Okay, I'm going to just let that one go for now, even though I could respond to a few things. On to the next:

When Adam & Eve chose of their own free will to not trust God and go against his one commandment, the door to sin was opened on mankind, the penalty of which was death. Not because God wanted to kill them, but because their actions created a separation (sin) between God (holy) and themselves.

If God's creating the rules, then you don't get to say that he didn't want to kill them. He's all-knowing - he knew what would happen. But even with that, God's version of free will is like me saying that you can choose to go to any restaurant you want, but if you don't pick Indian food, I'll punch you in the face.

Honestly though, I can't see this story as being anything but symbolic. Talking snake? Tree of knowledge? I don't think that the people who wrote it even wanted the story to be taken so literally. (And the original sin thing is something that Christianity shoehorned on to a Jewish story.)

God provided the ultimate Atonement for sin when he sent his Son to Earth as a sacrifice.

Okay, I'll leave that one alone for a moment...

When Christ was crucified, he submitted to God's plan which was to become the object of God's wrath, mankind’s replacement for all the sins that were ever committed by any person who ever existed. He did this because he wanted to show us once and for all that His love for mankind was REAL and wanted to show us just how much he was willing sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences (death and eternal separation from God) of our sin.

April, do you realize what you're saying? You're saying that God had to sacrifice his son/self to himself in order to change his own rules. Why can't he just forgive us? Why this elaborate and grotesque ritual? He's GOD, isn't he? I forgive people all the time without a blood sacrifice. This makes me morally superior to this god that you describe.

I know that this story is important to Christians, but I don't even find anything good about it at all. It's violent and disturbing when looked at in those terms. And what kind of free will is this for us? Accept Jesus or go to hell? That's not a choice - that's an ultimatum!

But again, I don't even think that was the original intent of the story. There are a lot of "suffering gods" in Mythology, and I don't find this one any more likely than the story of Prometheus who got his liver pecked out of his side every day for giving us fire.

Continued...

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Now I ask you, if there was ANY possibility that ANY of this could be true, ask yourself, what would anyone gain from making this stuff up?

An interesting question - but it's one that can be asked of any religion. You Christians act like you've got the only game in town sometimes.

But still...I can answer it! Religion has been used as a means of controlling people for thousands of years. I don't see how Christianity is any different.

If more people tried even an iota (myself included) to ACT more like Christ than blathering about what they see everyone else doing wrong, then LIVES WOULD BE CHANGED.

I don't completely disagree with this. I actually like all the Jesus stuff...well, except for the bit about hating your parents. The problem is the rest of the Bible and that apostle Paul fella. (I'm in good company on this issue - Thomas Jefferson said the same thing.)

My advice to you is to stop hanging around all these people (even if they are family) that claim to be Christians but seem interested only in judging YOU.

Honestly, most of the Christians I know are pretty cool. Do I know a few like that? Sure, but I would hardly characterize them all that way.

The difference between Christ and all those other “gods” is that he DIED FOR US and PROVED he was the Son of God by coming back to life.

But what he has in common with them is that there's the same amount of evidence that his story is true. Even if I agree that there's something better about dying for us (which I don't - see the whole brutal blood sacrifice thing) it still doesn't change the fact that there's no evidence that this even happened. And if you cite the Bible as evidence, all you do is run into a real mess of problems. I know too much about that book to accept it as anything but mythology.

Whew! Looks like I hit on everything (I think!) I'm glad that you're still enjoying this. I really hope that I don't come off as condescending either, as I've been accused of it. If I do, please realize that's not my intent. I do have some serious objections with the Christian faith - but that doesn't mean that I have them with you, personally.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Just a little addendum - I do want to make it clear that I don't think that somebody just "made it all up". Mythology is much more complex than that, and when I use the word "myth", I don't mean "lie".

Here, I wrote something about that very topic a while ago: linky.

April D Findley said...

Lance, again, we're at stalemate here, but that's ok because of a few things:

One, this discussion has "stoked the fire" of my own faith and desire to learn everything I can about what I believe and why believe it!

Two, I never came into this discussion thinking that I would have all the answers to convince you to change your mind. I think you're a pretty smart guy and have always thought that about you!

Three, from some of your other posts, I made the assumptions that you have been exposed to the "Christianity" of MY youth, which was thinly disguised methods of control and judgement by people saturated with guilt, bitterness, and selfishness, whose lives displayed nothing of the fruit of the Spirit as described in the NT. Thinking this was your environment, my motivation was to share my perspective on Christianity in a way that would express Christ's love. I don't know if I accomplished that from your point of view, but this has been a GREAT discussion! And please except my apology if I offended you or any family members by my advice to stay away from them.

There's still a lot of stuff for us to discuss, but one thing in particular that I want to address in this post.

I think that non-believers think that God and the Bible are so hypocritical because they think God is like, "Hey you people, believe in me or BURN!!!" I don't believe that God SENDS people to Hell.

The whole need for Atonement comes from God's nature, which He can't change or He wouldn't be God. He is who He is. I think that maybe He literally can't exist in the same space as sin because it is made of darkness, evil, the absolute opposite of the stuff he's made of. God hates sin because of what it does to his children. It defiles them.

Here is a POOR metaphor, but it's the closest thing I could come up with. I ask for everyone's apology in advance.

Let's say my husband doesn't flush the toilet after taking a crap and my sweet little precious 2-year-old walks into the bathroom when no one's looking and starts playing with the "chocolate" in the potty. (DISCLAIMER: This has never actually taken place in my home, please do NOT call Social Services or give my husband mean looks at the supermarket.)

Will I be horrified? Yes. Will I wash her off right away? Yes. Will she scream and cry when I pull her away from the toilet? YES. Do I let her go back to the toilet and play some more so she'll stop crying? NO. Am I going to be able to cuddle and hug and kiss her when she's covered in poop without physically reacting by retching and vomiting? NO.

When the Bible talks about God as our Father, we are supposed to interpret it that our relationship to him is just like a father and his child! It's not some weak airy fairy symbolism of what He *could* be. When we sin, we are covered in this stuff that's gross and ugly and dark. God doesn't want to throw us away; he wants to clean us up so that we can be back in his embrace. Because of how vile sin is, the only way to clean it up is through the sacrifice of another life unless the sinner himself is to die. That's why God made the provision of animal sacrifice. If people were going to be allowed to have free will, God knew they would continue to sin, so the sacrifice was necessary for US, to pay for our sin. The sacrifice wasn't for God because he's sadistic and likes animal mutilation! I believe God thought that if we had to kill an innocent creature in payment every time we sinned, then maybe people would think twice before doing bad stuff. But that didn't work. That's when God came up with the idea to send his own Son as a sacrifice. If people couldn't understand the lengths at which God was willing to go to have a relationship with them by receiving Jesus as the payment for their sins, well, they just weren't gonna ever get it.

April D Findley said...

Just like I wouldn't leave my baby covered in poop because it's gross and could make her sick, God is saying we can't remain covered in our sin because it will KILL us. God is the Source of Life. If there's stuff on us that prevents us from coming to Him, we are cut off from the Source of LIFE.

So by default that leaves us in DEATH, not because God killed us, but because we CHOOSE to stay covered in the stuff the separates us from the Source of Life. We choose Hell for ourselves. Only we don't think we are choosing Hell, which I believe, is exactly what Satan wants us to think.

When I said that the Bible states that people are blind to certain things without the power of the Holy Spirit, it doesn't mean that they are maliciously "kept in the dark" about certain information. It means that because they have not sought God's Spirit in counsel, they are unable to understand these things because they haven't experienced his forgiveness that transforms their heart and allows them to look at the thing from God's perspective.

I remember the "Tidal Wave" roller coaster at Great America and how absolutely terrified I was of that thing when I was 5. I would go on the Demon and other roller coasters that went upside down, but the Tidal Wave went BACKWARDS and UPSIDE DOWN at the same time and the thought of experiencing that blew my mind. My older cousins were like, "C'mon!! It's so awesome!!" I refused to get on this thing and they were really frustrated with me. Finally, they convinced me to trust them that my stomach would not come out my mouth or my butt and that I would love the ride once I took it. During the whole ride, my mind was screaming, "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS???" After we got off the ride, I was asked to go again and I said no, but after I'd had some time to chew on it, I realized that it was really COOL going backwards through the loop and watching the earth drop away all crazy like that. In fact, going upside down backwards was a hundred times better than going upside down frontwards!

So that was kind of a painful comparison, but again, it's the best I could come up with on the spot like this. The point being is that a lot of this Biblical stuff looks pink because we have on the rose-colored glasses. Is it God's fault that we don't see the truth because we refuse to take off the glasses and open our heart to what he's trying to communicate to us?

I know this directly contradicts your testimony, Lance. I realize that this may sound shallow but I don't believe God's done working on you yet. It's possible that God's allowed you to travel down this journey of atheism because he plans to reveal himself to you down the road and use you to minister to other athiests.

I wanted to know God when I was young, but circumstances compelled me to leave the church when I was 16 and start down a miserable road of meth addiction, among other yucky stuff. I believe some of that was allowed to happen so God can use me now to minister to other people suffering in that lifestyle. Did it suck? Yeah, and I have spent some time being really ticked at God. But this life isn't just about me. God suffered for me and I'm willing to suffer too, if it equips me to help someone else. Even now, I am suffering through some tough times, but I know (yes, I KNOW) God is walking with me every step of the way, strengthening me, and that this particular suffering won't last for long, certainly not the rest of my life!

Anyways, that's enough for now. One thing you've said sticks in my mind and that's that you agonized over your decision to turn from your faith. I believe you did and so just know that struck a chord in my heart. I will do my very best to keep this discussion going. God Bless you.

April D Findley said...

A final thought, on Greek and Roman mythology; I had an amazing English teacher in the 7th grade that did a study on mythology one quarter. We read the 12 labors of Hercules and other stories, and then had to write our own myth! It was a lot of fun and I would enjoy reading more mythology! Any book recommendations?

~ADF

Lance Christian Johnson said...

please except my apology if I offended you or any family members by my advice to stay away from them.

Honestly, I'm not really close to the people to whom I'm referring in the first place. They get on my nerves for other reasons as well.

I don't believe that God SENDS people to Hell.

But if God made everything, then it was him who made it, right? Why make a place that you don't intend to send people to? At the very least, he can prevent people from going.

But the bottom line with hell is that it's an infinite punishment for finite crimes. Apparently, God will forgive ANYTHING except not believing in him. So, if Hitler gave a death-bed confession, he's in, but a Hindu who devoted his life to charity is doomed for eternity.

The whole need for Atonement comes from God's nature, which He can't change or He wouldn't be God. He is who He is. I think that maybe He literally can't exist in the same space as sin because it is made of darkness, evil, the absolute opposite of the stuff he's made of. God hates sin because of what it does to his children. It defiles them.

If this is the case, then God is not all-powerful, and if that's the case, then he's not God, is he? He's the one who makes the rules - why would He make rules that limit him so much?

If people were going to be allowed to have free will, God knew they would continue to sin, so the sacrifice was necessary for US, to pay for our sin. The sacrifice wasn't for God because he's sadistic and likes animal mutilation! I believe God thought that if we had to kill an innocent creature in payment every time we sinned, then maybe people would think twice before doing bad stuff. But that didn't work. That's when God came up with the idea to send his own Son as a sacrifice.

I'm still left with the same problem. That's the best he could do? Seems to me that he has an obsession with blood sacrifices one way or the other. I mean, people do bad things because they have a sinful nature, and why is that? Because of Adam and Eve's mistake. In other words, we can't help it. No matter what, we're doomed, and the only way out is to kill his son? (Who also happens to be himself somehow.)

The thing is, a moral person would feel obligated to get Jesus down off that cross if they had the ability. And yet by doing a moral deed, they'd doom all of humanity. Not only that, but absolutely none of us had any say in this agreement. God just said that he was going to do it and we have to accept it. Again, not exactly free will.

So by default that leaves us in DEATH, not because God killed us, but because we CHOOSE to stay covered in the stuff the separates us from the Source of Life.

Indeed, but it's God who has chosen to set up this system in the first place. He could have gone some other way, but instead he wants this for some reason.

Anyways, that's enough for now. One thing you've said sticks in my mind and that's that you agonized over your decision to turn from your faith.

Indeed I did. However, it was like Paul on the Road to Damascus when I finally admitted to myself that I didn't believe anymore. Wait...am I not allowed to use that metaphor? : )

You are right about the stalemate, but the only thing that I'd want to draw your attention to is that at the retirement community, Rossmoor, there is an atheist club. Believe it or not, there are lots of old folks who don't believe either. I'm sure that they've had a lot of life experiences to inform their decisions.

Anyway, no real point in that - just something to consider. (As who knows - maybe I'll turn you! Mwuh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Ooops...scratch that evil laugh.)

April D Findley said...

I used to work at a Longs in Rossmore. The majority of the store was dedicated to liquor and incontinence products. Scary place. See what we have to look forward to??? :-)

Lance Christian Johnson said...

No way. Once I get decrepit, I'm giving myself a Viking funeral.

Nolan said...

Liquor and incontinence sound like a Saturday night to me, and I'm 33.